Small Towns, Fishing Villages, these words evoke a certain image in your mind. My idea of a small town is one that is quiet, peaceful, and where everyone knows each other.
Even though i've travelled to several places, I've never been to a small town. The places I've visited in Europe were mostly cities; big ones, medium ones, whatever the size, they never quite embodied the feeling of a small town.
Before leaving for scandinavia, I texted my friend, who did a semester abroad in sweden, and said "I'm going to Sweden! Stockholm actually. What should I do?" To which she replied "YOU HAVE TO VISIT THE SWEDISH ARCHIPELAGO!" And so I did!
Vaxholm, on of the more popular destinations in the Swedish Archipelago was EXACTLY like a small town, so much so that visiting it made me feel someone like an intruder. Ok, more of a reporter, taking pictures and people watching. It was a beautiful town, but it felt as if I was Zoey from Hart of Dixie (minus the drama), stepping into Bluebell for the first time, and everyone knew I was different, new, and not from there.
Most people would visit the archipelago during the summer and boat hop around several archipelago islands, unfortunately, I was there a tad bit earlier than the regular tourist influx season, so there weren't any boats. Additionally, I did not have that many days to spare. So, in order to see and experience what the swedish archipelagos are like, a day trip to Vaxholm was my best bet.
Vaxholm was a short 1 hour bus ride from Stockholm, and when I arrived, I got off and was immediately mesmerised by the place. There was something about the quiet streets, old wooden houses and the little bit of spring snow that made the place seem very... movie-like.
From one side of the harbour, you could see little houses in the middle of the waters where people probably got to by boats (I saw several small boats sailing across). Just like how you'd imagine a small town to be like, Vaxholm didn't have massive shopping centres, or even modern shops. There was probably 1 hotel by the harbour, and several convenience stores. But other than that, the few shops and cafés that I passed by appeared to be sort of family run businesses.
Also, as I was walking along the streets, I noticed these sticks with colourful feathers being attached to random lampposts. I think it could have been for their Easter Celebrations, but I'm not too sure. These would make good decorative items though!
Even though Vaxholm appeared to be COMPLETELY different from Stockholm, I stumbled upon a nice home deco shop that had the same scandinavian flair the big stores in Stockholm would have, but scaled down.
It was like a mini Ikea with different parts of the stall being organised with its own theme.
The same shop sold a really pretty rain jacket that instantly caught my eye when I walked in, but when I saw the price, oh I had a shock of my life.
My favourite thing about Vaxholm were the nice garden porches each house had, and their hand painted wooden fence and signs. How cute is that café sign, it rustic, casual, original and just adds to the whole small town vibe.
Also, lets just pause and admire the hand painted mailbox.
CAN I PLEASE HAVE MY OWN WOODEN HAND PAINTED MAILBOX?
I didn't see too many children around in Vaxholm, but judging from the number of bicycles around, I'm pretty sure there are children. I did however see quite a number of older people taking a nice leisure walk, some walking their dogs, and greeting neighbours as they walked by, occasionally stopping for a short chat.
I wished I grew up in a small town, or a place where there is a tightly knit community and neighbours are all friends who have afternoon tea at each other's houses.
I love living in the city (I mean born and raised in a cosmopolitan one, so naturally, I'd be comfortable in huge cities) but there is something charming about a place like Vaxholm, that I can only imagine what it would be like growing up here.
I'd have a huge backyard to run around in, i'd play with my dogs, and jump into the shallow waters right outside my house and for a swim during the summer.
Seems very fairytale movie-esque to me, but obviously, its someone's reality.
Maybe I should make plans to retire in a small country side or a fishing village... Just maybe :)
21 May 2015 Vaxholm, Sweden
When I was in Stockholm, I stayed in a 8 bedroom dorm in a hostel. Whilst I was there, I met a wonderful Mexican girl, Yohanna, staying in my dorm, and we connected over being solo-travellers and sad fact about having no one to assist us in photo taking.
Since we were both rather chatty people, we immediately hit it off and started talking about the different places we've been to. By a mere coincidence, we had visited so many of the same places and went on to talk about what we liked about each of those cities.
That night I was planning to head out to see the sunset and night lights near the Stockholm City Hall, after stumbling upon some really cool photos online. I showed the photos to Yohanna and she immediately agreed to accompany me!
