Hello everyone! I’m really excited to announce and share with you all the project I’ve been working on in the last few days: 48 hours in Stockholm and Uppsala. I should admit, this lil trip to the Swedish capital and surroundings came quite unexpected, leaving me both terribly enthusiastic and unprepared, as I didn’t have the time to plan every single detail of my getaway as I always tend to do. Nonetheless, in the end I managed to literally eat my way around the city along with lovely friends, by walking from north to south and east to west instead of taking busses or catching a cab.
Anyhow, here are a few suggestions and tips for anyone heading to the Swedish East coast soon…
Stockholm: Gamla Stan (neighborhood), Storkyrkan (church), Nationalmuseum (museum),Stadshuset (historical building), skansen (open-air museum and zoo), Vasamuseet (museum), Nordiska Museum (museum), Kungsträdgården (park), Café Järntorget (ice cream), chokladkoppen (café), Lisa Larsson second hand (shopping), Sivletto (shopping).
And even April has come and gone, bringing along hints of pastel colours and a warmish sun. This month has included a lot of firsts for me: the first time I experienced a Swedish Easter, the first time I saw a wild deer running freely across a field, the first time I celebrated my birthday 1900 km away from home and, last but not least, my first day as a legal adult, as I turned 18 on April 19th. Spring is simply charming here on the West Coast and, along with strolling the city and eating delicious food (as per usual), I spent a substantial amount of time photographing those fluffy beauties which are literally invading my blog. Nonetheless, this overdose of pink, pretty blossoms is almost over and, crossing both fingers and toes, May is just round the corner with its shades of green and blue skies.
Påsk, a celebration that has become huge in Sweden and mind, obviously not for its religious meaning, as Swedes are well down in the statics when it comes to church visits and religious beliefs. Easter is a secular feast in Scandinavia, and people follow traditions primarily because they’ve always done so, spirituality aside. Still, there abviously are some common elements which characterize this celebration, and for every Swede “Påsk” (the Swedish name for Easter) means…
- The holiday cottage. Nowadays, the large majority of the Swedish population lives in big urban centers, principally due to job and schooling opportunites. Nonetheless, they manage to keep a foot in the countryside, personified by the holiday cottage, a bucolic spot where Scandinavian people love to gather relatives from far and near. The Easter weekend thus represents the best opportunity to open up the summer house, which usually remains locked and empty for the entire winter. Once the floors have been swept , the stuffy rooms aired and the cottage warmed up, it is finally time to celebrate, enjoying the pale sun which is starting to melt the first snow after months of bitter cold.
- smörgåsbord. A typical Easter lunch (which actually does not vary considerably from the Christmas one) consists of potatoes gratin and meat, usually roast lamb. The table is set as a regular buffet, known in Swedish as “smörgåsbord”, which sees herrings along with smoked salmon, cheese, crisp bread and some other suitable foodstuffs.
- The colour yellow. Yes, Easter in Sweden is emphatically yellow, and as mentioned above this has nothing to do with the liturgical colours, which are commonly black, purple and white. Påsk is yellow in Scandinavia simply because a vast array of symbols related to it is, including feathers, eggs and chickens.
- Påskkärringar. Påskkärringar literally means “Easter witches”, a tradition that has its roots in the ancient folklore. According to the legend, witches would fly to Scandinavia the Thursday before Easter in order to dance and cavort with the Devil, letting lose all world’s bad spirits. In the past, Swedish people used to light fires to scare them away, a practice honored nowadays by the bonfires which take place during Easter time. Nevertheless, those archaic beliefs signed a terrible chapter of Swedish history, leading to witch hunt and the execution of thousands of women accused of witch craft. In modern Scandinavia, little girls remember them by dressing up in old clothes (often stolen from their permissive nanas), shawls and oversize skirts, along with painted rosy cheeks and freckles. A mini-halloween takes thus place; little girls go door to door carrying a basket and an old-fashioned kattle, swapping drawings for candies.
- Påskägget. In Sweden, the traditional Easter egg is made of plastic or paper, with decorations representing chickens on it. Filled with candies and chocolate, it is given to children on Easter day, keeping high the sugar levels for the following weeks.
- Påskris. The “Påskris” is a tiny twig with colorful feathers that is scattered everywhere in Sweden at this time of the year. Whether in the past this symbol was associated with the Christian practice of the flagellation (not so jolly, is it?), nowadays Scandinavian people are accustomed to buy a sprig at the local supermarket, decorating it by adding multicolored feathers. If you then want to be particularly eccentric, blown out eggs with meticulous paintings, hens, chickens and witches can be added to your twig as well.
With an average of more than 1,500 tons herring and 2,000 tons of eggs sold in Sweden at this time of the year, Easter day won’t surely go unnoticed.
Glad påsk allihopa!
Swedes are known for their sweet tooth, and a valid excuse is thus needed to consume as many delicacies as they humanly can. On account of this, special days that celebrate a specific sugary speciality have been established, and you´d better take note of them!
- Kanelbullens dag. This cinnamon bun will without a doubt be your best friend while in Sweden, so you ought to celebrate properly. On October 4th, masses of Swedes invade (obviously queuing) bakeries and coffee shops to put their hands on these buttery, crunchy delights, while expert breadwinners spend their entire day baking for the whole family.
