It’s not untypical for your average Swede to go on holiday for 4 weeks during the summer, with a large percentage taking advantage of summer homes, usually their own. One of the more popular destinations is Gotland, a large island south of Stockholm in the Baltic Sea. We were lucky enough to be invited out to Gotland for a long weekend over the summer by good friends of ours Emma & Per whose family have a traditional Swedish summer house out there.
Swedes are very enthusiastic about spending time in the outdoors, a lot of the festivals celebrated over here are about nature and agriculture, there is something in them that enjoys sheading the trappings of modern life and returning to a simpler, purer existence. I am of course generalising here and as a nation the Swedish people are probably amongst the most tech savvy in the world, but it is certainly the case that these lengthy breaks are about getting out of the city and returning to nature, all of which brings us back to Gotland.
After a short drive from Stockholm – and a much longer 3 hour ferry journey – you arrive at the main town of Visby. Driving out of the town a strange feeling of calm descends, during the summer the island is extremely well populated but you wouldn’t know it from the amount of traffic on the roads. It is strangely relaxing and eerily quiet. Purposely most summer homes are away from the main roads which carve up the island, set back amongst forestry and large fields which stretch over the island like a rich green blanket.
Our friends’ summer house is typical of the ‘classic’ Swedish style and has been in the family for over 50 years. By modern standards it is tiny and extremely basic in terms of modern fixture and fittings, which as a result make it utterly beguiling and completely routed in its environment.
And what an environment it is. Gotland is what I imagine most people think all of Sweden looks like, the picture postcard version if you will.
Naturally a popular, and essential compulsory, thing to do on the island is swim in the sea because as you now know Swedes aren’t happy unless they’re doing at least some form of exercise every day. Yes that’s right, swimming in The Baltic. Now I had a couple of problems with this. Firstly, back in my home town of Manchester if something is described as ‘baltic’, it actually means it’s ‘bloody freezing’, as in “it’s baltic, I’m not going outside” and surely whoever first used the word in that way must have got it from somewhere, it wasn’t just plucked out of thin air, ‘Oh I think baltic would be a good word to mean bloody freezing’. No these things come from experience and it didn’t exactly alleviate your concerns when Per’s sister-in-law Jane who, incidentally, represented Scotland at swimming in her youth, brought out a THERMOMETER (!) to see if was too dangerous to get in or not!
It was thus with a hefty dose of trepidation that I made my way down to the key side where all the kids were jumping into the sea. And by kids I mean Jane’s daughters Helena and Louisa who were to play a key role in eventually convincing me that:
- It wasn’t ‘that’ cold – though being kids of course you can’t trust their opinion on such things as they don’t really care as long as they are having a good time
- If I didn’t get in they would never let me forget it – which I was particularly impressed with as a bribery tactic from a couple of kids
So as always with the blog in mind and my commitment to reporting back to you dear reader on all the adventures available in Sweden I, excuse the pun, took the plunge. That first leap into the unknown was caught on camera and I’ll leave you to guess what’s going through my head at this exact moment…
Thankfully the whole trip wasn’t purely about finding new and exciting ways to catch pneumonia, we also spent a day in Visby, which couldn’t be more Swedish if it had people walking round in traditional dress trying to sell you a tour round a remade Viking settlement… which it does of course, being a tourist hot spot and all.
Visby is perhaps most famous for its medieval fortifications or for the more informed traveller than me – ‘the street with roses’ – a street lined with, wait for it, roses. Randomly, it’s also home to Europe’s ‘best beach club’, not that they like to mention it – or indeed are on a beach, more like in a habour…. I’m being unfair. Visby is extremely picturesque and should definitely be on the to-do list of any extended visits to Sweden.
Meanwhile back in Stockholm we spent a lot of the summer doing our very best to fill Rosalyn’s head with as many different cultural experiences as possible, whilst also fulfilling my promise to you dear reader to experience as much as Sweden has to offer as possible. Whizzing through a few, not content with swimming in The Baltic and teaching new English swear words to a group of 5 and 7 year olds, we took Rosalyn to Stockholm’s outdoor swimming complex, Eriksdalsbadet.
Now I know what you are thinking, how can Stockholm, a city you’d more ready associate with snow and ice have an outdoor swimming pool? Well not only does it have a pool, the whole complex is enormous,
I promise it wasn’t as cold as it looks, we aren’t that cruel.
We also spent an afternoon at Stockholm Modern art museum, Moderna Museet – you see, you are even learning Swedish reading this blog! I’m not entirely sure what Rosalyn took from it all other than a new love of screaming in rooms that echo. My dad was equally unimpressed until he came across an old Lotus racing car – odd thing to have in a modern art museum, but as a motorhead it gave Brendadio something to drool over. For me, as with all modern art museums, there seems to be an even split between powerful, thought-provoking work and stuff that looks like it’s been pulled out of a skip that morning. But whatever you think about modern art, it’s definitely worth a visit, it’s a beautiful space in a beautiful setting,
We also treated Rosalyn, lucky girl, to a visit to the Fotografiska (photography museum – you are getting really good at this old Swedish language thing, give yourself a pat on the back!) … well once we got there that is! In fairly typical ‘dad’ style, Brendadio decided that he knew a short cut and chose to ignore the rows of giant arrows signposting the way to go… I think it only took half an hour for him to admit he’d gone the wrong way, which is probably a new ‘dad’ record?
We’ve actually been a few times as the café has one of the best views of the city going – that sounds really bad, it also has really great exhibitions honest! Rosalyn was particularly taken with the work of Nick Brandt who has taken photographs from one of his previous works (endangered animals in Africa) and overlaid them in locations ravage by mankind. It’s very powerful stuff, even for a 1year old! I should also mention we saw some great work from Bryan Adams (yes, THAT Bryan Adams) – honestly, apart from Alex, who knew he was a professional photographer?
Pic of the Week
Starting her early, though we really should get her some kids books at some point.
Track of the Week
Yes THAT Bryan Adams,