Thursday, April 30, 2015

Saying goodbye to Stockholm

A chapter is coming to a close very shortly. Tomorrow actually. In about 8 hours. Our time here in Stockholm - at least this go-around - is finished. We're off! To a new place with new people and new experiences. But there's lots here in Stockholm I'll miss every day. 

our across-the-canal neighbor, Karlberg Castle

I'll miss being surrounded by such beauty - both in the city itself and the nature it encompasses - 14 islands and all the gorgeous waterways between them.

I'll miss being able to bike home across town at 2am, and feeling secure about it. Not to mention getting there - as in anywhere - in just 20 minutes.

I'll miss being in a country where there are official holidays to celebrate baked goods - cinnamon buns, Selma, waffles...

I'll miss the endless summer days, where it's light past midnight and again by 3am. Even if it's not as warm as I'd like, there's truly something magical about the light.

I'll miss afternoons spent at my sauna club - and jumping in the lake between sweat sessions, no matter what the season.

For that matter, I'll miss jumping in all the lakes of this country - and the enthusiasm every Swede shares in doing do. 

But more than any of these things, I'm going to miss all the incredible people I've met here. Swedes aren't know for their friendliness, but the people I've met during my 4.5 years in Stockholm - both Swedes and non-Swedes - are amazing people who have taught me so much. 

The last few days here have been filled by a blur of cleaning like I've never cleaned before and packing way too many things into way too small suitcases. Not the most idyllic way to spend the end of this era. Then again, it's probably best for my emotional self to keep busy so as not to dwell on things too much. And there's so much goodness waiting for us on the other side! 

Thank you Stockholm, for all these things and for so much more. We'll be back!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A walk through the wild side of Sweden

Last Saturday, I spent the night in a tiny fishing hut alongside this gorgeous lake just outside of Tiveden National Park in central Sweden.

Serenity is the word. Not a sound save for the birds and our ax as we cut down dead trees for firewood.

I so wanted to take a dip off the rickety dock after a day spent hiking through Tiveden's ancient forest - but given that the fishing hut was little more than a roof over our heads and the sun was setting fast, I decided against it; Swedish springs are more like an extension of its winters - but brighter - and it would be a long night if I couldn't warm up. 

Without jumping in, though, I had one of my best nights of sleep in awhile beneath bright stars beside a dying campfire. I stayed warm in my sleeping bag + 4 layers of clothing atop a mattress of evergreen branches. 

A few swigs of whiskey may also have helped. I'm usually averse to this amber spirit, but have a newly-gained appreciation of it after last weekend. That and pea soup, lukewarm and straight from the can. It's amazing how good food and drink taste when you're outside all day. 

Our band of 5 arrived a bit too late to snag the best hut in the park on our first night - last Friday - but found another good spot close enough. And just in time: the last of the day's light faded as our fire got going.

The next day, we explored the rugged terrain of Tiveden's forest - measuring about 3,300 acres - which served as hiding place for outlaws back in the Middle Ages. I can see why. Massive rocks carve out protected caverns, perfect for hiding out. And who wouldn't want to hide out in such a majestic forest? Bright green moss covers much of the forest floor, sliced by streams trickling by with the last of the year's melted snow. 

After a late night around the fire on Friday, we didn't start hiking until around midday on Saturday. Sometimes it's good to ease into it. We probably covered about 7 kilometers, up and down winding paths, along the edges of flat, gray lakes. 

In the late afternoon, we came to Tiveden's largest free-standing rock, Junker Jägares Stone, stretching 15 meters high. A thick, fuzzy layer of moss circled the bottom; a single, wispy tree grew at the top, waving down to us in the breeze.

Our evenings' sustenance was grilled sausages; our mornings' was grilled bacon and sandwiches with jalapeno cheese squeezed on from a tube. We filled in the rest with trail mix. Hiking isn't hiking without trail mix.

On Sunday morning, we woke up to high winds and a bright sun. The tall, slender trees creaked and swayed precariously all around us, threatening to fall down at any moment - and we came upon many that did on our hike back to the car. We hoped to spot some wild animals - as we walked against the wind, they wouldn't be as likely to pick up our scent - but all we found were frogs. Lots and lots of frogs.

Swedish forests are mystical places, and Tiveden is no exception. There is something special about spending whole days and nights outside, a fresh rawness that seeps into every cell in your body. I survived our weekend in the Swedish wilderness, and loved every minute of it - frogs, tubed cheese, and all.