The sky of Stockholm is one of the elements characterizing the Northern city, lying on several islands, between sea, earth and wood. It’s a whimsical and changeable sky, where clouds run wild, indifferent to the life that moves beneath them. Stockholm is named “Pearl of Europe“, and walking through the large streets of the city, there is the impression of being part of something antique and majestic, still shiny of beauty and without the opacity of aging.
The buildings in the city center are structures in the Baroque style, majestic and slight at the same time, that rise tall against the sky, crowned with pinnacles and spars. But there is nothing old. The feeling is of a young city, where everything is modern and clean, where there are no signs of time wear, where next to an ancient church, can arise a building of mirrors with a contemporary and streamlined design.
Some days, observing the change of weather from a warm summer morning to a rainy autumn afternoon, I seemed to be able to hear in the hissing of the wind the notes of a classic melody, Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, and to watch the clouds dancing endlessly keeping its imperious pace.
Stockholm rises up between two blue walls, between the sky and the sea, two worlds that are opposed and are reflected, never unmoving. There is not the quiet calmness to whom you get used in the long Roman days, when everything seems to be holding breath, when even the ticking of the clock seems to slow down. The time in Stockholm appears to speed up, and the air is full of life and motion, swirls all around you in the gusts of wind and brings on your skin the freshness of the northern seas and the smell of wood and trees.
However the city would be just an empty shell without its inhabitants, without the heterogeneous vital power that runs along its streets every day. And it is precisely how I have thought should be a modern capital of Europe: full of different lives, of people of every color, gender, religion. Very blond children in double prams, teenagers with hair dyed bright red on skateboard, women covered in by long blacks veils to the feet, girls with almond eyes waiting for the train, little girls with curly tails jumping at every step. Multicultural but united. And maybe this has been the best thing I’ve seen, still lacking in my country.
Our journey started a hot morning in late August in Rome, when still sleepy we got on a plane, landed three hours later in an airport surrounded by a thick forest of tall green trees, with a temperature of 15 degrees lower. Of course we got lost just after getting off at the first stop of Flygbussarna (the bus that runs from Arlanda to City).
We were practically into nothingness, on the edge of the highway, with behind only a wall of trees. But the kindness of the Swedes was immediately expressed by a bus driver, of Arabic origin and without a good English, who very kindly stopped to listen to us, letting us get on and showing where to get off without even charge us the ticket. During our stay, we have met many people who proved to be not only very friendly and fluent in English, but also very funny and ready to joke, as the owner of a shoe store who, when asked if there were shops selling pajamas, replied it was difficult to find in town and that he slept naked. This is to disprove the cliché according to which the people of the North is cold and unfriendly.
The city of Stockholm is divided into four main parts: at the North there is the City (or Norrmalm), where we were pretty much all days and where is the central station; Södermalm covers the South, where we went just once; the center is composed of the “old town” Gamla Stan and the nearby island of Skeppsholmen; finally, to the East is the large green island of Djurgården, the place that I loved most.
I can easily say that Stockholm has been revealed as my ideal type of city: clean and fresh air due to few cars; wide tidy streets where the houses don’t have bars on windows (here in Rome we put them till to the third floor) and the walls are not covered with graffiti; full of people but not chaotic; and, above all, so much green, not only in the gardens around the churches, where stood solitary gravestones in romantic style, or in the parks scattered here and there, but even in whole regions of space, like the island of Djurgården and the Haga Parken, in the North of the city.
A characteristic that amazed me has been how much they use the bike. Almost everybody was riding a bicycle and all with helmet: children, girls in miniskirt and heels, guys in Converse and T-shirt, businessmen in suits and ties, even the elders (showing a pretty well trained body). The bike path runs along the whole city, and is always traveled up and down, with the rain or the sun (very fast alternation in Stockholm, much so that, when it is raining, the umbrella is not opened anymore).
Compared to Rome, where I still get lost, Stockholm is a small city and delineated; it’s very easy to get around if you have a map, beacuse of a linear road network and almost total coverage by public transport. After just one day, we could already take a bus or the Tunnelbana (the subway) without the fear of not knowing where to get off or what is the right direction.
Moving away from the center of the city, little by little towards the outer neighborhoods, stands out the Swedish style, clean, white and delicate, environmentally friendly and comfortable for those who live it. The wooden houses in the typical red color must fit harmoniously in the surrounding environment (the Swedes have a deep natural ethics). Even the apartment buildings, which tend not to exceed four floors, have wood paneling and small bricks outside, and large glass panes without bars or shutters as windows, with pots of flowers on the sills inside.
“Beauty in everything“, is the slogan of Swedish design, which places special attention to nature and children, as evidenced by the many playgrounds everywhere (even inside the museums), which reproduce in miniature wooden houses and castles, complete with functioning kitchen on the ground floor.
If you would like learn more about Swedish design, read HERE. I have fallen in love with it.
Unfortunately I couldn’t see and do everything I wanted, but for any question or advice, feel free to write me.
For further information about Sweden, I refer you to the excellent site of Visit Sweden: http://www.visitsweden.com/sweden
For information about the city of Stockholm, there is the constantly updated site of Visit Stockholm: http://www.visitstockholm.com/en
All my photos can be found in my Flickr album, in the set of Stockholm.