Time Travel in Skåne

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Hello from 1831! I am writing this from a huge, huge house. A homestead to be more precise. My room mate Angelina just tried to go from the hallway back to our room and nearly got lost.

It looks like a mixture of a museum and a filmset, just that we are explicitly allowed to touch and use everything. Oh, and yes, it also belongs to my friend Michelle. This place is absolutely amazing, I stop and express my astonishment every other minute, and I have failed to capture it photographically and I feel probably also have trouble conveying it with words. There are antique gorgeous tiled stoves in every room, the furniture is from the 18th and 19th century, there are two pianos, several dining rooms and I accidentally pressed the bell to ring for a servant. Yes, you read right, there is a display of which room rang for the servants in the kitchen – just like in the Downton Abbey series!

The adorable dog, Tessan, Raphael and Michelle preparing song books, the homestead

Additionally, this carefully furnished filmset is inhabited by our lovely hosts, my friend Michelle and her parents who have fed us with homemade kanelbullar and waffles. We’re here to celebrate Michelle’s Master degree and little by little, more and more friends will come so that in the end we will be a party of 18 living here. So cool.

I also did lots of stuff in Gothenburg but I’ll just have time to give you a picture parade of that because the past three nights, I’ve finally mananged to fall asleep and I don’t want to mess with that pattern. Good night!

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Coincidentally, my aunts were in Gothenburg, too, so we met up.

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Short visit to the German Church of Gothenburg. Fancy!

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At the German church, they give you Bible words to take away.

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It didn’t rain all the time in Gothenburg.

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The latest Gothenburg shoe fashion….?

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We rented a car (so easy! so cheap! so convenient!) and went to Tjolöholms Castle in Halland to look at a castle that was build by some English Sweden at the turn of the century in Elizabethean style. It had a small Jane Austen exhibition. Very small, actually, But nice merch!

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Joraine and Nathalie in the gardens

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Being Jane Auste

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Quite an okay view those living in the castle had.

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Mrs Blanche Dickson was one of the first to buy a vacuum cleaner. It was rather big.

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In the former worker’s assembly house, they now had a lovely fika place…

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…where an artist displayed illustrations I fell in love with

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The old workers’ village

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On the way back, we stopped at a garden shop

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And Joraine bought plants and paid them via Swish which enables you to textmessage money.

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We went to Henriksbergsterrassen and saw Stand Up Comedy. It was the worst I’ve seen. 3 out of 5 comedians joked about sexual abuse of children. In which universe is that funny?

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Swedish advertising: The labored, worried man.

Hallåååå eller

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Going to Gothenburg is really special. Going to Stockholm does not feel like going abroad but Gothenburg gives me back the foreign feeling. I don’t know how the trains run, I don’t know how far it is to the airport and I have no idea where the good cafés are. Luckily, I have a very knowledgeable local host, my friend Joraine. I tell people I brought her here, to Sweden. Sweden, I gave you this gift. I am not sure if she agrees but it was after I kept going on about Stockholm that, 6 years ago, she said, “Maybe I should do my internship in Stockholm”. I still have the video on which I teach her to say, “Hej, mitt namn är Joraine och jag vill göra praktik i Sverige”. Little by little, by ended up in Gothenburg in a brand new super nice apartment, now an accomplished Chalmers graduate with a job at one of my favorite Swedish companies. And she even caught herself a lovely Swedish boyfriend. Basically, she is living the dream.

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Joraine made basil lemonade- veeeery tasty!

After two shaky, shaky approaches for landing (both in Stockholm and then in Gothenburg), I walked through these two biggest Swedish airport with my nation-branding-eyes wide open. Nation branding, communication and destination marketing are kind of my things. Sweden excels at it like maybe no other. I realized that walking through Landvetter, Gothenburg’s airport, today where there have, among other things, a wall installation with typical wooden benches and grandma’s china up on the wall. You see the people sitting there and get into the West Coast holiday feeling right away. And let me assure you, that’s not a coincidence. Everywhere you also see large walls saying “Välkommen to Volvo’s hometown” or “Welcome to where Hasselblad cameras were invented”. Talk about sucessful partnering up with the business world.

At the core of the Swedish nation brands are four words, core values. Two are exhibited here at Arlanda airport: open und innovative.

Many regions in Sweden pride themselves on their local dialect words but Gothenburg is one of the most famous ones. The happy, good Gothenburger is a cliché that stems also from the dialect which is perceived as a very cheerful singsong. Apparently, the Gothenburg Central Station wants us others to be able to integrate so they plastered their walls with a Gothenburg-language-101. Destination marketing in such a charming way!

