Monday, August 27, 2007

Laundry, UPS, and Södermalm

8am: laundry

Doing the first laundry in a foreign country always involves a surprise. Swedish people usually share washing machines with others living in the same apartment building. My residence has a rule on this: you need to book your laundry either from 7-11am, 11am-2pm, 2pm-6pm, or 6pm-10pm (for Sundays, the 7-11am slot is unavailable) by inserting a cylinder with your room number into the time table hanging on the wall outside the laundry room in the basement. You cannot pull out the cylinder without inserting your key in it; so nobody can change your booking.

I book my laundry this morning, and there are two washing machines and a huge tumble dryer (by Electrolux, Sweden’s electric appliances maker) in the laundry room. I don’t know which button to press as all the instructions are in Swedish. Luckily, an elderly lady comes to the room. I ask her for instructions. She seems to start believing that I never did laundry before. No, I just don’t understand Swedish instructions…

It takes 2 hours to finish, as I need to wash my clothes in three separate batches (whites, blacks, and sensitive textiles with a hand-wash laundry tag). What is stupid is that you cannot select a washing program that includes spinning. After washing is done, you need to press a button for spinning, and wait for three more minutes…

9:30am: go to the Institute and check UPS online tracking. No updates. Call them up. They say they will come today. Go home immediately.

While waiting, hoover the flat floors.

3:15pm: UPS finally arrives. Immediately after the UPS driver leaves, go out to Södermalm, Stockholm's equivalent of Hoxton and Shoreditch in London.

4-7pm: Get off at Slussen station. Walk to Götgatan. Check out Wallpaper*'s recommendation Konsthantverket at Södermalmstorg 4. Not my taste. Wallpaper* may not be so useful for me.

Walk down to the south along Götgatan. The pedestrianised street is busy with youngsters perhaps going out after the first day of school and college. Ordning & Reda's flagship store is here with better presentation of its products than all the other branches I've visited so far. Opposite this is 10 Swedish Designers, which mostly sells bags. Its geometric patterns are, however, rather disappointing. One block south lie two shopping-centre-esque places on both sides of the street. At Götgatan 36, boutiques for youngsters surround a nice bohemian cafe. It's called Bruno Götgatsbacken. David Design is supposed to be here, but it has moved to another place. On the other side of the street, Götgatan 31, sits a cluster of interesting shops including Granit and DesignTorget. There is also Press Stop, a magazine store which also sells some magazines in English including The American (a magazine newly launched this month featuring Japan and Sweden) and Monocle, which the shop attendant tells me will be on the shelf tomorrow.

Turn left and walk along Högbergsgatan, which is pretty much deserted today. After passing the crossing with Östgötagatan, find yet another furniture store called Ritto. Although the store looks a bit untidy, its presentation of kitchen tables is enlightening. They do stock things unavailable at other stores. How many more stores like this does Stockholm offer?

Further walking to the east and then turning right to go down on Nytorgsgatan, find a kitchen show room called Svensk Kökstradition. It seems very expensive, but offers a classical atmosphere with some contemporary twist.

This area appears to have several offices for creative types. Looking through the windows, I notice all these offices feature stylish desk chairs etc.

Walking down further, I learn that Apparat and Klara at Nytorgsgatan 36, featured in Time Out, have been replaced by some boutiques for youngsters. Walking one block to the east, Elviras Värlad at Renstiernas Gata 24, also featured in Time Out, are shut down, too. But find Chimra, which displays popart-ish lighting. There's also a furniture store next door.

Walk to the south on Renstiernas Gata. At the crossing with Skånegatan sits Stockholms Stadsmission, a second-hand clothes and crockery shop. Find an old steel pan with nice turquoise decoration on the side, kind of a pan you can't see these days.

Walk two blocks to the west. This area has many boutiques targeting bohemian youngsters. Mixed with them are Coctail and Coctail Deluxe, two separate shops under the same management recommended by Time Out. They sell rather girlie home accessories. But Coctail Delux store displays a small, pink suede buddha(!). Find another boutique called Grandpa, playing eccentric rock tunes as background. Along with clothes they also sell glass cups, one or two used leather sofa, and a golden tank-shaped vase.

It's now about 6pm, when most shops close on weekdays. Just before reaching Medborgarplatsen station, find YET another furniture store They make an interesting CD storage suggestion and teach me how to use your postcards from friends as an interior decoration.

Back at home, start unpacking the UPS boxes. My Hi-Fi system comes up. For the first time in a week, manage to listen to music without using earphones.

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