Enjoy Not Knowing

Just another American living in Sweden


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france 

Only you have to say it in French…”Fraaance”. Also feel free to be a little snooty about it, but that’s optional.

Balcony views

Balcony views

In October Evelina and I travelled to Paris. My cousin has been living there for about a year with her husband and daughter and now their new-born son. Though his arrival was after our visit. Evelina and  had a great time visiting with them and catching up. The last time I had seen my cousins daughter she was only three months old, so it was quite different to get to play with her as an almost three-year old in the parks of Paris and bounce up and down on a seesaw beside the Notre Dame.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Seine

Evelina and I loved Paris. As they say the city is for lovers.

Eiffel Tower in the sunshine

Eiffel Tower in the sunshine

Walking around Paris

After we got home I took the opportunity to work on number 15 on my 30 before 30 list. I made a map matte.

Here’s the example picture I found on Pintrest:

Pintrest

And here’s my crack at it:

my frame

I just loved the idea of using a map as a matte! I got in almost everything in the matte that we did/went to. We stayed by the Eifel Tower, visited the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, as well as strolled along the Seine eating baguettes in the sunshine.

Louvre

Paris is for lovers

Paris is for lovers

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memory lane: welcome to spain dracula!

Spain part 3 of 3. The final installment. Join me today along memory lane back to my 25 before 25 list. Number 16: visit a friend at their new residence.

“Welcome to Spain Dracula!” Katie shouted to me across the bus station.

Not really. But maybe she should have.

Since we don’t live in a fake Tina Fey improv session, when I arrived in Don Benito Katie walked across the train station and introduced herself to María-José. As you remember, my new friend.

Spain pt. 3.1

After saying farewell to María-José, Katie and I made out way to Katie’s place of residence for the past year. The difference between Madrid and Don Benito was striking. Just taking the short stroll through the city center to Katie’s apartment made that clear. Don Benito is a charming little city, where Katie was working for the year as an English teacher. Her time in Spain was coming to a close, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel Spain with a new native. (You become a native in a year….right?)

Spain pt. 3.2

Katie’s front door

The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony

After getting to Katie’s apartment (and checking off number 16 on my list), I dropped off my bags and we went back into town to drink tinto with Katie’s friends. The next day we were heading down to Sevilla so it wasn’t a late night, but it was great to meet the people Katie had spent the past year with.

Yummmm....tinto

Yummmm….tinto

Little did she know, a sun burn was on its way

Little did she know, a sun burn was on its way

Sevilla was hot. This was May, and I had just recovered from a Swedish winter, so believe me when I say, Sevilla was hot! We meandered through the city taking in the sights. Ate often at this little chain restaurant they have in Spain, 100 cervezas, where you buy tiny little sandwiches and get a pint of beer at ridiculously low prices. We drank more beer on the beach, and I managed to get ridiculously sun burnt (as I failed to heed the advice from María-José who warned me of this on our ride). Over all it was an awesome time.

Spain pt. 3.6

Spain pt. 3.7

In the evenings we ate dinner in charming little spanish squares. Where the tall buildings surround us on all four sides, yet the squares are still big enough to harbor small trees. Small children run through, laughing loudly, aided with extra energy at the late hour because of their timely siesta earlier that day.

It was in one of these squares that Katie and I had one of our conversations that I will never forget. There was the sound of a guitar trickling out a nearby open window, and Katie asked me how I knew Evelina was the one. I grinned, sipping my Spanish red wine in the moonlight and explained: It’s like I’ve found this person. I am hers, and she is mine. And everything else in the world, all the noise, it will settle down. It will resolve. there’s no need to think or worry about that. Because, forever, there will be us.

I had never before put my love to words for another before, and that evening is a moment I will always remember. For this I will always love best friends, and Spain, and red wine, and moonlight.

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seven. go to italy

Or maybe this one should be titled, the time we didn’t go to Italy. Evelina has been to Italy, and loved it. Ever since the 11th grade, when students in Latin and or Classical Literature could sign up to go to Italy for spring break, I have wanted to go. I was eligible, but not able to go because I played Varsity Lacrosse. Now, I don’t want this to sound like the complaining athlete who couldn’t go on the fun trip because she was good at a sport. Even though that’s pretty much what it was. The rules were clear, if you played on the Varsity team you were at practice and games, or you were ineligible to play in future games corresponding both with how many practices and games you missed. Yes, I’ve wanted to go to Italy for a long time. We learned a lot about Ancient Rome in Latin, and I find the history to be ridiculously interesting. I would love to see the sights associated with such ancient times. It’s mind-boggling to me that so much is still in existence today.

