Racing toward summer!

Every year, time seems to accelerate as Spring arrives, and this year is no exception.

Valborg already seems like a distant memory and I never got around to posting about it! The crowd of 30 thousand people never materialized but the idea might have been enough to keep some folks away- in the end 20 to 25 thousand people attended over the course of the entire day. We passed by the city park twice during the day just to see what was happening. Then Bryant and the kids lost interest before the main event! So I met up with a friend for the final concert and bonfire. I enjoyed the Prince medley in particular and had a nice view in spite of the crowd.

With level 3 Swedish written exam completed I took some time to enjoy the nice weather and lunch at the Skissernas (Museum of Sketches)

We had lunch at the avant- garde restaurant and then explored their collection of “Artistic Process and Public Art”. It was really fun to see the kinds of sketches and smaller scale process works created prior to the final projects of some famous artists such as Henri Matisse, Diego Rivera, Siquieros, Christo and Jeanne- Claude.

Also this week I managed my first authentic, all in Swedish webinar about Hedgehogs, how they are at risk and how to help them.

Our firstborn is making plans with friends for a summer tour of universities in the UK. We met with the other families today to discuss and approve the plans over fika, green tea, Chinese sunflower seeds, which are jumbo sized seeds boiled in seasoned water, then roasted, along with the usual fika treats. A nice afternoon!

Feels like Spring

One of the things I love about Sweden is the public access to nature. While strolling through the countryside one is likely to come across a bench, fire ring, or resting place in the forest or even on the edge of a field!

This area near Löberöd, not far from Lund, is exceptionally nice, with a well equipped camping site along the trail. We were lucky to find a good picnic place available on our second stop.

The air was crisp and filled with the sounds of birds and bumble bees and we even caught sight of one of those enormous hares hiding in the blanket of white, yellow and purple flowers. Even the outhouse was charming in its way!

Wondering if this stump is a salt lick? Maybe from a long time ago…

After a satisfying picnic lunch we headed home. On the side of the road, out in the field, we saw what looked like a small wedding party. It’s hard to see in photos but at the back of the circle there was a woman in a flowing white dress. They had a rather Amish vibe. Wish we knew what they were doing!

Danmark: Bornholm og København

One of our favorite stops on Bornholm was the town of Svaneke, in the eastern-most part of Denmark. This is where we met up with the Westall family. After our mini family reunion we walked around and did a bit of shopping. I’m already planning another visit as a few hours wasn’t enough to do it justice.

The town is full of interesting shops with demos of crafts such as candy-making and glass blowing. If you go at the right time there is the potential to win a prize in the local chicken betting hønseskidning!

Svaneke harbour, known for its morning sunlight (maybe next time!)

On to our last stop in Bornholm, a quick morning run to Allinge, formerly a fishing village in the north, before catching the ferry back to Ystad. We visited the smoke house and bought some treats to bring back with us. YUM! I also discovered a new favorite kind of rye cracker, Bornholmske Rugkiks. Luckily the Grand Deli in Lund carries lots of products from Bornholm so I won’t have to wait for my next visit to enjoy some. Our newly discovered cousin Signe works with a company called Den Gamle Fabrik that sells Danish jams and spreads, available internationally so check it out!

The weather kept improving and we enjoyed Easter with CJ and David, but the week flew by and suddenly it was time for them to go to Copenhagen where they would spend the last few days of their trip. We tested out the option of driving across the bridge for the first time. It was quite easy and cheaper if you buy the pass in advance. Still, the train is probably the best option since it takes about the same amount of time and is lots cheaper.

Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park in the middle of the city and was a lovely place to spend an afternoon. David went with L on several rides but mostly we just strolled around admiring the scenery. The cousins recommended we see it at night, with all the atmospheric lighting, and we’ll definitely return to do that.

I’m adding a few of Bryant’s photos from Bornholm…

Åke Andersson house near Aarsballe, bad photo of us but you can see more of the house!

Sunshine Island

Rønne harbor and the church where our 2nd great-grandparents were married.

The Danish island of Bornholm, called the sunshine island because it has, on average, more sunny days than the rest of Denmark, lies in the Baltic Sea near Sweden’s southern coast. We’ve been planning a visit since we first arrived since it’s an easy ferry ride away, but somehow it didn’t happen. With our first visitors, my brother CJ and his husband David, in town for Easter break, we decided to book our tickets for Bornholmslinjen, the ferry from Ystad.

I’ve been working on a family tree for ages and wanted to find out more about our Bornholmer past, so I contacted the tourism board and found a local tour guide and historian who enjoys genealogy. He was quite enthusiastic about the project and discovered a booklet in the local library documenting the story of our 3rd great-grandfather. This treasure included names and addresses of the families descending from said grandfather and led me to meet one of our 4th cousins, who happens to live in Lund! Anne and I met for fika a few weeks ago and arranged to see each other again when more of her family, including her father, the one who authored Åke Andersson’s history, would be gathering for Easter in Bornholm. Such an amazing series of events! So we spent a couple of fantastic days in Bornholm exploring our Danish Bornholmer (and Scanian) roots.

