Let’s start with the first Scandinavian city I’ve ever visited, where I spent nearly one year exploring the archipelago, breathing the freezing air during the winter and enjoying the sun in summer. Living its traditions both in winter and summer (because –let’s say it- there are only two seasons in Sweden if you compare this amazing country to Italy – where I come from). I got to know amazing people and their traditions.
Probably one of the most photographed spots in Stockholm is in Gamla Stan (literally “Old Town”): Stortorget. It’s a square from the Middle Age surrounded by old merchant’s houses. During Christmas time this square hosts a typical Christmas market where you can eat, drink, buy presents and live a true winter wonder. Especially if you eat pepparkakor (cookies) and glögg (mulled wine).
When people think about Sweden the first thing that comes to their mind is… COLD! Yes, of course, Sweden is cold, but it can get worse, you know. I will (or at least I’ll try to) list all the GOOD things about the cold depressing Swedish winter. First thing: no mosquitoes. Sounds like a good reason, right? Going back to being serious, what’s really amazing about winter is that you can be lucky enough to get to see the Northern lights.
Well, to enjoy this incredibly overwhelming phenomenon you need to be extremely patient, especially in a city like Stockholm, where it’s even rarer since it’s not in the North. It took me almost two months to finally see the northern lights. I checked the Aurora forecast every single day, I watched the weather forecast too because you need a clear sky and grabbing just a blanket and my camera, I walked to the nearest forest and sat on a rock right in front of the lake. This happened for almost two months straight and finally in October, I saw the lights dancing and enchanting the night. It was one of the most magical experiences ever. Another phenomenon which I personally never had experienced before was the so-called light pillars. This happens when light reflects from ice crystals suspended in the air, thus creating pillars in the sky. That is magical too, even though I must admit that I thought I was having hallucinations the first time I saw those huge pillars. So… yes, Stockholm might be cold during the winter, but its cold creates magic.
Summer is brief, fresh and bright. It feels like a neverending day, with around 17-19 hours of daylight. Everything and everyone looks happy during the summer.
Everyone who has been in Sweden or at least at Ikea must have tried the famous köttbullar (meatballs) or kanelbullar (cinnamon buns). Well, I want to talk about something else this time, a food related to a tradition usually celebrated in August: kräftskiva, crayfish party. People gather and eat crayfish (something I had not tried before), drink snaps (a shot of alcohol so strong that the only thing I remember is how delicious it was). Before drinking Swedes sing and make eye contact before yelling SKÅL (the first word I learned in Swedish). Oh and… I swear, they do make eye contact. After this, they get wasted so badly. Or at least, that’s what happened to me.