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 the 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 Gamla 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.
If you have seen the awesome Netflix series Vikings you know that 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! Don't we (men) all want to be Ragnar Lothbrok sometimes? It’s hard to believe that the hit show, originally produced by History Channel, is based on semi-factual, historic events. Those people were warriors, explorers, traders and inventors at the same time. It’s mind-blowing that the long ship, 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. You love them or hate them but 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. Sweden's love for ABBA remains unwavering, try telling someone it's simple or bad music and see what happens. In September 2021 it was announced that ABBA recorded some new songs and will release in November Voyage, their first studio album in 40 years. And that’s not all: in spring 2022 ABBA will go back on stage, but as avatars during a virtual concert. The four group members, all in their 70s now, will perform as holograms of their younger selves. The word “ABBAtars” as a variant of avatars immediately went viral on the Internet.
People might have different opinions about ABBA but believe me: that is really nothing compared to the way people are conflicted about surströmming. This Swedish speciality is arguably the most inedible food in the world. It 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 favourite pastime.