- Gustav Adolfsdagen. On November 6th spongy, velvety cakes are prepared all over Sweden to rember King Gustav II Adolf, killed on that date in the Thirty Years´War. The cake is ordinarily topped by the old monarch´s silhouette, usually made of chocolate or marzipan.
- Kladdkakans dag. This dense, sticky chocolate cake with a soft heart in the middle is celebrated every year on November 7th. Resembling an American brownie, it is normally consumed with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and rapsberries.
- Fettisdagen. On Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday as it is called in Sweden, you could have the possibility to taste the most succulent, exquisite and luscious sweet on Earth: a Semla. This bun filled with cream and almond paste will unquestionably be your favorite worse nightmare, as once tongued you won´t be able to resist 365 days more without it.
- Våffeldagen. March 25th is for waffles, exclusively served with strawberry jam and whipped cream.
So, you´ve been planning to move to Scandinavia and let´s face it, leaving everything behind in order to chase your life goals and dreams is not such a tiny, insignificant choice to make. You might move for different reasons, perhaps an overseas job that requires your presence here or maybe you want to attend university or follow a specific course. In any case, here are 5 to-know facts you should be prepared to experience while in Sweden, 5 inalienable and fundamental traits of the perfect Scandinavian.
- Ska vi fika? After more than seven months on Scandinavian soil, I´m still looking for the most rigorous way to interpret the word “Fika”. It could be translated into English with the expression “coffee break”, but that´d be a tremendous understatement. Fika means catching up with your friends or colleagues in one of the million coffee shops that are scattered everywhere in Sweden, from stunning cities such as Stockholm and Gothenburg to small villages in the remote countryside. Anyways, coffee is the central part of the Swedish fika, and neither tea nor decaffeinated coffee (Sacré bleu!) are permitted, at least if you want to follow the rules, thing that I strongly recommend you to do while in Sweden. Still, you´re allowed to add something sweet to your Fika, so why not try a typical Kanelbulle (cinnamon roll)?
- Lagom. And talking about untranslatable words, the Swedish “lagom” needs an accurate explanation. Lagom is the “right amount” or “balance” of something, neither too little nor too big, neither too dark nor too bright. Be careful though! Lagom mustn´t be confused with words such as sufficient, acceptable or enough, as they express some kind of lack or scarcity, whereas lagom is usually related to a positive connotation. Just remember the Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst” , to the letter “the right amount is best”, and you´ll never be wrong!
- Lördagsgodis och Fredagstacos. Exceptions aside, Swedes are organized people, who like to plan carefully their days. This is probably the origin of the “Saturday Sweets” and “Friday Tacos”, as nobody eats them on different occasions. Useless to wonder why, just accept it.
- Keep a low profile. This is the general guideline everyone in Scandinavia should follow in order to be accepted and/or not be considered crazy by the average population. Nevertheless, different rules apply to different situations, and even though going through all of them could sound annoying, needs must! First and foremost, you ought to learn how to introduce yourself. If you meet someone for the first time, a commune and polite handshake is always an evergreen; still, this gesture won´t be repeated the second time you bump into that person, as Swedes are generally informal and down to earth. Instead, it is necessary to drink in the odd practique of the “Swedish hug”, just a short human contact which do not include any kisses or mawkishness. Then, two other major national social etiquettes include taking off your shoes when you step into a Swede´s house and the art of queuing. Upon the first point, just do it without questioning why or how, since World War Three could break out if you do not follow this simple and plain rule. Finally the queues: Scandinavian people queue everywhere and little ticket machines found in shops undoubtedly help this habit. You cannot cheat when it comes to queues, never ever ever. Just patiently wait for your turn, no matter whether you are at the bus stop or at the local deli.
- Butter, bread, jam and cheese. You might think, what´s uncanny when it comes to innocent, everyday products? Well, just the tiny particular that Scandinavian people are literally obsessed by them. A million different varieties of butter exist, from the salty and extra-salty ones used during dinner time to the normal and sweet ones for breakfast. Crisp bread is a national hero in northern Europe, especially in Sweden where a canon law concerning the right way to butter it lives and breathes. In fact, crisp bread´s got two sides: a flat one for ordinary “buttering” and a bubbly one for Sundays. Jam and cheese is then an undiscussed combo, above the mark when it comes to strawberry jam and cheddar.
So, what now? Just pack up your worries and be the perfect Scandi! 😀
I know what you might be thinking, why keep posting black and white pictures when spring is in the air with its pastel colours and bright vibes? Simply because I was giving a look at these old pics I shot a couple of years ago while in New York, realizing for the very first time how the most modern, voguish and innovative city in the whole world can still maintain such a retro and très chic soul. As a whole, I love the way the pics represent and express the spirit of the town, its vivacity and everyday life mixed with some grams of melancholy. New York definitely stole my heart, and every summer I promise to myself to come back soon, in order to savoring its charming atmosphere once again.
Sunday in Sweden means strolls in the city with those amazing people I had the opportunity to bump into once arrived in Gothenburg. Even though the city is predominately industrial, the old neighborhood of Haga is absolutely breathtaking, with its cosy coffee shops, vintage stores and libraries, without a doubt the best place to spend a relaxing afternoon with your friends. Spring is definitely in the air, and even if my expectations shouldn’t be so high this lively weather, purple primroses in the flower beds and a good kanelbulle eaten near the river made me smile for the entire day.