......finding a new home for lutefisk lovers.

(ok we don't love it. or even like it. but we're supposed to.)

26 July 2011

Welcome to Stockholm

Stockholm sits on the water............surrounded by the Baltic Sea and thousands of islands known as the archipelago. Boats are an easy way to travel between city sites; in an era in which most public transportation smells like pee, it's an amazingly refreshing way to travel.

The Gamla Stan, or old town.

Gnomes and trolls, known as "tomte," figure prominently in Sweden. We were told that tomte are everywhere and we must take care not to piss them off. For instance, if you are going to dump a pot of boiling water outside (like we all do, every day), you should shout "WATCH OUT!" So the tomten can get out of the way.

We also heard a story about people who are not really people and they might have holes in their backs so you can see right through them and if you buy a cow from them, it's good luck.

So there you go.

Traveling with friends changed our experience dramatically. Years from now, when Liam retrieves memories of this trip, an extra layer of fun will surround them........ more like a hootenanny than a field trip. In addition to the museums and the architecture and the boats and the giant dala horses, he'll remember the bunny ears........

.........and the running...........

............and running.........

..........and running.

For future reference, playing tag is a really great way to get some exercise and do some sightseeing. It's like power sightseeing. Try it on your next trip!

I estimate that Liam put 5 times the mileage on his shoes with all the running ahead, running back to check in, running ahead, running back to check in. Not once did any of them complain that they were tired. Not once did anyone say "Are we there yet?" And at the end of the day, sleep came swiftly and quietly.

The presence of hot dog stands, or "korv kiosks," makes eating a lot easier when traveling with a picky eater. Although ordering a plain hot dog with just ketchup is tricky. It's like a special order and you have to describe it for them very carefully. A couple of times.
Otherwise you may end up with a footlong the color of cherry kool aid and covered in mashed potatoes or shrimp salad.

While waiting for our plain hot dog one day (hold the mashed potatoes and shrimp, please), I see that the menu features the word "Haat Dagg" with a bunch of umlauts and dots that I can't find on my computer keyboard.

"Hey, you guys! Look! This is how you say hot dog in Swedish!"

We quickly form a clump around the menu sign, children and adults alike, and we twist our mouths around in myriad shapes searching for the proper pronunciation of this useful word.

"Hote da-a-ag!"
"No.....it's Hate Day-ag!"
"No......the "g" is silent! It's Hy-at Dye-eee!"

A tall, blonde woman (do I even need to say that?) standing behind us watches the show for a while. She watches with.....what?......bemusement? Annoyance? I don't know.......until she finally says in beautiful, lilting English, "Actually, that's like a joke. It's showing Swedes how to say the American word "hot dog." You pronounce it "hot dog."


Coming soon to a theater near you.......


At Skansen, the outdoor cultural museum, Liam was given an ax - a real ax - and told to whack a block of wood in two. While a woman in a traditional Swedish folk costume held the block of wood. With her hand.

He holds the ax and looks at me like "I don't think this is allowed." I look away. I'm worried the blood will stain her costume.

The stern Swedish woman is nonplussed. "Come on," she says. "You can do it." Not in a kindly, preschool teacher way but in a "what are you waiting for?" kind of way.

Whack. No blood. Dammit. Now he's going to think it's ok to play with axes.

Next, she hands him a knife and a block of wood and shows him how to carve. Again, I look away as he stabs and slices at the wood. But after a while, he gets the hang of it. "Looks like you're good at whittling," says Mike.

"I'm whittling?!"

After that, he begs for a knife as a souvenir so he can whittle on the plane ride home.

When you ask Liam what his favorite part of the trip was, he will say Tivoli and Grona Lund; Tivoli being the most famous amusement park in the world (without mouse ears) and Grona Lund being it's Swedish counterpart. There were several things that set these places apart from our American amusement parks (besides umlauts):

For one, coffee is considered an amusement park treat.
And a necessity. It would be unthinkable to skip your 4pm coffee just because you're at the amusement park with the kids.

Can amusement parks be described as quaint? Or adorable? Because these were definitely quaint and adorable. The premise, the architecture, the lighting, the coffee stands, the lounge chairs for relaxing (who relaxes at Disney World?!) - complete with sheepskin lapthrows for chilly evenings. All of it made our American amusement parks seem garish and plastic.

Like velveeta cheese.

One of Liam's guidebook items was "find a new candy." See how kids view travel through a different lens? He picked out a "Kex" bar and I picked out a "Plopp;" mostly because my friend, Laura Thomas, from first grade, used the word "plopp" for the act of pooping.
As in, "I have to plopp."

In the summer, Swedes congregate outside, preferably by the water.
This spot overlooking a marina seems to sum up the vibe of this city; the perfect place to enjoy your 4pm coffee and a plopp - I mean a "Plopp."

Tune in for the next exciting installment of our Scandinavian Saga where we celebrate Sweden's second biggest holiday!!

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