Help yourself to a Slice of Swedish Hospitality

Mia, David and Oskar from a Slice of Swedish Hospitality

The little blond two-year-old boy with an angelic face lifts his little arms up to me, motioning for a hug.

We’ve only met a couple of hours ago, but in the short time I’ve managed to secure more high fives than normal and gotten those adorable little kid giggles to come from him.

A smile lights up my face, and I reach down to Oskar and scoop him into my arms.

“Good night,” I whisper into his ear and wrap my arms around him.

Then, his mom, Mia whisks him and his older brother, David, off to bed.

“I’ll be back in a little and we can sit and have a beer,” she promises before disappearing down the hallway of her apartment in the heart of Malmo, Sweden.

After a long day of paddle boarding, exploring the eco-city in the West Harbour and dinner, I sink into one of Mia’s butter yellow leather couches with a beer in my hand and feel my body unwind.

This … this is perfect.

The balcony is perfect for summer evenings and beer with A Slice of Swedish Hospitality

A cold beer and beautiful balcony? Yes, please!

I know how lucky I am. And realize how amazing the opportunity Mia is providing me.

A Slice of Swedish Hospitality, started by Mia and her mother, Eva, promises to give guests just that — a true taste of what life as a local is like.

“This is about getting to know us Swedes, for real!” says Mia. “We believe the world can become a better place if we meet eye-to-eye and get a more humble feeling towards different cultures, social systems, political and religious views. New perspectives make me grow as a person and hopefully we can learn from each other.”

Having people over for supper is nothing new to this mother of two. In fact, as a child, living with her gardener parents, there were always people coming over for meals. Her mom always had an extra plate at the ready for guests stopping by.

The charming set up with A Slice of Swedish Hospitality

Ready for dinner?

Before the Slice of Swedish Hospitality was started, Eva and her husband (Mia’s father, Anders) would rent their house for tourists, often times inviting those visitors over for meals or games.

Mia recalls it fondly. “We would have a lovely time discussing life in our countries and how we got the everyday life together. We still stay in contact. For these people, it was the best experience during their vacation.”

So, who is this experience good for? My answer: anyone who wants to get a better understanding of life as a Swede. For me, it gave me insight into great places to visit while in the country, as well as a beautiful look at the culture.

The program matches visitors with a network of the company’s hosts and allows them access to a family’s daily life in their own setting — a private home. Whether a family with children who wants to meet a local family with children, to young couples and beyond, there are matches to create that perfect Swedish evening.

“When do you ever get the chance to learn about Sweden if you don’t already have friends here?” Mia asks. “Here, you have conversations for real and get a chance to ask questions about Sweden, try the food we eat, have Swedish coffee …”

As for the future of the Malmo-based program — the sky is the limit.
“We would like an even wider range of ambassador families to open up their private homes, and to be able to do even better matching,” says Mia. “We have a range of hosts from 24-year-old girls who are single and study to families with young children and teenagers, to retired ambassadors, gay, single dads and more.”

Before I leave for the night, I empty my wallet of American money.

A little time later, I get a note from Mia: the boys, even now, still play with it. I like to think for as much of an impression the family left on me, there is a little of me left in Sweden, too.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden was courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

 

Blog Europe Sweden

Getting naked in Sweden

What it's like to get naked at a bathhouse in Sweden

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My name is D and I used to be, as one friend put it, “a big, girlie prude.”

Never would I think of even taking off my shirt in a public, or semi-public place. In fact, when I first stopped at the baths in Budapest, it took everything I had to shimmy my swimsuit bottom off while strategically keep my towel from covering up the rest of me. I was not ready to take anything off. Getting naked in Sweden? Not. Even. A. Thought.

In Barcelona, I had to prep myself for going topless while on the beach.

In Morocco, I gathered a bit more courage and actually took off my top and walked around (gasp) topless while at the bath.

But, something happened to me between Morocco and Sweden: I got confident. The idea of stripping down to skin didn’t seem to bother me nearly as much. While my body had not changed, my opinion of myself had.

