Along the Away

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Archive for the ‘ Hej Sweden ’ Category

When I returned home from India I wrote a post about India’s lasting impressions on me which ended with a spiel on gratitude. At the time, I wrote that the subject was mandatory for anyone who travels this great continent; it can’t be visited without raising all manner of gratefulness for the experience as well as for home.

On the flight back to Sydney from my recent travels I realised that pretty much all travel triggers a sense of appreciation, particularly felt in that last half hour before you land back on home soil, when you’re hanging on to the last moments of your journey before returning back to normal routine. And you usually do come home committed to keeping up new-found pleasures or habits. So I think this impressions post should become a post-travel tradition.

Four months in India is different to four weeks in Sweden and Denmark, but there’s certainly plenty to write about.

From the Away:

För Fan! I’m a not a big swearer, I’m more of a retro exclaimer; far out! holy moly! what the! But sometimes you do need something a bit more hardcore. Amongst the many Swedish swear words I learnt, this one is my favourite. I like the way it sounds, I like that it starts with F so you can start out hardcore (“Fffff…’) and quickly swerve into foreign hardcore which is less likely to cause notice (and offense) to the people around you. It’s a good one to have on hand, I use it quite a bit now. You can use Google Translate to work out what it means.

Simple food. It’s a fact that most people eat 10% of the same kind of food 90% of the time (this is not a certified fact, I read something like it once and have settled on my own statistics). So when you visit somewhere new it is refreshing to try new cuisine and new food combinations. When you stay with friends you get to adopt their food routine, and I quite liked the experience in Sweden. My favourite thing was having fresh bread with thin slices of cucumber and cheese (that you slice off a big wedge at the table with a fancy cheese slicer tool that I bought and am still trying to figure out how to use) for breakfast. I never would eat this for breakfast at home, I’m a muesli with fresh fruit and yoghurt or a breakfast smoothie kind of breakfaster – yes I usually start the day on a sweet note. But I really liked this morning change, I’m going to give it a go back home. I also liked the fresh, simple flavours we enjoyed in our Swedish summer dinnertimes. Lots of salmon and salad, shrimp in a yummy, light creamy dressing.

Beautiful homes.  It seems every Scandinavian home could be put in the page of an IKEA catalogue or feature a home interior blog. Every home I went to was stylish, bright, airy and welcoming. It is the land of IKEA I know, but wow!

Unassuming natures. There’s a stereotype that Swedes are cool and reserved; that it can be hard to break the ice with them. I was lucky to be visiting friends so my introduction to people was always going to start out on a warm note. While I do agree that Swedes are more reserved than other cultures when getting to know new people, they are still friendly – I met so many lovely people there. I suppose it is the introvert in me, but I appreciate unassuming natures and the more organic approach to sussing someone out and taking it as it comes. I find dramatic and extroverted personalities draining, so I liked how getting to know people in Sweden was calmer and felt more genuine than in other places.

And for Home:

Hot summers. So in Australia, summers are hot. We go out for the day with bare legs and arms and do not think of bringing a cardigan, even if we are not coming home til after dark. Any day is a beach day (yes, even if raining you could comfortably go for a swim in the ocean and feel OK about it). It is a reliable heat, so you can make plans accordingly and never be caught out.

Cold and Flu tablets. Oh happy little boxes of pretty coloured pills. Take this colour in the daytime, take this colour in the night time and voila, back to good again in 2-3 days. Never will I stray from Australia without them again. Never.

Aussie cafés, lattes and brunch. Café visits easily make up 80% of my weekends’ highlights. The café loitering, latte drinking, brunch ritual in Sydney (and Melbourne and beyond) is really top notch here; surprisingly I’m yet to find the experience matched anywhere else in the world!

Aussie warmth and curiosity. Aussies are a naturally curious bunch. Extroverted and introverted types both approach meeting someone new with an open interest in getting to know them. While in Sweden, I would often find myself introduced to new people and the conversation would revert to common topics between the friends with no further expectation/reference to me until quite a while later. This was in part refreshing as it relieved the pressure of being the new person, but after a time it was also a bit alienating. In Australia, when someone new is introduced, particularly if they’re not a local, all interest and curiosity is on the new person. Where are you from, why are you here, have you done this, tell us about this… and so on. The conversation would not stray to topics that the new person is not included on for quite some time, and when it does there is a commentary provided to bring the new person up to speed. Aussies are warm and considerate hosts in this way; I wonder if it has something to do without our relative geographical isolation from other countries? I previously mentioned my appreciation for the unassuming nature of the Swedes, so this is not a dig at them, but rather a reminder to appreciate the warm nature of people at home (and of course both references are generalisations, there are variations in every culture).

