Pieces of Sweden

  

neighborhoods draped in traditional Christmas lights • strawberry cheesecake at Ikea • a stunning view of lake Vättern • well-dressed men • tacos on New Year’s Eve • so much snow upon landing at Stockholm Skavsta • my friend’s homemade apple cake with apricot jam • gravel on icy roads • free wi-fi on Swebus buses • total dark at 3pm • chicken tikka masala at a friend’s new Indian restaurant • skiing at night • a guy from Uzbekistan who spent sixteen years of his life studying German • orange chocolate ice cream • small sailboats near the pier at dusk • discussing Russian movies from the 70s • fika, fike, fika • two former flatmates now doing their PhDs • carrot cake at Wayne’s Coffee • Hej! • familiar streets filled with memories of a semester abroad and many visits since

My trip to Sweden was absolutely wonderful, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to ring in 2013. I hope your start into the new year was just as lovely!

I am in Sweden and nothing hurts


I’m in Sweden! WHAT. Hello love, I have missed you so! The moment I saw the endless forests and countless lakes and all the snow as the plane dipped through the clouds, I got teary-eyed. Stepping off the plane into the cold, clean air did the rest. This feels like home. It has for a while, and it most certainly does right now. I’m sitting at the airport as I type this, waiting for the long-distance bus that will take me to my final destination… There’s sports news on one of the TVs, and naturally it’s all skiing and ice hockey. And the weather map is, well, first of all, of Sweden – I mean, OF COURSE it is, but it makes me so happy – and the forecast’s all cold and snowy, too.

This country, you guys. I don’t know. I don’t know how I wasn’t born here. I love how reserved but kind and helpful the people are, I love the language, I love the typical Swedish pastries you can get on every corner.

Right now, I don’t know yet what it’s going to be like to see my friends again, whether we’ll just be bored, whether I’ll have to sleep on the floor and won’t be able to. But it’s already been worth it: all the money, all the organizational pitfalls, the distance traveled – everything for this moment of recognition, of feeling like I belong here.

PS – Update now that I’m at my friend’s: Her place is so perfect for New Year’s fireworks with a view over the lake, and the entire neighborhood is still decorated in tasteful Christmas lights, and I have a comfy place to sleep, and we have already made some lovely plans. THIS YEAR COULD NOT POSSIBLY END ON A BETTER NOTE.

I’m going to Sweden, again


So guess what. I’m going to Sweden for New Year’s, after all! My friend actually very happily changed her plans so we could make this happen, and the tickets are already booked, and I just can’t with how sweet she is. Then Facebook messages of two other friends still in Jönköping came in, saying how much they look forward to seeing me. And so it looks like the kind of New Year’s I had in mind – quiet and relaxed, in Sweden, in the freezing cold, among loved ones – is indeed happening.

I took the cell phone shot above on my first return visit to Sweden. It was the first time I flew into Stockholm Skavsta airport, a small airport outside Stockholm. Upon landing you see nothing but snow and lakes and trees and the frayed coastline, and it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It was beautiful every single time I’ve come back since.

This will be me fifth trip to Sweden. There’s a sign at the side of the road as you drive away from Skavsta airport into the empty Swedish countryside, it says: Välkommen tillbaka. Welcome back.

And every time I pass it, I feel like I’ve come back home.

Daydreams at 3am


I am looking at this photo taken in Bankeryd, just outside Jönköping, and I am listening to Portishead and The Civil Wars and Mando Diao’s new Swedish album, and I so badly want to just say fuck it and book a flight to Sweden; escape the dumb, forced who-can-party-hardest bullshit of New Year’s and hide away in sleepy Jönköping until it’s 2013.

(Photo source: /jkpg on Instagram)

In a town far, far away

The top image is one of my favorite photos. It was taken near my Swedish “hometown”, Jönköping. It shows the E4 motorway, running past the city and north along Lake Vättern, all the way to Stockholm. This part of it, as you can see, is all: beautiful rocks on one side, beautiful lake on the other. The road just snakes through the gorgeous Swedish landscape, past red wooden houses and endless forests and too many lakes to count, and every once in a while it hits a city. Every time I went back to Sweden, I flew into Stockholm-Skavsta airport and took a long-distance bus south to Jönköping and I teared up every time I recognized the familiar rocks and the lake, and the lights of Jönköping in the distance, reflected on the water. (One day I will tell you about the magic of those bus rides. I’m not saying “magic” sarcastically, either.)

The reason I’m talking about Jönköping again is that it’s been snowing there, and my friends have very loyally provided me with photos and recounts of how wonderful it is and how much they wish I could be there with them.

And then I died of heartbreak.

And found that Jönköping’s tourism office runs an Instagram account just for the city which is where all the above images are from. So I’ll be checking that obsessively, and so should you maybe.

