Made it to Sweden!

swedish flag

After a five hour plane to Iceland, a three hour plane to Copenhagen and an hour train into Sweden – I arrived in Helsingborg and was greeted by my lovely cousin Anna.

Upon arriving, Anna fixed us an omelet and we chatted – caught up the way you can with certain family members who remain close regardless of the three years that have passed between speaking. We then headed to the grocery store, ICA; one of my favorite things about Sweden. There is something almost magical about Swedish grocery stores. Maybe it’s the associated memories of buying candy and Magnum ice cream bars as a kid, or the ways in which it is so very different from those in the US – regardless, I always look forward to it when I travel to Sweden.

Back home we have ‘Stop&Shop’, ‘Shaws’, ‘Market Basket’, even ‘Super Stop&Shop’ – all selling oversized boxes and bags, driving the ever wanting more mindset of much of the country. In Sweden, things seem smaller, more reserved and the portions are manageable. Maybe this is why the average Swede is about 1/3 the weight and size of the average American. Maybe not… but what I do know is that I love ICA and going food shopping in Sweden. Certain food that we dont have in the States has tempted me to have shipments made from Sweden, but instead I just wait till I visit and rush into ICA the first chance I get.

Saft - Special concentrated juice you mix with water, comes in unique flavors like gooseberry and black currant

Müsli - a mix between oatmeal and granola that you eat as cereal

Swedish Juice - a range of special brands and flavors unique to Sweden

Yogurt - assortment of delicious yogurt flavors like passionfruit vanilla and peach papaya; somehow different and incomparable to yogurt in the US

Bregott - Swedish butter, much tastier than American butter

Tunbröd - type of Swedish bread which is thin and has vague sweetness

Plockgodis - loose candy you can buy by weight; huge, colorful assortment and much better than US candy

Marabou Chocolate Bars - Swedish chocolate that comes in all sorts of flavors, this hazelnut one is my favorite!

Magnum Ice Cream - delicious ice cream bars with almonds and chocolate around vanilla ice cream

After that first adventure, we returned to Anna’s apartment and I took a quick nap (hadn’t slept in 48 hours) while she showered and got ready for dinner. After both showering – we went to Mogwai, a restaurant nearby where we ordered a pizza and beer, and grabbed a table outside. The majority of restaurants in Helsinborg have outdoor seating and they provide blankets – a warm touch during a 50 degree (F) night. A whole pizza and a few beers later, we were joined by Anna’s friend Sofie. The three of us drank, laughed and flirted with the waiter. A little later, the waiter approcahed us with two other men – his two Russian friends who each spoke about 30 words of English. They joined our table and the five of us proceeded to try and communicate. When they found out I was an American, tension developed and one of the men slammed his fists together saying ‘America and Russia.’ He then spoke with an aggressive tone to his friend in Russian; clearly about my origin. They carried on about the fact that they didn’t like America or anything American – so I finally told him that he didn’t know me and had no right to form an opinion about me based on their feelings towards the US. They seemed to understand me, probably could just tell I was offended and the Russian sitting next to me apologized before saying ‘Okay sorry, I don’t like America but you are pretty.’ Definitely the strangest way someone has ever tried to win my affection – and not one that works.

Coming to Sweden – a place very accepting and influenced by American ways – and being confronted by people who strongly dislike the US made me feel both embarrassed and patriotic, a feeling I don’t have often. I felt shame for all the wrong doings of America and felt a sense of guilt for being associated with them. But then I also felt defensive – knowing that despite it’s flaws, America is an unbelievable place. During this exchange with the Russian man, I am not sure whether I lost or gained respect for America – maybe a little bit of both is possible.

Two hours later, my cousin and Sofie were speaking to the guys at the table behind us, while I occupied our Russian guests. I was told that ‘in Russia, if women sit at a table with men, they are not allowed to speak to other men’ (the way my cousin was) and that he wanted to break their legs, knees, necks, and teeth. This was not the first sign we were with the Russian mafia – they had even told us themselves. Having thought it was more of a joke than truth, but no longer being too sure – we excused ourselves to the bathroom and made a run for it through the back door. We ran for two minutes before slowing down and laughing, although we were still somewhat worried they were on our track, hunting us down.

