Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Välkommen till Sverige!

I had heard such wonderful things about Sweden, I wasn’t sure it could possibly live up to my expectations, but so far I have not been disappointed! Sweden immediately reminded me of home, but different. Same trees, wide roads, so much more space, Canucks fans =), same cups and furniture (IKEA…) but new food, language and landscapes as well.
Sofia picked me up at the station in Östersund, a small city in northern Sweden. Her family was so generous and introduced me to some interesting Swedish food (like messmör, sweetened whey cheese paste (?) and delicious drinking yogurt among other things). We spent 3 days wandering, hiking and biking the area. I love nature! So great to get some real fresh air and peace. Friday we biked into town (everyone bikes there even though they only have 2 months of summer) and then walked around town, it’s really cute and so relaxed. We went to an ‘interactive outdoor museum’ where Sofia used to work. They have re-created what the town looked like in different centuries complete with the real buildings, furniture, household articles and people (who really act as if they are living there: taking care of the animals, the garden, cooking, cleaning and pretending they don’t speak English). It was such a neat idea and you can really get the feel for the history since you’re ‘in it’. Later we went to the indoor part of the museum and learned about the native Sami people and more local history. We biked back in the rain and that night we relaxed and watched a movie.
Saturday we took the car to the mountains (large hills, but with stunning views!). It was supposed to rain but instead cleared up nicely by the afternoon. We hiked right up to the top (where it was freezing with the wind, closest to winter as I'm likely to get for several months!) and then back around another way stopping for lunch at a little hikers cabin that fully equipped and anyone can use if they need to. Didn’t see any reindeer or moose (though I ate some of both later) but we did find a ton of berries! We picked a bag of mountain huckleberries (Swedish blueberries, real dark blue ones not those silly red coastal ones!!) and our lunch box full of cloudberries (soft yellow/orange berries that taste like nothing else). Just nature, except for a wind turbine belonging to the ski hill to run the lifts. On the way back we stopped at her family’s summer house on the lake and went for a short walk where we found more berries (black/red currants, raspberries and lingonberries). That evening we made huckleberry pie and took it over to her grandma’s place.
Sunday we went biking through town and across to the island and then to a lovely church which they of course decided to build on the very top, but I made it up even with a street bike! Then we went for ‘fikka’(??) Swedish coffee break with something to eat and admired the view! Refreshed, we biked back, packed up and had lunch. Then it was into the car for the 6+ hour journey, with a break for picnic dinner by one of the many picturesque lakes, back down to Uppsala where Sofia goes to university.
Monday we went canoeing in the morning up and down the river (I actually remember how to steer!). Canoe is Swedish is literally a ‘canadian’ so I was a Canadian in a canadian… It was beautiful weather. Later we went walking around Uppsala, again bikes everywhere especially since it is a university city. I could easily live there too. I made dinner while Sofia was at class and managed to lock myself out with their new magnetic locks…
Yesterday it was up and off to the train station with my huge pack on the back of her bike (like the true hobo I am) and off to Stockholm. For a city, Stockholm is very beautiful and laid-back, built on several islands so there is water everywhere! We walked along the winding waterfront to an island where we had a picnic lunch and then off to Vasa museum, really cool! They salvaged a ship that sunk in 1628 after sailing for only 20 minutes. The whole ship is in the museum, 95% of it original. We learned about life back then, how and why they built this huge ship, why it sank, some of the victims and how they managed to bring it up and restore it after hundreds of years. I love history when it has a context and more personal side. We walked back through the old town: parliament, churches and royal palace to the station and I took the 4 ½ hour train to Lund, where I am now, relaxing in Astrid`s dorm room while she registers for classes.

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