See the pretty pictures Evelina took!

See the pretty pictures Evelina took!

Later in life I got to hear all about Evelina’s trip to Italy. She saw the sights in Rome, went to the Vatican, biked through Florence, and ate lots and lots of gelato. Evelina’s uncle is actually Italian. So I even get to hear all about the best beaches, most beautiful waterfronts, best italian food, when I see him. Basically it’s torture.

See the beautiful views my friend enjoys! Follow her on Instagram @dambrosl

See the beautiful views my friend enjoys! Follow her on Instagram @dambrosl

I was even invited to Italy this year. A friend has been studying there, and said I should stop by. Unfortunately it really didn’t fit in with everything going on. But it was hard to resist, especially after seeing all her crazy beautiful Instagram pictures. I do believe I’ll make it to Italy. I just no longer believe that will happen before I turn 25. The incompletion of this one leaves me a little bummed, but still hopeful for the amazing Italian trip I will someday take. All roads lead to Rome, after all. signature


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gotland: a how to

Remember that list I have? Of things to do in Sweden? (It’s up there on the menu at the top.) Well, guess what? I’m here today to give you a guide on how to do Gotland.

First, the background info. Gotland is the largest island in the Baltic Sea. (Wiki fact, no idea if that’s true.) What I do know is true is that Gotland is an island off the East coast of Sweden:

Gotland

Map of Sweden found here. Edited by yours truly. Yes, that is a ram.

Gotland is indicated on the map above. I have chosen a field of azure with a ram holding a cross staff to mark Gotland, because that is the Gotlandic coat of arms. Fancy, I know. Yes, that white there in the middle is a ram. The flag is actually flying all over Gotland. So it’s totally legit.

Evelina and I traveled to Gotland to visit our dear friend Johanna this summer. Now I’m here to explain to you how to do Gotland the right way.

Step 1: Take a train and or bus, and or combination of the two to Nynäshamn. (Taxi is acceptable, if that’s your thing.) The ferry to Gotland leaves from Nynäshamn rather often in the summer months, so choose a ferry time that fits nicely with your schedule and budget. (Hint: cheap ferry tickets are at inconvenient times.)

Nynäshamn

(Pre Step 1: Be in Sweden. Europe is acceptable.)

Step 2: Enjoy a relaxing ferry ride. It takes about 3 hours, so bring activities. They have wi-fi that you can purchase, but it’s no good for playing games or streaming videos – I asked.

Gotland Båten

Step 3: Upon arrival, take the chance to explore Visby. The biggest city on Gotland. The entire city is enclosed by an ancient wall, which gives the place a very historical feel. Definitely check out the wicked cool pirate ship docked there. (Not a guaranteed landmark, as this particular pirate ship still savages the high seas.) Luckily the Medieval market will be in town, so enjoy people watching and having a good laugh at a guy accidentally whipping himself in the back with his newly purchased whip. (Not guaranteed to be in town.) After an afternoon of exploring celebrate with some ice cream, or glass as the Swedes say, at one of Visby’s biggest ice cream parlours.

Visby 1

Step 4: Drive with your friends to wherever you will be staying. I highly recommend staying in the side house of someone who resides on Gotland. Extra points if they have a beautiful garden, horse, and lovely patio for outdoor meals.

Humble abode

Step 5: After a good night’s sleep, wake up refreshed and ready to explore the island. A hearty Swedish breakfast is recommended before adventuring.

Breakfast

Step 6: The adventure should consist of the following things: driving along the Stone Coast, stopping by the Blue Lagoon and hopping in the water. Lunch is to be eaten at Lergrav. The scenery is to die for and the food is even better. The smoked salmon and smoked shrimp you will eat there will be better than any you’ve had before. Take this opportunity to climb up the rocky hillside across from the restaurant, and pose for pictures in the famous rock formations there. Continue the car trip to Furillen, a hotel by an old factory. The entire concept of the hotel is unique, so it is certainly acceptable to pose for more pictures. On the way home be sure to stop at Rute Bakery, the bread you buy there will be top-notch.

