Stockholm, also known as the "beauty on water" or "Venice of the north", is the epitome of Swedish culture. The capital is not only pleasant to the eye, but also represents all the values shared by its inhabitants. "Lagom" is the word they use to describe that attitude. It's one of those words that everyone knows the meaning of, but can't explain to foreigners, like Norwegian "Hygge". "Lagom" more or less means: "just about right", "there's virtue in moderation", "not trying too hard". People are happy with what they got, they don't want for too much. That philosophy has its impact on all aspects of Swedish life, there is no corporate rat-race, and people are content with a humble life. It is reflected in the so called "Nordic Food Revolution"- a movement that tries to revitalize their cuisine, using unusual, yet plain, local ingredients such as moss or hay. It clearly works; Stockholm alone has 12 Michelin-starred restaurants, including the 3-star Frantzen (http://www.restaurantfrantzen.com) at Klara Norra kyrkogata 26.
Locals say that the best view of Stockholm is from its waterways, while relaxing on a boat cruise. It's a port town after all, with a long-lasting marine history. You can witness a part of it in the Vasa Museum (www.vasamuseet.se) at Galärvarvsvägen 14. It's a huge hall, built specifically to house an enormous wreckage of a Swedish warship, which set off to its maiden voyage in the year 1628 and sank literally just outside of Stockholm. It could be a script for a Monty Python sketch. A site that every modern adult should visit is the Nobel Museum (nobelmuseet.se) located at Gamel Stan- Stockholm's old town. The Nobel Prize is an award given to the world's most influential people in various disciplines like science, culture, or something vague like peace. I feel like it's not as important as it used to be. Back when I was a kid in the 90s, everyone knew the laureates, now they know every member of the Kardashian family.
According to the popular TV series, Sweden during the Viking era was a paradise for men. No need to shave? Convenient. Pillaging? Sounds fun. Icy hot blondes? Sign me up. Long distance travels? Awesome! It's hard to believe that the hit show produced by History Channel is based on semi-factual, historic events. Those people were warriors, explorers, traders and, in a way, inventors. It's mind-blowing that the longship, a boat perfected around 700 AD, allowed them to traverse the Atlantic. That's the kind of people that have laid foundation to this country, before it was even called Sweden. Rune stones, burial mounds, medieval cities and fortifications are as common as restaurants serving herring in season. Vikings used ox blood, horsehair and eggshells as mortar, who would've thought it would last that long? One could argue that Ikea designers could've learned something from their ancestors and worked on the durability of their furniture. Thankfully, most of the icons that Sweden is known for seem to last forever. Love them or hate them, ABBA has been around for decades, some call them cheesy, but most people still hum to their music. Their songs have been covered and adapted to countless movies, musicals and events. Swedes love for ABBA remains unshaken, try telling someone that it's simple or bad music and see what happens.
There is one more famous thing that people there are conflicted about. Surströmming, arguably the most inedible food in the world, is a Swedish delicacy, stinks worse than a durian fruit and is banned on airplanes. The recipe is almost 400 years old and started out as sticking herring into a barrel and burying it. Surströmming would ferment in the ground until someone remembered it was there. Nowadays the fermentation takes place in cans for anything from 1 to 3 years before they're ready to eat. Locals usually have it on a heavily buttered slice of bread, garnished with sour cream and onion. It's no food for the faint of heart. Watching YouTube clips of people trying Surströmming is my new favorite pastime.