During winter, the weather in Stockholm becomes especially unpredictable (temperature leaps from +5 to -15 in a few days), grey sky, cold wind and permanent dampness. That’s why lots of Swedes prefer to spend this period somewhere in warm places, like Thailand. Unfortunately, right now I can’t afford such vacation so I was looking for some green colors instead of common grey one.
Still, after 10 months in Sweden I continue being amazed how people love natural environment – there are hundreds of parks and lakes in the city. But the most amazing is that you can go by foot to one of the naturreservats – literally “natural reservations”. Those are big natural areas, just in the city, where building is prohibited. On the other hand, you can walk there, following various routes, which you can check before entering such kind of places. Moreover, some of those routes are lightened, what makes night walks really amazing. Those reservats sometimes can be really huge – for instance, near my current living place there is around 300 ha area.
In such places you can find big empty buildings, which were used for different purposes; Vikings graves; various ruins; some religious rocks etc. Additionally, all of those places are showed on the maps, they are well-connected by bike and walking routs. Finally, if there are at least some rocks – you would be able to enjoy rock climbing. Of course, the best place for it would be shown on the map. No needs to tell that, even without trash bins such places are absolutely clean. In most cases, you would not meet anyone during long walk. Sometimes the possibility of meeting some deer or rabbit is much bigger than a man.
Such places create really good opinion about country and its citizens. Swedes are trying to save natural environment in its initial state, but they also make everything comfortable and affordable. They are intervening in nature in the best possible way – creating roads and routes, they don’t take entrance fee and they leave the place how it was before them.
And here are some photos from Elfviks naturreservat I have been recently.
It seems, that Swedes started to celebrate Christmas and New Year one month in advance. Actually, at the end of November Stockholm was conquered by army of lightened elks, lights on every house and Christmas tree in every house and public squares. Now, entering every shop, firstly you would pass beautiful Christmas tree before shopping and staff would wish you all the best in the upcoming year.
One interesting tradition, I want to tell about is celebrating Advents (“arrival” or “coming” from Latin). For instance, on the first Sunday of Advent – four weeks before Christmas – people light the first candle in the Advent candle-stand. Every Sunday until Christmas, a candle is lit (and blown out after a while), until all four candles are alight.
Moreover, for hardworking Swedes this month can be too stressed – you have so much work to be done in a short period, buy presents for family and friends, try to visit all yours relatives during Advent celebration, celebrate New Year with you colleagues (by the way, it is common to celebrate in November, so everyone would have more time for family and relatives).
Another interesting event, happening in Stockholm was Nobel Ceremony. Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace - the Nobel Prizes. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden's central bank) established The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
This year Nobel Prize was awarded for 11 persons, for example Physics Prize was shared between 3 scientists. More than 1500 quests were invited for Award Ceremony. Politicians, cultural activists, scientists, representatives of different organizations, students enjoyed ceremony and concert, then they had dinner held at the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall. There are some traditions connected with this dinner: menu is always kept in secret; your outfit must include smoking or long dress; banquet lasts from 19 to 22:15 pm (and always finishes with ice-cream), after it King of Sweden makes a sign for dances to begin. It ends at 1:30 am.
Finally, you can try all dishes from banquets starting from 1901 in City Hall. It would cost around 200 USD, and this dinner is offered to more than 20 thousand people every year.
old is gold - banquet in 1958
orange, yellow, brown, red buildings - EVERY TIME you google "stockholm" you will see them
the word "weather" here means "UNPREDICTABLE". old city at sunday 12 am, common grey colour and zero visibility
the next morning sun was shining so bright so it took some time to process the picture
On november 9, when i was changing ACCOMMODATION it started to snow...
stockholm looked fantastic, but most of the buses in the city were cancelled.
skiing around charles xiii, who was both sweden and norway king
ships, boats and liners everywhere
I really like how Swedish government works, taking care of all branches of citizens life. Analyzing current problems and discussing solutions Swedes don’t try to change lifestyles and mentality of people – they are changing the things that cause troubles. Here come a few examples from different spheres.
