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Easter in Sweden

Dr. Anton Anderssen, eTN Special Correspondent  Apr 10, 2009

The word Easter probably originates from Ēastre, the Norse goddess of dawn. In the Nordic countries, pre-Christian symbols such as eggs and hares are part of ancient Ēastre festivals, which celebrate fertility. The hare is a symbol of Ēastre because it re-emerges in the spring, and is noted for its fecundity. Throughout Scandinavia, traces of goddess origins survive into modern culture. One fun example is the tradition to dress little children as witches, and send them door to door requesting candy in exchange for decorated pussy willows or crayon drawings.

Stockholm has been the cultural, media, political, and economic center of Sweden since the 13th century, and Swedes have done a marvelous job of showcasing their ancient Viking glory. A visit to Stockholm is unlike any other European capital. Over 30% of the city area is made up of waterways and another 30% is made up of parks and green spaces, giving Stockholm a natural charm

Situated on the border between Lake Mälaren and the 24,000 islands and islets in the archipelago, Stockholm is a watercraft heaven. My favorite way to tour the area is with Strömma Kanalbolaget . This tour operator takes guests on quaint boat rides to irresistibly charming villages and tourist attractions.

My favorite boat ride is to Drottningholm , the private residence of the royal family of Sweden. This fairy-tale palace is opulent and romantic. If you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of one of the princesses at her window viewing the rose garden. Everyone at the palace is in high spirits, in joyful anticipation of Crown Princess Victoria’s upcoming wedding in the spring of 2010.

The Court Theatre at Drottningholm is the oldest surviving theatre in Europe. Built in 1766, it still contains the original stage machinery, all operated by hand. Each summer, it stages wonderful performances of opera almost exactly as they would have been seen and heard in the 18th century. Many of the sets are original, the orchestra uses authentic instruments.

We adored the pleasant boat ride from Stockholm harbor to Fjäderholmarna village. Wood carvers and glass blowers create charming crafts on this child-friendly island. We had a delectable dinner on the waterfront, where there are a variety of restaurants serving traditional Swedish cuisine.

Another fascinating Strömma Kanalbolaget boat excursion is to Björkö, a trading center established in the 750’s, usually referred to as Sweden’s first real town. The narrated boat tour and costumed interpreter at the historical site gave us the sense of travelling over 1,000 years backward in time.

We buy The Stockholm Card on every visit to Stockholm; it’s a timed pass allowing entrance to 75 museums and attractions, with free travel, sightseeing, and bonus offers. Our favorite places to visit on the card include Gröna Lund's Amusement Park , The Vasa Museum , Skansen Open-Air Museum , Rosendal Palace , and The Royal Palace .

When we first visited to Sweden, many years ago, we stayed at a very special youth hostel called af Chapman , a steel full-rigged ship moored on the western shore of the islet Skeppsholmen in central Stockholm. Our porthole had a perfect view of the Royal Palace. Rooms run about $28 per night per person in a dorm, slightly higher in double rooms.

Now that we are no longer spring chickens, our favorite hotel is the Sheraton Stockholm . From this delightful abode, rooms with a view overlook the City Hall where the annual Nobel Prize ceremony is held. Check their website for free night offers.

Airfare from the US to Stockholm varies by season, but shoulder season rates have been under $500 round trip from consolidators like . International flights land at Arlanda, which is about 20 minutes from the city. Flygbussarna provides squeaky-clean airport bus service to and from all four airports into the heart of Stockholm. They are a godsend when trying to get down to Skavsta airport for the no-frills flights. For travelers already in Europe, the least expensive way to get to Stockholm is to check rates weekly on and purchase tickets when they have one of their “fly for one-cent” sales. If you fly RyanAir, be very careful not to go over the baggage weight limit, as the overage fees are brutal.

If your visit to Stockholm is limited to a one-day cruise excursion, it would be hard to choose between the Vasa Museum or Skansen as the most important attraction, because they are both outrageously interesting. If you have children, then the scales probably tip in favor of Skansen, an outdoor living history museum. To reach Skansen from downtown Stockholm, take the Santa Clause Tram to the royal park of Djurgården.

Easter week 2009 is celebrated at Skansen in different ways. On Maundy Thursday children all over Sweden come to Skansen dressed as witches, to deliver Easter letters and receive candy. In some of Skansen’s log cabins, an Easter feast is prepared and Swedish Easter traditions explained. Skansen offers craft classes so kids can make their own witch’s broom.

Community Of Sweden is a website similar to Facebook where fans of Sweden can connect and share information, travel plans, and make new Swedish friends. The website is free and easy to use. is Sweden’s official travel and tourist information web site. Here, you can search for holiday information, images of Sweden and its culture.

Easter in Sweden
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