My paradise

My mother wanted to see the Stockholm archipelago. “I only ever get to go to Sweden in February and November”, she complained. So I took her to what is paradise for me, and the weather gods gave us their (somewhat unexpected) blessing.

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As you guessed, this is still the vibrant town of Norrtälje where we stopped before going to the uttermost parts of the sea.

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I particularily liked this street name, “uphill”.

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In the Swedish country side, mail boxes aren’t at the houses but at the central spot to make things easier for the postman.

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The best window views I know are the ones from the archipelago boats

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Does a teacher live here?

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Someone got married at Norröra that weekend. We found their traces everywhere, like here where the signs say “Ceremony” and “Party”.

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The rose petals were still in the tiny chapel from the wedding

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To the Lord give glory and let his praise be known on the islands, it says above the altar

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Coming back into Stockholm in the unique Nordic evening light

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It loves me back

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I love Sweden and it loves me right back. Today, Stockholm showed me by giving me a ridiculously wonderful day. In my world, a perfect summer day includes

  • sunshine and good weather, however not above 28 degrees Celsius and not humid
  • being by the water and/or the archipelago
  • attending Allsång på Skansen
  • the company of a Swedeheart

Today, I got it all. It’s difficult to describe the stunning beauty of Stockholm and its surroundings that still grips me after all these years, sixteen years today. It’s challenging to convey the dose of love, happiness and hope that a day with one of my favorite people on the planet means. It’s hard to illustrate the feeling one gets when your friends hosting you are taking care of you as if you were their precious child (in the best way). Also, all that is putting me on an endorphine high that hopefully will help me survive days to come in the Dizzle drizzle. The best part: I know I have another day with another favorite human being coming up tomorrow.

This morning, I met Malin. We briefly checked out Svenskt Tenn (can I please have everything from there?), bought picknick (living abroad, I can get excited about just being able to by Swedish yoghurt and cinnamon lengths) and took the boat to what might be my favorite archipelago island, Grinda (when I was a child, our IKEA sofa was named Grinda). It was the first time for Malin in the archipelago and Grinda did not disappoint. We walked 10,000 steps. We saw glittering water and cute animals. And despite the weather report warning about rain, it was sunny all day. This always happens when I come to Sweden in summer. I believe it one of Sweden’s ways to tell me it loves me back. (50% sale at KappAhl, as I saw today, is another.)

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Grinda also has some funny peculiarites: their public toilets all have girls’ names. The first one we encountered was called Linn and later we met Hilda. We found lots of wild blueberries and smultron, wild strawberries, and an old well that squeaked terribly. From the educational plaques on the island we learned that Grinda has been inhabited since the middle ages. Well, on one plaque it said that and on the next it said, “since the Viking age”. My favorite quote from those texts was, however, “The tax load in Sweden has, by tradition, always been high”. Swedes are good at protecting their Lucia, Christmas, Valborg, Midsummer – so of course they also guard their tax tradition until today, I guess.

Because Malin knows how much I like Allsång på Skansen and because she has good taste in music/protects tradition, we did not spare any effort (or money) to attend the sing-along tonight. The show never ceases to fascinate and entertain me. Partly because I feel like some half-Swede who’s grown up abroad and kind of knows what’s going on but has to learn every other song and partly because I marvel at the very mixed-age crowd in which everyone seems to be in on that you have to lift and wave your hands exactly at the line “gå upp och pröva dina vingar”. I have a playlist on Spotify to which I add all the songs I learn at Skansen each year so that one fine day I’ll get rid of the semi-sapient feeling. Until two years ago, I had a major knowledge gap because no one had taught me about Ted Gärdestad. Tonight, I got to sing my first allsång by him. Getting there!

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When the singing was over, we strolled briefly around in the open air museum/park and discovered a previously unknown rose garden in which we greeted Carl von Linné. He’s very present in Uppsala so I feel we have a special bond with him. I also realized how much I love the light up here and how it is underrepresented in the marketing of Sweden as a tourist destination. I’ve never seen this kind of light in other parts of the world, these soft, magic summer beams.

That warm and brighten up one’s own inside. 








