Friday, March 27, 2015

Moving to Minneberg

Alviks Båtklubb  |  Moving to Minneberg on afeathery*nest  |

We made it over the water from Vasastan to Minneberg and in less than a week we've got everything unpacked and (mostly) put away. The only things left to do are to hang our pictures and to wait for our media console, TV, and bed to arrive before we're 100% completely settled.

It's so strange to be in a less-urban environment, while still being in Stockholm. There's no cafè or boutiques nearby, no hustle and bustle, nowhere to pop out for a quick dinner in the neighborhood—everything is pretty much a 15-20 walk or bus ride away.

And the effect of less charming, so to say, surroundings is taking some getting used to, too, especially after living in beautiful Vasastan with all its turn-of-the-century architecture and number of people populating the streets. Our new area was built in the 80's—and it shows, and the sidewalks aren't quite as lively.

On the other hand, we have a spacious, yet cozy, layout that is more than enough for just two people (and more storage space than we know what to do with, seeing as it's twice as big as our home in NYC and in Hammarby Sjöstad—all for a few dollars more than we paid in rent last summer) and a pretty insane view from our apartment. I took down all the curtains just to have this unfettered view from every window possible:

Minneberg + Ulvsundasjön  |  Moving to Minneberg on afeathery*nest  |

Living in much more space than we've ever had before has its own growing pains, too, like actually being tired from having to walk all the way around to whatever room the other one is in to have a conversation (rather than yelling) and having to walk much farther then ever before to get something forgotten in a coat pocket by the front door and furnishing more empty space than we're used to (thank goodness we're fairly minimalist).

(And what a problem to have, right? It's one I never thought I'd have living in a city.)

But it just feels so enormously wonderful to have our own little nest again. To potter about adjusting the placement of a tulip, to wipe down the kitchen and set the espresso pot on the stove before going to bed. To begin house-ly rituals, like whoever arrives home first lighting the lanterns by the front door so the last one to arrive home has a warm little glow awaiting them. To do all those odd things you do when you're at home and alone with your own, well-known things.

The last few days have been a fast-paced blur of trips to IKEA, home improvement stores, home goods stores, and massive grocery stores to get things in order as quickly as possible (based on my demands), which included more than the normal things you'd do to settle into a new place, at least in the U.S. (like putting in ceiling light fixtures!).

We also did all of that and unpacked while our apartment was being spackled and painted, which was a must, as there was no way we could feel completely at home with all the many holes left behind by previous renters and a lime green bedroom and pea soup green kitchen. It's just not us.

Now though, we've put our stamp on things with white walls, fresh flowers and potted orchids everywhere, our palette of creams, grays, espresso and black, and lots of bare space with candle light reflecting off the walls and windows at night.

Minneberg + Ulvsundasjön view to Kungsholmen  |  Moving to Minneberg on afeathery*nest  |
It also feels completely insane to not hear one single noise from the outside world when we're home—no construction craziness like in NYC or early-morning school festivals like in Hammarby Sjöstad. Just silence. And the occasional seagull or boat toot (which I'm sure will increase as the weather warms up, but is a most welcome soundtrack). The tranquility is transportive—it feels just like that desired mixture of city and "country" I mentioned before.

Across the water I can see the buildings that I photographed so much over the last few months and the places I used to walk (crazily, the clump of white buildings on the left in the first and third pictures of that link are where we live now), which helps our new home to feel familiar and not quite so isolated.

And right outside our building's back door—a quick elevator ride down with a mug of coffee—we can walk along the waterfront on this side of the lake, which is dotted with picnic benches, bathing piers, and barbecue spots, and there's a forest a few minutes' walk away that I've yet to explore, so slowly, slowly we're making our mark on our new neighborhood and before long the surroundings will feel just as familiar to us as the relics of our former American lives that we finally unpacked (after saying goodbye to them more than a year ago).

What I'm saying is—no matter the adjustment period, it feels wonderful to be home again.