Adventures Day 1

Step 7: Join your friend’s family for a crayfish party, which is a yearly tradition in Sweden. Before dinner a game of brännboll is in order. A Swedish “sport” that is similar to baseball, only there are four bases, the bat is tiny, and you get to pitch to yourself. After lots of good fun it will be time to eat! During the month of August Swedes across the land get together, enjoy some crayfish, alcohol, singing, and general merriment. This is not an experience to be passed up.
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Crayfish & Brännboll
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Step 8: Upon your return home be sure to rest up for another adventure filled day to follow!
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Step 9: Start the day with a visit to the sheep! There are more sheep on Gotland than people, so this shouldn’t be overly difficult. It helps if the people you’re staying with have a few of their own.
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Sheep!
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Step 10: Later, a visit to Lummelunda Grotto is in store. Before venturing into the Grotto take a peek at the mill on site, worth the small entry price. After a very educational video about the origin of the grotto, and how it was discovered. As well as some facts about caves, stalactites and stalagmites (and why you shouldn’t break them – hint it takes an eternity for them to be created). You’ll then continue on a tour of the Lummelunda Grotto. Listen up, the tour guide has some interesting things to say!
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Lummelunda Grotto
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Step 11: Stop by the metal shop and buy an authentic Gotland ring. The story behind the ring is fascinating, and the ring is beautiful. Ask the man who sells you the ring to tell you all about it. Directly following the ring purchase it is time for lunch.
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Gotland Ring
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Step 12: Drive to Krysmynta Garden, where you will be seated by a beautiful glass wall and therefore able to enjoy the beautiful scenery, and lightning, as a storm will roll in just around lunch. The caesar salad comes highly recommended, so eat that.
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Krysmynta Garden
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Step 13: Continue on the road to the Roma Cloister Ruins. This is another great place for a photo-op, so get your model on. There are also a few little shops to explore, including a glass blowing shop and a Swedish clothing store. Of course there is also fika to be had, so hunker down over a plate of saffranspankaka, a Gotland classic.
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Rome Cloister Ruins
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Step 14: Return to your abode and enjoy a lovely dinner on the patio, with excellent wine and the aforementioned bread. The wine is highly recommended.
Step 15: After dinner a road trip into the woods is a good idea! Drive to Gyle where you can see a stone wall which has been built up over time. The story goes that a terminally ill woman would walk along that beach every night, and as she walked she would choose one stone and place it aside, slowly building up a wall. After she passed the people who visit the wall set one stone up, continuing on her tradition.
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Stones
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Step 16: On your final day rise early in order to drive back into Visby. This way you’ll have plenty of time for touristy shopping as you walk through the best-preserved Medieval city in all of Scandinavia.
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Visby 2
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Step 17: Say your farewells as it is time again to board the ferry back to mainland Sweden. Pass the time on the boat by reminiscing on all the fun that was had in the past days.
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It really is that simple! By following these 17 steps you too will be able to experience all the wonders Gotland has to offer. ❤

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5 years

I was once asked, while sipping wine in the warm Spanish evening, how I knew I had found the one.

A smile made its way across my face, as I replied:

It’s like I’ve found this person. I am hers, and she I mine. And everything else in the world, all the noise, it will settle down. It will resolve. There’s no need to think or worry about that. Because, forever, there will be us.

there will be us

Looking back on that night, first, I think that was a damn good answer. Second, I think what I have found is peace. In this person I have now been with for five years. I have found my peace, my missing piece. Happy fifth anniversary dear.

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you win some, you lose some, you eat cookies

I hope you have been celebrating advent. This past Sunday was the second. So that means two candles have been lit. If you’re not familiar with the concept, every Sunday before Christmas you light one candle, and all the candles you’ve previously lit. That’s about it. Not too complicated.

Here in Sweden we did it Swedish style. Evelina and I were at our friend Johanna’s place for första advent (the first Sunday). After lighting the first candle we enjoyed lussekatter, pepparkakor and glögg. Lussekatter are saffron buns with raisins, pepparkakor are gingerbread cookies, and glögg is spiced wine (varieties with and without alcohol) you drop peeled almonds and raisins in the wine to make it extra tasty.

Second advent was a little less celebratory on our part, as we played a hockey game in Uppsala. Which we lost. I’m done talking about it. I’m over it. Whatever. We did light the candles again at least.

