Diving into a divine day out

Tipping point: Kathleen Harman finds that letting it all hang out in a 1920s open air bathing complex near Stockholm is the closest thing to heaven on earth.

If you are beginning to think that life isn’t going so well, that God has deserted you, well, he probably has and I know exactly what he is up to. He is at Saltsjobaden’s Friluftsbad hurling himself from the twelve metre diving platform. He may or may not be in his birthday suit but he will certainly be wearing a grin from ear to ear as he dive bombs down into the sparkly blue water.

Saltsjobaden is a seaside resort just to the south of Stockholm and it is quite possibly the closest thing to Heaven that you could imagine. It is famous for the Grand Hotel, built in the 1890s to rival Monte Carlo’s finest, and it certainly is very grand indeed. But it is to the Friluftsbad, the open air bathing spot, that I return, year after year for my personal pilgrimage. It is Nirvana, Valhalla, Paradise all rolled into one with a cherry on the top.

The Friluftsbad is pure class. In 1925, when the building was completed, it was the largest of its kind in Scandinavia. Designed by Torben Grut, the architect responsible for Stockholm’s Olympic Stadium, it consists of two bathing houses, one for each gender, separated by a section of beach for clothed swimming for both sexes (or for those unsure of their gender classification). In each of the bathing houses, you can choose whether to be as God intended or whether to remain ensconced in your Speedos.

Now, the reason I know that there is a God is that whenever you get naked at one of these places, there is always someone plumper and wrinklier than you to go and lie next to. Indeed it would seem that it is a almost a prerequisite here to be a shape that suggests that clothing may well be just too restrictive an option. I have decided that when I grow up, I really want to being one of those tubby, naked old ladies, who form gossipy gaggles and don‘t give a monkey’s about such ridiculousness as Bridget Jones’s big knickers. There were even a couple of them having a sneaky smoke behind the bathing house. I like their style.

Having said all this, I do worry slightly about all these displays of ample flesh. Just as I’m about to drift off for a mid afternoon snooze, visions of amorous elephant bull seals hoisting themselves up on the decking remind me of the necessity to keep vigilant, just in case.

Quite apart from the Friluftsbad, it is easy to spend an entire day, indeed an eternity, around Saltsjobaden. Catch the train from Stockholm’s Slussen for a twenty minute journey that takes you through scenery containing breathtaking twinkly water and bobbing sailing boats. You will then be feeling a bit peckish, and in an effort to keep up with the un-Bridget Joneses, you will require something stodgy.

Upon arrival, one can basically fall off the station platform and into the Station House, Renee Voltaire’s establishment for the stressed of Stockholm. This is where the beautiful women of Saltsjobaden go for their organic alfalfa sprouts and yoga classes, no doubt leaving their even more beautiful children in the stalwart care of au pairs, selected carefully on their merits of abject plainness.

But not all the food is worthy, although as this is Heaven you can probably have worthy and calorific at the same time so help yourself to the biggest, fattest brownie and eat it in smug satisfaction.

Then, suitably replenished, it’s just a short walk over the bridge to Restaurangholmen’s Friluftsbad. After a few hours splashing about and letting it all hang out, just head down to the Holmen Kök och Bar. I would recommend the rimmad lax and dill potatoes as a suitably divine dinner.

Looking out from under the awning straight over the water to the Grand Hotel, the view is interrupted only by the yachts that moored on the guest pontoon. It would be hubris indeed to find fault with such a location.

There’s a good buzz to the place, the clientele looking mainly but not exclusively a Jolly Rogery bunch. The staff are friendly and efficient, the pontoon lavatories absolutely spotless.

And then, replete and Rubenesque, it is time for us mere mortals to board the train back to town, as God returns to practise his dive bombing techniques.

Practical information:

Stationshuset: Hotellvagen 1, 133 35, Saltjobaden, 08 55 62 66 00, open 9am -6pm every day in summer,

Saltsjobadens Friluftsbad: Restaurangolmen, 133 35 Saltsjobaden, 08 717 0552, open 8.30 am- 6pm every day in summer

Holmen Kok och Bar Restaurangholmen, 133 35 Saltsjobaden, 08 717 7767, open 12 till late (check website for varying times),


Heaven on a Stick 10/10


Runaway crash cleaner to train as driver

The 20-year-old cleaner known worldwide after being wrongly accused of crashing a train into a Stockholm house is set to become a train driver, and has also revealed that as the drama unfolded she recalled the fate of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Runaway crash cleaner to train as driver

The cleaner, named only as Sara, explained in an interview with Sveriges Radio (SR) that her employer Arriva is to help in her preparations for the train driver education. The firm has also guaranteed her a lifetime employment in a bid to make amends for the fact that the while recovering from the effects of the crash, the 20-year-old had initially been blamed for having “stolen” the train.

Sara told SR that while she was racing along in the runaway train her thoughts turned to Mexican artist and feminist icon Frida Kahlo.

“It is going so fast, it is going in the wrong direction… I think shall I jump at the next station because it is at ground level. Then I think about something odd, about Frida Kahlo and her accident,” Sara told SR.

Frida Kahlo once said that she had suffered two bad accidents in her life. The first occurred when she was involved in a bus crash in Mexico City in September 1925. A handrail pierced her womb and left her unable to have children.

“So that thought entered my head – watch out for the handrails. That much I remember.”

The harrowing episode ended with the train demolishing the side of a building in the leafy Stockholm suburb of Saltsjöbaden and left Sara with a litany of serious injuries that have taken months to heal. During the time the 20-year-old was asleep in hospital the story had broken worldwide that she was the cleaner who had stolen the train and crashed it into a building.

Media as far afield as Australia and India had picked up the story, which had gained momentum after comments by representatives from transport operator SL and sub-contractor Arriva.

In the immediate aftermath to the accident, Arriva spokesman Tomas Hedenius initially accused the cleaner but later explained that safety breaches were at the source of the high-speed Hollywoodesque drama.

Sara told SR how she had pieced together the story after the fact with the help of media stories and information from friends and relatives. The final forensic report is yet to be completed and Sara explained that she was looking forward to finding out how the media story developed as it did.

“I am awaiting the investigation. That is what I am going to follow up now. Who will be held responsible, the details of what has in fact been said and how they could have concluded that I had stolen it.”

Sara concluded that she is looking forward to the future and how the accident has left her with a renewed faith in life.

“If I can survive that, I can survive anything,” she said.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

Follow Peter Vinthagen Simpson on Twitter