Every major city has a street or two dedicated to capitalism. There is Orchard Road and Marina Bay in Singapore, Thamrin and Senayan in Jakarta, Storget in Copenhagen and . Stockholm too has its own shrines to shopping, Drottninggatan and Bibliotekstan. Whereas Bibliotekstan is fancy and upper class in its shops and attitude, Drottninggatan is more down to earth and middle class in its offerings.
It is such a shrine to shopping and so unendingly long that some brands have deemed it fine to have multiple stores – H&M has three outlets along this street. I have no idea of the math behind the decision but it must be paying off for H&M in some way.
To be fair, at some point, all the modern shops start to look the same which is why the occasional cute store such as this pharmacy (Apotek or apothecary) really stand out.
While many shops are new, the street itself is not new at all, in fact these were some of the first streets to be established in Stockholm after the city began to stretch beyond the old town. Drottninggatan’s history goes back centuries, and this path was lain back in the 1630s. Together with a number of other streets in a rectangular grid structure – a substantial urban planning innovation, especially when you think of many old towns and the rather messy street plans that old towns have.
But this blogger is not really a shopper, if that is not already obvious, seeing the paucity of shopping district posts on this blog. What really fascinates me about this street is the person that it is named after.
The street is name after Queen Christina a very unique monarch of history. She was the rebel Queen, an intellectual in an age of violence, a feminist in an age of rampant sexism, a Catholic from a Protestant country. Some even say that she was lesbian.
While most rulers want merely land and money, Queen Christina wanted more for her realm. She was a philosopher-queen whose ambition for Stockholm was to turn it into the “Athens of the North” (as compared to the Venice of the North, that it is nicknamed today). The Athens that inspired here was the Athens that produced Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.
Queen Christina also rejected the traditional role for women in society (to produce children) and refused to marry just because she was socially expected to. It caused a scandal in its day, although most of us would barely bat an eyelid now. In fact, you could consider her almost a precursor for the nation today, one of the most gender equal in the world.
At the tender age of 28, Queen Christian created an even larger scandal by abdicating her royal position so that she could convert to become Catholic. This came a time when religious wars and religious disagreements led to wars.
Her conversion meant also that she had to leave her country and spent the rest of her life in Rome (she is in fact buried in the Vatican today).
Considering she was a rebel of her day, I wonder what she would have thought about the street that she has lent her name and title to – one that has behaved and obeyed the rules of capitalism and consumerism, to become a shrine to shopping.
ON THE MAP