Stockholm A-Z: Djurgården

D is for Djurgården

For me, it’s easy to forget about the island of Djurgården. It feels so far away. But actually, it’s not very far at all. A 10 minute bike ride or a 20 minute run and you are there.

Djurgården is the ‘pleasure island’ for Stockholmers. Located in Stockholm’s harbour, it hosts museums, galleries, gardens, a zoo, a funfair, a market, cafés, restaurants, a theatre, hotels. The list goes on.

When I first moved to Sweden, I used to think it was stupid to have so many museums concentrated in one area. I used to find it tedious to have to go out to the same destination every time I wanted to go to one of these museums.

But I have changed my mind. I think Djurgården is amazing.

It is one of Stockholm’s truly unique features. Going to Djurgården is like visiting a sanctuary, away from the stresses of urban life, where it is all about focusing on recreation.

The existence of Djurgården is deeply engrained in the Stockholmers’ minds, and strongly rooted in history. As far back as the 1200’s, the island was a royal hunting ground. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the focus shifted from royal hunting to recreation for the public. The 16th century historian Olas Magni describes ‘sculling girls conveying lads and maidens out to play and disport themselves.’

But the true rise of Djurgården happened in the late 1800’s, when a horse-drawn omnibus line was created linking the city to the island. And in 1897 the great Stockholm Exhibition took place there.

This put Djurgården firmly on the map where it still remains today as one of the Stockholmers’ most favourite places to disport themselves.

In the garden of (Sw)Eden

Runny nose? Itchy eyes? Headache? I think I can easily diagnose what is wrong with you.

Summer is here. The sun is high. The air is warm. The burgeoning trees are in full bloom and the air is heady with pollen. You are probably, like me, one of the 10% of the world’s population that suffers from pollen allergy. In Sweden, there are tens of thousands of people who are allergic. It’s raging wild. It’s like a national epidemic. They innoculated us against swine flu. Why not this?

According to statistics I saw the other day, Sweden has the highest rate of pollen allergy per capita than most other countries in the world. Why is this? Various theories abound.

Some say that Swedes are simply too clean. They are so squeaky clean that they cannot deal with bacteria and other alien elements, such as pollen, in their environment.

Others say that Swedes are soft. The long winter indoors doesn’t equip them for the amount of pollen that explodes in their eyes and nostrils this time of the year.

Others claim it is the nature of the flora in Sweden that makes the residents more susceptible. Birch, widely present in Sweden is, apparently, a nasty old pollen producer.

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear. It is one of life’s ironies.

After a long winter, the beautiful Swedish summer finally arrives. But many people can’t be outside because of the poisonous pollen.

I guess it’s just to squirt in the eye drops, pop the allergy pill, step out into the park and accept that even paradise – the garden of (Sw)Eden – had a snake.