4874 kilometers

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Map of where I have been these past 4 weeks. It isn’t even accurate because it didn’t understand I went through Fraknfurt to get to Leipzig…

These past four weeks, I have travelled almost 5000 kilometers. I had to calculate the actual distance to make myself understand that it is reasonable to be exhausted and to be looking forward so much to just being at home. While other people anticipate going to nice places (because undeniably, the places I went to were nice), I’m super excited to be home and go about my regular life. To finally be able to participate in those Rhine picknicks, barbecue evenings and party nights my friends keep inviting me to.

But right now I am still on a train – going home from Leipzig where I went to the Bach Festival with my mother. So cultured, right? And you thought I was all about schlager. Like last year, when I first went to Leipzig, the city managed to charm me once more. It truly is the jewel of the German East – you just have to go there. Not only is the train ride there absolutely picturesque with its lakes and soft meadows passing by in the sunlight, the Leipzig people seem exceptionally friendly to me, the buildings breathe history and the city gives off this pleasant vibe that just makes me want to hang around there. If Leipzig wasn’t so far from where I feel somewhat at home, I would put it on my list of “cities I would move to”.

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Transfer in Frankfurt – a station to impress

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Thought-provoking Leipzig

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Mom: “Fettbemmen is the bruschetta of Eastern Germany”

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Behind the scenes of “Oh, we’re both wearing stripes, let’s take a photo”

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Bach Concert in St Nicholas. Bach’s music sometimes sounds like film music, Harry Potter-ish. Which is a good thing. Also, I brought down the age average by 30 years.

We need to talk about schlager

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photo: Rodrigo Rivas Ruiz/imagebank.sweden.se

Anyone who knows me a little is aware of my love for Swedish schlager music. One of the very few lists on my Spotify that is always available offline is „Mel-Efter-Fest“. I’m a fan and I’m not ashamed to admit that Linda Bengtzing and Björn Skifs raise my spirits any given day.

What’s Scandi-pop and what’s schlager is hard to discern in the Swedish music scene but something that is certain is that Swedish schlager is very different from German schlager when it comes to the musical models, target group and the lyrics. We need to talk about the lyrics.

Recently, I’ve noticed such an abundance of hilarious lyrics, I felt compelled to draw your attention to them. Because if you’re Swedish, you’ve heard them and gladly sung along and probably never thought about how weird they are. If you’re non-Swedish, consider this yet another of my efforts to further the fame of the Swedish music industry. This list is by means complete of course and I’ll gladly accept additional suggestions.

Dvensk’s List of Hilarious Swedish Schlager Lyrics

Let’s start with a recurring theme that’s – surprisingly not love, but (and it’s up to you to draw your own cultural conclusions) money.  Or rather the lack thereof seems to be a hot topic in Swedish schlager. GES’ Stanna världen en stund is a true example of vardagsrealism, everyday realism:

I have thought about getting a dog/ but it’s difficult with my economic situation/But when she calls me and tells me everything will be fine/the world stops for a while“.

Thank God for that girlfriend, I guess.

Magnus Uggla in Kung för en Dag focuses on the daily troubles of Swedes living in a credit-based society:

If there is something that’s certain, it’s that shit will go down on the 24th [24th: pay day for most Swedes]/I’ll have ten pepper shots, beer, nuts and chips, if you deliver quickly, I’ll give you a big tip/But on Monday, one wakes with indescribable regret and to even be able to pay the rent, one needs to give the stereo equipment into mortgage.“

Lena Ph’s problem is the combination of Swedish consumerism and love. In Han jobbar i affär, she tells us of the shop assistant she fancies:

He wears such nice shirts, he has such great hair./ I hang out at the store where he works sometimes and I’ve bought everything I can there, my house looks like a shop by now. / It would be much better for my economy if it just was us and my clothes“.

Apparently, creating detailed pictures in the audience’s head is an important factor in Swedish schlager. „Nice shirts, great hair“ is a start but GES portrays the character of the song’s protagonist through an even more detailed account of his habits in Jävel på kärlek

I’m not good at football/ I have never jumped across hurdles and ditches/

I am not interested in horse racing/ it’s too expensive and who cares who wins/

I don’t own any tools/ I always take the bus when my car breaks down./

When I invite someone over for dinnner there are no happy faces/all the girls I like sit there and suffer/

But there is something I can do/all the other men can’t/

Tricks and feints no one else knows/Come home with me and you’ll see.“

I do believe that this could serve as a poetic Tinder profile text. You’re welcome.

If GES are the kings, Linda Bengtzing is the queen of original descriptions. From illustrating to how well she can live without the man who left her in Jag ljuger så bra:

I can watch a horror movie and sleep tight without you close next to me/

I can read my newspaper in peace and the bed’s really spacious now/

things could not be better.”

to characterizing the perfect man very thoroughly in E det fel pa mig:

 

I found the man with the right physique, the right chemistry/ who can empty the dishwasher/ he can do carpentry and knows how to pick the right wine to food.“

Total keeper, that guy. Of course, her songs don’t fall short of emphasizing her girlfriend qualities, too, which are – well – unusal. In Hur svårt kan det va she delivers this brilliant sales pitch:

I can be yours, I can be the worst heart attack/

pet your cat, I can do all that and a little more/

here I am, see me, hear me, touch me/how difficult can it be?“

Really, who would not fall for the cat sitter part?

