Sax on the Streets
Chapter 16:
Stockholm, Sweden

A Midsummer Nightmare

© Dan Gordon, 2003

Arriving in “Sweden with more” is wonderful. Arriving on midsummer day is not.

All we wanted to do was spend a day in Sweden to break up the long train trip to Oslo, and we ended up in Stockholm on midsummer, the day in late June when the Nordic countries celebrate the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The Finns and Norwegians celebrate this holiday on a Friday afternoon, ending the business day half a day early to make a long weekend. The Swedes take the whole day off, and the entire country shuts down. So we got off the boat in the morning to an almost empty Stockholm. By dumb luck we found ourselves in the worst place in all of Europe to spend midsummer.

But the holiday is entirely understandable. The Nordic countries have long winters with little sunlight for months at a time, so they are rightfully entitled to celebrate the sun on the day when they have the most of it. People use the long weekend to get out to the beach or countryside. Still, you’d think that whoever was left in the cities would get out and enjoy the sunshine on the day that’s set aside for doing just that. Not so. It’s just not in the character of the Nordic people. If such a holiday existed in the south of Europe, people would sing and dance all through the night, long after the sun they were celebrating had disappeared. Even when it’s not a holiday, the streets of any southern European city teem with activity until the wee hours of the morning. But up in the north of Europe, holiday or no holiday, the streets are quiet and empty in the daylight at 10pm. And on midsummer in Sweden, it’s that way all day long.

We made one attempt to busk the Gamla Stan, but it was so bad that we gave up after 40 minutes. It wasn’t that people weren’t paying attention to us, there were simply no people. We accomplished nothing but to dwindle most of the money we had saved up from Finland on what little food there was to be found. This was now our third visit to Stockholm, and it had killed us twice. I’ll take other cities. We left on the afternoon train, half a day earlier than planned, so that we could make at least some use of the day by getting to Oslo.

Beware the ides of Swedish summer!

Sax on the Streets, by Dan Gordon
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