I can’t wait to go back to both countries again – next time in Winter time, as I would love to experience a northern hemisphere Winter and Christmas and see the northern lights :-)

 

This very yummy Swedish dish may sound a bit odd at first to us non-Swedish people, but it all makes sense once you have tried some – it’s delicious!

When my Sverige was living in Sydney she made reference to a Swedish Sandwich Cake a few times – at first I figured it was a lost in translation term (like when she insisted that her parents live in a tree house – later understood to be a wooden house). I thought maybe it was a sponge cake, sandwiched with some jam and cream, you know, normal like.

But then on her last days before she was going home to Sweden she grew increasingly excited about her mum making her a sandwich cake for her homecoming – and then I found out it really is a sandwich cake. Like, a sandwich, pretending to be a cake. With tuna and prawns. Sounded like a recipe for disaster.

And then after Sverige left us my housemates and I tried making one for our Halloween party. We made it in the shape of a snake, which just made a wrong thing even wronger. It was disgusting.

And now, on my last night visiting with my friend we decided to make one! Here is how it goes:

Firstly everyone must put on a floral apron. Just kidding, not everyone, just the workers – the pug is in charge, he does not need one.

Then you follow this picture tutorial on assembling the cake:

Finally it undergoes the pug inspection:

And it passed! Mmmmm yummy!!

I wish I could make it again at home in Sydney but I fear it’s not possible without the magic of being in Sweden. And I have no pug to supervise me…

Oh Stockholm!

August 10, 2012 Hej Sweden, Travel Comments

Time for a mini-break, so off we hop on a train in Älmhult to Stockholm for a few days!

Quite unfortunately I was hit with a head cold just before we left and it really hit me hard while away. I tried getting cold & flu tablets in the chemist but to my surprise they didn’t have anything of the sort! Even my friend seemed a bit miffed when I tried to explain them to her. Never again will I travel without them, as I spent a torturous week being a stuffed up, snot filled cotton head :-( Despite this, Stockholm was a fabulous city to visit and definitely on the list to revisit another time.

It’s such a beautiful city, it’s actually 14 connected islands! We meandered around all day everyday, along the waterways, the old part of town (Gamla Stan), the Swedish Royal Palace, went on a boat tour and traveled the subway. I love a city that is built for wandering on foot, it’s my favourite way to explore a city.

So, let’s look at the highlights:

Waitin’ for a train in Älmhult – any time with my Sverige baby is a highlight, even hanging out on train platforms in the rain. Yes it is summer, despite the winter clothing.

Really can’t get enough of the wandering around in pretty European cities. We just walked and walked, stopping here and there to look in stores or take photos. Or drink coffee :-)

We went on a boat cruise around the islands – it’s a must in a city that’s made up of 14 of them! We listened to an audio tour while we cruised about which was filled with lots of facts about buildings, islands, parks and historical events as we passed them by.

Dusk was a magical time to go for our tour, so pretty.

We walked around Gamla Stan, the wonderfully preserved medieval part of town and where Stockholm was founded 1252 (1252 – holy-unbelievable!) We cruised down Riksgatan, which is the main street passing through the Swedish Parliament Buildings.

Stopping for a happy snap on Riksbron (upon Googling I found this means National Bridge or State Bridge, which I find a bit amusing as I come from a place with a famous city-named bridge that is quite a hell of a lot bigger than this one haha!)

We went to visit the Royal Palace and did a tour there which was time well spent. We were lucky to catch the changing of the guard when we were done with looking inside the palace. When the band marched through they played a number of standard marchy-marchy music pieces. Then something pricked at the ears – something familiar… what the! It was Euphoria, the EuroVision 2012 winning song which so happens to be by Swedish artist Loreen. That song played constantly on the radio when I was in Sweden, it was hilarious when the Royal Palace marching band started playing it too!!

Definitely a highlight was taking a look inside the Nobel Museum. The museum is a testament to Alfred Nobel (1833–1896) who was a fascinating man who seemed to have his fingers in everything. He was a scholar, engineer, chemist and an inventor (he invented dynamite!) In his will he left his fortune in trust to set up and bankroll the Nobel Prize which as we know, still awards a prize in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace each year to this day. A really cool element in the museum was the ceiling where a poster for each of the 800+ Laureates who have been awarded the Nobel Prize runs along a cableway. There are also computer stations around where you can read all about the achievements of Nobel Prize winners.

There was also a cinema showing some amazing short films – truly inspirational interviews and archived footage showcasing various winners and their work.

My favourite thing had to be in the cafe there – and no I’m not talking about food for once! Lucky I had read in my Lonely Planet book to look under the chairs – they are all signed by various Nobel Prize winners! How cool is that?

Back out into the sunshine, we had such lovely weather for wandering. Helloo there pretty Sverige baby, Helloo pretty Stockholm…

Such awesome people watching, and dog watching too. The bustling vibe in the laneways was really my favourite thing!

