Hej Hej! It looks like I'm off again!
It hasn't been too long since I returned home from Morocco. The sunkissed skin faded very quickly; it never stays with me! Although I was in Morocco for a just a few weeks, the climate had changed a heck of a lot when I arrived home to England. The trees were toffeed and amber, the streets were strewn with crispy leaves and everybody was draped in fluffy, wooly clothes. Fantastic. Isn't autumn just one of the best things about life?
Autumn has been lovely. I was in the Southern Hemisphere this time last year, so I never had an autumn! I ate lots of hearty food, added cinnamon to everything and had slice after slice of pecan pie followed lots of balmy, breezy walks.
Now it's late November. All of the leaves have now fallen though and the temperature has plummetted very suddenly. The days are so short now. This happens every year yet somehow it feels like a phenomenon each time! I guess it's here: Winter. Better welcome it.
With a trip, naturally.
I have a week free from work, and I figured it would be a huge shame to sit around the house eating pecan pie pretending it's still Autumn (not the worst plan actually.) So I started looking at breaks in Europe. I wanted a in-at-the-deep-end, non-holds-barred Winter experience.
So naturally I looked to Scandinavia.
Even though I see Norway as my spiritual homeland, I've never been to Sweden. Of course I haven't heard a bad word put towards Sweden, so I decided the time to visit would be now!
In culinary terms, this week-long trip is a grand adventure. Here's why:
Because Sweden has such long, drawn-out winters, they're true artisans of pickling and preserving produce. As a result, their cuisine is full of pretty vulgur, pungent flavours at this time of year. Typical staples of Sweden include cured fish, pickled vegetables and soured cheeses. I've always been funny about fish. I kinda like it - far from passionate about it - but I'm too nervous to try new things when it comes to fish and seafood. The smell of a fishmonger's counter scares me away from even looking at what fish are on offer, and the only fish I ever ate growing up was my dad's minging fried kippers, which still haunt my nasal passages to this day.
These foods never make my mouth water, yet somehow I find them so inspiring. I mean look at how elegant and glamorous a plate of salmon gravalax looks (see above). Surely something that looks so good cannot taste vulgar! I do want to see what the fuss is about. If I end up absolutely hating everything, then fair dues, jury spoken, I tried.
I suppose this is a trip is moreso for the tastebuds than the spirit.
Including the filling of my face with food, here are five highlights I'm wanting to experience while I'm in and around Stockholm:
1. Christmas Markets
It's December - it's going to be very hard not to notice that it's Christmas at this time of year! Being so close to Santa's homeland, Lapland, Sweden makes a big deal out of Christmas every year. Christmas markets selling fresh food, spiced drinks and festive treats. It's a Christmas shopper's paradise, and I hope to find lots of sensationally Scandi' produce to bring home!
2. Scandinavian Bakery
I've always found Swedish - Scandinavian rather - bakery very interesting! It's surprisingly exotic for being part of Europe, and it has some very intriguing roots. Scandinavian baking takes a lot of familiar, comforting flavours like cinnamon and almond, and combines them with unlikely hymns of black pepper and even saffron and cardamom - more typically found in Arabic/Indian cooking. Scandinavia has borrowed such exotic flavours from faraway places and has produced it's own vibrant personality.
I gotta try everything!
3. Stockholm Archipelago
Stockholm is very different to most cities. Not only does it spread out into suburbs, but to the East it spreads across a network of islands in the Baltic Sea - over 1000 of them, individually named. Most are visited by a water taxi, and others can be accessed by public-use rowing boats. This demands to be explored, though I massively doubt I'll get to visit most of them!
4. Palaces and Cathedrals
Stockholm is home to some gorgeous buildings. It cannot be determined whether Sweden has it's own particular architectural style, but it certainly impresses with detail. The Swedish Royal Palace, for example, is adorned with crisp-cut sculptures and cool marble floors. In my experience: if it's breathtaking in photos, it's gotta be something else in real life!
5. Café Culture
While researching this, I was surprised to learn that Swedes are the second biggest consumers of coffee in the world! Of course, Sweden doesn't produce it's own coffee, but like Italy, they have their own special way of blending and infusing coffee that it has it's own character. Not only that, but they drink loads of it. Naturally, café culture is rife, and Stockholm is full of cafés offering a range of atmospheres for every type of coffee-drinker, ranging from the flamboyant and cosy, to the more clinical, minimalist type.
Well I look forward to bringing you a slice of festive Sweden!
Now I had better go and buy a nice warm coat...
Thanks for reading!