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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A plunge into Swedish History- The New Indian Express


Express News Service

Tucked away in a 17th-Century wine cellar is Storkyrkobadet in Stockholm, Sweden. The dingy passageway to the basement wears its age on its sleeve. The steps take you down to history. The place where the stairwell ends, a row of porcelain bathtubs lay open.

There is a sauna and what resembles a swimming pool. This unusual underground bath is one of the charming secrets of Storkyrkobadet that make the obscure interesting. The building where Storkyrkobadet is, was once used by the Dominican convent. It was converted into a primary school.

Today, it is a gay man’s escape. The first people to put Storkyrkobadet on the radar were the well-known gay journalist Jonas Gardell and his husband Mark Levengood, who first met here. They made Storkyrkobadet a sanctuary of love, safety and freedom.

Today, it attracts people for its informality. It offers privacy; one of the ways that is achieved is by separate visit timing for men and women. It is 5 pm and 8.30 pm for men on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, while Mondays and Thursdays are reserved for women.

The trajectory of the place saw a notable shift in the 19th century, a flourishing time for Stockholm. Schools were opening in many parts of Sweden as a result of heightened awareness for quality education. When a primary school opened in the building where Storkyrkobadet today is after the convent shut, it was welcomed with open arms.

Every bit of the building was used but the vault area remained untouched. After much pondering, the school administration constructed a swimming pool in the basement for children to use. It was a progressive move for the time. But there was a downside. The pool was of no use once the children left for home.

In 1932, the pool was opened to the public after it underwent renovation. More features were added such as a sauna and showering areas. Lockers were built in too. This attracted a lot of city dwellers who came to Storkyrkobadet for recreation. 

But in the 1980s, it was on the verge of shut down as it was losing lustre with a lot more options for recreation available around the area. Storkyrkobadet became an expensive proposition to run. Just in time, The Society of Merry Bathers saved it from doom and the bathhouse opened once again. Visit this unusual underground pool when you are in Stockholm next.

While you are there, check these out

  • A three-minute walk from Storkyrkobadet is the Nobel Museum. It opened in 2001 for the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize and houses several artefacts donated by Nobel laureates.

  • If you are in the old town of Gamla Stan, it is customary to visit Aifur, a Viking-themed bar and restaurant. The grim alleyway down the basement leads you to a cheerful dining place with sheepskin-covered wooden benches and armoury hanging off the walls.

  • A quick visit to Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, Stockholm’s narrowest alley, is worth checking out when in the vicinity. It is merely two feet wide. It is named after a rich German merchant, Mårten Trotzig, who bought a piece of land in the area and opened a shop here back in the day. 



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