A mystery submarine appeared in the Stockholm archipelago in October. Our daily coverage of this baffling encroachment made it easily the biggest story of the year and when Sweden threatened to use force to remove it, the world really listened. The submarine, believed by many to be Russian (although never proven) evaded a massive search effort by the Swedish Armed Forces for over a week. And it's current whereabouts remains a mystery.
The only thing better than a good offbeat story is an offbeat story starring an unusual animal. And here we have it - a 40-centimetre "Viking rat from hell" that was caught in a Stockholm house. This story went viral. A BBC reporter told us that their version had over a million views. By the time the story reached Australia, the rat was reportedly a metre long. When we caught up with the rat catcher again
, he said this: "Let me tell you, if we should get another rat, I wouldn't tell anyone about it."
"In France, they kiss you on the cheek. In Maori tribes of New Zealand, they nuzzle noses. And in Sweden, they hug. A lot." Oliver Gee's musings on the six steps of The Swedish Hug resulted in our most-read column of the year. It was rewritten in several of the big Swedish daily newspapers and he even ended up talking about it on breakfast television show Nyhetsmorgon. He claims to be much more comfortable with hugging now.
Every Wednesday we run a top ten list. This was our most popular of them all. Why? Who knows. Perhaps it was the Swedish readers wanting to learn about themselves. Perhaps it was the long-term expats wondering if they, indeed, have been here too long. Perhaps it was the new arrivals curious about their future. Perhaps it was all three. Oj, oj, oj.
This story really struck a chord with readers in Sweden and internationally. We fielded calls from all over the world on this one. The story? A Swedish dad came under fire for taking his two sons on a trip to Israel, the West Bank, and occupied Syria in order to teach them the reality of war. When they came back, the kids could decide if they still wanted to play Call of Duty. Genius parenting or completely off the wall? Read the story and decide for yourself.
In August, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace. This sentence alone probably counted for some of the thousands of Facebook shares. But both a professor of peace and former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also chimed in and shared their thoughts alongside yours. When Bildt was asked how Sweden made it to 200 years without a war, he said: "Primarily by luck".
This one was an absolute trailblazer in the statistics. The concept is just so wonderful - a six hour work day - who wouldn't want to know more? Here at The Local headquarters in Stockholm, our phones didn't stop ringing for months after we published the story in April. Gothenburg's Deputy Mayor Mats Pilhem told us in August
that he has spoken to reporters from all corners of the globe. For the record, the guinea pigs in the trial will start their shorter shifts in the new year.
Offbeat and morbid. And with a touch of Ikea. All the ingredients for a good news story. This one was shared far and wide, and took a somewhat surprising twist when the woman who found the bones revealed that she was an erotic novelist. She told The Local that she "was tempted
" to write a book about the bones one day. A week later she called again
, and told us that a book had been published and was available for sale. "In just a week I went from being a normal silent person to being known all over the world," she explained.
"I don't feel as though this is the future – this is the present. To me, it's weird that we haven't seen this sooner." These are the words of a 25-year-old woman from northern Sweden who had a microchip inserted into her wrist. Why? So she could open her door without looking for a key. Days after we published this popular story, Stockholm hosted a party for other would-be microchip devotees curious about having the procedure themselves.
Those innovative Swedes - they've almost gone cashless! When a report found that Sweden was leading the world in terms of cashless trading, a ripple of the future ran through the internet. We had readers popping in from all over the world and phone calls from some of the biggest news agencies abroad wanting to know more. Considering that even some of the country's homeless population accept card payments, all eyes were on Sweden again.
Yes, Åle the 155-year-old eel who lived in a Swedish well passed away this year. It was a massive story for The Local, and a sad day for eel fans. Åle (ål is Swedish for eel) was the oldest European eel in the world. He gets our nod for honourable mention.
As for you readers, thank you kindly for your readership over 2014, see you next year.