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One year ago: How today looks & Week 12
Two years ago: An extension & Banished from the bedroom & Mid-week treat

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A pre-emptive unwinding at sea

Birka Smak av Lappland Cruise  |  A pre-emptive unwinding at sea on afeathery*nest  |
When we saw a deal for a 22-hour cruise further out into and around the Swedish archipelago all the way to the Åland Islands (an autonomous Swedish-speaking region of Finland) on a proper cruise ship (not the smaller day boats we'd spent time on last summer), we hesitated before snapping it up on (a Groupon-like site) because the only weekend that worked for the outing was the one before our move, and that seemed like a harbinger of stress.

But the lure of some of the most beautiful cruise ships in this part of the world, plus the fact that it was one of their Svenska Smaker (Swedish Tastes) food-themed cruises (a "Smak av Lappland / Taste of Lappland", the northern-most region of Sweden: think elk, reindeer, Sami people, and the Northern Lights), was too strong to ignore. We were basically forced to purchase it!

So this weekend, in between packing up our things in Vasastan and after finally confirming all the to-do's we had for the move like hiring movers, handymen, painters and whatnot (in Sweden, since you rent from individual owners versus companies, it's up to you to spackle/paint, register for electricity, etc. before you move in) we traipsed off to a port in Södermalm and set sail on a Birka Cruise ship Sunday evening.

The first thing we did upon embarking was have a drink on the deck while the boat was still docked (when I took the first photo of the post), and then dropped our things off in our room (noting with glee the sea view from our cabin and the fact that it was quite comfortable), and then we went straight up to the main restaurant to sit down to dine as the boat pulled out of the harbor at sunset, leading to fantastic views (seated as we were at a table alongside the wall of windows).

Dinner was divine—I really am so enamored with Swedish cuisine and it was a treat to try a few completely-new-to-me dishes. Our Lappland menu included:
Appetizer: A chanterelle and potato terrine with smoked deer, creamed onion and baked tomato. 
Main Course: A filet of char cooked in the Norrland (a northerly-region of Sweden) style with soft whey cheese, lingonberries, anchovies and herbs in a cream sauce. 
Roasted reindeer with chanterelles, root vegetables, smoked bacon, pickled red onion and a purée of Jerusalem artichokes (which we both took)
Dessert: Cranberry panna cotta with bits of toffee, cloudberry, white chocolate mousse and a small blueberry praline
After dinner we strolled around to get a taste for the evening's entertainment on board: card games, dancing, karaoke, a piano bar and whatnot. We chose to relegate ourselves to the whiskey room for a drink and later before heading to bed we stopped by the "club" and admired all the older couples dancing so elegantly around the room.

(Being a Sunday night cruise it was definitely not a "party boat" type of crowd. There were probably only 10-15 other people our age on deck, while the rest were 65+, which honestly made the whole experience even more enjoyable since we didn't have to deal with any sort of rowdy ruckus).

You'd think that would mean we'd have had a restorative night, but it didn't turn out quite like we planned. In a huge break from our normal M.O., we had a coffee after dinner and then while watching the dancing we took a coffee cocktail, meaning we really got to enjoy the sea view from our room as we slept a total of 30 minutes tops the whole night.

Birka Smak av Lappland Cruise to Mariehman Åland Islands  |  A pre-emptive unwinding at sea on afeathery*nest  |

The next morning I was puffy-eyed and foggy-headed, so I headed up to the top deck for a few slow laps around its circumference. The last few weeks in Sweden have been full of amazing early-spring weather: non-stop, strong sunlight and clear blue skies. It's still quite chilly, but the sun and freshness mean it's wonderful to be out and I felt a little better after soothing my eyes and head with the crisp Finnish air and bracing sunshine.

For breakfast (which was a buffet) we snagged another window-side table and enjoyed the view as we pulled up anchor in Mariehamn (the capital of the Åland Islands) and headed back to Stockholm.

After breakfast I returned to the top deck and found a spot where I could sit without being knocked over by the wind and snoozed a bit with the sun on my face, but then later joined R in our room for a nap before we went to the spa and sauna in the afternoon.

By the time we'd spent an hour there the boat was heading back into familiar waters so we cleaned up, packed, and disembarked in Stockholm just before 4PM where we were greeted by one of my most favorite views in the city.

Stadsgårdsleden and view of Gamla Stan, Stockholm  |  A pre-emptive unwinding at sea on afeathery*nest  |

Then for the last two days we've been packing up in Vasastan and getting ready for the whole moving hullabaloo, which starts later this morning.