After several hours of lively conversation, getting to know each other and trying to fill in some of the blanks from the years since our branch of the Åkessons left Bornholm, we explored the beautiful town of Svaneke. Per and Hanne showed us some of their favorite places and shared Danish candies even sending some of these delectable treats home with the girls. What a generous, warm welcome to Bornholm!

Per’s grandfather and my mom’s great-grandfather were brothers. They both grew up in Sweden but married women from Bornholm after emigrating to the island for better work opportunities. Several of Åke’s children left Bornholm for the US while some stayed, Per’s grandfather being one who remained in Bornholm. Åke remarried and remained there until his death in 1897.

Next, Hans, the genealogist, was able to assist us with the research he did on our 2nd great-grandmother and her family since obviously Per did not know about that part of our history. Hans was able to find many locations where family members had lived and some of the places were still much the same! The first location was a tiny row house which was once right on the harbor, with the wind mill on the street behind it. Coincidentally, the hotel we booked was directly in front of the house. Our 2nd great-grandmother, Anna, lived at #26 Møllegade/ Millstreet, the blue one, with the front of the house facing the windmill. There it was, right outside our hotel window! She was 3 years old when she lived here in 1860 with 2 sisters and 2 brothers.

Anna married Peter Augeson in 1878 at the Skt. Nicolai Church.

Photo from Per’s research of Åkesson/ Andersson families

Below is Nyker or new church, one of the distinctive round churches of Bornholm which retained many pagan elements and served also as a fortress. They were built as a community space that could be defended. Great acoustics, too! Photo- hourglass timer so folks would know how long the sermon would be. Easily barricaded doors. Women’s entrance over the bronze age fertility stone. Anna’s parents, Klaus Peder Pedersen and Kirstine Margrethe Busch, were married at the “new” round church in 1848.

We also visited more of Anna’s relatives homes in the area around Rønne, including a farm which is now a pottery studio.

Anna’s mother moved around quite a bit and showed up in other Parish records late in her life. The interesting thing about it is that from here, modern Bornholmers and Scanian Swedes just a few miles away can see one another’s lights. In a show of solidarity they flash headlights at each other on a designated night every Autumn. They say they have always had a love/ hate relationship.

Back to Åke Andersson for a bit. He lived in this yellow house, built 1875 near Aarsballe, with his second wife, a widow he married in 1877, along with the two youngest of his children. His first wife was our 3rd great-grandmother, Else, who had died back in Sweden in 1872.

Some photos from the area in and around Rønne and some prints from the museum.

We visit a Micronation

The day of our pilgrimage finally arrived, thanks entirely to our friend’s initiative and invitation. Here’s a link to her blog…Our three families met at the Kullaberg lighthouse, which I posted about previously. Then we made our way through the forest to the unmarked, controversial micronation of The Royal Republic of Ladonia.

Ladonia’s fascinating history is very complex so I include a couple of resources which explain how it came to be. I became a Ladonian citizen last year with the idea that I could give Bryant a noble title as a gift for his upcoming 50th birthday. I thought he’d make a wonderful Minister of Mythology or something like that…unfortunately Lord of the Dance was taken. Anyway, as art aficionados and citizens concerned with freedoms of speech and expression, we both followed the story of Lars Vilks, Nimis, and the rise of extremism. When Lars was killed in a car accident last October, I told Bryant about my lordship gift idea and we decided that it would be best not to pursue it just in case it could result in problems with our Swedish residency or have unforeseen consequences. We have conflicted feelings about the existence of Ladonia and what it all means, but it seemed like a wasted opportunity not to visit Nimis while we live in Sweden. It’s continued existence is uncertain, and we were pretty sure the kids would love this hidden fort /sculpture off-the-beaten-path wonderland, so when our friends invited us AND the weather was good, we jumped at the chance to get it done! We found the GPS coordinates and some tips online and were pleased to find that it wasn’t too difficult to locate. Volunteers have marked the route with yellow Ns for Nimis. Most of the trail is part of Sweden’s park system so we could drive to a trailhead and hike a well maintained path through a beech woods to the “border crossing”.

I did have second thoughts when I saw how narrow and steep the entrance was. And though it looked fairly well constructed and efforts are clearly made to maintain the structure, I didn’t have a lot of confidence that safety is a priority! The wooden pieces at arm/ hand level were worn smooth and polished by the many thousands of visitors, and that was reassuring in some ways. Finally I decided that if anyone did fall, the worst that would happen would be scrapes and bruises. There were no long drops and there were tons of sturdy hand and foot holds in case any parts collapsed. I was most concerned about getting back up the embankment until we met folks who were heading back up, using the “trail” that ran alongside the sculpture. They assured me it was not as difficult as it looked and that it was worth the trouble. They were older than us and not terribly fit, so I figured I could make it. Also, it wasn’t really feasible to turn back once we started down!

