Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
Magdalena Brolin is the latest in a long line of Vetekatten bakers. ‘Fika is part of who we are, as natural as waking up!’ she laughs. ‘It’s a special moment where you can just stop, sit back, enjoy the good things in life, and appreciate the people who are important to you. The world would be a much happier place if everyone learned how to fika!’
Another of the city’s classic fika venues, Sturekatten, is tucked away on the shady backstreet of Riddargatan. Reached via a corkscrew staircase, it occupies the top floors of a merchant’s house dating from the early 1700s. The traditionally furnished interior is a rabbit’s warren of rooms filled with worn armchairs, faded oil paintings and antique lamps. People fill bone-china cups from communal coffee pots, then queue at the counter to order their choice of rich chokoladboll (chocolate balls), sweet kringla (sugar-dusted pretzels) or slabs of prinsesstarta (a cream-filled sponge, coated in marzipan).
The décor feels antique, but Sturekatten provides a snapshot of contemporary Stockholm: ladies-wholunch gossiping over finger sandwiches, canoodling teenagers snuggled into threadbare sofas, sharpsuited businessmen hammering out deals over black coffee and cinnamon cakes. And in a city that often seems preoccupied with everything that’s new, shiny and modern, these cosy old-world cafés provide a reassuring reminder of bygone days.
Where the old ways are best
It’s a crisp spring morning on the island of Djurgården, a 20-minute ferry from Stockholm’s city centre, and another day is beginning in the 100 year-old town of Skansen. Bathed in sunshine, its streets are a hive of industry. The town’s potters, weavers, saddle-makers, printers, bakers and silversmiths are opening up for the day’s trade, while glassblowers stoke their furnaces, gardeners tend to the allotments and the faint clang of the town’s iron foundry rings out across the hillside. It’s like looking through a window into Sweden’s pre-industrial past – and that’s just as its founder, the academic Artur Hazelius, wanted it.
Covering an area of 75 acres, this huge open-air museum was established in 1891 to recreate the atmosphere of a provincial Swedish town from the early 19th century. Laid out according to a traditional town plan, Skansen’s winding streets are lined with buildings collected from all over Sweden – flax mills and cobblers’ shops, blacksmiths and pharmacies, clapboard churches and merchants’ houses – each one painstakingly disassembled and rebuilt here by hand. The town even has its own Nordic zoo, along with licensed taverns where you can drink home-brewed beer from wooden flagons.
Now populated by a permanent workforce dressed in period costume, Skansen is part social experiment, part living museum. It sounds twee, but it’s a surprisingly involving experience and has helped preserve traditional skills that might otherwise have died out. Björn Rocke is a university lecturer who works part-time in Skansen’s furniture workshop. ‘It’s vital that we preserve the old ways,’ he explains, shouting above the deafening thrum of pulleys and bandsaws. ‘Many other countries have lost these things, but at Skansen, we have the opportunity to preserve them for future generations.’ As he talks, he feeds a block of oak into a buzzing lathe and quickly fashions a chair leg to add to a dozen others stacked on the dusty workbench.