Odd analogies are a success story in Swedish schlager. The legendary band Gyllene Tider, Roxette’s Per Gessle Swedish project, had a hit with comparing the effect of a loved one to that of anti-depressants in Lyckopiller. Expensive ones, mind you, supposedly a callback to the money issues:

It felt like expensive anti-depressants/when she kissed me on my mouth

It felt like expensive anti-depressants/ when she touched my neck

everything was like before and still everything was changed/

can I stay for a while?“

If that isn’t random enough yet, please be introduced to Björn Skifs’ megahit Michelangelo. (Björn Skifs was part of Blue Swede which had a song that started with Swedish men singing „Ugachaka, ugachaka“, so nothing can fret me there anymore.)

Michelangelo, can you please pick up the phone/

can you come here and bring your easel and paint my girlfriend?/ […]

If he could show the world how you smile, Mona Lisa would request to be taken down“.

First, didn’t Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa? Second, what does he even mean calling him on the phone? Third, nevermind, the melody is catchy and the compliment is flattering. (If you don’t consider that Mona Lisa doesn’t actually smile.)

But Swedes are not all about being nice. GES’ songs Hon är min (posessive already in the title, meaning „She is mine“) is full of mean insults to chase away the love rival, including pinning mental illness on him:

You stand there and stare with your mouth open like a dog/

the way you behave nobody wants to go out with you/

sometimes I think it would be good if a doctor told you to go home/

and take some more pills“.

Ouch.

Europe’s best kept secret

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Just some hundred years ago, Ghent was the European metropolis. Bigger than London and certainly than Berlin or Brussels, only Paris outranked it in population and importance. Today, the city is nicknamed „Europe’s best kept secret“. I couldn’t stop thinking about what that suggests for our contemporary places-to-be. Will New York City in 250 years be a charming university town, is Tokyo going to be some kind of romantic getaway in 300 years?

Ghent sure shows off its former significance – and wealth. The Cathedral alone with all its splendor would be enough to remind the visitors of the grand days; the Belfort, all the other churches, the castles and all the old houses recount the history that Ghent can be proud of. Even thought it’s a bit too medieval (they consciously revamped the city some years ago to make it look even older), it charmed me more than Antwerp and maybe even more than Bruges. (I mean, Bruges feels more like a theme park, albeit a wonderful one.) Ghent breathes student life and vibrant vibes. It has the reputation to be a bit of a hippie place with headstrong inhabitants and on our night arriving there, we sat outside a wonderful bar (De Alchimist if you wanna go) in the shadow of the very impressive Castle of the Counts next to us enjoying the lit up streets and young people strolling by. Oh, yeah, and we enjoyed one of the 16 variations of Gin Tonic the bar is famous for.

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The first Ghenter I encountered, fell in love instantly.

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Ghent has lots of interesting graffiti and our map guided us there.

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Medieval Manhattan is what they call this skyline of three towers

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“Again one car less”, this sign says

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Jesus would disapprove

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Ghent sells very peculiar things

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In the midst of all cathedral, they built something that looks like a cathedral without walls, it serves as a public space for concerts

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Dignity in dress and manners. Sounds like a generally good motto for life.

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See the golden bar between the two houses? We couldn’t figure out if that is art or needs to be there to keep the houses stable.

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Adorbale umbrella logo

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Do you see the graffiti cooks?

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Waterzooi is something Ghenters eat a lot, it literally means Water Mess.

In Bruges

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It might speak of my ignorance if I say that the first time I really heard about Bruges was when the movies „In Bruges“ was new. In German, the title was „To see Bruges and die“ which suggested to me that if there was anything you should do before dying, it’s visiting Bruges. As I have not seen the movie, I have no idea if my interpretation is anywhere close to the plot (probably not), but it made me want to go visit the much-talked about town.

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Is this art or can we interact with it for a photo?

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My friends patiently tagged along, warning me beforehand that Bruges was hyped. And boy, was the inner city crowded. I am not sure if I saw any locals at all, if we don’t count those working as tour guides, waitresses or horse carriage drivers. It’s not surpising tourists flock this town – it’s basically a living fairy tale. I would not have been particularily shocked if a knight in shining armor had turned up at some corner. Things I noticed Bruges has a lot of: lingerie shops and statues of Mary. Add to that the designated „kissing spots“ and tell me how that all works out together. The kissing spots were somewhat ironic: while they were mostly located at very romantic places in Bruges, they were so well known to tourists that any potential kissing would have to be done in front of an audience of on average 53 people. But maybe thats’s what rocks the boat for Belgians…?

I thought Bruges was absolutely picturesque but I would like to come back at 3 a.m. to be able to enjoy it in more privacy.

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Oh and yes, by the way, Happy Pentecost!

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The weirdest thing we saw was an exhibition on the Bruges Belfried.

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“The Blue Eyed Lady”, a series sold for 700 euro each.

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The afternoon we spent in De Haan where they have really pretty houses that all have names.

