Magic: The Gathering holds a Grand Prix, or GP, nearly every weekend in places all around the world including Japan. In this series of articles I’ll be discussing the various places around the world I go to for GPs. These articles will not only be about the Magic events themselves, but also the sightseeing and what I call the “Work While Traveling” lifestyle.
The theme this week is all about GP Stockholm!
The Venice of Scandinavia, Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital of Sweden, but unfortunately there is no direct flights from Japan (as of October 2018). It takes roughly 15 to 20 hours with connecting flights between Asia and Europe; It took me roughly 22 hours to go through Bangkok, Thailand. Before landing at Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, we saw tons of luscious green forests and lakes from the plane. Known as “The City on the Water” and “The Venice of Scandinavia”, Stockholm is a city that is seemingly floating atop water.
This time, we got to Stockholm a day before the GP. It’s about 30 minutes by train from Arlanda Airport to the Stockholm city center. We dropped off our luggage at our lodging that was connected to the GP venue, went sightseeing for a few hours and then prepared for the GP for several hours. Although Stockholm is the typical contemporary capital city, but in the city lays an older town called Gamla Stan, with cobblestone streets, ocher colored buildings and just a over all dramatically different atmosphere from the city center itself. It was Thursday, a work day, but there were parents and children playing hide-n-seek and tons of people chatting at cafes and bars; just an overall very relaxing environment.
We went to get proper Swedish cuisine for dinner with friends of mine from Japan who are currently living in Sweden. We had things like elk ham and reindeer steaks; menus in Scandinavia are all over the place. Besides the meats, the main thing in Sweden is Knäckebröd, which is a popular type of flatbread. Knäckebröd is like a cracker that’s a classic piece of your average Scandinavian breakfast, and there were loads of different kinds at the hotel breakfast. Knäckebröd has been around for a long time and it’s not only known for it’s high nutritional values, but it’s also low in calories and contains an abundance of fiber. All of these benefits have drawn it a lot of attention as a health food recently; I bought a lot at the supermarket as a souvenir for myself.
The GP venue this time was at the Stockholmsmässan (Stockholm International Fairs), a massive exhibition hall in the suburbs about 15 minutes from the city center. The tables and chairs were truly Scandinavian, simple, but stylish - imagine what you’d find at IKEA. I’ve been on several business trips and GPs, but in Japan they general use your average pipe-chairs, and I find myself thinking “can’t we find chairs that are a little more stylish and comfortable?” Don’t players get tired sitting here all day long?
I think what impressed me the most was, compared to Japanese GPs, there were lots of women and dads with their little kids. While watching fathers naturally browsing cards while pushing their kids in strollers gave me a glimpse of the type of childcare that goes on in Sweden. Another surprising thing I noticed was how credits cards had permeated Swedish culture. At Japanese GPs, most transactions are done with cash, but at GP Stockholm, credit cards were all over the place. The friends I went out to dinner with the night before even said “I don’t remember the last time I used cash, probably more than half a year ago.” There were people that did use cash there, but they said “I might not be able to use my card, so I brought cash just in case.”
Meetings and Reunions Through Magic
Working in a company that deals with Magic: The Gathering allows me to travel to tons of different places and that’s always super fun, but there are so many other great things this type of job allows me to do. So far I’ve been able to meet a lot of judges and artists through Magic; we all speak and give gifts to each other each time we meet at a GP. In July Adam Paquette, a well-known artist in Magic, came to Japan for GP Chiba, but also held a talk and a signing session at our store while he was here; during the event we got lunch and talked a lot. Adam was GP Stockholm as well, so when I went to go say hello he greeted me with a warm hug.
In GP Stockholm, I got to know Jeff Menges, Filip Burburan and Pete Venters. We got dinner and of course talked about Magic, art, our families and our travels up until this point. Since TokyoMTG is focusing on art, this gave us a chance purchase some original pieces directly from the artists. We purchased several pieces such as “Aggressive Mamoth” from Filip Burburan. We also wound up purchasing the book The Gathering: Reuniting Pioneering Arts of Magic: The Gathering, commemorating the 20th anniversary of Magic from Jeff Menges. As you could probably imagine, hearing about the work and ideas that go behind a piece of art from the artist directly is an interesting and valuable experience. Meeting new people and reunions is one of the biggest pleasures of the “Work While Traveling” lifestyle.