Scandinavia Part 1 of 4
It feels surreal writing this post, because while we were in Sweden I remember thinking that one day I would be away from this place and writing about my experience. Somehow, I was going to let myself leave, and my time in this country would from there forward just be a memory. It broke my heart to think about it this way, so I would try not to, but still, here we are. I hope over these next four travel posts covering our time in Scandinavia I’m able to showcase how magical this part of the world is, and the impact it had on my life. Next will be our time in the countryside of Dalsland, followed by the coastal island of Tjorn, and then ending with a few days over the bridge in Denmark’s Copenhagen.
But today, let’s dive into Stockholm. A beautiful, calm, and kind city that brought a sense of safety and stillness to our souls. Delicious coffee, incredible food, beautiful buildings and history, and truly kind people who seemed to be more interested in the quality of care they put into one another than anything else. It was moving and wonderful - two sleeps was definitely not enough time in this place and we will be back :).
*All but two photos here were taken by my husband Scott. So grateful for his beautiful, quick snaps.
I feel like I have to take a moment to address the flight to Stockholm, because it was the longest we had ever been on - and if you’ve never experienced a 10+ hour flight it might be nice to hear. We flew Norwegian Airlines, on their Dreamliner jet, and it was such a wonderful experience. I’ve had worse 1 hour flights. Firstly, the crew was so kind. They made you feel like they were really there to take care of you. Secondly, the jet was equipped with a handful of extra nice features. They have a fresh air circulating system that gets rid of the stagnant germ-y air I’m use to breathing. This made a huge difference in comfortability, both physical and mental. Then there is the pressure in the cabin, which is set to a lower elevation (around 6,000 feet instead of the usual 8,000 feet). This helps you not feel as depleted after the flight due to a higher amount of oxygen in the air, and fewer symptoms of elevation gain such as nausea and dehydration.
Plus the plane was just cool. It has mood lighting, and a really pleasant jingle that plays while you’re boarding as well as exiting the aircraft. The windows are also 65% larger, and instead of having a pull down shade to block light there is a dimming feature! So you can still see out of the window if you’d like, but be able to mimic the sun setting with lower light if you need to help your inner clock wind down and sleep for overnight flights (it completely blocks out all light at the dimmest setting). I liked this for when I was wide awake and wanted to see what we were flying over, but everyone else was sleeping around me - I could keep the window dimmed enough to not bother anyone but still see out of it myself.
Lastly, the screens on the back of the seat for entertainment were really nice. Lots of free movies and shows to watch, as well as the interactive map that I think everyone loves, right? It was neat because you could select different points on the map and read about the history of each too. A perk if you’re like me and enjoy exploring the world while exploring the world ;). The seats were comfy and the legroom was slightly better than average (would love to try to upgraded seats next time, those looked really nice.) Overall, an A+ experience and we both agree we would fly them again.
Food: We of course packed all of our own meals and snacks for the plain ride. Since we were flying overnight we brought dinner, a snack, and some breakfast. This included some basic roasted sweet potatoes, rice, hummus, cucumber, and carrots for my dinner. A couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Scott’s dinner. A bag of trial mix for Scott as well, and then a batch of homemade granola bars for our breakfasts. Super simple and effective, we made it through comfortably fed and saved money this way too.
We rented a car at the airport the evening we arrived in Stockholm, and drove to our AirBnb which sat just south-east of Södermalm (more on the place we stayed later in this post). In the morning, after very few hours of sleep thanks to jet-lag and a lot of excitement, we headed out on foot. Instead of renting bikes or figuring out the bus system, we had Google map a walking path to Pom & Flora for breakfast. We knew we were staying across the waterway from Södermalm, and figured we would reach a bridge of some kind. Instead the path dropped us at the dock of a ferry! So we walked on without checking to make sure it was the correct ferry, and it was the best mistake we could have made that morning.
The ferry took us away from our intended destination, along one of the many waterways that weave through the city of Stockholm (which is made up up fourteen islands!). It was beautiful, we got to see so much of the city from a distance. This ferry was one of many that residents were using to get to work or to drop off their kids at school. What a commute! The morning light was a different kind of lingering softness that I’ve ever felt, and the city felt so peaceful. We asked the girl manning the ship if we could get back to our stop on Södermalm somehow and she kindly took us there after her route was finished. We didn’t get onto the wrong ferry again on this trip, but highly recommend doing so at least once ;).
After exiting the ferry we walked to Pom & Flora for the most delicious breakfast. I had the best oatmeal I can remember having in my life. It was their ‘American’ steel cut oats, but I can tell you I have never had oats this good in America. It was topped with cloudberry jam, a Swedish berry that is now my favorite berry. I swapped the yogurt for a banana, and truly was in heaven to the last bite. The oats are so creamy and seasoned with a few warming spices too. Scott had their peanut butter and banana toast, but after having a bite of my oatmeal wished he had order the same. The coffee served here is also the best I had on our trip, and it was my first time trying Oatly oat milk in my coffee too, I’m now a convert.
