Stockholm is one of my favorite European capitals besides Paris and Rome. It‘s calm and tidy. Everyone is friendly and smiling. Even the sound of the Swedish „Hej“ makes you feel familiar with the people. This year I spent lovely Easter holidays visiting friends in Stockholm. It was interesting to see how native Swedish people celebrate this feast and learn something more about their culture. Even if the catholic Easter is almost a month behind us there is yet the orthodox Easter coming. This year it is on the 5th of May. Indeed I am orthodox and I celebrate Easter every year – but as I love holidays I usually celebrate it twice. Once with my husband and my catholic friends and the second time with my family the orthodox way.
As I am going to Peru on the orthodox Easter feast this year I’m not going to prepare anything. But it is a good reason for an Easter review.
What I saw first in Stockholm and impressed me at most were the simple birch branches decorated with colorful hens feather. One can see them everywhere – at home in the coffee bar or in the shopping mall. Combined with the bright blue sky and the sunshine all day long – every day during our whole stay – this was a real power booster!
The Swedish people don’t seem to be very religious and so they usually don’t go to the church as the orthodox do on Easter. The most important part of the celebration is the Easter dinner or lunch – and it takes place on Saturday (or at least in our case). Different traditional meals are being prepared among which a variety of smoked salmon and pickled herring. Another must have are the Easter eggs of course – not only because it’s Easter but more because these are traditional side order all the year round – preferably accompanied by pickled herring or shrimps and mayo. A delicious Swedish bake – the so-called Jansson’s temptation is also made. As far as I can remember it has several layers. Aanchovies, grated potatoes and onions are taking turns in the casserole until its full and at the end everything is poured with cream. But this is just the beginning – köttbullar, beetroot salad, roasted lamb and different sauces should not be missing on the festive table too. Actually I asked my friends whether we can have a usual Smörgåsbord (a buffet style meal) which is offered in the most restaurants and known also as Julbord around the Christmas holidays. I think they took it seriously and offered it for us at their home.
It was great dinner poured with wine and yet another Swedish specialty – the soft drink called Julmust. It is very popular around the Christmas and Easter holidays. This non alcoholic drink was created about 100 years ago as an alternative to beer and is overselling even Coca-Cola products during the festive season. The main ingredients are hop and malt extract so far is known, even the exact recipe is a well protected secret. It is a good alternative to Coke with a quite similar taste but less carbonated.
There are many other things that I learned about Swedish people – one of them is that they don’t really like talking to their neighbors or strangers. They prefer staying on queues – actually they are quite crazy about queues. One can see everywhere the queuing machines where you can pull a number in order to know when is your turn. In the supermarket on the bus ticket counter – everywhere. And before going out of the front door they usually try to spy on if the neighbor is in sight – in order not to cross their paths.
Something very inspiring and cute are the vintage coffee shops in Stockholm. There you can sit and have your lunch or just a coffee and something sweet in a unique atmosphere. One of my favorite is the Stockholm’s oldest pastry shop – Sturekatten. It reminds me on my grandmothers living room – cosy, warm, down-to-earth. So we stopped there for a break after our harbor tour and had the chance to taste some of the popular Swedish buns – semla. This is a cardamom backed bun filled with marzipan and whipped cream. Not a light meal but extremely delicious. I wonder often why such coffee houses are missing in Germany. The most of them are featuring fresh polished modern furniture and high-end equipment. Every now and then you can find also one baroque styled with a fancy shining chandelier and marble tables but yet quite aseptic. Is the old vintage look banned by the German law?
If you are doing a short walk through Gamla stan (the old city) and visiting the royal palace you should not miss the Kaffeekoppen or Chokoladkoppen also. These are two sister coffee shops just a short walk from the palace. Every time I visit Stockholm I have to make a short break there. I adore the chocolate cake – kladdkaka – that is offered there. But if you are not that big chocoholic as I am you can have the tasty apple pie or any other cake you prefer. Everything is fresh and therefore it is quite difficult to find free seats inside or outside in the summer.
Our Stockholm visit gave us also an insight into other Swedish habits that are not connected to Easter. A habit probably differentiating all Swedish people from the rest of the world is how they watch soccer matches. Of course with friends – at home or in the stadium. The difference is that for the most Swedish fans soccer matches go along with coffee and cake and not with beer and currywurst. This was a big surprise for me but is for sure connected to the alcohol politics in Sweden.
And do you know what Swedish people say about the seasons in their country? They usually say that they have two seasons – white winter and green winter. If you know other unique traditions or habits in Sweden I’ll be curious to hear about them!