Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Södermalm. Probably the best malm in the 'holm.

Did you know that the city of Stockholm expands over 15 different islands? I found it a very amusing idea at first that I was crossing four entire islands by bus to get to the office every day.

Eastern Södermalm, map, 1674

The island I live on is called Södermalm. You might be familiar with it as the location of Stieg Larsson's Millennium/Dragon tattoo girl-trilogy. Due to its many hills it's the place to be for the best views over Stockholm. Apparently it is one of the most densely populated areas of Scandinavia, but to me it still feels like a very lively area in the countryside because there are so many parks, green areas, playgrounds and open squares around. It also never feels crowded, unless you decide to go to one of the many designer brand pop up sales.

Södermalm is sometimes also referred to as Sofo or hipster central, thanks to the many handsome bearded men who inhabit the area and make a living by selling specially brewed coffee, locally crafted thingy-mc gee’s or homemade organic ecologic vegan gluten free hotdogs - or of course by grooming the beards of the other locals. Everyone on the island is, aspires to be or has been the owner of a gallery at some point in their lives.

When I first arrived here I felt like I had stepped into a giant caricature of the real world, but I quickly grew fond of the area and I learned the locals were much more colourful and divers than I first thought. I am not the only one who likes it here: the large amount of people who want to live in Söder are pushing the housing prices up steeply and quickly. As a result, soon the things that attracted them to the area in the first place might be disappearing, as the circle of urban life tends to go.

Södermalm wasn't always home to the hip, the privileged and the artsy. It used to be a working-class area, expanding vastly during the rise of industry in the 1800's, and the area has not lost that vibe yet. Across the street from my studio flanked by two bistros, people still live in original wooden houses without modernised water works (and according to some, the original inhabitants might also still be around). Just a little further down the street, the futuristic Globe, the largest hemispherical building on Earth, is rising above the city skyline, on the border of a suburb that to me looks like an endless series of replicas of Pippi Longstocking's Villa Villekulla.

Most of Stockholm seems to be constructed this way - oldest, old, newer and newest are built next to and on top of each other without any concessions, excuses or attempts to assimilate. In many ways it seems to work better than any other urban development plan I have seen. It also means you can only describe Stockholm by using a lot of opposites. In Stockholm, turning a corner often means stepping from the 16th century into the 23rd. The traditional semla exists alongside new and trendy semmelwraps and wienersemlor. And yes, not everyone agrees with these modernisations and eccentric occurrences. Muttering, disagreeing sighs and even outrageous yelling happens. But in the end both 1800 wooden houses and the gigantic Globe stand right next to each other, and every morning fans of the traditional semla ride the bus together with semmelwrap eaters. And I love it.

Vi ses


P.S.: If you want to see more of Södermalm, you can find some additional photos in this album.

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