Category Archives: Sweden

Coffee in Gothenburg Part: 3

Mauritz Kaffe is an institution in the Gothenburg coffee circles. It is famous not only for its coffee and great buns and sandwiches, but also for being the first really italian inspired coffee bar opening in Gothenburg. Not to say in Sweden. It is a funny, eccentric place and I have therefore grown to love it.

You find this coffee bar, or coffee house as the owner Tord Wetter preferes to call it, on the busy Fredsgatan, no. 2, in the middle of the city center. Wherever you are planning to go in central Gothenburg, you will inevitably pass by Brunnsparken, one of the three major squares where all the busses and trams pass, and Fredsgatan is one of the main arteries leading further into the heart of the city. Mauritz Kaffe is therefore close to everything. You can’t miss it.

When I went a few weeks ago it was my first time in years, but it was like having it been stuck in a time warp where everything was just like in 1993, or 2004 for that matter. That is a quality I like and find fascinating with institutions like this, and since Mr. Wetter opened this place in 1971 and it has been a hit ever since, he should know. Being the fourth generation of coffee connoisseurs running Mauritz Kaffe, the name comes from his great-great-great grandfather Mauritz Svenson whom started the business in 1888, Tord is now fighting a battle against the big and mighty city council and his landlord who have agreed an unreasonable, and in the case of Mauritz Kaffe devastating, increase in rent. Running a business like this you can never compete with high street names the likes of H&M, Starbucks or Zara, but that does not mean that the inner city have to contain nothing else but. A city planner, responsible city architect or what have you must cherish and appreciate the variety and diversity businesses like this bring to the overall picture and experience of a modern inner city. So I dearly hope that Mauritz Kaffe will be at its current address for many years to come.

The coffee though; any good you might wonder? It’s great. Otherwise this place wouldn’t still be up and running after all these years. My Ethiopian coffee (yes, you can choose from a number of various blends and pure beans), served in a Presso coffee maker, was just as fruity and well rounded as I wanted it. The espresso a few days later was also great. I haven’t tried their milk drinks yet, but there is no reason what so ever they would not be top notch too. An update will come in a month or two when I have been back. If you go here, you should not miss the sour-dough plum buns. I know, how nice does that sound? you might think. But they are heavenly.

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Filed under Bäst Kaffe i Göteborg, Coffee, Göteborg, Mauritz Kaffe, Sweden

Contrasts

Sitting in the summer house this morning, reading the local morning paper, I came across a short column asking the question “why do we choose to live in the big cities when most of us confess to wanting to live in the country side, taking it easy not working as hard as we do?” An adequate question when millions of Europeans escape the drudge of fast city life, changing the suit and tie for worn jeans and leisure shirts or a relaxed piqué. Hours will be spent by beaches, strolls in forests and hikes across mountains. People will escape to summer houses all over the world. So why do we restrict this leisurely time to just a few weeks per year? Can’t we do more of it? Would that really kill us, you know, to take a few hours off every week and spend some down time in the country side doing nothing and spend quality time with family and friends. I don’t think so. It would change us, yes, but more in the  positive sense of the word.

Looking out over the slow, gently rolling sea I can’t imagine not being here every summer. But how wonderful it would be to be able to see this every morning. To be able to take a quick dip in the big, salty blue in November would be a dream. Being able to sit here writing, looking out over the granite rocks formed millions of years ago and finally shaped more than ten-thousand years ago when the ice covering Europe withdrew after its grip on our continent. But have I given up my time and said no to my jobs in London, Amsterdam or wherever I happen to be asked to go? No. I need the money. Or so I tell myself. I also love my job, and the life I have chosen to lead, but perhaps I should re-think it all. Not just tell everyone else to do so. Living close to the sea, or in the country side with a flat in the city would be my dream existence.

But it’s not the easiest for a careerist, a focused late-twenties ambitious someone. We all have goals in life, but do we have to reach them so fast? We seem to be forced to think we are not good at what we are doing if we haven’t achieved the dream with a comet like career, a fast life style, thousands of air-miles and a posh city flat before we hit the big three-o. Why is that? Can’t we give it some more time, try enjoying it more while we’re at it?
It is so easy to loose focus and loose our passion for what we initially wanted to achieve with our lives. The speed of the 21st century society rocketing past our ears is so deafening at times there’s no surprise we might wake up one day and wonder “eh…what happened?” When that happens, it a sure sign to have a serious think. Go out in the nature, sit on the cliffs looking out over the sea, find a calm, peaceful place in the country side and try listening to yourself. In the big cities, that’s virtually impossible.

