Stockholm | Oslo Trip


(For the pictures, please see the gallery in the German article!  Also sorry for the sloppy translation. Please excuse my late-evening and post-lunch-depression spelling.)

After having seen the literally adjacent city of Copenhagen, I can now proudly tell you, that I also ticked off Stockhlm and Oslo from the list of nordic-capitals-to-visit. Yay! Considering the late date at which our teacher Mats Edström informed us about the trip, a few collegues and I could still get a suspiciously cheap travelrout done (thanks to Jay) – including long distances bus, train, plane and pain in our feet.

We started out with the snabbtåg (=express train), ca. 4 and-a-half hours to Stockholm. Getting up after not having slept enough (there’s gotta be time to pack, right?) got me rewarded with a rich breakfast (my secret recipe: “fridge’s last resort”: 2 eggs, zucchini and swedish gouda, a pinch of salt, pepper, and doze). Eventhough it felt somehow wrong to fry food at this time of the day without being anywhere near a respectable intoxication. Leaving the appartment rather dirty (I can’t translate this German joke properly… propositions welcome!) I met my half-dorment neighbor Kamila from Poland in front of the building and we walked to Lund C station. Our austerity of sleep was again rewarded – this time in the form of a fantastic view of Lund’s stadium and the surrounding square – this is how Alice’s wonderland must look like without acid!

After a second of uncertainity about whether or or not our colleages Nic and the Jay – keeper of the tickets – would make it on time (they underestimated the distance to the station) our journey began. The train ride was, just as everything here in Sweden, relaxed and diverting. An hour of sleep (across two empty seats) until somebody politely claimed his seat, a fine conversation about languages in general with my Australian colleague Nic and there we were: Stockholm Central.

Not far from the station we met other students from the course and Mats and the guided city tour started. Due to the tight schedule, everything was quite wearisome and came with a lot of swift walking-across-the-islands and a lot of headwind-eavesdropping (Mats was telling about Sthlm’s history) and hipfire-snapshot photos. We saw the parliament, the palace, the city hall, the architecture museum, the city library, the brutalistic block-buildings in the new city center and the historical old city. Not exactly the best way to explore a place – but after such an intensive hike to and from you get an overview at least and have an idea, what there is to be inspected more attentively the next time…

Following an insider’s tip our little travel group walked across the city once again in the evening, to find a quite popular original swedish restaurant. Cost for a swedish beer and real swedisch köttbullar: 250 sek. Totally worth it! Imperceptively morphing into the shape of our food, we stuffed our stomachs with these delicacies until they were full. We then merrily rolled back to our hostel where we had a well-earned extra cheap beer in the inner yard and went to bed way to late.

Early. Very early indeed, everything started over: Central station Stockhom – bus – airport Arland STHLM – coffee – plane – OSLO airport – train – Oslo central station. When changing vehicles or in transition time-wholes: sleep in the most impossiblestest positions. Then. Oslo! And lousy weather. Because Mats went back to Lund straight after the tour, in order to take part in a symposium (that we actually wer supposed to attend too), Architect Einar Jarmund took over shephearding us headless flock of sheep. He showed us the refurbishment of an old industrial building that had become the Oslo School of Architecture (done by his office) and walked us around the campus. Inbetween interesting, very colloquial conversations with us students he showed us the arty part of campus, where craft- and art schools, architectural offices, workshos and exhibition halls en masse aligned along a calmly flowing creek. With a father’s pride Einar commented on the newly built structures and explained several building sites as mostly being additions to existing buildings, or new educational facilities, growing next to the river like mushrooms after a rainy day and he told us some interesting insider’s stories. After that we were shown his own (quite famous) office, where he went through a couple of their projects and even had a model of an ongoing competition on the table – which we most certainly should not take any pictures of.

After a short break during which we spent approximately the same amount of money for the lunch at this “reasonably priced” asian restaurant as for the dinner in STHLM the day before, Einar took us to the ministry of defense (photos forbidden) and to the museum of architecture, where he left us in our confusion. Saving 35nok, we took advantage of the weather that had dramatically changed from overcast-like-hell to almost-warm-direct-sunshine and dozed off for a moment in front of the museum, instead of just rushing through it in 30 minutes.

Almost rested our sleepy group shuffled down to the waterfront and the opera house, where we got a marveallous guided tour payed for by our university (can you imagine that!?). I’m not one to be favourably impressed by structures easily and as a critical person, especially one from Austria, I can and will find a fly in any ointment if I want to. The opera house in Oslo is a project that did impress me though. Without going too much into detail; I was particularily impressed by this example of “democratic architecture”  we hear so much about, by the coherence of architectural derivations from a social structure that are implemented in the building. It is highly unusual and a major concession to the scandinavian values to establish public space in the most exquisit part of the city unconditionally and this gesture resulted in the comission of a super-well going cultural facility. Oslo, not having had an opera house before, intelligently redefined the process of creating operas, having many crafts and their workshops directly in the house (this is very unusual and yet another very expansive thing to do), the commication between the different cogs in the wheel is allegedly extremely smooth. I can recommend seeing the opera – and hearing it! Starting with the chandelier, not only the technical equipment, but also the walls, the floors, the furnishings and every person in the audience is a calculated part in the acoustics – and you can get a standing ticket for 150 nok. Impressing.

