A Very Blurry New Years and Goodbye to Sweden

Trip Start Aug 16, 2010
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Trip End Ongoing


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Friday, December 31, 2010

2/5/11

               So we spent a day or so recovering from Christmas then on the 27th Johannes and I thought we might go into Lund to see Tron Legacy.  But then while I'm watching TV in the living room Johannes comes in to tell me that we were leaving for Stockholm in about an hour.  This was a big change of plans but I had wanted to visit Stockholm so I wasn’t going to argue.  We had planned on going to Stockholm for New Years but he had a friend who lived up there and had invited us up, so we went.

                We took the train but it was a bit late so I wasn’t able to see much of the countryside on the way up since it gets dark by around 3:00pm.  At this point the majority of the most vivid memories from this whole vacation are the parts where I had to be outside.  For example, out of the whole train ride, the thing I remember the most is waiting for the train.  Even in all of my extra layers I was still freezing.  I feel like putting on a jacket right now, just from remembering the weather in Sweden.

                After about a five of so hour train ride we arrive in Stockholm.  It was dark, but the city was really interesting.  Lots of interesting lit up buildings, although I’m not sure if that was just for Christmas or not.  Regardless, it was beautiful.  Unfortunately in order to get to his friends place we had to walk with our luggage for a good mile or so in the snow.  I had just brought a backpack, but Johannes had brought a backpack and a rolly suitcase.  Why?  I don’t know, we were only there for 3 days.  Anyways, we finally got to his apartment, dropped off our stuff rested for a little bit and warmed up in his warm apartment.  Then we decided to go out for a drink.  Which meant we had go outside again… Yay…  So we re-applied all of our layers and headed out in search of a pub.  Our guide led us to an Irish pub, where we had some Swedish interpretation of French fries and some good beer.  I tried two different types I had never heard of before, and wish I could remember their names now, because they were both excellent.

                The next day we wandered around Old Stockholm.  They had both been all over the city before so this whole day was mostly to humor me (the tourist) but it was great nonetheless.  They were the typical locals who never bother to see the local attractions.  Like me having never been to Alcatraz until I was 17 or walked on the Golden Gate Bridge until I was 18.  So we went to see the Royal Palace and the Cathedral.  The Cathedral was really beautiful with lots of elaborate art and ancient sarcophagi of kings and queens.  We also visited the Royal Treasury, where we saw the crown jewels of the Swedish Royal Family.  They were beautiful and included elaborate baptismal fonts, globes (the small kinds with little crosses on top), scepters, swords (including the sword of King Gustav Vasa, who seems to be the most important Swedish King), as well as lots and lots of crowns.  We were accompanied by an audio tour which was very informative.  By this time we were really hungry so we went off to a small Italian restaurant which was recommended to us by Johannes’ friend and was absolutely amazing and really cheap.  Then we wandered across a really big bridge with an amazing view of the entire city and then took a bus home.  Later we tried to go out to a bowling alley/bar but it was closed so we settled for another regular bar, but again the beer was good so no complaints.  I never cease to be amazed by great beer here in Europe, so much better than the average U.S. beer.

                The next day we slept in just a bit, which was a bit of a mistake, since it was Sunday so when we tried to go to this national park of sorts which apparently had some kind of historic buildings and or a recreation of a Viking village and some moose it was closed earlier than we had expected.  We were all disappointed, I especially wanted to see the moose.  So we had the choice of the Swedish or Scandinavian History Museum (I can’t remember which) or the museum with the Glorious Vasa (a really big boat).  I kind of wanted to see the boat but my hosts didn’t really seem too interested so we went to the History Museum which ended up being a mistake.  It was a lot of exhibits on random Swedish things like furniture, clocks, and a special exhibit on plastic.  Not that fascinating.  But we had already bought our tickets so… we wandered through all the exhibits.  There were a few interesting parts, like the section on Swedish folk art, a collection of original writings by August Strindberg and a whole section devoted to the Swedish equivalent of Native Americans, (these semi-nomadic ancient people who live in the far north of the country and have a similar history of being pushed around and marginalized, although I’d never heard of them).  My favorite part was the segment on the various Swedish holidays such as graduation and Christmas, all of which had very unique traditions.  By the time we had finished with this museum everything was closed, so we grabbed some wine and beer from the alcohol store and went back to the apartment and watched some funny movies on youtube, the New Robin Hood movie and the Family Guy version of Return of the Jedi.  The alcohol stores here are really interesting.  All the alcohol in the entire country is bought and sold by the government.  The way it was explained to me kind of made sense but still seemed really weird, but one of the perks, as I was told was that the government only imported the good stuff, so that seemed good, but still a little too big brother for me.  The more I learn about Europe the more Socialism seems more and more practical and compassionate, but there are some parts of it that while not bad or overly controlling or intrusive, are just a little weird.  And this would be a perfect example of that.

