Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas in Salzburg

When I was last in Salzburg in the autumn of 1993, I remember thinking, “What an idyllic little place. It would be fun to spend Christmas here someday.”

Well, that “someday” was last week and Salzburg lived up to it’s yuletide expectations by providing a little bit of snow, all the “glüwein and punsch” one could imagine and most of all, a family of friends from Seattle with whom to spend the actual holiday.

As I was wandering about Salzburg mesmerized by the Christmas cheer - Austrian style, I was struck by the fact that the American idealized vision of Europe, however romantic and unrealistic it might be, is truly captured in this one small city in central Austria. Salzburg simply has it all: a castle/fortress on the hill, cobblestone streets with colored facades, a huge and illustrious Baroque cathedral, non-English speaking locals (but with enough to get by as a tourist), spectacular history and significant figures of history (Mozart was born here and wrote many of his concerts with this very cathedral in mind), Alps all around, a rollicking beer hall with very large steins of locally-made beer, seemingly ceaseless cathedral bells, never-ending arts and culture and a river running right through it. Not even to mention that one of the most beloved movies of all time, The Sound of Music, is the quintessential Salzburg showcase.

And when you add snow, horse-drawn carriages, Christmas markets, lights and the Christmas merriment of this time of year, Salzburg becomes a storybook Christmas city – and on top of all this, the most famous and translated Christmas carol worldwide, Silent Night, was written and first performed in a small church just 20 kilometers from Salzburg in 1818. Silent Night is a very sacred song to the Austrian people.

Add to all this holiday fun my friends from Seattle - Dan and Shena Hinds and her parents, John and Jean McCall - and Christmas in Salzburg was an unforgettable way to celebrate the season.
If I couldn’t be surrounded by family and friends around the Christmas tree in Southern California, Salzburg surrounded by temporary family in the form of good friends was the next best place.

So as we’re on the brink of the new year and Linköpinglivin is a step behind, I wish you one last “Frohe Wiehnachten” from Salzburg, Austria.

Pictures above:

1. The castle on the hill, the Baroque church, a bit of snow - Salzburg plays the part well.

2. The German and Austrian Christmas markets are the world's best (and most expensive).

3. Salzburg plays up its strengths and it knows that tourism is its strongest asset - there is even a store called "Christmas in Salzburg" as well as "Easter in Salzburg" just down the street.

4. My Christmas dinner was spent at St. Peter's Restaurant, one that Charlemagne (yes, Charlemagne!) mentions eating at way back in 803 making this the oldest known restaurant in Europe...

5. A big thanks to my friends Jean, John, Dan and Shena for letting me crash their Christmas party in Salzburg.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmastime in England

After being home as recently as October and wanting to fulfill longtime Christmas travel dreams, I decided not to go home for the holidays for the first time ever (another huge shout-out to Mom and the rest of the family for their understanding) . This week started a two-week European holiday travel trip of which the first stop was about as close to my home as you could get without actually setting foot in the U.S. (Sorry, England, but it's true).

When I first returned to Europe (after a college study abroad trip in ’93) for this opportunity in Sweden, my travel urge was more focused on Eastern Europe and other places not previously visited. My how things change… After two Paris weekends and this stop in London, I understand that these all-too typical destinations on the usual American itinerary in Europe are for good reason. To be in London and the smaller English town of Bath during the festive Christmas season was the clincher for my decision and the past five days have been Victorian outstanding.

After my weekend in Stockholm in early December, which I consider my first stop on this holiday trip and with visions of a Dickensian Christmas dancing in my head, I arrived to London earlier this week. The Christmas spirit could never be omnipresent in a city like this – it’s just too big – but if you know where to go, the Christmas merriment is in full swing. My favorites were the Somerset House for ice-skating, Trafalgar Square for the annual Norwegian gift of the larger-than-life Christmas “spruce,” the decorations and spirit at Covent Garden, St. Paul’s Cathedral and other churches for Christmas services and celebratory concerts, Oxford Circus for the bright lights - big shopping atmosphere and all of Bath, the quintessential Victorian town two hours outside of London. It doesn’t get much better than a candlelight Christmas concert in the historical abbey of a charming English countryside town.

Some other highlights, thoughts and impressions on England and the Brits:

Culturally and undoubtedly due to language, I definitely feel a kindred spirit with the English people I have met and with the experiences I have had here. My heritage is English and Scottish, so that certainly has something to do with it as well. It wasn’t just because there’s a Starbucks on every corner (literally as many as Seattle, the home of Starbucks) that I noticed an inner connection to England and her people.

