As you walk around the quieter parts of Stockholm – away from the main traffic areas – you can hear the sound of running water. Unlike the drains around Sydney (which are sometimes flushed, and other times dry) the drains around Stockholm at this time of the year are where the thawing snow and ice find their escape.
You also need to be careful on the footpaths. As the ice and snow melt, you find yourself walking in a zig-zag pattern, walking on the gravel, walking on the footpath, stepping carefully on the snow, and carefully avoiding the slippery ice.
While many countries deal with snow by using salt, the Swedes use gravel to keep the roads and footpaths suitable for cars, cyclists and pedestrians. “They actually recycle the gravel each year, and if they were to pile it up into one area, it would fill Globen to the rooftop” were told at a dinner party hosted by Sandra and Robert.
Along with two of their good friends, they invited Sue and I to a dinner party at their house to celebrate Easter Sunday. There were three Australians, an American, a Mexican and a Swede, and so there was a lovely internationalism to the evening. We enjoyed some herring, some moose and a wonderful flan, along with some “godis” (sweets) to celebrate Easter. We even indulged in a round of the classic Swedish drinking song, “Helan Går”.
We discussed everything from the situation with Julian Assange (a classic Australia meets Sweden topic of discussion) to the awful smells you can sometimes notice on the streets of Stockholm at this time of the year. As well as dealing with the gravel, local authorities (and Stockholmers) now also have to deal with an excess of dog-poo. While it’s been hidden and frozen in the snow over the last few months, it’s been a case of out of sight, out of mind. But as the snow and ice have begun to thaw, the dog-poo has begun to um, er, ah… “defrost”.
The International English speaking Immanuel Church was the one I found on the internet which I thought sounded most like “my style”. Its congregation reflects people of many tongues and tribes and nations coming together through their shared faith. The Good Friday service was a lovely reflective time of dramatised readings of the story leading to Jesus crucifixion interspersed with some songs. I enjoyed it very much. The Easter Sunday service encouraged to be “Easter people” – those who can live with hope, faith and trust in times of both despair and celebration. It showed something of the expat scene in Sweden in that Sandra and Robert know the pastors of the church well because they lived for a few years in the same apartment building. I hadn’t known this when I found the church online. It’s worth visiting if you are ever looking for a church in Sweden.
Late in the afternoon I had a sudden realisation my holiday is almost half way through. I’m not ready to go back yet, I tells ya.