Stockholm, The Big Northern Easy

The Stockholm backstreets are the perfect place to get lost and discover the architectural wonders of the city.
The Stockholm backstreets are the perfect place to get lost and discover the architectural wonders of the city.
While blessed with fantastic panoramic views, Stockholm is mostly enjoyed through endless micro scenes depicting everyday life.
While blessed with fantastic panoramic views, Stockholm is mostly enjoyed through endless micro scenes depicting everyday life.
Pricey, elegant, and laid back, the city's restaurant scene appears to come right out of an Ikea showroom.
Pricey, elegant, and laid back, the city’s restaurant scene appears to come right out of an Ikea showroom.
The incredible number of outstanding coffee shops replete with La Marzocco espresso machines and great baristas make this city a coffee lovers dream.
The incredible number of outstanding coffee shops and great baristas make this city a coffee lovers dream.
The barista at the famous Esaias coffee shop works his magic with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker.
The barista at the famous Esaias coffee shop works his magic with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker.
Stockholm is a very green city, with an abundance of city parks in which to languish during the warm summer months.
Stockholm is a very green city, with an abundance of city parks in which to languish with a book during the warm summer months.
Turn into any side streets in the Old Town and you will be rewarded with incredible sights that will transport you back in time a few hundred years.
Turn into any side streets in the Old Town and you will be rewarded with sights that will transport you back in time a few hundred years.
The rustic charm of the tourist-free Katarina-Sofia neighborhood in Södermalm is enhanced by its multi-colored dwellings.
The rustic charm of the tourist-free Katarina-Sofia neighborhood in Södermalm is enhanced by its multi-colored dwellings.

Stockholm is not an easy city to get lost at.  With its incredible public transportation system and orderly rhythm, getting lost is something that you really have to work at when visiting.  But like in most of the great cities of the world, the city can easily be divided into places where tourists hang out and places where the locals go about their everyday lives.  It is the latter that interest most photographers and creative people, even if the touristy places are also a necessity if you are ever going to understand the history and grandeur of these famous cities.  Such is the case in Stockholm, where visiting the busy Sergels torg and the beautiful, horseshoe-shaped Nybroviken harbor area are a must.  But so are the more off-the-beaten-path places like the Katarina-Sofia hilltop neighborhood with its cobblestone streets and its quaint, tree-shaded parks like Mosebacke torg, always blessed by the lazy, yellow light of a northern summer sun.  So it is possible to get lost in Stockholm after all.  In the process you are sure to discover not only the beauty of an ancient city, but also the wonders of a life with a more humane rhythm and balance.  It is nice to know that such places still exist and that such a life is still possible in this modern, hectic world.  Maybe it has something to do with only having a somewhat homogeneous population of about 9.6 million in the entire country (about half the population of New York state), or the fact that most of the year the country remains sun-starved and indoors.  Who knows.  Whatever the reason behind that lifestyle is, there is no denying that it is there nonetheless.  Just don’t try getting a pizza delivered to your front door at midnight on a weekday.  That, my friend, is why the Swedes come to our neck of the woods for.

Enchanting Stockholm In July

View of the city of Stockholm, Sweden from the  Fjällgatan hills in Södermalm.
View of the city of Stockholm, Sweden from the Fjällgatan hills in Södermalm.
A beautiful day in Stockholm to enjoy incredible harbor views from outside the Fotografiska Museum in Södermalm.
A beautiful day in Stockholm to enjoy incredible harbor views from outside the Fotografiska Museum in Södermalm.
While Stockholm is a very modern city, historical sections in town have been beautifully preserved with all their charm and character.
While Stockholm is a very modern city, historical sections in town have been beautifully preserved with all their charm and character.
Musicians are generally found along the hard-to-find, 231 meter Brunkebergstunneln in Norrmalm.
Musicians are generally found along the hard-to-find, 231 meter Brunkebergstunneln in Norrmalm.
Cobblestone streets are everywhere in Stockholm along side streets away from the city center.
Cobblestone streets are everywhere in Stockholm along side streets away from the city center.
Stockholm cafes are among the best in the world and premium people-watching spots must be secured early.
Stockholm cafes are among the best in the world and premium people-watching spots must be secured early.
Just like in Germany, the wonderful bakeries in Stockholm elevate bread baking to an art form.
Just like in Germany, the wonderful bakeries in Stockholm elevate bread baking to an art form.
If there is ever a need to study how societies achieve the proper work-life balance, Stockholm would be the place to conduct such study.
If there is ever a need to study how societies achieve the proper work-life balance, Stockholm would be the place to conduct such study.
It is hard to decide on a favorite spot in Gamla Stan, the Old Town, but this particular corner of the world did it for me.
It is hard to decide on a favorite spot in Gamla Stan, the Old Town, but this particular corner of the world did it for me.
Watching a Stockholm sunset from the top of the Observatorienlunden is one of the most romantic experiences in this incredible city.
Watching a Stockholm sunset from the top of the Observatorienlunden is one of the most romantic experiences in this incredible city.

It has definitely taken me a long time to visit this jewel of the north, but the long wait has only made me enjoy this glorious city that much more.  Stockholm, Sweden is one of those places that is much more than a city.   Yes, it is absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful architecture and incredible views that seem to pop right out of a postcard.  But more than that, Stockholm seems to be a state of mind, a place that for those of us coming out of the über busy, constant stress western part of the world, seems to have almost a zen quality to it.  Don’t get me wrong, the place is quite busy on its own, but you can’t spend more than a few days in the city without feeling that there is a certain rhythm to life here that is somehow lacking in our personal worlds.  When visiting the residential area of Hornstull in the southern island of Södermalm, I actually met couples of professionals around 10:00 AM at a café who were actually enjoying a cup of coffee and a croissant together before going off to work.  That’s right, 10:00 AM, couples, moving as in concert with the slow, yellow light of a morning sun.  Who are these people?

No doubt the city itself has a lot to do with people’s attitudes towards everything from work to family life.  A conglomeration of islands, Stockholm is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty that is best appreciated during the warmer summer months.  The busy city center of Norrmalm rapidly gives way to the incredible middle island of Gamla Stan, or Old Town, anchored around the imposing Royal Palace and Parliament building.  And then, there’s easy-going Södermalm, with views of the city of Stockholm that will take your breath away.  Perhaps more than any other area in the city, Södermalm personifies the quintessential Scandinavian lifestyle, at least as the rest of the world imagines it.  Beautifully old architecture around the cobblestone streets of Bastugatan and Pryssgränd, eclectic and trendy in the SoFo (south of  Folkungagatan street) district, and idyllically laid back around its western Hornstull waterside neighborhood, Södermalm appeared to me to be the perfect place to live and raise a family.  The incredible city views along the Monteliusvägen trail and the hilltop hangout at Mosebacke Terassen only add to the area’s incredible charm.

But there’s a lot more to Stockholm than Södermalm that I will be addressing over the coming days, even when fully aware that nothing I say here can truly capture the full scope and wonders of this great city.  Even now when my feet are firmly planted back home where the skies are not as blue in a 24/7 world of take-out coffee and fast food restaurants, I’m finding it hard to release my mental grip from around that Stockholm state of mind.  Don’t know how long I’ll be able to hang on to that feeling, but I’m going to try as hard as I can not to loose it.