Of course I had to have one more adventure before I headed back to ‘Murica! This trip was probably even more of a trip of lifetime than Spain. Yes, I said it. How can that be possible? First off, I was heading for a 10 day adventure to Sweden. Yes, THE Sweden. And of course, my mother was over joyed that I was A) returning to the homeland B) going to visit distant relatives that we have heard many stories about. Could I get any more brownie points?
I was also very excited to visit a college friend who lives just outside of Stockholm. That is where I began my journey of Swedish lessons:
Swedish 101: köttbullar
For those of you who don’t speak Swedish, köttbullar, is Swedish for meatballs. Yes, my friend Ida and I made Swedish meatballs. Could I get ANYMORE Swedish than that? Here is a very bare minimum recipe…ya’ll should probably just google one.
Step 2: Mix the meat with chopped onions and then bread crumbs and cream.
Step 3: Boil some potatoes and prepare the frying pan with some butter on medium heat (just a little butter, we aren’t channeling Paula Deen here).
Step 4: Roll meat into balls, about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches big.
Step 5: Place the meatballs into the frying pan to cook. Flip the balls to prevent burning…as you can see we had some problems with that part.
Step 6: While the meatballs are cooking, mix the gravy together into a pot on low heat. As you can see any form of gravy will do, we aren’t Martha Stewart.
Step 7: Once the gravy thickens, the meatballs are throughly cooked, and the potatoes are boiled, place all into pretty serving dishes and ENJOY! Make sure you have gone and picked your lingenberries for some sauce (HA!)!
Once I had my fill of meatballs, it was time to head off to explore Stockholm and Uppsala. Lucky for me, the town my friend Ida lived right between the two so I could easily make day trips to both cities via the train. Also, Sweden’s transportation is AH-mazing, seriously one of the countries with the best, most convienent transportation lines.
Here is where I learned my second Swedish lesson…
Lesson #2: High School graduation
Yes, those are exactly what they look like: dump trucks packed with high school students wearing sailor caps. What you don’t see is that most of them are ridiculously drunk and have a million bottles of alcohol that they are pouring on to innocent bystanders. Really, I watched a poor tourist try to get an up close picture, only to have a bottle of Svedka poured onto her. Also each dump truck has it’s own DJ blasting some form of Gangnam Style or Dancing Queen. The best part? These trucks drive about 10 miles an hour all over downtown Stockholm, so literally there is a traffic jam of dump trucks and innocent drivers, and these kids just go crazy dancing, drinking, spraying alcohol on anyone who gets too close.
So what happens before this rave? You wake up, get ready for graduation, start drinking with your rents at a special brunch, and then head to the graduation ceremony. Once you have officially graduated you load up onto the dump truck and get a send off of more alcohol and best wishes from your parents. Now remember the drinking age is 18 in Sweden, but you can’t legally purchase alcohol from a liquor store until 21. So you can purchase alcohol in a bar or pub, but you can’t walk into a store and get some. Tricky Sweden, very tricky. What happens after the rave? The dump truck drops you off and you have to walk home soaking wet, reeking of booze, and then prepare for round 3 of going out that night to the local bar to continue the celebration. This, my friends, is essentially the definition of “rallying,” which means the activity of prolonged drinking for many hours and then pausing only to continue drinking later on.
As I continued my way through Stockholm trying to avoid the dump trucks, I was pleasantly surprised how quiant and adorable city.
While in Stockholm I learned another great Swedish lesson: Don’t look at failures as a terrible thing, celebrate them just as you would for successes!
Swedish lesson #3: vasamuseet
What is vasamuseet? Well it is the Vasa museum that houses the most famous ships in Swedish history. It isn’t famous for what other boats are famous for: it is famous for sinking within the first 20 minutes of leaving the harbor. That is right, this boat was a complete failure and yet there is a whole museum dedicated to it!
So what’s the story behind this ship? There once was this king, King Gustav II Adolf the grandson of Gustav I (or Gustav Vasa), who went to war with Poland. But before I start that story, I should explain the Vasa part. Gustav I was the first of the Vasa dynasty.The Vasa family originally had a bundle of sticks, called a fascine in English and vase in Swedish, as their heraldic symbol, and this is how the boat received its name.
Back to Gustav II. When he became king in 1611, he also inherited 3 wars: one with Russia, Denmark, and Poland. We are going to focus our attention to the war with Poland. The king of Poland, Sigmund, was the cousin of Gustav and had been king of Sweden from 1592-1599. However, due to his Catholic faith he was kicked out, and once Gustav II was king, trouble brewed between the family until Gustav called war due to religious reasons. Gustav was hoping to expand Sweden’s territory to create an empire.
So the cousins go to war, Gustav heads off to Poland, and orders that a giant war ship is built and sent to Poland. A dutch ship maker is hired and the building starts in 1626. An interesting fact about dutch ship building: no plans were actually written down, general dimensions were given and each worker used their own tools (handmade differently at different lengths), creating some interesting dimensions on the boat. You can actually see how one side of the ship curves out more than the other side. Finally in 1627 the boat is ready to set sail.
