Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cozy Christmas in Västervik

Our Christmas holiday started last Friday with a bus trip to Västervik on Senior Svenssons' double-decker bus on one of the year's busiest days of travel in the midst of a snowstorm. Miraculously, we made it in just over 4 hours, only 15 minutes late. 

From Friday night through to our return to Stockholm on Wednesday evening, we gathered around the table - many tables actually - of family and ate and drank to our hearts content - and then some. We enjoyed the gorgeous winter scenes in the few hours of sunlight which reached our northern latitudes, and lit candles and fires in the cozy evenings. 

Friday was in fact the shortest day of the year with sunrise at 8:44 and sunset at 2:48 - 6 precious hours, all of which were cloud-covered. No matter, the snowy wonderland brought the perfect white Christmas. And the next day, a slushy soup ensued overnight from the cold rain. Now the streets and sidewalks are a dirty, icy mess - so much for my cross country ski training, for now at least.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bastu bliss

The perfect way
to end a weekend 
in need of a detox

A visit to the sauna of course.

Bask in sauna at 80º C (176º F)
Plunge into 2ºC water

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Julbord in the Sky

Or at least as high as possible in Stockholm. On Saturday night, we ventured across the city to Fåfängen Restaurant for the infamous Swedish Julbord, or Christmas table

our julbord - the after shot (sorry, was too busy eating for any others)

The Julbord is (naturally) a smörgåsbord - with pretty much the same foods every time - consisting of a wide variety of pickled herring (sill), meatballs, beet salad, johnsson's temptation potatoes, prince sausage, cabbage - the list goes on. Ours also had bear meatballs and some sashimi to shake things up a bit. Oh, and most important - the snaps.

Fåfängen means the vanity, and so this highly perched restaurant was named for its location at the top of a mountain, overlooking the entire city of Stockholm, and where people in the old days came to see and be seen. 

I don't think we were seen by many, as a snowy dark winter night is not the best time to parade atop a mountain. But is indeed the perfect time to gorge oneself on portion after portion of hearty holiday fare. And so we did. We ate; we drank; we sang; we were merry. And a serious food coma set in shortly thereafter. Fortunately, I was able to overcome this temporary incapacitation in time for continuing on to the city for a few late-night drinks.

Post-Julbord, I sweat out my copious over-eating in the steamy sauna, broken up by plunges in some very, very cold water. Guarding the long staircase leading down to the little hut of heat, I found this gorgeous Christmas tree. We also have one in front of our apartment building, the side of which looks like a bite has been taken out of it. No matter - it's a welcome light in the darkness.

our Luciatåg - Lucia train - today

And while I'm on the subject of Christmas (I can't seem to avoid it - not that I mind), today is Lucia in Sweden! On December 13, Sweden celebrates St. Lucia, a saint rumored both to have been Adam's first wife and to have consorted with the Devil. 

Today, people - mostly children - dress up in long white robes as star boys or tärnor (the name for the girls - any good translations out there?), and one lucky girl gets chosen to be Lucia herself. The entourages travel through the city singing traditional Swedish carols and bringing light to one of the darkest days of the year. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Happy First Advent

Sunday was the first Advent and here in Stockholm,
that means you can put up your Christmas decorations!

our first Christmas wreath

It doesn't sound like a big deal, but really it is. Waiting through weeks of increasing darkness for the moment to hang our shining star (jultjärna) brightly in the window can seem like forever. And this occasion must not be a day before the First Advent. But as of Sunday, our apartment is full of holiday cheer with Christmas candles (adventljusstaker) and star in the window flanked by red curtains, berries in a vase, and a wreath on the door.

I am also happy to report that my patience for snow has paid off as well - since last Thursday, Stockholm has been cloaked in a beautiful winter wonderland. The temperatures have also dropped to -15C, but I can't say I mind - my super-duper down jacket keeps me warm (most of the time), and when everything is so bright and gorgeous, I can't complain. I just hope this snow keeps up all winter! Now to find my sled...

And a couple pictures from the Gamla Stan Christmas market on Saturday -