“I’ve been wanting to do this for ages, and have been looking for the right moment”, Sue told me when the prospect of walking on an iced-over lake became a reality. The reality for us – that we wouldn’t plunge through the ice to a frozen death – came when we saw a group of young men sitting on the ice and enjoying some late afternoon beers. And not just beers, they also had a soccer ball with them. They also seemed happy enough with the thickness of the ice to feel confident to jump up and down between the ice and the nearby wharves.
Even though I’ve walked on the ice a couple of times previously in Stockholm (and felt like a bit of an old hand), it was a new experience for Sue. Nonetheless, we both felt a sense of trepidation about taking that first step off the pier and onto the ice. Once we did it, it felt liberatring for a few minutes, followed by a desire soon afterwards to get back onto the pier.
It was all part of our late afternoon trip to Saltsjöbaden, a gorgeous sea-side town located on The Baltic about thirty minutes from the centre of Stockholm. It’s a little town I discovered by accident three years ago when I visited Stockholm during March. Oddly enough, the rather grand Grand Hotel was the only place in town I could afford, due to a large international conference resulting in lots of booked out accommodation. At the time I was stunned by how beautiful the landscape appeared in winter.
I returned in summer a couple of years ago and enjoyed it very much. But what I really like, and liked again today, was seeing the snow and the ice, as the water freezes over. For miles and miles all you can see is white. If you wanted to, you could probably walk from island to island. As well as seeing people standing on the ice, we also spotted a bloke on a small vehicle that we think doubles as a boat in summer and as a ski vehicle in winter. In some respects, I think there’s more snow and ice in the area than when I last visited the area in winter, in March 2010.
It was similar on the other side of Stockholm, at Drottningholm, the Royal Palace. We both loved walking around the gardens at a time of the year when there weren’t many tourists around. Drottningholm is stunning in summer, but possibly more so in winter. We walked around the gardens, taking us down via the Chinese Castle, an artists studio, and finally into a nearby community called Cantongatan. Originally established in support of the royal household, it’s been in private hands for many years. I’m guessing the people living there are quite wealthy, and lead a rather lovely life.
I can understand why the royal family of Sweden have chosen, since 1981, to live at Drottningholm. It’s stunning. It’s relaxing. And it seems reasonably laid back. Although there were guards present, and there were areas where you couldn’t go, it all seemed pretty low-security. Today in fact we think we might have seen the king embark on a bit of cross country ski-ing.
As well as the beautiful gardens and buildings, there are also some rather stunning statues. Against a blue sky and the snow, the statues are stunning. But as we looked at them, I couldn’t help but remember something from somewhere deep in my memories of childhood. I have a vague re-collection that my mother once warned me of the terrible consequences of walking around naked. “If you don’t put it away, a bird will come along, peck it off, and fly away with it”, she once told me. It’s a memory that came flooding back to me today as we looked at the nude male statue (sans penis) in the grounds of Drottningholm.
Or maybe it was just the cold?