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Filed under Amsterdam, City Life VS. Country Side Lull, London, Paris, Stressful City Life, Sweden

Where is home?

Constantly travelling. Always in new accommodation. Never your own furniture. Never sleep in your own bed. You know, the one you bought six years ago to suit your length, weight and your spine perfectly? It’s in storage somewhere with three complete homes shipped from different parts of the world.

You never know when to be able to move “home” again, all depend on where the work is. It is tiring sometimes, to never know for how long you’ll be staying in a particular place. Will it be for three months? Maybe two years? Or, maybe this is where “home” will actually be from now on? God only knows.


But still, a freelancer’s existence is exiting. It gives you experiences that hardly anyone else gets early on in their career. You see new places, get to travel far and wide, enjoy the hospitality of new colleagues and friends from the most diverse backgrounds, both ethnic and geographic.


The new cuisines you get to try, oh can they not be the most interesting? You try food you fall in love with immediately, some grows on you, and some are simply inedible. Not to forget: languages. You learn a phrase here and a word there and all of a sudden you’ve picked up another language.


I think for me though, what stays with me the longest is the beauty of a place. Sometimes the cities or towns you visit are appallingly boring and you can’t wait to get away. However, the times you spend in major cities and beautiful countryside settings can be enormously rewarding.


Being able to walk in the Cotswolds on your day off, or take a stroll along the Seine before you need to be at the theatre for an afternoon session is just incredible. It is such a grace to have the opportunity of seeing all these places and spend prolonged periods of time abroad. To get to know new countries and cultures, and still being payed to be there. Isn’t that just amazing?


Still, home is always home. The saying my home is my castle couldn’t be more accurate when you spend months, sometimes years, away from the warmth of your own home. But I’m sure that one day I’ll be able to unpack all those boxes and take out all the furniture of storage. To once again be able to create my own castle, wherever that might be.


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Filed under Amsterdam, Architecture, France, Gothenburg, London, Paris, Sweden

God rest ye Merry Gentlemen

Once again Christmas is upon us. Every year it’s as much of a surprise, isn’t it?  Though, let’s not pretend it’s the most amazing time of the year for everyone. Lots of people are alone and it is more painful than ever around Christmas. We miss the people who aren’t with us any more because at Christmas we’re supposed to be together with our loved ones. Still, we have to think about the beautiful memories and the joy they gave us when they were around.  It is a time for joy, but also for remembrance and love.

Every season and every day has it’s own pleasures and joys, but it has to be admitted that when most parts of Europe is covered in a thick blanket of snow it really is the most gorgeous. Amsterdam, The NetherlandsAll the lights in the Christmas trees and candles in the windows reflecting in the snow against the dark night sky, can it be more idyllic? Dear old uncle Scrooge would call out ”humbug!”, close his computer (or Bob Cratchit’s I guess) and walk away in a huff, but for those of us who wants to enjoy some magic I think Christmas is the time to do so. Children and grown-ups alike. Forget the stress and the daunting prospect of the credit card bill in January. If it’s too much hard work it won’t be fun anyway. If you don’t want the Nigella Lawson Christmas Extravaganza, just pop down to the nearest supermarket and buy everything prepared. If you don’t want the stress and risk of getting in hysterics over Christmas presents, don’t buy any. Or agree on simply swapping paperbacks this year. If you’ve got kids that might be a hard one to negotiate, but at least cut down on the prezzies for the adults. Being together, having a nice meal, getting tipsy and fall asleep in front of the BBC Christmas Special is what we all want anyway, isn’t it?

When I watched the old movie Miracle on 34th Street the other day I suddenly remembered how high expectations and magic surrounded the Christmas holidays when one was a kid. Why and when did it change into being a logical and commercial, almost cynical, “happening” instead? Why is it so hard to hold on to something romantic and beautiful? One doesn’t need to believe in Santa Clause as a grown-up just to think that Christmas is great. Or does one? Why is it childish to be a romantic around Christmas, but not at other times of the year? Then it’s just plain silly if you ask some.


