Traveling East, North and backwards

IMG_20181103_122136_resized_20181104_120320481

Work and friends had me go to Berlin from Wednesday to Sunday. I was travelling from the far West of Germany to the fast East, basically from Holland to Poland. What I didn’t realize was that I was also going from 2018 to 1998. Fashion seems to return every 20 years, but really did anyone believe the ugliest items of the Nineties were to reemerge? I didn’t think wearing pants that are way too short, jeans jackets that are way too big and fanny packs would ever make their comeback. But Berlin people want to be avantgarde-cool at all times even if it looks perfectly ridiculous.

IMG_20181101_122734_resized_20181104_120323163

One of the many nineties people

IMG_20181103_133045_resized_20181104_120319251

IMG_20181101_141917_resized_20181104_120322169

I had the opportunity to see the exhibition on the Gurlitt Nazi Art Theft.

My stay included looking at locations from tunnels to tipis, attending a design event at the embassy, visiting a startup lab, and meeting with Ingrid, Michelle, Malin, and my cousin Felix. Malin had come to Berlin for our annual 2MH-weekend and we showed her the German capital for the first time. Even though I hope I will never have to move to Berlin, I will say that their second-hand-shops are really well curated, their hipster streets have the coolest cafĂ©s, their markets cater to my needs and they have Dussmann, a stationery and book store (that calls itself a “Culture Shop”) that I would go to every week if I could.

It has become a rule now that if I travel, I will catch a cold. This time was no exception, I returned sick and had less than two days to recuperate before my plane to Stockholm lifted on Tuesday, for work. It was my shortest trip to Sweden ever and one of my sweetest. Short enough to just take in the nice things, to import VĂ€sterbottenost (very important), and (more important) to spend some evening hours with my dear friend Bianca. Less than 24 hours after arrival, I returned to Dizzel, feeling like I now had travelled to the Eighties.

bdr

This is where I worked yesterday. Can you guess where?

bty

Oh, Lidl…

bty

The Swedish news were all about children names the state refused and parents fighting against it. Who wants to name their kid superfastjellyfish?!

bty

Already miss this one a lot lot lot

I’ve been in Eighties-DĂŒsseldorf for 19 hours when  I am leaving again, and again to Berlin. How much do you have to be home in order to make renting an apartment worthwhile? Asking for a friend.

What else I did

You might have thought I got lost at the paradise island. But I haven’t, I’ve just been busy bouncing around Stockholm. What did I do after A went back to Germany? Let’s see:

I visited a friend on a remote island

cofcof

IMG-20180727-WA0011

Just looked at my scared face…

And when I say remote, I mean remote. First, I travelled 2 hours and 7 minutes by public transport, changing three times. I actually was the only person on the last bus which seemed to delight the bus drivers who dropped me off at a stop that seemed like a place humans hadn’t touched. But they have – and one human picked me up, we drove on gravel paths for ten more minutes and then I was handed a life vest. That’s how remote the island was where my friend has her summer house. No electricity, no water. Just paradiasic nature and calm.

I looked for the blood moon and saw a photo exhibit

cofcofcof

The evening I returned from the island was the night of the lunar eclipse. Together with a former fellow student from my Uppsala times, I walked all through Stockholm’s Old Town to see the so called Blood Moon. We just couldn’t find it! I started doubting myself (I mean who doesn’t find the moon in the sky?!), but later read it was too cloudy in Stockholm.

On Friday, Tabea came from the (for non-Swedish-speakers) unpronouncable town of Skövde that is now her home and we went to Fotografiska together to see the impressive exhibiting “Turning the tide”. Using dramatic and awe-inspiring footage, the exhibit captures endangered oceanic habitats and wildlife, and shines a spotlight on the oceans.

I saw a apocalyptic Swedish movie with Evelina (and ate plankstek)

Marita had told me about a new Swedish movie, “Den blomstertid nu kommer”. It is a film that originally was crowdfounded and is made by a group from the town of Norrköping. In the movie Sweden faces a mysterious attack, complete with poisoned rain, birds falling from the sky and the blowing up of the Swedish parliament. The movie has been reviewed critically because its story is not super deep, but I liked it, not expecting profoundness from an action thriller.

cof

The apocalyptic atmosphere is Sweden is not only reflected in the movie. Swedes have also received a governement leaflet this spring with detailed information on how to prepare for “When the crisis or the war comes”. Even the book stores display books about prepping and “The Survival Hand Book”.

I went to church, the park and the construction site

cof

I attended Sunday mass in Hedvig Eleonora (and couldn’t believe they did not pray for rain, considering the raging fires). At that church, they put a “christening drop” into a tree for each new church member that was christened.

cof

Bianca and I got picknick and sat in Hagaparken, close to Crown Princess Victoria’s house.

cof

After meeting Magda who walked (!) all the way through Stockholm to see me, I spent some time marvelling at the giant construction site that once was Slussen. (I wonder how many decades it will take to complete that…)

cof

 

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”.

dav

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.”

cofdav

dav

Spot me in the Baltic Sea!

cof

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

cof

The view from the restaurant

cof

First course of our delicious dinner (such luxury!)

cof

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

cof

cof

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

cof

“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.

cof

cof

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.

cof

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.

cof

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

dav

The young reindeer were not dead, just very warm

dav

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.

cofsdrskansen

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

cof

“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”.

cofcofdavcof

cof

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,

cof

visiting the National Dutch Railway Museum,

cof

with its impressive waiting hall,

dav

receiving a visit from my dear friend Jonna and

cof

going to the biggest fair at the Rhine with her

dav

and of course, going to the local lake twice.