London just never quits. I’ve been going strong for five days and my future London itineraries just keep getting bigger. So much rich culture, history, tradition, art, theater, exhibitions, opportunities and pubs(!!!). Love those pubs! Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the first and most authentic pub in London (“rebuilt” in 1667), was tops on my list.

An overlooked exhibit in London is the Treasures of the British Library. In one 300 square meter location is nothing short of the textual foundation of Western Civilization: the oldest version we have of the New Testament and many books of the Old, the Magna Carta, some of the very first maps ever created, the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare and other literary giants, Handel’s Messiah and other priceless compositions and the list goes on. For anyone with a remote interest in history, art or cultural artifacts, this free exhibit is a must.

You’ve heard right. London is indeed very expensive…and worth every pence.

And for someone who doesn’t like to experience cities with heat or tourists, the week before Christmas in London was simply ideal for me. I did the obligatory walk through Her Majesty’s Crown Jewels, a place that routinely has at least an hour-long line, and never had to stop! Additionally, London is known as such an international city that sometimes it's hard to find any authentic English people. This hasn't been the case at all - this week I've heard very few other languages than English.

And oh those British accents…

Tomorrow I leave for my next destination, where I will spend Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day (as the British and Canadians refer to it). See you next week from another storybook location on this European holiday journey.

“Happy Christmas” from England.

Pictures above:

1. Trafalgar Square at night, the very heart of London, and the Christmas tree from the people of Norway (an annual gift to thank the British for their help in WWII).

2. The Somerset House ice-skating rink.

3. Covent Garden, already an arts, crafts and shopping mecca in London, becomes even more so during the Christmas season.

4. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the oldest pub in London and a classic pub scene inside...

5. Bath is a picturesque town at all times, but especially at Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why It's So Cool To Live in Linköping: Part 2 - Mjellerums Gården

Sorry about the formatting, everyone. For the first time in a long time, Blogger has outsmarted me.
After my initial October post in this occasional series of reasons why Linköping is such a cool place to live, if you were wondering when this series was going to continue as November came and went and we proceed through December quickly, then you deserve an award. The second part of this five-part series focusing specifically on Linköping and its best parts takes us to a very tradtional Swedish restaurant that feels way out in the countryside, though is actually only minutes from Linköping's inner-city.
When I first arrived to Linköping, I inquired as to where was a good place to find some traditional Swedish food. A typical question for a foreigner to a new place, however, the response I got was a mix of places that have typical Swedish food (fish, meat, potatoes), but are not quite the whole experience of dining in Swedish style and perplexed guesses as to what type of experience I was really in search of. It seemed like a basic question, but the answer was a bit harder. Part of the problem is that cuisines from other countries have such a distinct taste and type of food (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, French, Indian, etc.), but Swedish food is not that distinct in nature, but if you find the right place, the experience of eating in Swedish style can be outstanding.
Eventually, Mjellerums Gården was recommended as a place to experience a traditional Swedish plate in a traditional Swedish environment. Mjellerums Gården belongs deep in the Swedish countryside somewhere, but is actually right next to the university just outside of the center of Linköping. Walking in the front door, you are warmly greeted by a hostess in traditional attire and you are immediately taken back to 18th century Sweden because of the ambience, the soft scent and sound of a crackling fireplace as well as the manor which you have entered was built about 200 years ago.
As to be expected for a place with this type of tribute-to-Sweden-of-yesteryear environment, there's no better time to experience Mjellerums Gården than during the Christmas season with the not-to-be-outdone julbord (picture above), the continual flickering of candles surrounded by Christmas greenery, gently creaking floorboards, and the occasional light snowfall seen through the window.
A picturesque Swedish scene at Christmas or any other time of year and a taste and quality of food to match. For more on this classic Swedish experience right here in Linköping, check out the website:
Pictures above:
1. Mjellerums Gården front door decorated in December.
2. The Swedish "Christmas table" or julbord. Just make sure to leave room so you can keep coming back for more...
3. The ingredients to a classic fika.
4. Mjellerums Gården is another reason that Linköping is such a cool place to live.
While Linköpinglivin' will not be taking a break during the coming holidays, it will be taking a break from Sweden as this week begins a couple weeks of European Christmas travel for me. See you next week from official stop #2 (Stockholm last weekend) on the European Christmas journey.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jul i Stockholm

It’s been awhile since I have mentioned Sweden’s largest and most well known city (notice I did not say “best,” Linköpingsborna) and there is no better time to welcome Stockholm back to Linköpinglivin’ than during the Christmas season. In what has quickly become a personal tradition, I spent this past weekend taking in the sights and sounds (Handel’s Messiah at Storkyrkan – Americans just can’t get enough concerts in cathedrals) of the holiday season in a city that just grows on me more and more, and it started pretty high on my favorites list.

