Paradise Island

Ever since early childhood, I have fought a war against insects. I have been the preferred victim of mosquitos as long as I can remember. This has led to me developing an extreme acoustial alertness to the sound of tiny wings. If there is something flying in my bedroom I cannot sleep. I am in terror! (Will it sting? Will it give me another bite that will bother me for weeks?) So when two flies decided to settle in our room, the night was over for me at 4.22 a.m. A woke as I was battling the two insects who kept attacking my nose and ears, and said sleepily, “The advantage of Helen 1 A Tours is that you also get to partake in Helen’s insomnia”.

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The Fly Incident led to A letting me sleep in (when I finally won against Fly No 1. at 5:57 and Fly No. 2 at 8:12 and fell asleep again) which in its turn led to us taking a later ferry to – the Island. I had told A in advance that we had to go to the archipelago because if I was to sucessfully market Stockholm the islands had to be part of the experience. However, I had also advertised the archipelago as peaceful and deserted, I painted a counterimage of DĂŒsseldorf which bothers me with its density. When we got to Grinda, it seemed everyone else had had the same idea – it was crawling with people which earned me a skeptical look from A. I could only redeem my trustwortiness when I led him to a beach off the beaten track. Okay, more or less of the beaten track, there were 10 other people at first, but we were alone within an hour. While the sun was warming us and the waves were softly washing up to the shore, A said, “Well, you promised me paradise and I was not disappointed.”

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Spot me in the Baltic Sea!

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We stayed in a real hotel (uncommon for the islands)

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The view from the restaurant

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First course of our delicious dinner (such luxury!)

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To perfect the day, a skilled musician performed on the jetty at night

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Upon our return, I insisted showing A the Old Town before he left. We saw it all, including creative window dressings.

The one that got it all

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“I love boats!” A informed me this morning. Or actually, you would probably call it mid-day, when we scurried through the severly disrupted Stockholm public transport system. Apparently this spring, the city decided that everything needs to go under construction. I mean everything. I can hardly find my way anymore in some places. And it is not enough with that: One of the major construction sites for the past years, the new commuter stations, have been running for only one year to be closed off to traffic now just when we are here. The reason? They found, after only a year, that the escalators are faulty.

We still made it to the public transport ferry eventually. A loves boats, so Helen 1 A Tours took him on a boat to a boat. (Catering to the client’s interests is crucial for the success of Helen 1 A Tours!) The Vasa Ship, legendary and unique, awaited us. I had not been to the Vasa Museum in 5 or 6 years and I always find it impressive to see this historical ship.

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The hoardings at the construction sites have peepholes – for adults and of course for kids

I hope I don’t have to explain the significance of fika to my blog readers at this point. Naturally, our next to do was getting a fika at my favorite cafĂ©, Flickorna Helin, where aggressive birds steal your food and slow waitresses smile and tell you most things are sold out for the day. But the view! The view is stunning.

Also, they had the paper which I studied carefully. The front page had a German fire engine on it. Germany has now joined the team to battle the fires in the woods of Sweden. Several other EU-members have already sent help. Almost a billion Swedish crowns have already burnt down and it does not look like rain is coming any time soon.

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From my time as a tourist officer in Stockholm, I still remember well what the top three sights are and it was only the last one, the first and largest open air museum in the world (and zoo), Skansen, that was missing on A’s list. That’s pretty good for 24 hours! Also, my favorite TV-show took place there tonight, so coincidentally we went there just today.

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The animals also thought it was very warm. Occasionally, they lifted their head, only to surrender again and lay down

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The young reindeer were not dead, just very warm

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Marita and I posed against the beautiful scenery

I have been attending AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ Skansen for five or more years in a row now and gradually assumed my role of AllsĂ„ng ambassador which entails convincing friends to go there with me and educate them about this one-of-a-kind show. This year, it was Marita’s turn. We stood among all the Swedes and enthusiatically sang along to their summer songs (“The sand is wet, the girl is young, take me to the sea”) and I believe we actually ended up on TV! See below my five milliseconds of fame with my dearest Stockholm friend.

