Helen is a very active pensioner

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photo: Rasmus Flindt Pedersen/Copenhagenmedia

Our brilliant assistant has started to learn Swedish. It’s a source of great delight when she starts throwing in new words and sentences she’s learned. Like when she walks to the kitchen and calls, “Vill du dricka te?” She also coined a phrase for me the other day. I openly tell everyone at the office that I have started crocheting (occupational therapy for my hands only, no ambitions) and that I actually read the supermarket leaflet to check if there are any good special offers. And yes, then when they have shoe trees that cost a fifth of what they usually cost, I get excited and mark the date down in my calendar. The new Swedophone nodded and quoted from her book, “Helen är en mycket aktiv pensionär!” I guess she has a point.

Anyway, what isn’t so old-people-ish about me is probably my constant travelling. For a person who doesn’t like travelling, I sure am on planes and trains often. Tonight, I’m hopping on the flight to Copenhagen. (Something that my extra colleague, awkwardly enough, acknowledged with the comment, “What’s in Copenhagen, STDs and bad cafés?”) The city of Borgen, the country where inhabitants speak very funny and the happiest people on earth! I’m going to see some of my Swedish choir friends, it’s our annual meet up. We’re close to where we once started this tradition: in 2012, we first travelled to Malmö together which is only a stone’s throw from Copenhagen. The last time I was in Copenhagen (and not just their airport) was more than six years ago, then, they had shipped off their biggest sight, the Little Mermaid to Shanghai. It’ll be interesting to see how the Danish capital is today – and if it’ll charm me more than Amsterdam. Farvel, Dizzel!

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photo: Martin Heiberg/Copenhagenmedia

Del 15 i citat-samlingen

Och du är lite snobbish för att du kommer från Hamburg.

– URSÄKTA?!

Säger du med ett litet dolt leende, lite nöjd.

Inte en enda käft har svarat på mitt mejl! – Det låter lite grovt även för en svensk, men för en Helen…!

Tyskar som ska vara lite fräcka…alltså, jag bara smälter ihop i en liten hög och säger nej, ni är så löjliga!

Picture Parade

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It is never a good idea when I go to bed too late or sleep with disregard to the sleep cycles which I have identified as a source of regeneration (maybe it’s just placebo effect but that’s fine with me). So today, I was not a happy camper. All the people who did not answer my important emails, all the interns who said stupid things in their interviews and the elevator that is superslow, it all irritated me a little more than usual.

So instead of continuing to nag about who everythingissoannoyingandwhydoiliveindüsseldorfwherenoneofmyfriendslive I invite you to a picture parade from the weekend that I spent with my mom, aunt and cat at home.

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Last Friday, I decided to not take the very expensive train because I feel that I am soon to be an unofficial stockholder in the Deutsche Bahn just that I put lots of money into the company without getting official representation at the annual genereal meeting. Also, it takes four hours to my parents’ place by train and two and a half, three by car.

So I thought I should be young and free-spirited and opt for carpooling. The website that you use for that answers to the very sophisticated name of Blablacar and claims to be world’s leading long distance ridesharing service, connecting drivers with empty seats to people travelling the same way. In reality, I waited two hours in the central station because the driver got stuck in a traffic jam. I could not even be mad at her really because she obviously didn’t cause the traffic jam. On the way to the station, I walked (unlike all other days when I take the bike) and had time to look at the rather peculiar houses and decorations. The East European Institute, for example, has chimes on their facade. Each bell represents a region from which East Germans were expelled (the whole refugee thing is not that new to Germany as millions of Very East Germans fled to the West 1945). The  former eastern territories of Germany and the expulsion is still a big deal today. Under the chimes it said, “In Memory of the Old Homeland. In Thanks of the New Homeland”. Rather touching indeed.

 

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I also passed the Lohnsteuerhilfeverein which is an association that helps you do your taxes. Still wondering why they thought all kinds of different houseplants would be the most fitting decoration for a tax office. Also, I love how this picture could have been taken 1991 without you noticing. True Dizzel style.