I recommend spending your advent how Evelina, Johanna and I did our first Sunday. Cozy warm, inside, with friends and treats.

Now, an instructive photograph:

an advent how to

an advent how to

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katie visits

This past weekend my wonderful friend Katie came for a visit. (Check out her awesome blog here.) She is the first of my friends from the US to come visit me in Sweden, and is therefore leading on the friend scoreboard by about 200 points. This will be a tough lead to beat, but my birthday is coming up, so we’ll see what happens. (I’m not even pretending to try to be subtle here – embrace it.)

This is what the awesome weekend of awesomeness looked like:

Friday:

11:42: Katie landed – AWESOME (okay, I’m done.)

11:55: She made it off the plane and into Arlanda.

12:00: Bus into Stockholm city.

12:45: We met Evelina at Central Station. After taking an intended tour around the train station, and through a portion of the city. (Read: unintended, Evelina was on the phone trying to figure out where the hell I had led Katie off to. I maintain I knew exactly where we were the whole time, and only took her that way because it was, in my mind, the best way there a.k.a. the only way I was sure about.)

13:00: After a short discussion we decided that going to Max was the best option for lunch. Starting Katie’s trip off on the right foot was important to me, so exposing her to Sweden’s version of Burger King and McDonalds seemed like the right move.

13:45: Explored Stockholm and went shopping, Evelina bought some fabulous shoes.

Let’s get some SHOES . . . shoes

 14:30: Coffee break. Mostly initiated by me. Okay 100% initiated by me seeing as neither Evelina nor Katie bought anything. (Neither of them drink coffee. . .) I was starting to lag, and the coffee was just calling my name.

15:00: We were lured out of the coffee shop by a commotion on the square. If you’ve seen the flash mob to Michael Jackson’s Beat It then you know where we were standing. If not, and now I’ve piqued your interest check it out here. There was a large group of school aged children (yes I’m including people aged 18 in this ‘children’ category, which feels weird, seeing as I swear I was 18 about two seconds ago – but it works.) It became clear that they were a dance group, a very very large dance group. There were drummers, and lots of loud music playing, and before we knew it they all broke out into choreographed dance. It was excellent. Or at least marginally entertaining.

15:20: Wandered around the old part of Stockholm, saw the castle and other places of interest.

19:00: Arrived at Vapianos. One of my favorite restaurants, they serve Italian, which I just can’t get enough of. The wait was 45 minutes, but we passed the time by enjoying some beverages at the overcrowded bar, where one bartender seemed to be doing about 3/4ths of the work.

19:45: Right on cue we got our table. And then we were moved to a different table. It’s okay, I forgive them. We enjoyed some excellent pasta, pizza and wine, as we looked out onto the city through the windows that made up the back two walls.

21:30: Walked back to our hotel/hostel class room

22:55: Watched the boxing match between Frida Wallberg vs. Amanda Serrano – big win for the Swede, featherweight champion of the world!!

Wallberg

you go girl!

Saturday:

9:00: Breakfast!! Free food is the best food, I always say. (Even the fruit.) Was it included in the price of the room? Maybe. I prefer to view it as free.

10:30: Checked out ans walked down to Central Station

10:40: Bought train tickets to Linköping, fortunately I had the opportunity to pay extra, since the last-minute tickets were sold out. (To be fair, Katie did pay a little more for her ticket to even it out – greatly appreciated!)

10:55: Creeped at a church.

Hello . . . ?

 Unfortunately we would be on the train during their next organ concert.

11:05: Shopping part two, Katie bought an excellent pair of shorts, as did I. Neither were quite as beautiful as Evelina’s shoes though…(I’m trying to contain my jealousy.) On our way around Stockholm we also saw a 6 v. 6 soccer game being played outside, and the changing of the guards. Horses and all. Not to leave out the out-door art display.

12:45: Bought hot dogs and enjoyed them in the sun on some steps outside the government buildings.

13:30: Took a tour of Parliament, the highlight of which was a German man enthusiastically explaining governmental systems in Germany; information our guide didn’t quite know what to do with. Plus, we had a great view.

14:30: Went back to the old part of Stockholm, where I stealthily purchased a dalahäst. We continued to enjoy the sights, and some ice cream, until it was time to head to the train station.

16:45: Boarded the train to Linköping, managing to get a table, which enabled us to play Spot it! and Bananagrams during the ride.