So, when it comes time for me to head to Kallbadhus Ribersborg, to take part in the traditional Swedish bathhouse experience, I don’t even blink. In fact, when Anna tells me she reserved a towel for me, I ask her for details about what I am going to do.

The entrance to the historic Kallbadhus Ribersborg | What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

“Well, you take off your clothes … if you want … and then have a sauna and then go in the water,” she explains.

My mind skips back to the day before when I plunged into the Baltic Sea in a wet suit during my attempt at paddle boarding.

“What do the other people wear at the bath house?”

“Oh, most of them wear nothing,” she says.

Decided. Then I will wear nothing, too.

I don’t know how to explain it, but en route to the bath house via the long wooden walk over the soft thumping water of the sea, I am actually skipping and smiling at the idea of getting naked.

A view of the Western Harbour from the beach |  What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

You’d have no clue just to the left of this photo that there are people naked in a bath house!

Like, I’m super stoked beyond belief. I blame it on the new, improved version of D after my shamanic session.

The point is, I am thrilled to put myself to this test, to prove to myself it is OK to shred the clothing and just hang out naked in the open.

Self-portrait of Diana Edelman |  What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

See … don’t I just look like I want to take my clothes off?!?

I walk up to the counter of the creaky old (and still magnificent) Kallbadhus Ribersborg. The large dining room and reception area immediately conjures up images of grandeur when the bath house was first built. I can imagine groups of men and women flocking here on a warm summer afternoon to gossip and dip their toes into the fresh sea.

“I have a reservation,” I announce to the girl at the counter. She produces a scratchy and small white towel and directs me to the woman’s side of the bathhouse.

The changing rooms of Kallbadhus Ribersborg |  What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

Little changing rooms open to the Baltic Sea at Kallbadhus Ribersborg.

I open the swing door and am greeted to wooden platforms a top the water. Lining one side of the boardwalk are little changing rooms — some with doors, some without.

I feel like I have stepped back in time.

Around me, there are a few women lounging naked, soaking up the morning sun.

I walk quietly around them and pick a changing room without a door and stand in front of the mirror.

Here you go, D. Time to get naked.

This time, I don’t even hesitate. I pull my shirt off, my pants down and stand in my little room stark naked. I care so little about being in the nude that I actually take the time to fold up my clothing and place them in a neat little pile on the bench.

 What it's like to get naked at a Swedish bathhouse

See? I am thrilled to be wrapped in a towel!

Then, with my towel wrapped around me, I head over to the sauna.

So, I’m not quite ready to strut around, but still.

As I walk by a bench filled with naked older women, I feel their eyes on me and remember a conversation I had the previous day with Anna: they may look at you strange if you don’t get naked.

I brush it off and sit in the baking warmth of the sauna for a few minutes, letting a few beads of sweat drip from my brow.

And now for the next part of the tradition — a dip into the sea.

I know it’s cold, but after letting myself bake in the heat of the sauna, I am ready for the cool water to jolt my body back to a more normal temperature.

I walk down the little boardwalk to a ladder, covered with seaweed because it likely has not been used since last summer. I tie my towel on the railing and dip my toes in.

Holyshititscoldwithoutawetsuit.

Shivers shoot through my body and it instantly becomes hard to breathe. But, I persist. I climb down another rung and let the water lap at my thighs.

Still absolutely freezing.

Then, I go for it, dunking my body into the salty water.

I last for about 15 seconds, but what matters to me is that I did it.

Huge smile on my face, I exit the water and pick a post on the wooden planks to lay for an hour. Naked.

At first, I feel weird. It’s just not the norm for an American to lay out without anything covering up anything.

But, as I see more and more people emerge from the changing rooms and splay themselves in the same fashion, I grow more and more comfortable.

I’m laying naked, tanning, in Sweden.

A smile lights up my face and in that moment, I could not be any cooler or happier.

