Wednesday, June 04, 2014

A Tribute To The Land Of Pickled Herrings... Sweden! (Part 1)

So about a month ago, I went to Sweden to visit my dad's cousin, E and her family. The last time I was in Sweden, I was about 2 years old. I missed going to the country when I was an au pair in France (short on cash and all that jazz) and I decided that I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by again.

With a happy heart, I bought my tickets on RyanAirlines (great deal and cheap!) and then had the pleasure, and I say that with a hint of sarcasm mind you, of trying to find a way to get to the Paris Beauvais airport. Not an easy task when you're 45 minutes outside of Paris to begin with. Mr. K, though he couldn't come with me, helped me decide to stay the night before the flight up there. He even said he would trek it with me. Yay!

On we went, taking the RER to Gare du Nord, then a TER to Beauvais Tille. (Both of those are little trains). Crossed one strange man but glad for us, he went on to another car. Got to Beauvais and though there were clouds in the sky, we shrugged and decided to walk the 3km to the hotel. Probably not the best plan we've ever had.

Of course about halfway there, the rain clouds opened up, the road ended and our directions wanted to take us up onto a major high via the onramp. Yay Google Maps...NOT.

Mr. K did a quick search on his phone and got us onto the right track, still having to walk along a major road, but it did not involve blind curves on a highway. (We did almost get taken out by a bus mirror-and I think I may have lost a few years off of my life with that scare, but oh well.) We traveled across a field, or two, through a deserted parking lot of an auto repair place and then voila, there the hotel was: in the middle of nowhere, one restaurant next to it, but its light shining bright like a beacon called to us.

The rest of the stay was perfect. Hotel was clean and neat. Nice hot water for a shower and the breakfast the next day was delish.

A bus took me to the airport directly in front of the hotel and then I went up to the empty waiting room and was on my way to SWEDEN in no time flat!

Once I got to Stockholm Skavasta I took a bus to Linköping (pronounced: Leen-shope-ing) where I'd meet my cousin.
First photo in Sweden!

 Linköping was so cool. A university town, it was beautiful, clean, and just sweet. Our first stop was to get some ice cream.

Little known fact: the Swedes have lots of ice cream shops.
I spotted three of them just from our walk from the station.
 I,of course, chose Polkagris (peppermint) and Choklad (chocolate). An excellent decision and we ate it outside while watching the world go by.

E took me to the main church and though it was very plain and structural from the outside, the interior was cool.

Girls in Sweden, if they marry in the church, can wear these crowns.
They don't have to be royalty to do so. Pretty cool in my book!
Stained glass with the traditional shields.

High ceilings with low chandeliers and wooden pews make for a very cool interior.
Not pictured are some of the paintings that were done on the ceiling of leaves and flowers.

After a tour of Linköping, we headed back to the car.

I think this may be a bank, but I loved the turret.

E then took me to her town in Motala. We made a stop at Brunneby, halfway between Motala and Linköping. They have a huge family store there where they sell jams and jellies, along with famous Swedish ciders. I can assure you that the cherry jam is delicious!

This is a house right next to the business. They had their own church built there too.
 I believe the family came from nobillity.

I had a wonderful time meeting her family and going out to dinner with them. It was simply amazing. The weather was nice and the town was pretty cool. Bike lanes all over the place and neat houses. A lot of them had the Swedish flag displayed, similar to the way Americans have the flag up.

The next day, E took me all around Motala, showing me the church, again with shields on the walls. The nobles of the congregation would have these done to show their allegiance to the church and also to display their wealth for all to see. The bigger the shield, the bigger the importance and wealth of the nobleman.

This guy was pretty important, I'd say. Also, look how cool those pews are!
This is a votive ship, usually donated by sailors who were saved when they were in
danger at sea as a thank you to God. It is also symbolic to the journey to eternity, or that
is what the little leaflet on the church tells me. Cool ship though.

 After our walk around the church, we decided to go check out the market fair down by the canals

Drizzly, but still a great time for photos!

This is my cousin, E.
She and I biked to the canals and we were ready for anything in our windbreakers!

Artsy shot of our bikes

 E took me on the bike path along the canal. So nice and peaceful.
This style of house is very typical in Sweden. Yellow is popular too.

Smile for the camera! See any family resemblance? My great grandma was her
grandpa's sister making us first cousins once removed. (I think I got that right.)

Look what we saw along side of the path!
Momma and I think someone said twelve ducklings.

Had to get a close up of the adventurous one, there.

Looks like he's smiling too!

We heard people talking about an odd duck up ahead so we biked on to check it out for ourselves. Lo and behold, there he was!

A Mandarin Duck! I've never seen such a beauty as this one.

After doing a little research, I found out that this duck is a male. The female is not as colorful and quite drab really. This little guy did some ballet for us while we photographed him. An arabesque here, a dip there. Quite the performer.

After such an act as that, we had to get some kaffe, or coffee, at the shop nearby.

So cute!

The interior was lovely and warm. Very inviting.

However, we took our kaffe outside to drink and I was told that in the summer, the tourists often set sail on boats like this one, up and down the canal.

E took me to the locks next.

Impressive amount of water here.

 And then we returned the bikes and headed to the awesome National Park!

This was breathtaking. And the water was crystal clear.

Again, gorgeous.
 Once E pried me away from the park, we got back into the car and headed to Vadstena, where I had been 28 years earlier. These are a few pics on the way.

As you can see, the south of Sweden is very pretty. Canola flowers were in bloom and the typical red houses with white trim were visible everywhere.

Once in Vadstena (pronounced: Vast-ee-yena) we had a ficka, or coffee break with light sandwiches and walked the streets. I loved the town, so cute.

Look at the tulips!

House on a lake
 And the cool thing was that the houses and buildings were all different colors. Guess it makes it cheery when the winter weather sets in.

And of course, you cannot miss the castle.
Large and so different from any of the French styled ones I've seen. This one has structure and good cheekbones.
Side note: I played in the park in front of this castle as a kid. Oh childhood in the land of my heritage...

We went back towards Motala after that and E showed me their summer cottage, complete with no running water or electricity. A true home like in the old days.

Situated right on a lake with lots of Lily of the Valley around it and wild blueberries nearby.

A perfect getaway for when you really just want to escape. And with it being so close to the main house, you could go, spend a day or two and come back right to work. Easy!

This is my favorite shot from that place
 E took me to the only natural sand beach in Sweden. So beautiful and the water was very inviting...but FREEZING! So no swimming for us that day.

And thus my stay with E drew to a close. I managed to get her whole family in a shot before they all parted their separate ways.

Then a shot of the momma with her boys.

E, you were an amazing hostess and tour guide. I'm so glad we were finally able to spend some time together again! Thank you for everything!

The next day I went to Stockholm, but that I believe will have to be postponed to part 2.

Parting thoughts: If ever you get a chance, visit Sweden. May-June is the best time to do it. Trust me!

Until next time,

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