To continue his education in European heritage and culture, Sushil and I packed off to Stockholm for this year's Eurovision. Eurovision, despite its name, is a song contest with contestants from as far afield as Azerjiban, Israel and Australia. It was started after WWII as a way to help unite a fractured continent, and is the stage from which both ABBA* and Céline Dion were launched onto the world. Over the years, its popularity outside the continent's borders has caused it to expand to non-European countries with (sometimes aspirational) Western ideals. It is very popular within its constituent countries, and wildly so withing their gay communities. It is our World Cup.
Stockholm is a beautiful city, but in a muted Scandinavian way, handsome and proud, not flashy or pandering. The city is actually an archipelago, covering myriad islands spreading out towards the Baltic Sea, and whose most far-flung islets serve as weekend- and Summer-homes for Stockholm's chattering classes. The city is currently under a lot of pressure. Geography and heritage limit its urban footprint, but the population demands of a strong economy and welcoming culture are coming into direct conflict with Stockholm's height restrictions and regulated rents. But that was no concern of ours, as we stayed at my friend Stefan's fabulous central (rent-regulated) 1800s period flat, which made a perfect base for exploring worthwhile Stockholm by foot and Uber.
On Friday night, we went to the judges night of the Eurovision final. They actually do the final twice, on Friday (when the judges vote) and Saturday (when the audience votes), so they can tape Friday's performance as a back-up for Saturday's live broadcast. This worked out perfectly, as we got to see the show, but didn't have to hang around for the two hours of audience voting and results. That we did on Saturday night in the comfort of Stefan's flat, where he hosted a Eurovision party (the proper way to watch). My favourite of the night was Australia, though my iTunes favourite is Sweden. Sushil thought Hungary's entrant was very talented, but Ukraine came out on top with a typically political Eurovision win, which I was fine with, considering how much effort and dazzle homophobic, aggressive Russia put into its number.
It was a very successful educational trip! Sushil is coming along just fine.
*When we mentioned this fact to Sushil, he asked "Who's ABBA?" Stefan and I recoiled in horror and spent the end of the first night educating him over YouTube and wine. He is now an expert.
Swedish church, near Stefan's
The Swedish royal palace, where Prince Carl Philip lives...and bathes.
Looking out towards town hall from the old city
And the old city from the town hall
The streets on the island that make up the oldest part of Stockholm are winding and narrow.
And its central square hosts a gay cafe/bar.
The central island (old city) from the water
Stockholm was decked out to welcome Eurovision.
Even the post boxes were spruced up.
Our seats weren't bad at all!
Sushil's favourite showing off his, erm, singing talent.
Basking in the warm glow of Hungary.
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