I consider Stockholm the first stop on my European holiday adventure 2007 – 08 that will take me through continental Europe during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays. A quick shout-out to my Mom who has just been awarded “World’s Best Mother-2007” for supporting this decision of mine to be away from home during Christmas for the very first time in 34 years…

The experience of Christmas in Stockholm is centered, not unlike other European cities, on the lights, the Christmas markets, delightful window displays (though NK’s is arguably the best!) and the ever-present and merry food and drink, gingerbread cookies and hot mulled wine (pepparkakor och glögg).

While anywhere there’s capitalism there will be commercialism at Christmas, Stockholm’s representation of the season is understated, refined and always carries a nice mix of class, wintry magic and childlike delight. There are lights, but they are not blinding. There are festivities, but not overwhelming carnivals. There is shopping, but you can get away from it if you want. Finally, there is way too much pepparkakor och glögg, but no one is complaining about that!

For a Christmas season spent in Europe, Stockholm is a fantastic first stop.

I continue to realize that I was born into the right family in the wrong location. There’s just something about the beauty and sparkle of light during wintertime this far north that makes me appreciate this season all the more. Fire and ice, which are everywhere in their various forms this time of year, bring with them such a romantic, almost-mystical atmosphere. If only the snow would come back…

The sun is setting during the 3pm hour in southern Sweden these days. It rises at approximately 8:45am. When the days are short, it must mean Lucia is somewhere close by…

Pictures above:

1. Even in Stockholm, the larger-than-life Christmas tree welcomes incoming cruise ships to Stockholm Harbor.

2. The saffron bread sold at a classic Swedish julmarknad in Stockholm’s old city of Gamla Stan.

3. If Sweden is a fairy tale, which some have proposed in the blogosphere before, then Skansen during Christmas is the height of that fairy tale….

4. The most well known department store in Sweden is Nordiska Kompaniet or “NK.” I had recently heard all about their window displays during the Christmas season, and from very objective sources, so I decided to go find out what all the fuss was about….

5. Expecting nothing more than creative commercialism, what I found was nothing less than a creative and artistic achievement of colors, themes, games, goodies, surprises, decorations, fun and visions of sugar plums dancing in children’s heads. A must during any visit to Stockholm this time of year.

Sunday, December 02, 2007 Visits Sweden (via Linköping)

A popular and still-growing website and weekly podcast that explores the world of travel and places is, based in San Jose, California and run by Chris Christensen. I discovered when seeking information and travel education primarily for my iPod. This podcast has been running for two-and-a-half years now, but this past week journeyed to Sweden for the first time.

I had the pleasure of doing a half-hour long interview with Chris as we discussed travel to and within Sweden including edible reindeer, Swedish holidays, the dark and light of winter and summer, Stockholm, smaller Swedish towns like Linköping and Uppsala and, of course, the wonder and enjoyment of fika.

I want to thank Chris and for this opportunity and new experience. The best part is that anyone out there reading Linköpinglivin' can check out and listen to episode #115: Sweden!

And if you are visiting Linköpinglivin' for the first time because of, welcome to this little part of the world.

In the United States, most people would tell you that the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving and increases as December 25th approaches. Well in Sweden, the first day of the Christmas season, which both starts and finishes strong, is the first day of Advent which is always four Sundays before Christmas, today.

"Nu är det Jul igen" in Sweden and nothing like the Gamla Linköping Julmarknad, "Christmas market," to get things started right. For more about a Swedish Christmas, please see my December postings from 2006, including the Top 10 words you must know to experience Christmas in Sweden, including ljusstake, pepparkakor, glögg and Julbord.

Pictures above:

2. Sean enjoys some fika, despite the size of the picture.
3. Gamla Linköping's Christmas market children's choir.
4. The crowning of Therese, Linköping's Lucia 2007.
5. The Gamla Linköping Advent crowd watches the arrival of Lucia.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving in St. Petersburg

For the second year in-a-row, my Dad and I needed to come up with an ”alternative” Thanksgiving celebration. While we would have preferred to be home with family eating turkey with the trimmings, this year we chose to travel to a country that for so many years was the opposite of our country, the enemy during the Cold War and has always carried with it an air of mystery and suspicion right up to the present day.

