So Sweden, here I am again. You changed but you still take my breath away – in a both positive and negative sense. But one thing remained: The feeling of coming home. It was there, the second the airplane broke through the sky revealing the sight of Stockholm below, and it stayed for the whole eleven days I was there.
Day 1: Moose ahead!
A moose family – a mother with two calves scuttle over a mowed field. “Moose usually come out in the evenings, so drive carefully”, said the lady who rented the cottage to me, but somehow I didn’t really think I would truly see some. They are not my first moose though – the last time I was in Sweden I saw one standing at the edge of the forest right in front of my hostel. And maybe it’s because I’m having a really cheesy day today, but somehow it feels like this moose family is a way of saying: “Welcome back – took you long enough.” Yes, I’m probably imaging things but it’s the one thought I haven’t been able to shake all day. I did stay away for far too long.
Day 2: Water science
There are many great things to be found in a Swedish supermarket: Yoghurt in what feels like every flavour known to men in milk cartons, crisps with lemon flavour or towering boxes filled with cookies. Or Twinings tea – best tea in the world! But there is one thing that quickly becomes a challenge: Finding sparkling water without any added flavour. I am standing in front a shelf packed with flavoured water of any taste you can think of: Lemon, raspberry, wild berries, orange and so on. Also there are lots of different lemonades and water that I assume is non-carbonated. At least it says “Natruell” (natural) – which in Germany would mean still water.
The problem: There is no other option of non-flavoured water. Just as I consider shaking it a bit to see if there is carbonate in it, an old scowling lady comes around the corner and just like that, shaking is not an option. The whole problem is this: I know that “Mineralvatten“ means sparkling water. My Swedish-skills even expand to knowing that “Mineralvatten med Kolsyra“ literally means sparkling water. But that’s not what it says on the label of the bottle. Instead it reads „Kolsyrat naturligt Mineralvatten“ – so my changes of this meaning with carbonate or not are 50:50. In the end I just settle for the odds, probably because the old lady is still there, watching me (Oh and yes, it was sparkling water).
Day 3: Goose harbour
Anyone who ever read or heard about Nils Holgersson knows: There are wild gooses in Sweden. And today it seems every single one of those wild gooses is residing in the harbour of Nyköping and screams. Loudly. Very loudly. Loud enough to actually hear the harbour long before you see it. The whole harbour has been taken over by wild gooses – they perch at the landing bridges, swim around in the water or fly over the water. There is a fisherman holding a rod into the water, scowling at the screaming – yes, I’m positive that this is not quacking – gooses. I think he just changed his dinner plans from “something with fish” to roast goose.
Day 4: Hej Tyskland
My landlady was right: Mariefred is breathtaking. It’s the incarnation of an idyllic post-card village and looks like someone painted it to the side of the lake. My landlady was also right about the fact that this post-card village is a magnet for German tourists. Even at the end of September. While I stroll around the small city and the castle Gripsholms Slott I am beginning to suspect that there are more Germans around than Swedes. At least all I hear is German. Apparently, Mariefred is the shooting location of an immensely popular German TV-Show called “Inga Lindström”. I’ve never heard of it but that doesn’t matter – Mariefred stays breathtaking.
Day 5: Solnedgång
No more moose sightings since day one, but I found a moose traffic sign. Funny side note: Apparently there is a very popular sport around German tourists called “moose sign stealing”. I didn’t steal it though, I just took a picture, I promise. 🙂 The rest of the day I explored the proximity, and then sat on the landing stage at the lake near my rented cottage, and watched the sun go down. Sometimes not thinking at all has its perks as well.
I swear I’ve never – or at least not very often – been as frightened as I was today on this very very (very!!!) narrow road towards Gnesta. It’s only broad enough for one car, going one way. Seriously its way too narrow for two cars going in both directions and it felt like there was a turn or a hill about every three metres. And what do Swedes do? They set the speed limit to 80km/h – which means everyone is at least driving 100 km/h. I drove maybe 30 and screamed at every – yes, every single one of them – car that drove towards me, while simultaneously trying to not end up dying. There even was a fucking caravan and trust me, it drove way faster than even 80! Crazy Swedish drivers!
Day 7: Credit card insanity
You can pay everything with your credit card in Sweden: The ticket machine in the parking ramp, (it does take coins as well, but somehow I’m having trouble imagining any Swede ever carrying more than 20 Swedish Krona in coins with them), the pump at the gas station or the checkout in the supermarket. At some checkouts you can even pay only with your credit card – or bank card or mobile phone (howsoever that works). But the coronation came today: You can even pay a public toilet at the train station with your credit card – if you (like me) don’t have any change with you. Crazy Swedes.
Day 8: Hello stranger
Oh Stockholm I’ve missed you – and you didn’t change…much. You are still breathtaking (despite all the building sights), still friendly (despite all the Smartphone-Zombies now occupying your streets) and like all the other times before I strongly dislike leaving you. And just like last time I’ve been visiting you alone, I met someone who spend the whole day strolling around your streets with me, just to vanish into thin air at the end of it. I’m not sure what to make of it but I do miss you already Stockholm – and I haven’t even truly left yet.
Day 9: I said blow!
Police check on a Saturday morning. At the entrance of Gnesta, two grim looking guys flag down everyone driving into the town. And yeah, of course – the guy approaching my car has to look like a freaking model. It’s not enough that I’m already nervous and that I have no clue what model-guy just said to me in Swedish. Nope, I just keep starring at him for a few extra seconds because he is so damn gorgeous – even with a rapidly approaching frown on this perfect forehead.
Finally I realize that he’s waiting for a reaction and he also doesn’t really look like he is in a very good mood – well, I guess traffic checks on a Saturday morning isn’t one of his favorite things to do. “Talar du engelska?” (Do you speak English?) I finally stutter and at least the frown vanishes. „Yes“, he answers and then tells me that he needs to see my driving licence and to breathalyse me to see if I drank any alcohol. He holds the device towards me. Okay fine, no problem. But apparently I don’t puff hard enough – the frown is back. Again he says – take a deep breath and blow – „until I say stop”. Okay is it just me or did that sound wrong? I stifle a giggle and try again.
“Harder” he says. And then again „Harder“ – and yes, to my utter mortification I do what I always do in any situation that requires maturity – I burst out laughing. Now he’s looking really grim and I do the next thing that’s a reflex when I’m embarrassed: I start babbling. About the whole “blow” and “harder” and so on…you get the picture. And no, it’s not pretty. I think he considers locking me in the psych ward for a second. Instead we try the whole thing one more time and he seems equally relieved that I manage to blow hard enough this time, looks on his device and says: “Okay, looks good.” I can’t help it I smile again. His expression remains stern as he turns and walks to the next car – and yes, I totally check out his perfect ass when he walks away. Not like I’ve ever going to see him again anyway.
Today is the last day – tomorrow I’m going back to Germany. I leave sad and happy at the same time. Sad, because I have to leave Sweden again – happy, because it also was a closure of sorts. One story ended during this ten days and it involved a few tears and a little bit of heartbreak. But when I get on the plane tomorrow I will leave that story behind and start a new one and though I’m not sure what it’s going to be exactly, I’m sure it’s going to be good. Really good.