Monday, September 29, 2008

The Stockholm Archipelago and the Swedish Love of Water

I admit this timing is bad.

It’s almost cruel to write a blog for a readership that is partially Swedish that talks about the wonder of water and the sweetness of sailing when the days are darkening and any remembrance of summertime smiles are overcome by the coming winter….and oh, it is coming. Trust me, winter is on the way….or so the Swedish mentality is always convinced.

Yet to write a blog about Sweden and, even though there have been officially 100 (!!!) posts as soon as I click “Publish Post” on this one, to not have anything about the Archipelago (Swedish: Skärgård) and the Swedish love for anything water is to miss an important element of life in this part of the world. And since this blog about Sweden is coming to an all-too-quick conclusion (more about that in the coming couple weeks), I have to get it in.

Bear with me, everyone. Perhaps you can just save this entry until next May…

The perception about Sweden in the rest of the world is the typical “cold, dark, polar bears in the streets” belief, so how could anyone enjoy the water or sailing in that kind of climate….? Well, no one does during the 10 months of winter.

However, when the sun comes out and shares it’s magnificence on an expectant Swedish populace, the only place to be is the lake, canal, river or sea nearest you. Swedes love the water, love to be by the water, love to swim, bathe, wade, float and sail in the water. It seems that nearly everyone has some sort of access to a boat or canoe or something water-oriented. Sailing and maritime culture dominate a Swedish summer. Swedes are known as some of the best travelers in the world, but no one in their right mind leaves Sweden during summer – just head to the röd sommar stuga and be by the water. A Swede couldn’t ask for a better “world’s longest vacation” than that….

There's a reason so many emigrant Swedes made Minnesota, "land of 10,000 lakes," home.

Those frequent Swedish trips to Thailand and the Canary Islands are saved for winter, of course, so one of the many popular places Swedes love to spend their summer is in the Stockholm Archipelago. This collection of 24,000 islands – I’ll say that again: Twenty-four thousand islands – is found about a 3 – hour boat ride outside of Stockholm, welcomes you to the Baltic Sea and looks like broken glass on a good map. One can just imagine the maritime paradise of these islands made of rock and left over from the Ice Age. Some islands are just big enough to step on and others have hotels on them. Swedish delight is not some fancy pastry, but a Swede in the summer finding his own private part of the Archipelago.

One might say that everyone worldwide appreciates water, so why is the Swedish enjoyment any different. To that I will simply say that while most people in the world do indeed enjoy the interplay of sun and water, most people in the world have also never seen snow. Actually, I recently read that 3/4ths of people in the world have never seen snow.

Enough said.

Long live the anticipation for, enjoyment during and memory of the Swedish summer and the Swedes’ beloved world of water.

See you in the Archipelago.


Todd said...

How can a country that loves water so much fail so miserably at the art of ship making?

Anonymous said...

Since you've been i Sweden for so long and you are interested in sports. Have you attended to Lidingöloppet yet? The world's largest cross-country race.

Well, now is it only 361 days to the next race...

Anna H said...

I just came back from a 3-week trip to California. Talk about dry land!

I really missed the lakes!
But I enjoyed watching Blue Whales and swimming in the sea in october.

And, as usual I'm confused about the tipping. We know the rule about 15% on restaurants, but what about everything else? Tipping hotel personel ot cleaners is almost an insult in sweden and they think you are a show-off. In the US, tipping the cleaning staff seems to be a must to get a decent service?

Linköpinglivin' said...

Hopefully you come back and see this, Anna. So glad you did California. Yes, 10 - 20% tip for restaurants and the rest of the service industry actually seems a bit like some of Europe. If you liked the service, you can tip, but it's not necessarily expected. Many Americans are naive or confused about this, too. The restaurant industry, to my knowledge, is the only industry where tips are factored in to the actual wages of employees. And when in doubt, just asking another traveler is never a bad option...