                The next day we woke up, grabbed some coffee and a small breakfast.  I bought a couple souvenirs and then we all grabbed lunch at McDonalds and then Johannes and I headed off to the train station to head back to Höör.

                So we’ll skip ahead to my very blurry New Years Eve.  Blurry in more ways than one, lol.  We started out by going to one of Johannes’ high school friend’s house for dinner, which was very good.  His girlfriend, his brother and his girlfriend were all there.  One of the girls was Chinese and made some really good authentic Chinese food and it was actually pretty spicy, which was a welcome change to the typical European cuisine.  Oh yeah, did I mention there was wine…  I think you can see where this is going…  So after dinner and significant amount of wine we headed off to the bus stop to get to the actual party.  When we got there it was getting pretty close to midnight, bottles of champagne were shoved into our hands and people scattered to different rooms, some to drink away from the loud music, some to partake of certain smoke-able substances and some (including me) went out on the balcony to watch the fireworks.  Which are a big part of Swedish new years eve.  It was like the 4th of July but with only the big illegal fireworks you get in China town.  And they were everywhere.  Including right in front of the balcony, it seemed a bit dangerous to me but I judged it to be perfectly normal based on the reactions of all the locals.  There was no countdown that I remember just lots of yelling, fireworks and drinking of champagne.  Eventually it was clearly past midnight and I was very cold so I headed back in.  Somehow I found myself in the chill room but unfortunately forgot that mixing substances does not work well with my system.  But I only had the chance to partake of a very small amount of some Amsterdamesque souvenirs before I was quickly reminded that that was a bad idea and I found myself wandering toward the balcony again to expel of some of the excess alcohol.  By that point Johannes was ready to go so we headed (I stumbled) out and back to the bus stop.  We waited there for a good 15 minutes in the bitter cold before it became evident that the bus would not be coming.  So we resigned to walk home.  That was a very long walk…

                The next morning we had to wake up early and vacate since Johannes’ friend and his girlfriend had gotten into a fight and it was better that we leave.  I was not yet over my hangover so the bus rides over to Johannes’ brother’s house was very miserable.  I felt like puking the entire time, but knew that that was unlikely since there was nothing inside me left at that point.  Johannes’ brother and his two sons were still at Johannes’ parents’ house where they had spent the night.  So we both passed out again for another couple hours until his brother finally got home.  When we got up I had some tea and a sandwich and watched the old movie Ivanhoe which apparently is another thing that is always played annually 1st of January in Sweden.  Eventually Johannes and I felt up to moving, but not much so we decided to go see Tron since we were already in town, and then wouldn’t have to buy a train ticket back into Lund again.  I had wanted to try and see it while in Sweden so that I could see it in English, so I had to ignore the Swedish subtitles, but it was still a really good movie, a worthy successor to the original.

                After the movie we wandered around Lund and Johannes gave me a tour with a bit of the history of the town and told me about his high school graduation in that city, which apparently was like a weeklong party.  Then headed back to Höör.  We pretty much chilled there for the next couple days while I tried to work out my travel plans for the rest of the break, which was made extremely difficult by my bank which had apparently only just noticed some suspicious activity on my account and blocked it.  There was some suspicious activity on my account, there were some purchases in Europe.  Go figure, I’d been using my cards in Europe since August and the bank was only just noticing now… Good to know they’re on the ball, it was only January.

                So I finally got that fixed and bought some tickets to Madrid on my way back to Marseille.  So in my last couple days I mostly just chilled with Johannes, wandered through the forest behind his house, walked over to his old elementary/middle school, watched a bunch of his old home made films and student films (he is a CTVA major, aka he makes movies) and played card games with him and his parents.  It was actually really nice.  Finally it was time to leave Sweden.  Johannes and I left the night before to spend the night at his brother’s house since it was closer to the station and I could leave earlier and then be able to see some of Copenhagen before I left for Madrid.  My last night, Johannes insisted that I try Swedish pizza.  It was pretty much the same as normal pizza but the options for toppings were a little exotic, I went for prosciutto, and it was really good.  It was a good last night spent with my LilBro.

                The next morning I woke up and said goodbye to Johannes, who had to stay behind to watch his nephews while his brother drove me to the train station.  I thanked his brother for the ride and headed off to the train station.  I was a little sad to be leaving Sweden.  I’d wanted to visit it for years, but now was really looking forward to so Spain and its lack of snow.  Amsterdam and Sweden were very nice, but being from California, I had had enough snow to last me quite a while.  I’m sure someday I’ll make it back to Sweden, but hopefully next time I’ll visit in the summer.
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