I am greeted with paper streamers and my beautiful Swedish friend Sandra at the airport in Stockholm. It is a fitting introduction to the wistful beauty and spirit of this city. I feel quite at home in Stockholm and it is good to be back. Last time I was here it was below zero and everything was fairytale iced and snowcapped.
Sandra is zoologist, so it’s not entirely unexpected that we visit a giant flower in Bergianska Tradgarden, a botanic garden, on our first day out. When I say giant flower, I really do mean giant – Amorphophallus titanum (Giant misshapen phallus, if you’re looking for an english translation). It is 1.9m tall and flowers for approximately three days every two years. It creates quite a stir with every flowering so we even had to wait in a line to catch a glimpse. Last time it flowered in Stockholm there were 7,000 visitors and another in Basil pulled 25,000 visitors.
I was saved from the pungent rotting meat smell of the bloom by my sniffle nose, but Sandra got a good whiff and reported that it was not as bad as she thought it was going to be.
Perhaps incongruously, and certainly marvellously, we finish our day with a trip to the local theme park, Gröna Lund, accompanied by Sandra’s friend Jacques. Sandra is excited about a new ride, an 80m spinning around in the air ride, and I’m trying to remember the last time I went to a theme park and I cannot.
We arrive around 5pm and decide we’ll only stay until 8pm. We trail out at 11pm having ridden the bumper cars twice before exiting and I take away a slight headache from laughing so much. Yes. That can happen. I can laugh too much.
Sometimes it is really nice to remember the small person inside who can laugh for six hours straight. One of the last things we visit is the ‘fun house’, as Sandra terms it. It is a series of rooms and corridors with strange and hilarious contraptions to get through. Jacques and I become trapped in a big rotating tunnel. I make the mistake of lying down so that I am tumbled over by the tunnel, but then I can’t actually get up and both of us are thrown round and round for some minutes until I eventually drag myself out of the tunnel, hysterical with laughter. Sandra tried to get photos, but they mostly look like mad colourful blurs.
One of the best things about the park was watching the sun go down whilst whistling around the tall rides and seeing beautiful Stockholm with her waterways, her architectural beauty, her glowing summer wonder, bathed in swatches of sunset, spread around us like a golden playground. Full of wonder.