I was going to initially just write a post about what I saw in Stockholm’s old town. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a story about another quaint European little town with cobblestones and narrow alleys wasn’t really what I wanted to write.
It was hard to enjoy the old town because it was incredibly overpriced, was quiet as a graveyard and it was populated almost entirely by Boomers.
I call them Boomers, but I have no idea what they are called in Sweden. They are just these middle-aged Swedes with BMW’s that love to cruise up at 30 km per hour to Old Town, get the velvet rope rolled back by the Arab security and toss back some overpriced wine while decked out in blazers, pearls and artsy scarves.
They don’t pay attention to you…at all, (keeping with theÂ old Swedish tradition of ignoring waves ofÂ foreigners descending upon your country) and just go about their business of wining and dining. At some of the more popular posh restaurants in old town, the setting is absolutely picturesque. Cobblestone streets, cherub-decorated fountains and little cafes with sprawling verandas and the latest gas lamps flickering with artful tongues of dancing flame. It takes your breath away how beautiful it all is. And in the middle of it all are these tall Swedish men with their swept back hair and shuffling little old man steps and slightly hunched shoulders. The women are these social X-rays, thin and artfully decked out in the most expensive non-descript clothing. They are a race ofÂ super WASPs.
I was struck by how differently Swedes treated us in downtown Stockholm vs the suburbs and the southern city of Malmo. Stockholm felt like prepÂ school all over again. Â But in the suburbs, people were different. Less well-dressed and…coarser. They weren’t these super thin, super coiffed aliens that we had come to expect. Rather they were…normal.
There were fat white Swedes interspersed among the hordes of Hajis. The men didn’t speak English- an abnormality in a 90% English speaking country. The women were coarser, fatter, and dressed like Russians- leather jackets, boots and ripped jeans.
But back to old town.
Occasionally Greg and I would put our feet up on a bench and soak it all in. Through the windows of some 18th century french windows we could see a group of beautiful women in gorgeous dresses and jewelry dining all together in some posh restaurant. They were young, still in their twenties and absolutely radiant. Greg snapped a pic and we both grinned at each other guiltily. We felt like voyeurs getting a first row seat to something that commoners like us weren’t supposed to be seeing.
Greg, feeling more attuned to the subtle social pressure of not being seen as gawking tourists kept us moving, whereas I would have been content to slav squat a little longer. I couldn’t help but notice how there weren’t any police there, and how there was absolutely noÂ diversity to be seen.Â I could have squatted as long as I damn well pleased…
I used to think that thisÂ gated community phenomenon was something confined to anglo-sphere countries where even before the teeming masses of the third world were invited in, upper-crust ruffle-collar wearing Calvinist types would self-segregate into communities of Elect and proceed to burn each other at the stake for perceived sins against the long-necked values of the community. But we saw a lot of the same phenomenon in Sweden.
This, coupled with their Preventative Politeness ™- a strategy used by goodwhytes whereby they keep distance between you and them by dialing the politeness up to 110%. You feel like you can’t breach the shield of politeness because to do so would be impolite. Its a vicious cycle and a deadly defense against pesky tourist innocently asking where the nearest pet shop is. Â I’ve only really ever seen it used in anglo-sphere countries, which coupled with perfect rows of gleaming white teeth makes meaningful conversationÂ nigh-impossible.
But back to Old Town, again.
The Swedes have a tradition of getting really really really drunk. I saw more drunkeness there in my short week-long trip than in my entire time in Russia. Let that sink in. They just do it in an oh so Swedish way. They drink until they can barely walk, but they don’t make a sound. The busses are filled with bottles and bobbing heads and the stink of liquor. But they are silent as well. A group of English chav tourists broke the monotony as they ambled down the streets chatting amonst each other, looking for a place to piss. I never thought I’d be so happy to see drunken British tourists in my life.
Even they couldn’t break the eery quiet for long, however. We kept walking, turning down alleys and mainstreets, soaking it all in. I was struck by how insulated this place was. It was like a retirement community for the Swedish race. Established Boomers with property and net value probably in the low millions wining and dining amidst the disintegration of their nation.
When we moved to Malmo, we lived with a similar Swede. Like all the older Swedes, he seemed to know the country was sunk, but didn’t seem to care much about it. “Invest in property,” he advised us, “make sure to put your first million in property and wait 5 years.”
“You really can’t go wrong with property,” his girlfriend chimed in.
I nodded again with a grin on my faceÂ and said, “I wish I had invested my first million in property! What a mistake!”
“Its never too late.” He intoned seriously at me.
But what about Old Town?
I thought to myself: “What a waste.” I imagined families there, with little kids playing in the fountains and climbing the statues of heroes slaying dragons. I imagined some bottlesÂ and cigarette butts on the ground from teens out for a night of fun and danger. I imagined car horns and church bells peeling. In short, I imagined Russia, or rather I imagined what Russians would have done with a place like Stockholm’s old town. It would be dirtier, more crowded and the immaculately restored building would be cracked and peeling from neglect. But there would be life where there is now a pretty graveyard.
The Boomers, like everywhere in the West, don’t seem to care. They’ve got theirs, in Old Town, Stockholm. Its the scrap heap for the rest of usÂ though.