19:05: Arrived at the apartment, where we enjoyed each other’s company and played a few friendly games of Settlers of Catan into the night. (Such a fun game, play it immediately if you aren’t already. Rather, read the rest of this post, then go play.)

Sunday:

9:30: Made an early start out to Tinnerö Eklandskap to see the releasing of the cows. (Note: this is a direct translation of kosläpp, my English is apparently going down hills, so I can’t think of a better name for it.) What happens is at 10 (delayed to about 10:45) the farmers let their cows out of the barn. Where they have been for the duration of the winter. (The cows. The farmers can come and go as they please.) The cows are very excited about this, and run on out, and proceed to jump around with glee in the fields. Never seen a cow jump? It’s impressive. They are large animals. Apparently when you get them excited, they just can’t help but to jump for joy.

Freedom!!!

Before the releasing they warned the spectators that they were turning on the electric fence. After which I asked inquisitively how strong a current they really send through there, and I admit I wonder what it feels like. Evelina assures me that it’s not much of a shock, just enough to make the cow want to back off. Luckily, while trying to get a good picture of the calves, I got to experience the feeling first hand. (Honestly not that bad, I’ve shocked myself worse on two occasions.)

11:30: Headed back to the car discussing what we would eat for lunch. Deciding on hamburgers we stopped at Coop on the way home for the ingredients. We were all unsure about how we felt about eating hamburgers just after seeing all the cute cows roaming around in their new-found freedom – but the smell of the hamburgers they were selling on the farm were just too much to resist.

13:15: Walked into the city, first walking around the river just a few hundred meters behind our apartment building.

You can see the city from a bridge, quite a view.

 14:25: After walking through most of the city center we walked up to Domkyrkan where we spent time walking through and admiring not only the architecture but the beautiful stained and carved glass windows.

14:50: Went back down into the city to roam around the malls, not settling on buying anything, but there are a few items I have in the back of my mind to go back to look at again later (;

16:05: Relaxed on some benches in the sun while Katie and I waited for Evelina to catch up with us; we had left her in a store, where she went on a small shopping spree. While enjoying the break from walking a number of Evelina and my teammates turned up, so we introduced them to Katie. The meeting was short-lived though because it was just about time to head off to dinner.

17:15: Arrived at Aioli, which is a tapas bar. Evelina and I were hesitant about bringing a resident of Spain to a Swedish tapas place. But Katie assured me that it would probably be so different it would be like eating at any restaurant with good food. Seeing as it’s my favorite place to eat in Linköping, that’s all the convincing it took. We enjoyed a variety of small dishes, where I inevitably ordered more than I could possibly eat. But eating outside in the sunshine and sipping Spanish wine was very, very enjoyable.

19:20: We left the restaurant and made our way back to the apartment.

19:45: After stopping at Hemköp for chips and other evening treats we made it back to the apartment, and prepared for game night part two. Evelina and I taught Katie how to play Carcassone (another awesome game) that Elizabeth generously sent me for birthday last year. (Thanks again!!)

00:00: After a wonderful night of games and talking we hit the hay early(ish) in preparation for our drive up to Arlanda the following morning.

Monday:

7:50: Departure for the airport ): After gassing up and checking twice that we had what we needed (Evelina and I were planning to stay in Eskilstuna until Tuesday night), we were on out way! Katie only fell asleep in the car twice.

10:25: Arrived at Arlanda, after a slightly confused conversation about where to park we went on in.

10:40: Katie checked in to her flight and printed her ticket(s – technically two flights but they were both on one ticket, smart. . .unless you lose the one ticket.) Since Katie is an excellent packer and only had carry on items it was a quick process.

11:00: Settled on a place to eat lunch, or rather two places, but it was a food court style set up so everyone could get what they were looking for.

11:55: We said our farewells by the gate, and Katie was on her way back to Spain! Not before Evelina and I presented her with her very own dalahäst to bring home as a souvenir. I must admit I am surprised at my success in purchasing it without her suspecting a thing. Who knows though, maybe the shock was all an act for my benefit. Regardless, I love giving gifts! (:

Hejdå!

Over all an absolutely amazing weekend. Seeing old friends is like nothing else, and leaves a unique happiness in your heart. Thanks for coming Katie!!

So who’s coming next??

( Wallberg picture found here; dalahäst photo found here; airplane picture found here )