Category Archives: culture

St Lucy’s Day

So how did Protestant (at most, Atheist in closer reality) Sweden get obsessed with an Italian Catholic saint? I don’t know the history, but I’m sure it’s related to the closeness between Lucia and the Swedish for light: ljus, making it a perfect excuse to celebrate light in the darkest time of the year.

Either way, it’s a set of traditions that is almost impossible to escape. Everywhere are groups of white-clad, singing young women with candles. Everywhere you go, you are force-fed lusekätter: saffron buns shaped like cats tails. By the end of Friday, I was quite lightheaded from Saffron overdose, having had them pushed on me:

  • On arrival at the office
  • At Fika time
  • At a customer meeting

In addition, processional choirs of young women with candles are prevalent. I had one in reception at the office, and Lucy (revelling in the day as you can imagine) had one at SFI. And there was an internal school one before classes on Friday – apparently to be repeated for parents next Friday

You even get them in Shopping Centres:

And almost every window in the city has an arch of lights shining out. All we need now is some snow for them to glitter off.
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Boat Culture

It seems that almost all our neighbours have boats.

We’re about 5 minutes’ walk from Mälaren, and we also have a huge archipelago of 28000 islands starting at the city centre sprinkled with holiday cottages and real homes. So my boss has a boat. And so does his boss. They both live out in the archipelago. But so does one of my colleagues. It’s just a regular thing.

But it’s still a surprise to us, compared to equivalent water distance in Scotland, where only the uber-privileged would have them.

A few weeks ago, we had our regular company meeting, but instead of it being in the office, it was over dinner out in the archipelago. And we travelled there by boat. Specifically the boats of my boss and his boss.
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Gamla Stan – The Old Town

It seems to me that most cities have an ‘old town’ of sorts and Stockholm is no exception.

I love Stockholm’s old town. Situated on its own island there is no denying which part of the city it is. Like any capital city it is also a huge tourist-magnet. Much like Edinburgh’s Royal Mile it is stuffed full with tourist shops selling tourist tat. There are also a lovely mix of craft and specialist shops and wonderful places to eat. Smack bang in the middle is the Noble Museum which I have yet to visit – waiting for an excuse to go! And right at the edge, overlooking the water is the wonderful Palace where you can watch the changing of the guard.

A few weeks ago I had a rare free day and went for a mooch. I wandered around looking at all the beautiful buildings and peering into all the wonderful shop windows. I could easily spend a fortune there, if I had a fortune to spend 😉

I took a load of photos and thought I would share them with you so you too can get a taste of Gamla Stan.

So first up – one of my passions – knitting. There is a lot of knitwear for sale in Gamla Stan, both mass-produced tat and beautifully hand-crafted artisan pieces. Prices naturally reflect the quality of the work:

The Science Fiction Bokhandeln is in Gamla Stan. For science fiction fans it is heaven. There are manga books, memorabilia, comics, games, Warhammer and even a full size alien.

Gamla Stan is full of beautiful craft shops. Especially jewellery shops, I could spend hours drooling in the windows..

The tourist shops are full of ‘traditional’ goods for you to buy – some more authentic than others:

There is a wealth of clothing available. Oh how I would love to be able to afford some of the clothes in the shops, maybe if I sold a kidney…

Some odd bits and pieces..

And finally some of the buildings. Glimpses up alleyways, a taste of Gamla Stan.

Tempted to come and visit us?
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Swedish Spring Has Sprung

In Sweden, Spring officially starts on the first of 7 days when the average temperature is above freezing. This means it’s only possible to refer to it retrospectively, as you can only assess it after a week.

In Stockholm, this occurred on 21st February, so it’s apparently been Spring for a fortnight.

(No, it’s not this far into the Spring yet)

Update: 9th March

We went for a walk round the neighbourhood yesterday, and the feeling has totally transformed. There were kids from age 5 out on their bikes, entirely unsupervised, and a feeling of lazy warmth was everywhere. And this in 10C!

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