Staying with locals gives you a completely different perspective on a city compared to the way you experience it as a tourist. We were lucky enough to stay with Geoff’s cousin Ann and her Swedish husband Clas. Better than any tour guide, they showed us around their beautiful city and neighborhood warmly sharing their summer lifestyle.
After travelling non-stop around Scandinavia for the prior three weeks, it was a relief to stop with the museums and the continuous sightseeing and to pause to enjoy life like a local.
The first stop really impressed us foodies. Clas and Ann introduced us to a great local Danish restaurant, Två Små Svin, specialising in smørrebrød, delicious open sandwiches, piled with all kinds of delicious herring and accompaniments. This was served with tasty dill-flavoured snaps and a couple of local beers. We were clearly off to a good start in Sweden. 🍸
It turns out that Swedes are pretty crazy about exercise and enjoying the outdoors and a ‘short stroll after lunch’ turned into what I call a reasonable hike 😄 The Årsta area in which they live is lovely with access to forest walks, cycling trails and waterside views. We meandered down through the trees and along the water’s edge, enjoying the boats and canoes as well as the rabbits and ducks. When you live in a country that has severe and lengthy winters, it seems that you really and truly maximize the good weather. It made me realise how much I take our Jo’burg climate for granted.
We were interested to come across a community of beautifully tended allotment gardens. According to www.yourlivingcity.com, these leafy havens were introduced in the early 1900’s as a way to help poorer folk grow their own vegetables. Nowadays it seems that these are rented as a way of ‘getting away from it all’ and although there are plenty of veggies growing, I loved the abundant flowers. Each plot consists of a tiny house (or stuga) and a small area of land behind picket fences. Each house is typically small – the size of a garden shed but far prettier – with a couple of rooms, a sink, perhaps a table and chairs, and areas for potting tools. Many have rain barrels for water supply and some have even been transformed into liveable summer houses.
The following day it was time to visit Gamla stan. Gamla stan is the old town of Stockholm, characterised by medieval buildings and cobbled alleyways. Stortorget is the large square in the centre of Gamla stan, where we admired the iconic, ochre-coloured buildings dating back almost 300 years, and browsed the modern art galleries and souvenir shops.
I hadn’t realised that Stockholm encompasses 14 islands linked by ferries and over 50 bridges. Everyone was out and about enjoying the 30 degree heatwave. It was a welcome relief to stop for lunch at Ångbåtsbryggan, a wonderful restaurant on a barge. I tried the local creamy fish soup. Oh goodness. How delicious!
The afternoon saw us visiting some cutting edge Swedish interior design stores that had me day-dreaming of redecorating our entire home..
The Stockholm subway system is said to be the world’s longest art exhibit. Over 90 of the 100 subway stations in Stockholm have been decorated with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings, and reliefs by over 150 artists. Our subway passes allowed us to pop into a few of these.
Later in the afternoon, excitement on the streets became palpable. Suddenly every second person was wearing yellow football jerseys as the World Cup soccer game of Sweden against Mexico was about to kick off. Clas and Ann took us to a pub with an awesome vibe. It was great to watch the match with all the local supporters. It was even better when Sweden won 4-0! 🇸🇪 We spilled onto the streets with the delirious supporters and wandered through the streets enjoying the bonhomie.
That evening we were spoilt with a home-made herring smørgasbørd. Clas and Ann brought out different flavours of marinated herring which we enjoyed with boiled new potatoes and eggs. I never expected to find herring so delicious.
Sunday was another scorcher and we decided to wander down to Långholmen Kayak and rent a couple of double canoes. Ann and I were a little apprehensive but soon were enjoying the peaceful scenery and admiring the little wooden boats. It was one of the highlights of our three days.
For dinner Ann taught us how to make authentic Swedish meatballs. She made them with a pork and beef mixture that included potato and cream. The rich gravy was so moreish, especially on a bed of creamy mash potatoes. We also got to try Lingonberry as a tangy, but sweet accompaniment. Delicious.
Sigh. So much more to do and so grateful to Ann and Clas for showing us such a good time, but our days in Sweden had come to an end. This was supposed to be a once in a lifetime visit, but we agreed that there was still so much for us to see and do that we would definitely be back again and especially to visit Ann and Clas!