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The ticket machine asks you to be patient

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Swedish poetry during my stopover in Arlanda

 

Now I shall enjoy the guest room that was prepared for me. What does a good friend in Sweden do when Helen comes to visit? She starts subscribing to amelia, my favorite magazine, so that I get to read it when I come. It does’t get much better than that!

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Next stop Gothenburg

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I got to the airport 15 minutes before take off and made it. We were only ten passengeres going to Dizzel.

Actually, I was thinking of giving you a third Leipzig post but life has just been happening all the time since I returned…I’ve spent a substantial part of the weeking working on a secret project that I can’t talk about yet (yet!) and I’ve also had a far-travelled guest: Gerrit, who just spent a year in Tanzania and now speaks fluent Swahili. It sounds really cool!

The two last picture show: a very interesting selection at the street market, and one of the impressive locations I looked at, my second favorite

But let’s pay some more tribute to lovely Leipzig. I managed to pop into the two most famous churches. Saint Nicolas is not only gorgeous, it is also where the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 started. Cabaret artist Bernd-Lutz Lange said about the events which started in the St. Nicholas Church: “There was no head of the revolution. The head was the Nikolaikirche and the body the centre of the city. There was only one leadership: Monday, 5 pm, St. Nicholas Church“. If I understood correctly, the Monday prayer is still held today,  5 pm.

The other important church is Saint Thomas where no lesser than the great Johann Sebastian Bach worked for nearly 30 years, and where he is also buried. Of course, it is also home to the world-famous Thomaner Boy Choir. Actually, it seems that every important person in history has been hanging out in Leipzig. Mendelsohn, Goethe, Schiller, and I guess/hope some women, too. Goethe’s studies in Leipzig even inspired him to set parts of his “Doctor Faustus” in the Leipzig tavern “Auerbachs Keller”.

In town, I came by a crowd with headphones and upon looking closer, I saw that it was a silent concert. There was a band playing without making a sound and the bystanders listened through their headphones. That’s a pretty neat way to not disturb anyone.

Mostly I was checking out locations for work though and among others, I was guided through the hotel. They really wooed me. They put Swedish stuff on all the screens in all the hotel and even set out a real Dala horse! Also, they have really nice wallpaper.

A very pleasant surprise upon coming home was finding my tax refund statement. I will finally get a wardorbe! You can tell, my dreams are flying high. Other people want to travel the world, I just want to store my clothes.

Tomorrow, I am flying to Gothenburg and as usual, I haven’t packed yet. But I’m looking forward!

Gerrit and me reunited, my dream, and a book I acutally bought (never buy books #library) for the holiday week

 

 

Carthasis: Kristina från Duvemåla

Photo: Göteborgs Opera

Photo: Göteborgs Opera

Almost a year ago, my friend Michelle asked me if I wanted to travel to Gothenburg to see the musical version of “Utvandrarna”. I replied that I did not even know where I would live then and also “then I am 27” (as if that would change anything really) but I knew that I would come from wherever to see this musical, Kristina från Duvemåla. The world premiere 1995 is one of the things, alongside with the Fall of the Berlin Wall, that make me want to have been born earlier. Because then, I might have had a chance to see the musical with its original cast featuring Swedish national icons Helen Sjöholm and Peter Jöback.

But even this new version with different singers was deeply moving. When the show was over and we walked to the restaurant to have dinner, we were rather quiet. “I think we need some minutes to gather ourselves before we can discuss”, one in our company said.

It is hard to fail when you are working with such excellent material as Moberg’s story and Björn Ulvaues’ and Benny Andersson’s music. I remember how my mother taught me the word congenial and it certainly applies to “Kristina från Duvemåla”. The music doubles and triples all the feelings the story depicts and makes it possible to connect to the emigrants’ fear, hope, desperation, joy and love on a different level. The musical has to leave out parts, of course, but those that it covers are intensified.

Even here, all the words are carefully chosen and in a poetic union of sound and language, a whole world is built up in Gothenburg’s opera house, a venue only metres away from the port through which countless Swedes emigrated to America.

