The old parts of Lund are tricky to navigate. Last night I ended up at the front gates of the international school, coming from the opposite side, somehow. It looks even more like Hogwarts at twilight!
I’ve done a few Citizens Hub Events. The latest was a tour of Lund Cathedral. Most details didn’t stick, but I do remember that the original wooden roof burned in 1234. And the crypt beneath was consecrated on June 30, 1123, making it one of Sweden’s oldest buildings still in use. There is a cool local legend about Finn, the Giant and his wife, whose statues are in the crypt (they’re probably Samson and Delilah and they predate the crypt itself)
We browsed the local mall again today and saw these two shops with odd sounding English translations.
Needy stuff only!… whaaat?
And then this place with soft serve ice cream. Is that an American thing? I guess Dairy Queen might have pioneered that style.
It says American Spin Cream – the kids were embarrassed at my taking photos so I had to get it from a distance!
Side note, I’ve only seen two people wearing masks since we left the airport. Funny how quickly we adjusted to the idea of wearing them. Now it seems wrong to be going in public without them. But if we are the only ones wearing them is it worth the bother? The kids rebelled and I relented fairly quickly. It was drawing unwanted attention to us. We agreed to carry them to put on in any indoor place with more than a few people. And we have to carry our own sanitizer and wipes with us because stores don’t provide them. But there are plenty available to buy in the grocery store near us.
Today is Easter Sunday, and there’s not much going on. I did find out about a thing that I thought was interesting – Easter Witches or påskkärringar. There’s a nice Radio Sweden bit on them here.
Around Easter, Good Friday and Easter Monday are both national holidays, so this is a 4 day weekend. Woohoo! Some colleagues noticed that I am flying solo in a hotel room, and decided to invite me over.
So, Friday, I had dinner with a lovely family that are from Britain, but have lived in Sweden since 1999. So, they speak English like Brits, but good Swedish. They have 3 kids around my kids ages, which is great. Had a great evening with them and even got a lift home. They live in Bjärred, so easy visiting distance. And their eldest kid attends Katedralskolan in Lund.
Then on Saturday, another colleague really got me for the whole day. They picked me up from the hotel, and took me to a nature refuge where we went for a really nice hike in some classic northern forests – Järavallen. After that, we went to their house in Ödåkra and had a lovely afternoon just hanging out and talking over fika, then dinner, then desert. I was very full when I went home!
I am starting to meet people, and even had a Swedish family invite me over for the day!
Today is the last day of work before the Easter holiday in Sweden. Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays. Banks are closed (but, heck, they are closed most of the time already), and most other businesses will be on holiday. One of the interesting things here. In the US, when there’s a national holiday, its basically for everybody except the working poor in retail or food service. In Sweden, national holidays are for everybody, and they just shut things down. Grocery stores might be open, but you better have your liquor stocked up because System Bolaget will be closed.
Speaking of System Bolaget, that is the alcohol monopoly in Sweden – you can only buy booze there (other than being served in a bar or restaurant). I finally got around to going to one (since they too have bankers hours). It was actually a decent store with a good selection and good prices. People complain about the lack of options, but it’s a hollow complaint because SB negotiates on behalf of 10 million Swedes and gets a pretty good deal, of which they keep no profit. So, the selection and cost of booze is quite good! As long as you can get there when it’s open!
Back to Easter. It’s called Påsk here (pronounced “posk”, and has an etymology with Passover), and people say Glad Påsk for Happy Easter. The funny thing is, Sweden has these holidays on religious holidays, but this is a totally secular country. I suppose it’s a reversal of the early Christians that co-opted the vernal equinox with Easter and the winter solstice with Christmas, and now Swedes are taking time off for Easter, but nobody goes to church for it.
I went into the office today, and they had an “Easter feast” in the cafeteria, So, I tried it out. My colleagues said that basically all Swedish feast meals are the same.
Basically, a lot of fish. 2 kinds of pickled herring. 2 kinds of smoked salmon. Chicken kebab (which might be the most legit thing on there). Potatoes. Meatballs with a beet-in-mayo dressing. There was Brie cheese, and some weak melon. The basic framework for every Swedish feast.
And finally, today was my cleaning day at the hotel and the staff left me a little Easter egg. It was really nice!
Wait. Really? 26 days? Wow. When you start actually working, and get pulled into work in a big way, and you realize that you just closed out week 3 on the job, time flies.