Dad and I chose to go to Russia for many reasons. Primarily, and what I’m coming to realize as the most rewarding part of any travel adventure, we wanted to meet some native Russians, speak with locals about their culture, history and current life and times, as well as experience first-hand what Russia has to offer the curious, open-minded and connection-seeking traveler.

We were not disappointed.

The pictures above tell the story of many parts of our trip:

1. The beginning of a typical Russian winter that we wanted to experience, and did.

2. The State Hermitage Museum located in the former Winter Palace is nothing less than a history of Western (and some Eastern) Civilization, right up there -if not better than-Paris’ Louvre and Madrid’s Prado.

3. The Mariinsky Theater ballet, believed by some to be a notch above the Bolshoy in Moscow – in other words, the very best in all the world.

4. The Church on the Spilled Blood which looks more like the onion-domed churches you find in Moscow, but captures a typical Russian look anyways.

5. Narva Baptist Church friends.

The sight-seeing in any city is exciting and rewarding and offers the tourist a chance to fulfill what the imagination has only seen until that point, but the true meaning of a trip is found in the common interactions with locals and natives who often go out of their way to help you in your clumsy tourist state or want to give you their perspective as opposed to what they suspect you may have heard about them or their country.

I enjoy having my stereotypes and pre-conceived notions dispelled, or just flat-out crushed, by travel. Expecting the Russian people to be tough, stoic, thick-necked and unfriendly, my Dad and I were continually taken aback by the helpfulness, English-speaking friendliness and general good-natured qualities of the native Russians to which our travels led us. Such as:

The workers at our hostel went above and beyond to help our Russian experience be a good one. Extra phone calls to help with a major inconvenience and trips to and from the airport were just the beginning of their hospitality.

Encountering a problem with an ATM was the last thing we needed on a trip to Russia, but when we lost a card, there were no less than eight Russian bank employees with whom we needed to speak and each one was overly generous and willing to help, of course speaking only English. This turned out to be one of the best experiences of our trip as we reflected on the people we had met and how unexpectedly friendly and customer-service (even clueless customer-service) oriented they were.

Finally, through a friend here in Sweden, we were connected with a church in St. Petersburg and with a congregation that was more than welcoming, friendly and interested in us as travelers, Americans and visitors to their small, but genuine community.

Perhaps our experience was unique. Perhaps our Russian exposure was out-of-the-ordinary. Perhaps we just met all the good ones. But I doubt it.

Of course, not everyone’s experience with the Russian people will be like ours. However, as a child of the Cold War, with pre-conceived notions of the Russian people that I was really hoping would be debunked, my trip was a smashing success.

If you’re ready to take on the next traveler challenge, I highly recommend Russia.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, America. Though far away, I am thankful for all of you.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


1) Do not even think about drinking out of your glass until the proper introductory "Skål" has been conducted.

2) Wait for the host(ess) to begin the Skål.

3) Hold your alcohol-filled glass with your right hand and put your left hand on the table directly in front of you parallel to your chest (to show the others at the table that you have no intention of "going for your blade").

4) After everyone at the table is properly prepared, the host may say a few words as an introduction, while glasses are in the air.

5) At the conclusion of the introduction, the host will declare "Skål!" (pr. "Skoal" for you Yankees) and everyone at the table, glasses remaining in the air, repeats "Skål!"

6) At this point, we have reached a pivotal moment. Will you "clank" glasses like a drunken American or will you resist this tempation of youth and choose the classy, Northern European, all-important and highly respected, simple-but-meaningful eye-contact, with each and every person at the table? Choose wisely. This evening is depending upon your decision.

7) After you have offered a respectful nod with genuine eye-contact to all around the table, you may gently sip from your glass, followed by slowly bringing the glass to your heart and ever so-subtly acknowledging everyone at the table again with a simple glance.

8) Place your glass back on the table, simultaneosly removing your left hand from the table after having successfully resisted the temptation to "go for your blade."

9) After the introductory Skål, any guest or the host may initiate individual Skål tributes throughout the evening by simply calling upon a person around the table by name, gently declaring "Skål," drawing eye-contact with said called upon person, sip, heart, glance, down.

10) Repeat often throughout the evening and often throughout your time in Sweden.

