Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Trip to IKEA

Yesterday I made my first trip to IKEA, and it was a little overwhelming. There was so much to look at, three stories worth of random household items and furniture. I saw some things that were pretty nice, and of course the price was very reasonable. But after wandering around for what felt like forever, I decided to make my escape from the various aisles and massive crowds. As I was leaving, however, I noticed they had a section of the store where they sold traditional Swedish food. Last summer I had the privilege of visiting Stockholm where a friend is studying to get her PhD. And while I was there, she introduced me and my friends to some incredible food. So when I ventured over to the marketplace, I came across some of those delicacies. I was tempted to purchase some of it, but truth be told Swedish food isn't known for it's health benefits. (Since I've been trying to eat healthier, I opted for walking away.) But seeing a bag of mini Kanelbulle (cinnamon rolls), and Kringla (pretzel-shaped cookies), brought back some memories of my three days in Sweden.

My friend, Ingrid, informed me while I was there that Sweden is known for it's pastries and coffee--two things I never really expected. I always associated them with Italy or France, so it was surprising to hear. But she didn't just open my eyes to the food, but also to the city of Stockholm. I had never been to Sweden, and honestly knew very little about the country. I expected it to be cold and somewhat bland. But I was completely wrong. The weather was gorgeous--it was the end of July--and the city was exciting and vibrant. The great thing about Stockholm is that it's a walking city, so if you want to just wander around there is plenty to see and stumble upon. Some great historical sites are the beautiful Skogskyrkogården (the Woodland Cemetery), Drottningholm Palace--home of the royal family,--and the remains of the Viking settlement, Birka on Björkö island in Lake Mälaren. Old Town, the oldest part of Stockholm, includes the royal palace, museums, and scenic walks that give visitors great views of the city.

While Stockholm is the capital and the largest city in Sweden, there are plenty of other beautiful destinations. If you wander further north of Stockholm, you reach the city of Sverige and the northern regions. This area is probably best for the outdoorsy types, because it is a vast landscape of woodlands. Also, there are two well-known national parks, Abisko and Sarek. Northern Sweden is also the ancestral home of the Sami, the indigenous people of the region.

But head south of Stockholm, and you get a complete contrast to the rugged north. About 80% of the population resides in the south, so there are plenty of people around to enjoy the rolling country and beautiful seaside cities with. The region is a popular destination for holidays where people can enjoy an old-fashioned seaside trip, or staying in lakeside cottages, or visiting one of the larger cities.

Personally, I would have loved to stay longer than three days, and been able to visit the other regions outside of Stockholm. Perhaps another visit is in order, and since my friend will be there for another three years, I will have my own personal tour guide--and a free place to stay, of course.

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