Before going out to attempt to catch the sunset, Yohanna went for some snacks/late lunch, while I strolled around the main area near the hostel, since i'd already eaten and wanted to explore a different area of Stockholm.
Accommodation Info: City Backpackers Hostel
+ Big spacious rooms even for 8 bed dorms
+ Communal showers but very clean, individual rooms & great facilities
- Not particularly close to the main train station (10-15min walk)
As I was walking around the area of my hostel, I came across a random art museum with a nice café, I was craving some cinnamon buns, so I went in. Instead of going straight to the café, I decided to take a walk and look at the exhibitions. The exhibitions that were up in Bonniers Art Hall were pretty unusual. There were structures made out of books, random paper cut outs, photo frame filled walls, and photographs that had words printed onto them.
It guess it was more of a modern, futuristic and slightly quirky type of exhibition, unlike the typical european art museum I was used to visiting.
My favourite part of the exhibition was the one above which chronologically told a story of how a parisian women had her mum hire a PI to keep watch on her, and she in turned went to certain places and showed him her life. It was a very interesting take on changing perspectives, and the experience recounted by both parties, though similar in fact, were so different in emotion and tone. It was so intriguing to read. Despite being set in the 70s, the names of the places in Paris were not foreign to me. That allowed me to imagine and appreciate it even more. (Also because Paris will always hold a special place in my heart.)
Another part I enjoyed were the various projections; especially one with a man walking through ruins just plastered on a huge screen. It was very abstract and I probably did not get what the artist was trying to convey, but I really liked it anyway. Something about it being both mysterious and slightly out of place, made me feel attracted, engrossed to it, and slightly uncomfortable at the same time.
I didn't expect myself to enjoy the exhibition because in all honesty, I'm not one of those people who enjoy going to museums and reading about 101 different things. I like learning about new things and visiting certain types of themed museums or exhibitions - e.g museums in Paris, castles around Europe etc. - but my short attention span tends to result in me being bored really easily.
After walking through the museum, it was about time the sun began to set, so I met up with Yohanna and we headed off towards the harbour and Stockholm City Hall.
We walked by the main canal of Stockholm and were talking about how interesting and modern certain parts of Stockholm's architecture was, when we saw people jogging past us. Being from rather warm climates, we were both unable to fathom how people could survive with such thin layer of clothes and went on to talked about how bizarre it is that spring to Scandinavians is at a temperature of 1°C. Not to mention, it was getting late, the winds starting to blow and that made it even chillier.
Eventually we arrived at the Stockholm City Hall - which was actually bigger than I thought, and looked way more interesting within its perimeters than I had expected.
But, as you can see from the pictures, it was sadly a ranther gloomy and cloudy day and there was not much of a sunset to admire.
Yohanna and I were both joking about how we were watching the "light set" because there was no sun, just light and clouds, which progressively got darker.
Regardless, the view that we got from the harbour was incredible. Also, there was no one in sight, which we couldn't comprehend. We kept going, "THERE SHOULD BE PEOPLE HERE! It's so beautiful!"
But, that worked out great for us because we could take photos of the area without having to worry about having tourists in them.
Yohanna and I both took pictures at this exact place with the view of Stockholm and the waters behind us. She was glad she didn't have to whip out her selfie stick to take a picture of herself, like how she mentioned she did in the past few cities she visited.
After admiring the view from the side with the city hall, we decided to cross over to the other side of the harbour, so that we could see the city hall light up at night (just like the pictures we saw on google). We proceeded towards the other side where the old town Gamla Stan was located, and watched intently as the sky got darker, hoping for the lights to come on.
Unfortunately, the city hall did not light up as we had expected it to, and we were getting pretty hungry waiting for something to happen/some lights to come on. Eventually, we attributed the pictures we saw to be another case of wonderful photoshop skills, and headed off towards the old town to get ourselves some good ol' swedish meatballs.
Even though we didn't get to see the Stockholm City Hall light up, the lights from the shops and buildings on the other end of the harbour were a nice consolation. The colourful reflections on the water never fail to mesmerise me. I think visiting harbours at night (see: A Day in Porto) can be considered as one of my favourite things to do when I'm in a different city.
