Each summer, tourists start travelling across the world, most often to the south, to sunny destinations and warm seas. Those true researchers, who prefer authentic experiences to mass tourism, go in the opposite direction – to the north, let’s say Sweden, the country on the eastern side of the Scandinavian peninsula, with incredible 100,000 lakes, the country in which one can experience so many interesting, unusual, genuine beautiful things, far from the classic summer euphoria and inspirational enough to charge the batteries, satisfy all the senses, fulfil various wishes and, finally, collect all the pieces of the mosaic – of how, in fact, happy people look like.
Whether Sweden is a good choice for a summer holiday – we ask H.E. Jan Lundin, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden in Serbia, who will surely answer this question according to wishes of Serbian tourists, since he knows us better than most of his colleagues.
- Sweden as a tourist destination is not a bad choice at all, although the climate is not often as pleasant as in Serbia, but during summer it is much more pleasant than in Serbia (of course, not on the far north) – says the ambassador Lundin. – In Sweden the temperature is maybe 25-30°C, so in south and in the centre of Stockholm, one can enjoy the sandy beaches and go for a swim. Sweden is, by all means, a land rich in water, which, believe it or not, has as many as 100,000 lakes! It’s one of few countries where people can drink tap water, which is very important fact for tourists. As a socially responsible, highly-aware ecological country, Sweden has invested a lot in raising the quality of life in the last 50 years, especially in wastewater treatment systems, which every city in Sweden has today, and we are working to achieve this in Serbia as well.
As a tourist destination - continues ambassador Lundin - Sweden really has much to offer. In the south of the country there are wide sandy beaches, like the one in Ulcinj in Montenegro, but there are also beaches in the centre of Stockholm, in the Stockholm archipelago. One beautiful island in the middle of the Baltic Sea - Gotland, is larger than Montenegro! You can see its beauty in the films of the famous Ingmar Bergman who had spent his summer there. The Swedes love him a lot - says ambassador Lundin.
From Sandy beaches to untouched nature
- From June to August, Sweden is a great tourist destination and not just its southern and central parts, but also the north. My father grew up in the north in the municipality of Storuman, which belongs to the region of Lapland. Although small in size, around 20.000 people live there. As far as the size is concerned, the fact is that around million people live in the north, while the entire Sweden has 10 million residents, mostly living in the south! There are almost no people in the north, because there are no roads. It is the largest area of untouched nature in Europe (except Russia) and very harsh too, making it attractive for adventure tourism. The Royal trail that goes from my hometown to the north is 800 kilometres long. There you can hike all year round. It is cold and very snowy, but during summer there is no night time (like during winter there is no day light) and it’s a special experience. Like Aurora Borealis during winter – an incredible phenomenon that occurs near the magnetic earth's poles, creating foggy neon lights in various colours. North is interesting for hiking and, in winter, skiing, a sport that is very popular in Sweden and our skiers are among the best in the world. The two most popular ski centers in Sweden are Uren, near Ostersund, excellent for biathlon skiing, with a great potential to be an Olympic center. Further to the north there is Ore, just four hours from Stockholm. More further to the north, more precisely in Storuman Municipality, are two smaller towns Tarnaby and Hemavan, the birthplace of our best alpinists. And that's the place where my father grew up – says ambassador Lundin smiling, adding that there is a large ski centre, and the best time for the visit is April or May, because there is still snow, and weather is pleasant. The one who loves to walk through the forest, like me, will really enjoy there.
The Royal Opera or Opera House’s Cellar?
● Which destinations would you recommend to tourists from Serbia as the best choice for summer?
- First of all, you need to visit Stockholm - one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. The centre of Stockholm was built at the end of the 18th century, during the baroque period, and its architecture is very interesting. it is full of museums, galleries, theatres, amusement parks ... It is situated in a very beautiful archipelago where people can go for a swim... by the way, shopping and nice walks are guaranteed.
We love to eat healthy and have excellent restaurants – says ambassador Lundin, pointing out that the best choice for him is the “Operakällarens“, in the translation „Opera’s cellar“, literally located under the Royal Opera in the centre of Stockholm, just a hundred meters from the Royal palace. - This restaurant has one Michelin star, but for me, it's as if it has more. They prepare excellent food that I truly enjoy, especially fish specialties that Sweden is known for. We have a nice trout and cod from the northern waters, of course, and the herring, but I do not suggest your encounter with the Swedish cuisine should start with sour herring (due to a very strong aroma), because it is quite exotic and for those who are not accustomed, to put it mildly – it’s hard to digest. Since Sweden is a country rich in forest, we have a lot of game, so I recommend dishes made of moose and reindeer meat, which are interesting and very tasty.
