Despite the silly title of this post, Sweden actually started off on a note of grief, as my brother-in-law's father passed away after more than a year of battling back from a lung transplant. Traveling extensively does not come without human costs, and one of those is sometimes not being able to be present to grieve with those you love. My sister and brother-in-law, of course, were unable to join us for this Scandinavian leg of the trip as planned, and the two of us soldiered on with an itinerary designed for 4 happier people.
Our journey into Sweden began with a train trip from Copenhagen across the water to the small city of Malmo. It seemed like a very nice town, walkable and clean, and we had lunch at a salad place that employed a surprisingly diverse group of the most attractive women that Allison or I have ever seen assembled under one roof. Also, the salads were fantastic. As it turned out, these two observations would be repeated throughout the rest of our Swedish trip.
We didn't end up spending much time there as our lodging for the evening was still a several hours drive north. We were aiming for a little town called Värnamo, where our AirBnB hosts were waiting for us with freshly baked seed-crackers and lingonberry juice, which is just, like, classic Swedish. The accommodations consisted of a small, modern and very functional guest house, which sat on a slight hill, next to the hosts' home and overlooking a large lake. We had driven several minutes down a windy dirt road to get here, and the untouched wilderness that surrounded us was incredibly peaceful and inviting of meandering walks.
That night our hosts offered to cook us a proper Swedish dinner, and of course we accepted. The food was excellent (seriously, do they just have better potatoes in Sweden?), and the conversation touched on politics, current events, and the different philosophical underpinnings of various societies. You know, typical small talk. It was a very enjoyable experience, and I came away with a better understanding of why and how Scandinavian society in general is so much more successful than others.
Continuing up the Swedish countryside, we took a pitstop at Gränna, where the locals are famous for their "polkagris", a white-and-red swirled peppermint candy cane.
The resulting sugar rush carried us the rest of the drive to Stockholm, where we spent the next 3 days in the hip neighborhood of Katarina-Sofia on the island of Södermalm.
If you have enough time in Stockholm to only do one thing, go to the Stadshus, or city hall. This is the home of the Nobel Prize banquet, and along with the stunning architecture and mosaics, the realization that you are walking the same grounds as so many of the great minds of the last 100-plus years is awe-inspiring.
If you have enough time in Stockholm to do two things, do the Stadshus and then head directly over to the Vasa Museum. This is an incredibly well-designed and executed museum built, literally and figuratively, around a grand warship that sank in 1628, like, minutes after embarking on its maiden voyage. The ship's design was so flawed, and its weight so disproportionally high, that it got pushed over by a small gust of wind while it was still in the harbor. Needless to say, the museum spends a considerable amount of time explaining what went wrong, and documenting the inquests that followed as the Swedes demonstrate once again that even 400-years ago they had their $!%& together enough to hold people accountable and learn from their mistakes. But it is the almost overwhelming level of detail and exhibition space that make this museum one of my all-time favorites. Also, how cool is this freaking ship?
Outside, at a food stand by the museum, we encountered some incredibly well-behaved, easily anthropomorphized ducks patiently waiting in line.
And finally, if you have no time to do anything in Stockholm, at least duck into a cafe and grab a cardamom bun. Peppery, spicy, sweet, and savory, just a bite followed by a sip of coffee is enough to slow your thoughts and calm the mind.
I will leave you with a couple food photos that accurately represent the general vibe of their surprisingly delicious food scene. Plus, Sean Connery dressing?