I wanted to share what I’ve been up to over the past few days since I completed Gustav’s maze…
I spent Sunday wandering the island of Södermalm (“South Island”). It would have been helpful to make the directional discovery earlier… Norrmalm (North Island) and Östermalm (East Island) probably would have stuck a little quicker. Anyway, Södermalm is said to be like the Brooklyn of Stockholm, and after getting my daily fika from a cafe in town (Il Caffé), I can confirm that this is true. The barista had interesting facial hair, tattoos, my cappuccino had a foam design, and the cafe was playing an Arcade Fire album. Coffee and pastry were delicious.
This past weekend Stockholm hosted the World Triathlon Stockholm, the biking part of which was on Södermalm, so I followed their trail for a while and cheered them on with the locals. I also found a peak where I could watch the swimming portion while enjoying the incredible panoramic view of Stockholm.
Later I caught a free walking tour of Södermalm and picked up the following:
- In the late 1600’s, as in many other parts of the world during this time, there were witch trials in Södermalm. The trials here were unique in that children played a large role. Many communities in the area at the time were very poor, so parents sent their children around to beg, and if they didn’t get anything they’d accuse the person of being a witch (and at the time, the child’s word was really all it took to convict). In the end, many parents and children were hanged. The location of the gallows is now a kindergarten…
- The author of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo was Swedish, which I knew, but I didn’t know the Swedish title was The Men Who Hate Women. They changed the title in the US because they were afraid it would hurt book sales. I also didn’t know the American movie was a remake of the Swedish movie, and supposedly the part of Lisbeth Salander, the female lead, was much more of a leading role in the Swedish version of the movie, whereas Daniel Craig is made out to be the true lead in the American version. Swedes are really big on gender equality and this, coupled with the title change (which was strictly against the late authors wishes) made a lot of them mad. Anyway, the location of the magazine’s HQ and Lisbeth’s house are both in Södermalm.
- Sweden has one of the most generous parental leave systems in the world. Since I have a lot of friends with babies in a much less generous part of the world, I thought you’d find Sweden’s parental leave rules interesting:
- Parents are given a combined 480 days of leave per child, 420 of which are paid at 80% of your salary by the government (even more days for twins!).
- Sweden doesn’t want just one parent to take all 480 days, so at least 60 of the days must be used by each parent, otherwise those 60 days are lost.
- Sweden further encourages equality by giving an additional compensation bonus if you split the leave equally between parents.
- Which brings me to “Latte Pappas”. While walking around Södermalm I immediately noticed the multitude of hipster looking dads pushing babies in strollers. My tour guide explained that because of the incentives for fathers to take leave as well, the streets are filled with fathers pushing strollers with lattes, and they have become known as latte pappas. The tour guide claims he used to bring the group’s attention to the latte pappas by yelling “Bingo!” when he saw one, but that become too obvious, so he had a mechanism of waving his arms in their direction (which wasn’t very subtle either as many latte pappas quickly caught on), but it was very funny.
By Monday I was averaging walking nearly 12 miles/day so I found a cafe to watch the Game of Thrones finale (OMG), and took a 3 hour boat tour through the archipelago with a new British friend. There are somewhere around 30,000 islands in the Swedish archipelago and as the population grows the city of Stockholm continues to expand by building a bridge to and luxury apartments on the next island. Some of the architecture is rather interesting looking, especially when built next to much older buildings.
Tuesday I toured City Hall, most notably the place where the nobel prize banquet is held annually. The building is impressive all around but most impressive is the “gold room”. City Hall was built during WWI and the designer of this room portrayed how he hoped the war would end, with peace treaties occurring in Sweden, which remained neutral during the war. You can see the left side of this giant gold mosaic shows the west (Eiffel tower, Statue of Liberty, US flag, etc.), the right side shows the east (a mosque, elephants, an Ottoman flag, etc.), with Stockholm in the center. This is also where the ball after then Nobel Banquet takes place.
Next I rented a bike and rode around Djurgarden, a large island with museums, parks, and a zoo. Aside from beautiful views my favorite part was lunch at Rosendals Trädgård, a garden specializing in the farm to fork concept.
Wednesday I took the train north to Sigtuna, the oldest town in Sweden, founded in 980 AD. It’s not as picturesque as I’d hoped but there are a lot of old ruins, the museum had an interesting exhibit showing how Sweden has risen from the water over the past 6,000 years and is still rising (somewhere around 3mm/year), and the park along the water was a perfect place to relax outside of the city. I even got a dog to take a nap with me for a while.
Tomorrow is my last day in Stockholm, which is bittersweet. I’ve gotten into a routine, I know my way around via bus, subway, train, ferry, and feet, I know where I can get free wifi (Stromma ferry stations, Espresso House, Zócalo, a Mexican chain I never ate at, Pressbryån, a Swedish 7-eleven…), I know where the best kardemummabullar can be found, I know about 8 Swedish words, and the tap water is amazing. But I have also gotten just comfortable enough to get antsy, and so I’m excited to move on to the next stop. And anyway, I’m learning to make a routine out of making routines, so in a way I’m already ready for Copenhagen.
On the agenda for tomorrow: pickled herring (I’m really gonna do it!) a Gamla Stan walking tour, and one final Swedish kardemummabullar.