In addition to Stockholm, it is necessary to visit Gothenburg - a very nice city, especially in summer. It is located on the west coast and has a slightly different archipelago. it is known for its extremely sweet crabs. There are no such ones in the Mediterranean, so they must be tried. Speaking of food, I need to point out our sweets. They're really tasty. The curiosity is that many sweets are tied to a Royal house. So, for example, when royal children are born, special sweets are created in their honour, such as - cakes for princesses, nicely decorated and very tasty.
New trend: Free culture
● In the country where the Nobel Prize is awarded, a lot of money is invested in education and technological development, the culture takes a special place. What do you suggest tourists should visit?
- You should definitely visit the Royal Opera, dating from the 18th century. It was built during the time of King Gustav III, who was killed (the opera “a Masked Ball” tells the true story of him), but before that happened, he had introduced the so-called high culture to Sweden, and that's what has remained to this day – says ambassador Lundin proudly. - We have a great, very beautiful theatre in the Royal palace. The king, in fact, has several palaces and he spends summer in one of them. In this residence there is an 18th-century theatre, which is opened from May to September. Visiting this theatre is a real experience. However, it's almost impossible to get tickets, although they are very expensive, but worth the effort. The performances are very interesting, and the atmosphere and ambience are even more interesting. Ingmar Bergman even made an interesting film from that theatre - the film “Magic Flute”.
There are many museums in Stockholm to visit. Our new National Museum was opened last year and it is free for all visitors. This is a new trend with us: a free culture. This museum is very beautiful and rich, with a lot of interesting exhibits, including the most important works of our artists. You should certainly visit it, as well as the Vasa boat Museum, a 17th-century military ship that was found in the 60's at the bottom of the archipelago near Stockholm. The boat is unique and well preserved, and thanks to this, this museum is the most popular one among tourists.
● Many would say: it's all great, but how to get there, where to stay and the most importantly – is it expensive?
- It’s not expensive to come to Stockholm. There are low cost airlines with cheap tickets. Ryan Air, for example, flies from Niš 2 or 3 times a week, and Wizz Air flies directly from Belgrade to Stockholm every other day – says ambassador Lundin.
– What is not very cheap in Stockholm is hotel accommodation, which costs almost twice as much as in other cities. There are many branded hotels, but if you want a Swedish hotel, my recommendation is "Scandic". it is a big chain that now has its own facilities in Germany. These are mostly business hotels. The prices are also decent for family rooms for up to four people. These are 3 or 3+ star hotels, because they often do not have a swimming pool. In Stockholm I recommend "Scandic Haymarket", which is located in a former department store, once famous, because actress Greta Garbo worked there. This hotel has its unique story; it's all in art deco style. Those who want the best of the best and are willing to pay 500 euros for a night, should choose „Grand hotel“, built in the late 19th century. Outside the centre, it is possible to find a cheaper hotel. Have in mind that the living standard in Sweden is quite high, so it is to be expected that the prices are in line with it. However, in our country, like in Serbia, ethno tourism is trendy. A place called Dalarna, an hour and a half away from Stockholm, is our Šumadija. It is the centre of ethno tourism, with many museums, as well as folk festivals organized every summer. We have a lot of nice folk music – proudly says ambassador Lundin, reminding that their folk instrument is a violin, an instrument of gentle souls.
Love at first sight
● It is believed that people from the north are cold, introvert… What kind of people are Swedes, in fact?
- That's a very difficult question. I think Swedes respect the environment and other nations. Sweden is, I must admit, a rather individualist culture, but that does not mean it is self-centred and without emotions. On the contrary. That's why we feel well in Serbia – ambassador Lundin emphasized. – Otherwise, Swedes like to travel. Each year, 30,000 Swedes visit Montenegro, but even 600,000 Swedes go to Thailand every year because they go where it's warm. They also visit Serbia, above all, Belgrade. We still do not have valid statistics about their number, but it is certain that there are potentials for a mutually increasing tourist exchange.
● What would you eventually say to those who would like to go north this summer?
For them, but also for those who have not decided to go north yet, my message would be that they shouldn’t be the slaves of clichés and they should boldly accept the challenges – said ambassador Lundin. - What I know for sure is that one extended weekend in Stockholm certainly means a lot to everyone. Knowing your people, I believe that this will be love at first sight.
Author: Ljiljana Rebronja