The Baltic Sea
My impressions of Finland, Estonia, and Latvia were fleeting but good. I am no expert on them and will not pretend to be. I do however long to go back and give them the due attention they deserve, for they were fascinating places with welcoming people.
Sweden however I did get a chance to explore. In the archipelago, on the island of Üto, cars are rarity, and bikes are the main form of transportation through the dirt trial-like roads that run like veins through the woods. You are hard pressed to step foot anywhere without squashing a plump wild blueberry. Ninety-eight percent of blueberries in Sweden go uneaten—a stat I heard thrown around in Stockholm many times. And Stockholm is a utopia of sorts. Breathtakingly clean and structured, it is a place I cannot imagine having the privilege of living in.
Russia on the other hand, and specifically St. Petersburg, seemed to be the polar opposite of Stockholm. My obsession with Russia, deeply engrained in me from a young age, was hit over the head in St. Petersburg—not because it was surprising in anyway but because it was so exactly what I had expected. Despite it being Summer, no one smiled and no one spoke to you in the street. People trudged around as if practicing for the freezing winter months, annoyed by the inconsistency of warm weather. A sort of inferior complex is so prevalent in society that every cultural icon is the biggest and grandest of its category—the biggest porcelain egg, the largest collection of art, the most rhinestones on any…whatever. I was not disappointed, but rather stunned by how well I had been prepared by Russian literature to experience the country of its origin.
I hate to do something so ignorant as lumping the cultures of the Baltic into one album, but there is not enough material to spread it out into individual countries. Northern Europe, I owe you one.