Bellman was not very nice

After a lovely long Skype with Mirinda and a lovely long laze in the apartment, I eventually dragged myself out into the blue sky and sunshine of a Söder Sunday. I discovered that if I leave the apartment block and go in the opposite direction to where I normally go, I end up at Slussen. Which, by design, is where I was off to today.

Obviously, being a Sunday, I had to begin with fika. Even if I was on my own. I had a delicious cardamom bun at the café where Mirinda and I visited once.

Stockholm, it seems, has burned down many times. While various kings and officials have told Stockholmers to build out of brick and rock, they generally couldn’t afford to so, of course, they used wood to replace the buildings that burned down. And the new ones eventually burned down.

This seems a recurring theme in Sweden. Build it, burn it down, build it again. I guess it keeps people employed in the building industry.

I learned a lot about Stockholm and its fire control measures at the Stockholm City Museum today. But not just fire. Other really important things. For instance, coffee was banned in Sweden at various times. This was mainly because imports generally were banned. Some people tried growing coffee beans in Sweden but it didn’t work. Now, coffee is a necessary component of fika, a very Swedish thing. (I refer you to the cardamom bun above.)

The Stockholm City Museum is brilliant. It is housed in the Södra Stadshuset, a building completed in 1685 and used for many purposes over the centuries. Probably, most notably, it never burned down though it was almost demolished at one stage but, eventually, the museum moved in and that’s what it is nowadays. The history of Stockholm is explained from the earliest days of the city to the present.

There’s even a hoard! It’s called the Solberga hoard and consists of 2,132 silver coins, 11 rings, a pendant and a chain. It was found by a couple of boys when new flats were being built at Solberga.

At the top of the building there’s the rooms of the Pihlqvist family. Two rooms which have been preserved because that’s where the family actually lived in around 1900. It’s sobering to think that the family had to go up and down the building every time they needed water, wood, food or the loo. Or just to go to work. It’s quite the climb.

There’s so much to write about but I particularly loved the fact that, for centuries, brewery workers in Stockholm were mostly women from Dalarna. You could tell them from their traditional clothes which they deliberately wore, so people would hire them.

I’m thinking that an apron like the skirt above would be perfect in Chez Gaz! I wonder if they make a traditional Dalarna outfit in my size.

Each floor tells the story of Stockholm from different periods. Then, at the top of the building is an exhibition about Maja Stina. For anyone who doesn’t know (I didn’t) she was a famous girl-about-town back in the 18th century who was immortalised by the troubadour Bellman.

Carl Michael Bellman (1740-1795), first discovered by me last year, was a bit of a court favourite and, therefore, loved by everyone. Unfortunately, he didn’t always use his celebrity for good. He wrote songs about real people, generally satirising their lives. The clockmaker Jean Fredman was a prime example. The poor guy didn’t have enough to contend with when he’d squandered his wife’s money and she then died and his life seemed pointless so he gave up clock making and died in penury, but Bellman had to parody him for no longer being a royal clockmaker. Now that’s just cruel.

One of Bellman’s most famous ‘creations’ was Ulla Winblad. Except she was a real person. The trouble was that Bellman was such a celebrity that people took his songs and started mocking Maria Kristina Kiellström also known as Maja Stina (1744-1798), making her life pretty awful. She used the name Winblad in her work as a prostitute.

Okay, she was not perfect and the songs were probably quite true but, even so, she didn’t really deserve it to be advertised everywhere.

She left Stockholm for Norrköping, but she wasn’t even safe there because everyone knew the songs. Her husband at the time was not particularly nice. Basically, he was her pimp. He also beat her up a lot. Though, don’t feel too sorry for Maja because she gave as good as she got. He also died before she did.

Anyway, Ulla Winblad is quite well known in Stockholm culture but poor Maja Stina not so much. It’s important to reclaim her life, no matter how torrid. She was a real person and not just a parody for celebrity amusement. And that’s what this exhibit attempts to do.

Anyway, moving away from such things, How gorgeous was Jenny Lind?

She was born in Stockholm to a single mother who had to hide the fact that she was unmarried when she gave birth to Jenny. Jenny went out to some other family to bring up for a few years before she returned to her mother. Interestingly, Jenny became a devout Christian. This is an odd choice given her beginnings, because she would would have been damned by the church of the time.

My only complaint about the Stockholm City Museum is the lack of a guide book. Fortunately, I took lots of photos so I could look things up later…which is how this post is constructed.

Something else that occurred to me is how the character called Elvira, in Pippi at the circus really existed. Or, at least, Elvira was a famous blonde rope walker. Elvira was her stage name. She was Hedvig Antoinette Isabella Eleonore Jensen and was very famous for walking the slack rope. Her life story is one of tragedy combined with great acrobatic skill. She was also a great beauty. Was Astrid Lindgren paying homage to the great Hedvig? Maybe. Who knows.

I had a thoroughly good time at the museum however, completely worn out after a couple of hours drifting through Stockholm’s history, I decided to call a halt to my visit.

I was going to have a late lunch at the museum café until I realised they didn’t serve full strength beer. I went looking for a more Gaz style alternative. And I found one. A bar with a beer menu. Where I spent too long, drinking too strong beer. After a few I had to move on. While I still could.

I’d passed a tapas bar earlier and thought it would be perfect for lunch until I almost walked by the Viking Bar.

Apart from excellent beer they also served räksallad. I stopped, enjoyed a couple of glasses of Ship Full of IPA and a delicious Swedish meal. Finally!

I might visit the tapas place on my last night.

Then, I watched the final of the Euro Women’s football game between England and Germany. It was very exciting (England won 2-1 in extra time) and thoroughly enjoyable. Afterwards I was wondering why. Then it hit me. There was none of the stupid histrionics of the men’s game, no cheating, no dangerous tackles, no falling down in the penalty area. It was all about football and was far more enjoyable because of it. Well done, all of you. You have shown that football can be played properly.

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1 Response to Bellman was not very nice

  1. Mirinda says:

    Quite a feminist day overall if you think about it. I really like how Swedish museums really find interesting stories about women to share.

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