Our latest home exchange brought us to the beautiful city of Karlstad, Sweden, yet another place we did not know before and fell in love with. There really is so much beauty in the world, and in that particular corner of the Earth it has been distributed by the handful.
So here is my usual “summary” post, this time based on… color.
Blue, like the blue of the flag, which is just everywhere, outside public buildings and in people’s yards; blue like the wonderful skies of Sweden, which do not end on the horizon; blue as the water of rivers and lakes, as big as (not so) small seas
Yellow, like the yellow of the flag (see above), but also of lemons, that Swedes put in the water, chopped, to give it flavour. “Flavoured” water (with lemon, but also pear, peach, berries – which, as you may know, in the Nordic countries can be picked up freely everywhere, like mushrooms) it is wildly common and sold everywhere. A habit we acquired immediately 🙂
Red as the red of strawberries, which at this time of the year are sold everywhere, on the street and outside the supermarkets (but not inside!). Prices vary between 15 and 40 kroner (€ 1 = about 10 Kroner). They are huge, and delicious, but not nearly as those we have picked up in “our” garden …
Green as the green of the trees, the forests, the meadows. We instantly knew that we would have loved Sweden, when our plane started to land and through the clouds we saw an expanse of green and blue, water and trees, trees and water, dotted with pastel-colored little houses. Karlstad (82,000 inhabitants) has three major parks, plus a number of smaller ones; and they are huge, spotless and beautiful enough to take your breath away. In one of them, the biggest, a three days free music festival has been held while we were there.
Frankly, we were a bit curious to see what would happen to the park when flooded with a sea of people.
The answer: absolutely nothing. The festival was crowded, but everything went along as civilly and smoothly as possible. You couldn’t enter with food and glass bottles brought from outside, and if you wanted to drink alcohol you had to go to special areas, fenced and guarded in and out. Therefore there were no drunks around, and the whole park was full of families, children, people enjoying the music, the nature and the sun without any problem whatsoever.
I was also very impressed by the fact that each park is perfectly maintained and equipped (games for children, bars/restaurants, museums, camping areas, cycling paths, dog areas, trails for running and hiking, bird watching facilities…), but without the “human” structures becoming annoying or excessive. There is a great deal of harmony, and none of these places has been turned into a fairground (as it’s often the case here). And there is literally no waste anywhere, parks or highway borders.
However, green really is everywhere. We just had cross the street to immerse ourselves in a pine forest with kilometers of trails; every part of the city, including shopping centers, industrial areas, suburban areas, can be reached via bike/walking tracks. And then, of course, there is the river. You read everywhere the Swedes as a population love to be outdoors: after seeing what “being outdoors” means in Sweden, I can understand why (another green thing: my envy!). There is no excuse for not being physically active, even if it means “just” going for a walk: another thing that I absolutely loved about Sweden.
The pastel colors of the houses, the whites, the red of the bricks. Yes, just like the pictures you see at Ikea (!). Ours was yellow, with white trimmings, a beautiful veranda and an equally beautiful garden.
Some houses are big and really luxurious, others are simpler, but each has at least a little garden, a veranda, maybe a barbecue, an inflatable pool and a trampoline for children. There are also apartment buildings, naturally, and some neighbourhoods we would call “popular”: but the real difference, compared to our cities, is definitely the constant presence of nature.
And finally the black velvet of Pingu, our feline “landlord”, who has kept us company throughout the holiday with SO much purring and affection.
Special mention for the light: at this time of the year the sun sets at about 22.30 and rises at around 4:30. It never really gets dark and, in the words of our fellow exchanger, “The mornings are very long” (!). The quality of light is unbelievable.
Our only regret: not being able to visit Stockholm. But we will be back. (oh yes we will)
You are thinking that the summers are all good and fine, and “What about in the winter with a meter of snow and three hours of light a day”? Well, we already experienced the Finnish winter, but we’d be very glad to see the Swedish one too.
… Have I already said home exchange is a wonderful, wonderful thing? 😉