I thought it would be nice to bring a token of remembrance for Lars Vilks. There were pictures posted of a memorial, with flowers and things, so I made some painted rocks to leave, but the flowers had since been removed. There are several landmarks to visit in Ladonia if you have the stamina for it! I should have read more about it in advance. But we had a great time even if we didn’t see everything.

When you apply to be a citizen of Ladonia, you are asked to join a committee to help with the work of running a micronation. I joined the clean up crew, so I did bring a bag to collect trash but it was remarkably clean. After everyone had explored, and I made my way across the boulders, we gathered to perform the national anthem, the sound of rocks landing in water. Then we made our way back up the embankment. It was steep but manageable. Visiting a micronation was a unique experience to say the least. Waaaaaaaaaallllll!


…the Danish name for Copenhagen. It’s so close but we haven’t spent much time there yet! Now it’s the end of Sportlov (sports leave/permission) winter break. Many families go skiing this week, though it was originally implemented after WWII as a way to save energy by closing schools for a week during the coldest part of winter. It also interrupted the spread of cold and flu viruses and encouraged citizens to spend time outdoors, so it became a traditional part of the school calendar in Sweden. This year Bryant had a busy schedule and I had classes at Lund University, so we didn’t travel, but we thought we’d try to squeeze in a day trip across The Bridge. It was sunny with no wind and even though it was slightly cooler than normal, it felt pretty good for roaming around the city.

We did a quick trip through the botanic gardens but there wasn’t much to see yet and so we headed to Rosenborg , a Renaissance era castle which houses the Danish Royal Collection, the Crown Jewels etc.

The kids weren’t too excited to see more of the same, but I thought it was quite “accessible” compared to similar tours we’ve done. They did remark that they’ve seen the Crown Jewels of England, Spain and now Denmark, and Denmark was by far the most relaxed about it. We could get right up and look or even take photos, which is generally not allowed. The kids will never forget how uptight the Spanish guards were and how we got yelled at for walking on the grass and for taking this photo. We were impressed with Bryant’s daring act!

Here it was not at all crowded and we were able to linger, read or listen to the details and talk to the docents. I learned that the king had a speaker system to pipe in live music on demand, via musicians in the cellar. The royals could communicate through a secret channel from the main winter chambers down to the basement. It could also be used to spy on any meetings that took place. There was a hidden chair lift built into the king’s study, which could be raised to the second floor so the king didn’t have to interrupt his writing to walk upstairs under his own power.

He also had a prank chair which could trap an unsuspecting guest on the chair and soak the person’s seat with water, then make a farting noise when the victim was released from the chair. How ridiculous is that?! The chair looked normal but the mechanisms could be seen on the back. Also in the weird category, the king’s bloodstained clothes preserved from a battle in 1644 when he lost his eye, some of the world’s ugliest jewelry, the mirrored room, even the floor- ick, don’t think about it. I enjoyed seeing the Crown Jewels and vintage wine barrels from 1598 (stolen by Swedes in 1659 and then stolen back) Wine from these barrels- not stored in the barrels since 1982- is served once a year at the Queens New Years banquet. And it was interesting to think that Abe Lincoln was governing while monarchies still ruled most of Europe. American democracy really is amazing when you think of it! Lincoln’s envoy gave the king’s son a set of revolvers, newly invented and never before seen in Europe.

Quick look at the botanic garden…The palm house had an interesting bird’s eye view. We could appreciate how huge the foliage of the canopy really is…enormous leaves and branches up there.

Malmo from the bridge on the train ride back to Lund

Update -svenska kursen

This week we completed Nivå 1 exams. I think I’ve passed both the oral and written, but we won’t have results until next week. The speaking exam was given in groups of 3 with each us having a role to play for the first part. We were told to prepare to speak about 4 different topics without knowing which we’d be given. We got the hardest one imo – shopping! I hate having to use numbers, and the scope of conversation is quite limited. My role was to be anti-commercialism as we “shopped” for a friend’s upcoming birthday party. After we stumbled along on that theme for 10 minutes, we had to discuss our opinions about shopping and answer questions from the teacher such as Do you like internet shopping? why or why not. What are the pros and cons of second-hand shopping. I’d forgotten the word for second-hand shopping so my partners had to try to explain it to me in Swedish!

