Monday, 17 January 2011

Pre-Christmas - Stockholm

Just before Christmas Linda and I headed off on a trip around the North of Europe to grab a taste of such places in the thick of their Christmas celebrations.
We started in Stockholm, which we've visited previously but later in the year. This time we turned up just after they'd had some unseasonably cold weather the week before, and Stockholm and Sweden were featuring heavily in the news because of the Wikileaks drama, an attempted terrorist attack, and the Chinese boycotting of the Nobel prize ceremony.
Linda had found us a really nice apartment in the old part of town, just across the river from Gamla Stan which is the real historic heart of Stockholm.
In Stockholm we visited the Christmas Markets in Gamla Stan, which were picture perfect in the old square with snow all around. We learned all about the Tomten (precursors to Santa Clause), and kept warm on Glogg, Saffransbullar, and Pepparkakor (mulled wine, saffron buns, and ginger biscuits).
We also went to Skansen to see the Santa Lucia celebrations in the open air museum. The history of the Santa Lucia tradition seems to be a bit vague, but the modern interpretation is of lots of singing and the crowning of a girl who is elected to play the Lucia role.
We also saw groups of people singing in the streets all around Stockholm, in less formal performances.
At the end of our stay we caught an overnight ferry to Helsinki. At the markets we had bought a salami and cheese, which kept us well fed through our ferry trip and beyond!
Actually the Ferry trip was both fun and weird. Fun because we were catching a ferry through the Swedish Archipeligo and ice towards another icy location, but weird because of the strange captive-audience/b-grade entertainment atmosphere of the ferry.

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