By the way, the word "Skål" comes from the Viking "trading" era. When the Vikings would begin "trading" with a new region, they would celebrate their first "trade" by cutting of the head of their "business partner", opening up their skull ("Skål), taking out the brains, adding alcohol and "gently sipping."

And don't even ask what the Vikings did if you didn't make eye contact....


Sunday, November 11, 2007


Whether you are from Sweden, the United States or, unfortunately, anywhere else in the world, you have probably been touched in some way by cancer. This week we take a little break from the normal Linköpinglivin’ playful and serious exploration of Swedish and American culture in order to honor and remember my friend Cristina, who passed away this past week after a courageous six-year dance with cancer.

Cristina Maria Manieri and I were classmates during graduate school at Miami University in Ohio where we received our degrees in Student Affairs in 2001. Just a few months after our long-awaited graduation in May, at the immortal age of 25, Cristina was diagnosed with breast cancer, beginning a six-year odyssey, which left all of us admiring the courage and spirit of someone who could have just given in to the feelings of injustice, loneliness and despair that facing cancer brings.

The reason you choose education as a field of study and profession (which is the quickest definition of “Student Affairs” for the Swedish reader) is not salary or ease of work, but in order to make a difference. Making a difference in individual and community lives is the professional reward and motivation for anyone remotely connected to the education profession. While beginning to make a difference in the lives of the students with whom she worked, Cristina’s impact on this world took a very different, and arguably more powerful, turn when she was diagnosed with cancer. All of her perseverance, energy, stubbornness, devotion and childlike belief that she would overcome this inspired all of us who watched her laugh at disappointing diagnoses or health setbacks.

Over and over again, we as her friends and family would brace ourselves for the end but would soon realize that, to Cristina, this latest challenge was just the beginning. Her spirit was unmatched and will always be remembered by everyone who knew her. It was a privilege during this past week, as Cristina began to go downhill and the end was near, to be able to remind her that this too was just a beginning and that the rest of us were, in eternity’s eyes, just a few steps behind her.

Cristina passed away on Wednesday, November 7 in her hometown of Hopewell, Virginia, surrounded by family.

The next time you have the chance, do something to help us beat cancer once-and-for-all and, in the mean time, make sure those you love know it.

Here's to Cristina.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Halloween, Alla Helgons Dag, Holidays and Culture

As I watched the students with whom I work scramble to figure out the answer to what I thought was a simple question, “Does Sweden have Halloween and if so, when is it?,” I began to consider some elements of holidays and culture and, as you might have guessed, a blog entry was born.

After a year of simply observing the holidays of Sweden, an easy and very effective way to get to know a culture and discover what is meaningful in a society, this week I would like to put some words to my thoughts about holidays and traditions in Sweden.

This past week, Swedes celebrated Halloween (sort of) and Alla Helgons Dag or “All Saints Day.” In the U.S., we may hear about All Saints Day, knowing it happens sometime after Halloween (actually the day after) but very few pay close attention to it. Halloween has all the festivity, candy, costumes, attention and purchasing power that the U.S. wants.

One of the two major influences of the Swedish calendar and holidays is the Swedish church, Svenskyrkan, and the recognition of many saints and holy days throughout the year. Some of these days are official holidays (Ascension Day in May) and others are playful remembrances, yet still filled with meaning (Santa Lucia). Alla Helgons Dag in Sweden is celebrated in churches, with choir concerts in cathedrals and by the lighting of candles at the graveside of deceased loved ones (which makes for a beautifully solemn and reflective walk through a cemetery at night). As far as I can tell, Halloween has come in from outside of Sweden and is celebrated mostly by younger people (but not children, mind you – no trick-or-treating as far as I know) as an excuse to dress-up in costumes, eat, drink and be merry.

As for Sweden, the interplay of Halloween and Alla Helgons Dag perhaps serves as a nice little microcosm of what is happening in Swedish society in general. The holiday of Alla Helgons Dag is celebrated as one of the many traditional Svenskyrka, Swedish Church, holidays and Halloween, on the other hand, doesn’t fit quite right and seems to be media-influenced, even American-influenced and perhaps Swedes aren’t sure what to do with it? My research on this topic is woefully poor for the speculation I am attempting, but maybe some of Linköpinglivin’s Swedish friends could help us foreigners out on the whole Halloween-according-to-Sweden thing.

Safe to say, however, that some holidays are uniquely Swedish/Scandinavian and others are here for many different reasons, but just don't feel Swedish...a reflection of a continually changing, small but proud, society in today's world.