If speaking about education – Swedes receive free and high quality education. As usual there are like 15 pupils in the class and everyone receives laptop from school for free. Studying in university is also free (despite some private schools) and there are lots of possibilities to receive part-funded or full scholarship.
Comparing to Ukraine, where most of the roads are old and destroyed - Sweden has perfect one. Many years ago government’s task was to decrease car accidents to minimum (and make their amount 0 in near future). They realized that high penalties won’t change the situation, so they decided to make road system perfect, not people. They started to build “2+1” roads, which means that road lines has two opposite ways and 1 extra which changes direction due to traffic capacity. Moreover, there were created thousands of new road crossings; put many lights; built separate and safe bike roads. Additionally, the strict program against drunk driving was implemented (by the way Sweden is famous for anti-alcohol policy, which also works). Speed limit was also increased and lots of road cameras started being used. Finally, there were built lots of barriers between road lines.
All of that decreased death caused by road accidents to the lowest in the world (3 deaths per 100 thousand people, while in Ukraine this indicator is four times bigger).
Library, I had visited recently is also amazing. Divided into two parts (Swedish and international) it offers huge number of books and magazines. Speaking about Ukraine, where you should ask library worker to find a book, here you can do it online. Add free Wi-fi, comfortable sofas for reading and you won’t be surprised why libraries here, in our modern era, are crowded all day long.
Finally, one more thing, which I really liked, is culture houses or Kulturhusets. Place for a good leisure opened for everyone. It is the place where youth can come and enjoy lots of activities for free. For instance, the one which I have visited recently is really huge and 6 floors. Music studio, study circles, open discussions and debates, concerts, poetry evenings and many-many other interesting events.
This is how government works in this country. But as old Chinese proverb says “citizens have the government they deserve”. So, maybe problems in Ukraine are connected not only with it?
I always get surprised how everything is developed and balanced in Sweden. Every part of mechanism works like new Swiss watch. Trains and buses are 99% on time, if something is wrong, you would see notification about problem and next departures in your mobile app. Even in the less important route somewhere on the various Stockholm islands. As usual, locals also plan their daily schedule, what makes them to be on time and don’t hurry up. Everything is planned, so don’t feel offended when someone would refuse you in a meeting in a few days, few weeks or even few months. Yes, planning is very important part of Swedish life, most of them already know exact date and what they would … this winter, some of them already planned next summer vacation, I am sure.
It is very common to go outdoors for a weekend, to buy some food and one-time grill and enjoy free day at one of the hundreds of spots to chill. One of them I have visited last weekend – Nynäshamn, separate town 60 min by train outside Stockholm. On Saturday it was crowded by people going to chill near Baltic see. Add big old forest, rocks and extremely good salty air and you would meet lots of Swedes melting under the last sun. But it’s a huge country so it’s a not an issue to find your own separate place.
one of the baltic sea harbours
If speaking about free space, I was pleasantly surprised how animals live in the zoo. Skansen – one of the seldom outside museums in the world is famous for showing authentic Swedish houses and metal and wooden crafts. Moreover, you can see typical Swedish animals – wolves, bears and elks. They live in such big “apartments” that I was kind of amazed viewing it. Big, maybe half of the football field, for every kind of animal, plus different locations for them to chill from noisy people and lots of toys. Everything is wisely covered by fence, the lowest part of which is made from glass (for the youngest visitors). Comparing to Ukraine, where animals suffer in small cages, Swedish ones should not suffer living in captivity.
Another interesting detail, about Swedish lifestyle is that if couple has a child, husband also goes to decree vacation. Children raising here is a very important process and both of the parents must be involved. Its very common, that, while wife is working, husband is busy with house work. And this can last even for a year. Sounds really weird for East European countries.
Time is running fast and recently I had noticed that in October it would be already 6 month when I am living in Sweden. Half of EVS period is a nice time to think about your achievements, to analyze and make plans for future. Moreover, I am going back in Ukraine for a few days to see my family and friends and to manage with future NGO in my native town.
