I’ve had travel on my mind lately and a trip I took to the land of my father’s birth has been front and center. I was excited about this trip and feeling quite awkward as I didn’t speak even a little bit of the language. Not even thank you, hello, or where do you find the bathroom. But, off I went with a girlfriend and we explored Scandinavia one hot summer. I’ll save some of the trip to write about another time as it was full of adventure, but I was anxious to get to Sweden, the land of my father’s birth. He was an immigrant to the United States as a child and I am a first generation American on his side of the family.
We passed through the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam, on the train. Then, through Copenhagen. Both wonderful adventures. Then, we crossed over into southern Sweden on that train on our way to Stockholm. My family came from a tiny town southwest of Stockholm called Finspong. It was high summer, which in Sweden means it never really got dark. The train was full so I gave up my seat to an older lady and I stood between cars just so I could see the scenery and commit it to memory, not knowing if I would ever have a chance to return. I was anxious to see the land of my dad’s birth.
My grandparents and great-grandparents who came from Sweden were not wealthy people. They were middle class at best and worked as farmers. The land that I saw heading toward Stockholm on that train was a lot of rolling farmland. It took most of a day to arrive in the city.
We got to Stockholm in the late afternoon. As I looked at the people, I realized I no longer felt awkward. I felt at home. They looked like me. They were blonde, some brown-eyed, some blue-eyed. In our very nice hotel, a little English was spoken but not very much. I found myself wishing I had learned the language. Swedish is not an easy language to learn. We ate dinner in the hotel dining room and I realized how different the Scandinavian food was. Mostly fish, fortunate for me, as that is what I liked. But other odd delicacies that I had never eaten. After dinner, we went to our room as we were tired from traveling.
Both my girlfriend and I took a nap. We woke up later as the sun was still shining at 11 p.m. People were milling about on the streets so we joined them. As dusk started to fall, we were treated with the most awesome display of the Northern Lights you could ever imagine. I had seen them before in Northern Michigan. But seeing the Northern Lights in Sweden put that experience to shame. After that, we went to our room for the night. We were advised to close the blackout shades as the sun only went partially down from about midnight to 3 a.m. We slept, but only for a few hours as we were excited to get up and explore the city.
Downtown Stockholm is the most modern of cities and the architecture is something to see. I, however, was anxious to go to the old city. Old Town Stockholm was considered a slum until the 20th century but is now the hot spot of the city. It is on an island and a couple of islets and that is where you will see the baroque-style Royal Palace and Royal Chapel. Old Town was founded in 1252 and the Royal Palace is 600 rooms. Sweden is still, actually, a monarchy. Old Town is medieval and has the winding cobblestone streets and narrow alleys you find in other medieval old cities in Europe. There are the usual restaurants, night clubs, galleries, and museums. You can watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace. But, there is a lot of culture as well and you can see what Sweden is all about. Don’t go to Scandinavia and miss Old Town Stockholm!
Museums like the Moderna Museet for a fabulous collection of 20th and 21st century art. There is theatre, dance, photography, and a famous auction house for antiques. Of course, Sweden is famous for its glass-making and you can watch demonstrations of glass blowing and buy fine Swedish glassware on the spot. I shipped some of it home.
For all of us techies, it may be a surprise to learn that Stockholm residents are the most wired (or wireless) people in the world. They spend their lives in cafes with their electronics and they are always connected.
Yes, the climate is cold. Even in high summer, we had to wear jackets. But the Swedes never let that stop them. They revel in the cold and Sweden is one of the capitals of Nordic sports.
After several days in Stockholm, we jumped back on the train and headed north from Stockholm to visit northern Sweden and cross over to Norway. Our visit to Lapland was fascinating. More about that in another blog post. We had a wonderful visit to land of my father! #SOCS #amwriting #amblogging #writing #travel #Sweden