Sommarlov (summer vacation)
All Swedes have the right to five weeks vacation every year. Most take at least a few weeks during the months of July or August to enjoy the summer weather with their friends and families.
I’m presently on my own extended version of sommarlov, traveling around Sweden for July and August. I haven’t been to Sweden since I was an exchange student here five years ago, so I’m visiting as many people as I can. Even though I have been to various parts of the country and stayed with people at different stages of life, I have noticed that many enjoy doing the same things during their sommarlov.
Swedish Sommarlov Essentials:
1. Bada (swimming) Whether in the Atlantic ocean or a lake, Swedes enjoy taking a dip in the summer. Lake water is colder than in Minnesota as they are fed by frigid mountain streams, but that doesn’t stop even small children from jumping right in! Swimming can be a family affair with everyone from toddlers to grandmothers wading and sun bathing.
After swimming for a bit, it’s necessary to experience the next item on my list…
2. Glass (ice cream) Sweden, like the US, is in the top ten countries for ice cream consumption. In addition to regular shops, there are kiosks or stands that sell ice cream in parks, at the beach and on the street. Even dairy-free folks can enjoy sorbet, which every stand has at least one flavor of. Each cone or cup of ice cream comes with a little, brightly-colored spoon to help facilitate eating.
3. Vandra (hiking)
Allemansrätten or everyone’s right is a law that is based on the idea that nature belongs to everyone and therefore all should have free access to it. You are free to hike, bike, swim and camp almost anywhere as well as pick flowers, berries and mushrooms. This means that if you see a beautiful patch of woods you can explore it without fear of trespassing.
As a result, a strong outdoors culture has developed and many Swedes enjoy camping, hiking and biking in the summer. It can be done in a place specifically designated for those activities or you can forge your own trail. In my travels so far I’ve been able to pick (and eat) wild blueberries, gooseberries, currants and smultron (wild strawberries). I’ve hiked around a island in the Kosteröarna Naturreservat (the coast islands nature preserve) where cars are not allowed and swam whenever I came across a beach that looked pleasant. I followed trails and made my own. In short, I feel very privileged that even though I am a foreigner I am able to benefit from this privilege.
4. Grilla (grilling)
Grilling is pretty similar to Minnesota except for one-time grills, which I’ve never seen before. It consists of a foil pan, the type you can bake hot-dish in, with some sort of flammable element in the middle and grill-like wires over the top for the meat and veggies. If you don’t have access to a fire pit or regular grill, you can buy one of these ready-made and use it wherever.
In addition to mustard and ketchup on your meat or veggie substitute, Swedes use this thing called American Dressing. It comes in a tube, is light orange colored and tastes somewhat like a mix of mayonnaise and ketchup. I’ve told a few Swedes now that I’ve never seen that in the United States. They laugh and have no explanation where this food item came from.
If you’re looking for something to do on your own sommarlov, I recommend any of the above activities. They aren’t groundbreaking but they are tried-and-true ways to have fun with friends and family in the great outdoors, whether Sweden or the U.S.