Spring has arrived in Stockholm and while that means more sunshine (hello 4am !) and slightly warmer days it also means noise – and lots of it.
Stockholm, for as long as I’ve lived here, has seemingly been under permanent construction. More than twenty years ago, during my first stint in the city, the lovely Kungsträgården, in the center of town, was under renovations for a decade or so. Kungsträgården means ‘King’s Garden’ and is just a stone’s throw from the Royal Palace, with the Opera on one end, and edged with lovely little cafés, and boutiques as it leads up to one of the city’s main shopping areas.Today it’s lined with gorgeous cheery trees, with space for concerts, outdoor events, and featuring plenty of space to grab a seat and enjoy the sun. When it’s reconstruction was completed I thought, ‘Yay! Finally the city can sleep!’
It can’t. Every corner you turn will reveal another bit of roadworks or the façade of a building being redone. Where I live the building next door began a top to bottom re-boot the day I moved in and, if the amount of worker’s supplies still piled outside are any indication, it doesn’t look like they’ll be wrapping things up any time soon.
On one hand it’s great to see a city that is constantly improving itself, always upgrading, freshening up, and looking to make life better for its inhabitants.
On the other hand it’s going to be great for the future people of Stockholm but for us living here right now? Not so much fun. Each morning big trucks carrying whatever it is that is needed for the construction project du jour start rumbling by as the sun begins to rise (hello 4 am!). It’s a slightly startling way to wake up and you’d think I’d be used to it by now but sadly, no, I’m not.
One eye opens, I glare at the clock, toss and turn a bit and then give up and go to make myself a cup of tea. And this is where I remember what a great city Stockholm is.
Now that I’m rising with the birds I get that quiet (ish) morning time, before the kids are awake, to take a walk in the woods or go for a swim. This may be a city but the woods are never far away and a brisk walk before most people are awake is a great way to start my day. If I want to swim, Stockholm is brimming with swimming halls, including one just around the corner from me that opens at 6 – which gives me plenty of time to amp up on caffeine before exercise.
I’m not unaware, of course, that all cities generate their fair share of noise, at all times of day and night – and thems the breaks if you want the plus side of urban life. And sometimes that noise means something great is going on.
It’s been what seems like forever since the discussions began about renovating the very congested (and horrifically unappealing) Slussen area on the south side of the city, with politicians putting forth various plans and local residents, after being consulted, soundly rejecting each and every one of them.
Residents say the area is a cultural landmark but I’m more inclined to think that they know how long this project will take, just how loud, dusty and inconvenient it will be, and there’s no way they’re going to put up with it without a serious fight.
So as I sit here and write this at lunchtime on an overcast Thursday afternoon, trucks are rumbling by, a man with a drill is having enormous loads of fun not far from my kitchen window, and someone, somewhere, is repeatedly banging on a piece of pipe. I brush a bit more dust off the window sills, wonder if they’ll blast disco polka today or if their recent affection for Wagner will stand the test of time – and I realize that in an hour or so I’ll be heading out to meetings, then a lovely dinner at a new restaurant and then a show.
And then I remember that I live in a vibrant city that is more alive than ever, and that, if we’re lucky, it will continue to grow and thrive.
Now for my headache tablets.
Judi Lembke is a writer and editor based in Europe. Her work spans the spectrum, from light humour to corporate film and pretty much everything in between. Most of her adult life has been spent as an expat, with stints in London, Sydney and, currently. Stockholm, Sweden. She finds expat life stimulating, challenging and always very interesting. Judi blogs at Judi Lembke Ink.