The old town looked incredible at night with the orangey-yellow lamps flooding the streets with its warm light. We had a nice time just walking through and talking before settling down at a restaurant for dinner.
That night, Yohanna had a good chat about life, and experiences over some fabulous swedish meatballs, and swedish beer before heading back to the hostel.
It was my last night in Stockholm and her first, which was quite a shame, but the company was good whilst it lasted.
Encounters like this is the reason why I LOVE travelling. Travel brings such wonderful opportunities to meet people from around the world, hang out with them and listen to their stories. It is so surreal how connections like these can be formed across the world.
Never in a million years would I have expected to meet so many different people (I feel like I say this one too many times, but its true!) I will be eternally grateful for all the travel experiences I got this year abroad.
More importantly, such experiences and encounters help me realise that humans around the world are a lot similar than most would expect; we have the same fears, the same goals, the same dream to succeed in life, the same desire to see the world, and that, is extremely heartwarming, wouldn't you agree?
14 May 2015 Stockholm, Sweden
After spending some time in Copenhagen, I took a train to my next destination: Stockholm. I planned it such that i'd have a whole afternoon/evening to walk around the city on the day of my arrival, unfortunately, my train got delayed - which was super annoying because I was running on a tight schedule, and have a severe FOMO - I arrived at Stockholm almost 3 hours later than expected, and the sun was going down. That night, I couldn't sleep properly and was awake by 6 in hte morning. Since I had already lost half a day of exploring time, I embraced it, went for breakfast and headed out of the hostel to explore before 9 am.
4 May 2015 Gamla stan, Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
I'm back from a 10-day trip to Scandinavia (and then a short 4 days in Switzerland)! Now it's time for me to put a rest on the flying about and start revision for finals. Sigh.
Even though I'm on my year abroad, and my grades don't affect my GPA back home (THANK GOD), I still have to make sure I pass the year and not do too crappily. Guess it's time for me to play catch up with school after all the traveling around the entire year.
Before that, here's a short round up of my Scandinavia trip and 5 fun facts I discovered in my time there!
ONE: There are significantly LESSER people aroundWhen I stepped into Copenhagen (the first stop on my trip), I was surprised at how empty it was. Somehow there were just not as many people around. It was such a refreshing change from London. As I moved up to Sweden and Norway, the number of people out and about seem to decrease even more! Maybe this is why everyone is so happy - No squishing and bumping into people makes everyone smile a little more.
One of the girls I met told me "It's not just white people here", and she meant it in the nicest way possible. That was true! Tall, short, white, black, asian, young, old, it was quite an equal mix everywhere I turned. It could be because the cities I visited were more touristy and cosmopolitan, but that was definitely a nice observation :)
TWO: There are ALL types of people
THREE: The minimalistic lifestyle IS REAL - and very attractive might I addI thought the whole minimalistic vibe wouldn't be as evident, or that it was merely a stereotype. But no, minimalism is REAL. You see it in their streets, their houses, interiors, stores and the way they dress. White, navy, grey, black, most of the people are dressed in Neutral shades, and the interior design of places are so minimalistic. Understated, but very classy. Clean and Bright. I just loved admiring the way everything was designed!
FOUR: There is NOT A TRACE of a language barrierI knew Scandinavians spoke english, I did not worry about the fact that I knew nothing about their language, but, the fact that EVERYONE could speak english, and SUPERBLY well, was unexpected. I would usually expect the younger generation to be really good, but in scandinavia, even the older people spoke good english. Moreover, they have signs in English too. It made getting around from place to place so effortless, I did not feel out of place, it was just...wonderful!
FIVE: People say "Hi hi!" or "Hey hey!" instead of just saying it onceBy far this is my favourite fact. FAV. Not to mention, everyone is so incredibly friendly!! Walking along the streets, or every time I stepped into the hostel, a café or a restaurant, I get warm smiles and a nice "hihi!" I loved it! Of course I would just say Hi once back. Anyone else who does it might come across a bit pretentious... I don't know, but the scandinavians totally pull it off. It is so freaking adorable the way they great everyone!
Thats a short roundup! Of course, the usual facts on how scandinavia is really expensive holds true, but these are just some other interesting things I discovered on my trip there. I'll be posting more details on my travel adventures soon, so do check back! :)
Photos are from my Instagram feed.