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AllsĂ„ng pĂ„ Skansen always starts and ends with a Stockholm anthem in which the crowd declares its love to the city, singing, Of all the towns I’ve seen in the world, you are the one who got it all. I am not sure if A entirely agrees but his verdict about today’s Helen 1 A Tour was very positive: “I love being on the ferry, I love looking at sailing vessels, I love meeting nordic animals, I love köttbullar. I love all of this.”

Show him the real North

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“I’ve booked my trip to Stockholm with Helen 1 A Tours. So I don’t worry about anything”, A said contendly as we boarded the plane to Sweden. Because today, he set foot on Swedish soil for the first time ever. I don’t take people to Sweden usually. I don’t give Helen 1 A Tours to anyone (even though several people have requested it). But I am on a mission to #showhimthenorth, as faithful instagram followers know, and it was now time to show him the real North.

So now we’re here and we’ve strolled through KungstrĂ€dgĂ„rden, took the boat sightseeing tour, sat at the Stadshuset terrace and shopped at ÅhlĂ©ns. Tomorrow Skansen and the Vasa Museum awaits. I am taking this tourist thing seriously. At the same time, it feels funny to me because it was so long ago I first did these things, 18 years to be precise. When we were at the Tourist Center and I asked if he wanted to take brochures, A said, “That’s fine. I have a walking brochure with me”.

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The great thing is, I am actually on vacation for three whole weeks. The first week I spent going to the Dutch beach for three days,

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visiting the National Dutch Railway Museum,

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with its impressive waiting hall,

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receiving a visit from my dear friend Jonna and

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going to the biggest fair at the Rhine with her

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and of course, going to the local lake twice.

 

A shark-free day

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Yesterday morning, I completely flabbergasted A. So much that even several hours later, he would not stop talking about it. What had happened?

“If you want to get the ferry to the island, you need to get up and be ready in twenty minutes”, he had said and, much to his astonishment, I immediately jumped out of the bed and twenty minutes later was the one rushing him to the car. Who’s this girl?!, he reportedly thought because usually I am not the one wanting to hurry anywhere in the morning, especially not when on holiday.

But if a landlubber like A agrees to go to the North Sea with me, I of course want to go. He understood that I need to hear the soothing sound of the sea, breathe the fresh air of the bracing climate, and marvel at the island horizon. So we went to the East Frisian island of Langeoog.

Langeoog is nestled between the coastal wetlands and the sea, covers barely 20 square kilometres, and it advertises itself with being “shark-free” and “fairtrade”. My mother had advised to have 30 minutes between getting to the ferry terminal and getting on the ferry. We had eight. (I’m still proud we made it.) It’s only half an hour on the ferry until you get to the island and that’s quite an advantage of my parents’ home’s location. In Dizzel, you need at least a little over two hours to get to the sea and that’s the Dutch coast and not an island. I am, and I notice this with every day I grow older, a Northern German, and I secretly love the red-brick buildings and the road signs with funny names like Carolinensiel, Dunum or Dangast.

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These houses…

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…are a fraud!

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Love locks on Langeoog gone rational: instead of two lovers’ name, this one says, “Conference April 2017”

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The oldestlove locks ever?

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This house was for sale. A estimated the exact correct price (we checked online later).

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Home for the holiday

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Dutch influence

London? Mallorca? Croatia? Those were the destinations we discussed for a spring holiday in the beginning of the year. Where did we end up? Oldenburg. And it’s better than ever!

The reasons why we went here are practical and sentimental: it’s easy to get here by car, we get free accomodation (that has hotel standard, thanks, mom!) and maybe most importantly I get to see my cat. My parents took off to Rome and we waved them off, occupying the house for a few days now. Before, I never liked Oldenburg that much. It’s okay, but it wasn’t anything that charmed me. Yesterday, we spent a day in the city and either I changed, or A adds to the atmosphere, or a lot of new lovely places opened up. Or, actually, maybe all of the above.

We strolled through the many small streets with countless shopping opportunities, checked out the abundance of delightful cafĂ©s and restaurants and even got a whole-day-parking spot for an amount of euros that in Dizzel would cover two hours. (A says, “One and a half!”)

