Swedish attitude to dogs and how cafés feed them meatballs. When they're lucky.
Letter from Sweden by Gary (not Alistair) Cook
Letter dated 19 June 2021
Hej hej – or tjena if I’m being informal.
One thing we’ve really come to love about Stockholm is their attitude to dogs. Not so much with off-lead walking but more for the way they are accepted in cafes, restaurants, hotels, buses, trams etc. Okay, not all establishments but enough to make it acceptable to take your dogs with you when you go out.
There’s even an app which will give you all the dog friendly establishments within a given area. Which is very handy.
And, like pubs in the UK, most cafes are dog friendly.
Our first experience of a dog friendly café was when we arrived in Sweden. We were staying near Ahus, in the south. The woman in the local café welcomed our dogs like long lost friends, patted then, made a fuss then fed them meatballs. Needless to say, the café swiftly became a favourite for our two cockerpoos.
Once we’d headed north, we had to find another, equally friendly place and we did. Using the app, we discovered that the Café Notholmen was dog friendly. My wife rang them up, to make sure, and was told ‘Absolut!” In fact, it sounded like dogs were more welcome than humans.
We went to Notholmen that Sunday back in October and we’ve been going almost every Sunday since. Even though, I should add, they don’t feed our dogs meatballs.
Notholmen is quite close to us. It is the name of an island. It sits off an English style park that surrounds Tyresö Slott, the once stately home of Marquis Claes Lagergren, which is now a museum. The car park is situated a short walk away from the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. It’s a beautiful walk through trees and a carefully managed landscape that appears almost unmanaged.
In fact, the English style park was the first ever created in Sweden. It was planned by the garden architect, Fredrik Magnus Piper, and, to quote Wikipedia, “… is a mixture of an English park, a Swedish floral meadow and images from a fairy tale.” Which pretty much describes it perfectly.
The park has changed a lot since October.
On our first visit, everything was golden with the end of Autumn. Leaves gradually falling from the trees creating an extensive russet blanket over the grass.
Then came winter and the trees took on a ghostly appearance. All the leaves had gone and bare branches were silhouetted against the usually, grey sky.
In the snow, the whole place looked like a winter wonderland. Lots of people enjoying sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, snowball fights. Even ice fishing once the water had frozen over.
Actually, one of our most wonderful memories is when the water froze over and we walked across it. It was a glorious winter day, the sun out and skies all blue. We joined the scores of other people just taking a stroll across the water as if it was nothing unusual. There was even dune buggies and motorbikes having races on the ice. It was quite fantastic.
With the onset of Spring, grass has started growing, leaves have started reappearing, and flowers have sprung up everywhere. Firstly tiny purple wild flowers then lots of yellow ones. The smaller flowers were then replaced by lots of primroses then aquilegia. There’s a lot of colour waking up from colder months of hibernation.
There’s also an awful lot of lupins in Stockholm. They are quite rampant in some parts.
Along with the improvement in the weather, boats have started turning up at Café Notholmen. Boats that have been laid up, out of the water for the colder months. Having their bottoms scraped, I assume. I think this would be a marvellous way of going to the café. Hop in your boat and sail across.
Meanwhile, in the park, families have ditched the skis and now arrive with picnic baskets and stake out a bit of grass to enjoy the sunshine and gradually warming weather, their dogs happily chasing sticks and sniffing everything.
Before coming to Sweden, we read that dogs get a walk every six hours. This may be true given the amount of people walking dogs we see frequently walking by our house. Over and over. And over.
In fact, we’ve made friends with quite a few neighbourhood dogs. It’s funny but I always recognise the dog before the human. My wife assures me that that’s quite natural and exactly how it should be.
I really have to stop feeding them meatballs.