“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

Stockholm Syndrome

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Dear Kay,
You don’t think of the word agile all that often when you’re on a cruise ship. It feels so big, so unwieldy and ridiculous. There’s an atrium, for heaven’s sake. A ship shouldn’t have an atrium.
Before long, though, you realize that a minutely choreographed dance is going on all around you, a perfect coordination of people working very hard. You glimpse the details: three dozen bowls of roses sit on the dock, waiting to board for their big night in the restaurant. Six pallets of bottled water load into a part of the ship you didn’t know even had a door. The decks are wet in the morning, clean. You discover the one small, round window in a door that lets you look into a staff stairwell, and it looks like a navy ship: gray paint, bright light, purely functional.
On the night we left Helsinki, a sick crew member had to be airlifted off the ship. The ship seemed to race along even as a helicopter came and went three times, never landing, only hovering. Agile. Crew members lined the stairs of the atrium, watching through the glass door to the pool deck. We passengers lurked in our corridors, not knowing what had happened. When I said to the purser that I hoped the crew member would be OK, he said, shaking his head, “I don’t think so.” That was all he would say, clearly upset.
Sometimes, the ship was as graceful as a fish. In Helsinki, it slipped away from the dock using its mysterious propulsion pods, pushing off the way a swimmer does. It seemed impossible, this almost parallel departure. Ships can’t do that. I looked up, and far above, I saw an officer watching, too, walkie talkie in his hand, focusing on nothing in the world but that wake.
That final morning, I managed to wake up before six a.m. to float through the Stockholm archipelago. It was chilly, in the low 50s, as I sat on our tiny balcony in my ship’s robe and slippers, watching as island after island floated by. There are 24,000 islands to see, astonishing in their number. The ship slid through this chain without a sound, without a wake.
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The rocky outcroppings, called skerries, left me wondering what lurked under the water. And the houses on the shore made me wish I could spent a month or two here.
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The tiniest cottages were everywhere, stuck into the rocks like little packages.
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As we approached Stockholm, the houses became grander. And in some cases, torqued to fit the ground.
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It was such a watery, dreamlike end to our cruise.
At breakfast, I had one final encounter with the müesli vat at La Veranda. After a week of breakfast there, I FINALLY figured out that “La Veranda” meant “the Veranda.” All these languages!
We collected our bags, and we bid farewell to our agile little ship.
The Coyote Grind Lounge
Clif and I made a deal, early in the trip: in Stockholm, he could get a full dose of the Coyote Grind Lounge, which was not a slutty bar but rather a skateboard shop that he knew about from his virtual skateboard pals. His skating and my knitting have long had a symbiotic relationship. This was going to be great.
After a little old-town wandering in Gamla Stan (the Nobel museum? why the heck not?), Clif and I set off for the Coyote Grind Lounge.
Along the way, we saw churches.
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We were staying in Södermalm (the umlauts I’m typing these days! option-u! option-u!), and we stopped by the hotel to get skateboard necessities. I was so excited to be going to the Coyote Grind Lounge that I forgot to bring my knitting.
Incredibly, and I do mean incredibly because I had not scoped out the Stockholm yarn shop situation, we passed this:
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About a block from our hotel.
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A skein, waving in the breeze.
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Mariasgarn is the juiciest yarn shop you would ever need. Clif sat down, remarkably patient, knowing that the Coyote Grind Lounge was still closed. I had twenty minutes. I visited with Maria, the longtime proprietor of this gem of a shop, and she helped me pick out the most Swedish yarn possible.
Färgkraft (Colorcraft), hand dyed wool from the Gotland sheep I’d met back in Visby earlier in the week. In a deep oceanic blue. Poifeck!
The shade, “odon,” means “bog whortleberry.” And by golly, bog whortleberries are exactly the shade of this yarn.
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I had yarn, but no needles. It was sort of OK, actually. My head was so full of sights and thoughts that I easily sat for more than two hours, trying to sort through it all.
The Net Result
I told you that I didn’t do much knitting on this trip. I was not kidding. I’m semi-embarrassed even to show you. One thing and one sock:
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I think I had it in mind to make some sort of handspun scarf out of this beautiful LV Ltd. handspun, but it petered out into a wide-ribbed swatch that provided me with a fair amount of amusement, even though it isn’t really a useable piece of knitting at this point. It’s like watching TV, this handspun. I watched at least four episodes of the shipboard hit “Meet the Crew” while knitting this. I loved meeting the crew, and I loved wondering when the brown part was going to show up in my knitting.
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I did manage to scrounge a regionally appropriate sock pattern for this Rio de la Plata sock yarn: the superpopular Knitty pattern Sunday Swing socks by FINNISH designer Krystel Nyberg. Krystal, I waved at ya in Helsinki! Next time, next time!
Wish I Was There!
I have really loved reading everybody’s comments about these places–I have a lot of reading to do, thanks to you all. I’m left with more questions than answers about everything we saw, which I reckon is the reason we travel. And now that we have been home for a while, I have almost stopped asking myself the question that has nagged me since we set foot back in Nashville: “Why aren’t we living in some Scandinavian city?”
Love,
Ann