On August 10, 1628 the ship was placed in the river in front of where the current Royal Palace is located. Once the ship had gotten out of the port and was sailing on her own, it began to teeter totter and water began coming in through the many open gun ports. After sailing only 1300 meters, the boat sank. Of course there were no documents of exact number of crew on the ship and with eyewitness accounts it is believed that about 30 people out of 150 crew didn’t survive the sinking. When they brought the ship out of the harbor in 1961, they found the remains of 16 people. Of course, the Pols that it was HILARIOUS that this ship sank, but Gustav came back and had another ship built. The second ship that was built successfully sailed the waters for many years.
Lesson #5: Family doesn’t always mean the immediate family.
Like the title of this post says, I went to “da motherland” AKA the land where my mother’s ancestors came from. So a big part of this trip was meeting some of the distant (like 4th cousins) relatives of mine. After exploring Stockholm, I left for a tour of southern Sweden and headed for the small town of Edsburk which is outside the larger town of Gamleby. Here I met my mother’s father’s grandfather’s brother’s great-grand son (Confusing right? But even cooler that we could trace our relations THAT far back). They came and picked me up at the train station and proceeded to continue my education of all things Swedish. First things first, FIKA.
What is Fika? Well it is this AMAZING time where you eat. So of course I was in love with this idea from the beginning. At my college Gustavus, there was evening Fika which consist of coffee and little desserts. However, as I learned in Sweden, there are a million different ways to fika. You can have mid-morning fika which is like a second breakfast that can consist of little pastries, some names literally translating to Vacuum pastry (see below). There is after lunch fika, which can also be lunch too, where you have sandwiches, many times with shrimp. Then there is after dinner fika that can consist of a night cap and some other desserts or coffee.
Anyways focusing back onto things other than food. During my time with Mats family, I did a lot of activities:
And lastly my favorite: Kiss a moose. Yes, I said it. One popular thing in Sweden are Moose Parks. They are nature preserves that house mooses (meese? Moose? MEESES?). Super guay.
After spending time in Edsburk, I headed to the east side of southern Sweden to the town of Almhult. THE HOME OF IKEA. Here I met my mother’s father’s great-grandmother’s brother’s great-grand son, Kjell (pronounced Shell). Essentially third cousins (Mats in Edsburk is also a third cousin too). I also met the grand children of Kjell’s brother, my 4th cousins as well. As I mentioned before the first original IKEA began in Almhult, and IKEA actually stands for the initials for the founded and the farm and city he was raised in (Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, the farm where he grew up, and Agunnaryd, his hometown in Småland, South Sweden.)
Kjell took me on a little day trip to see the childhood home of the famous Swedish botanist, Carl Von Linnaeus. Thanks to my college course in Interpreting Spring Landscapes, I was very familiar with this name (Shout out to Mr. Jim Gilbert for being passionate about Linaeus’ work!). Now if this isn’t a household name like it is in our family, Linnaeus is the guy who named a ton of plants and flowers and classified said plants into families, creating the founding for botany.
During my time in Almhult, I also got the chance to visit with Kjell’s brother’s grandchildren for the day. We rode some “bikes” on the old railroad tracks and had a picnic. I put bikes in quotations because they weren’t normal bikes with wheels. They were double seaters that rode along the tracks. Afterwards, both families had a BBQ along the lake (ah hem, I see where Minnesotans get their love for BBQs and lakes.)
Before I get to the next lesson, I want to say thanks to Mats’ family and Kjell’s family for opening their arms and homes to me while I was visiting. It was so great to meet the relatives that I have only heard about or seen pictures of. I had a blast learning about my family as well as experiencing things that I wouldn’t have if I had just been touring the area. It’s great to know I have connections in Sweden and I cannot wait for the future meetings we will have (Trust me, I will be coming back to Sweden).
As my 10 days in Sweden came to end, we come upon my last lesson: There is a reason why many Minnesotans have a Swedish ancestry…Sweden and Minnesota are literally the same place. I would have to say I had great timing of traveling around Sweden when I did. The weather was GREAT, the people were super friendly (very similar to Minnesota Nice…), and this trip helped me to prepare for going home.
I wish everyone could have the chance to retrace their families history to where it originated. It was amazing to go back to the roots of where my family lived and grew up. I also didn’t mind traveling to a country where I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb…I can only take being called guapa and rubia so much (just kidding!). I also enjoyed being able to take my time while exploring. As much as I love traveling on weekends, there is a huge difference between running for three days straight to having 10 days to explore.
Well folks, we have one more blog to finish up my amazing year abroad. Please bare with me as I’m settling in to my life here in the US…echo de menos mis siestas, I miss my siestas. HASTA LUEGO!