Wed, Dec 16, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Sweden in seven days

The Nordic country made famous by Abba and meatballs has much to offer during the winter months including biodynamic farms, escape games and a 19th century industrial mill revamped into a resort and spa

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

Lake Savelangen rests in the backyard of Naas Fabriker, a resort and spa in Tollered.

Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times

“Should we buy a gift for Robin?” I ask.

“You’re acting as if we know Robin,” says my Swedish beau.

“Maybe Robin is lonely and wants a gift.”

Robin was our AirBnb host in Gothenburg. After three hotels in five days, we thought we’d change things up and stay in a stranger’s house instead. We had become the type of couple whose idea of fun evolved from salsa dancing on a Saturday night to staying home to eat kebab pizza (a Swedish fast food delicacy which is indeed kebab meat on top of a pizza) while watching documentaries of morbidly obese people. And Robin’s sleek, industrial-style loft with vintage posters seemed like the perfect place to do the latter.

When I touched down in Stockholm last month after an epic 36-hour journey, locals said it was the worst time to visit Sweden. The weather is cold, but not cold enough to snow, so the grounds are wet and slushy. Travel guides seem to echo this sentiment. They entice readers with pictures of canal tours during the summer and ski resorts with pristine slopes during the winter. There’s nothing about the months in between.

But who needs all of that when you’ve got a ruggedly handsome Swedish beau, kebab pizza and Netflix, right? On that note, I bring you a travel guide to southern Sweden for 20-something-year-old couples who travel like they’re in their 40s. If you’re looking for a rave guide, well, maybe check Vice.

STOCKHOLM, MARITIME CULTURE

Stockholm is synonymous with sailing. Since the Swedish capital consists of many small islands, it’s hard to walk for more than 20 minutes and not be within eyesight of a body of water — and docked boats. There is a ship museum and several ship hotels (not recommended for travelers prone to sea sickness). While ferries run frequently, below-freezing temperatures make it a rather tortuous experience. That being said, it’s easy enough to get around — the metro and bus are fast and punctual with signs in English. Tickets are a little expensive, but there’s a discount if you’re 25 or younger. If you find yourself lost, most locals speak fluent English, so asking for directions isn’t a problem.

The city has no shortage of old hotels with modern interiors. We stayed in three hotels on three different islands — Stallmastaregarden, Skeppsholmen and Hellstens Malmgard. All three hotels were built in the 17th to 18th centuries and revamped with minimalistic, modern decor. There are lots of light yellow and baby blue hues on the buildings’ exterior, and low ceilings on the inside which are made less noticeable through the strategic use of windows. Tiny nooks in the hotel rooms are converted into cozy study corners complete with antique telephones. Breakfast at each hotel is pretty standard — bread, cheese and un-sweetened yogurt.

After a late morning walk in the Old Town — which consists mainly of palatial buildings, cobblestone roads and overpriced cafes luring tourists — we cross a bridge to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a warship built between 1626 and 1628. It barely made it a few hundred meters before it sank, taking along with it 450 passengers and crew and 64 bronze canons. The remains of the ship were salvaged in the 1950s and became the main display at the museum when it opened in 1990. The ship is a massive entity — about six stories high — and emits a musty odor. Visitors can also see other model ships on display, as well as sculptures of decapitated heads predicting what some of the passengers onboard the Vasa looked like.

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