Midsommar 2022

Another strange summer for us, with everyone off on their own adventures. I’m with the youngest in MN so she can enjoy her final year as a camper at Twin Cities Theater Camp. Bryant is in Lund (Berlin, Helsingborg and maybe a few other work trips) until his vacation in July. The two will join us at Laurel Flats mid-July for their MN time. We’ll see the Show and then head to Atlanta for a few days.

At least the projects at our St Paul condo are keeping me so busy I don’t think too much about our eldest’s college scouting trip to the UK with a few friends from Katedralskolan. As they were heading to the airport in Copenhagen I saw an article about the train strike in the UK, followed by a story on a second giant sink hole in London. But the girls were able to ride to and from Oxford by train yesterday and Cambridge today without difficulty.

There are fun moments mixed into the chaos of trying to pack up this condo and deal with daily life here again. Deb got tix to Black Violin which has been on my concert list for awhile. It did not disappoint, though it was a bit too loud for my 50+ ears!

Another school year done

The girls completed their second school year in Sweden! They both had some fun end of year activities, while I passed my level 3 speaking make-up exam this morning – a 15 minute discussion on the topic of Lifestyle. I got stuck a few times but was able to give logical answers and get through it! We’ll have our level 4 results next week. It’s been a crazy week of Studenten (high school graduation) Ceremonies and parties. They party hard from the 7 a.m. champagne breakfast and on through the night, with a long break mid-day to sleep! Each day belongs to a different school and that school gets to parade through town blowing whistles etc and they get the trucks to drive them around town. But it is very organized chaos. Students drink but there are adult chaperones. Systembolaget even donates the champagne, apparently.

And the beach has returned to Central Lund for the summer. Lots to do getting ready for our trip to MN. Picked up new glasses, prescriptions etc. and made time to enjoy the patio at the Grand Hotel with Bryant since he finished work earlier than usual. So we all ended the week on a high note! Noicelings chose Chinese dumplings for a celebratory dinner.

If we can’t be heard it’s Freja’s fault. Worst for test, best for fest.

Snapshots from my LU walking commute

Towers lifted off the cathedral with this giant crane

The botanic garden has a collection of the types of stone found in Sweden. Last photo is a birthday gathering for Katedralskolan friends, playing kubb. Such a wholesome party for 17 to 19 year olds. We hope the friend group stays this way!

Svenskakursen är nästan klar!

Here we are but missing nearly half the class because it was a review day when we took the photo ☹️

I have to make up one last speaking test in order to complete the course, but my teacher hinted that it’s only a technicality so if I take the test, I will pass!

Maybe you read on Melissa’s blog about how in Sweden they say hold thumbs for good luck rather than fingers crossed, so “Håll tummarna för mig!”

My life has been mostly about studying Swedish and going to and from the university this Spring, but I do have an interesting walking route, either through the botanical gardens or through Historic Lund. So I’ll try to post a gallery from those walks. I can’t believe how fast it went!

A weekend in Amsterdam

My first visit to the Venice of the North wrapped up this morning with an early return flight to Copenhagen and then train to Lund. I missed the first half of Swedish class after all.

Stephanie, an adventurous friend I met at International Citizens Hub walks, invited me to sub-in for her travel companion who was not able to go on this trip at the last minute. I decided to take advantage of an opportunity that required very little on my part, and we had a blast seeing the canals and museums of this laid-back city. It was easy to navigate, with tons of good food options, museums and shops. It was hard to choose just a few to explore but we were quite happy with everything we did! The canals were much more elaborate than I imagined, and we spent leisurely hours strolling around admiring the views, with frequent fika and meal breaks. We had some great recommendations from Bryant’s Dutch colleagues and friends who know the city. One of my favorite foods was Bitterballen. They are similar to Spanish croquetas. YUM

Some nice restaurants were Bird Thai, De Haven Van Texel, which was right on the canal in a historic building, and some fantastic little sandwich, brunch and bakery stops! We enjoyed some local cheese chocolates from the grocery store, which is an experience itself.

The canal houses are fascinating. Many of them are super narrow because they were built in an era when structures were taxed by their width. There is a weekend in June when many homes and their odd gardens are open to visitors. That would be a treat!

I was tickled to find out that Miffy the Bunny is Dutch and had to hold myself back from buying every variation in a fever of nostalgia. And now the Miffy theme song is stuck in my head…

There are so many museums! We saw 2 of the most famous, Rijks and Van Gogh, plus the Van Loon (where the Obama family dined a few years ago on their visit to Amsterdam) Maybe we should have chosen the history museum rather than the Van Loon, but it was one of the impressive canal houses so I really wanted to see it, and it was interesting. Also small, which was a plus, since by that time we were quite tired having walked 46,000 steps in the first 2 days!

Pictured above we have the Narrowest Street, the film museum eye where Stephanie set up a remote shot, the station underpass with a Delft tile ship scene, the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum from Vondelpark and JenJill in the Van Loon garden. The rest of my photos are not downloading so I’ll post a few more later. Now I have lots of catching up to do for my Swedish class. Finals next week. Oj oj oj, fy fan! But it was worth it.

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!

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!

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!

København

…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

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!