More from our new apartment soon!

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One year ago: An amuse-bouche, theoretically & Week 11 & Brighton Beach walk
Two years ago: Snowy deliberations & In search of truth & Monday meanders: 8

Monday, March 16, 2015

Leaving Vasastan

Stately Vasastan architecture in Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |

Later this week we're leaving Vasastan to move to yet another part of the city.

When we arrived here from Hammarby Sjöstad back in November we weren't sure how long we'd be staying, as finding a place to live in Stockholm is notoriously difficult. But given the stroke of luck we had in securing an apartment before we'd even moved to Sweden (thanks to my in-laws) we were hopeful that it would be a short stint, although it could have just as easily been a much longer one.

It ended up taking two and a half months before we found an amazing option, an additional six weeks to confirm we could actually have that apartment, and then after signing the lease, a few more weeks of waiting before we can actually move in.

Princess turrets of Vasastan architecture in Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |
Classic Vasastan architecture in Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |
Total tally? Just shy of five months.

Of course we were incredibly lucky to even have the option of a safe, comfortable place to live while we figured things out (as many don't and just have to deal with living as nomads shuttling around Stockholm), but now we are so, so excited that we'll be moving back into our own place later this week.

And, ooo, what a place it is!

We started off our life in Stockholm by living in Hammarby Sjöstad on the southern-most border of the city for 6 months, and then these last 5 months we've been in Vasastan, the northern-most neighborhood of Stockholm City (but an incredibly easy walking distance to "downtown", Gamla Stan, and Kungsholmen).

Rörstrandsgatan Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |
Rörstrandsgatan Lolodi Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |
Our new secondhand-contract apartment—which is rare in that not only is it for a guaranteed full year, it also comes unfurnished, so we can finally unpack our boxes from storage and purchase some new furniture—is the largest apartment we've ever lived in, about twice the size of our apartment in NYC.


It's on the waterfront.

As in, directly on the waterfront.

As in, the only thing separating our building (and view) from the water is a strip of grass and a few shrubs and trees.

When I finally received the precise address of the apartment we had been emailing the owner about and plugged it in to Google Maps I didn't really believe it. It wasn't until we saw it back in January that it finally sunk in that we may just have snagged the most amazing apartment in all of Stockholm.

Clarification: in all of Stockholm County, because that's the "hitch", if it can be called a hitch. We'll no longer officially be residents of Stockholm City as we have been for the last (almost) year, instead we'll be residents of the borough of Bromma (the apartment is in Traneberg), which is still part of Stockholm County (we're actually just one subway stop out of the city), but not within city lines.

So basically like living in DUMBO or Brooklyn Heights versus Manhattan, which isn't really a con at all for us, as the idea of being so fully in nature and having that level of peace and quiet (not that you can compare the noise level of NYC to Stockholm at all) while being just one subway stop away from the city proper is actually a boon.

It will take a little time to get used to being that "remote" though.

Living on Wall Street in NYC we were in the thick of things, with easy access to literally everything (living as we did on a street where every single subway line had a stop made getting anywhere ridiculously easy).

When we were in Hammarby Sjöstad last summer it was a good 20-minute walk to the subway, but the local tram—the tvärbana that circles Stockholm city—stopped outside our building (the same tram travels all the way up to our new neighborhood, too.) Plus we also had 2 bus lines immediately outside our door and another 2-3 a 10-minute walk away, not to mention a ferry, so we were really well connected.

Also to be found outside our door: two grocery stores, two pharmacies, three cafès, the liquor/wine store and a few restaurants.

Our our new neighborhood-to-be, though, is a full-on neighborhood. There's a little corner market down the street, but that's it. A bus just for the neighborhood makes a loop around and takes you to the subway stop, or you can walk the 15 minutes. From the subway stop there's the subway itself, two tram lines, and a total of only 3 bus lines, so we'll be a bit more isolated than we've been recently.

(The subway stop is also where the proper grocery store is, as well as a pharmacy, a few boutiques, a coffee shop, a gym and whatnot.)

That's what I think I'll miss most about Vasastan, well one of two things, the other being the gorgeous turn-of-the-century architecture.

