Unanticipated Swedish Explorations
This past week saw my being sent off to Södertälje in Sweden on a business trip. Because of the nature of the errand, I wasn't hoping for very much sightseeing at all, especially after previous ones had offered none at all. However, while the working day was busy for me, I got to doing some exploring in the evenings too. In a way it was fortunate that, for all but one day, hot sunny weather was the main offer with a surprising amount of strong heat and sun remaining later into the evening than that to which I am accustomed. Not being far from the land of the midnight sun might have helped though my hotel bedroom curtains did keep out any overnight twilight.
As it happened, Monday evening saw me wandering around Södertälje itself with much of my strolling taking me towards Lake Mälaren, the third largest lake in Sweden. While I cannot lay claim to having undertaking a long walk that gained me views overs it wider expanses, nevertheless inspections of maps since then reveal that I must have reached its outermost extent. Never being far from civilisation meant that I never escaped from others out enjoying the evening as I was though there were quieter stretches too, some along gravelled paths that gave some sense of leaving tarmac and concrete behind me for a little while; it helped that I was going through woodland too. To find this type of thing within walking distance of a city centre must help for a respectable quality of life and even the largely pleasant buildings at centre of Södertälje were complemented by vegetation too, something that was unmissable as I pottered around Marenplan, the city's market square.
The other major opportunity for doing some exploring that came my way was an excursion on Wednesday to Stockholm. A return journey by train from Södertälje Centrum station was all that was needed to get me into the heart of the Swedish capital, to Stockholm Central station. Once there, what was needed was an escape from the butchery done by road construction to get to the shore where I found the Town Hall, a very square yet church-like structure with its high tower. Apparently, you can climb it to get an overview of the city's islands. My plan was to stay low and see a bit of the old town where the Royal Palace and the Rikstag (Swedish Parliament) can be found. Both continue the big rectangular architectural theme. There may be boat tours of the city too but they seem to be daytime affairs so I was content to stay on foot and see what I'd find using the free maps picked up at Central station; none of the shops there were selling any, a situation very unlike what you'd find in the U.K. or Éire. Apart from the major landmarks, there were many other pleasing sights with high buildings lining impossibly narrow streets, some teeming with eateries offering alfresco dining.
Given the sunshine that abounded on both evenings, it was inevitable that I pressed a camera into service. My not expecting so much meant that it was a Canon PowerShot G11 that came with me and not the more usual Pentax K10D SLR. In hindsight, the latter might have been more appropriate but I have no regrets. In fact, that might be a spur for a return. At Stockholm Arlanda international airport, I may have made that possibility more likely by acquiring one book on Sweden's National Parks (there's an urban one in Stockholm itself) as well as another on the city that I had visited the night before; both are published by Bokförlaget Max Ström so it's best to visit their website in order to learn more.
One thing that you'll find with Swedish websites though is that you'll need the handy Google Translate capability if you, like me, have no Swedish. In fact, that is my one regret that I didn't acquire at least a phrasebook before I went there. While most will at least have a working knowledge of English if not a grasp that is better than many ostensibly native English speakers, Swedish is very much the main language though it isn't too hard to get them to speak in the foreign tongue. Nevertheless, you do feel as if you are breaking the swing of things in doing so and, being more than respectful of their keeping their own language, I wouldn't mind learning a bit of it for myself. After all, it's the least that I should do in view of the pleasure that came my way during my very underplanned poking around in their country.
On the planning side, the very least that I could have done was to have taken that Lonely Planet guide to Scandinavian Europe that I picked up in Copenhagen airport a few years ago. Well, it's only now that I have got around to looking through it. A consequence of my not expecting much from the trip, perhaps?