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My mother does not really share my historical interest so much. Or rather, she did not have very inspiring teachers that ignited the spark of historical inquisitiveness in her. So since 15 years, I try to educate her about history. I don’t even remember how the subject of the Prussian kings came up but apparently I deemed it very neccesary to make her a post-it list of all the kings with easy-to-memorize cues. Really, you never know when you end up on a quiz show needing to know which one of the Prussian kings liked men.

Spring, my favorite season (I think), has found its way into Germany this weekend. We greeted spring with apple cake and sitting outside without a jacket because I can’t find my transition jacket (as we Germans call the not-so-warm-but-not-really-summery-clothes you wear in spring and fall).

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Even on the way home, I booked a ride with Blablacar and by then, I realized that their name does have a meaning, that is to say that they want you to keep the driver company and talk (hence “blabla”). I, despite being talkative most others times, love to watch movies, read or listen to podcasts while travelling. Instead, I bombed down the Autobahn with a 50plus commuter who liked listening to Gothic Rock and Pop. At least I was home in 2 hours and 15 minutes (!) which gave me time to watch the new Swedish series “Finaste familjen”. The show can hardly be described as high quality tv but at the same time it is fun to watch the quirks of the Swedish upper class as a comedy. It is just a little too close to reality I suppose.

IMG_3047Now you know how I spent my weekend. As a bonus, I am posting a photo of my adorable cat. You’re welcome.

Five reasons for a cabin vacation in the Swedish fjäll

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  1. The nature at your finger tips

    Maybe it’s because I am not so well-travelled when it comes to nature, but I’ve never found more untouched, beautiful nature as in the Swedish countryside. There were actually no other foot steps where we took our walks, only immaculate snow, high fir trees, and when you lay down in the snow to make snow angels, the sky looked like it would never end.

  2. The sauna

    Swedish cabins often have their own sauna as many countrymen regard a sauna to be a self-evident part of a complete house. No matter how cold you got outside, you can rely on the sauna warming you up. In the dim light of the little hot room you can chat with your friends until talking gets to exhausting because you are so warm. That’s the point where you step outside on your porch and rub yourself with snow.

  3. The family feeling

    Many cabins are tiny, so you get close with your cohabitants. It means queues to the bathroom, teamwork while cooking, coordination finding seats at the table and thus generating a large family feeling. I love the idea of a large family, especially when it consists of mature adults that don’t start any fights about parental praise or the remote control. Instead, you enjoy the benefits of family feeling: playing games together, cuddling on the sofa, watching TV together, passing on good books to each other, teaching and learning each other new things and nighttime conversations in the bunk beds.

  4. The little things

    A city vacation in an inspiring city can be constant amazement. While that is exciting, it can also be nice every once in a while to be in a place where there is no over-stimulation. In an environment like Sälen, the little things become big and you can enjoy those small adventures. Shopping at Ica becomes a thing, throwing snowballs into the river and watching if they flow with the stream or exploring the little village library – if you live in the big city, these moments can be a pleasant calm counterexperience.

  5. The non-stress

    Because there is less to do in the snowy countryside, you can hardly stress about anything, especially if you are not going skiing and thus don’t even have to get to the lifts in time. The only thing to worry about is to take your walk in the three hours when it is really light. As your wear snow pants there, you don’t have to think about what to wear today, either. Your only task is to enjoy the highly increased mysfaktor when you get back into the cabin and peel oranges on the sofa.

Sälen City

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You would not think hanging out in a cabin in the woods would be this eventful, but it is. Our first day, Anna Kajsa and I, the non-skiing party, tog det lugnt. That means we had a full schedule consisting of sleeping, eating, reading, sleeping, going for a walk, going to our sauna, resting, eating, sleeping. It was a tough day, obviously.

Since we were well-rested, we deemed the evening perfect for a night out. Going out in Sweden is special and going out in a tiny village that is mostly tourists is even more special. There is only one club in Sälen (are you surprised?) and it is called Ice (no, you’re not surprised). We checked their photo gallery before we went: very young, very blonde Swedes in uniform fashion having such a good time. With lowered expectations and increase wine intake, we arrived to the club as soon as they opened – and were pleasantly surprised. The clientele was still very young and heavily make-uped, but it was possibly to, most of the time, to blend them out, and the music was very acceptable. They even played „Dansar aldrig nykter“ („I never dance while sober“) which is both a very adequate description of the party people and a favorite song of mine.