(All images: /jkpg on Instagram)

If I could live anywhere…


I want to move to Sweden before I turn 27. I am 24 right now. I don’t have a job, neither here in Germany, nor, of course, in Sweden. I have not yet looked into the details of what emigration to Sweden might mean (I’m talking work and residence permits, insurance issues, tax and social security stuff both there and in Germany) and I have not saved up any money. I am also still far from being fluent in Swedish. In other words, I am not ready to move there right now – not at all. This is why I’m giving myself three years to plan and prepare.

Today, this is all I have: my love for Sweden and the irrepressible urge to live there. (Reasons should be fairly obvious by now. Feel free to browse this blog and read future posts, and you’ll know what I love most about Sweden.) When I think of what I want my life to look like 5 or 10 years from now, the only thing I’m certain about is that I want to live in Sweden. There will be setbacks and complications and everyday life in Sweden won’t be as magical as spending half a year there as a student. I know these things. I still think life in Sweden would be a better base for me to become happy than life in Germany (or anywhere else), and I’ve thought so for two years now. So I’m going to take that step.

My plans may change again between now and 2015, of course. I couldn’t possibly say whether or not I will still feel that strong urge to be in Sweden three years from now. But I always do things on a whim; I wait until I feel like it and take action only then; I hesitate and don’t see the point of planning ahead; I’m scared of setting goals because it means risking failure. This time, I want things to be different.

I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite Swedish words: glansdagar, meaning glory days. Let’s just say that’s very fitting for my plans and ignore the risk of failure, alright?

If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

(Graphic source: Marcus Eriksson)

Places I’ve Lived: Jönköping, Sweden

I want to use NaBloPoMo to introduce myself to new readers and re-tell some old stories to those of you who have been with me a long time. I’m a traveler at heart, and love nothing more than to discover new countries and cultures. And while I haven’t exactly been all over the world, I’ve actually lived in four different countries thus far. Let me show you the places I’ve called home!

You’ve never heard of Jönköping, I know. The small Swedish city is located in the province of Småland, right at Sweden’s second largest lake, Lake Vättern. With just about 90,000 inhabitants it isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis but it’s actually among Sweden’s top ten most populous cities. I lived in Jönköping for half a year from the summer of 2010.

I came to Jönköping as an exchange student during my fifth semester at university and attended Jönköping University (or Högskolan i Jönköping in Swedish, and therefore HJ for short) which is an excellent, beautiful school right in the city center. Its international student body is super diverse and well integrated. I met some wonderful people there that I’m still friends with, and if I could just share a tiny red wooden house with thirty students from all over the world for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy girl. Seriously, I cannot recommend HJ highly enough.

Compared to other Swedish cities, Jönköping isn’t necessarily a beautiful town. It doesn’t have a precious old city center or any truly noteworthy sights. It used to be best known for its matchstick industry and there’s still a matchstick museum right next to the central station. Yes, an entire museum about the history of matches. I know, I know! THRILLING. Jönköping is also known for its ice hockey club HV71 which are currently holding first place in the Swedish league. I’ve been to their games and let me just tell you: they’re no matchstick museum but THEY ARE PLAYING SOME DAMN GOOD HOCKEY. Ikea’s central warehouse is also located just outside Jönköping. And that’s pretty much where the town’s claim to fame ends.

Except that Jönköping sits right at that gorgeous, giant lake Vättern AND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING. The view alone as well as the maritime flair the water adds to the city made me fall in love. What was most extraordinary was that the lake looked different every single day: calm and flat, or with high rolling waves like an ocean, blue or green or gray, or frozen, or hidden in thick fog, or reflecting the summer sun.

Aside from Vättern and the beautiful green and rocky landscape surrounding it, my two favorite buildings in Jönköping are the Sofia Church – Sofiakyrkan in Swedish – and the university library. Swedish churches are so friendly and open and warm and filled with light and Sofia Church is no exception. The library is housed in an old factory building from 1914 made of gorgeous red bricks. (Pictures of the inside are here, and they are well worth a look!)

Oh, by the way: it doesn’t always snow in Jönköping, even though it may seem like it from the photos. But we had the first snow in mid-October and it stayed until after I left at the end of December. The lake froze over in parts and we dealt with -25°C (-13 F) some days. Bliss for a winter lover like me!

You should all go visit Jönköping – now that you’ve heard of it! And guess what. Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Lund and even Danish capital Copenhagen are all easily accessible from Jönköping because it sits right between them all. Go go go! And take me with you!

Sundays in Stockholm

I hope you are all having a lovely Sunday! I’m spending mine dreaming about Stockholm. The cold wind sweeping across the water. The peaceful Sunday silence in the streets. The cozy little cafés at the core of the city, smelling like cinnamon and coffee…

I spent a week in Sweden’s capital in September – many more pictures are posted in the Stockholm tag; these are the last ones – and have been under its spell ever since. It’s such a gorgeous, wonderful place and I can’t wait to go back. I’ll tell you all about my plans to move to Sweden one day in an upcoming post!

Do you have a favorite city?