Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Malmo, Day One

So we took the train and arrived in Malmo, which a friendly guy at the phone card store in Copenhagen told us was a nice place, and cheaper than Copenhagen, which is nice, since Copenhagen was really expensive, at least when it came to food.

We spent our first day in Malmo walking from the place we were staying, a couple of miles from the city center, into the city. We walked by the water, and followed the coast up toward the city, passing the Turning Torso building designed by Sergio Calatrava, which is a very attractive and interesting piece. Check out the site. It's cool.

We stopped at a coffee shop that looked a lot like a Starbucks, except it was called the Espresso House. Like everything else in Sweden, and IKEA furniture, it was very clean and functional and nice.

We went to the design museum in Lilla Torg, which means Little Square, and looked in some stores. In Malmo -- and Copenhagen and Stockholm and, uh, Boston, actually -- the cities are basically built around open squares. Each square has some stores and restaurants and bars, and then there are main arteries connecting the squares. So we wandered around the squares in Malmo, and the weather was nice (a slight bit chilly, as compared with what it's been like in the US, but that was much much better than the alternatives -- too hot or too wet), and we ate in a restaurant and went out to a bar afterwards and hung out for a while.

Some interesting things about Sweden:

1. They really like licorice in Sweden. It's one of the main things in all of the corner stores, and there are also street vendors who sell different flavors of it.

2. They call thousand island dressing, "Rhode Island dressing."

3. They're really into Pear Cider. It's like apple cider, but lighter I guess. I liked it, actually. I'm not much of a drinker at all, but I could make do with the pear cider reasonably contentedly, even though I guess it's not the most masculine of drinks. Oh well. Although once it sat for a while and lost the carbonation it started to get kind of cloyingly sweet.

4. There are lots of dogs in Sweden, and they're all really well-behaved. They also somehow all look really smart. Well-groomed, looking like pure breeds, I don't know. They somehow exude intelligence more than most American dogs do. I'm not sure how to explain it.

5. We went to the train station to buy tickets for our train to Stockholm. So they asked us each how old we were. I'm 26, and my friends were 24, 25, and 27. The people under 26 get a discount. So two of us didn't qualify. But they never checked. So we should have lied I guess. Had we known. But what's interesting is that throughout the trip we all kept noticing points where in America, there'd probably be another check on the system to keep people from cheating, but in Europe, no one seemed too concerned. On subways, the tickets aren't really checked. It's just assumed you have a ticket. Museum entrances and exits are poorly policed, and if you wanted to sneak in without a ticket, you probably could. One hostel said we could pay at checkout, and wasn't really much concerned about it. Stores don't have security guards stationed at the doors, for the most part, at least not that I noticed. Ferries didn't make you pay until you were already on the boat and there wouldn't be much recourse for them if you didn't. I didn't notice any complicated alarm systems anywhere. It's an interesting difference in culture, I guess.

6. We noticed that whenever we talked to anyone who was Swedish, they would be very reluctant to acknowledge their country is pretty neat. Someone in Malmo asked us why in the world we were visiting Malmo. "It's okay here," she said. "It's cold." The weather was a big topic. It wasn't that cold. Then again, it was August. So I can imagine December is no fun. But people in Sweden seemed genuinely self-deprecating about their country. We ended up hanging out for a while with a very lovely lawyer we happened to stop on the street and ask for directions to get somewhere. She shared a theory that everything in Sweden is just average. The valleys aren't very low, but that means the peaks aren't that high. Whereas in America we have the very rich and the very poor, the very smart and the very dumb, in Sweden, everything is just okay. Everyone's needs are taken care of to some extent by the government -- health care, education, retirement -- and so there's less need to strive to be better, and there's more ability to just relax and enjoy life, but it ends up that without the lows, the highs are harder to find. I may be making too much of an offhand comment, but it was interesting and got me thinking.