Negative temperatures and Nordic delights leave a positive imprint, of a place, and its sights.
In February, the buildings on the archipelago, and the water that flows between the little islands are frosted in clear snow, rendering the city into a single, big white cake. It is no use resisting temptation. Play with the icing.
The coffee shops are little dimples of refuge from the cold; expensive, but delightfully inviting oases of rich, hot chocolate drinks, fresh sandwiches, and Swedish pastry specialties that fill the place with fragrant nuances of cinnamon and cardamom.
The city is kaleidoscopic. The warm Tuscan hues of Gamla Stan, rifled with traditional shops and composed, picturesque squares contrast immensely to the cooler than hipster, soopa-stylish streets of the funky-by-nature Folkungagatan, which is in turn laden with shops featuring exclusive, alternative Nordic makes, bright, colorful windows with all sorts of quirky paraphernalia, and groovy, all-happening bars.
From little painted wooden horses, to high fashion brands, Stockholm is aesthetic to the core, both in tradition and modernity. This is applicable to all sights of the city too. The changing of the guard in front of the Royal Palace, though not unusual insomuch as changing of the guards go, is impressive under the shimmering light of a frigid, blue-sky winter day. The inside of the Palace is beautiful, and the guides are entertaining in their heartfelt enthusiasm for the history and tradition of the Swedish capital.
One is spoilt for choice in all things cultural in Stockholm. Memories of the three-storied Vasa, with its incredible masts, transvestite images of Andy Warhol, beautiful circular neon rings, and haunting vodou masks and mirrors pervade in the memory. (See Vasa Museum, Fotografiska Contemporary Photography Museum, and Etnografiska Museum.)
Purchasing alcohol is a most unusual, and highly memorable experience. There is nothing above low percentage beers on supermarket shelves, and one must travel to a specialized shop, complete with tickets, numbered desks, and glass-pane displays containing a slightly random selection of bottles. Browsing for choice is difficult, and seems to me to reflect an incredible national level of efficacy and self-sureness. It is Scandinavia, after all.
Duntz duntz duntz. The city is an El Dorado for upmarket clubs, where jetsetters, celebrities, and all sorts of +23 year-old wealthies party the night away (or so I hear). Tip: know some natives, leave home early, do lots of pre-drinking, load up on the mullah, load up on the mullah, load up on the mullah, be over 23 and don’t wear flats in the snow. Lest you end up in a globalized fast food chain, cold and distressed at 3am. Not that that happened to me, or anything.
Stockholm will leave you breathless. The negative temperatures make it hard to breathe. But so do the buildings. The harbors. The little islands. The beautiful, happy, elfish people. The fashion. The museums. I can only imagine the rest of the country. Now that winter’s done, there is always Spring, and Summer and Autumn. It will be one to come back to time and time again, I have a feeling.
Ines M Geraldes Cardoso