THE CONVIVIALIST

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Get Away: A Scandinavian Winter

4 MIN READ

Shreena Patel

Considering a last-minute winter getaway? Swap your sunscreen for a down jacket and head to Scandinavia.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” as Andy Williams reminds us each holiday season – when loved ones are near, hearts will be glowing and, most importantly, there’ll be marshmallows for toasting.

But what about afterwards? When regular life resumes, but the weather is still cold, the days are dark and the tree is looking more brown than green.

While your instinct may be to flee to warmer climes, this year why not embrace the season: not an escape from winter, but a winter escape.

The secret to a wonderful winter
If there’s anyone who knows how to do winter well, it’s the Scandinavians. Despite their long, dark winters, these are some of the happiest people on earth: Norway, Denmark and Sweden have been amongst the 10 happiest countries in the world for the last three years, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report.

What’s their secret? Perhaps it’s the joy of crisp, clear days and cozy nights in serene surroundings; the satisfaction of being in one of the only places on earth where you can witness the elusive Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights); the exhilaration of spending weekends swishing across alpine forests on skis and sleds through freshly fallen snow; or the relaxation arising from that ultimate Scandinavian pastime: the sauna.

© David Becker

Witness the elusive Aurora Borealis or take part in the ultimate Scandinavian pastime: the sauna

Winter Swim ©Helen Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

Witness the elusive Aurora Borealis or take part in the ultimate Scandinavian pastime: the sauna

Or perhaps it’s something deeper. After all, these are the people who gave us “hygge”, the Danish philosophy of coziness, warmth and togetherness, which can be found in something as small as the warm glow of candlelight or cuddling up with loved ones on the sofa; and “fika”, the Swedish daily ritual of making time to pause and connect with others over delicious coffee and cake.

© Tove Freijj/imagebank.sweden.se

Fika: the Swedish ritual of pausing and connecting over coffee and cake

© Tina Strafen/imagebank.sweden.se

Fika: the Swedish ritual of pausing and connecting over coffee and cake

Dates for your diary
If by now you’re tempted enough to start planning dates, consider timing your trip around a few highlights of the Scandinavian winter calendar.

The Jokkmokk Winter Market in Sweden has been held every February since 1605 with a variety of activities running throughout, including concerts, food and drink stalls and, best of all, reindeer racing. The small town of Jokkmokk in Lapland is the only combined nature and cultural heritage site in Scandinavia, and the epicentre of the indigenous Sámi culture.

Nature-lovers might head to Denmark, where each year on the eve of Spring, millions of starlings gather from all corners of the skies to perform a ballet-like spectacle, known as “The Black Sun”. The flocks almost entirely eclipse the sunset as they arrive to their nesting grounds by the UNESCO World Heritage Wadden Sea National Park.

Reindeer Racing © Asaf Kliger/imagebank.sweden.se

Enjoy concerts, food and drink stalls and, best of all, reindeer racing at Jokkmokk Winter Market in Lapland

For those partial to a tipple, the Bergen International Whisky & Beer Festival takes place in Norway at the end of January. For something more intimate, consider a visit to the Absolut Home in Southern Sweden,where every drop of Absolut in the world – from Chile to China – can be traced back. This year, the distillery is opening its doors to the public for the first time since production began in 1879.

The 90-minute tour takes visitors to the heart of the Absolut philosophy, the people and its vision – and, of course, you’ll learn a little something about tasting vodka and how to mix a brilliant cocktail along the way.

But just as the best “fika” requires a good cinnamon cake, the best companion to a great vodka is, of course, great food. Thankfully, master chef Fredrik Wallgren is on hand at Restaurant Villan to serve up a smorgasbord of locally sourced ingredients that reflect Swedish tradition.

Åhus Villa © Absolut

Experience the Absolut philosophy in a 90-minute tour that tickles every sense

Cocktail making at the Åhus Villa © Absolut

Experience the Absolut philosophy in a 90-minute tour that tickles every sense

Happy holidays
Whatever you choose to do this winter, be it holing up with family, friends and pets or taking a vacation to sauna-country (leaping into frozen lake optional), take a leaf out of the Scandinavian book and embrace the season.

Skål!