Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
In the days after we left Stockholm, I started re-reading Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc) after having last read the series over two years ago. This time around, the novels really came to life – where I could envision human interactions last time, these interactions took place in a vacuum without a physical setting. This time every time Mikael Blomkvist talked about his apartment on Bellmansgatan or the Millennium journalists followed a target from Slussen metro station, I could picture exactly where they were. It made the novels that much more realistic and readable.
It makes me wonder what other novels have such an intrinsic link to a particular city that the simple act of reading the book can transport the reader to those city streets. If anyone can suggest any such books to me, I’d love to add them to my to-read list – bonus points if the book is linked to a city that I’ve visited on this European trip!
There’s a lot of things that I loved about our stay in Stockholm, and I think that they’re all linked to one central theme – the socialist (small s) principles that guide the way society runs. For example, the concept of fika which I talked about in my review of Chokladkoppen. A designated break time in the work day for the express purpose of catching up with your colleagues on a social level, to ensure that people are happy and productive at work…it makes so much sense. Happy employeers = more productive local economy.
Another example are the latte papas, which I briefly mentioned in my review of Fine Food Karlek & Mat. The latte papa is a result of Sweden’s extremely progressive parental leave policies – every time a couple have a child, they can take a combined 480 days of paid leave. More often than not, couples choose to divide this time equally – the mother will take 240 days, and the father will take 240 days.
What this means is that women get a proper opportunity to stay in the workforce (resulting in greater pay equity later), and fathers get to spend quality time with their children right from the start (taking the child out with them for coffees at the local cafe – hence, latte papa). As this parental leave scheme is government-sponsored, employers don’t lose out either. It just makes so much sense, helping to create not only a tighter and stronger family unit where both parents take on the burden of child-rearing, but also helping to redress some of the issues of pay equity amongst the sexes.
On a less serious and philosophical note, Stockholm also offers a lot for the average tourist, not just for locals. In the few days that we were there, we did the following activities:
- Three ‘free’ walking tours (tips-based), around Stockholm city, Gamla Stan, and Sodermalm
- Visited the world’s largest Ikea at Kungens Kurva, and tried their Christmas buffet with traditional Swedish festive foods (surprisingly delicious, and super cheap for a buffet at only 129SEK per person)
- Visited Skansen, an open-air museum dedicated to showcasing the lives of Swedish people ‘back in the day’ and a zoo featuring Swedish animals.
- Visited the Nobel Museum, in the same week as the 2015 Nobel Prize ceremony. We saw a lot of official Nobel cars driving around the city!
- Visited the ABBA Museum – surprisingly well done even for people like K who aren’t fans of awesome 70s music.
We also ate out a bit! I linked my reviews of Chokladkoppen and Fine Food Karlen & Mat above, but we also had a few ‘fast’ meals at the Mall of Scandinavia. There was a lot of casual snacking and baked treats along the way as well, particularly at the Christmas markets! The cost of dining out was probably the main deterrent to eating out all the time – Sweden, along with the other Nordic countries, is one of the most expensive places to visit for an Aussie when our dollar is doing so poorly.
When we left Stockholm, I told K (quite seriously) that he should look for a job in Sweden. It’s not completely outside the realm of possibility – he’s an industrial designer, and Swedish/Nordic design is obviously well regarded internationally. The main thing is that Sweden is the type of country that offers the type of lifestyle that we’d be looking for over the next few years – flexible workplaces, and the ability to spend lots of time with our future children. There’s nothing more depressing than the thought of having to put our kids into daycare from 7am to 6pm…and sadly, that’s what we’re facing when we return to Australia as there’s no conceivable way for either of us to stop working.