Stockholm is actually built on a collection of islands which trail out into the sea. During the summer, Swedes head outdoors and soak in the sun as much Vitamin D before the long, dark winter returns. In Swedish fashion, we were off to spend two days at Henrik’s family’s cabin in the archipelago. We were joined by Jonna, another one of their friends.
We boarded a ferry and rode out of Stockholm for about an hour making stops at various islands on the way. Eventually it was our turn to get off and we met Henrik’s mother, who lent us their family’s motor boat. We hopped in and took off for the cabin, located on a much smaller island about 15 minutes away.
It took us a few attempts to pull up to the dock and I hopped out. “We’re not really boat people,” Henrik confided in me when I asked him how to tie the knots correctly. Well, nothing one sailor’s knot can do that ten square knots can’t I thought, as I secured the boat to the dock with a mountain of rope. It may not have been pretty, but the boat wasn’t going anywhere.
The archipelago is beautiful. The islands are covered in rugged pine forests. Brown grasses with accents of red grow on the exposed rocky outcroppings, while moss dominates the shady interior. There were four well-tended cabins on the island. Henrik’s family had planted an herb garden amongst the rocks and there were wild raspberries and blueberries.
Before we settled in for the evening, Henrik explained the bathroom to us. There was no sewer system on the island, so the toilet was an incinerator. It looked like a regular toilet, but there was a bag inside the bowl. When you “flushed”, the bowl opened and the bag dropped inside. Then you hit a switch and burned your #1s and #2s to smithereens.
Mandy and I settled into the guest cabin located on a hill behind the main building. That night, we slept 10 hours straight before waking up to the birds in the morning. I put on my boardshorts and headed down for a swim, but the wind picked up and a light rain started to come down. Henrik and I changed plans, threw on boots and sweatshirts, and grabbed the fishing poles.
“Do you know how to fish?” he asked me.
“Yep,” I replied, “we need beer.” We took a couple cans with us and walked down to the water to catch our dinner. Henrik poured some beer into the ocean to attract the fish while I dumped out an offering to the gods. Mandy joined us and we tried a few different spots and different lures, but, shockingly, without any success. Still, it was a nice way to explore the island.
We returned empty-handed, but luckily Henrik had a back-up plan. He is an excellent chef who has trained at Noma (the consensus #1 restaurant in the world the past few years) in addition to other highly regarded restaurants. He now focuses his efforts on importing high quality Spanish food, which he distributes to top-end restaurants in Stockholm. He’d raided his supplies to bring some special delicacies to the cabin including the Jamon Iberico, a legendary meat procured from black Iberian pigs raised in southern Spain. The pigs feed predominantly on fallen acorns, giving the meat a rich, nutty flavor.
In fact, we ate like kings during our entire stay at the cabin. Henrik cooked, I gathered wild herbs, Karolina seasoned potatoes and burgers, and Jonna picked berries and made dessert with homemade whipped cream and bananas. Mandy, a good cook herself, sat back with nothing to do and helped me taste test it all.
Life is good in the archipelago.