Jen Taylor Friedman (hatam_soferet) wrote,
Jen Taylor Friedman

Sweden, II

livredor and I spent Shabbat in the centre of Stockholm, borrowing a flat in the city centre for convenience's sake.

And it was really, really nice.

Stockholm had a Culture Festival going on, so we spent Friday afternoon noodling around town. We had the most enormous, yummy, decadent lunch imaginable, and then went to see a 1500-strong gospel choir, which was fun. They did quite simple things, as you would expect of a gigantic choir like that, and indeed were mostly worth seeing for the fact of being gigantic, but heck. They had a conductor who looked more as though she was conducting an aerobics class than a choir, but was endearingly bouncy and it seemed to work - and some fun soloists.

Stockholm also has immensely fun tube stations, which would count as art installations if they were not also functioning as a public transport system. This makes going by tube very enjoyable, since you can find all manner of random statues and odd little details lurking in corners.

Sweden, being pretty far north, has a tendency to exaggerate its hours of daylight, having either implausibly short or wearyingly long nights, but right now is a fairly median sort of point, with quite civilised hours. Thus it was that we were able to noodle back to the flat and bring Shabbat in at a sensible sort of time.

At some point, Sweden seems to have decided that an island would be a really swish venue for a capital city. As is the way of such things, the city has grown and spread across the neighbouring islands, so that it is like a more extreme version of Venice. It is exceedingly pretty, and our walk to shul in the morning involved a lot of waterside and a lot of bridges. This was Nice.

The shul is an interesting remnant of old-style Reform Judaism, the type which had attained respectability and was therefore able to build rather splendid synagogues in comfortable urban style. It is very very ornate and pretty, and I confess to having spent rather a lot of time staring open-mouthed at the decor.

As is the way of these things, the shul has an organ, which I had noticed but wasn't expecting to hear. So I was utterly taken aback when we got to the Torah service and all this organ music started up - like, whoa. I've not heard much organ music in shuls; only in a few High Reform places in the USA, where, I'm sorry to say, it was utterly ghastly, in a creepy wannabe-Gothic-but-sadly-laughable sort of way - and also "organ shuls" are rather vilified in my circles as being representative of Something We Don't Do. That is, my automatic reaction to hearing organ music was "ewww," followed by "noooo!" I'm not especially proud of this, please note.

But, here's the thing: it was actually pretty nice. It was basically church music, rather than gothic movie music; that definitely helped. My background being what it is, I do rather think that a proper church service involves organ music, so proper church-type organ music has good associations for me, and okay yes shul isn't church, but to a degree religion is religion, so it's not entirely surprising that that kind of mixing should happen on some level.

So that was an interesting experience. This isn't the place for a discussion on how coming to see the point of organ music fits in with other considerations concerning music and Shabbat; suffice it to say that foreign travel is supposed to broaden the mind and my mind is broader.

Shul provided kiddush, which gave us enough energy to take in some more of Stockholm's convenient culture festival. We saw a troupe of kids doing exciting acrobatic things; they were very joyous and good to watch. Then on the other side of the square there was Indian dancing, which is not actually something I've ever seen on purpose, so that was educational and really really pretty and fun.

And then we went back along the islands and past all the water towards LUNCH, which was basically Spanish omelette containing all the vegetables we'd had in the fridge, so that was virtuously healthy, conveniently portable, and a jolly good lunch. And I got to spend lots of time snuggling livredor, which is something that generally gets thwarted by the Atlantic, and therefore worthy of mention as a rare treat.

Back into town for 8pm, because the culture festival had decided to have the opera house present highlights of its coming programme. In concert form, obviously, but jolly good; a spot of Barber of Seville, some Samson and Delilah, which they are apparently setting in contemporary Gaza, but this being a concert fortunately that wasn't inflicted on us, some Boheme, some surprisingly enjoyable Wagner, and a really super chunk of Il Troubadore.

And then there was a lunar eclipse, which we watched as we walked home along the waterfronts, past trinkling fountains, pretty trees, and a random firework display. It doesn't really get much better than that.
Tags: art, chums, entertainment, logistics, shul

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