Tag Archives: Sweden

Sweden: A soon to be cash-less society.

A cash-less society

In recent days, I came across an article about Sweden’s leading race in becoming a cashless economy and it got me thinking… it’s been 6 months since the last time I used cash.

A year ago, I was discussing with a Swedish friend about cash and why I believed it was better than doing everything online. Fast-forward to today, and I realize that I was so naive. Off course my whole paradigm of cash broke down after getting introduced to the Swedish way of paying stuff. Apps, online banking, and most importantly Swish. A mobile payment service which makes it possible to pay and accept payments from private individuals all of this verified through BankID, which is a identification solution much more convenient than having a token. Long story short, it is an app that allows you to send money as easy as sending a text message.

I have been in Sweden for over a year now, and like I said before, it’s been already 6 months without using cash, not a single transaction not even a single coin. Let me take a step back and explain how I stopped using cash before I start talking about something else.

 

Source: Pixabay.


It took me a few days to realize that Swedes don’t use cash that often. It all started in Chalmers, when I noticed that at every cafe and restaurant there was a sign stating: “We don’t accept cash”; Even in a few parties, the invitation clearly said: “Payments only with card or student ID”. Chalmers as many other places in Sweden is a cash-less campus. So, there I was trying to use the cash that I brought with me from Mexico. Paying 600 SEK in cash at the supermarket and getting weird looks from every cashier I came across with. Almost like cash was some sort of extinct dinosaur.

Soon after I got my person number, I opened a bank account that gave me access to online banking and soon I was introduced to Swish. Don’t get me wrong, we do have online banking and card payments in Mexico. Even though, it is different in Sweden, everything is just easy.

Many of you are new in Sweden, and are still waiting for your person number or haven’t applied yet to get one. But, trust me on this one. Once you get used to pay everything with your card, there is no turning back. Everything is just so much convenient. Forget about figuring algorithms to split the bill perfectly in equal parts, or forget about not having change to pay for something.

Sweden is probably in the lead when it comes to digitalization for transactions. The result of this is cash being out of circulation at a fast rate.



A few facts about card payments.

To give you a little perspective about how is it in Sweden, I compiled a few facts about my experience so far combined with a bit of research in the magical world of the internet and a small talk with my roommate.

After asking my roommate “when was the last time he used cash?” he just laughed and said “I used a coin once to get a shopping cart….oh wait nevermid” and then he tried to remember for a minute when was the last time he used cash. Just like me, and probably many others, he used cash for the last time a couple of months ago. Cash has become something like an endangered species, some say that it is for good and some other argue that shifting to a 100% cashless society will impact people without access to a bank account or a smartphone.

To conclude this post, here are a few facts about cash in Sweden:

  • Buses and trams won’t take cash.
  • According to Riksbank, cash transactions made up barely 2% of the value of all payments made in Sweden in 2015.
  • Swish is used to make more than 9 million payments a month.
  • Even most of the church’s charity and donations come from a digital form.
  • Swedes are more likely to ‘Swisha’ than pull out a couple of paper bills.
  • Tourist attractions and slowly shifting to card and mobile payments.

#AndresInGöteborg

Reindeer in Sarek

Must Visit in Sweden: Sarek National Park (Part 2 of 2)

part 1: About Sarek National Park, Getting there, Stay in Sarek
part 2: Hiking Trails, Other notes, Links


Hiking Trails in Sarek

There are plenty of trails available, however I only research small part (that I visited this summer). Kungsleden trail from Saltuokta to Kvikkjokk is well marked and can be followed easily. I divide area in Sarek into two categories: bottom area of the mountain, and the mountain side. In the bottom, it is full of trees. If you are walking Kungsleden, the mark will be on the tree. If you are not, it is still easy to see and follow the trails. On the mountain side, the trails get a bit tricky. It is mostly open with just stones, grass and small trees. Kungsleden is marked on the stones. But other trail will have no marks. Sometimes there are stack of stones as marks, but most of the times there are not. Bringing a compass and knowing which direction you should go is important.

As I mentioned before, Saltuokta and Kvikkjokk entrance requires you to take a boat to cross the trails if you are going towards Rapadalen. Make sure you know if the boat is available, as well as the cost and their schedule.

Badly drawn map (by me)

Badly drawn map (by me)

Steve and Ela from Indonesia, and Tuan from Vietnam

Steve and Ela from Indonesia, and Tuan from Vietnam

Laitaure river with Skierfe top as the background

Laitaure river with Skierfe top as the background

Kvikkjokk to Aktse cabin (STF cabin in Rapadalen) is almost 40km. Saltuokta to Aktse is also about the same distance. We came in through Sitoälvsbron and it is only 16km to Aktse. The foot of the mountain is mostly flat. Mountain side is a bit wavier. I think the difficulty of the trails are medium, due to the height of the mountain side. The famous top Skierfe is off Kungsleden 6 km away. Aktse cabin is 560 meters above sea level (masl) and Skierfe is 1179m tall, that could mean 3 hours of walking uphill non-stop. Even so, Skierfe is a must visit spot in Sarek. Grip yourself!

