My sister is honey coloured so she tones in beautifully with traditional Swedish architecture. From the old town of Gamla Stan to the hilly cobbled streets of Sodermalm, the Swedes seem to favour warm Italian tones. That’s the first surprise I wanted to share with you. Maybe this is why Stockholm is called the Venice of the North?
It’s also because Stockholm is built on a series of islands, thousands of them spread out between the city and the Baltic Sea. There is a distinct culture, a wonderful language, some western influence, but the northern ambiance is much more prominent.
Did you know for example that Swedes never ever wear their shoes inside their homes? That they eat dozens of variations on salted herring? That they swim in the pristine waters in the middle of their cities, so clean and pollution free are their harbours?
Swedes don’t use curtains on their windows at night. As one said to me, once you’ve seen everything your naked old man neighbour has to show you get over it! They are practical, humane and clever. They have to be to deal with severe dark winters and still find joy in skiing and hunting in the snow.
There is everything to admire here from their design sensibilities to their white blonde heads. It looks like they share more than a love of raw fish with the Japanese; minimalism, love of rural life, art and interior simplicity. Their social systems, now under threat from right wing tendencies, are the envy of the world.
Is there a down side? As most Irish people would have it they could do with having a bit more craic, but we say that about everyone…..
The sister has lived and worked here for many years and even forgets English vocabulary now and then. She will soon be a Swedish Farmor (Grandma!) so I suppose after 30 years it’s safe to say she has settled here.
Himself and myself came here first though; way back in 1975. We were enchanted by it and vowed to come back. Little did we know we would be returning so often or that we would have extended family living here.
Why did we come here in the first place? Why didn’t we stay after all? We were busking and making art on the streets of Stockholm. We were hanging out in cool communes during that sunny summer, but of course when it started to get cold we vamoosed.
Next time I will share photos of a precious Swedish World Heritage Site designed for the living as well as the dead…….one of my sister’s favourite places in Stockholm.