Stockholm’s Pride and Beauty
Beauty has been, for years, synonymous with Sweden. After all, this is the country that conquered the world with their Nordic models, clothed the globe in H&M fashions, furnished our homes in Ikea - and drowned the world in Absolut. In other words, Swedish beauty conquers all.
Stockholm, one of the world’s most beautiful capitals, is often considered the "Venice of the North" - and to find yourself in the Swedish capital in the midst of Stockholm Pride, the largest LGBT Pride festival in Scandinavia, is to be nearly dumbfounded by the simultaneous visual beauty of both citizenry and city.
Situated on fourteen islands connected by 57 bridges, Stockholm is a feast of stunning waterfront vistas: Lake Malaren to the west - and, to the east, the Baltic Sea, along with more than 30,000 islands, islets, and skerries of the Swedish archipelago. Dating from 1252, the city is more than 750 years old, with Stockholm’s Old Town (Gamla Stan) celebrated as one of Europe’s most beautifully preserved medieval town centers. The largest city in Sweden, Stockholm contains more than 20% of the nation’s nine million citizens - which is perhaps attributable to the city’s more than one hundred museums and over a thousand restaurants.
All through the ten-day Pride festival, rainbow Pride flags fluttered from the bridges of Stockholm and decorated Stockholm’s public buses. One of the more liberal countries of the world, Sweden has a history of secularism that has helped make Stockholm one of Europe’s more cultured destinations for LGBT people. With a history of acceptance, openness, and diversity, Stockholm is often considered the LGBT capital of Scandinavia.
While the United States prepares to celebrate the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," it’s instructive to remember that more than thirty years ago, back in 1976, Sweden integrated its entire military, enabling gays to serve without being closeted. And it was in 1979 that Sweden became the first country in the world to declassify homosexuality as a medical disorder, which followed Sweden’s legalization of same-sex sex - way back in 1944. Since 2009, there has been same-sex marriage in Sweden. In short, this is a country that celebrates the beauty of LGBT people.
Stockholmers are a walking testament to their country’s love of fashion and design - and it was telling that signs throughout the city advertised "Northern Women in Chanel," a photographic exhibition of famous Scandinavian models wearing classic Chanel outfits. Citizens of Stockholm evince an almost intuitive fashion sense, wearing scarves, capes, and hats in shades of Swedish blue and black with an insouciant ease that marries timeless elegance with streamlined modernism.
The city’s contemporary aesthetic is evidenced in locales as illustrious as the Grand Hotel, one of Scandinavia’s most historic residences, where the fabled elegance of the Grand is complemented by the clean lines of 21st-century design and technology. Stockholm’s refined and forward-thinking sensibility often seems the equivalent of wearing a vintage Cartier watch while working on an iPad, resulting in a kind of effortless chic.
Furthermore, Stockholm is green - and environmentally-savvy. Thirty percent of the city is waterways that are traversed by ferries, boats, and ships, with another thirty percent given over to parks and green spaces, which means that Stockholm is as good for the lungs as it is beautiful to photograph. Invariably, the city appears on the indices of the world’s "Most Livable Cities," and in 2010, Stockholm became the first city to be granted the title of European Green Capital.
As a European magazine correspondent wrote in 1934, "It is true that the Swedes have a natural advantage in looking distinguished and elegant. The girls saunter across the paved paths with a casual and relaxed air, their partners following behind, escorting them to the floor with dexterity and decorum. Say what you will of the young gentlemen of Stockholm, but they certainly can dance."
What was true in 1934 is equally evident in 2011, where more than 50,000 participants danced in the Pride Parade, along with half a million spectators lining the streets - before arriving in Pride Park at the Royal Gardens for another all-night party. This year’s Pride theme was "Openness," chosen to highlight an ideal society where people are free to be who they are. At the party at Operaterrassen, all along the outdoor terrace, sexy boys and sylphlike girls lined the 18th-century staircases of Stockholm’s Opera House, drinking and smoking - and looking as casually elegant as their forebears.
And in the light of the moon, with the ebullience of Stockholm Pride ringing all around, it was easy at that moment to believe that nowhere in the world exists a city more beautiful.
(Feature article continues on next pages: What to See, Where to Stay, Where to Eat, Getting There...)