Two weeks ago, I was in the small city of Östersund, Sweden with my lovely wife. It was my 44th birthday weekend and she had planned a whole 3-day trip to this little northern, nature-loving town for us. It turned out to be a most perfect weekend. Slow, spontaneous, and relaxing. And the the fact that we were celebrating the autumn equinox, a full moon, and my birthday all while we were there made the trip one that I will not soon forget. So much magic!
Lina booked our train tickets, reserved a hotel room right in the middle of downtown Östersund, and that’s pretty much it. After that, we decided to take it moment as it came. Making no plans, but just doing whatever we wanted whenever we wanted. The perfect way to travel, in my opinion.
We arrived after a 5 hour train ride way further north than I’d ever been. The landscape changed, becoming more mountainous + forest-filled. Lakes flanked both sides of the train practically the whole way. And I pretty much gazed out the window, sipping on beer from the Bistro car, the entire trip.
We arrived about 8pm and walked the 10 minutes through town to our hotel. It’s always so crazy to arrive in a new place at night, under the cloak of darkness. My curiosity is heightened, wondering what things will look like in the morning light.
We were tired, so we settled in + stayed in our room, drank some beer we brought with us, and I opened a pre-birthday gift! Then, late the next morning, we headed downstairs for a delicious breakfast + then out the door to explore.
Östersund sits beside a big lake and is surrounded by forests + mountains – and water, of course. There’s not much else around, so it is a haven for nature lovers and active outdoors enthusiasts during all seasons. In fact, very close by lies Åre, a famous, cozy ski resort (which I’ve never visited). So, given the fact that the city is built right in the middle of so much natural beauty, it has inspired the culture + vibe of the community as well.
The whole vibe is so much slower than Uppsala + Stockholm. A bit further north, Östersund gives off a relaxed, friendly vibe. Something that I felt immediately. And the people! I had no idea that Swedish people could be such friendly strangers (no offense southern Swedes, but you’re just more like New Yorkers. No offense New Yorkers… I loooove you + your city!). What I am trying to say is that this Swedish northern city is a bit more like the American South. So, I obviously felt right at home.
And, about that slower pace. Even though Lina and I intentionally decided to take it slow, the entire city exudes that vibe as well. It’s just a place that is centered around enjoying life. Sure, people have to work, but it didn’t seem to be the most serious/important thing around. At least my experience of running into strangers or chatting with locals led me to believe that people really value community, which includes people + nature, more than anything.
Across the lake from Östersund is a little island called Frösön. It’s like a suburb of Östersund you might say. There is a driving bridge + a walking bridge to get back + forth, so we just had to walk over + explore. Well, Lina already knew a bit about the island, but I was curious. Anyway, it was freeeeeezing and windy, so I couldn’t stop thinking how it must be to go back and forth in the dead of winter, and by that I mean from October till, like, April. It must be brutal.
It was the first day of autumn, though, on this day, so I was super happy with the weather. When the seasons change, I want it to be the season that it is changing to. Know what I mean? And, magically, I got the perfect autumn day! What could be better than chilly weather, colorful leaves, and tons of reasons to be outside so you can then find a cozy, warm spot inside?!
Plus, it was the perfect setting for the annual autumn market going on in Östersund’s town square, which we visited after we walked back across the lake. After wandering in the square, we stumbled upon some very cute, local stores where I purchased a necklace with a stone from the area and crystals. Score me.
Sometime mid-afternoon, after walking + shopping, we discovered a little pub and thought we’d go in for a beer. Turns out, we parked ourselves at the bar, drank a couple of beers, ordered an early dinner, made friends with the bartender, and topped off the night with hot shots (coffee, liquor, and cream. I think).
Hand in hand, feeling all warm + fuzzy from the food, drinks, day’s activities, and just being together, we walked back to our room at sunset. And we stayed in again. That was the beauty of this weekend. We didn’t feel stressed. We didn’t try to cram in a bunch of shit. We took it as it came and did what we wanted. And it was bliss.
On our second day in Östersund, I woke early (as usual) and did some writing, some oracle card reading, and a blog post. Then, we headed down to breakfast + out the door again. This time with not much of an idea at all as to how we wanted to spend the day.
So, here’s something I haven’t mentioned yet. When Lina went to college in Sweden, she went to Mittuniversitet, the university right in the middle of little ole Östersund. So this is her university town from 10 years ago!
The weekend was a trip down memory lane for her, and a chance for me to soak in the atmosphere of the place where she was when we first started our relationship. Oh, the millions of times I chatted and talked with her when she was here and I was in North Carolina. The beginning of our love story started here in Östersund I suppose you could say. So, it was amazing to get to be in the place that I had imagined for so many years.
Because of the history of Östersund in our lives, we decided to walk to her old university. And it blew my little mind. You know what it’s like… you think about a place for years and then somehow magically end up being there. It was like coming full circle. So meaningful.
After walking, we were sufficiently cold, so we decided to head back to the eco cafe, where we got the crystals, and drank some hot chocolate. A perfect little Sunday afternoon warm-up. Then we wandered around some more, looking at houses in downtown neighborhoods, before going to see a movie. Because, why not?! After the movie, we decided to grab a beer at a pub across from our hotel. And, then, we went up to our room for a cozy night. But, we fell asleep super fast. All that cool, fresh air was doing wonders to help us relax.
We’ve got one more day in Östersund… my birthday! But I think I’ll save those adventures for a second post. Cuz I’ve got a ton of photos from that day.
For now, let’s just say that Östersund had already won my heart. I may have been biased even before I arrived, but I was definitely in love after spending two, slow, beautiful autumn days there. It was the perfect way to welcome the changing of the seasons.