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Throw your hands in the air

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“Of all Belgian cities, we have the best style. […] Our dialect is a world language. […] We have the best nightlife. […] Our cathedral tower is the prettiest in the country. […] Even fleamarkets are fun in Antwerp. […] Antwerp has the best painters, theater makers, choreographers and fashion designers. […] We have the prettiest train station in the world. Every international newspaper has written so. […] We have soldiers on the streets. Lots of them.”

This is what the “Use it travel guide”, that believe has been written after the U.S. election of 2016, says about Antwerp, the city that marks the beginning of my road trip through Flanders with my Dutch friend and my Belgian friend. The last time we all saw each other as when we studied together in Uppsala, so it was about time for #beneger to reunite and see Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent.

Antwerpians don’t seem to be well-liked in Belgium and I still have not figured out if it’s jealousy or if they really are stuck-up. What I have learned so far is that the name Antwerp comes from “throw hand”: legend has it that local hero Brabo cut off the hand of a giant who wanted to tax people. He threw the hand away and that is what “hand werpen” means. So…throw your hands in the air to fit in, I guess.

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Yeah, they mean seaweed

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In the castle there is a photo machine and if you leave your picture, they put you up on a large wall in the month you took it

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While my friend Manon as enjoying her “lost bread” (Dutch for French Toast), the waitress got into a heavily violent fight that included choking, right next to us. Apparently Belgians are not avoiding conflict. Still a little shocked.

 

Life in transit

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One thing people never believe me is that I don’t enjoy traveling. But really just because I do it a lot or maybe exactly because I do it a lot, I don’t like it. I don’t like packing, I don’t like being on planes and trains and I do like my own bed. These current ten days, I really live life in transit though. After the Southern Germany trip for five days, I was home one day to hop on a plane to Berlin for two days. I’ll be back tomorrow for 12 hours to continue to Belgium. Let’s say my planning skills have been better.

I am in Berlin for work, adding some time to see Michelle and Ingrid. This morning when I came to my meeting at the embassy, I was delighted to be greeted by my former intern who now works at the embassy. It felt almost like home!

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Just one of many reminders that we are hanging out in the East of Berlin

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The evening I got to spend with Ingrid who now lives in super hipster Prenzlauer Berg. (To get there from the embassy only takes the same amount of time as flying to Berlin from Düsseldorf. Don’t you love traffic in the capital.) Everyone here either has to have a hipster beard or must be pregnant, it seems to be a rule. 

The neighborhood is very nice with lots of pretty restaurants and cafés. Also, the park area of only Prenzlauer Berg amounts to approximately the entire green area of Düsseldorf, or so it seems. And Ingrid didn’t even show me Volkspark Friedrichshain yet.

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Stop and smell the flowers.

A walk in the park with Heling

Idyllic beyond words

034 (2)Ascension Day this year is spent in a small town in the South of Germany. I was not aware of how idyllic this place is when I decided to go here and now, I’m just wandering around gazing at the charming environment in amazement. The town is a medieval one with two lakes, half an hour north of Lake Constance. In its city center, there are lots of small little shops and no chains. Instead, there is a store selling only nightwear and swimwear, a shop selling socks and stockings exclusively, a real butche shop that has German solid Hausmannskost for lunch, a book shop where they play the piano on Saturday mornings for customers.

There is the Spätzle museum, the art museum and the mobile home museum. The little movie theater by the lake called Seenema (See means lake in German) shows a good and high quality selection of films. The sun spoils the town with 28 degrees which makes people jump into the lake or get a paddleboat that looks like Herbie. Then there is the swan who also lives on the lake but I’ve heard reports that he’s friendly.

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People keep getting married in the beautiful church overlooking the village, it seems, two brides already passed me by as I was sitting on one of the squares marvelling at the fairy tale setting. It reminds me a tiny bit of Sweden, of Strängnäs or maybe Gripsholm. I would not be entirely surprised to see Kalle Blomqvist dash out of one of the tiny streets with names such as Rabbit Street or Lord’s Lane. Maybe the nicest thing is that there is a cafe, restaurant or pub wherever you turn to – but not in the touristy way. Even though this is a spa town, there are lots of young people hanging out on the squares drinking Most, and occasional obvious foreigners melt into the crowd that seems so relaxed as if there were on an endless vacation. I live in a house from the 14th century and the floor is not straight at all. At night the half-timbered walls make tock-tock sounds and to go to the bathroom, I have to climb over a 30 centimeter difference in floor level. It’s all so romantic, I might even consider coming back.

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Selfie-proof I am here and the butchery exists. #wurstsalat

Del 34 i citatsamlingen

Man börjar ju undra: varför är inte jag så sympatisk som Kim Källström?

Mein Bewerbungsbild kann ich nicht nehmen. Auf dem Foto sehe ich aus wie ein Indianer!

Jag är kissnödig. – Sa du quiznödig? Jag har gjort ett quiz om Lil’ Pesto!

Har alla i Båstad alltid Ralph Lauren skjortor?

Jag tänker mina barn kan ha tre faddrar. – Vad blir det, en gudmor, en gudfar och en gudhen?