I was much more comfortable taking the written exam. though it was quite challenging. We went to the official university exam site, a 15 minute walk east of the university, which meant a 40 minute walk for me. And it rained heavily so I brought extra socks and shoes to change into and wore all my rain gear. It was a proctored exam with about 100 students, with lots of ID checking and strict protocols to ensure no cheating…a little intimidating! It was our first time seeing each other since we’ve been on Zoom only. But of course we were not allowed to talk much before the exam. I needed the entire 4 hours to complete my test, so almost everyone had gone before I finished, but I wasn’t the last! The exam had 2 reading comprehension sections which were brutal. One was a newspaper article and the other was 3 pages of a real website, from which we had to find pertinent information. We needed to write 2 essays with specific details. I got ridiculously stuck trying to tell my friend where we should meet in Copenhagen. Why didn’t I just say meet me at the bus station or something like that!? Instead, I said meet me at the bench to the right of the amusement park doors…I forgot the word entrance, which is ingång (ingoing) of course. Then I panicked and erased the whole section. I have a really hard time making up details or playing a role. So, yes, I needed the whole 4 hours and my desk was covered with shredded eraser debris!

Level one is finished and level two begins today, in person, on campus. It will be a nice change, I think, though working from home is probably more my style! It’s a 35 minute walk (the bus is also 30 minutes so I don’t bother) from our place to the university and we have 2 sessions most days. There won’t be time to come home for lunch, or between sessions. I’ll have to get used to getting my work done at the library, I guess, or ride my bike. It’s not easy on the cobblestones and I get nervous about bike traffic. It’s a real thing here! Maybe my classmates will want to work together. Most of them are doctors, dentists, and other professionals who have been recruited to work in Sweden. They must pass this course (and the advanced semester) in order to stay in Sweden, so they have a lot more pressure to do well. I’m just trying to enjoy it and learn enough Swedish to enhance life here. It’s an adventure… I remind myself. I try not to feel too guilty about taking a spot at one of the world’s top 100 universities, which could be given to someone who is desperate to stay in Sweden. At least I try to be a good ambassador to Lund and help the newcomers as much as I can. I’m not new here anymore! Hard to believe that we’re coming up on 2 years in Sweden!

Buying my Thermomix! More on that in another post!

I did a thing …

So, after nearly 2 years of (pretty much only) working, I decided I needed a hobby. So, I got this.

2001 VTR. I had a ’98 (I think) and regretted selling it. So, when I found this one in great shape with awesome sounding exhaust, I said “yes” to the bike.

Of course, it is cold, windy, and dark right now, so no riding, but it does give me a reason to add a motorcycle endorsement to my Swedish drivers license process. 😀

And because I can never leave well enough alone, who knows what is next for this machine? (hint?)

Windy Day …

So, we had this crazy wind front come thru this weekend. Sustained winds at 13+ m/s (which is how it is measured in Sweden, which was up to 65 mph in imperial freedom units) – nearly hurricane strength. Howled and shook the house all weekend. On Sunday, we went to Lomma to see what the sea looked like and took some video and pics.

You can lean against the wind!
This is normally VERY calm water, and the fresh sea grass washed up was unexpected!

NOT Noice

My first weeks of Swedish class at Lunds Universitet have been good in spite of the challenges. I went in search of easy audiobooks to listen to while I walk. Using the library app I searched Easy and filtered for audio. Here’s a photo is what came up! I thought it was an extremely strange coincidence (or maybe using my name somehow in the search?)

We’ve been hearing about the 1980’s punk band “Noice” since we arrived in Sweden. A few friends and one of Bryant’s colleagues sent us photos of posters advertising their new show in Stockholm and Malmö, but we couldn’t find anything more about them.

So we’ve been wondering if Noice means something in Swedish, or if it’s the name of a band member, or something like that. Most people I asked said it is just a cool spelling of Noise, because they were a Noise band (a particular style of punk rock, apparently)

I decided it was time to find out more about Noice so I asked my Swedish teacher, who is very into music, and he sent the reply (pictured below) in Swedish, which I ran through Google translate. He keeps insisting that we Kan Prata Svenska…I would not be taking this class if I could prata svenska, so that’s rather annoying. Especially when he writes by hand and the translation app can’t read his writing. Anyway, in this case he was replying by email.

Yikes! I’m really glad we didn’t go out and buy Noice tee-shirts or posters. I had been thinking that would make a good gift for Bryant. My teacher misunderstood my question about why Noice albums were the only result when I searched the word “Easy”… I didn’t think there was any connection to MN. Now I’m concerned that every time someone sees our unusual last name, it makes them think of white supremacists! Bad enough that we can’t enjoy using the norse runes alphabet since they’ve been co-opted by white nationalists and neo nazis. The teacher said wearing any kind of norse symbol in Sweden, like Thor’s hammar, is automatically associated with nationalist and extremist ideology. The class is made up mostly of immigrants to Sweden, so he tries to include helpful cultural information.

I guess we’re stuck with the Brooklyn Nine-Nine version of NOICE, which is NICE enough!