We arrived on a bright and sunny day with an Airbnb (Sign up using my referral link and get $40 USD off your first stay) just outside of the Stockholm city center already booked so we didn’t have to find a campground or a hostel and so that we could do our laundry. The bed felt so nice after sleeping in a tent for 2 weeks, tents gets tiring after a while. We spent the next two days at a campsite and walking around Stockholm but then found a cheap hostel that we could afford to stay at and they also provided free pasta and coffee, a big plus. (Birka Hostel was the name if anyone is interested)
Our only plans for Sweden were to attend a Midsummer festival and see Stockholm since we were only in Sweden 10 days. To execute this plan we needed to make some Swedish friends and find out where the Midsummer parties take place. I’ve read that the stereotype of Swedes is that they’re shy and introverted but I didn’t find this to be the case. Luckily, I have no problem chatting with strangers and we quickly found out where the largest Midsummer celebration in Sweden is, in Leksand. Once we found this out we bought our bus tickets not knowing what to do when we got there or where to go but I was certain we could figure it out. We spent the next two days exploring the city, Gamla Stan in particular was cool and I found the city very beautiful with elegant architecture but hard to capture that elegance in a photo. After Leksand we would return to Stockholm and the Swedish archipelago but now onto Leksand!
Leksand for Midsummer Eve
Midsummer Eve, if you don’t know, is the celebration that takes place on the Summer Solstice every year to mark the longest day of the year where Swedes dance around a maypole (good info on midsummer here). It’s important to get out of the cities as no Midsummer celebrations occur there, hence, the reason we are in the Swedish countryside. It’s a great celebration but we didn’t have any clue what we were getting ourselves into when we arrived in Leksand. By all measures, you couldn’t tell that there was to be over 10000 people (probably a lot more) in this small Swedish town. The bus into town was later than usual due to all the holiday traffic leaving Stockholm and the shuttle to take us to our planned campsite stopped hours prior to arriving so we didn’t know what to do. We thought about invoking the Swedish allemansrätten (the everyman’s right to access, walk, cycle, ride, ski, and camp on any land—with the exception of cultivated land) to freedom camp in the forest but we found a campsite in Leksand that was only blocks away from the big celebration. The campsite said “full” and the office was closed but I set up my tent anyway and just told myself that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. This turned out to be a good hunch as we approached the office in the morning all apologetic and they were more than accommodating for our 3 nights (Solvi SMUgård was the name of the place). At the campsite we met a friendly Swedish woman who lives in Stockholm and invited us to her apartment for dinner before we leave Sweden (more on this later). We kept her offer in the back of our mind but the festivities of Midsummer were beginning so we walked over to “the pit” where people began to congregate. Wow was there a lot of people. Everybody was singing, dancing, drinking and being merry…we were having a great time. At the climax of the event a group of men and women slowly erect the maypole and then the mosh-pit like singing/dancing around the maypole begins. Only true Swedes knew the words to what we were singing and the dances we danced to but all I remember was being drunk and yelling a bunch. It was an experience to say the least. I think the time was around 10pm and it was not dark at all but just as quickly as the dancing and singing around the maypole started, it all suddenly stopped and everybody began flooding the streets like after a sporting event. We met up with a group around our same age and they invited us to a club to come hangout and dance which we obliged. We had already been drinking heavily by this point but I vaguely remember paying $20 to get in and the beers costing around $15 – $20, completely ruining my budget for the day. After all this craziness we said goodbye to our new friends and quickly passed out in our tent.
Island of Grinda
The following day we walked around the deathly quiet city that was so vibrant the night before with nothing really to do. We were done with Leksand and Leksand was done with us. On our way back to Stockholm by bus we planned to spend a night in the Stockholm archipelago on the island of Grinda. Our friends from earlier recommended that we spend a night out there so we took a ferry there the following morning. It’s a tiny little island, we walked around the whole thing in a couple hours and overall just chilled there for a night without phone service or much of anything to do. All the little islands just make you feel so small and insignificant and it’s nice to just disconnect for a while. I would recommend coming here if you want to camp for a night in the Swedish archipelago.
Back to Stockholm
We were excited to get back to Stockholm the following day and meet up with our friend Anna-Karin that invited us to dinner on her rooftop. We had no idea that she wasn’t exaggerating when she mentioned that she has one of the best views in Stockholm, it really was amazing. It was in the Katarina-Sofia borough in central Stockholm basically overlooking the central bay. I can’t remember what we ate but I brought the wine for us to share. It was in a small section of the Systembolaget (government-run liquor store) and one of the only California red wines they had. It was an amazing dinner and something I’ll remember for a long-time. If she comes to California, I’m hosting!
There wasn’t much left to do with our time left in Stockholm, we spent the next couple days walking around the city some more as we prepared for 40 days in Iceland. If I were to go back to Sweden, I would like to see the parts I didn’t get a chance to see like Gothenburg and the northern part of Sweden. Until next time!