Marie Whitehead, SL sales associate, is originally from Sweden and shares her recent trip home
Born and raised in Sweden, I arrived in Canada in 1990. I have been going “home” every year since I moved to Sudbury. I stay in my father’s house on the beautiful island of Lidingo in Stockholm. I visit family in Uppsala, Oregrund and Norberg as well.
Sweden is truly beautiful! It is almost the same size as California and the landscape looks a bit like Ontario. In fact, if you blindfold yourself, you will not be able to tell the difference between mid-Ontario and mid-Sweden. We have the same lakes, trees, rocks and nature.
Sweden, with a population of 9.3 million people, is a safe country where everyone speaks English. From the far north to the deep south, Sweden has a variety of climates, activities and breathtaking scenery.
The third largest country in Western Europe has a diversified landscape because of its long, narrow shape and northerly location.
It is a country of beautiful landscapes, blond people, peace, quiet, cleanliness, free university, free health care, Volvo, IKEA, Greta Garbo, Borje Salming, Bjorn Borg, the Sedin brothers and Stieg Larsson’s trilogy books (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). It is known for saunas, equality (at one point there were more women in the government than men), meatballs, herring, “schnaps,” moose, wolves, brown bears, and long maternal (1.5 years) and paternal (three months) child leaves.
Sweden has great music composers. One award-winning composer lives on my dad’s street and there are famous people working in his music studio constantly.
Sweden is a country often mixed up with Switzerland, has an innovative and leading fashion and design industry, an alphabet with three extra letters, great food and thousands of years of history, culture, and traditions.
A huge annual celebration for Swedes all over the world is Midsummer Day on June 21. It is a day of eating, singing “schnaps” songs (drinking songs), and dancing around a flower and greenery-clad Midsummer Day pole. It is a wonderful tradition.
Last year I went to one of the picturesque islands in the 30,000 islands archipelago outside Stockholm where no cars are allowed. Twenty-five of us ate a midsummer “smörgåsbord” buffet outside while singing drinking songs. Swedes like to have fun.
All the buildings on that island (along with all the other islands) look like little cottages. I like to paint, so I took lots of pictures of gorgeous painting ideas.
Among other traditions, we also celebrate Lucia, who brings light in the darkest time of the year, Dec.13. A girl will get dressed up in a long white gown with a red ribbon around her waist and a crown of candles in her hair. Very early in the morning, she walks with a procession of other young girls and boys singing songs. There are Lucia processions at schools, churches and old-aged homes. The young people usually bring gingersnaps and “lussebullar” (saffron bread) to people they are visiting.
The temperature in Sweden is more moderate than in Sudbury. The summers aren’t as hot and the winters don’t get as cold. The Gulf Stream moderates temperatures.
Stockholm and Goose Bay, N.L. are on the same latitude, yet the average temperature in the north in January is minus 16 C and minus 2 C in the south. In July, the northern average temperature is 12.8 C and 16.8C in the southern part.
The northerly location also means lots of light in the summers and little light in the winters. In fact, way up north, close to the Arctic Circle, they see no daylight for two months, while in the summer the sun doesn’t set for two months. I have experienced the sun being high in the sky in the middle of the night; it is a strange feeling.
One winter, I went skiing in Are, a ski resort in the north, and a very faint, red sun barely rose above the tree tops at 10 am and went down again at noon. At 3 pm, it was so black they had to put on the lights on the slopes so we could see.
Another neat tidbit about Sweden is the “Allemansrätten.” It is a “right of public access” law that allows everyone to roam freely in the countryside, even on private property. People are even allowed to tent on private property.
Stockholm is widely regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, built where lake meets sea with thousands of islands, 57 bridges and eight centuries of history and culture. The beautiful buildings, the greenery, the fresh air and the proximity to the water are distinctive traits of the capital.
The archipelago plays a huge role in Stockholm’s appeal. And since it’s so clean, it can be used for all types of activities such as fishing and swimming.
On a previous visit, when my children and husband came with me, we drove a boat into the city through the canals, left the ocean via a lock and entered Lake Malaren, which is also located partly in Stockholm. We were lucky. It was a warm day and we stopped and swam in the warm lake from the boat in the middle of the city.
We stopped for a wonderful lunch at a floating restaurant among hundreds of house boats. After lunch we continued our trip through Stockholm, looking at the castles, churches, parks, statues, many bridges, architecturally beautiful old and modern buildings. Stockholm is breathtaking, especially the view from the water.
Stockholm, with a population of about one million, is full of attractions from the medieval cobblestone passages in the old town to the modern city. Stockholm’s unique archipelago is a natural treasure. The city offers a wide array of shopping choices from large, modern department stores to boutiques filled with specialized wares from foreign and local designers.
Like most large cities, the wait lists for apartments are very long. To buy or rent an apartment or condo is very expensive.
With its 750-year history and rich cultural life, Stockholm has numerous world-class museums and attractions. There are castles, a medieval old town and galleries, plus many cool restaurants and nightclubs.
I love Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s oldest attraction and one of the best preserved medieval city centres in the world. You can walk through small winding streets lined with stores full of handicrafts, antiques, art galleries and cafés. The Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral are also located in Gamla Stan.
I do wish that you will have a chance to visit Sweden and Stockholm one day. Can you tell that we Swedes are very proud of our country?