Oh God, and the architecture! Please can I live here? Please!!

We walked over to Djurgården, a big green island where a few of the most famous museums are.

Cities on the water are just the best. Feels a bit like Sydney in that respect, but oh so different in architecture and vibe. I really love it though, I wanted to come back here even before I left it.

Sverige went to the Nordic Museum while I went to the Vasa museum. If I had time I would have liked to go there, it was pretty on the outside.

Firstly a quick hello to Astrid Lindgren – author of Pippi Longstocking. Next time I will check out her museum too!

I am glad I went to the Vasa Museet, it was just awesome! There is a giant 17th century warship in there, all in one piece! It tragically went on a trip to the bottom of the seabed barely a kilometre into its maiden voyage. It was a very fancy warship built for battle but unfortunately built a little bit out of proportion! It sunk in 1628 and was raised back to land in 1961, where it was painstakingly reconstructed and now sits in the museum. There’s heaps to see at the museum aside from the Vasa itself – lots of exhibits about the history of seafaring and life at sea.

Stockholm at night was fun, though I so wish I had been in better health. My head cold really knocked me out at night, particularly the first night when I took Panadeine Forte then went out for drinks – do not recommend this combination! Went a bit loopy and do not remember much about that night at all! The second night we caught up with one of Sverige’s friends who lives in Stockholm, we went to a cosy pub in Gamla Stan and had such a nice night.

Oh I loved my Stockholm mini-break and hanging out with my friend discovering the amazing in her country :-)

Pretty windows

August 9, 2012 Hej Sweden, Travel Comments

Our first stop after getting back home from Gotland was to visit Sverige’s fiance’s mum and pick up Göran who had been holidaying there while we were away.

They live on a working farm in a really beautiful house, it felt so peaceful. We settled down to have dinner at this pretty table and I had to take a pic of the window as I find Swedish windows so inspiring. Not just for the view outside them, but also for the way they are dressed. Sverige told me that it is a Swedish style to dress windows with candles, lights, flowers and light curtains to bring in some light and cheerfulness. That came about because the winters are long and dark, the sun rises late and sets early, but just because it’s dark outside doesn’t mean it has to be inside! I love it!

The last day of our ‘summer holiday’ was of course best spent on the beach, doing… not much.

On our way back to Visby I had to stop to take a photo of this roofless church:

Then we were back to Old Visby to eat yet another delicious meal, sigh! Oh holidays, I wish you would go on forever.

A summer holiday is not complete without a bike ride – and what a bike ride we did. 40km round trip from Visby to Tofta Beach. We hired bicycles from the town – three single bikes and one tandem bike – and off we went. I don’t own a bike at home in Sydney (I need to fix that) so the only time I ride is when I’m on holidays, which means the idea of hopping on a bike makes me feel like a giddy 5 year old – it’s all I can do not to squeal as I go along, weeeee!

Another symptom of not riding often is that I start out a bit wobbly – especially when trying to take a photo of a sign at the same time as steering round a turn…

But no worries, turn around and ride back again – snap! Yep, we’re heading in the right direction.

Excited + Wobbly + Slow. This was probably the only time I was in front, specially for photographic purposes.

And I listened to music and sang as I went along, ah the simple joys! AND I took a turn on the back of the tandem bike – it was a bit fun and a lot freaky (the back person pretty much puts their life in the hands of the front person – you better steer me right!!!)

And then we were there, at Tofta Beach! Where I witnessed a strange phenomenon – why is everyone facing away from the water?!? Apparently in Sweden an even tan trumps a stunning water-view; beach goers rotate around to follow the sun – so weird!!

After awhile we went to the ‘The After Beach’ which is the party after the beach (following the same concept, in Sweden after work drinks are called ‘The After Work’.) There was a really cool Swedish cover band playing a wide range of summer hits, past and present, such a fun vibe!!

The drink lines were long but the bonus was that we could buy them in a bucket at a time, yeah!

Then we drunk-rode back to Visby. No, not really, I’m sure we were perfectly under the limit by then.

A selfie in transit – obviously getting less wobbly and more confident, it’s like riding a bike (um, literally.)

This guy raised my eyebrows! But apparently it’s not too unusual – it’s how the winter sport fans stay in shape during the summer.

It was such a pretty ride – I had to keep stopping to take photos! But then that got me into a little trouble because then I was even slower and the super fit, super speedy Swedes I was with we’re zooming ahead of me. So Sverige kept urging me to ride a little faster until I started wailing ‘but whyyyyy? What’s the hurry? I thought this was supposed to be fun!’ A little lovers tiff on the bike path because I’m a slow, dreamy cyclist.  Then we laughed and made up and she rode super slow next to me all they back to Visby, such a good friend :-)

 

 

Today’s exciting excursion was to Fårö island which was truly spectacular on the eyeballs – I have too many photos to share, this post is more of a visual diary entry.