The last day of the year,we used to discover downton Sälen. This little place has 652 inhabitants and there is actually a Tourist Office. It is located in a central house where also the library (advertising „You can now do genealogy research with us“), the real estate agent (it is not as cheap here as you would think), the bakery (they offer no vegetarian sandwiches), the alcohol store (closed by 2 p.m.), the bank (with German signage) and a design shop (gorgeous but unaffordable) are. We were informed about the sights at the tourist office: the hembygdsgård, the fjällkyrkor, the interior shop and the Dala-shop.

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The hembygdsgård and the fjällkyrka were definitely best: the former is a farm estate from the 1500s that was used until 1945. In Sweden, particularily here in Dalarna, people sometimes have their estate’s name as the name before their real name which I think is very peculiar. The last one living on the farm was called Olnispa Johanna Hansdotter and she was a 13 degree grandchild of Ola Nils Per (Olnispa) who build the farm. The most interesting part I thought was about Gustav Vasa, who undoubtetly was an important figure in Swedish history (google Kalmarunionen if you can’t follow) and is still remembered by eating knäckebröd and by skiiing the same way he did when was escaping from the Danish king. The ski race is called Vasaloppet and is the oldest, longest and biggest ski race in the world. It starts in – you guessed it – Sälen. During his escape, Vasa stayed at the Olnispa farm. Imagine! I might have peeked into a window where the unifier of Sweden slept.

We got to the fjällkyrka (mountain church) at dusk so the chapel was plunged into a very special beautiful light. We stepped in to the sounds of a piano and a girl practising songs. It was a very lovely church even if Malin thought it looked like a sauna due to the wood.

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Please take off your cleats when you step into the church. Only in the fjäll.

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On our way back to our cabin, we had to scrape away ice from the car, outside and inside. Sweden really makes sure to deliver real winter feeling. There are few things as cosy as coming back from the white cold into a warm cabin, put your cold wet clothes into the drying cupboard (a great Swedish convenience), start a fire in the fireplace and curl up on the sofa with friends drinking hot chocolate and eating gingerbread made by grandmothers and mothers. The only thing we were not granted was to see Northern Lights due to the clouds. But there are hopefully more years to come, cheers to the first new one!

Ett nytt år är som ett pärlband av möjligeter. Öppna dagar som ska komma”. (A new year is like a bead string of opportunities. Open days that shall come.)

Swedish soil and Swedish signs

I am a funny traveller. I plan to go places all the time (mostly because someone I love is there) and when I need to start travelling there, I despise the process and want to stay at home. But now I’m here, safely landed in my dear friend Linus’ apartment where I get to monitor the flowers while they’re gone, and I don’t regret getting on that plane. Talk about ambivalence.

When I packed for this trip in Düsseldorf four days ago, the weather report stated that it would be zero degrees Celsius at the lowest, no snow. I considered leaving my snow pants at home  but my friend Michelle clearly instructed me to bring them. Let me tell you this: there are minus degrees and it is snowing in Stockholm. I have lived in Germany so long by now that I forgot how troublesome it is to drag a 20-kg-suitcase through un-cleared streets full of snow.

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Photo: Chiva Congelado/flickr.com

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When we landed in Arlanda, the entire terminal was dead. Nothing opened, no people anywhere, basically a ghost terminal. Also, the 8-o-clock-flight from Hamburg always lands as far away as possible from the center of the airport. Today, as I strolled through the terminal, I noticed things are happening here (they may very well have been there longer but I never saw them). They put up large installations by Marie-Jo Lafontaine. Transparent portaits of young people, along with neon letters in all languages of the world, reading: “I am a citizen of the world, my homeland is everywhere, I’m a foreigner everywhere.” I thought it was very fitting for the place, our times, and my life.

The next sign I encountered was more easy-going, in the elevator at the station. Even in Stockholm, they combat public urination. But they do it in a funny, almost charming way, with a little fellow protectin himself with an umbrella and asking to please not pee in the elevator.

