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LISA BJURWALD

Six staycationers you’re bound to run into at these Swedish holiday spots

Many are avoiding international travel this year due to flight chaos across Europe's airports. Swedish writer Lisa Bjurwald reflects on the types of holidaymakers you'll definitely run into around the country, and, perhaps, what your choice of destination says about you.

Six staycationers you're bound to run into at these Swedish holiday spots
Ferry passengers arrive in Visby, on the island of Gotland. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The hipster at Stockholm-on-Sea

They’re going to Ön (“the island”), their friends are going to Ön and they assume everyone else is going to Ön, too. They’re the seasoned Gotland traveller (perhaps even the owner of a traditional limestone cottage or a fashionably dilapidated farmhouse), an urbanite in search of an idealised version of the Tuscan-like countryside at Sweden’s largest island, preferably sans peasants.

Their next-door neighbours on the island are their neighbours in Stockholm, too. There’s no need to sample the local fare as their favourite Södermalm food truck relocates to the medieval alleys of Visby city in July, just like their favourite boutique. The islanders grin and bear this seasonal affront only because they’re able to charge them 150 kronor for a panini that normally costs 75.

The wannabe sculptor

White, sandy beaches, barns turned into chic art galleries, even wineries – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the south of France rather than the south of Sweden. Bohemian Österlen is a national treasure, colonised by artists and writers moving out of the big cities in the 1970s and sprinkled with pristine golf courses, fishing villages and artsy markets.

Today, this kind of Swedish holidaymaker is either one of the lucky few (or one of their heirs) who got their hands on a local property back in the day, or a middle-aged city dweller renting a villa for a week or two for a taste of the good life (and a sighting of a Swedish superstar like singer-songwriter Ulf Lundell). Retiring in Österlen is every Swede’s dream, but very few can afford it.

A sandy beach at Knäbäckshusen, Österlen. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The rest-when-you’re-dead explorer

No strolling along the beach for these people: summer is for hiking, and the long Swedish annual holiday offers you a chance to head north for some serious physical challenges. Fjällen or “the Fells” is cold, full of mosquitoes but completely devoid of 08:or (Stockholmers) – just how they like it.

If they’re a woman, they’ve only ever worn a dress at their baptism or wedding, and if they’re male, their idea of dressing up is rolling down their cargo pants. Their baby is finally ready to climb Kebnekaise (2,103 metres) at the age of 10 months. That’s what the Babybjörn baby carrier was made for, right?

Ready to get your gaiters on and climb Sweden’s highest mountain? Photo: Fredrik Broman/imagebank.sweden.se

The class act

Gotland is for hipsters and Österlen feels suspiciously left-leaning (aren’t all artists communists?). The holiday destination of choice, when not in St Moritz or on the Côte d’Azur, is one of southern Sweden’s upper-class enclaves, particularly Torekov, Falsterbo or Marstrand (Båstad is for the nouveau riche).

Their holiday house has been in the family for generations and they wouldn’t dream of refurbishing it and flaunting the new decor on Instagram; the more worn, the better, and that goes for everything from their car to their bathrobe. They can smell an outsider from miles away (including those from the country’s financial elite, desperate to fit in among the aristocrats). But these days, most people in Sweden are oblivious to their snobbery and won’t notice how they shudder when the rest of the holidaymakers inflate their unicorn floats.

Torekov, where the upper class is so upper they don’t have to worry about class. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/TT

The happy camper

Criss-crossing the land in search of the best camping spot, they couldn’t be more different from the haughty crew above. But that doesn’t mean camping is without its own set of rules. They pride themselves on knowing crucial camping etiquette, such as proper waste disposal and respecting other campers’ space at all times.

They and their friends or family are found hogging the prime spots at classic campsites such as Böda Sand (Öland) and Pite Havsbad (a one kilometre sandy beach surprisingly found in the northern part of Sweden), where they’re known by first name alone to the owners – but they would never divulge their top-secret smultronställen (literally “wild strawberry spots” – the Swedish word for a hidden gem) to a fellow camper. After all, the brother-/sisterhood of camping only goes so far.

Is a mobile home the ultimate staycation destination? Photo: Anders Bjurö/TT

The bargain hunter

For this staycationer, summer equals waiting, sometimes for hours on end. You’ve come prepared with sudoku, crosswords and snacks, for they’re a veteran bargain hunter, taking pride in bagging as many cut-price goods as their van can hold.

The 35,000 square metre Gekås department store in south-west Sweden – its staff immortalised in a cult Swedish docusoap, currently in its 12th season – is your battlefield, the Crocs clogs their comfy armour. Woe to those who dare get in their way as their trained eyes zoom in on a heavily discounted pink microwave. Onward, brave shopper!

The famous Gekås mall in Ullared, Sweden. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
 
Lisa Bjurwald is a Swedish journalist and author covering current affairs, culture and politics since the mid-1990s. Her latest work BB-krisen, on the Swedish maternity care crisis, was dubbed Best reportage book of 2019 by Aftonbladet daily newspaper. She is also an external columnist for The Local – read her columns here.
 
Originally published in July 2021.

Member comments

  1. I liked it. I found it lighthearted, sharp-eyed and critical. I miss those aspects in most articles in this paper. Mostly non-confrontational interviews and cheesy, safe topics. The podcasts are too embarrassing to listen to. Everyone wants to be each other friends. The interviewer is noncritical. “Oh you live in ….? oh i am sooo jealous. how is living in a small village. lovely just lovely.. “

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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