Other notes on hiking in Sarek

Last month we hike for 4 days with the near entrance (Sitoälvsbron), and walked about 52km in total. Most of other blog I read about trip to Sarek is more than 5 days. My point is, 4 days is the possible, and it is better if you can stay longer. I think it’s good to have spare days and more relaxed walk. Summer would be the perfect season, though mosquitos are on rampage at this time of the year.

As for the preparation, other than the usual camping gears, I would suggest dressing for colder temperature. In the mountain side, the temperature plus the wind can be bad combination. Warmer sleeping bag is good.

I also would like to remind everyone about rules of every national park in Sweden. That you can camp everywhere for free, but please keep things clean. Do not litter (especially on the water source), do not take anything from the park (not even stone or wood), and do not disturb wild life. Oh, speaking about wild life, you will be greeted by many reindeer in the mountain side. They are cute!

There will be bonus feature if you decide to rent a car. As our group experienced, we get to see cities on our way. And if we have time and the city is nice, we can stop to enjoy it for a bit. One city that we find really nice is Arvidsjaur.

Boat parking in Laitaure river

Boat parking in Laitaure river

A lake in Arvidsjaur

A lake in Arvidsjaur

Links

National park website: www.nationalparksofsweden.se/choose-park—list/sarek-national-park/
STF cabins website: www.svenskaturistforeningen.se
Resrobot (transportation finder) site: reseplanerare.resrobot.se/index.html

View of Rapadalen from Skierfe

Must Visit in Sweden: Sarek National Park (Part 1 of 2)

There are 29 national parks in Sweden. Though I want to go to every single one of them, I don’t think I can make it by the end of my study. I only been to 6 out of that 29. Not even close, I know. Each of those have their own specialty. Fulufjället has the third oldest tree in the world (Swede like to think it’s the oldest), Gotska Sandön has plenty of wild seals for us to see, and Skuleskogen is the most rapid land growth in the world (1cm rise every year). But I have to point at Sarek if people is asking me “Which one is the most beautiful?”

part 1: About Sarek National Park, Getting there, Stay in Sarek
part 2: Hiking Trails, Other notes, Links

About Sarek National Park

Speaking about national park in Stockholm, people usually mention Tyresta (as it is the closest, easiest access from the city) and Abisko (for being the northern and starting point of the most famous hiking trail in Sweden: Kungsleden). Sarek is a bit uncommon for those who doesn’t go out to nature often. Having visited some national parks in Sweden, I still don’t know about Sarek until last year when a friend mentioned about it on our discussion. Hearing the name, researching on the net, I quickly decide that I want to visit Sarek. I need to.

View of Rapadalen from the mountain side

View of Rapadalen from the mountain side

Four of us pose in Skierfe

Four of us pose in Skierfe

I mentioned Kungsleden above, as the most famous (and longest) hiking trail in Sweden. This trail goes down to Sarek as well. Though it’s only passes small part of Sarek, but I can say this part of Sarek is one of the most beautiful part. There is a high cliff overlooking a valley (called Rapadalen) with several rivers in the center of it. Since Sarek contains several tall mountain and located in northern Sweden, these mountains are covered in snow all season. A beautiful view of the green valley plus the white mountains in its background will impress you.

Information on the internet about Sarek and its detail (trail options, length, entrance, topography, etc) is not so clear, so I will add a bit about that in this article.

Getting to Sarek

Located in the north side of Sweden (Jokkmokk municipality), I can understand that Sarek is not a popular destination. It is a bit hard to reach the park. If you are flying to cut some distance, some of the closest big airports are Kiruna, Luleå (both are about 250km away from any entrance) and Skellefteå (380km). From these airports, you can take trains and buses (yes, “-es” because it will be more than one connection). Moreover, these connections can take long time as each train or bus usually only run twice a day. Oh, and they are not cheap (sorry, bus and trains). Like around SEK120 for one way before you change to next connection. My suggestion is to rent a car from the airports (or train station) and park in Sarek’s entrance.

Badly drawn map (by me)

Badly drawn map (by me)

Laitaure river. Photo by Steve Darmadi

Laitaure river. Photo by Steve Darmadi

From my small research, there are two common entrances: northeast entrance (Saltuokta) and southwest entrance (Kvikkjokk). Kungsleden passes these two spots as well therefore usually hiker enter from one entrance and exit from another. Then I found third entrance in the southeast (Sitoälvsbron). This third entrance is the closest to Rapadalen and don’t require any boat crossing like the other two entrances. Boat crossing is not free and schedule are not so often.

