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Winter is Definitely Here

After a grey November, and dry December, we’d been hoping for a wee bit of snow for when my sister and family arrive on New Year’s Day.

Well, looks like Santa was listening and we’ve been on the Good list, as that’s what happened over Christmas. It’s been below -5C since Christmas Day, and we’ve had frost and snow since the 19th.

Julafton at Skansen

One of the joys of Stockholm is that it is full of water and green space. Combining both is the island of Djurgården, which contains (as its name would suggest) Stockholm’s zoo.

Ah, but it’s so much more than a zoo.

Yes, it contains small but pretty naturalistic enclosures for many native species, including Wolves, Brown Bears, Moose, Reindeer and European Bison. But it also contains many typical historic buildings, either specially constructed in reproduction or disassembled, transported and rebuilt on-site. UK visitors may be getting the sense of Ironbridge or Beamish, and that’s about right, but going back to pre-industrial times too.

The peak season for this is summer, but on Christmas Eve, it’s open for free, which makes for quite a lovely family afternoon out and as it’s on a hill, it wears out the little legs and ensures a good night’s sleep awaiting Santa.

Continue reading Julafton at Skansen

Höstfärger

Hmm I started this post in October.

I reckon I’d better get it published otherwise it’ll be Christmas!

I can’t begin to describe how beautiful Stockholm is in Autumn. Because the city is so much open space, with so many deciduous trees, October is a riot of rich warm colours. Every tree has a little carpet of gold around it, stunning in sunshine, but still wonderful by streetlight after dark.

I haven’t even started to capture the overall power of this, but here are a few hints.

Season Summary

Our back garden through the season. Compare the difference a few weeks makes to the foliage in our garden.

And in between, the year’s first snow!

First Snow, November 6th
First Snow, November 6th

Continue reading Höstfärger

Edinburgh and Stockholm

Friends back in Scotland have been happily pointing out 53 Reasons Living In Edinburgh Ruins You For Life. And while some of these are true, and Edinburgh is thoroughly wonderful (I lived in and around it for 25 years), I disagree with the premise that it ruins you for life. Perhaps if you stay in the UK, but not if you’re subsequently living in Stockholm.

And so, in response, I give you… Continue reading Edinburgh and Stockholm

Lake Life

As we’ve written before, being so close to Mälaren is wonderful – it makes for a lovely afternoon walk down to the shore, even in the depths of winter.

What we didn’t realise in the cold, dark days is what a wonderful place it is for beaches and swimming, and equally so, on the other side of the city centre that is theoretically the Baltic Sea.

(Sidenote: did you know that the Baltic is technically a Mediterranean sea? And because its connection to the wider oceans is so narrow, it’s both much less salty – so it freezes more easily than most – and hardly tidal at all).

And so it is – particularly when you’re out with Secondus – that you suddenly get an impromptu paddling session. Which turns into an impromptu swimming session. So now we always take towels, goggles and swimming costumes with us, even if say going to Tekniska Museet.

Djurgården

Right in the city centre, but you’d never know it from the peacefulness of the scene.

Ekerö

Hässelby Strand

The lovely thing is that it’s all very chilled, all very quiet. Kids are left to just potter and run about, which they do without particularly disturbing anyone. The main reason for this is that it’s not too busy. You can always find a good space to sit in. And it’s utterly safe, both in water terms and personal safety. The water is cool, not cold (easily warm enough to swim in, and refreshing on a hot day), and is pretty shallow for quiet some way out.

There are BBQ pits, no-one will hassle you if you bring your own disposable one, as long as you do dispose of it, and there are special bins to do just that.

In Sweden, even BBQs get recycled
In Sweden, even BBQs get recycled

There are no huge sets of “THOU SHALT NOT HAVE FUN” rules beyond Swedish norms about recycling. No parents inflicting oil slicks of suncream on their pale blue offspring. No fences or opening times or lifeguards.

It’s all a relaxed, inside/outside atmosphere, and lovely and warm.

What kind of a summer has it been?

Continue reading Lake Life

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.
Continue reading Boat Culture

Colo(u)r Me Rad – Stockholm

Today Orla and I ran (walked) a 5k where people willingly threw huge amounts of colour bombs (cornflower plus dyes) at us. It was amazing.

You don’t really need me to tell you much about it as the pictures will tell you all you need to know.

Pre-race – look how clean we are:

Before the race started the DJ turned up the music, threw out some colour bombs and the colouring began:

Ready to race:
Start Line

Throughout the race there were colour station where you were bombarded with just one colour. By the time we reached purple we were on our own and Orla, being a little ahead, had a station to herself and had a personal bombing. Fortunately Martin was also there and captured a lot of it:

Reaching the finish line was a great feeling, knowing we had done it.

Afterwards there was more colour bombing and lots of photo taking. And to finish things off a cold beer.

All in all a fabulous day and I can’t wait until the next one. Which is in August – who is coming?

Continue reading Colo(u)r Me Rad – Stockholm

EU Elections

The last few weeks have been a little bit odd.

For the first time since I was 18, I have failed to vote in an election.

And it’s not down to eligibility: as EU citizens, we’re perfectly entitled to vote in EU (and local) elections in Sweden. We’re also – I think – eligible to vote at our old UK address. For the latter, as we’ve removed ourselves from the UK body politic, it didn’t feel right continuing to vote there. This is also why I won’t be voting in September’s Independence Referendum even though it’s something I’ve been passionate about for 25 years and more.

Given how I’ve argued for political engagement and using the hard won right to vote for a long time, it seems a bit odd not using it. But I didn’t feel like I had a firm enough grasp on Swedish political realities to cast an informed vote. I did however keep an interested eye on the electoral posters that went up around the city, and found some views that would certainly have an impact on my likelihood to vote for/against the party in question.

First thing that struck me: there’s a lot more positive rhetoric for Europe here than in the UK, where it’s more a case of how strongly to word the anti-EU-rhetoric. And it didn’t seem to have an obvious left/right division.
Continue reading EU Elections

Drottningholm Palace

Map of our walk
Drottningholm Walk

Kids were super lazy today, so we went for a little explore, driving a bit randomly until we found something interesting.

And what an interesting thing it was. Drottningholm Palace — the private residence of the Swedish Royals, built in the C16th. The gardens have free entry (visiting the palace only costs 120SEK for adults), so we had a lovely walk round.

Continue reading Drottningholm Palace

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?
Continue reading Gamla Stan – The Old Town