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52 Comments

52 Comments

  1. But if you lived there, where would you visit when you went abroad? (Gorgeous yarns and sock… and what a sweet kitty!)

  2. I see that your cats really missed you. : – )
    I’ve loved reading about your travels. Thank you!

  3. I LOVE the yarn skeins as flowers! I have never seen that before and I love it.
    I’m going to un-ball and re-wrap some yarn and stick it in vases immediately.

  4. Really, for as much as I love living in my coastal New England village, I think I could be happy living in a Scandinavian city, too.
    Tuck’s first sweater is made from Gotland ull spun up into very lopi-esque singles. And although it’s needed a bit of patching up, it still looks quite fetching on him and keeps him very warm when he has to plow through the winter snow to go potty.

  5. Ann, can I just say a huge ThankYou for sharing your cruise with us. I was particularly interested because we did almost the same cruise in July this year. But as I’m English we started and finished our cruise in the UK. We also did a stop in Norway, but apart from that, I think you followed us round the Baltic.It was fantastic seeing these countries through English eyes, now you have allowed me to see them through American eyes as well.Did you find the fantastic yarn shop in Helsinki. I missed the one in Stockholm, not sure how that happened. Now tell us honestly how much weight did you put on while on that ship, if it was anything like ours, it was always a meal time.
    Once again, thanks for sharing.

  6. Welcome home weary traveler…Thanks for sharing your vacation. The pictures were beautiful – I want to live in one of those cottages in the rocks. Love the beautiful blue yarn!! Happy end of summer.

  7. It looks like you did a slip-stitch heel flap, too! Thanks for the travelogue – I have relatives in Denmark. Must visit them soon.

  8. OK, at the risk of sounding like a teenage girl…I YEARN to go to Scandinavia now! And I won’t survive unless I get some bog whortleberry yarn too. I won’t. My pining commences…now.
    What a great picture you paint. And I love that Clif sought out a place to visit while you were there and that you went. That is such a good way to make the city come alive for a kid that age. It is such a good way to expand their universe.
    Thanks for sharing all this!

  9. Is it really over? I have enjoyed your reports so very much.
    Thanks

  10. Uff da! (that’s oy vey in Scandanavian, I didn’t live in Minnesota for 3 years for nothing, y’know).
    Wondering if the Coyote Grind lived up to Clif’s dreams?

  11. Loved getting to tag along…thanks so much! It was a wonderful journey. How appropriate that Mariasgarn featured blue in the window display…representing your cruise and Kay’s Summer of Denim!

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your trip! It was interesting and fun and funny. It is supercool that you found that shop on the way to Coyote Grind when you forgot your knitting. I love the window, I’m partial to blue. :-)

  13. Thank you so much for all of the posts and photos from your trip! They were amazing to see, can’t wait to go!

  14. I’ve been waiting for the Stockholm post! I LOVE Stockholm. I studied abroad in Sweden, and my 4 months in Stockholm were the best of my life. Also, Marias Garn? Best yarn store in the city. I was hoping you’d managed to stumble across it.
    I met/found Maria through one of Anna Dalvi’s KAL; when I was studying abroad, I was knitting Mystic Light and so was Maria. She posted on the Yahoo! group for the KAL, and I followed links to find her shop. We shared our shawls, talked a bit about spinning, and I bought some amazing sock yarn. It was an ideal yarn encounter.

  15. Traveling is not something expect to really be able to do – and so your posts are such a gift to me Ann Shayne. And it just goes to show how good God really is, putting the Yarn next to the Skate Boards. Brilliant.

