Moments from our weekend getaway to Sweden
I went to Gothenburg, (Göteborg) Sweden for a little weekend holiday with my friend Lauren (loulabellerose.co.uk) a few weekends ago. It was the perfect mix of exploring somewhere new, and getting a very relaxing chilled out holiday! I’m originally from a small city in Northwestern Ontario, where the Nordic influences run rampant. Our approach to this trip was to explore, eat as many pastries as possible and find #accidentallywesanderson buildings on every corner. Basically, we wanted to fall headfirst into the traditions of fika (in the morning) and hygge (in the evening).
Thunder Bay and Me
My hometown, Thunder Bay has the biggest number of Finnish people settled outside of Finland. Recently I’ve realised how much of my upbringing was actually quite strange… It’s strange to grow up somewhere that you have to fly at least an hour to get to the next big city. Or to grow up somewhere with so many different cultural influences. I grew up eating traditional Indigenous foods alongside traditional Finnish, Polish, Ukranian, and Italian foods. I just never realized quite how diverse it was.
What is hygge?
Hygge in the evening is the best. Thing. Ever. Hygge (who-guh) is a Danish concept of coziness, wellness and contentment. It’s a very trendy sort of thing back home. There’s a new shop called “hygge loft” that sells Nordic things. My mom always just says it means “hunkering down for the winter” which isn’t entirely true. But… it was when I was home for Christmas. We would sit with tea and do a puzzle… Sidenote: NEVER buy a Van Gogh puzzle. With tons of candles lit, we cuddled on the sofa and listened to TV shows play. When the power cut out in a snowstorm, we listened to the radio dispatch. Naturally, when I came home to a cold and empty apartment at the end of the holidays, it was a bit heartbreaking.
Beating the blues with a weekend getaway
I was in desperate need of a holiday after a month of disappointing tours and missing home. We flew to Gothenburg late in the day, and our flight was delayed. So when we landed it was late and we went straight to our Airbnb with the idea of ordering pizzas. We took a taxi and even though everything was so dark on the drive, I looked out my window and saw snow covered trees and big sheer rock faces on the side of the highway. And I felt like I was on a drive home home in Thunder Bay. Day one of hygge in the evening accomplished.
Gothenburg is the b e s t
Gothenburg (or, in Swedish, Göteborg) is the coziest little city. In the summertime the Liseburg amusement park is open and it’s quite the tourist hub. But this time of year it was quiet and comfortable, and we were some of the only tourists around. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and spoke perfect English to us as soon as they realised we were tourists. Usually the language barrier is a bit intimidating, but it wasn’t something we had to worry about at all! The flights and accommodation were cheap, and the public transport was a dream! All in all, it was the perfect place for a wintery holiday getaway.
The perfect place for hygge in the evening
Our accommodation was a studio apartment we found on Airbnb. I *love* Airbnb, by the way. I love it so much I wrote a whole blog post called “Why You Should Try Airbnb“. Read it before continuing on. We mostly booked this place because it was the cheapest with our dates, it was a bit out of the centre but that just made it the extra bit cozier! It was decorated in the traditional Scandinavian style. Very minimal and Ikea-esque with tons of character. Loads of plants, white walls and cupboards, fairy lights and candles dotting the shelves. With the snow falling outside, the candles lit inside, and ‘friends’ playing in the background on the TV, I felt perfectly at home. Every night we settled in with some pizza and hygge-d to our hearts content.
And fika in the morning…
Every morning we would walk into Haga, a neighbourhood just outside the city centre that is riddled with the cutest cafes imaginable. In Kensington Market in Toronto there’s a cafe called Fika. Years ago I went there and loved it so much I wrote an entire blog post on it. Fika has a few definitions, but generally is seen as the Swedish practice of taking time to have coffee and pastries with loved ones. Fika Cafe in Toronto, while it’s a lovely place, is strangely a little too refined. While frequenting the cafes in Haga, I got a sense for the true meaning of a word I’d long since thought I’d known.
Haga’s fika-ridden cafes
These cafes had real candles burning at every table, rustic antique chairs and walls littered with beautiful art and prints. Oftentimes things looked like they had been brought out of your gran’s attic. When you went up to order you were faced with beautiful glass displays brimming with traditional nordic pastries like semlas and (my favourite) cinnamon rolls. I had grown up on Pulla (braided Finnish bread) and the cinnamon rolls tasted so similar. They tasted like home. I ate a cinnamon roll every morning, and had one giant one from Café Husaren on our first morning. Swiftly realised it was too big for one small human. We also tried to have as many different pastries as possible… but always came back to the cinnamon roll!
Some lessons learned in Sweden:
A coffee and a cinnamon roll in the morning (fika) is a sure way to have an excellent day. A warm room full of candles, fairy lights, good company, and a snowy landscape through the window (hygge) is an excellent way to end an excellent day. That’s the story of our holiday to Sweden. And the story of how I fell in love with winter. How are you supposed to hate fika in the morning and hygge in the evening?!
Lauren’s Vlog: A Weekend Away in Gothenburg, Sweden