Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An Irish Encounter, and Working for Aslan

'Så, va … vaarr kommer duu ifrån…" was slurred into my ears from a groaning barstool beside me. The man currently occupying it weighed easily in the mid-two-hundreds, and it wasn't just his threadbare sweater that tired of his company. The barman turned away while he shook his head, saying something akin to "...and away we go..." with a roll of his eyes. It didn't take translation to know that this was familiar territory for him.

"Ehh?" the man said, moving closer. His breath smelled somewhat like the arse-end of a brewery, and one eye lolled of its own accord off to the side as he tried to look me straight on.

I sidled away toward the patrons on the other side of me, grinning because the whole thing was somehow ridiculous. "Jag är Australien" … I replied while doing so, to which he then asked which 'part' of Sweden I was from.


Escaping with three drinks in hand, I made for the stairs, the gnashing pop-rock from the stereo blotting out the rest of the conversation he was having to the Heiniken tap, which, I think at that point he believed was me. A couple of young Swedes grinned as I walked past, I still haven't learned the Swedish word for 'newbie' but words weren't really necessary at that point.

Back at the table it was laughs, everyone who had bought a round so far had met my friend and it seemed everyone had a different story about him - the worst by far from one of the girls.

So this is where I found myself on a random Sunday evening. Surrounded by a rowdy, lovely bunch of Irish and Aussies at a bar in Gamla Stan. It seems I always fall in with crowds of foreigners. Not that it's a problem, per se, I mean, sure the goal is to try and get some immersion in a non-english speaking country, but so far I can't for the life of me figure out how to meet the locals. Case in point; first week here. I'm at a concert selected on a whim, thinking I can give my beer ticket away in exchange for breaking the ice with some Stockholmians. Alas, the beer ticket I gave away was met with a "Cheers bud!" in a thick Californian accent. Foiled once again…

Of course, the peeps I've met have been great peeps, and of course, I will keep trying, it's probably just one of those 'when you're not looking' things, and then suddenly I'll find myself eating Swedish meatballs over some glög and discussing a maypole or something.

I should also say that meeting people isn't the problem, it's really the 'connecting' part. Perhaps it's the language thing (working on it!), or perhaps it's just that they can instinctively tell that my backpack isn't from Tiger of Sweden … yes that seems probable. Although it could also be a secret handshake I've missed.

All this notwithstanding, I must say that my workplace has in fact been instrumental in helping me with a) the language, b) meeting people, and c) learning how to run a cafe. It's great because you're never doing just one thing, you're serving, then you're making coffee, then you're washing dishes, then making cakes, running food and trying to tell the visiting Russians that no, you don't understand what "Принесите мне кофе мальчик!" means … it's an interesting situation to be sure.

- I work for Aslan, by the way.

He's a nice enough fellow, enthusiastic, happy and not as lion-esque as one might imagine. I think he's from the middle-east somewhere. But the cafes are owned by him and a friend, and it works wonders with the tourists. I say 'cafes' because the one I work at is actually one of a pair. The other half of the business is next door. Chokladkoppen is where I'm at, Kaffekoppen is the other, but both serve the same food.

Chokladkoppen has quite a name for itself too. I didn't know just how so until I was told by my Irish companions last night, but apparently we're in the Lonely Planet guide to Sweden:

"Chokladkoppen - Stortorget. Arguably Stockholm's best loved cafe, hole-in-the-wall Chokladkoppen sits slap bang on the Old Town's enchanting main square. It's a gay-friendly spot, with cute, gym-fit waiters, a look-at-me summer terrace and yummy grub like broccoli and blue-cheese pie and scrumptious cakes."

So … quite. I don't know if I agree with the 'gym-fit' part, but I'll take the compliment. I mean, I cycle once in a while I suppose. Er, thanks Lonely Planet! Here's what it looks like, romantically surrounded by slush on a cloudy day (it's the orange one on the right):

Chokladkoppen and Kaffekoppen, not in that order. ;)

In conclusion and all in all though, it's been an interesting start to my time here. A bit quiet, a little cold, but I am looking forward to some - slightly - warmer weather to start my trekking about.

Initial thoughts: Stockholm in the winter isn't just cold. It's really very, very neat.


5 thoughts are now mine:

Luke Davidson said...

I don't know, James. You work for Aslan, someone sleeps in your cupboard... are you just stealing bits of pieces from children's books and claiming them as your life? :p

I was going to say working in the cafe sounds tough - not sure I'd be able to do all those tasks, not to mention the language issues. But then you probably can't either. Sounds like you were just hired for your looks according to the lonely planet. :P

Jimzip said...

Hahaha. Ok ok, I'll admit, it all sounds a little like a lawsuit waiting to happen, but don't you know me by now? ;) Somehow I just seem to attract bizarreness. It's not my fault darnit! X)

And you're right, I can't do all those things, especially not the Russian part. But it all makes for fun blog posts! ;) Come visit and you be the judge!

Jimzip :D

Dale said...

I must hand it to you, you write these kinds of entries very, very well! Your words - even when they're not all in English - whisk me away to someplace nice until I reach the bottom of the page and reality sets back in... *wistful sigh*

Maybe Aslan has a secret life in which he's much more sage and roar-y? And if you work your way up through the ranks and become a wildly successfully cafe magnate/tycoon type person - name a cake after me? :)

And with that I will sign off, whilst wondering how Lonely Planet might describe me...

Jimzip said...

lol thanks Dale. ;) Lonely Planet would have kind words I'm sure. Perhaps something like: 'Dale can be found smack in the middle of a fantasy novel, he is gay-friendly, jogging-fit and has a look-at-me summer hairstyle'!

Hmm, that wasn't so hard. That's it ... I'm writing for Lonely Planet!

Jimzip :D

Dale said...

Well if Lonely Planet aren't hiring I'll pay you to write lots of short bio's about me! Or at least adapt and improve them from other existing descriptions. :)

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