Saturday, August 26, 2006

Välkommen till Linköping

Greetings family, friends and anyone else curious about life in Linköping-

This posting marks my entrance into the world of blogging, however this site will be solely dedicated to updating interested folks about the adventure of an American living in Linköping, Sweden for a season of life. No political sound-offs, unnecessary venting or questionable personal journaling-for-the-world-to-see here. Just weekly stories and excerpts from this adventure, an unsuspecting All-American Boy (my nickname in high school) at heart embraces "Sverige." Välkommen till Linköping.

While my goal will be to make these weekly entries manageable for the readers, i.e., something that you can read during a 5-minute procrastination session at work, I have been in Linköping now for almost a month before finally starting my long-promised blog and there's a little bit of background to tell as well as stories from my introduction to Sweden. So sit back and enjoy the fun... I'll even include pictures to help you through.

At the right is a picture of Stockholm taken from the top of a free fall-type roller coaster just seconds before I clutched my camera and plummeted 10 stories. Stockholm is a beautiful, world-class, European city that is often overlooked because it's up near the Arctic compared to other, warmer European cities. For my job, I will probably spend a fair amount of time in Stockholm, which is fine by me, because I already love this city, for obvious reasons: Beauty, history, metropolitan Europe, fantastic public transportation, water everywhere (Stockholm is actually a collection of 14 islands). Stockholm is about a two hour car/train ride from Linköping, so a good distance for a getaway when Linköping is feeling a bit small....

The 5th largest city in Sweden (137,000), Linköping's signature building is the "Domkyrkan," cathedral built between 1100 and 1900. It's the center of a very historical area of Linköping, one of just two cathedrals like it in all of Sweden. The acoustics are simply perfect, stunning really--I took in a concert last week. In addition to being an historical city, Linköping is also known for it's university, where I will be working in a new student housing development on campus called "Colonia." Add to these elements a good size commercial area, a new arena for hockey and other events and you have yourself a "not too big, not too small," historical, charming, classic European city--one that is growing on me by the day for it's simplicity, character, warmth and Swedish style, not to mention some very beautiful Scandinavian women.

After being here for a month, being ready for huge cultural changes and learning to adapt, I have learned that, despite some obvious language and a few cultural elements, Swedes and Americans are not that much different from each other. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my colleagues at work and occasionally talking to strangers at cafes, shops and on the street has revealed that the areas in which we're similar are overwhelming, but it's still fun to recognize the differences. One area that was a change for me is transportation. It's ALL about the bicycle in Linköping--morning, noon and night, winter, spring, summer or fall, heading to work or heading to play. See the pics below for the "parking lot" of bikes and a familiar face riding his bike to work with everyone else. I would imagine most Swedes would be just as surprised to see the American shopping mall parking lot stretching beyond imagination with cars. Simplicity, character, charm--all captured in the many bike riders and their very basic bicycles. It's fun. And a commute most Americans would embrace.

As I wrap up this first entry, here are a couple more pictures of Linköping. Another older "Kyrka" (church)-St. Lars and a local park called the "Linköping Tradgårdsforening," which is actually easier to spell than say. Check back here on a weekly basis for more updates on Linköpinglivin'. And don't forget, should you ever be passing through or even have Linköping as a destination unto itself, you have a place to stay and my best impression of Swedish hospitality is all yours. Välkommen till Linköping!