Stay in the national park

Like the usual hiking accommodation options, there are only 2 choices: cabins or tents. Along Saltuokta to Kvikkjokk, there are 4 STF (Swedish tourism association) mountain cabins. They are around SEK200 per person per night. The facility varies, but mostly dry toilet, beds (bring your own bedsheet), running water, small shops, and kitchen. If you bring your own tent and want to camp in the cabins area, it is also possible but you will be charged some fee as well (almost as much as stay in the cabin). It is free to stay anywhere in the national park (outside of the cabin area). There will be some river (as clean water source) if you decide to camp in the trail.

STF Aktse cabin

STF Aktse cabin

Camp with beautiful view

Camp with beautiful view

(Continue to part 2 – end)

Swedish National Day – “Celebrate, or not to celebrate, that is the question”

Today is a sunny day in Sweden. Why don’t go out and enjoy the sunlight while… celebrating the National Day? Yes, today, 6 June, is a working-free holiday here in Sweden. And the reason is that Swedes are going to be proud of their country and wave flags all around the street, chanting the national anthem (where you won’t hear either the word Sweden or Swedish), eating/drinking typical and traditional dishes/beverages, being cheerful all day long and happily ‘forgetting’ about the reality for some hours.

Wrong. Swedes actually do that, or almost everything said above, but not today. This will happen in some weeks, in the second half of June, when time for the most important and desired and awaited day for all Swedes will come: Midsummer.

So, what do Swedes do on 6 June, the National Day? Well, they are supposed to celebrate it, but how many do that? How many do feel to imitate their well-known Norwegian neighbours’ celebrations?

The Swedish National Day was established by the government only few decades ago, in 1983. And, to be precise, only a bit more than ten years ago it became a red day in the calendar. The need to create such a day stems from both the willing to give a sort of continuity with a traditional former celebration called “The day of the Swedish flag” (Svenska flaggans dag), and to match somehow the more famous and cherished Norwegian Constitution day honoured every 17 May.

The choice to celebrate the 6th of June as a National day may be related to the fact the in the very same day, back to 1523 AD, Gustav Vasa was elected king of Sweden – that indeed put an end to the union between Sweden and Denmark; moreover, in June 6, 1809 a new constitution was adopted. What happens in Sweden nowadays is that there are colorful processions of national pride joyfully accompanied by marching bands and important people giving speeches. For those of you who are not aware of it yet, Sweden is constitutional monarchy, so there are a king and a queen. They take an active part during the celebration: in Stockholm, leaving the Royal Palace, they reach the famous outdoor museum Skansen.

Anyway, going back to the main point: yes, it’s the National day then. But what do Swedes do!? They are known to be not so patriotic – you may normally see many national flags waving in the streets or outside their houses, in institutional places or even on public transports; however, celebrating their nation is not their favourite thing to do. Another reason may be associated to the fact that many could put on the same level patriotism and right-winger supporters. Last but not least: if you ask a Swede which day he/she is proud of and longing for, you would probably hear (as mentioned before) Midsummer.

Actually, according to a study conducted by the University of Gothenburg, in the last years there has been “a significant increase in interest in celebrating National Day. Participation in other holidays is stable.” (The Local). And a good reason to celebrate this day may come from people who become de facto Swedish citizens: most of immigrants and expats receive their certificate of citizenship on June 6 – the king and the mayors throughout the country welcome officially the new Swedes.

Celebrating or not, it’s holiday: happy national day, and grattis Sverige!


Sources: https://www.thelocal.se/20170605/why-more-swedes-are-celebrating-national-day; http://www.swedishfreak.com/holiday/swedens-national-day/; https://www.thelocal.se/20150605/why-dont-swedes-care-for-the-national-day; https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/national-day/

Pictures: Featured image (http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=5882611); picture 2 (http://www.scandinavianperspectives.com/uncategorized/sweden-national-day-celebration-june-6th); picture 3 (http://shazzerspeak.com/2011/06/06/strange-swedish-national-day/).

Off to Denmark – one day trip with friends through the Baltic Sea

Living and studying in Sweden means more than only focusing on your own academic path or enjoying as much as you can the Swedish fika. Actually, when you’re a student here, there may be some chances to get to know new places and go through new landscapes that can enlighten your eyes and make you feel good.

If you live especially on the West Coast or the South of Sweden, it’s not so difficult to catch the opportunity to go and visit briefly countries such as Denmark, Germany, Poland and Norway. Well, that’s actually what happened to me few days ago. I’ve spent one wonderful day with some of my friends in Denmark – in a matter of few hours we were there and back to Gothenburg (for those of you who still don’t know what I’ve been doing and/or why I’ve been living in the second largest Swedish city, please have a look here).

