Don't get me wrong, I am so grateful to be home. I am beyond excited to be with my family for the holidays and to catch up with friends over New Years and the weeks to follow. I have literally been counting down the days to return to Canada, but as the plane touched down two days ago, my mind panicked. Is it really over? Did the last four months actually happen? How will I ever be able to sufficiently describe the beauty of Sweden to everyone. They all must go to see it, but how to convince them...
So here is my best attempt to describe to you the beautiful city I called home for the last four months. I realize I have not shared any photos of Stockholm with you as of yet. Truth be told, I am scared that I will not do the city justice. It's a daunting task. How do you capture the beauty of the archipelago, explain cleanliness of the streets, describe the fresh clean air, and the comforting sing-song sound of the Swedish language. I beg of you, add Stockholm to your travel list, you won't regret it.
In no particular order, here are the things about Stockholm that I fell in love with.
Stockholm consists of 1/3 water, 1/3 green space, and 1/3 city. Spread across 16 islands, connected by 57 bridges, your daily commute is guaranteed to include spectacular views as the metro crosses from island to island. For a self-proclaimed water baby whose perfect day consists of any time spent at the lake, Stockholm is paradise.Before the dark consumed Sweden, I could be found most mornings walking the five minute trek through the forest adjacent to my apartment, to sit on the shore of a lake and enjoy the quiet. It does not take much effort to surround yourself with nature, take three steps away from downtown and you will find forests scattered with lakes, sometimes bordering the sea. The water is clean, calm, and refreshing. Those who love the sea, pour into Stockholm to dock, resulting in lines of boats cluttering each harbor.
Those lucky enough to visit the city between the spring and summer, must cruise the archipelago, a string of 30,000 islands, islets and skerries. Here you are sure to find numerous idylic red Swedish summer cottages hugging the shore, and understand exactly why the Swedes treasure their outdoors. Standing on the deck you promise yourself you will return in summer to take in an infamous crayfish party under the endless summer sun.
Stockholm's proximity to the sea no doubt means delicious fresh fish is a staple of the Swedish diet. During those first visits to the grocery store you will likely find yourself lost elbows deep in the pickled herring section where you can find every flavor you could ever imagine and a million you would never dream of.
Even more confusing however are the rows upon rows of what look like toothpaste tubes... The tubes contain mayonnaise, mustard, shrimp, salmon spread, among other things, but the most popular tube is caviar, typically spread onto a hard boiled egg for breakfast.
Given the prominence of fish it is easy to understand why Swedes are all so slim. (Seriously, so slim). The connection however becomes murky when you realize how obsessed Scandinavians are with candy, and the daily fika indulgence. I wish I could tell you I both enjoyed these Swedish indulgences and discovered the secret to maintaining their envious figures. But alas, I just ate the food...
When you move abroad alone, the people you meet become your family. They are around for corridor suppers, they help you fix your broken suitcase, they quiz you about Canada and teach you about new areas of the world, they are the ones you call when you're lost in the City and without hesitation come find you and bring you home. You meet hundreds of new people, but consider yourself so lucky when you find those few you instantly click with. Ali, Sara, Ryan, Mario, Svenja, Kathrin, Megume, you are so missed.
Crammed into my room for a movie night and slumber party during a snow storm that stranded three of my girlfriends in the city.
Just when you start taking the beauty of Stockholm for granted, winter arrives, blanketing the city and countryside in a fresh coat of white fluffy snow. Christmas markets seem to pop up in every public space, glogg becomes a staple, and Christmas carols ignite anticipation for the holidays. Staying true to their outdoor mentality, Swedes brave the cold for a cross-country ski on one of the many park islands, meet downtown to skate Kungstradgarden, and pack on the layers to meet friends at a local Christmas market. These are my kind of people.
As K described during her December visit, "this is exactly how I imagined the North Pole."
When you are lucky enough to have amazing friends and family that make the long (and sometimes short) trek to visit Stockholm, you will be so grateful on so many levels. First to have the comfort of friends and family near, a piece of home while far far away. But second, for the excuse to explore new areas of the city, and for the opportunity to appreciate Stockholm all over again through new eyes, confirming my initial reactions to the city.
New ExperiencesAt 800,000 in the city core, Stockholm feels like a smaller city, but has benefit of being just big enough a city to have a number of major attractions. Here I was lucky enough to attend my first TED Conference, watch Zlatan Ibrahimovic's incredible bicycle kick live, cheer on NHLers at numerous Swedish Elitserien hockey games, see Roxette, the Hives, etc perform live, and last but definitely not least, mingle with recent Nobel Prize winners.
Granted, watching a hockey game is not a new experience. However it was my first time attending with a group of friends brand new to the game, and paying as little as $30 to watch NHL players. Thank you lockout.
There you have it, Stockholm in a nutshell. Highlights of the people, places, and things I fell in love with in Sweden and am missing dearly. Unfortunately there are not photos that could possibly show the efficiency of the city; the revolving doors that speed up and slow down dependent on your walking speed, the queque system, the clean and efficient subway, the practicality and efficiency of every design piece, and the minimalist ideals. But trust me, this country has things figured out.
Stockholm, it has been a blast. Thank you for having me. I will be back.