For me, having dragged the Christmas tree home on the Metro the other day it gave such a wonderful feeling of contentment. When the tree is decorated, the fairy lights glowing and the presents are lying underneath, I can just sit back and relax. When I look at the Christmas tree, the signature symbol of Christmas I have always loved, I feel an inner peace and warmth I simply can’t explain. I love it and hope all of you will have the opportunity to feel the same.


Mr. Freelance wishes you all a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New years 2011! And don’t forget, Christmas is a time for relaxation and peacefulness. And a slightly excessive imbibing of champagne, I guess…


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Filed under Christmas, Sweden

When I was one and twenty

When I was in my late teens I dressed in a dark long coat, wore a beret and, sometimes, mascara. If only occasionally, it did happen. Today I’m ashamed over the fact, but there we are. I was also a socialist of sorts and found Kafka’s books the most exiting literature ever printed. And I thought I knew best. Does this picture seem familiar to anyone? Many of us working in the Arts have gone through this phase, and some never get out of it. Luckily I did. Today I find bespoke tailoring, antiquarian books and a good dry martini more interesting and fulfilling. Pretentious? Probably. But that’s how I turned out.


Why am I rambling on about this then, dear reader? Well, it’s all down to the latest book I read. It’s by a young (he’s only twenty-one) Swedish writer-in-waiting called Jonas Strandberg. The book, Feberstaden (Fever City for those of you with minor linguistic skills), is written in Swedish and not yet published by a major publishers, but I sincerely hope someone will pick it up very soon. I just couldn’t put it down, and it immediately took me back to my own youth on the Swedish west coast. The characters struggle to get their heads around their lives and their interests straight, the uncertainty of adulthood and the future, the boiling passion for music, it’s all in there.

Simply put, the book is about a bunch of guys in their early twenties, if that, all playing in a band. They are just on the brink of making it big time when the lead singer and front man disappear without a trace. He can’t be found anywhere.  The remaining guys scramble their forces trying to get back on track but realizes it’s not that easy. The question remains; how much are you prepared to give up for success, for possibly “making it” in the world of rock ’n’ roll? Is it worth sacrificing virtually everything?

I agree, reading it like that it doesn’t sound like much. A really bad detective story? A youngster trying to ride on the wave of success from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy? If so he wouldn’t be the first. But no, that really isn’t the case. Strandberg’s storytelling is mesmerizing. The plot described above is the central body of the story, the overriding line, but not its real core. What it’s really about is the immense pressure these young musicians, and the patient girlfriends involved, are under. How they struggle to find their own ground, their own sound and their identity as a band. The testosterone pumping and the frustration with parents who doesn’t understand the passion are painfully close to the surface all the time. When reading Feberstaden it started to itch all over, it made me really stressed since I can easily remember the feelings described so vividly. It might have been many years ago for me, but Strandberg manages to rouse it all again. I can’t say I’m grateful to him for that, but it’s a good skill for a writer.

Being this young and being able to be such a brilliant storyteller is a treat and very promising. There are minor editing errors that need to be dealt with, but that is in no way a critique of Strandberg’s gift as a writer. I’m not sure he’s found “his real” voice yet – something tells me that the sometimes overly elaborate descriptions and convoluted sentences are a sign of wanting to say too much, not trusting his reader and his own gift. In short, that is what we’re all struggling with as artists in whichever discipline though, isn’t it?

I hope he will get due credit for his work and won’t give up writing. If he carries on this is for sure someone to look out for and a writer we will hear a lot about in the future.

 

… Aware in his whole body that what he listened to was so much more than just songs on a record. It was five young peoples message to the world told in a way you can only talk or scream when you’re twenty years old. When everything still matters and thing s still mean something and every fall seems bottomless, but the tops so very close to blue stars. It wasn’t just files, not just poetry about love and anxiety and not just music.

It never is just music.

– Jonas Strandberg, excerpt from Feberstaden


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Filed under Gothenburg, Literature, Sweden