Dimming Stockholm, Sverige

A few weeks ago my mother decided to go to Stockholm for the weekend… Naturally I didn’t mind 😉 I really love going to places for a few days because you remember everything you see much better, as you stay in that particular place for a limited period of time, so you really feel the need to absorb everything around you.

I have been to Stockholm before but this was the first time I felt like I could actually appreciate the city: what I had noticed was how modern and colourful, yet modest the buildings were.  Sweden is famous for its contemporary designs, both in clothes and in furniture. This is also reflected in the buildings and the whole city seems spacious and airy,  without extra unnecessary details. Even the people seem somewhat reserved, though very friendly, but again, I didn’t know anyone personally over there, I am only talking about my impressions of the city as a whole, and people form a huge part of a city in any place.

There is one truly wonderfully special place in Stockholm: Astrid Lingdren’s Junibacken museum. No, it’s not like a museum at all — it is like stepping into a fantasy world of children’s books and fairy tales, where all the characters come to life. Forget Disneyland: this is the place for children and adults alike. All the character’s cosy homes are recreated to form a tiny village and no details are overlooked: it feels as if the Moomins and Pippi Longstocking really live there, with greasy pans, handkerchiefs, old shoes, bolts and pieces of wood all over the place! I even found a gracefully lanky lone wolf which I loved, as he reminded me of Tim Burton’s masterpieces. What’s more, you get to go on a special ‘story-train’ where you are told about Astrid Lingdren’s own works, like ‘Karlsson’ and ‘Emil’. These stories are accompanied by miniature models of the settings and characters so that it seems like you are soaring above this fairy-tale world, lost in your own dream…

If you want a more ‘educational’ museum, the Nordisk Museet is also an interesting place to go. Four floors on Swedish culture and traditions, where you get to learn about customs like putting out porridge for the dwarves on Christmas Eve, so they don’t get upset.

As Stockholm is next to water, it is normal to expect the port to be lovely, which it is. The surrounding houses look very formal, with exquisite chimneys rising from their rooftops, and the remains of summery flowers decorating the balconies. It was very foggy when I was there, with an occasional drizzle here and there, but the sun shone through the clouds at one point, majestically illuminating all the boats and their masts at the harbour. What I loved was the warm atmosphere on the decks of the boats, I could sense people really lived there, just like in the Junibacken story houses, because of the snug mess present everywhere: wooden chairs and tables, pots with poorly-watered plants inside, half-broken clocks and other junk people don’t need, yet it is this worthless clutter that gives a place the invaluable homely feeling you can never find in sterilised hotel rooms or strict offices.

Stockholm is surely an urban planner’s dream. Everything works. Everything looks good.

-Janine di Giovanni

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