I hardly know where to begin. We haven’t been on holiday to a totally new place for years, even less so a place where we don’t speak the language, so our trip to Stockholm was a big adventure! It was also a long-awaited visit to a country that has fascinated me for quite a while now. (see this post)
The first thing that strikes you on arrival is how nice everyone is in Sweden. Not even just the Swedes. The Egyptian driver of the taxi we got from Stockholm central station on arrival drove us to the apartment we had rented and stayed with us until he was sure we had gotten safely inside. Even in the street, people just seem to be… I don’t want to say smarter, or even less annoying, let’s just say that they seem to have more common sense. I realised after 4 days of walking the streets and using the public transport of Stockholm that I hadn’t once tutted or huffed about someone acting like a jerk in that time.
There is something about Sweden that is just so quintessentially… well, sensible. Efficient and sensible. For example, the street signs tell you what numbers are on that block, and there are street signs on EVERY corner. When you go to a restaurant, you pick up your own cutlery, water and bread from the counter. And when you get to the checkout at the supermarket, the cashier feeds your notes into the machine which counts them and automatically provides change in a little tray. This is great. As long as you know that’s how it works, because otherwise, you’ll just get all flustered and walk off leaving your change behind and feeling incredibly stupid. But then you only do that once.
Sweden is a truly beautiful place, it promised to be, and it certainly fulfilled that promise and then some. If you like architecture, Stockholm’s old city centre is an absolute dream, the buildings are big and bold and as colourful as an Ikea coffee table. Except, strangely enough, for the royal palace, which must be one of the most boring, grey blocks I have ever seen. But the rest of the old city buildings more than make up for it.
If you’re more into scenes of natural beauty, there’s plenty of that too, even in the middle of the city,you’ll find parks, gardens and waterways clean enough to swim or fish in. Although the weather was rather moist and chilly at times, the beautiful autumn colours made it well worthwhile. The little we saw of the wilder Swedish countryside was likewise beautiful, the fields and woods dotted with countless red wooden farmhouses.
The area we were staying in, Gamla Enskede, was a very quiet residential area, and most of the places there were the traditional wooden Swedish houses. It is almost annoying how the Swedes seem to just be effortlessly stylish all the time. No, really, every house interior we could see through the mostly un-curtained windows looked like an Ikea catalogue page. Even the people on the streets of Stockholm were a pleasant change from the fashion-challenged skangers of Dublin central. Not a trace of wobbly coloured-tights-clad thighs or criminally revealing microskirts for 4 whole days. Paradise.
The loveliest thing about Swedish style is how well it suits the Christmas season. It’s not easy to define exactly why it is so perfectly christmassy, it just is. The bright colours, the candles, the gnomes, the elk/reindeer and the eternal promise of snow… Then there’s that sweet melancholy that seems to be an essential part of Scandinavianicity, and nothing says Christmas better than melancholy.
There is so much more to be said about our holidays and I will deal with the individual points of interest individually as soon as I get my brain back from Nanowrimo.