For more information on Sweden, check out these books:

Sweden – Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs & culture
Lonely Planet Sweden (Travel Guide)
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Sweden

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden was courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

 

Blog Destinations Europe Sweden

Daily Wanderlust: A view from the Baltic Sea

 There is no shortage of breathtaking vantage points in Sweden. On my last full day in the magnificent country, I headed back to the water on foot (as opposed to stand-up paddle boarding).

The crisp spring air, the cloudless sky and the Baltic Sea — which transformed from aquamarine to a deep royal blue — created the perfect moment of bliss on the coast of Malmo, Sweden.

The view of Copenhagen from the Baltic Sea

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden was courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: A gray morning in Klädesholmen, Sweden

Klädesholmen,Sweden is home not only to the Salt & Sill hotel, Sweden’s first floating hotel, but also breathtaking scenery.

This tiny town, which had a mere 325 residents in 2010, was particularly empty the day I wandered through. Even though it was May, the winter held its grip on this town longer than normal, resulting in overcast days threatening to spill rain from the large, puffy clouds. To explore the town, I simply walked through the hotel’s parking lot and up the one road into town.

The narrow lane wound its way through charming little homes with hand painted mailboxes, through quaint inlets where fishing boats rocked in the wind-whipped waters against a backdrop of granite outcroppings. Occasionally a car would pass by, heading out-of-town and back toward the main land, but for the most part it was just me and the morning.

Even with the gray clouds hanging in the air and the fat drops of rain plunking down from the sky, the walk through Klädesholmen treated me to a tiny peek at this village and its quiet spring morning.

The result? Angsty photos that tell the story of this little town on a chilly May day.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Salt & Sill, Sweden’s first floating hotel

You can see it from the bridge over to Klädesholmen, the dark brown Salt & Sill hotel.

The Salt & Sill afloat

Floating. On large pontoons.

Without a doubt, it is one of the most unique hotels I have ever visited. Anywhere.

I drag my suitcase behind me as I walk into Salt & Sill’s reception, which gives way to the restaurant. A decade ago, this restaurant was the little spark that lead the owners, Susanna and Patrick Hermansson, to open the hotel arm of this popular hideaway.

Reception and restaurant entrance to the popular Salt & Sill

The main dining room

Restaurant Salt & Sill, known for its pickled herring courtesy of  the waters surrounding it, is the hotel’s original claim to fame. In fact, the hotel only opened a few years ago, following the enormous success of the restaurant. Today, the hotel offers cooking classes in a gorgeous kitchen overlooking the water, guiding participants in how to properly pickle this Swedish mainstay.

Six types of pickled herring served as one of the restaurant's main courses

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves up traditional Swedish dishes. In the mornings, when daylight washes into the light dining room, the buffet has homey touches, like handwritten tags on fresh-squeezed juices. At the restaurant, it is all about presentation.

And killer views.

While in the summer the hotel is filled with guests relishing the warm temperatures, late night sun, boating, swimming and fishing culture, it is open year-round. In the colder months, Salt & Sill is host to many business conferences.

The little touches

It’s the little attention to details that makes Salt & Sill so charming.

Each guest room at the Salt & Sill is adorned with a photo of a herb or spice native to the region. One color from that art is pulled and then woven throughout the room via blankets, colored frames around the television and more.

There are also the personal ladders that add a little touch of luxury to the property.

Even on this cloudy day, it is easy to imagine the summer sun beating down onto the boardwalk and cooling off in the waters outside the rooms. And, just beyond that … a floating sauna that guests can hire to cruise along the water.

My personal favorite? The glorious roof top deck above the hotel, complete with plenty of seating to watch that late night sunset sink down under the Gotenburg’s granite archipelago.

The bottom line: While all but one of the rooms features twin beds (the suite is the only room with a large bed), Salt & Sill is comfortable (albeit sparse) and nice. Wifi is quick and can be found throughout the property. I stayed there when the weather was not ideal, and no one was in the nearby town, so there was not much to do. However, in the summer, with the warm air and water temps, I can see this being a great place to unwind and enjoy the Swedish summer.