Gothenburg is a city that strategically embraces the Göta älv, that is the river whose origin is in the Baltic Sea. Being a very important commercial port is not the only feature that makes Gothenburg a well known spot. Actually, its position is fairly favourable when it comes to travelling by ferry. If you happen to come here and plan to stay some time, why do not consider the option to take a ferry off to Denmark just for one day? It’s not that expensive, and especially if you are a group of friends, it can really be fun to spend some time on the ferry and then explore a little bit the North Denmark Region (Region Nordjylland).

In my case, my friends and I had the initial plan to reach Frederikshavn, a town whose harbour is well connected with the Scandinavian neighbours, as well as being famous for the quality of the fish. Once there, our idea was to move and visit briefly another small and still very important port town up in the north of Nordjylland, a town called Skagen. Its size is actually inversely proportional to its beauty and its historical background. Skagen was indeed home of many Danish Impressionist artists – who started the indeed so called Skagen Painters during the 19th century. Moreover, it’s fairly peculiar, considering its architectural style and the characteristic landscape where sand and dunes shape the seaside. By the way, before letting you show some glimpses of our short trip, let me just say that if you go there, you’ll have the chance to meet the point that both divides and unifies the Nordic Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Now, welcome on board and enjoy the rest!

 

Meet Martin Molin – Let your eyes and your ears feel the magic

He might be perceived and considered a genius; but guess what he thinks about ‘being a genius’: “I don’t believe in any of this about geniuses and talents. Especially not when it comes to music. As long as you have a dream, you can succeed. (…) Believe in your dream and don’t let others judge you. You might not be going wrong with what you are doing, you just have to find the right context for you”. And you know what? I understand him. It’s not that easy to be confident about this perception of ‘being a genius’. I personally think that sometimes talent is just there, and it’s up to us to somehow find it out. But he basically says that everyone has talent: it’s up to us to work hard in order to unfold it. And yes, his insight gives me hope, as it should give it to you. So I like it.

Coming back to us, the person I’m referring to is a very (and objectively) talented Swedish musician, called Martin Molin. He’s part of a folktronica and post-rock band, Wintergatan. Before going straight to the point where you’ll probably be thinking “W-o-w”, just let me introduce briefly Martin. Born in 1983, he has struggled so much to become the great artist that currently is. After finishing the school, for three years he has tried to enter a college in order to pursue his musical dreams. Always rejected, he didn’t give up, and eventually an academy accepted his application. For our ears’ sake. And he has written many songs for his band even though he said: “I’ve tried writing lyrics, but I’m totally useless at it. All I can write is emails, so I’ll stick to that”.

Martin has been in love with music since his childhood/adolescence. However, and apparently, his romantic feelings for music were shared with something else: mechanics. Specifically, mechanics embodied in Lego Technic. The shapes and the lines that could be created and intertwined, new small mechanical creatures and all the reasonings behind that: a way to escape the reality of the simple things, and embrace the complexity. He really loved that. And the amazing combination of music and mechanics has led him to build something… magical.

Try to have a look at this, first. Then, if you want, just come back here: you’ll know more about that. But first, enjoy:

 

In 2014, Martin started working on a project that initially was supposed to be accomplished within a couple of months. Eventually, it turned out to be 16 months. Actually, after the very first six months, Martin was not able to reach a way out. However he didn’t leave his idea behind: against the unsatisfying results, he kept on trying again and again. And the outcome of the project is what your eyes and ears have met in the video: called Wintergatan “Marble Machine”, it can be defined as a sort of handcrafted music box.

What you can see it’s a machine where marbles (two-thou-sounds!!), a hand crank, wooden levers, and in total more than 3000 moving parts, match perfectly together, originating the show performed by those sounds and rhythms. Some instruments, that is to say a vibraphone, a bass, three pads and a percussion are activated both manually by some levers and by a pre-set sequence; this process leads the marbles to be released following the ideal tempo drawn by Martin’s mind.

A creative mind, and saying creative it’s not enough I would add. Giving birth to such a brilliant machine is something not so common. Martin was really able to combine the two passions that accompanied him throughout his youth. And this mixture gave us the chance to appreciate and admire such a talented human being making up something remarkably splendid.

Currently, Martin has been working to a new model of the Marble Machine: his aim is to bring it with him when touring for his concerts. After all, as he said: I am still totally fascinated by complex systems and constructions. And cogs. I love cogs!


Sources

Photos: https://zirconet.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/cose-la-wintergatan-marble-machine-di-martin-molin/

Quotations by Martin Molin: https://www.stim.se/en/interviews/studio-martin-molin