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!

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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)

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!