Revisiting Sweden

10/25/2015 07:05:00 pm

I remember looking out the window as my plane came in to land at Arlanda airport, and being so confused because my brain could not compute pine trees covered in snow. Kind of like the first time I flew into Sydney by myself, coming in over Botany Bay, and thinking there were so many birds flitting around above the water...when actually it was cresting swell.

It looked like this, except the trees were covered in snow.

I think the temperature that day was around -10 degrees C that first day, and I had only slip-on canvas shoes. As the thermometer sank lower, so too did my mood as I realised that I had made a terrible mistake.... jetlag and wet feet in the dark will do that to a person.

I sat on my bed that night (or at least it felt like the night, being pitch black at 3pm), sans sheets, sans pillow, with my big ugly suitcase open on the floor, and I let a few big fat tears leak out.
And now I'm in Sweden...what can I tell you? It's getting dark really early, and is cold all the time. It snowed today quite a lot. I've met some really nice people and we've done some fun stuff. We saw some churches, drank some coffee, tried to figure out how to get our internet connected, drank some coffee, found an all you can eat sushi buffet, got lost in some woodland trying to find the Biomedical Centre (I even had a map, and then suddenly there were no houses, just trees, and a Spaniel bounding around joyfully), drank some vodka, walked a really long way to IKEA, found out that Jordan has a life-threatening dairy allergy that's really quite endearing, took some photos, walked some more, got cold, bought boots, navigated the System Bolaget (that's liquor store to you), spent three hours trying to do the grocery shopping (where is the mustard, really, and what is all that stuff in the freezer section in tubes?), realised that it gets dark at two thirty in the afternoon, learned how to order coffee in Swedish, found out that there's no breakfast menu at McDonalds here no matter how early you get there, and then all went to bed pretty early.
Sweden. Sweden. I wanted it to be the same. But with a better haircut and nicer clothes. I wanted to walk to the same places, and eat the same cakes, and shop in the same stores. I wanted it to be different, too. No anxiety, packed away by myself in my bedroom, unable to go out beyond class and groceries.  No thank you.

The first six months were so wonderful, but difficult too. The darkness, the cold, the language. The second six months were just so difficult because (in retrospect), with half of my newly created family gone, I retreated into my hard little shell, stopped going out, and proceeded to spiral down into an anxiety disorder and depression which had always been lurking in the background and took 4 awful years to climb back out of. But you know, I learned a lot. Namely, there's no point staying in a relationship because you're scared you'll never find anything better, sometimes the drugs do work, and also, those tubes in the freezer section are flavoured cheese.

Basically what I'm saying is: expectations. I had a few.
Although I think these boys may have finally cured me of my thing for Swedes in uniform. 

It wasn't like I remembered. Except for Gamla Stan... it's still some Viking burial mounds covered in grass.
Actually, I think I'd previously only seen it covered in snow. 

The station has an escalator now, and there are apartments where once there were just open fields.
The bus stops outside the station have electric signs now, and it's not a construction site anymore.

And the shops I liked to shop in were gone (for a while I thought I was misremembering their location, since I always did get confused by the layout of things in Storatorget, but no... so I was actually relieved that my map skills and my memory are not that bad).

Stockholm's most photographed (allegedly) twin buildings in Gamla Stan. The harbour, some flowers and the shopping street Drottninggatan, on which I did not do any shopping. I was waiting until we got to Uppsala. That was an error in judgement, but it did save me a lot of money in the long run...

We didn't have time to wander through the cemetery, nor did we have the inclination to loiter around at Flogsta to confirm that the Flogsta scream does still, in fact, take place every night at 10pm. We visited my bedroom window though.

That soviet style architecture is timeless...

We couldn't go to the Nations because we are grown ups now, and we didn't go out drinking because of my pancreas and Rob's stomach.  We didn't wait in line to get into the Vasa Museum, and I still haven't been to Skansen, and I didn't see one damn squirrel.

We walked around djurgården though, which I'd always wanted to do, and we squeezed down a narrow, narrow street, and the sky was blue. Some of the time. 

But we drank terrible Swedish coffee (sorry, svenska vänner, but it's truly awful!), I ate as many kanelbullar as I could lay my hands on, and we met up with old friends.

Östermalms Saluhall - Stockholm; Hushållsost med knäckebrö favourite 'Swedish farmer's cheese' with knäckebröd; kanelbullar the size of side plates; the home of said bullar: The Stork Coffee Room

And I was reminded of how beautiful are Stockholm and Uppsala; I love cities on the water.

The River Fyris runs through Uppsala. I forgotten those baskets of flowers everywhere, as if to make up for how miserable it can be in winter. Also, Ryan and Rob were wearing the same jacket. All pilots really do dress the same!!
Moogle loves nothing more than a canon. Especially when it is pointing straight at the church as a reminder of just who is in charge in Uppsala. Oh, that Gustav Vasa. 

Uppsala's Domkyrkan is the tallest church is Scandinavia, and I do not have a wide-angle lens. 

And so really, it was just like I remembered, except that this time I had someone to keep me company and stop the anxiety from taking hold, and keep me happy as we did not much at all.

Even if he does get vertigo incredibly easily. 

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