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Notes from Stockholm and the archipelago

We recently returned from Sweden, a trip of many cultural highlights – I now understand the true meaning of smorgasbord – which combined urbane and engaging Stockholm and the wild and beautiful archipelago.

Time in the city was shared between Langholmen – we slept soundly in the original cells of this former prison located on a peaceful green island – and the laid-back and comfortable Story hotel in Norrmalm. The Pelikan and Bakfickan restaurants are highly recommended, both serve their own take on traditional Swedish cuisine. The former has a 400-year history in different city locations, the latter is the so-called ‘hip-pocket’ of the opera, bar-seating only in this intimate venue. Skogskyrkogården, the Sigurd Lewerentz and Gunnar Asplund designed Woodland Cemetery was given world heritage site status in 1989, it is a beautiful example of design in harmony with landscape. To add to our mix we spent an evening, which turned into a night, making friends with Stockholm hipsters and watching Sweden v England Euro ’12 football at the outdoor club venue Tradgarden. The locals compare it to Berlin, we thought similar to Hackney in London, either way it was fun.

After some days we travelled east by ferry to the central archipelago. Equipment and provisions were packed into large sea-kayaks as we embarked on a week-long exploration of some of the 30,000 islands and skerries. We meandered through countless islands and channels eventually reaching the edge of the archipelago where eastwards the horizon is only sea. Continue that way and eventually reach Helsinki. On June 22nd we stopped at Loka on the island of Moja and celebrated Midsommarrafton with the locals. This ancient folk festival involves the fashioning of flower-crowns, singing and dancing around a maypole and later feasting and drinking.

We saw some great stores in Stockholm but a particularly interesting discovery, and a reminder of home, was Stutterheim, a small Stockholm-based rainwear brand. A reminder of home because their business concept has many parallels with Cherchbi. I stumbled across their shop Regn in the Sodermalm district, the weather probably drew me to the coats and boots behind a rain-splashed window. Their small collection is entirely made in Stockholm, only three seamstresses work on production and each coat is individually signed. Designs are stripped back and minimal, the proportions are lovely, I was told they use the best Italian rubberised fabrics but have also registered their own tartan design, used as a lining fabric, which is woven in Scotland but in a Swedish colour story. The brand strap line ‘Swedish melancholy at its driest’ reinforces Stutterheims clever playfulness.