Blue skies over Vasastan in Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |
Blue skies over Vasastan in Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |
Sankt Eriksbron towards Kungsholmen Stockholm  |  Leaving Vasastan on afeathery*nest  |
My in-laws live a 10-minute walk to the subway station, a few blocks from the airport shuttle bus stop in one direction, a few blocks from the commuter rail station in the other direction, and with something like 10 bus lines in walking distance.

But to be honest, I've barely used my public transit card since moving here last fall—with all the places I frequent (shopping centers, grocery stores, R's work, Old Town, café's, restaurants, the library, potential employers, school, etc.,) within a 30-minute max walk for me, I've just relied on my own two feet (Cleo's been in storage given the snow we've had).

And then there's the neighborhood itself, which I find to be so incredibly beautiful. It doesn't have that glinty, polished look of Hammarby Sjöstad (which I also liked quite a lot), but instead a regal, Maggie Smith-type of elegance, all rich colors and scroll-y ironwork embellishments. The neighborhood we're moving into this week is a bit more homogeneous and monochromatic, having been built as a waterfront neighborhood in the 1980's, so without the industrial beauty of Hammarby Sjöstad or the graceful, old-fashioned dignity of Vasastan, but with spacious layouts, fantastic views, and surrounded on one side by woodland and the other by water—it has another type of beauty entirely.

I'll also most definitely miss the walk across the bridge from Vasastan into Kungsholmen—a walk I've photographed so many, many times, finding its changing colors as we melded from summer to fall to a snow-filled and crisp winter to be breathtaking—as well as my loop behind the castle and around the canal.

But of course I can't wait to experience living on our own again in a non-urban-like neighborhood right here in Stockholm (County). And I'm sure there'll be no end of beautiful places to walk there, too.

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One year ago: Week 9 & Standing savasana & The sound of silence & Week 10
Two years ago: "I am here" days & Thyroidy & Beating the winter blues

Monday, March 2, 2015

An unwelcome lull

The last few weeks of my life have been defined by one word: waiting.

While I already knew that despite all the (well-founded) claims of efficiency and minimalism in Sweden things actually tend to move quite a bit slower here, I'm finding out firsthand (once again) just how slow that can be.

By last fall I was good and ready to get off the assimilation bandwagon, meaning, school and bicycling romps and exploring around town, and back to normal life, meaning a job and a routine that was a little more fulfilling. But given vacations and trips home and the holidays, it didn't make sense to start interviewing before 2015 rolled around. So we enjoyed ourselves and I tried to fill my days with meaningful, enjoyable, and pretty things while I waited. (It wasn't actually all contentment and snowflakes around here.)

Come the first week of January I was already setting up meetings and interviews, and while prospects look very, very good, nothing is inked at the moment so I can't share anything yet. Nor am I 100% positive that I will have something to share in the near future, as I still can't quite read the Swedish system. Insert hearty sigh here.

The job situation is just one hindrance to us feeling (and actually being) settled, though. The other is, of course, where the heck will we live?

The Swedish housing market has really thrown us—we had intended to sublease for a few months with the idea that as soon as we had figured out where we wanted to live more permanently, we'd buy an apartment. But the way the banking system works here, you can't use assets as proof of ability to pay for a mortgage, it's based solely (not jointly) on monthly salary. And as I don't yet have a job, we can't purchase the type of apartment we want with just one income.

(With immediate family in two separate countries, there's just no way we can buy a 1-bedroom apartment, and for a 2-bedroom in Stockholm you need 2 normal-sized salaries.)

Once we found out about the bank situation, which served as another (although completely unnecessary) reason for me to get back to work, we realized we'd need a temporary solution between our current temporary solution and a hopefully more permanent solution sometime in the future.

Which is why we'd been stalking all the apartment listings we could get our hands on for months, but they were either too expensive, too short-term, too bleak, or just didn't work for some other reason.

But, but!

A little progress on the housing front came this weekend when we finally, FINALLY, signed the contract on an incredible apartment. We'll be moving in in just a few weeks (more waiting) and can finally port those boxes out of storage, buy some furniture and start nesting!

More details to come because there are just enough that another whole post is needed!

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One year ago: When it rains & A bright, sunshiny day
Two years ago: Comings and goings & Signing on a new dotted line