  16. *Sigh*
    To be in Stockholm, in August, is one of my chief joys in life. I was only there for a week, three years ago, but thoughts of the city warm me even today.
    It’s a surprisingly compact city, you know. I walked from one end to the other in half an hour.

  17. Ooh, how fun. :) Next time I’ll take you to the yarn shop tour in Helsinki myself! ;)

  18. We didn’t travel this summer, so your stories and pictures have been wonderful and every time there was a new one, I felt glad. Love the blue yarn!!! Thanks for these great posts!

  19. We didn’t travel this summer, so your stories and pictures have been wonderful and every time there was a new one, I felt glad. Love the blue yarn!!! Thanks for these great posts!

  20. So how was the Coyote Grind Lounge? It is amazing how much knitting can be done waiting for men and boys!

  21. Great sock. And the cat likes it too!

  22. I love this blog! The knitting, the travel, the quilting, it all just goes together in some odd and wonderful way. I loved the travelogue, Ann, and thank you heartily for it. I’ve been mostly home bound for the last couple of years, and this has been MY vicarious cruise. And speaking of trips, I took one through your archives recently because I’m about to finish (a novelty in itself for me) a mitered square blanket (bless the enthusiastic Cara) and was looking for border ideas. You guys are so creative and have so much information and offer so many ways to skin any proverbial cat. Sorry not a good analogy. But anyway, thank you for it all. I’m having surgery Tuesday, and my husband has orders to send my yarn to you if I croak! Please share w/ Cara!

  23. I plan coming through this just fine. I should have previewed that post. Sorry.

  24. I have enjoyed your travelogue so much. Thank you.

  25. Thanks for sharing the photos & telling us about your vacation. It was *almost* as if I had been along, too!

  26. i have to catch up with all the postings
    computer break dowm-you sound homesick
    perhaps the man in your life could
    have a year of teaching in europe
    now i need to catch up lots of reading
    for me this holiday thank you ann&kay

  27. ø å ¨´ My goodness! The things one can learn on a knitting blog! (Happy to hear from another Mac owner…)

  28. Why aren’t we living in some Scandinavian city?
    Because it gets real dark there for a real long time.*
    Other than that, I’d be there tomorrow.
    *Then again, they’ve got indoor heating and electric lights and lots of stuff to knit. Huh.

  29. I would read your travelogues anytime! You really bring to life some of the more personal and real aspects of your encounters. Fabulous! And thanks.

  30. Thanks for the vicarious vacay! Lovely. And yes, that yarn is definitely the color of bog whortleberries…

  31. But were the couches at the skateboarding place better than back home? Some sort of cool modern design sofa and not a trace of grunginess on the blond wood tables?
    And is skateboarding like knitting where as soon as the stockholm skaters saw Clif they made room because “he’s one of them” like we do to knitters?

  32. –At a girl, Sally A., hang in there. We’re rooting for you!
    –Ditto all of the above–have soooo appreciated the ‘virtual vacay’ (especially as it has been peppered here and there with things like Orna’s braids and Kay’s squares…)
    –For a moment, the opening photo knocked the wind out of me, I was so taken by the color in that beautiful ‘blue window’. I then scrolled down and saw the back of Clif’s head. His hair color is more magnificent.
    God bless.
    LoveDiane

  33. It’s Maria’s Garn wonderful!?!? I believe that it is the best yarn shop in Stockholm (I did a yarn crawl to most of them with knitty friend a couple of years ago)! And Maria is a dear! I’m so glad that you happened upon it.

  34. Ann,
    We took almost the same cruise several years ago, in fact it was before my re-association with the knitting needles. I’m so sorry I missed all the yarn shops, but your blog reminded me of all the fun we had on that cruise. Every time we cruise we come home and make the meusli for a while to remind us of the wonderful breakfasts we enjoyed.
    Your blog is an inspiration. I have started quilting again and am knitting a log cabin of sorts for afghans for afghans. Keep the posts coming.
    tina

  35. Ok, I’m going to Finland and Sweden now! Lovely, lovely pictures, especially the under shot of the gargoyle on the church. Thanks for sharing all this!

