We are in the middle of the silly season in the Netherlands, classified by the odd phenomenon whereby all the public holidays are in springtime save Christmas. (Seriously- I counted and there is an eight week stretch where I only have a five day work week once, and no public holidays the rest of the year. I really wish the Dutch would consider moving one to autumn…) There is nothing like holiday time to burn to make a girl dust off her list of places to visit, so last week I took a long weekend to head north, to Stockholm.
Now it is a rather rare city where you can arrive in the middle of the night while it’s drizzling and a few degrees above zero and still like it right off, and Stockholm is one of them. It has a really good vibe- a chill, laid-back one similar to Amsterdam to be honest- and the Swedish certainly pay enough taxes to sport a town of clean streets and well-kept historic buildings. The entire city is built on an archipelago of islands so it makes the city inevitably a bunch of districts separated by water- the island with the old town and the royal palace (where the royal family no longer lives, but they still do a changing of the guard each day for tourists), a park island with an amusement park and various museums, a bohemian island where all the trendy bars seem to be… you get the idea. All told I was pleasantly surprised because I’d somehow assumed Stockholm would be similar to Copenhagen– they’re both Scandinavian and expensive, right?- but Copenhagen disappointed me as a city because it was pretty but lacked character somehow. For Stockholm this was not a problem, and it’s wonderful to discover again and again that a new place can always surprise you even when you think you’ve got it figured out.
(Another charming detail I must add- as anyone who’s looked at this blog long enough can agree, the old Swedish architecture looks Dutch more than anything! This appears to be because the Swedish Golden Age was at the same time as the Dutch one in the seventeenth century… and Sweden stayed out of both world wars, so their old buildings are still intact.)
One thing a traveler always half-thinks about when visiting a city you mesh well with is whether you could live there, and for Stockholm I’d say the answer is yes but for one thing, and that is however long one has to wait for good weather in Amsterdam you have to wait even longer in Stockholm! The city is perched at 59 degrees north- on par with southern Alaska- meaning you get a dark and snowy winter and even in early May one can see snow flurries. (I happen to know this because I saw some while at the airport waiting for my flight home.) Sure there were lovely moments of brilliant sunshine, but it never gets particularly warm this time of year, and for all the thousands of boats all around Stockholm I’m not certain when people actually get to use them!
But then seeing as I’m a woman with trips planned to Norway and Alaska this summer (oh yes, big adventures coming up in lands above 60 degrees North!), I probably should hold off on comments about the weather up there until after those trips are done, right? I mean, here at least the sun shone bright one morning so I could get good photos and no one would believe my observations of the weather…