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 AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ 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 AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ 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 “gĂ„ 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 GĂ€rdestad. Tonight, I got to sing my first allsĂ„ng 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 LinnĂ©. 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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four things I loved about Stockholm today

It is understood, I believe, that my heart overflows with (sometimes non-logical) affection for Stockholm and its surroundings, maybe even large parts of the entire country. Today, I noticed four especially loveable things that make my soul go out to this place.

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1. The ground-breaking journalism

I was picked up from my early-morning flight by Malin who had made a lovely sign and even brought balloons. I think I must always ask for escorts to the city from now on because this is just too wonderful. (Side note: Now, they have taken down the entire Stockholm Hall of Fame and replaced it by uninspiring Ericsson ads. I am not amused.) When my feet hit Swedish soil, I usually fall into Stockholm-everyday-life-mode and that is not that strange given the fact that Evelina says, “It kind of feels like you commute between Hamburg and Stockholm”. Part of the every day routine of millions of people here is that you pick up the free newspaper Metro. In PR terms, if you want your client to be featured somewhere, it is there. Everyone reads and talks about Metro. That’s obviously because of its pioneering journalism – we witnessed that once more today. The front page headline read “If you sleep with an open window, there are higher risks that burglars will break into your house”. Wow. I am so glad they exposed this largely unknown connection between open access to your home and thieves. You might think this is a result of the so-called Sommerloch (“summer hole”) or nyhetstorka (“news dryness”) but let me tell you: Sweden was in the U21 soccer final tonight (and won! Something that never happens and if I say never I mean that their last success was coming in third 1994) and the most important political event Almedalen is currently going on. But Metro focuses on open windows. I love it!

2. The singing culture

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After parks (Haga) and recreation (fika), Malin and I met Franziska to go to the open-air museum Skansen. I love everything about that place and in particular their summer singing shows. The Swedes describe their “live broadcasted national heritage” as follows: “AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ Skansen (Sing-along at Skansen) is a Swedish show held at Skansen, Stockholm, every summer on Tuesdays between 8pm and 9pm. The audience is supposed to sing-along with musical guests to well-known Swedish songs. The show started in 1935 on a small scale; about 50 people in the audience. Today about 10,000–25,500 people come to each performance.”

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I have been there several times before and it is quite a special sight with hundreds, thousands of people picknicking and waiting for the show to begin. The show is such a clear indicator of summer that only the start of the radio show Sommar i P1 can make summer more summery. 

So we bought a song book and sang along. Time and again, this is such great fun. At least if you like Swedish pop-schlageresque music – and we all know I do. We got to sing about a grandpa who feels taken back to his youth by his granddaughter dancing, about Sensual Isabella who is asked to dance on her lover’s belly, and some Pippi Longstocking songs. Afterwards, we discussed whether a show like this would be possible in Germany. And we had to conclude that no, because singing together is not something that is currently a cultural German practice. Actually, people would probably be weirded out.

3. The old elevators

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If you are lucky to live in an old house in the inner city like Malin’s brother does, you stand a good chance of having an old elevator. Not the Paternoster kind that German politicians wanted to introduce a obligatory ‘riding license’ for , but a normal old elevator with two doors. I don’t know why but I love the sound of the inner door closing. It sounds like a magnetic connection, a graceful click. This might be the weirdest fondness for something I have, but I love those elevators and I find them here regularily.

4. The light

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I claim that there is a special light in Stockholm. Sunsets in Hamburg are certainly beautiful, but the light is different. The Stockholm summer sun pours light over all of town and reflects it in the windows of the houses, The city becomes a romantic postcard. Also, of course, the light remains with us until 11 p.m., making sure one really feels the summer.

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