Updated on January 23, 2017
Right of Public Access
One afternoon, our Airbnb host Tomas knocked on our door and asked us if he could give us a tour of his “outdoor facilities.” After showing us his hot tub and pool, which were closed, Tomas took us across the street and through a wooded pathway that led to a lake and a set of family kayaks which he explained we were free to use. On the way home, Tomas pointed out places to pick berries and eventually motioned to a set of stairs that lead seemingly to nowhere and told us we should, “climb his mountain sometime.” This was the first thing I did after the tour, and it was awesome. The mountain was a huge rocky hill with a beautiful view of a nearby lake and the surrounding area. How many people have a view like this in their backyard?
Next, I took Tomas up on his offer and borrowed one of his kayaks. Since Sweden is covered in lakes, you don’t have to travel very far to find a beautiful view. As I rowed out alone into the middle of the lake, I had an incredible moment. The sun was out, the weather was beautiful, birds circled overhead, and ducks swam all around. I took in the beautiful sights and sounds of Sweden and was overwhelmed with the reality of where I was in life. I was thankful for the things that happened that led me to this new chapter and proud of the decisions I made that made it possible. I was out, by myself, in the middle of a lake in Sweden, my new home!
On the walk back to our Airbnb, I stopped to pick some blueberries at a location that Tomas had pointed out on his tour of the outdoor facilities. Sweden has a concept known as Allemansrätten (the Right of Public Access). This basically means that nature belongs to everyone. You can stop wherever you’d like to pick berries, flowers, or mushrooms. You can travel wherever your heart desires and enjoy the beautiful nature in this country. However, as Spiderman (or was it Spiderman’s uncle) said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Since the land is open to everyone, everyone has a responsibility to keep it healthy and beautiful. This is a responsibility that the people who live in Sweden take extremely seriously. Needless to say, the blueberries and raspberries I picked were delicious. I kept a glass full on hand to munch on whenever I wanted to eat them or add some to my cereal.
For dinner, JoEllen and I packed a picnic and enjoyed the 10:00 pm sunset with a view of the lake. At one point we heard a loud splash and saw the head of some mammal chasing ducks (in Swedish anka). I could have sworn it was a reindeer (ren)! Our host Tomas later told me it was probably just a beaver (beaver)… Silly Americans. JoEllen and I left our picnic very much in love with our new country. The warm and sunny day in nature did lots to foster this happy mood.
JoEllen and I are not the only ones who love the nature in this part of Sweden. Later on that week, we decided to go on a walk and explore the paths in our neighborhood. We saw several cars parked in a dirt lot near a trail that led into the woods and thought, “Lets go see where the path leads!” As we walked up, several others were walking away. I thought to myself that we were receiving some strange glances from the strangers but decided that this was all in my head. Eventually the pathway led to a clearing with a view of the lake. I noticed something large and white laying on the ground… a pale, white buttocks! I surveyed the scene and realized that this was a nudist alcove. JoEllen’s nearby gasp followed by giggles told me that she had come to the same realization. As we took a sharp turn and went the other way we couldn’t help but to have a good laugh. The majority of the people we glanced at were elderly men having a picnic. On the walk home, JoEllen had fun brainstorming for the best foods to bring to a nudist picnic: soup – ouch! Spaghetti – too messy! Ribs – eww! Popsicles – don’t make eye contact!
My next experience with nature was a little more wholesome. I knew that JoEllen and I wouldn’t be living in the Airbnb on the outskirts of Stockholm forever, so I decided to explore the area while JoEllen was working one day. I was very pleased at what I found when I took a turn and stumbled upon Skogskyrkogården (Woodland Cemetery) which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site in Sweden. I spent the afternoon quietly wandering the forest and that had several alcoves with graves and a few statues.
Though I have never been very much of an outdoorsy person, I can’t help but to appreciate the geography and beauty of Sweden. Even if you live in the center of the city, you are always just a few blocks away from a lake, forest, or park. As the seasons begin to change, I notice that Stockholm has very distinct seasons that vary greatly and offer a fresh and beautiful perspective.