I love experiencing new things. Took advantage of the low season and went to Scandinavia during a period no one wants to go there. Basically it’s mostly dark and grey with just 6 hours of daylight from about 9am to 3pm. Most visitors pick summer as the sunlight is blocked out by a blanket of clouds, during winter. Actually there was less than an hour of actual sunlight a day when I was there. It was exciting to see the clouds part and the blue skies revealed.
The dark got me so confused. Often I thought it was 10 at night, only to discover that it was only 4 in the afternoon. I also tended to get sleepy earlier. It was a weird, disorienting feeling, but very cool for someone who lives in perpetual summer and predictable 12 hours of sunlight every day of the year. Bring on the extremes I say. Ok I take that back. Just the cold extremes. I can’t bear heat and would never survive a heat wave.
I relished the cold. It was colder in Helsinki with the icy rain. But to me the rain was more like a misty drizzle when compared to the baths you get in a tropical Singapore thunderstorm. I was fine without an umbrella and even though the temperature ranged from 2 to 8 degrees celcious, I found it lovely. Just beware of the icy winds. Only wished that it would have snowed. The weather was unfortunately unusually warm this year and it usually snows around this time. That was one thing I was disappointed about.
The cold, and the chocolate crossaints from the famous Helsinki Department Store – Stockmans are some of the things I long for now. Travel is sometimes not only about the new destination and culture, but about how it renews us and changes our perspectives. Generally it made me appreciate Singapore food and sunlight which I used to hate. When we could see a bit of blue sky it made us so happy. It’s always the case isn’t it? We appreciate something only when it’s taken away and given back to us in small quantities. So here are the 7 things I loved about Stockholm and Helsinki, and will greatly miss:
1. Deliciously Cold Weather and absolutely no sweating
2. Nature and all those wintery trees
3. Plump Nordic Animals – Cows, chickens, ducks and geese.
4. Crossaints that were strangely better than what I had in Paris.
5. Scandinavian Christmas Decorations and all those wonderful trolls
6. Old & Stately Architecture, especially the charming fairy tale cottages and towering church steeples.
7. Tastefully Pretty Products made with blonde wood or glass.
I am glad that Ikea is in Singapore. When I need my Scandinavian fix, I’ll head there and the prices of products are cheaper in Singapore, probably due to the economies of scale. Although officially Finland isn’t part of Scandinavia, I found as someone coming from the Asian tropics, the two countries had more similarities than differences. Helsinki has more of a Russian feel as it was under Russian rule for a century. Prior to that it was part of the Swedish Empire. Helsinki has a minority Swedish population just like the Indian minority population in Singapore. Strangely I found more blonde and blue eyed beauties in Helsinki rather than Sweden, perhaps because I expected to see blonde and blue eyes everywhere in Sweden. The dark haired Helsinki women were gorgeous too and they looked a bit Russian. Well, perhaps some of them were as Russian is only a 2 hour flight or cruise and train ride away. In Sweden, I noted that quite a number of men looked like models.
One thing I won’t miss? The high prices I could not afford, so perhaps that’s why I found the food crappy (cold and bland sandwiches and pastries that looked wonderful but turned out stale and hard mostly) as I tried to have the cheapest food possible. Food, Transport, Clothing (practically everything) was double the price compared to Singapore.
The standard of living in these countries is high and they get higher salaries so I think a holiday in Singapore would be wonderful for them with the sun, blue skies and cheaper goods. From the reality shows I saw on TV there, the Scandinavians seem to love holidays in sunny Turkey and Morroco.
But I really think it’s a dreamy life to live in such a gracious society where education and healthcare is free and nature is abundant. I found that people automatically gave up their seats to the eldery, and women with babies, on the trams, without a moment of hesitation.