Navigating through an unfamiliar tram network was easier done than said. Yes, you read that correctly.
When traveling solo, I typically navigate as I go but with others, even my own brother, I get nervous as I anticipate not knowing exactly where to go or how to get there. However, multiple staff at the Stockholm airport and train station were extremely helpful in guiding us in the right direction. Before leaving home I’d looked up the tram stop which would lead us to the correct neighborhood, but knew not the best way to get there. With this information easily accessible, we were led from airport to city train station via bus, then from train station to neighborhood via metro. Stopping for a quick bite to eat at the train station, we were quite pleased at the prices and thought that the common hypocrites had wrongfully labeled Sweden an expensive place to be.
This was the last affordable meal we’d taste from a restaurant for the next two weeks.
And it was a sandwich.
Hypocrites: You’re absolutely right. Ex-pen-sive.
Soon enough, Ben and I were living on a market-based diet of breads, jams, yogurt and eggs. We gained nutrients with fruits and vegetables, but by the end of the trip my body wanted to reject carbohydrates entirely. I felt like I’d been sucked dry from the inside out with affordable baguettes, buns, and croissants.
Close friends and family may know, but others are most likely unaware that I was offered and highly contemplating a teaching job in Sweden for the 2015-2016 school year. It was to be teaching math in Linköping, a city about 200 kilometers west of the country’s capital. The job offer was exactly what I wanted to teach, and furthermore in a prime location. However, after weighing the salary versus cost of living, I realized how little would actually make it into a bank account. Swedes have high taxes, high import costs, and high standards.
Can I be real when I say: they deserve it. They are kind, clean, considerate. Their country is fabulous and even when traveling with a strict budget and therefore a strict meal plan, it is another sort of paradise.
Several islands make up the Swedish archipelago. Several thousand islands, that is. 24000, in fact. Some are the perfect size for a single cabin, others are home to red building after red-wooden building. A ferry took us through several of the islands, starting with a rain-soaked morning. We traveled East toward Finland and made several stops along the way. Locals joined us as they used the ferry as a commuter boat, others joined us on their way to the cabin for a relaxing weekend away. We spent much of the time in a quite dining area, where we talked, read, wrote, and gazed out the windows at passing lighthouses and green spaces. A total of six hours past as we made a long loop to the eastern-most island of Stockholm’s archipelago and back to Stockholm’s city center.
From there, we walked crossed bridge after bridge to find a slew of entertainment centers. The ABBA museum pays homage to not only the world’s top dancing queens, but also to the quartet whom I first got to listen to on a Sony boombox way back when. Before I even owned that boombox, I owned an ABBA CD. The very first CDs of many to come. And the very first of yet another era gone by.
On the same small island is a grand park with gardens and open spaces. While walking though and realizing the similarities this island holds to Northern Minnesota, we found a peculiar building of turquoise and burnt orange brick. Atop the building was an iron sign burned into the shape of “Scansen” We were drawn closer by the creative beauty of the building, and once closer noticed another sign: Minnesberg.
On the same building: Scansen and Minnesberg. Just as in the Midwest lie side by side the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, both heavily inhabited by Swedes. Coincidence? You be the judge.
High off an unforgettable tour of Hamburg’s must-see sites, we opted once again for a city tour the next morning. Our guide was knowledgeable and pointed us toward the city’s main focal points, including Gamla Stan, The Royal Palace, and the department store where Hollywood actress Greta Garbo got her start as an advertising model. She showed us where controversies took place and laughed as we realized an historical landmark where an unsolved assassination of former Prime Minister Olof Palme took place lies directly under the headquarters of none other than…. Candy Crush.
Stockholm is home to more than just Candy Crush executives. It also is the original home of H&M, allowing eager shoppers to hop from store to store to store in mere seconds. “If you can’t find what you’re looking for here,” she said, “You can find it here. Or there. Or there!”
H&M may be popular among the young, but Sweden’s worldwide creative genius totes a name only slightly longer. Starting with an I. Ending with a -KEA.
The next time you visit Ikea, take a look at the names and you’ll see that each comes from Sweden. Even the play area: Småland is the name of a Swedish city. The colors, yellow and blue, are reflections of Sweden’s flag. And the style of minimalist functionality is also a reflection of Swedes’ spirit.
Remember how I said we were on a diet void of much fun and personality? We did stray, a little. The ferry allowed us a bite of Swedish delicacies in the form of Räksmörgås : an open faced sandwich piled high with tiny fresh shrimps. Swedish meatballs also were a must, accompanied by lingonberry sauce. Then came the ultimate waist-expanding meal of Smörgåstårta: a sandwich cake created by layering white bread, mayonnaise, shrimps and dill. Oddly enough, this particular dish is very popular at events such as birthday parties and summer picnics. Imagine: a picnic on a warm summer day. You’re all enjoying cocktails and salads. Then comes the main course: a sandwich cake with fragrances of mayonnaise and seafood intoxicatingly rich from the afternoon’s heat. Stomachs beware. Somehow though, this remains a typical fare during such events. We didn’t experience one of these lunches, though they are said to be quite the experience. This would be a benefit of getting to know the locals.
Perhaps had I accepted the job in Linkoping, I would be able to try Smörgåstårta on a warm summer’s day. Instead, I will daydream of warm mayonnaise and shrimp sandwich cakes. Also, had I accepted the job, visa processing would not have allowed me into the country this summer to enjoy a time such as this.
Amazing how powerful some sibling time can be. Powerful enough to put career and Sandwich Cake second; When you get to spend just two weeks each year with your inspiring brother, perhaps you can see why.
From Stockholm, we boarded a train West toward Malmo. We made a stop in Linkoping long enough to see that -Eh! It’s quite a large town – and: Eh! It’s August and I’m cold (Imagine December) -and: Eh! Decisions made were good decisions – and: Eh! Despite skipping over our native lands of Hvetlanda and Kristianstad we were able to feel a true connection to our roots.
So – Eh! Swedish successes were quite evident.
On to Denmark!