I had the pleasure of spending almost a full week in Stockholm in June of this year. Mark and I took a wonderful Baltic tour with Tauck and added on extra time at the beginning to explore a little bit of Sweden. I will review the Tauck tour in an upcoming article.
The weather was great and we walked everywhere in Stockholm, except when we took boats or ships. This beautiful city has canals throughout, and it is easy and fun to get around on foot. It is also very easy to find canal tours and ferries between parts of Stockholm or out to the archipelago islands. We never booked in advance. It is very helpful that the Swedes are a friendly and helpful bunch, plus they all are required to learn English in school. Communication is incredibly easy here.
One thing unusual about Stockholm is that it is pretty far north. Temperatures in June were extremely pleasant. Especially compared to temperatures in Texas! Highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 60s. The interesting thing about being this far north is that by the time Summer Solstice rolls around, Sunset is very late. Even after 10pm when the sun goes down, it never really seems to get dark. It always had sort of a twilight glow – at least while we were still awake. Maybe the late night clubbing crowd saw it get darker. I wouldn’t quite know about that. I just know that while we were in Stockholm we never saw total darkness. The flip side of all this daylight, is that when winter rolls around there are only a few hours of daylight each day. If you go a little farther north there are days that never see sunlight. I think that would be rough, but I have also heard that Stockholm is magical around Christmastime.
The Swedes are so happy when the weather gets warmer and the days get longer. They want to be outside as much as possible. Even when they eat. Perhaps especially when they eat. Most restaurants have outdoor eating areas which are always more full than the inside. They will give you blankets and fire up heaters if it isn’t really warm enough to be outside without some extra warmth. Before this trip, I had never seen restaurants regularly setting the table with blankets at every seat.
Another manifestation of this joy the Stockholmers take in summer is that there are flowers all over the place; in gardens, in arrangements in museums, in restaurants, hotels and in front of the Royal Palace. And when Midsummer (Midsommar for the Swedes) arrives , there are celebrations everywhere to celebrate the longest day of the year and the warmth. Boats are adorned with tree branches – birch, I think. Young women wear wreaths of flowers in their hair. There is a tradition that if a young girl picks 7 kinds of flowers and sleeps with them under her pillow, her future husband will come to her in a dream. I didn’t see that first hand, but I did see lots of branches on boats and girls with flowers in their hair.
In the spirit of celebrating the Summer’s arrival, there was also lots of drinking and singing. Folks here really seem to enjoy singing. As a choir member myself, I respect that! Stockholmers finish work early the Thursday before Midsummer and then leave the city Friday to go and celebrate all weekend in the country or on the archipelago. I hear they celebrate with lots of schnapps, herring, more schnapps and then singing. Sometimes maybe aquavit. Many take advantage of the long Swedish vacation policy and stay out at their country houses through July.
The maypole also figures in to their celebrations. It was very fun to see signs of this all around us. We left town just as the Stockholmers did. We were told that the city would be very empty and many shops and restaurants would close as their owners went away for celebrations.