Finally, it would be another month when I would be looking for accommodation, because my contract expires again. So, if someone in Stockholm has a free room…
August started with visiting famous Stockholm museums: Vasa museum and Fotografiska. The first one is famous worldwide for showing the last saved ship from 17th century. The ship was drowned in Stockholm harbor for more than 300 years, then it was reconstructed and showed for people. It still has hundreds of small sculptures on its board. Second one – a famous photography museum. Having lots of room you like visit another world going from one after another. In my case, I started from ecological problems in Africa, going to celebrities photos in random moments through Roman people life and finishing with photos of British soldiers disabled by war. Most of the photos were really interesting where you can stand for few minutes and think deeply. But exciting feeling from visiting those places was outweighted by the news that I would go to Armenia.
My Armenian adventure started with amazing 1 day trip to Tatev monastery (a must see place!), one of the most beautiful places in this country. For instance, when you Google “what to see in Armenia” the first thing you would see – a monastery situated on the plateau somewhere in the middle of high green mountains.
That awesome trip was organized by my big friend Ani, from the recent project in Stockholm. Together with her hospitable relatives we went to visit Tatev monastery, situated at the north of the country. But during our way we also have seen lots of interesting places like Noravank church, built at 1205 which is situated in a narrow gorge with bright red rocks and cliffs. It is famous for Jesus face that u can find on a ceiling if you would look carefully. Stairs are very high – it was supposed that it people would be hard for people to go praying for God and they would stoop their backs like showing their respect.
After that we saw the oldest vinery in the world. I hoped that it is still working until we went inside a cave. Following tiny track full of dust we entered big “room” where were lots of old clay containers from past millenniums. When they were opened there still was dry grape seeds inside them. Sounds strange but nowadays, such interesting place like the oldest vinery in the world is still undiscovered due to luck of funds.
And finally we arrived to Tatev :). Being high in the mountains we took the longest cablecar in the world above mountains and observed all this beauty.
Entrance was crowded by women selling various food from famous Armenian cuisine and Russian vodka :D. Also, I felt some Jordan vibes, because it was necessary to bargain and don’t overpay for berries. Walking around this monastery I felt quite bored and tired from hotness when some local girls offered an idea to show some unique places there. 2 minutes – and we entered a small room with secret entrance. I took off some wood boards and climbed narrow tunnel leading to breakage. It was quite dangerous – half of the meter more and you can easily fall down into nowhere.
Our way back home we were invited to be quests at one more Ani’s relatives house (famous Armenian hospitality). And it seems common there to invite random quests at midnight at have some fun. By the way, during my stay in Armenia I felt this hospitality in everyday life: people are smiling, they can help every moment and always asking where are you from and invite to their house to show something special (but to have glass of wine for sure). I would finish August part with some pictures with place where I have also been too but too tired to describe.
The fact, that I added post about June at the 8 of July and was busy with my 5th moving (kind of anniversary! :D) in Stockholm, at the beginning of the month gives me nice excuse to start writing approximately from the middle of the month. For the first time in my life, I was travelling to absolutely new for me environment – Amman, the capital of Jordan. For the first time in my life, I was in Arabic country. And my feelings after this trip are very controversial.
I didn’t like when people try to fool one another but making it for money is the poorest thing. That’s happened directly when we were taking taxi to a hotel – driver assured at the beginning that he would give a receipt but when we arrived he said that it is impossible. And such situations happen everywhere – in cafés personnel uses to put additional food and drinks on your table, which you did not offered. When you ask is it for free, they say “Yes” but when you would pay be ready to see extra money in your receipt for “free food”.
Another interesting thing I have noticed – there are shops with summer clothes and souvenirs everywhere. And in 99% cases prices are not mentioned, so you need to bargain with seller. Be ready to do it everywhere, in another case you would waste lots of money. Prices are increased and even after bargain you would overpay. So, its would really useful to go shopping with some locals. And don’t hesitate to bargain even in food shops. But shopping is really memorable – you can find lots of unique stuff and bring part of Jordan back home.