There is one song in the musical that corresponds to the main aria in an opera,”Du måste finnas”, the song I would use if I was a history teacher trying to convey how people in the past felt about faith and God. The song is very much associated with Helen Sjöholm, the singer who sang it when the musical first premiered. Her face is even on the poster –even now in Gothenburg where she is not playing Kristina. It must therefore have been a great challenge to make an own version of this piece and I found that the Swedish-Finnish singer that played Kristina succeeded to vary this grand song and give her touch to it, especially in the angry passages when Kristina in her deepest despair asks God if he exists and why he has abandoned her.

Photo: Göteborgs Opera

Photo: Göteborgs Opera

However, the song that made me lose my composure entirely (I never cry at movies or musicals) was another one, “Gold can turn to sand”. I have listened to this song time and again but it almost felt like it was the first time I heard it. In this piece, all the heart-breaking themes come together: the loss of a dear friend, the end of all high hopes they have worked so hard for, the death of two men much too young. Who would not sob when an 18-year-old sings about how they got lost in the desert and how his only friend, “a brother”, died from drinking from a poisened well? (And yes, the two dying ones happened to be my favorite characters as well.)

The events are from more than 150 years ago, the story is 66 years old, the musical turns 20 this year – but the strength and beauty is still there, as one press reviews put it. 

Kristina från Duvemåla is still playing at Gothenburg’s Opera and will move to Stockholm Circus for the fall. You should go see it. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

As this story is part of American Immigrant History, there is even an English version of it. Many of the songs are excellently translated: Kristina at Carnegie Hall (not available in Germany) and on Spotify. My favorite songs, although all are terrific, are: Path of Leaves and Needles, Where you go I go with you, Down to the Sea, We open up the Gateways, Summer Rose (can’t listen to it because I start crying), Gold can turn to Sand, You have to be there. 

Hamburg is Germany’s Gothenburg

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Last weekend, Lisa visited me. Lisa and I used to work at the Chamber of Commerce together and since she studies a distance degree in Linköping, she frequently stops at my place in transit. She had never been to Hamburg and sadly, I still live in a state where people coming to Hamburg have mostly seen Heimwerker markets and my living room after their visit. But luckily, Lisa was fine with that, and after all, she did see a bit of the city anyway. It was the night of our big concert which even one of my new colleagues attended (I take that as a good sign, thinking of how my former German colleagues thought it was quite funny of me to sing in a choir). We were joined by the children’s choir which currently consists of two girls. It might just be the smallest choir you’ve ever seen. But nevertheless they were adorable, or in the words of my colleague “One was a future Germany’s next top model and the other charmed everyone in sight”. I can admit I had goose bumps when those two girls’ voices sang how God made the hand of a child and smiled. (Yet again a translation and paraphrase that does not capture the beauty of the original text…)

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After the concert which lasted quite long I took Lisa to the Landungsbrücken, the hoods where I spent 80% of my time awake. (It is both where my work and the Swedish Church is located.) We looked out over the harbor, I explained as much as I could (which is basically, “That’s a ship”. “That’s a large ship”. “That’s the Lion King venue.”) and after a view minutes it struck us: this looks like Gothenburg! Hamburg is Germany’s Gothenburg! Now everything falls into place, especially the constant rain. Joraine, my Gothenburg-based friend, is coming to visit soon. I am looking forward to hearing if she confirms my revolutionary insight.

This is actually not at Landungsbrücken, but in my part of town, kind of.

This is actually not at Landungsbrücken, but in my part of town, kind of.

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If you want it to, this even looks at little bit like Djurgården, just that this Mälaren (i e the Alster lake) is smaller. On weekends, there are countless boats and I really wonder if they only go in circles because I don't think you can get out of the 587 square metres.

If you want it to, this even looks at little bit like Djurgården, just that this Mälaren (i e the Alster lake) is smaller. On weekends, there are countless boats and I really wonder if they only go in circles because I don’t think you can get out of the 587 square metres.

P.S.: Pretty much every day, I startle at work because a loud honking comes out of nowhere. That’s the boats right outside our building. Today, the honking would not stop and all heads turned. “Now look at that, she’s here!” my colleagues exclaimed and I – as usual the new in town new on the job new in everything one – looked puzzled. “The Queen Mary”, they explained. Queen Mary 2 is a big cruise ship that regularly visits Hamburg. Every time she comes in (blocking our windows entirely which should give you an idea of her size), the Hamburgers get really excited, apparently they go down to the harbor when they know she is coming to greet her and you can even buy postcards with her. I assume she only comes in summer, so maybe the excitement in reality is simply an excitement for summer. (More on German summer in another blog post. I am not a German summer person, I fear.)