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Sweden? Norway? Hamburg!

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Last year, I decided not to spend Lucia without a real Lucia concert again and when I don’t make it to Sweden, the closest is – of course – Hamburg. “It’s basically Southern Sweden”, he commented when we went by all these stores, Indiska, Clas Ohlson, Sosterne Grene (yeah, I know that’s Danish). Because this weekend, it was once again time for #showhimthenorth.

When you go north from Dizzeldorf, you often have to take a Swiss train. They are older than the German ICE-trains but I since last Friday I know their unbeatable competitve advantage: their train restaurant! The interior is different, round tables, real tablecloths, the prices are directly converted from Swiss francs to euros, and the food is amazingly good. I had a risotto that was delicious. From now on, I will always have to eat onboard this train.

When you were sick for a week and couldn’t work and “just quickly” want to send a few emails at midnight upon arrival at the hotel…

We had booked a hotel in my former neighborhood (because nostalgia) and when we got there at midnight, it was full of Norwegians. Seconds after we closed our door, someone pounded on it and when I opened, a middle-aged, tipsy Norwegian couple looked at me, staggered. “This is where we live”, I told them in Swedish which, astonishingly, did not surprise them. Instead, they happily told me that the reason for the Norwegian crowd was the women’s handball world cup, “and we’re in the finals! Norway is in the final!” I wished them good luck and they rewarded that with being noisy in the hallways late at night. Oh, well.

Hamburg treated us well. Sunshine and cinnamon buns, Lucia concert and dinner with friends and family, stationery shopping and “Bereden vĂ€g” in the Sunday service (that he willingly accompanied me to). Now I am en route to Berlin where I will be working the next two days. Hamburg – Berlin is one of the fastest train connections I know, so I just had to seize to opportunity. Now let’s just see if the train internet is good enough to upload this post…

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Hamburg also has the funniest bulletins: this one says someone has lost their “sweet little bird of paradise that I danced for for 13 years, last year I stopped and now my bird has flown away”. Asking for for help finding it again, “I promise I will never imprison my birdie in a cage again!” (In German, bird of paradise mostly means a flamboyant person so I don’t even know how to interpret this notice, maybe it’s a story of broken love.)

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Here, someone is looking for his lost camera, saying, the finder will be rewarded “obviously!”

 

An otterly nice vacation

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One of my less developed skills is relaxing on vacation. Time off work I usually use to bustle around, meet friends and look at things. While that is very nice, too, I decided I needed to learn how to do less on vacation – so we went to Otterndorf. Otterndorf is a 7,000-inhabitant-village half an hour from the closest Autobahn exit. It is located next to places called Krempel (“Junk”) and FickmĂŒhlen (“F…mills”) and its own name means “Village of the Otters”. And we had an otterly wonderful time there! Our hotel completely charmed me because it had such a consistent, sophisticated corporate design with a North Sea theme. I hardly wanted to leave the place because just being in its interiors was so lovely. We did leave though to go to the spa opposite the hotel (so many saunas!), and to the sea (being at the sea makes my heart sing), and to the picturesque little town with its half-timbered houses (a middle-aged man passed us in his car while we looked at the town hall and super randomly gave us a thumbs up).

I had taken 300 pages of unread magazines with me and did not read a single page. Instead, I devoted my time to doing North German things I love: eat Wedding Soup (I did not even realize that was North German until he said he never had it before), listen to Northern German Radio and greet people by saying “Moin”. I already long back.

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Town Hall and Otters

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Romantic Otterndorf Restaurant

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#ShowhimtheNorth

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The tea at the hotel had names. Most of them were Northern, but there was also “Uwe – spicy as the orient” (not pictured).

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On the way to the Village of the Otters, we stopped in Bremen and I showed him my former home town

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As it is appropriate for a city with a leftist reputation, we got into a Communist manifestation celebrating 100 years of October Revolution

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We also stopped at my parents where I got to hang out with my niece. She just keeps getting more awesome.