At Stock-home

View of the Stockholm rooftops from Observatorielunden, in the Vasastaden district

Well, it’s been over a month since I arrived here in Stockholm and though this is only my third post, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect a little on the time I’ve spent predominantly in the city so far. I’ve been lucky to live in a number of major cities around the world, but Stockholm is a little different to them all. Though it’s distance north might deter some warm weather-seeking visitors, I hope this post while inspire someone to visit and discover what this lively city has to offer.

Much to the annoyance of its Nordic neighbors, Swedes are proud to nickname Stockholm the capital of Scandinavia, and not just because of its central location within it. As our tour guide remarked during this week’s study visit to the Stadshuset (City Hall) for our Swedish Language and Culture I class, Stockholm is just that little bit better than its rivals, quite literally because it’s towering city hall was designed to stand just one meter taller than Copenhagen’s. And so it is that I’ve found the city quite the hidden delight, though admittedly I haven’t had the chance to visit it’s competitors just yet. The free time afforded by my DIS schedule, as well as the study tours like this week’s, give me plenty of time to explore the city and as such I already feel very familiar with much of what’s going on, from public transport to favorite cafés and fika spots. Even as a non-Swede, there is something incredibly welcoming about Stockholm and that, even when it’s busy with hurrying business people, it still somehow feels more relaxed than London or New York.

A walk through Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town

This week’s visit to the City Hall was a great chance to reflect on the history of the city as we were treated to a guided tour of the magnificent brick building situated on the shores of the Riddarfjärden. Home to the Nobel Prize ceremonial dinner and dance, as well as hundreds of civic weddings every week and more, the building reflects much of what is good about Sweden. It helps that the courtyard is also the location of the annual awarding of Swedish citizenship to applicants, an event that has increased in notoriety recently as Sweden deals with the refugee crisis in Europe. From its vast ‘Blue Hall’ (decked with red stone, ironically) to its decadent Golden Hall, the building is a source of pride for all Stockholmers it seems, and it was a worthwhile visit.

City Hall silhouetted after dark, on the shores of Riddarfjärden

But there’s plenty of other things to keep even the college students occupied in the winter months up here. So far, I’ve enjoyed taking ‘fika’, a Swedish tradition of a sweet treat and coffee, at numerous cafés and explored the nightlife in Södermalm and beyond. On Djurgården there are the museums and long green walks to enjoy in this unusually mild February, while Gamla Stan offers the history of the old cobbled streets and Royal Palace. And the best part, I think, about exploring this unique city is the expansive and impeccable public transportation, which links the islands and suburbs of the wider county with the city. Knowing your way around is a key part of feeling at home in a city, and Stockholm makes that easy.

It makes sense to continue the theme of flags in this blog with the flag of the city of Stockholm, following on from Göteborg. The much simpler design, seen below, features a blue field with a figurehead in the middle. The interesting part of this flag? It was supposed to be St. Eric, former king and patron saint of Sweden. But when the coat of arms was standardized in the 20th century, inspiration was drawn from a statue in a church of St. Olaf- St. Eric’s Norwegian equivalent! Just don’t tell that to the proud designers of Stockholm’s city hall.

The flag of Stockholm

This post was uploaded a little earlier than my usual Sunday schedule because I’m travelling this weekend, so look forward to the next post the week after!

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