We walked up to the park surrounding the Sofia church. It is set up a little higher than the rest of the city so you can get some pretty nice views. Plus the crisp and cool breeze passes through all of the leaves in the trees, making the most soothing rustling noise. I’m so glad we chose to visit in fall. Some of the leaves were changing, and we really just enjoyed being up by this big beautiful church. After walking some more we ended up at the popular shop in town called Grandpa. It carries so many lovely Swedish brands of clothing, shoes, cool books, knick knacks, and pretty jewelry too. Plus it’s next to a bursting floral/plant shop that is worth poking your head into as well.
Afternoon & Night
We ended up catching a train to Gamla Stan to walk around, after hearing it was a bit touristy but worth the trip for a quick peak. It wasn’t really our thing and we left to explore northern Stockholm a bit. We ended up missing Södermalm, so we hopped on another train and headed back to the little island we fell in love with for the rest of the day. Lunch was takeaway from the Urban Deli, enjoyed on a park bench in the sun across the street. Then afternoon fika was at Cafe Pascal. From here we walked to the Fotografiska (photography museum) on the water. This was an incredible experience, we were blown away by the exhibition of Lars Tunbjörk’s work. Afterwards we snagged groceries from the Urban Deli for dinner, and walked/ferried back to our apartment for a simple dinner and good night’s sleep.
It was our last morning, so we went back to Pom & Flora for breakfast and oodles of coffee, knowing we would miss this spot. We got a table inside the cafe this time, which was extra cozy (still loved our patio breakfast from the day before too). Then we walked around our other favorite from the day before, Sofia. We took in the crisp air blowing around the semi-golden trees. We spent time with these trees for a while, seeming to always find the nature in a city and hang out there. After walking a few more streets to take it in one last time, it was time to head back to our AirBnb to pack up for the next leg of the trip.
Our AirBnb: We loved our stay in Martina’s home. It was just, perfect. The location was beautiful, set next to the water and a park. The area felt safe and was incredibly quiet. We loved the view from the balcony, especially sunset. And the walk to and from Södermalm was a favorite of ours we would have been sad to have missed. Her home is furnished really beautifully and is full of colors and accents that make you feel warm and at home. Her kitchen was well equipped too, and possibly the neatest bathroom I’ve ever been in (really clean!). She herself was a complete joy to interact with, always very prompt to reply to any of our questions (she helped us find parking for our car during our stay which worked out really wonderfully). We could tell she was a person we would have loved to meet, but sadly our paths didn’t cross while we were there - so if you stay with her and get the opportunity to see one another, pass along a hug from us.
Leaving our AirBnb, we drove to western Södermalm to pick up a few loaves of sourdough bread from a bakery we had yet to visit, but had been dying to, which was Bageri Petrus. I cannot recommend making it to this spot enough. Incredible sourdough loaves and rolls, Scott can vouch for their cardamom bun as well. Then we stopped by the Urban Deli in northern Stockholm to stock up on enough groceries to last us the next four days away from major cities and markets. I say “stopped by” for both of these places, but what I mean to communicate is that we stressfully drove without understanding street signs and driving behaviors which lead to Scott screaming “ANARCHY” at the top of his lungs several times. (Insert me dying laughing and being very scared at the same time.) Then we were off, waving goodbye to Stockholm and promising (with all our hearts) to be back. We had only scratched the surface of this breathtaking city.
A few things I learned about myself on this leg of the trip…
I really love being surrounded by people speaking another language. I enjoyed feeling like a fly on the wall, people watching and listening to their beautiful pronunciation of words I cannot understand.
I kind of already knew this, but I could walk miles and miles every day, all over a city. Which we did and loved.
I apparently don’t get nervous or anxious about anything surrounding travel. From the airport to the rental car, getting to a place to stay, navigating another country’s streets, food, etc. I never worried about a single thing. It was total bliss.
Jet lag is real, and unforeseen allergies are real too. Apparently there was something in the air in Sweden that my breathing passages did not get along with, and I fought allergies the entire time we were here (totally okay, just surprised me!).
A few things I learned about Stockholm that I didn’t expect…
The feeling of equality here was really powerful. Also, their class. The way they dressed, carried themselves, treated one another, all had this level of class to it that was really admirable.
From the buildings, to the interiors, to the streets, and even the public bathrooms, everything felt like it was done with such intention and care. The quality was also high, and it gave you a sense of pride that the person/people who made it had to have felt.
The calmness of the city really took us by surprise. It was like the zen of a forest, but in a city. The people seemed very happy and as if they were all partaking in aspects of life that were very life-giving to themselves, and to others. The sense of community was also very strong.
Overall, we loved this city much more than I think we had expected to. Usually city exploring leaves us feeling depleted, but it worked just the opposite here. We felt rejuvenated and really inspired by all that we saw and experienced in Stockholm :) and cannot wait to visit again.