So, Lördag. You already saw the bit about the farmer’s flea market. On Friday, I went in to the office (which was empty, so good social distancing). I got a flat tire on my ride in. There is a stretch of dirt road between the train station and the office. I think I hit a big rock and got a snake bite puncture. Anyway. Limped the rest of the way into the office, and getting home that afternoon. So, today I thought I would fix the flat. So, after a coffee and some pastries, I found a lovely bike shop that happens to also be an official Brompton dealer. I chatted a while, and then went home with my patch kit. I had heard that the Brommy rear wheel was very tricky, so I thought I would just patch it with the tube pulled out of the tire. Pretty standard fare. Anyway, totally failed. Either the rubber cement didn’t vulcanize the tube/patch well, or persistent user error resulted in me using basically all the patches in the kit and still heading out to buy a new tube in disgust. Evidence of incompetence here, FFS:
I was so irritated at the tube (and me) that I decided to take the train to Helsingborg to check it out. I have some meetings at an Ikea office up there next week and figured I should find my way first. You can see where it is here (blue dot is me in Lund, obvi)
It’s about a 35 min train ride thru landscape that could be right out of southern Minnesota … Anyway, I walked around and found Helsingborg to be a delightful city. You can see in some of the pics the Öresund strait, with Denmark on the other side. Helsingor on the Danish side and Helsingborg on the Swedish side used to be one Danish city. Then the Swedes finally kicked the Danes out for good in the 1600s and took this little gem of a city with it’s super-useful place controlling access to the Baltic Sea.
We will be back here, even if only to eat at the many restaurants. Including this gem that looked closed for good. Speaking of racist business signs, I see a lot of them and might have to do a full post just on them!
Speaking of food, I stopped by the store on my way home and saw that this is how you buy mushrooms in Coop. 😳 Paging Kristina Howland!
And finally, after a week of sitting on my butt working, I got in a lot of steps …
Friday! In case that wasn’t clear from the title. Still lots of meetings, which are typically back-to-back. Which I’m used to because that’s how UHG is. But, at IKEA, there was a lot of “guys – take care of yourselves, make the time to breath and walk around outside”. This literally coming from the CEO. I’m still not fully keyed into a company that is genuinely compassionate.
Not too much to share. I activated my MasterCard for my Swedish bank account. Oh, and I got my personnummer today, so I’m officially in the system as a tax-paying resident of Sweden!
And, closing the week with a little fun. Apparently, IKEA people don’t take themselves too seriously. 😉
Despite getting 12 hours of sleep, it was hard to drag my butt out of bed! Jet lag is harsh.
Minor accomplishments today.
First, I applied for a bank account (which won’t be fully approved for a week or so) so that I’ll have someplace to deposit my pay from IKEA. There’s only one bank/branch that lets IKEA workers apply before they have a Person Number – and that’s by the office in Hyllie, so I got a lot of train time today, out and back. As an aside, there’s lots of things that have to happen in sequence – I need to get a bank account, so that I can get a BankID card, which I need in order to get a local cell number, which I need in order to rent an apartment, etc, etc.
Second, the trip to the bank gave me a chance to see what the commute will be like (not bad at all) and how life will be multi-modaling with a Brompton (kind of a PITA, but not bad). The leg from the hotel to the train station goes right thru the city center, and happens to pass a number of really nice coffee shops. That is going to be NOICE!
Third, I got a haircut, and found out that there’s (at least) one place that doesn’t take electronic payments (cash only) and had to run to the ATM to get some cash to pay for it! But it was a hip little 2-seat barbershop on the way to the city center, so I’ll probably go there again. Aside here, I had stuffed some euros from my last EU trip into my wallet, and realized that I have USD, EU, and SEK (Swedish Kronor) in there and it’s dumb.
Finally, I did some more walking around and did some grocery shopping. I do like my sandwiches. Everything I need to make one that I like came out about 110SEK (or $11.59 for Americans). So, not too bad for a weeks worth of lunches! Yes, the mayo came in a tube. And I excluded the fish from the sandwich total – that was about $6.
I (Bryant) traveled to Lund to start work ahead of the family. I arrived on March 10, so I’m calling that “day 0”. Flights weren’t too bad, but I didn’t sleep as much on the first leg as I hoped to.
I had brought a really big suitcase and my Brompton in a travel case. Both were heavy and unwieldy to lug to the train, but generally, it was not bad. The train station at Kastrup is basically right out the door from baggage-claim! I got an Öresundståg direct from Kastrup to Lund, and then Uber’d from the train station to the hotel. All in all, not so bad.
I spent some time walking around the town after dropping my stuff at the hotel to try and not sleep (to reset my body to the local time). Very cool little city, even if it was a little rainy. I bought a coffee and the Saluhall and some groceries at the Coop. That’s all the cultural normalization that I got today!
After eating my food, I watched a little Swedish TV in the hotel – which seems to be mostly British and American shows with subtitles. And a couple of Swedish channels. But I fell asleep by 8!