Minimum temperature in the afternoon is +35 but you don’t notice it when walking through Amman – you are paying attention on rare authentic buildings where people live. And sometimes you can find something great just in the centre of the city, like Roman Theatre – 6000 seat theatre built in the 2nd century. The first association which you would find is Colosseum. But this place was not used to be a fighting place, even now, after many centuries it hosts big concerts. You can make thousands of photos but they want pass the great feeling of being part of the history when you enter this place. Just come to Amman and enjoy – it really worth. Additionally, I have visited Amman Citadel – ruins of ancient castle, located on the hills what gives you possibility to enjoy great city view.
Finally, I want to tell about the most memorable place in this trip – Dead Sea. The place where you can see Palestine on the other side, where due to high percent of salt in the water it is very hard to swim the place where temperature is more than 40 degrees, where people take medical mud to home, where producers take salt and sell it all over the world. And yes, it is true that u can just lie on the water and it would handle you. Even with tied arms and legs you would not be drowned.
The last point that makes my July great - is the fact, that I am going to Armenia in the August. So, expect new interesting posts and photos.
Summer in Sweden does not look like summer in common European country. Instead of hiding from +30 degrees, you enjoy your everyday +22, sometimes with cold wind and rain.
The first important event in this month was great barbecue at my villa at 12th of June. AUE members as well as our Framtidstaget colleagues and our friends met together outside the city to spent great time together. We had lots of fun and delicious food in this sunny day.
After such great Sunday I had lots of energy and did not even noticed how the next working week passed, and how I finished my Swedish course. Moreover I was waiting for my first trip outside Stockholm to Vanern - the biggest lake in Europe. After 4 hours in very comfortable train with Wi-Fi (hidden ad for Swedish railway) I arrived there.
I visited my 3 friends Ocean, Manuela and Bachana, who are also EVS volunteers in Sweden. They are living in small calm town called Åmål. It’s a kind of small really Swedish town where nothing serious happens (for more info about Swedish culture, traditions and way of life watch Fucking Åmål – one of the most famous Swedish films). So, I arrived to Åmål for a weekend to relax and calm down after every day rush in Stockholm. And my residence there was really awesome and memorable!
During first day we were just sitting near lake and drinking coffee – and after busy weeks in Stockholm, I was confused how you can just speak about common stuff and don’t think about time, don’t be in a hurry… Additionally even common walking in the city was kind of relaxation for me - calm, empty even during the day streets, fresh air from lake and birds singing. Add everyday walking, biking and meditations At the next day we were invited to Swedish couple for a dinner and all together coked traditional Georgian meal – khinkali.
But the third day was the best one for sure! I was randomly walking somewhere in forest (forest area can also be recognized like a part of the town) and saw lots of kids playing football. It was kind of regional competition, because there were more than 6 teams playing on 2 fields in one time. Children were spending most of their energy to run after the ball or pushing one another. That’s why it was too hard for them to kick the ball in right direction even from small distance, what made me laugh hard all the time. I was not surprised when the final score was 0:0 :D. After such funny morning, we went to great bicycle trip to the near town Saffle. More than 20km in one side plus random cycling in forests and steppes made this trip more than exciting. In one day we have overcome more than 55km! After such great days I felt quite upset returning back to Stockholm, but it was necessary to prepare to my 3d Erasmus+ training in Stockholm.
magic of vanern lake
Training course “Peace Way for Youth” which consisted from 3 parts was dedicated to peace building. As a part of organizers team I spent more time neither participating in workshops and nor in seminars. My main responsibilities were connected with food preparation, but I don’t regret at all – I had lots of free time which I dedicated to boating on beautiful lake, extreme jogging in the forest (with lots of rocks, broken trees and small swamps) or just random walking and exploring natural environment.