Tips for an archipelago trip


Three tips for an archipelago trip:

1. Don’t miss the boat. Double, no triple check the route to the ferry pier.

2. Bring food. And bring bed sheets.

3. Yes, you need sun screen even in Sweden. No, factor 30 is not enough.

To just pull a light dress over your bathing suit and slip your feet into your sandals to go out into a bright 25 degrees already at 9 a.m., that’s the true summer feeling for me. Sweden is, like most of Europe as I hear, experiencing an intense heat wave right now. In the city, temperatures have stayed at 30 degrees since three days. The best place to be is therefore by the water. And the best place I know in summer is the Stockholm archipelago. I find this to be one of the major advantages of living/being in Stockholm: you can get out to the islands. Is there any place on earth more beautiful? Not for me right now at least.

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The hostel

The hostel

Before, we made a stop in Vaxholm

Before, we made a stop in Vaxholm

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Bianca has bought a selfie stick

Bianca has bought a selfie stick

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This is where we were stranded (blue dot)

This is where we were stranded (blue dot)

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However, a trip to the archipelago is not the most simple thing. I remember clearly how tourists would come up to me when I worked as a tourist information officer and say, “We want to go to die Schären”, because the Germans somehow thought you could just put two German words into an English sentence. “But we only have two hours”. It usually takes at least two hours one way to get to a real archipelago island. The tricky part is getting on the boat. More than once I have been sprinted to the pier to make it just in time before the ferry leaves. Because that is the thing: if you miss the ferry, your archipelago trip is ended right there. Usually, you can only go once in the morning and once in the evening. It is therefore crucial to know the way to the pier, find it in time and not miss the boat. My friend’s GPS played a trick on her and she missed the ferry by 8 minutes. The island we were at was only some 900 metres from the pier but completely unaccessible without a boat. Because that friend had all our food, Bianca and I were stranded on the island without anything to eat. We checked in at the hostel and asked if we could buy dinner. No – only if you had ordered before coming, you would be served dinner. In the end, after some pleading, we were allowed to get a waffle for 50 kr. Waffles are great but not if you are really hungry for a real dinner. So bring food if you go to an island that is not known as a mecca for restaurants.

Also, it can be smart to bring bed sheets if you plan to spend the night. Because even though the hostel did not inform about that in its booking confirmation, it charged 150 kr per person for sheets. Needless to say, your archipelago trip became more expensive than planned…

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful little island we were on. Sunsets on an archipelago island – priceless. But before sun sets – put on sunscreen. Everyone thinks Sweden is  a cold country, but trust me, the sun can get strong. I managed to burn my face even though I had factor 50 (!) sunscreen on it.

In the morning, we woke up two hours before we had to because the other guests, a lot of them being children, slammed the doors approximately 32 times. Not our ideal idea of waking up but we compensated it by lying by the water doing nothing. Well, until Biana called, “There is a boat coming, I think it’s Nicola!” Because the ferries have a surprisingly high speed, I jumped into my beach dress and sandals and hurried to the pier to welcome Nicole (who had food with her!). It felt a tiny bit like being Tjorven welcoming the summer guests.

Three thirds of the island we were on was occupied by a big fortification that the Swedes built in the beginning of the 20th century. The Swedes have always been afraid of the Russians so it was important to defend the archipelago which is the way to get into Stockholm. In the 1700s, the Russians already burnt down most of the islands. The fortification on our island, however, seemed to be a half-hearted project. After years of building, they felt it was not really a good place and more or less abandoned it after a very short while. Talk about waste of tax money? At least we got to look at it during a tour..




In the afternoon, we made our way back to town where I met Tabea and Mia. Mia had the splendid idea to take us to one of my favorite museums, Hallwyllska palatset, that has opened a bar in their enchanting inner yard. Their cocktails have names related to the museum and its history and are in the normal Stockholm price range (which means 144 kr for a cocktail). I highly recommend going there.

We concluded the evening with another brilliant Mia-idea: getting ice-cream at Stikki Nikki. The ice cream shop serves fresh, home-made gelato, ice cream and sorbet with original flavors. I had beetroot.