Want to try the hotel for yourself? Check out it’s Web site for more information.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

Destinations Hotel Reviews

Daily Wanderlust: Mölle, Sweden

Mölle, Sweden is an historic seaside town built on scandal.

Well, scandal as defined by the 1900s when men and women started swimming together.

Today, the beautiful Baltic Sea destination is known for its stunning scenery, fishing, water activities (diving, porpoise spotting, boating and more) and the nearby Kullaberg Nature Reserve.

Located on the Kulla Peninsula, the little town of Mölle is home to the gorgeous Grand Hotel. Perched a top a hill overlooking the harbor, the old white hotel gives the definition a “room with a view” a whole new meaning. Bonus points: the backyard with views like this.

The harbor and Baltic Sea from the Grand Hotel

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Helsingborg, Sweden

One of the oldest cities in Sweden (the first settlement can be traced back to 1085), Helsingborg is both charming and incredibly scenic. It’s the closest point in the country to Denmark. In fact, a quick ferry ride across the water lands passengers in Helsingor, Denmark and Hamlet’s castle. On a sunny day, you can even make out the castle on the banks of the water.

Like most European cities, Helsingborg, Sweden,  features many historic spots, including the medieval fortress, Kärnan, and Kullagatan, the first pedestrian shopping street in Sweden.

Even on a cloudy day, it is still easy to see the beauty of this coastal town.

The view from Karnan

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.

 

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Lysekil, Sweden

Summertime in Sweden means a few things: gorgeous weather, the desire to be outside enjoying said weather, and a sun that never seems to set.

At 4 a.m., the first rays of sun creep through the window (which curtain I never did draw closed). By 6 a.m., thanks to the nine hour time difference, I am up. Ready for the day. Even though I know by 2 p.m., I will be in major need of a nap.

Fortunately for those early mornings, I have the places I am visiting to myself. I am able to creep down the creaky stairs at Strandflickorna in Lysekil and head out the front door to the beauty of the sea that awaits me.

On this early morning walk, it was just me and the seagulls taking in the nature and charm of the town, which is located nearby Gotenburg. A major tourist hotspot in the summer, this morning was quiet.

And all mine.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

Destinations

Driving in Sweden

Driving in Sweden

I roll the keys to the Volvo over and over in my hand, laughing nervously as the Hertz customer service agent explains the car to me.

I haven’t drive in Europe since Romania. And that … that was just awful steering wheel death grips and praying for survival.

I’ve been traveling for nearly 24 hours and can feel the exhaustion and the nine hour time difference begin to sink in, even though it is 9 a.m. in Gotenburg.

“Um … driving here … in Sweden … I’ve only driven once in Europe … and it was in Romania … and I didn’t like it at all. I was really scared the entire time … is this, um, is driving in Sweden anything like that?” I ask, trying my best to assemble my thoughts, cringing at how stressed I was during my day trip through the Eastern Europe country.

The blonde haired woman looks at me and smiles.

“No, not at all,” she promises.

I take the keys and head to the parking garage where my four-door Volvo sits, waiting for me.

OK, D. Let’s do this.

After unloading my suitcase into the trunk, I slide into the driver’s seat and sit. Breathe. Put the key in the ignition.

You’ve got this.

I turn on the car, back out.

Not so bad.

Then, I head out of the garage.

A cab whizzes by me. Then, a car. My shoulders shoot to my ears. My grip tightens on the steering wheel.

Shit. Shit. Shit. I can’t drive here. 

I have no choice. I take one hand off the wheel and grab my directions, which don’t say anything about how to get out of the airport and onto the E6 towards Oslo.

Not good.

So, I do what I am best at: winging it.

I pull out, slowly. Very, very slowly. Then, am on the roadway. Trying to keep up with traffic, but when the speedometer shoots up towards 70 km/h I begin to doubt my driving ability.

