Still Not There

  We had heard about the “Stockholm Syndrome”, but none of us had ever experienced it — until we got to Stockholm.  The streets were clean, the sidewalks were wide, outdoor cafes offered cozy blankets in case patrons felt a bit of a chill.  The public transportation was clean, efficient, and available.  The pastries — notably the kannelbuller (cinnamon buns) — were delicious.  The ferries ran on time and took people to beautiful islands where you could buy fresh strawberries from Uppsala and kayak in clear, cool water.  The Royal Guard changed at 11:45 each day and kids played soccer in the park until ten o’clock at night.  We couldn’t find any dog poo on the sidewalks.

True, a tourist might have to take out a small loan to buy pastries and coffee or pay for a beer and french fries, but what did it matter when our captors spoke perfect, colloquial English, and didn’t mind doing so?

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  We stayed in a neighborhood called Vasastan.  We were around the corner from the street where Astrid Lindgren had lived for 40 years.  She wrote many books, some of which featured the character Pippi Longstocking, a child who constantly defies adult authority and is generally annoying.  Both Pippi and Astrid are well-respected in Sweden, enough so that after subletting the airbnb we had rented, we were able to afford a visit  to Junibacken, the over-priced but charming play center devoted to many of Astrid Lindgren’s characters.  It was there that we had our first IKEA experience:  Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.

 We learned that in Sweden this meal is equivalent to the mac’n’cheese experience of many American children.  We didn’t care.  We were hungry and had decided that the funny looking paper money and silly coins that seemed to disappear like snowflakes in our warm palms existed outside of any familiar monetary reality.

From Vasastan, we could walk almost anywhere in the immediate city to some of the 14 islands that comprise Stockholm:  to Gamla Stan to travel the narrow streets and “experience Olde Stockholme”, to Kungsholmen to climb the clock tower at City Hall, and to Djurgarden to ride bicycles and visit the Vasa Museum.

 Does this sound boring?  It wasn’t!  We found veggie dogs for A., a soccer ball for J. and post cards for D. all on Drottninggatan on the way to Snoilskyvagen so we could reach Svartensgatan before the ferry left for Augustendalsvagen!!

Though we had heard that the Swedes might be distant and cold, this was not our experience.  Kids were especially welcome and could ride public transit for free on the weekends and get in for half-price almost anywhere except the public toilets.  Sweden even offered a special “Mom’s” discount for paid purchases.  At night, we played in the park around the corner until 10 p.m. and joined in pick-up soccer games.  The Swedes seemed glad to explain the twelve different varieties of milk products in the dairy section of the grocery.

For all these reasons and more, we give Stockholm — and its Syndrome — a Thumb’s Up!

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