Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Italian Girl in... Stockholm

The first time I went to Stockholm, it was summer. I left on a hot July morning in Milan, expecting to find rainy days and a windy town at my arrival. Being much Mediterranean, I was heading to Sweden to visit a friend who had moved there some years before. I confess I was a bit sceptical on a a-priori basis: no sun, no warm sea, no southern-style adventures. Instead, it was the first of several trips to Stockholm, which conquered my Latin heart at first sight.
First surprise: the Scandinavian summer is gorgeous: sun shines until late and it's warm with some breeze. The best for a traveller. The capital city stretches indeed on a archipelago of islets, each of them worth a visit for different reasons: medieval history (Gamla Stan), enjoying nature (Skansen), having fun (Sodermalm) and - last but not least - going shopping (Kungstrdgarden and T-centralen areas). Second surprise: the people's sense for hospitality and open-mindedness is by itself worth a visit - and as an Italian I judge on the basis of a high benchmark. You'll never feel alone if you want to chat to someone, you'll always find somebody wanting to answer a question, you'll be able to speak English and communicate to anyone no matter their age or cultural background. 
Stockholm - in one word - is proud. Buildings in the historical parts of the city are very well preserved and in most of the interesting sights you can enjoy guided tours (Royal Palace, Nobel Palace, etc.). The level of pollution is very low and the people can access several green areas also in the very centre of the town and play sports. There is a special care for children areas and infrastructure: the family is perhaps the most important value in Sweden and the society is quite young. And relaxed. At least this is the perception when arriving from the messy and stressed Milan. I loved the atmosphere in this city at the point that I challenged the Scandinavian winter and I was back to Stockholm in December, a couple of weeks before Christmas: this is the Swedish "belle époque". Celebrations begin in late November, when Christmas markets settle in the town and decorations lighten up the darkness of Nordic winter. The Glogg, a winter warm drink, is sold in the streets and choirs live perform Christmas carols. In Skansen, the greatest green area of Stockholm, a big Christmas tree surrounds the largest market and people wearing traditional dresses - together with visitors - sing and dance around it. Most of all, people feel like sharing this moment of the year together. It's really like getting back to a Grimms' childhood story,where forests are enchanted and houses are made of biscuits. Actually, in December, Stockholm is just as supernatural as a fairy tale: pepperkakor biscuit house included.   

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