I had the incredible pleasure of visiting Sweden for a few weeks this summer. Looking back it’s now a blur of family dinner tables, smiling faces, cobbled streets and warm sun. This wasn’t my first trip to the homeland but I couldn’t resist diving straight in on my first day in Stockholm and taking the ultimate tourist walk through Gamla Stan. Most streets are teaming with visitors clutching newly purchased dala horses and troll figurines, snapping pictures of statues and town squares and exclaiming over the ridiculously picturesque setting. It’s easy to forget that Swedes live just past these kitschy shops and bustling cafes. They duck quietly in and out of the neighborhood, dodging tourists, on their way to work or to meet friends in a slightly quieter corner of the city. Gamla Stan remains the heart of Stockholm, in part because it still thrives as a home for so many locals and has (thus far) resisted being completely overrun by the tourist industry.
On my walk I stepped off the beaten path and took a stroll down this residential street. The bicycle was posted up outside of someone’s front door and it struck me as forlorn somehow. Perhaps it was the stark contrast of the quiet scene and the lack of other people in the vicinity that helped bring home to me how alive Gamla Stan truly is, in the hi-honey-I’m-home kind of way.