Books + Movies
Instead of taking guided tours of the cities you visit, why not explore them on your own? Along with your map and guidebook, take a good novel set in the city - and read a few pages when you stop for a rest at parks and cafes!
I find it difficult to walk past a bookstore without walking inside. I find it equally difficult to walk out of a bookstore without buying something.
On my first foray into a Swedish bookstore with an unpronounceable name, I purchased five postcards and a book called "City Walks in Stockholm", with 14 walks through the city's most interesting neighborhoods.
Can I do all 14 of the walks during my four week stay?
I adhere to the Slow Travel concept. I would rather spend more time in one place and immerse myself in the culture rather than spending half my time roaming from place to place.
To that end, I started watching Ingmar Bergman films on YouTube before leaving home.
Now that I have arrived in Sweden, is it time to start reading Swedish literature?
On my second trip inside the booksotore with the unpronounceable name, I decided to ask if there were any English translations of novels written by Swedish authors.
The employee was very helpful trying to find English books, which were scattered among the Swedish books.
Is it because most Swedes are bilingual that they don’t bother segregating books by language?
Then the employee spotted Pontus Platin, who is a writer himself. He is also multilingual, speaking Swedish, Spanish, French, Italian, and English.
He thanked me when I said he spoke English with an American accent.
The helpful employee asked for Pontus's help recommending books, and he immediately started recommending American novels.
I explained that I was an American, and we had plenty of those at home.
Because I was in Sweden for four weeks I wanted to read some Swedish novels while I was here.
Pontus had two reactions: 1.) Why are you going to spend four weeks in Sweden? and 2.) Why do you want to read Swedish novels? He insisted that they weren’t very good. American novels were better.
I decided to ignore Pontus's advice and stick with the bookstore employee's recommendations.
There was a four-for-the-price-of-three discount on novels. So I came away with three crime novels and one comedy. The comedy got Pontus's seal of approval.
I also purchased a picture book called, “Sweden: a Crime Fiction Wonderland”.
The employee was particularly upbeat about “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, by Stieg Larsson.
She said two movies had been made of it, one in Swedish and one in English.
The novel is set largely in the trendy Soldermalm section of Stockholm.
The employee showed me on the map the location of the coffee house where the author had written much of it.
Soldermalm was already high on my bucket list of places to visit. Now it is even higher.
In fact, four of the 14 walks in the City Walks in Stockholm book that I had purchased earlier are in that part of town.
I’ll bring the novel with me when I explore what is reputedly one of Stockholm’s most interesting neighborhood. I’ll read as much of it as I can in the district’s parks and cafes.
As for Pontus, he suggested we have something to drink at a nearby café. We continued our conversation over glasses of wine at a dog friendly café a five minutes' walk from the bookstore.
I learned he didn't particularly like the United States, but he had only been to three American cities: New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, none of which appealed to him.
"Perhaps I didn't visit the right places?" Pontus asked.
He did, however, like Americans (because they are friendly), and he particularly liked American novels
Slow Travel DOES have its advantages. I've only been in Sweden two full days, and already I am making friends.
And next time I'm looking for a good novel - a good American novel, that is - I'll know whom to, ask!
Akademibokhandeln, Vallhallavagen 142, Stockholm, Sweden. Telephone: 010-744 11 40. Bookstore Website: Akademibokhandeln