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Other than that, I’ve managed to meet my friend Mia and hear about new developments at our former shared workplace, boost the Stockholm economy by spending lots of money on…what, actually…public transport I guess, and finding the place I want to go to tomorrow thanks to my favorite magazine amelia (an old women’s magazine according to my friends): Fotografiska, the Photography Museum has opened a store in central Stockholm and I am in need of a large above-sofa-adornment. Maybe there’ll be a match.

 

Awesome Amsterdam

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First things first: Amsterdam is pretty great. I believe it must be the combination of grandeur and recklessness the Dutch cultivate in their capital that made me love it. I am even tempted to call it The Continental Stockholm.

While the weather is terrible most of the time, the buildings are gorgeous. It’s like as if the Dutch want to remind everyone they were a superrich nation once in case anyone happened to forget the Dutch Golden Age. Even their central station looks like a castle! The inner city is lined with tiny crooked houses by countless canals, the grachten (I felt so at home seeing so much water everywhere!), on cobble stones streets that are navigated by fierce cyclists. They can have two little kids plus a week’s groceries on that bike without even batting an eyelash. Worried about transport safety? Oh, you must be from Germany.

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The Dutch do lots of weird things and curiously enough, it just makes them more dear to me. Their national cuisine is basically frying everything. And by everything I include boiled eggs. Here and there in the cities, there are holes in the walls and you can put money in there so that the hole delivers a snack to you. The snack is usually something fried. When you go to throw away your napkin in public, you meet profound quotes. Those are put up on the public bins. Where else?

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A lamp in the Jugendstil-cinema

A lamp in the Jugendstil-cinema

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They have lovely book stores, hilarious street signs, great stores with almost everything, magnificent cinemas, and in their restaurants, they put carpets on the tables. Apparently that is a very Dutch thing to do. So next time you want to impress your Dutch friend, try cleaning your rug and using it as a table cloth.

Spending a whole weekend away from home with friends in the Capital of Intruiging Atmosphere means two things: you come home with a rich heart and a full to do list. I must leave to tackle the latter as my next trip is coming up soon (after West, now first North, then South).

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Central Station

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Who doesn't put their post box in the window?

Who doesn’t put their post box in the window?

Fascinating that these houses do not fall over

Fascinating that these houses do not fall over

The English Reformed Church with the inscription

The English Reformed Church with the inscription “Create in me a clean heart/O Go”

In the middle of Amsterdam, this peaceful village unfolds behind a portal. Only single women over 30 may life here.

In the middle of Amsterdam, this peaceful village unfolds behind a portal. Only single women over 30 may life here.

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God calls you. Jesus loves you.

God calls you. Jesus loves you.

This star pattern kept unfolding over the entire facade, so lovely.

This star pattern kept unfolding over the entire facade, so lovely.

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Mandatory I Amsterdam photo

Mandatory I Amsterdam photo

Single Centre.

Single Centre.

Train Magazines

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I don’t think the “Här saknas text” is supposed to be there. Skärpning, SJ!

A place where you would not expect interesting journalism is the train. At least I never thought the free magazines train companies put on every seat would be worth a read. Because really, how exciting are free customer papers, the ones you can pick up at the grocery store? But the train is an exception. Since at least ten years I have been reading “mobil”, as the German Deutsche Bahn calls its magazine. Every month, they have a well-known celebrity on the cover and come up with actually inspiring stories and travel reports. (I am not saying this because I once got to intern at their editorial office.) When I still lived at home, it was an unspoken rule for everyone who had been out travelling on a long distance train to bring “mobil” home for the others to read.

When I started travelling on SJ, Sweden’s railway company, I discovered they had an equivalent called “Kupé” (Swedish for compartment). And wow, “Kupé” might even be better than “mobil” – I often rip out parts that I find so intriguing that I have to forward them by snail mail to friends. Last week when Malin and I travelled Stockholm – Örebro again, I took the magazine with me, exported it all the way to Germany and enjoyed a good read on the Hamburg – Düsseldorf route While the young people next to me were playing a card game and the South German couple opposite reminisced on their Hamburg visit, I busied my mind with the quiz-page that I newly had discovered in “Kupé”. I might be easily amused but I was quite entertained with their guessing games. See if you can re-translate these cities correctly into Swedish – and make sure to pick up “mobil” respectively “Kupé” when you travel by train the next time [This post is not sponsored by any publishing houses. Too bad.]