Spring in Stockholm! False alarm.

It was 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit), the snow piles were finally melting and the sunlight was glinting off the ice chunks floating in the water. But you would have thought it was the height of the summer with the way the Swedes were walking about this Saturday and lazing by the water. You see, Swedes are used to Nordic winters but they don’t like them. So as soon as the sun comes out they’re like college girls on spring break; cold or not, clothes are coming off.

I guess I can’t blame them though. I too am sick and tired of enduring months of snow, slipping on ice and generally being frozen. And it was the first time the mercury went above 6 Celsius (43 Fahrenheit) so were it not for the glaciers, I might have whipped off my jacket too.

The day was brilliant, everyone was out and it seemed as if finally (FINALLY) spring had come.

Then we woke up on Sunday. To snow falling. Horizontally.

F#%& you Sweden.


Vasaloppet: The biggest ski race no one’s ever heard of

What do you get when you line up 16,000 skiers to race 90 kilometers (56 miles)? Tired. No really. Tired just watching it.

Participants in this race in northern Swedish town Sälen, near the border with Norway, range from professional cross-country skiers to anyone who would like to have a heart attack wearing skis. Most take about 10 hours to finish, but Swede Jorgen Brink won the race in just over 4 hours. Varying reports say that because of the sheer amount of participants, the folks in the back have to wait about 45 minutes before even crossing the starting line. It’s at least partially an excuse for not finishing the race before everyone goes home.

This annual marathon is named after Gustav Ericsson Vasa, a Swedish nobleman and the first king of Sweden, who was believed to have jumped on skis to escape from a murderous Danish king. He stopped in the town of Mora for help mounting a revolt, but with no support from the men there, he skied to Sälen. Then men in Mora then changed their minds and brought Gustav back to lead a rebellion. The route they ski in the race today mirrors the route he supposedly took from Sälen to Mora. Most think it’s just a tale, as reports put Gustav somewhere else at the time.

I briefly entertained the idea of traveling up there to see the race firsthand, but sub-zero temperatures and a strong sense of laziness kept me at home. Given my inclinations to pick a wine-fueled dinner over exercise, I can’t imagine laboring across 90 kilometers with frozen limbs. Thank you Swedish public television for letting me stay on the couch.

(SVT, Swedish public television has a fantastic video of the start. Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t like its video, so check it out here: http://svtplay.se/v/1917939/starten)

Swedish hotels: Meeting all of your spelunking and snorkeling needs

I am still quite new in Sweden and my curiosity about the rest of the country continues to grow with each day that I don’t leave Stockholm. But travel funds are low and I must cope by plotting my future weekend getaways online, while looking out at the meter of snow on the ground. I considered skiing up north or taking a boat down to the island of Gotland, where as I understand it they speak a breed of Swedish I will never understand. But after discovering these hotels, I am seriously reconsidering.

Spelunking anyone?

If you have always wanted to spend a whole night awake in fear in a cave 155 meters (500 feet) underground while learning about silver mining, then this is the hotel for you. Probably the only hotel for you. This “bed and breakfast” at Sala Silvermines, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Stockholm, boasts of vast caverns and lakes. It was even recommended by a patron as the perfect place to “get buck wild.” I’m not sure she really grasps the meaning of that term.

Not turned on by industrial history? That’s cool, because the Utter Inn will ensure an equally slumberless night. This outhouse-on-a-raft is located in the middle of Lake Mälaren in Västerås, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Stockholm. And the bed is surrounded by windows – three meters underwater.

I feel that I am an adventurous person and would most definitely consider staying here. But I think an email to the management addressing a few key questions is a must before booking.

Are there sharks?

And why is there duct tape around the hole to the underwater beds?