Sweden the pariah

It is well known that Sweden has taken a different approach to the pandemic, one that didn’t involve totally locking down society and enforcing quarantine and curfew. Instead, the Swedish way relied on the responsibility of the population to go about life, with some restrictions and be careful. Time will tell if this was the right choice in the long run.

In the short run, we see that Sweden has a relatively high incidence of death from Covid-19. It is of course hard to compare figures, because it depends on what and how you are counting. Sweden cross checks against the death register and counts every death, in every location. Not just in hospitals, or in intensive care units. Because the virus got into care homes, the vast majority of deaths is unfortunately found in the over 80 age group.

It seems like Sweden is now paying a price for the more relaxed corona strategy. With countries around the world slowly opening up, they have released lists of approved countries from where tourists are allowed. Sweden is not on many of these lists. Swedes are perceived as plague-carrying high risk tourists.

Sweden’s neighbours Finland, Norway and Denmark have opened up for travel after their lockdowns. But the borders to Sweden remain closed. Sweden has become the social pariah of Scandinavia. Norway released an interesting decision this week. No traveling to Sweden, except to the Swedish Baltic island of Gotland. However, domestic travel is allowed in Sweden, so the popular holiday island of Gotland will be packed with Swedes, mostly from Stockholm, crammed in together with Norwegian tourists. Not sure how Norway was thinking on that one.

Of course, as time goes on, Swedish tourists will be welcome again around the world. As Sweden’s death toll reduces, and the virus ebbs out, borders will open again. It’s just an usual situation right now for Swedes to find themselves unpopular.

So, staycation is the melody of summer 2020. My plans include a socially-distanced trip to lake Vättern, and a road trip up north. I’m also going to explore my hometown of Stockholm more.

If you’re staying in Sweden, what do you plan to do?

100 years of Swedish actresses who conquered Hollywood

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It can hardly have escaped anyone’s attention that Swedish actress Alicia Wikander is currently the sweetheart of Hollywood. Receiving an Oscar, marrying film star Michael Fassbender, coupled with fantastic acting ability, grace and poise, has positioned her firmly as the actress of her generation.

As I read about Alicia, I became curious about other Swedish actresses who have conquered Hollywood. To my surprise, she is the latest in a list of Swedish actresses stretching back 100 years. I found that there was at least one Swedish actress who broke through per decade (with questionable exception of the 90’s) and who made the Transatlantic step from Nordic success to international recognition and fame.

Here’s the list,

  • 2010s – Alicia Wikander
  • 2000s – Noomi Rapace
  • 1990s – Urma Thurman (pushing it I know – she has roots in Trelleborg)
  • 1980’s – Lena Olin
  • 1970’s – Maud Adams
  • 1960’s – Ann Margret
  • 1950s – Anita Ekberg
  • 1940’s – Ingrid Bergman
  • 1930’s/20’s – Greta Garbo (dominated the 20’s and 30’s)
  • 1920’s – Sigrid Holmquist
  • 1910’s – Anna Q Nilsson 

Other internationally-famous Swedish actresses, past and present

  • Rebecca Ferguson (2010’s)
  • Sofia Helin (2010’s)
  • Malin Åkerman (2000’s)
  • Britt Ekland (1960’s)
  • Viveca Lindfors (1950’s)
  • Zarah Leander (1940’s – Europe, refused to relocate to USA)

Maybe you have a favourite that I have missed out? If so, who?

The sound of the city

 

Often when we travel, we return with stories of food, climate, people. But one of the things that strikes me when I’m abroad is sound. Each city, each place, seems to have its own sound identity. I love sitting in the evenings looking out over cityscapes and drinking in the melodies of the night. In Stockholm, there is the hum of boats or of water lapping gently against shores, wind blowing through trees. In Bangkok it’s the sound of the tuk-tuks and the tinkle of chimes. In Delhi it’s the distant voices from temples and markets and all night traffic. In New York, it’s the hum of traffic and people, the buzzing of neon lights and the scream of emergency vehicles. Here in Nairobi, where I am today, it’s the sound of traffic interspersed with drum beats and wailing music.  Distant voices carrying through the night full of woeful stories. 

As I sit and listen, I experience another layer of the city, another layer of the culture. With full respect to food and climate, it’s the sound of the city that rules the night. 

From Sweden to Kazakhstan

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Am currently in Kazakhstan, a country worlds away from Sweden. The 8th largest country in the world, Kazakhstan is the largest land-locked nation of the globe. And home to Borat. The feeling here is a mix of Chinese, Russian, Mongolian and Central Asian. The contrasts between rich and poor, old and new, traditional, contemporary and Soviet are stark. And right now, it’s cold. Minus 10 degrees and snowy, the mountains tower above the former capital of Almaty and host a wide range of winter sports. Although there’s snow, you couldn’t feel further away from Sweden here. And that, for me, is part of the joy of travelling -stepping outside of our daily routines, comparing differences and appreciating both them and what we have in our own lives.