Sweden was never part of my travel plan. Not this time anyway, but in the way that plans are made to be changed I found myself adding Scandinavia to my list of destinations.
A few months ago Cliff, a good friend from university days, and his fiancé Fiona relocated to Stockholm for Cliff to take up a position at tech company Spotify. Since I was in the same hemisphere, have the visa and found a silly cheap from Rijeka, Croatia I couldn’t not visit. As it turns out I was their first visitor and spent a week surfing their very comfortable sleeper couch. It was a week of gasping in shock at Stockholm prices, gaping at the trendy, cosmopolitan citizens who come from all over the globe, wondering at First World efficiency and Sweden’s socialist policies, complaining about the icy weather and riding the Tunnelbaan in full Halloween costume – twice. Most of all, it was a time to connect with my special friends, and well worth the occasional frozen fingers.
Winter colours. With two Halloween parties during my stay, Fiona and I tried our hand at carving a pumpkin face. With a little direction from the internet we did a pretty good job. Our creation had a toothy grin and lit up the kitchen window. The pumpkin and potato soup we made was also tasty – and perfect for the cold weather.
Waking down the street one morning I spied an abundance of chestnuts. I couldn’t believe my luck and had Fi collecting a big bag with me to take home and roast. I was so excited about our urban foraging and the thought of delicious chestnuts warming our bellies. We cut the chestnuts, roasted them and curled up on the couch to enjoy our snack. But they didn’t taste right. In fact, they tasted quite terrible. Another search of the internet showed that we had picked up inedible horse chestnuts instead of the tasty sweet chestnuts. Sad face. It’s a good thing we didn’t eat them though as we may have ended up poisoning ourselves. But now we know which are the eating kind.
In search of picture-postcard Sweden I visited Vaxholm, an island in Stockhokm’s archipelago. This island is connected to the mainland by a roundabout route and the bus ride out there takes about an hour. On my wander around the town I was struck by just how pretty it is. Every house and garden is neat and tidy, the houses are painted in bright colours and the window panes and roofs are decorated in carved woodwork. They reminded me of dolls houses.
Stockholm’s Stadsbiblioteket is a wonderous place: a high-ceilinged dome filled with books. There is also a large English section which had me glued to the second floor for a good while. Another of the city’s institutions is the Vasa Museum, a naval museum built around the original Vasa, an ornately carved wooden ship built from 1626–1628 that sunk 1300 metres into her maiden voyage in 1628.
It was cold in Stockholm. The temperatures were the same as those in the middle of South Africa’s winter, but Fiona reminded me of a saying: there is no bad weather; only bad clothes. Despite wearing all my summer clothes in layers, they just didn’t do the trick against the icy wind. That said, the few sunny days did recharge my batteries. And then the sun did this. Thank you Stockholm. I hope to be back – in the summer time.