Natural “Smultronställen”

If you ask Stockholmers or alumni of the Program what their favorite thing about Stockholm is, you’re sure to get a wide array of different answers. But I’d be willing to guess at least several would say that Stockholm’s unique mix of cityscape and nature is special and beautiful enough to make it to the top of their list. And I couldn’t agree more.

I haven’t been all over the world. But I’ve been fortunate enough to travel somewhat extensively in Europe and North America, and Stockholm’s integration of parks, gardens, and reserves with the attributes and liveliness one would expect of a city its size is simply unrivaled by anywhere else I’ve been.

Djurgården, Hagaparken, and Drottningholm were just a few of my favorite places (or what Swedes might call “smultronställen”) that break up the bustling city streets. Kungsträdgården during cherry blossom season looks like a scene from the National Mall in Washington around the same time. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Observatorielunden, the small park (with a big hill and a great view) right outside SSE’s doors.

But this is just the beginning. All of those places are either within Stockholm’s city limits or just beyond them. The nature continues in every direction away from the city’s center throughout really all of Sweden. Whether it’s the Stockholm archipelago (“Stockholms skärgård”) to the east or the greenery and waterways off of Lake Mälaren to the west, the places to explore on the weekends seem neverending.

Even something as simple as my path in the suburbs from the bus stop to my host family’s house brought landscapes and views that actually made me look forward to the daily walks to and from the bus no matter the weather. It’s a walk that I miss still to this day.

Of course, everything I’ve just said has been written or said about Stockholm countless times. I’ve been beaten to the punch by basically everyone who’s ever even visited. But the fact that I clearly thought it was worth repeating once more is a testament to how special this aspect of Stockholm truly is.

Corey Retell
University of Pennsylvania
Spring 2016