Guesses on what this says?

Maybe it’s because of the lack of sleep and long travel time. Maybe it’s because of the gloom I have stepped off the plane and in to. Gray clouds hang low in the sky.

Please, please do not rain. I don’t want to drive in the rain in a foreign country in a car that is not mine.

I silently will myself to get out onto the highway and go, go, go.

And then, I’m off. Albeit not fast enough for the red Volvo behind me, who, in my rearview mirror, shakes his head and raises his hands as he pulls around me.

Still not sure where the illusive E6 is (I see no signs), I pull off and stop at a gas station and ask.

“It’s just there,” the clerk says, looking amused at my complete lack of knowledge.

Then, I pull back out onto the highway, off towards Oslo for my first stop of my Sweden trip, the island of Marstrand.

And, you know what? Driving in Sweden? A lot like driving in America. Thank goodness.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

 

Blog Europe Sweden

Escape of the Week: Sculptures at Pilane

The island of Tjörn, located in Western Sweden, is home to enchanting fishing villages that attract flocks of tourists each summer, thanks to the warm temperatures and vast expanses of sea to drop a boat into and set off into the late sunset.

In keeping with the outdoor exploration encouraged in this region, Sculpture at Pilane offers a different way to take in the fresh air. A mix of contemporary art and ancient history, the summertime outdoor museum is not only a lesson in Sweden’s Viking roots, but also a beautiful exhibition of art set against rolling emerald green hills speckled with granite outcroppings.

During the Iron Age, this spot was used as a meeting place, and today, visitors can witness the past thanks to the 100 circle graves that date back to the time of Vikings, more than 2,000 years ago.

Viking graves

Today, the area merges old with new, and invites artists from all over the world to create sculptures and place them against this lush landscape.

“The landscape makes the art visible,” say Peter Lennby, who has been at the helms of the project for six years. “It is easier to focus on the art here than in a gallery or city.”

And, it’s true.

The sculptures, set against the vibrant green grass and granite, pop.

Grand Latent Blanc, Jaume Plensa

Each summer, Sculpture at Pilane opens its little admissions shed and offers visitors a chance to explore this  spot that overlooks the Gothenburg archipelago.

This year, the annual exhibition features nine international artists. The largest installation, Temple, by China’s Zhang Huan, will sit atop the rocks, allowing visitors to explore a recreation of a Chinese temple, along with spectacular views of the water below.

Other pieces include American artist Keith Edmier’s “You Gotta Go Out, You Don’t Have To Come Back.” For this piece, he took the remains of a boat which sunk near Chicago and transported it to Sweden. He pays homage to the Viking ritual of burying the dead in the boat. This year, the boat sits with the mounds of dirt surrounding it. Next year, according to Lennby, they hope to bury the boat in this spot.

You Gotta Go Out, You Don't Have To Come Back, Keith Edmier

Swedish artist Claes Hake recreates Wall Street in this immense granite installation.

Wall Street, Claes Hake

Created by waste, this fiberglass piece is by Germany’s Wilhelm Mundt. Known for his work in this medium, Trashstone 306 is one of many he has created thanks to recycling waste.

Trashstone 306, Wilhelm Mundt

Bronze and trees combine in this piece, “The Heart of Trees,” by Spain’s Jaume Plensa.

The Heart of Trees, Jaume Plensa

In the distance, United Kingdom’s Tony Cragg’s piece, “Point of View,” made from bronze, sits perched on higher ground.

Point of View, Tony Cragg

Getting there: From Gothenburg, head on the E6 towards Oslo. Exit at Stenungsund and follow signs to Tjörn. Cross the Tjörn Bridge and turn left at the light. Follow 169 towards Skarhamn. At the Wallhamn crossroad, turn right towards Kallekarr and Krykesund. Pass Kallekarr and then follow the brown signs for “Pilane Gravfait” towards Kryreksund.

Cost: 80 sek for adults; 15 and under are free.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

 

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