unforgettable BOATING TO FORBIDDEN ISLAND
It is common in Ukraine when you are moving from your parents’ home in your 20s to a separate flat, sometimes even to another city. It is common when you can find lots of options and choose the best according to your requirements. Unfortunately, the situation with accommodation in Sweden is absolutely opposite. Generally, people share rooms in flats, even rooms for several persons due to lack of accommodation, not money. If Swedes have free room or flat to sub-rent they firstly ask their friends, instead of looking for someone unknown. That’s why it’s incredibly hard to find some apartments if you don’t know anyone here. Moreover, I have been checking specialized websites and found no more than 5 possibilities each time. In a 2 million international city…
Secondly, apartments in the city center are unbelievable expensive – 20m2 flat with small kitchen would cost more than 400 000 euro. And there is no shortage of willing to buy one.
That’s why lots of people here live outside the city, spending lots of time to get to work and return back home. It’s OK to spend 1 hour in one direction every day. And I experienced all this.
This month I was quite lucky to live only 20 mins far away to city center by metro. Situated in the city suburb, Husby region is surrounded by parks and fields creating a lot of space for jogging or just going for a walk. I used to jog in the night and it was really great! I was sharing 3 room flat with the another EVS volunteers. Living 2 mins to metro, in a big flat with all conveniences and every week parties made this place really memorable and special for me. But life goes on and I need to change apartments again, just as many locals do due to a lack of permanent accommodation.
JUST A BURNT MOTORBIKE SOMEWHERE AT HUSBY... IT'S SAFE TO LIVE THERE, DON'T TAKE IT SERIOUS :d
Tomorrow I am moving outside the city to my permanent (I hope) living place. I really liked that place when I saw it for the first time – several houses, built in a circle, creating an illusion of a separate town. This place is situated on an island with lots of parks, fields and forest. Add some lakes and rivers and you will see really magic and inspiring place to live.
GREEN COLOUR EVERYWHERE (view from the window)
At the 1st of April Stock met me very… lagom. Nice balance between buildings, water and green areas just in the centre of the city, not to much people in the business area, people were wearing fancy clothes without much bright colours. By the way, I really like how Swedish dress – using casual they look solidly and stylish.
So, I had arrived to another country with absolutely different lifestyle and people life view. My big adventure has started. During first days I was just exploring Gamla stan surrounding areas and continue doing it even after first month – such a nice place it is. If you would be looking for Stockholm pictures somewhere at the Internet – in most cases you would see Gamla stan. A lot of water, bridges, yellow and orange buildings – this is how old city looks like.
Work had started at the second week – at comfortable office in the centre of the city. At the beginning, I was mostly studying Erasmus+ guides and solving easy tasks mixing it with meetings and fikas with AUE representatives and our organization friends. Every Swedish person I met those days were so typical for this country– calm, reasonable and balanced. These are the qualities which a lot of Ukranians need (guess one-week study visits would be very useful for my compatriots :D).
At the third week of my staying here happened the most expected event in April – EVS on-arrival training. Such events are nice possibilities to make new friends all around the country and visit them at some weekend. Activities held in Bromma hogskola – school for people older than 19. That was another thing that shocked me in Sweden – there is no need to go straight to university after school, you can spend some years searching for yourself with the same guys. In addition to common lessons you have huge possibilities to participate in sport activities (volleyball, football places everywhere), attend chorus or theater, play in band etc. Moreover you don’t have to care about meals and fika – they are organized by school stuff. Not surprising that everyone at school looked happy and relaxed.
Despite the fact, that official pat of the training was rather boring everyday we had some extra unplanned activities which saved the training – firstly, it was great country concert, than – everyday volleyball and getting acquainted with local people. Special attention must be paid to our every evening international parties, especially great karaoke time. It was really united and memorable!
Can’t write anything interesting to describe the last week – I caught cold, and was not able to walk for few days. This is how my first EVS-month had finished :D.
It is nice way to summarize great moments what had happened to you during past month, maybe to make some plans for the future or find something you have missed and make it in the next month. Guess the best moments for me were:
Don't spend your one life waiting for the right moment to act.
P.S. And don't spend your life without my blog :D. See you next month!