Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Trip to Sweden

Swiss Landscape
As a child I fell in love with Astrid Lindgren's books about  Pippi Longstocking. I could spend hours reading about Pippi's adventures and her superhuman strength. Recently I fell in love with Pippi's creator's country of birth, when we went on holiday in Sweden.

Rather than attempting to capture my impressions of Sweden in one or two paragraphs, I thought I'll make a list of some (not all) of my favourite things about this beautiful country:

1. You don't have to go very far to spend time with Mother Nature. The Swedish constituion guarantees right of public access for everyone (Allemansratten). The Swedes understand that these rights bring responsibility and consider themselves stewards of nature. Less than 3 % of the land in Sweden is developed or built up and 69 % consists of forests.

2. Sweden is sparsely populated. This makes it extremely easy to just "get away from it all" if you need some peace and quiet.

3. Sweden is full of sleepy little towns where people still have time to talk to each other and make eye contact, in stead of texting or talking on their smartphones. Although an overwhelming majority of Swedes are connected to the Internet, they seem to appreciate more than just the latest technology.

4. Lights or lamps in windows are a common part of Swedish interior decorating. I am not sure where this tradition comes from, but I know that the lamps in the windows of most houses look pretty, warm and inviting, especially at night.

5. Antique shops and second-hand stores can be found in unexpected places. Just look out for a sign that says "antik" or "loppis". Some shops are better than others, but you will definitely find some lovely treasures from the past if you take the time to visit a few of these shops.

6. Although the Swedes work hard, they value a coffee break or "fika". The fika is part of Swedish culture and everyone takes the time to stop whatever they are doing in order to share coffee and pastries with friends, colleagues or family - a little pause to appreciate what really matters.

7. Swedish people take recycling very seriously. It took us some time to figure out what goes in which bin, but I love the fact that so much effort is made to recycle. 

8. The laid-back lifestyle in rural areas. In general people seem to live a peaceful life. Despite a respect for time and punctuality, most Swedish drivers will wait patiently for old ladies who would like to cross the street or foreigners who are driving slower than the maximum speed limit.

9. Everything is clean and neat. I don't know how they do it, but even public toilets in rural areas and at rest stops on the highway were clean!

10. You're likely to hit an archipelago if you drive long enough, no matter what direction you choose in Sweden. The natural beauty of these areas will take your breath away.

11. Swedish interior design is typically light and uncluttered. I love the abundant use of white and natural hues, and the way that inspiration is drawn from nature.

12. In a country covered by forests, wood is more readily available than any other building material and most Swedish houses are therefore built from wood. I love the look of the traditional red Swedish houses with their white frames!

13. Ruins. There is something magical about walking among the ruins of what was built by those who walked the earth before us.

14. The wildlife. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing animals in the wild. We've spotted moose, deer, foxes, and bunnies without ever entering a zoo!

Alvastra Monastery Ruins

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