You are cool and modern with a Viking history that’s full of adventure. Honestly, we knew very little about you when we arrived. I have always been casually interested in Scandinavia, though now in reflection I’m not sure why. By reputation, Sweden just seemed hip. And you didn’t disappoint. It’s our kind of place!
I’ve always associated you with music, design and good food, which turned out to be correct. Your commitment to creativity is laudable. From Stockholm’s subway art to your national obsession with music and festivals, your priorities chart a clear path for young people to achieve an acceptable career in Astrophysics or electronic dance music (R.I.P. Avicii). We have always known there was a direct connection between the arts and sciences but you are way ahead of the game.
We love the U.S. and believe in American ideals, yet we’ve seen so many great examples of the power of societal investment in the arts and humanities. I truly believe that art is a key ingredient for any place to be recognized as “great” and accomplish anything worth remembering a hundred years from now.
Somehow Sweden, like the rest of Europe, pulls off a social safety net that doesn’t feel like the failed welfare state in my country. These issues are complex and require greater inquisition. If I’ve learned one thing during our travels, it’s that a different culture can only be understood when experienced in person, and this doesn’t take into account the many layers that make up the culture.
We visited so many amazing places in our short week here, like your iconic opera house, parliament building, Nordic People’s Museum, the epic reconstruction of the sunken Vasa of 1628, the Mega Mind exhibit at the Stockholm Technical Museum and the famous Swedish saunas (yes, everyone was appropriately dressed).
Outside of Stockholm, we spent some time in nature. You are 40 percent water, after all. It’s everywhere. We drove three hours to enjoy the peaceful, clean lakes and forests of Ulricehamn where we met Per and Louise, who are friends of friends. Per and Louise own the Din Deli, a perfect little shop with a retail slice of Sweden delivered in cheeses, meats and other feast essentials. Check out their Instagram feed (@dindeli) for the full experience. The Din Deli is a must stop if in Sweden. We enjoyed a couple of meals there together and learned more about this special country and Per and Louise’s great family.
I mentioned that culture must be experienced in person to understand. On our last day, we visited Gothenburg, a port city. We came across one of the city’s festivals that had throngs of people out and about walking the streets visiting tents and entertainment stages. At one stage was a performance with a handful of actors. There were at least 400 people watching, half of them children. As Chewbacca played the xylophone (which wound up just being recorded music), two female actors made vague sexual references and pranced around the stage in a fashion that was “just… weird…” as Jackson put it. Everyone else was well entertained. [ed note: Never in my life did I think Chewbacca would play an instrument and kids would laugh at vague sexual references but there we were in Sweden.] We giggled along with the crowd and then made our way to catch a ferry to Denmark.
Sweden, you were exactly as I hoped you would be.
Tack (“thank you” in Swedish),