Fresh air. This was Sweden.
Scandinavia, you know the place. North of north, can conjure images of rosy cheeked Arian types sledding happily in a vast forested crystal white landscape. And yes these stereotypes are somewhat true but there is a whole lot more to the place. I recently visited rural Sweden for eleven days and spent two days in Stockholm. I have always been intrigued with what Scandinavia was, what it represented, what it offered how it differed to Blighty and the like. I think there is a general feeling of the unknown to what Scandinavia is, one of which I was guilty of too. Well I can’t speak for the whole of Scandinavia but of Sweden, I have nothing but praise for the country.
Cecilia is half Swedish, her mother is a Swede. She spent much of her childhood in Sweden, all of her holidays spent with her extensive Swedish family. It sounded, for want of a better term, enchanted. Cecilia’s parents have recently acquired a quaint cabin in the region of Dalanra which they very generously let us use.
Dalarna is a county in central Sweden, it’s viewed as a traditional representation of the true Sweden. It is very Swedish. Probably the most recognised symbol of Sweden is produced a forty minute drive from where we were staying; a small hand carved wooden horse decorated in traditional blood red paint and flower patterns - the ‘dalahäst’, translation; dala horse. They have these things bloody everywhere, in every shop, in everybody’s window sills sits one or two or a family of four. Even larger 4-5ft specimens stand assertively on people’s lawns, honestly it felt like I was being stalked by an army of eyeless red equine. The Swedes are a very patriotic nation, but not in a wanky sell out way. Many residents have large flag poles erected on their pristine lawns where they proudly display the national flag. It’s a refreshing statement though, a real honest pride in the country’s traditional values, something in which they hold close and adhere to alongside modernities. If I see the same scenes in England I can’t help but recoil with distaste. Personally I feel there’s something tarnished with the English national identity, something, as much as I hate to admit; chav-like about the St Georges Cross. Who’s to blame? Who knows? You can’t blame football for everything that’s for sure. This is a debate for another time. I’ll entitle that post Broken Britain’s Brittle Being.
Anyhow I digress, we stayed on Sollerön, google map it, it’s a small island on lake Siljan; one of the larger lakes in Sweden. It was breathtaking. The cleanest air I have encountered, the kind of air that cleanses the bloodstream. September is a transitional month, by the end of October there would be a chance of snow, for the most part of our trip it remained at a brisk 10-15°C with clear skies. Perfect outdoor pursuit weather for an outdoors pursuer such as myself. Sometimes I’m told I’m old before my time, this is probably true.
Here are some pictorials.
Here’s a view of Sollerön from the summit of Gesundaberget, I coughed up part of my aorta from this ascent.
I think I was trying to replicate some gnarled up biker mice from mars skid. Epic.
One of the many lakes. This was at the mid point of a 40k cycle. Serious quad workout. I had a fixie bike, no joke.
Daily coffee, sarnies and above all cakes is a massive Swedish tradition, we spent around 89.3% of our time doing this.
Day eleven rolled around far too quickly, but this did signal an exciting two day trip to Sweden’s capital; Stockholm. Having not read up on this city, apart from watching a Jamie Oliver programme back along, I didn’t really know what to expect. The city is made up of fourteen archipelago islands. It’s a beautiful city that rivals a number of European cities I have visited with one defining difference, the lack of people. Sweden has a population of around 9.4 million people spread across it’s land mass which is the third largest in the EU. Stockholm felt busy, it felt like a true urban hub but not to it’s detriment. You know, it wasn’t the kind of busy where you’re forced into muzzling an obese, balding businessman’s armpit or shoulder barging a big-issue seller.
The people who inhabit this unblemished city execute ‘total steez’, similar to the footballing term ‘total football’, the most beautiful example of the game, they portray pure style. Stockholm’s residents have honed their fashion credentials, with a nonchalant westerly glance towards London. I think I now understand where much of current London style gains influence from. The shops and boutiques reflected this. Architecturally the city is spectacular too, our hostel was situated on the ‘Gamla Stan’ island which dates back to the 13th century, it contains the Royal Palace amongst other regal buildings. Anyways, I could wax lyrical for a while here but I’ll cease now and expect you to get your eyes around these pixels.
Philadelphia and jam on weird flat scone things with free refill coffee is the best way to start any day.
They have large diners within their department stores that serve an array of delectable set meals. Thick, almost gammon like, bacon = taste win.
Back to the grind now, and an all mighty push to change these circumstances. Stay tuned.