Saturday, 17 May 2014

Spring Break: Sweden

I liiiiiiiiiiiiive!!! (Now tell me what mortal needs my protection great ancestor—you just saw the word and I’m there—Mushu—I swear, anyone who’s foolish enough to threaten our family, vengeance will be mine! Grrr—Mushu! These are the family guardians. They…--Protect the family—And you, oh demoted one—I, ring the gong—That’s right, now wake up the ancestors—Alright one family reunion coming right up—)

I could continue quoting Mulan until the end, but I won’t.

I am FINALLY back from spring break! I got back to the flat on Tuesday morning around 4:30am, and had my Polish oral exam on Wednesday at noon. This is a crazy busy week, getting back and trying to get everything sorted and organized, and tomorrow morning I head to Croatia for five days! Croatia is my last non-UK trip before Russia, and I’m really excited. At the same time, I almost wish I would have given myself just one or two more days in-between big trips to relax a bit. But oh well! I’m trying to catch up on my blog a bit just since I’ll have so much more still to do once I get back! So I’m splitting the blog posts up into separate parts of my break, since that makes the most sense to me and I do not have enough time to do one long post!

First of all, I just want to say that I’ve wanted to go to Sweden for so long I can’t remember. My family went in the summer of 1998 when I was 5, but I really don’t remember much. So I’ve been wanting to get back ever since. As in, when I told my best friend I was doing the Nottingham program she said, “so, when are you going to Sweden?” I was really excited since I was going to stay with some family friends in Göteborg and a distant relative in Linköping before heading to Stockholm.

April 11: I left the flat and headed to the bus station for my 11:30am bus to Stansted Airport, which took approximately 673020948 hours since I had to wait at Milton Keynes Coachway for a bit. But I made it to the airport and got on my flight to Göteborg okay, and made friends with the person sitting next to me. We made it a competition to see who could eat more Swedish pancakes on our trip. I got off the plane and Helena, one of my dad’s good friends for years, was waiting for me! I hadn’t seen her since she and her mom and daughters visited us in the US about 9 years ago, so it was so great to see her. They live on an island called Asperö on the archipelago, so we drove to the ferry terminal and caught a ferry to the island. I only have very vague memories of their house/Sweden, so even though I was exhausted it was great to be there!

April 12: I woke up and I was in Sweden!!! I got a nice tour of the island, which is beautiful, and then proceeded to eat 5 Swedish pancakes in a row without stopping. Helena and Stefan took me to Bohus Festing, which is a really cool old castle/fortress out of the city. It was really interesting to learn about it, since it had switched hands between the Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes quite a bit. We had tea (and ice cream!) with Helena’s mom, Ingrid, who had visited my family in the US and it was great to see her! I got dropped off in the city center and spent the night with Sanna, Helena’s daughter who is my age. We got kebab pizza, which is one of the greatest inventions of the world, and then met up with her sister Malin and her friend at a pub before going to this really cool underground club. It was a such a cool place and I had a really fun time!

April 13: I slept in late and then Helena, Stefan, Malin, and Daniel and I went to Gunnebo Slott, a manor house from the early 1800s. We did a tour in Swedish, and I understood two things! We went to a contemporary art museum, which was having a big show weekend and had a great meal in the restaurant. We headed back to the island (me taking my backpack around like a vagabond gypsy) and I took a great nap before a delicious dinner. All of them speak English really well, so it was really easy to talk to all of them! They are all such great people and I’m so lucky that I got to see them!

April 14: Daniel took me around the city and showed me Göteborg! He was on his Easter break, so my trip was perfectly timed. We got these delicious bagels for lunch, and I read the sign by myself and knew what I wanted! (Skinka=ham) We walked through Haga, which is a really cute neighborhood, I dropped bank on souvenirs, we hit up some churches, and then went to the Emigrant Museum, which I was expecting to be pretty lame. It was NOT lame!!! They had an information board that mentioned my ancestor, Peter Cassel!!! They had a lot of information on Swedish communities, including stuff on Minnesota and Minneapolis. It was really nice that Daniel was with me and could translate everything for me, since most of it was in Swedish. After that we went up to the top (22nd floor) of this building, which had amazing views of all of Göteborg. Then I met up with Sanna and we walked around this huge park (which had seals!) and got burritos and a drink before heading home for the night.

April 15: My last day in Göteborg! I spent most of the day exploring the city on my own, which was really nice. I went to the Gothenburg City Museum, which took you through the history of the city from the Bronze Age to the 1800s, and then sat outside in the sun enjoying these delicious cinnamon roll dessert things for a while. I walked past Fiskekörka, a fish market which looks like a church, and wandered around some really pretty churches. I met up with the whole family and we all went and had an amazing dinner! I got some delicious mushroom appetizer thing, and then Swedish meatballs which I couldn’t finish since it was so much food. It was so wonderful to see all of them and be together with all the family! I said goodbye to Sanna and Malin, and the rest of us headed back to the island.