  36. Love the socks!

  37. Thanks for the great notes of your trip. I looked forward to each entry.

  38. Thank you sooooo much for taking me along on this trip! There is an itty bitty chance that I may do this cruise with two cousins and my aunt next year. Seeing your photos and reading your stories has been a blast.

  39. I think lots of people in America are asking right about now: “Why aren’t we living in some Scandinavian city?”

  40. Your travelogue has made me really regret that I’ve lost contact with my Scandinavian relatives. Thanks for the wonderful tour and your own humorous spin on those sea-going hotels. I was fortunate enough to spend a month aboard ship on a Mediterranean-transAtlantic cruise last fall and next month have a weekend cruise from Seattle to Victoria to Vancouver with knitters. (Ah, another dose of that famous bread pudding.)

  41. Your travelogue has made me really regret that I’ve lost contact with my Scandinavian relatives. Thanks for the wonderful tour and your own humorous spin on those sea-going hotels. I was fortunate enough to spend a month aboard ship on a Mediterranean-transAtlantic cruise last fall and next month have a weekend cruise from Seattle to Victoria to Vancouver with knitters. (Ah, another dose of that famous bread pudding.)

  42. It has been great fun reading your writings on our corner of the globe – hope you’ll be back some day!

  43. Dear Ann,
    I was so lucky to spend a summer in a cottage on the water on a skerry in southern Norway (actually.. in Northern Norway too) a long time ago, before college and marriage and kids. What is under the steel blue crystal water, chill and daunting are cod fish longer than a yard stick, lobsters abound and mussels cling to every stationary thing. My dad livened up the dinner table by cooking the mussels in tomato sauce with hot peppers and olive oil… serving them on heaps of pasta. Our Norwegian cousins had never eaten them that way… a scene out of Babette’s Feast so long ago now.

  44. I’m sorry to see this stunning display come to an end. But I have two questions:
    1) What made you pick this particular destination? Family heritage? Business? Dart?
    2) Would you either plan my next vacation or take me with you? I’ll bring the needles!

  45. Bog whortleberry! That’s a cowl pattern name right there! Knit the Bog Whortleberry this Autumn! What a lovely trip!

  46. THANK YOU, Ann, for this lovely trip to my native Scaninavia! Even though I got to go home this summer to visit my own country (Denmark), it’s been terrific to come along virtually to the other countries as well. I realize how much I miss Stockholm (where I used to hang out a lot) and it made me want to visit Gotland and Estonia for sure!
    If you ever tire of knitting (which we hope not!), you are a natural travel teller, ya’ know.
    Thanks again for the trip. And now, please dazzle us with the bog whortlebery coloured yarn.

  47. I’ll probably never get to go on a trip like this, but I have enjoyed every moment of yours. Thanks for taking me along.

  48. Stockholm is the 2nd most beautiful city I’ve ever seen (Venice is 1st). I took the ferry between Turku and Stockholm so many times, and the Stockholm archipelago was always beautiful–all those Carl Larssonesque villas. Nice to see it’s holding up well. As for agile, I seem to remember one of the ferries crashing into an island once, but generally that stretch of water is very calm.

  49. I love the diversity of human imagination that could cause the same object to have two such different names as “odon” and “bog whortleberry.” I also love that blue, and the enticing writhe of the Gotland fiber, which looks like it’s got a few ideas of its own. Can’t wait to see what you knit from it.

  50. Just as I thought I was ready to branch out and away from my favorite color, you entice me back with Maria’s shop window! Now I want to knit nothing but blue, blue, and more blue. Must have bog whortleberry!

  51. Thanks for the vicarious summer cruise. I feel claustrophobic on cruise ships but I sure enjoyed reading about yours and seeing the photos of the beautiful stops. I’m going to have to live hundreds of years and win a few lotteries; my life “wish list” gets longer and longer.

  52. Stockholm is my favorite city. I loved the mirror dark water everywhere, the cool, crisp air (in August) and the bluest skies. I mentioned out loud to my husband while we were there that it reminded me of the Adirondacks in NY. Then, a few weeks later learned that those two parts of the world were indeed connected at one time….plate tectonics or something. All of which means you could move to Saratoga or Lake George and have much the same climate, hues and views and not be so far from Nashville.
    I was just in Saratoga and they have a great yarn shop AND an alpaca farm right up the road. Any great ideas for the just under 3 oz. of handspun latte alpaca I brought home? I’m thinking hat or cowl…