The Venice of the North

Just the other day I was talking with my Twitter friend Annie about Stockholm. It’s an amazingly beautiful city that I visit every now and then. I love to go there any time of the year because it is always gorgeous and there’s always a lot of fun things to do. I’ve visited Stockholm twice during this winter, in October and in February – and enjoyed both visits enormously, and I bet those months weren’t even the right ones for getting the best experience in the Venice of the North.

The landscapes outside Stockholm are breathtaking, the Stockholm archipelago must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. My dream is to buy an island somewhere in between Finland and Sweden and build a house on a cliff so that I could admire the stunning arctic sunrises and sunsets all around the year. I remember watching a documentary about a gardner living in one of those islands, his biggest challenge was to save enough rain water because you can’t use salt water on plants. He had managed to get along with the harsh nature and had a stunning garden with amazing variety of different plants. He lived on the island only during summer, in a cottage that didn’t have running water or electricity. It would be a fantastic getaway especially if you lived in a busy city center the rest of the year and had a stressful job.

Most of the tourists go to Old Town in Stockholm but I would say that the nicest area to visit is Södermalm. If you look at a map of Stockholm you can see that it is an island, and the town center has in fact a lot of waterways, bays and bridges like the Venice of the North naturally would. Södermalm is known for its relaxed atmosphere, it has lots of nice cafés, art events, street artists and second hand shops. I enjoy just walking around it soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the views. One of my favorite places to visit in Stockholm is Fotografiska museet, which you can also find in Södermalm. We went there just last October and and there was one photographer that made a huge impression on me, he’s a Dutch photographer called Pieter Ten Hoopen living in Stockholm, you can follow him on Twitter @PietertenHoopen If you browse through Pieter’s photos you’ll get another, quite wonderful view to the life in the Venice of the North.

For us photographers it is still always about light. Stockholm has gorgeous light. Those pink sunsets are something I haven’t seen anywhere else. Just last October I witnessed that through a hotel window, the sky turning into different tones of pink above the old black city roofs that are also so characteristic of Stockholm. One of those moments when you can so easily hear soft jazz music in the background and you feel totally relaxed and careless. One way to get access to these amazing views without traveling is to watch Swedish movies, for example Stockholm Boogie, or Vuxna Människor. In general I find the Swedish cinematography well worth exploring.

I wouldn’t mind living in Sweden, and at times I have actively applied for jobs there. However, I do love Helsinki also as much as I love Stockholm. The two capital cities are very different from each other but they both make you want to stay longer. And I think that I have to write a post about Helsinki some time soon…

Adventure Is a State of Mind

People always say that they learn new things from my blog posts, I guess being a teacher is something so deeply rooted in me that I keep doing it in my free time as well. But also the need to learn is what drives me to find out more about things. In my opinion that is what being an adventurer is all about. Going off to an adventure can be that you fly off to an Amazonian jungle, but it can also be in your immediate surroundings if you keep your eyes and ears open – and most of all if your are curious and open for new experiences.

When I was exploring the beautiful Finnish archipelago today I met a local manor owner who was walking his dog on the sea. The ice on the sea is so thick at this time of the year that you can even drive a car on it. Walking, skiing and snowmobile riding on the ice are very popular pastimes among the locals as you can imagine. The man had a very cute and playful young German shepherd and while I was playing with the dog he told me stories about the manor houses that we could see all around us. One of the manor estates in the area is on the market at the moment for 3.5 million euros. It has belonged to the same family for centuries, but now it will be sold for someone outside the family. Another manor house accross the bay was destroyed in a fire and couldn’t be restored because of the lacking insurance. Now there is another house where it used to be, but the same family still live there. Nowadays, most of these old estates are protected, so that you are not allowed to alter the buildings even if you own them.

One thing that I found myself constantly admiring was how rural the landscape can be even though you’re just a 20 minute drive from the capital city. Horses were grazing around in the snow and I had to stop and wait on the road while the cows were let to cross the road from their shed to the pasture. I also had a pleasure of getting to know a cute pony called Cherry.

So my walk in the archipelago today turned out to be quite an adventure. When I came back home it felt like I had been in a totally different place and brought back lots of new experiences and thoughts. That is what I call adventure.