Summer 2018 – The Poet and the Vacuum Flask

After Linköping (see previous post), the next stop on our meandering, round-the-houses, homeward bound road trip was Karlstad, which is situated on the shores of Lake Vänern.

Our temporary home for 2 nights was a hotel named after Swedish poet and local chap Gustaf Fröding.

This hotel, perched high on a hill overlooking a motorway was somewhat different from our previous accommodation. Even though it was clean and comfortable it had a slightly worn out feel to it, with the late 70s style decor starting to show a rough edge here and there.

The physical age of the place was reflected in the fact that our room lacked what is now almost a given these days – air conditioning. Even with our window wide open, which was quite a feat of endurance given the roar of the traffic from the highway below, we sweltered in the ongoing heatwave.

Although the furniture in our room showed the kind of distress only many years’ worth of clumsy and combative guests can inflict, it scored a victory over our trendy digs back at The Box in one terribly important aspect from a teahead’s perspective – it had a kettle!

Kstad kettle

This particular device came with strings attached, however.

It plugged into an outlet socket which was secured to a wall mounted combined mirror frame and lighting rig. Unfortunately, the act of unplugging the kettle risked pulling the socket off the frame, as well as the frame itself from the wall.

The kettle had an on/off switch who’s mysterious workings could best be described as “ambiguous” and “temperamental“. If the kettle did indeed have an auto-shutoff feature I was never tempted to find out just exactly how hot the water had to be to trigger it. Huge amounts of steam would pour out of the thing, enough to propel an old school locomotive down the rails at giddy speeds, and it would shake violently and threaten to boil over in a catastrophic and exciting manner, but would still not close down of its own accord.

You had to perform that task yourself, firstly by trying to coax the sulky switch on the handle to do it, and if it refused to do so by physically unplugging it, which of course was a two-handed job unless you wanted the electrical system and half the wall to come along for the ride.

Kstad lobby coffee machine

As with our previous hotel, the lobby at The Gustaf had a coffee machine capable of doling out plain hot water. The Kamjove pot just fit under the dispenser. This should have been ideal, but sadly the working definition of “hot” in this sense seemed to be “anything that isn’t straight from a fridge“. My guess is that water was exiting the thing at about 75° C, which would have made it OK for the gunpowder and Silver Needle I had with me, but I hadn’t planned on using them in this part of our vacation, so they were stowed safely away, right at the bottom of my luggage.

As I’ve said before I thought that a small Thermos might be a slightly cumbersome but ultimately worthwhile addition to my travelling teaware kit, and thinking that one might help me out here I went in search of one.

I found a decent enough 500 ml model at a nearby supermarket, and it proved extremely helpful for post-dinner tea sessions in the lobby bar using the Kamjove pot. I’d go back to our room, heat water, fill up the Thermos, and then go and rejoin the others downstairs with enough piping hot water to last a good half-session.

The simple act of making tea this way seemed to baffle, confuse, confound, and amaze a group of Norwegian pensioners who were stopping at the Gustaf at the same time as us, who would unashamedly stand and gawp open mouthed as I refilled, steeped, and sipped.

Kstad shu session bar

Using the Thermos also meant that even in-room tea making became easier. Given the nature of that petulant kettle, boiling up once to fill the flask was a far less risky proposition than heating water for each separate infusion, ensuring that both my nerves and the wall of our room remained intact.

On our second and final evening at The Gustaf I had a truly memorable session. Tired of the lobby bar I staged a tactical withdrawal, retreating to the relatively sanity of our room. As the first rain we had seen in weeks pattered against the window, and the rumble of distant thunder went head to head with the pounding of rubber on tarmac from the motorway, I sat by the open window enjoying the cooling breeze and the refreshing delights of Da Hong Pao.

The next morning after another sumptuous hotel breakfast we were on our way again. The general idea was to head towards Göteborg (Gothenburg), but the best laid plans of rodents and teaheads alike are often subject to last minute changes…

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