Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Post Number Fort-Four: Jag älskar dig!

Of my three Swedish weeks, and of my return to Italy.

Dear readers, and friends of mine, I have come back from Sweden, and here I am, typing a new post on my long-deserted blog.
How could I possibly summarize my trip to Sweden in a few lines (especially considering how blatantly long my typical entries are, particularly so when I mean to write short notes)?

First of all, this is hardly the first time I go to spend my holidays in Sweden. In fact, the first time I went to Sweden was in 1998, when, after staying with a friend I loved a lot in Oslo, Norway (unluckily I lost all contacts with that girl, Trine), I took another 8 days trip to "nearby" (6 hours by train) Gothenburg, to visit my other friend Helen. Things didn't work out too well with Helen, we probably ended up in bad terms back then because her husband wasn't too happy about having me around, so I was asked to leave her house and found myself on my own on Swedish soil. Back then, I had no idea what kind of marvel Sweden could be, but since I loved Gothenburg so much, heck, I said, next year I am off to Stockholm, let's see the Swedish capital.
In 1999 I went to Stockholm for the fist time and that was it. I discovered dreamland. You know, that Somewhere Over the Rainbow the song talks about? Only there's no Wizard of Oz there, just me feeling like Dorothy when she tells her dog "I think we are not in Kansas anymore". Also, feeling a bit like her dog too.
The first time I went to Stockholm in 1999 I took 360 pictures of the city. Those were the years when digital camera era had not dawned yet on Italy and so yours truly spent a fantastic amount of his parent's money to develop the 360 snapshot of Stockholm, especially because it was obscenely expensive to develop pictures in Italy in 1999 (now it's much more so). In fact it cost me more than what I paid for the roundtrip with the plane.
The next year, 2000, I took my mother and my sister Flora and dragged them to Stockholm. My sister uttered the now famous sentence: "I like this place. I'll have a house here".
Famous, because later, in 2003, I went to Stockholm and my sister was indeed staying in a house for rent there. I went to Stockholm in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and now 2005. And you can bet I will be in Stockholm on the first week of August 2006, 2007, 2008 and so on. Unless I finally move there once and for all, which is something I should have taken more seriously before I got a good and reasonably well paid job in Italy.
Stockholm is almost a second home to me. When I go there, I don't need a map of course. I know how to use the public transport, I know where the nicest areas are, where are the museums, the ferry boats, the bus stations, the subway stations and so on. Sergels Torg, Riddarholmen, Odenplan, Drottningatan and Stortorget i Gamla Stan are as familiar to me as my neighborhood in the suburbs of Milan, Italy. I actually can walk around Stockholm easier and more comfortably than I could in Milan (which is a hardly walkable city at all anyway).
How can I describe Stockholm?
It is beyond imagination. Especially for my most numerous Singaporean readers. I somehow convinced the lovely and cute Singaporean girl Vivien to pay me a visit in Stockholm this summer. She came over and spent only one Sunday in the capital of Sweden. Perhaps I should quote her very observant boyfriend Stephen, who noticed in less than thirty minutes that:
1. There is no traffic in Stockholm city. I mean, there are very few cars around at any given time of the day and night. The majority of people, regardless of weather conditions, take public means of transport (which include trains, subways, buses and ferries) or, preferably, reach their destination by bike, walking, roller-skating or even riding a horse. To accomplish this, they are greatly helped by the capillary network of bike lanes that run throughout the city and beyond, effectively connecting the whole nation and neighboring country in a vast bike-lane heaven.
2. The rythm of life is extremely relaxed. The people look contented, relaxed, satisfied. They mind their own business, they don't stare at you (Italians stare at people continously, making comments on how they are dressed, and more so if they are Asian), and regardless of their opinion on this topic, they don't know what stress is about.
3. You can stay at the table in a restaurant for two hours chatting with friends. It's absolutely normal, and it would be considered outrageously rude to rush things, serving your food too early or inducing you to believe you are expected to leave some time during the day. For me, this equals to heaven. For my Singaporean friends, I suspect they just needed more time to get used to that. I have heard with much astonishment and a bit of incredulity that Stephen eats in 5 minutes in Singapore. I would not drink a cup of tea in 5 minutes, and I can't imagine how one can possibly eat a whole lunch in 5 minutes. I have long archived memories of that kind of stressful life in Milan when I hadn't been to Sweden yet. Now I am completely Sweden-ized and perfectly able to relax and enjoy the company at the restaurant sitting there for two hours.
4. All in all, Stockholm, in Stephen's words "looks more like an amusement park than a city". That's because in one day we took subway, buses and ferry boats, including a trip in the woods. It is to be known that the Swedes love to live outdoors and they reject as an obscene abominion the idea that a city should be an agglomerate of buildings with occasional geometrically designed small parks. In fact Stockholm is the only city on this planet that hosts a national park within its very borders. It takes but a glance from the city hall's courtyard to realize that Stockholm is a huge park with some buildings appearing here and there.
5. And for this I need not to quote anyone else but me: the Swedish girls are by far the fairest women of the world. I am famous in Italy for caring so little about local girls that I don't even bother looking for a girlfriend. On the other hand, I am not ashamed to admit that I proved my cute friend Viv that I effectively turn into a drooling creature leaving a trail of drool behind me like a snail as soon as I reach Sweden.
This takes me straight ahead to the most beautiful girl of Sweden, which is a girl called Petra, a girl my friend Viv had to hear about enough to give her a year-long headache. If you are reading here Viv, look, I am sorry for that, I just couldn't help it. Petra works in a restaurant in Drottningatan, in the center of Stockholm. I took Viv there because I wanted to introduce her to Petra, which I consider my first Stockholm friend ever. That night I decided to leave my email account to her, so that we can keep in touch during the winter. I truly hope she will write to me. Her smile shines brighter than a sun beam at dawn, and I would lie if I denied that I wouldn't feel my trip to Stockholm complete if I didn't at least pass by Petra's to say hi to her.
Viv was most unlucky with the weather. It looked like Autumn in Sweden when she was there. Not to mention that as soon as she left... well, it was summer again, and I am sorry Viv, I actually got an amazing sun tan over there... quite disturbing, if you are reading here, you should take another trip to Stockholm.
After 9 days in Stockholm, one of which with Viv and Stephen, we moved on to Malmö. That's a lovely city in the south of Sweden. I have another friend there, miss Jeanette Johansson. Apart from being the receptionist of the hotel I stay at each time I go to Malmö, she is also an absolutely lovely girl. She was so nice on Friday, to spend the whole afternoon with us, took us to a nice bar in Lilla Torg, and even joined my mum and me in the trip to the Western Harbour to watch the sunset over Copenhagen. She took a photo of me when I was staring at the pastel light of the sky, my mind lost in charming thoughts of Sweden and my heart bleeding at the thought of coming back to Italy the incoming Monday. Then she showed me the picture and claimed I was most certainly thinking of Petra. Because I spoke a lot about Petra with Jeanette too, poor girl. I wonder how Jeanette could tolerate my litanies.
In fact I wasn't really thinking of Petra in that moment, I was just thinking I was going to miss Sweden a lot.
It felt worse than usual to come back to Italy, a country I have come to dislike more and more thanks to Berlusconi, the Fascists and the Catholic propaganda. Sweden is heaven to me. That's why I will go back there next year.
Unluckily I have to cut this short for my dinner is ready, but stay tuned for my incoming entries soon enough!
A big warm hug to all those who still care to read me!