 

Where I’ve been

 

You know something is wrong with your blogging routines when your mother says, “You were in Stockholm? I didn’t even know you went to Sweden!”

So, yes – I was in Stockholm for work and our event started at 8 a.m. which meant I had to leave the house before 7. Marita was legitimately impressed with me managing to be up and running at what is a super early time for me otherwise. But – if you start early you can do so much! By mid-afternoon, I had checked off the event and four meetings off my list!

Social media had informed the world that I was in the Capital of Scandinavia which prompted a former co-worker to write to me. “I assume you are already completely overbooked?”, she asked and when I replied I actually was free for several hours on more than one day, I think she secretly thought some alien had taken possession of what used to be Helen. Keeping a somewhat freer schedule (compared to other people it might still have been cramped) was nice though because it gave space to this kind of spontaneity.

Dance like a mother

What also enabled spontaneity was the fact that my host parents, eeh, friends Marita and Fredrik are the most hospitable people on earth. Not only do I always get to live there and feel very much at home (actually, I kind of want to move to their house so I can always have that life), I also get to have spontaneous parties in their apartment. Saturday saw the finals of Melodifestivalen, the Swedish pre-selection for Eurovision which is a huge deal in the country. I asked if we could watch it. Sure! And maybe could William join? Certainly! Now Paul is free, too, and would like to come. That’s not a problem! Evelina can only meet during the evening, how about we invite her too? Go ahead, the more, the merrier! Umm, she’d have to bring her dog. We love dogs! 

You get the idea.

DSC01982 (2)

DSC01971 (2)

The songs had rather interesting lyrics: “I’m gonna dance like a mother, you hear my party voice” or “I feel your love coming at me like a train on a track”.

DSC01965 (2)DSC01960 (2)

Long-ice-skating

I don’t even remember how I came up with the idea that I want to test winter sports. Maybe it was something I read about how when you live in Sweden, you have to embrace the winter instead of hating the cold. Or maybe I was worried I wouldn’t get to tag along the next time my friends would plan a ski holiday. In any case, I suggested to go to a friluftsgĂ„rd and rent equipment to do cross country skiing. Only that when we got there, they didn’t have that kind of skis and instead offered us lĂ„ngfĂ€rdskridskor. Living up to my new-found adventuresomeness, I was all like, “Let’s try it!” LĂ„ngfĂ€rdskridskor are a kind of ice skates, just that their blades are longer than normal. Let’s just say this: Marita and Julia were not only much better than me, they were also very supportive. (“Well done, Helen! Look at you, going two metres all by yourself! Hooray!”)

IMG-20180312-WA0000

cofcofDSC02031 (2)DSC02012 (2)DSC02018 (2)

DSC02019 (2)

It does not look like it but I was actually a bit better at sledding than at ice skating

DSC01998 (2)IMG-20180312-WA0009

IMG-20180312-WA0001

The muscle soreness from one hour on the ice was, to say the very least, intense for two days

cof

cof

There is an association for people who are extra sensitive to electricity in Sweden. In the church at the ski place, they arrange technology-free concerts and lunches. All electricity is turned off and phones may not be taken inside.

Shopping

I was very surprised to find that there was close to nothing worth buying this time in the Swedish stores. Some patterns and cuts were made for people either much more or much less boheme than me (depending on the store and item).

cofcof

cof

Second-hand stores in Stockholm. Look like noble boutiques in Germany.

cof

I strolled through FĂ€ltöversten which used to be my local mall. They’ve redone it beautifully and now they put it light therapy lamps and are counting down to equinox,

cof

cof

“Now we’re counting the days until they are longer than the nights”

cof

 

 

IMG_20180312_181349_resized_20180314_035732919

Small wooden Easter witches to hang up

IMG_20180312_195601_resized_20180314_035729693

Something I noticed with great interest was the popping up of very nice restaurants in transit. At the airport, at the central station – bars and restaurants you’d actually want to hang out at.

IMG_20180312_195050_resized_20180314_035731285

IMG_20180312_123747_resized_20180314_035737882

Not a bar in transit, instead the Stockholm Brunch Club Bianca took me to, adding, “This place is very instagramable!”

IMG_20180312_123732_resized_20180314_035739474

 

 

Hello darkness, my old friend

084

Geez, it’s gotten so dark so quickly?! I kept pretending it’s still summer, I live down here south after all, and then the shadows fall before eight and there’s no denying it: autumn. It also shows in the rain that’s pouring down like nobody’s business which makes me almost regret I didn’t buy that rain coat at Lindex last week. (It had no zipper why is why I did not buy it.)

But really, a bunch of good things happened at work today and autumn means lighting candles and switching on window lamps inside and cuddling up on the sofa (when all the U.S. series finally resume), so it’s not the worst of seasons after all.

013

In Stockholm, I of course wandered into Svenskt Tenn, the store with my favorite patterns, even at the bike stand

024

I don’t wanna be nagging, but Swedes don’t know Swedish anymore. This is the fifth mistake I’ve seen in a week.

044

Exploring the Dizzel surroundings, I visited Solingen which, somewhat surprising, has very cute houses and very nice cars.

046

My tomato plant on the balcony has grown exactly one [green] tomato in 5 months. So I harvested vegetable elsewhere.

066

When I moved to Dizzel I thought I’d be going to fancy bars for after work cocktails all the time. It happened for the maybe 8th time in two years this week, with the always lovely Anja.