But first of all – the beach yesterday; my feet got burnt. Weird, the sun conscious, UV-paranoid Australian got burnt. I was a bit delayed in getting my sunscreen on as the sun didn’t feel as harsh as ours… but anyway. Ouchies. Good thing I don’t need to wear any real shoes for awhile.

Moving on to the good stuff. We got the car ferry from the Gotland mainland to Fårö and then hit the road – but not for long, we stopped pretty much every 15 minutes for the whole day it felt like, we probably didn’t, I was a backseat tourist staring out the window enjoying the view.

Fårö is famous for the stone structures called ‘rauks’ scattered all around the coastline. I should really say sculptures, not structures, because they are really beautiful and expressionistic. I snapped aplenty, my fave photos are the ones that contrast our people shapes against the starkness of the white rocks.

I call this elephant rauk:

I like to call this one ‘Lady Wearing a Top-Knot’… am I right?

We stopped at a groovy cafe that had lots of old trucks in the yard at the front, broken down, rusty old things communing with nature.

We found some giant concrete feet. Yikes.

What the. Purple flowers on a pebble beach. So awesome!

Wild berries, warm in the sun, and delicious. We just picked them straight from their bushes by the side of the road (I hope no-one walks their dogs round here).

As if Gotland doesn’t already have enough amazing sights – a 13th century town and ringwall, dramatic coastal rock formations and beautiful beaches – it’s got the underground covered too. The Lummelunda Caves (Lummelundagrottan) is one of the biggest in Sweden, measuring 4km long in the parts that have been investigated. The area above ground is a natural reserve with some really pretty foresttrails and buildings. We spent a couple of hours walking around the area, it is such a beautiful place to visit especially on such a gorgeous sunny day – Swedish summer is better in Gotland than the mainland :-)

We joined a tour group into the caves which was delivered in Swedish and English (thankfully!) There was a small group of us English speakers, so the guide addressed us first and then the Swedes. It was really comical how our small group would give a laugh at the jokes and then five minutes later the bigger Swedish crowd would roar with laughter – haha! Obviously all the jokes are given the same to each group.

The story of the discovery of the caves is amazing – in fact a movie has been made out of it. Three Swedish teenagers discovered the caves in 1948 just by being curious and one wiggling his way through a gap in the rock. Part of the tour includes watching a short documentary including interviews with the now adult discoverers. The two boys waiting on the outside were about to give up on the other when they finally heard him calling them to follow him in. This original entrance to the cave is not very accessible because the gap is too small for an adult to fit! That really says a lot about how intrepid these teens were, I wonder if the generations of today would be so brave? Now that it seems everything has been discovered and we can detect pretty much everything geographical from our satellites it kinda sucks the magical hope of possibilities from exploring your own backyard. Anyway, the caves have since generated massive amounts of revenue in various ways but these three guys never earned a cent. They told the world about the caves a few years after discovering it, having explored as much as they could (even after having grown to big to fit in the original entrance and finding another way in). I love stories like this, such curiosity and bravery!

The caves are magnificent as most are (there is something otherworldly about exploring somewhere that is usually hidden from view). Increasing the wonder of the experience was the plummet in temperature in the caves (about 8 degrees!) plus all the fairytale names for all the halls, stalactites, stalagmites and fossils. It was hard to take photos but we tried:

Back out into the sun and above ground again we walked our way back through the countryside and fields of flowers, so dreamy.

On our drive back to Visby we stopped at Lickershamn which is a little coastal spot with a pebble beach and an impressive rock formation atop the cliff at the end of the beach – it is the largest ‘rauk’ in Sweden and is called Jungfrun. A rauk is a sea stack which is a strange occurrence of the sea eroding the soft rock on a coastline leaving behind the hard limestone core.

We walked along the trails up to Jungfrun where I read a sign that gave a pretty sad story:

The legend behind the highest rauk in Gotland tells about a man named Likajr who placed his daughter, Öllegard, on the top of the rauk and challenged her boyfriend Helge, who was a slave, to climb up and get her. If he did, he would be allowed to marry her. Realizing that the young man, carrying Öllegard on his back down the cliff, was about to accomplish this task, Likajr fired an arrow into Helge’s head. Both the boy and the girl crashed into the sea and were never seen again.

We got back on the road, stopping on the way at an artist’s residence to look in the studio at view paintings and some beautiful pottery.

By the time we got back to Visby we had a quick potter about at home then went into the old town for dinner. We always pass these concrete sheep on our way – and all over Gotland actually! They’re pretty cute though – had to hop on for a pic :-)