 

The next morning we woke up and caught a train to Lund, where we meet my cousin Cissi and aunt Margaretha for lunch. I ordered ‘gravad lax med stuvad potatis och hovmästarsås’ which is fresh salmon with a mustard sauce and dill potatoes, a very classic Swedish meal – it was unbelievable!  After a lovely meal with my Swedish family who I don’t see nearly as often as I wish, we walked around Lund for a bit. Lund is a very cute place, a college town with 2/3 the population being students. Old stone streets are lined with restaurants and cafes, a cheese shop, clothing stores and people walking around, enjoying the day. The architecture in Lund is beautiful: red layered roofs and old buildings with intricate detailing.

We continued onto Malmö, a slightly bigger city about 20 minutes away. We walked around, enjoying more gorgeous architecture, cute cafes and budding flowers.

We stopped at a cafe, Pronto, for some afternoon coffee.

The cafe had a wide selection of drinks from standard lattes and cappuccinos to hazelnut hot chocolate and some type of coffee marshmallow drink. They also had various pastries and cakes – a category Swedes are known for being very talented in, my mother included. They were lined up and displayed – all begging to be tasted. It was a hard decision, but I landed on a cappuccino and a piece of chocolate raspberry cake, or kladdkaka. 

This combination was mind blowingly delicious. The cappuccino was strong, just what I would expect from Sweden, with a nice balance of milk and foam, even a touch of cocoa powder that added nice flavor. The cake can be described by one word… heavenly. It was somehow rich and light at the same time, with mild chocolate flavor and almost a background taste of almond. I typically do not like chocolate cake at all, finding it too rich and sweet with a taste of fake processed chocolate. Sweden knows exactly how to create the perfect balance of chocolate and sweetness – making a light, flavorful, semisweet product.

The cake was slightly undercooked in the front, causing a few bites to be gooey, with intense chocolate flavor – unbelievable. The raspberries, chocolate sauce, and expresso paired perfectly with the cake. The unsweetened cream on the side topped the whole thing off.

My cousin Anna

We continued walking around a bit before catching the train back to Helsinborg. For dinner, we cooked a traditional Swedish meal – meatballs with potatoes, cream sauce, peas and lingonberry jam.

Swedish Meatballs with Peas, Potatoes, Cream Sauce and Lingonberry Jam

So excited for meatballs!

Overall, today was a VERY Swedish day – lax, dill potatoes, coffee with kladdkaka, meatballs and three Swedish cities. The only thing that could have made this day more Swedish would have been wearing traditional clogs and dancing around a Midsummer pole. All in all, the perfect start to my Europe adventure.

AND I learned something new today. There are yellow flowers all along the country side in Sweden. Fields and fields of these flowers, making a beautiful landscape. I always thought they were so pretty and I  hadn’t really thought about why they were all over, but I guess I assumed it was for their beauty. BUT apparently the Swedes turn these flowers into margarine by pressing them for their oil. I was shocked to learn this and it almost takes some of the beauty away from them. I haven’t been able to see the flowers since and not think about margarine… a bit of a shame.

Tomorrow I am off to Göteborg, a city about two hours away to see my old au pair Camilla and do some rock climbing, I cannot wait!

Source: Google Images

2 Responses to “Made it to Sweden!

  • hej hej. Well, I can’t say any dealings with the Russian mafia would be something I’d relish on a holiday to Sweden; but nothing serves better than first-hand experience to teach one about the indignity and ugliness of nationla and/or cultural stereotypes. Often the beliefs, (prejudices, really), couldn’t be further from the reality: e.g. just ask the average American what they first think of when they hear the name “Iran”. there again, who could blame them when all they hear, see and read about the country and the people centres on the madcap mullahs. Anyway, I wasn’t even looking for your blog; I was searching for info on tone control circuits. :)

  • Brenda Escobar
    6 years ago

    Only you would find yourself befriending members of the Russian mafia on your FIRST day in Europe!! LOL… God Speed my friend, please send updates every so often, otherwise we’ll be tempted to send the InterPol to look for a young American girl wearing sparkly gold flats! =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *