Paradise Island

Ever since early childhood, I have fought a war against insects. I have been the preferred victim of mosquitos as long as I can remember. This has led to me developing an extreme acoustial alertness to the sound of tiny wings. If there is something flying in my bedroom I cannot sleep. I am in terror! (Will it sting? Will it give me another bite that will bother me for weeks?) So when two flies decided to settle in our room, the night was over for me at 4.22 a.m. A woke as I was battling the two insects who kept attacking my nose and ears, and said sleepily, “The advantage of Helen 1 A Tours is that you also get to partake in Helen’s insomnia”.


The Fly Incident led to A letting me sleep in (when I finally won against Fly No 1. at 5:57 and Fly No. 2 at 8:12 and fell asleep again) which in its turn led to us taking a later ferry to – the Island. I had told A in advance that we had to go to the archipelago because if I was to sucessfully market Stockholm the islands had to be part of the experience. However, I had also advertised the archipelago as peaceful and deserted, I painted a counterimage of Düsseldorf which bothers me with its density. When we got to Grinda, it seemed everyone else had had the same idea – it was crawling with people which earned me a skeptical look from A. I could only redeem my trustwortiness when I led him to a beach off the beaten track. Okay, more or less of the beaten track, there were 10 other people at first, but we were alone within an hour. While the sun was warming us and the waves were softly washing up to the shore, A said, “Well, you promised me paradise and I was not disappointed.”



Spot me in the Baltic Sea!


We stayed in a real hotel (uncommon for the islands)


The view from the restaurant


First course of our delicious dinner (such luxury!)


To perfect the day, a skilled musician performed on the jetty at night



Upon our return, I insisted showing A the Old Town before he left. We saw it all, including creative window dressings.

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.