April 16: Helena and I left on the 6:30am ferry so I could catch my bus to Linköping at 7:50am. It was a very early morning! I am so grateful that I got to see Helena & fam, they are all wonderful people and were so kind and gracious to let me stay with them and show me around. I did finally make it to Linköping, where I met up with another family friend/distant relative, Margot. It happened to be her 85th birthday on that day, so I got her flowers and she loved them! Her friend, Arne, drove us to Kisa where apparently the Peter Cassel Society had organized a lunch and museum tour for me, since obviously I’m famous in Sweden! #celebritystatus I got to see the memorial plaque outside the Emigrant Museum, then had lunch at this nice café and talked about Peter Cassel and my heritage! I got a tour of the Emigrant Museum, which had a ton of stuff that was supplemented by all of Margot’s stories. She literally knows everything about her entire family history! I wish I knew that much! Arne finished up his work in Kisa and then drove us back to Linköping, where Margot went through all her birthday cards and shared birthday cake with me. I also think it should be noted that on Margot’s 85th birthday, I went to bed before she did, at 8:45pm. Party animal!

April 17: I thought my train to Stockholm left at about 9:30am, but instead I had bought a train for 7:24am. Never have I hated myself more than that morning. Woke up at 6 again, and Margot waited on the platform with me until my train left. I powered through and got a second wind as we were pulling into Stockholm. WOW, Stockholm is so beautiful!!! I walked forfuckingever to my hostel and dropped my backpack, and then headed out and started walking. (For future reference: kyrka=church in Swedish) I saw Riddarsholmskyrkan, which was closed, and the Royal Palace and the Parliament Building. The city is seriously so beautiful, all the buildings are gorgeous and the water is so pretty and I could just spend forever there. My first stop was the Vasa Museet, and I finally got to see the Vasa ship again! The Vasa ship is one of my few lasting memories of Sweden circa 1998, so seeing it again was awesome. It is huge and larger than life, and so much of the ship is intact, in comparison to the Mary Rose (in Portsmouth). Then I successfully lied and said I was 18 and got into the Nordiska Museet for free!! Saved 100kr fuck yeah!!! They had some really cool folk art exhibits and one of the Sami people, which was all really interesting. I walked through Djurgården and saw Rosendalls Slott (closed) and amazing views of the city. Made it to my hostel before I collapsed and took a shower for the first time in 3 days, which was amazing. As Viola from She’s the Man would say, “I get to take a shower, I get to take a shower.”

April 18: Another amazing day in Stockholm! I got a tour of City Hall, where they hold the Nobel Prize Banquet (every guest gets 60cm of table space—except royalty, etc.). The Royal Palace was closed since it was Good Friday, assholes. Hit up 7 (SEVEN!) churches all around Stockholm, along with the Changing of the Guard at the Palace and the Nobel Museet (which I got into for free since I am 18, hollllla) before finishing up the day with kebabs. It really sucks, everything is so expensive in Sweden. My kebabs were almost $10, and everything just costs so much for those poor unfortunate souls who have their money in dollars.

April 19: Finally, finally, finally made it to Drottningholm Palace! It was really easy to get there by tram/bus, and I seriously had forgotten how beautiful it was. One of my other vivid memories of Sweden from 1998 is drawing my name in the sand in the gardens of Drottningholm. The lake was so beautiful, and I was one of the first people in the palace. I saw all the rooms on my own before joining a (free) tour in English. It was really interesting to learn about all the different monarchs (particularly queens) who spent time in the palace. And Gustav III was a favorite cousin of Catherine the Great over in Russia, so it was cool to see her presents to him! I walked around the beautiful gardens, the weather was amazing and it was so warm! I could have been there for ages, but eventually I decided to head back. When I got back in Stockholm, I went to a free Bach organ recital at one of the beautiful churches I went to yesterday (Jacobs kyrka), went back to the hostel and took a shower before going out for a beer (since it’s $8 for a beer I obviously only got one…) with one of the girls from my hostel room.

April 20: I went to Storkyrkan (the Royal Chapel) for an Easter Sunday service at 11:00! It was a beautiful church to be in, and the service was very nice. It was all in Swedish, but I actually understood a fair amount, since I know how those Lutheran church services work! It was really astounding to be in such a beautiful place for Easter, the church is just stunning. I went to the Historiska Museet, which was free for us 18 year olds, and it was really cool! They had a really interesting Viking exhibit, and then upstairs it took you through Sweden from 1000-1970s. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money (aka I didn’t have like any money left), so I just hung out outside enjoying the beautiful weather. On my way back I ate my bread along with a ½ liter of ice cream for dinner, all in one sitting. Priorities. I had a really early night, since I had to wake up before 3am to leave Sweden!

Okay, I’m going to be done with this blog post now. Basically, Sweden was amazing and one of the highlights of my year this year. Being able to meet friends/family again and spend time with all of them was amazing, and getting to connect with my heritage and explore Stockholm was great. Eventually I will catch up on the rest of my trip and these last couple weeks before I head home! More to come :)

Asperö, Sverige!
My wonderful hosts in Göteborg!
Margot and I with the Peter Cassel plaque in Kisa
Drottningholm Palace!
Storkyrkan, where I went to church on Easter Sunday

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