With that the program ended and my travel mates and a growing bunch of other study mates went strolling about in the ‘younger’ district of town having a drink here and there before we got went back to the hostel in desperation of more reasonable prices. There we bought some spanish wine and some belgian beer and went on partying a little – there would be a better time for processing all these impressions of the trip during our trip on the intercity bus back to Lund…

Conclusion? Hm. Two interesting cities, metropolises and cultural, financial and of course architectural centers. Both unexpected in their special ways. Stockholm is a city in the most beautiful of locations – distributed over an archipelago, connected through countless bridges and surrounded by the blue, blue sea. Swedens capital city is lively and fast-moving, also loud and bustling. It is an example of a city that has prospered during a long time of peace, a city that solved it’s problems single-handedly – deliberately along the fine line between innovative genious and stubborn denial of inspiration. This is quite exceptional, because this strategy is a liberation from the coercion of compareability on the one hand, but results in the city being coerced to steadily experiment with different problem-solving approaches on the other hand, in great expectations towards the city’s own potential and roll as an innovative trailblazer and sometimes it also results in struggling and failure. In the past Stockholm has come up with a very modern concept of individual traffic which today is given a lot of room on the beautiful waterfront, which in e.g. Copenhagen is a cosy place for pedestrians. Like Vienna in Austria, Stockholm is Sweden’s demographical hydrocephalus and not only because of that very different from the rest of the country – in that way many characteristics of this rather calm and thoughtful nation have been changing under the influence of the globalizing economy and time turned them into a conglometare of export-brand-quality that sold so well within Stockholm itself, that a very unique culture evolved in the process. Stockholm is calm and thoughtful, righteous and well-educated. But as fast and profitable as can be.

I don’t know much about Oslo’s history. But even without research I noticed that Norway and Oslo are different immediately. Wilder, rougher, colder. No soft yellowish wheat fields swaying in the breeze under the wide blue sky. Here the wind scourges the light grey mountain ranges and their white tops that peak into the grey, or ice-blue sky on the horizon. The people too. No lowland cowboy like the Swedish. One gets the impression that Norway gets up early in the morning, dressed in a fur coat, in order to hunt in the mountains and comes back in the evening to sit in front of a hot fire in the evening, chewing on it’s prey. And somehow this is not untrue. A set of questionable laws in the field of hunting and ‘processing’ threatened species and especially Norway’s oil- and gas resources are a major part in Norway’s economic success, but also have an impact on it’s culture. Compared to the innocent (even if not rightly so) neighbor Sweden, that mostly lives from it’s innovation in technology, Norway is a big-player in many primary industries and refinery, is often attacked by different organisations and has had to deal with terroristic attacks and violence in the past. Even if if Sweden has had problems of this kind too and this might just be an assumption – I have a feeling that these things happening in Norway need less causal research.

As my first impression I found the city of Oslo is a little cosier than Stockholm. It is somewhat calmer for it’s size, not as bustling and scatty, but also not snugly if you don’t know where to look. Where I have seen lively squares and parks in Copenhagen, Denmark, I found empty squares of frightening size or little parks where suddenly during the evening the population density would rise to japanese proportions. There are apparently a lot of subcultures in the city – and they produce a lot of flyers. In a different way than Berlin where this has become a means of identification, Oslo does not officially boast diversity in it’s (cultural/ideological/etc.) underground, but the potential is respected and encouraged (acc. to Einar Jarmund). Like rebeling teenies from a good family at the christmas dinner – a punk, but not tooo offending. What startled me was this clearly perceptible ubiquitious vigilance and this somehow sad aura around the people and the city that flashed out once in a while. No idea if this is historically verifiable, but it seems like Oslo has built a new wall with every attack while Stockholm (not unlike Austria, by the way) denies reality a little naively, gets over the shock and trustfully turns the other cheek in good faith.

Both cities have in common that they did not meet my expectations to the super-rich, socially oh-so-just scandinavian world, but totally shifted them. In one way as a direct contradiction to them, namely in the form of noise, uglyness, dilapitation, disorder, failed social integration, even poverty and violence. In another way as a change in the scale that I will apply in the future, when looking into these matters. Even if the great riches of the nordic world are not always visible in form of palace-like houses, super-clean streets etc. (which – honestly – in a way I expected to see, when I first came here) and some areas look a little outdated (a sign of quality, maybe?) , a very dense network of treasures can be found, making every anti-elite mind jump for joy. Breaking through the fassades, you can find libraries that haven’t been changed since the 50ies, because they still are more modern than many libraries that I know. You might wonder about the high cost of a renovation of a university until you notice the formidably simple furnishings are well equipped with incredibly useful gadgets. You may see a hangar and find it is an auditorium for the people (a facility with the sole purpose of integrating democracy into everyday life – unheard of in Austria)! Despites the interests of different sections of the population that naturally also conflict here in Scandinavia (e.g in construction: investors, municipalitiy, architects, the actual users, the public … eeeeveryone has en opinion on everything), I generally have the impression that there is a high willingness to compromise for the good of the world at large and the highest possible degree of satisfaction of the community. Eventhough one or the other party will be stronger and will be able to dictate some of their opinion, in many cases there is a consensus in the analysis of things that have gone wrong and the willingness to improve as well as the courage to self-reflect publicly.

Everyone has to decide for him/herself if that is a positive thing, but I can say, it would be a pleasure to hear someone in Austria say something like “We screwed up se renovation and lost 30 millions in se process, because se building doesn’t work in se way we sought it would. But we’ll put in another two millions and we’ll make it into ay public park, so everyone benefits from sis mistake and not everysing was for nussing.”
Now, wouldn’t that be poetic?