By the way, the other “major influence” of the Swedish calendar and holidays is simply the climate, the extremes of being this far north. Light, dark, warm and cold….

Speaking of holidays, make one more check mark under “Sweden as a Fairy Tale land.” Swedes, though not official holidays, celebrate the informal holidays of Kanelbullens Dag ("Cinnamon Bun Day" on October 4) and Våffeldagen ("Waffle Day" on March 25, strangely connected to the day Mary was first "with child").

I love Sweden.

Pictures above:

1. Trevlig Halloween!
2. A zombie and two Swedish angels share in a Colonia “Halloweensittning.”
3. Midsummer in June, in addition to Santa Lucia in December, is a great example of a holiday dictated by climate that means something much more in the extreme climate of the north than closer to the equator where there simply aren't seasons during the year.
4. Shaking the sugar during this year’s Kanelbullens Dag celebration at Colonia.
5. You simply can’t have too many Cinnamon Buns in Sweden. Fika forever!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Top 10 Things Sweden and Southern California Have in Common

In an effort to continue the welcome to our new Southern California-based readers of Linköpinglivin’, this week’s entry explores the things that unite two places vastly different from one another, Sweden and Southern California.

Being uniquely qualified to, somehow, capture commonalities between two places as far away in climate as they are in distance (but, relatively speaking, sharing some similar cultural traits as two economically-strong, Western places), perhaps you can indulge me as I share this latest “Top 10” list on Linköpinglivin’:

The Top 10 things Sweden and Southern California have in common are:

10. A love of the sun (some just have it more than others).

9. An IKEA around every corner…

8. A love of coffee (some like it hot, others “iced”).

7. A great diversity of topography (mountains, water, farmland, desert…oh, wait).

6. The presence of reindeer at Christmas (one imaginary, the other real).

5. Beautiful people (but generally way too image-conscious).

4. A love of Swedish Fish (One is a brilliantly-marketed American candy and the other is fish caught in or near Sweden.)

3. A reputation to their geographical neighbors as being laid back, easy-going and politically left of center.

2. They both love their “football” teams…

1. And the #1 thing Sweden and Southern California have in common is:


Oh, forget it. Sweden and Southern California have only nine things in common (and even some of those were a stretch). This undoubtedly comes as a relief to people from both places.

Pictures above:

1. Don't be fooled. Sweden has approximately twice the coastline of California. This is Motola, a town near Linköping, on a nice summer's eve.

2. Okay, this is California. Specifically, me diving for a Frisbee in Santa Barbara last weekend.

3. As opposed to the American-based Santa & his reindeer story at Christmastime, Sweden actually has reindeer, and lots of them, in the north (and reindeer is delicious, by the way!).

4. Swedish Fish is an American candy almost as well loved as Ahlgren's Bilar in Sweden, but to the surprise of most Americans, Swedes have never heard of Swedish Fish.

5. One of the best parts of being a foreigner is getting together with other foreigners and sharing a common bond (as well as making fun of Swedes). Represented around the table here is Turkey, France, Singapore, the U.S. and....Sweden.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Special Welcome to The Outlook Readers (and a trip home in pictures)

As Linköpinglivin' returns from an unusual mid-Autumn break, we must welcome the readers of the Outlook newspapers in Pasadena, California and soon, my hometown of La Canada, California (both thankfully spared in the recent wildfire devastation throughout Southern California).

The Outlook is a locally-based, hometown newspaper (now in two different neighboring cities) for which I am writing an occasional travel column beginning today. Starting with Sweden (which the Swedish readers of Linköpinglivin' would be very interested in reading - I'm working on getting an online link), I hope to introduce readers to some familiar and not-so-familiar parts of Europe and share some travel advice about being an American abroad.

So if you're a long time reader of this blog about the experience of living in a smaller town in Sweden, then hopefully we will have online access to this and future articles soon. And if you are brand new to Linköpinglivin', welcome to Sweden and please visit on a weekly basis to learn more about this often overlooked, but special part of Northern Europe and the adventures of an American living abroad.

Ironically, I just returned from a two-week swing through my west coast, former hometown cities of Seattle, La Canada and Santa Barbara. As always, this time at home was treasured and every moment was worth the long trip as the pictures attest:

1. What a difference 16 months makes. My cousins Lexi and Hunter as compared to their picture from June '06 on the right-hand side of this page.

2. Celebrating the wedding of a good friend, Chad Fransen (who has Swedish roots!), with my close friends in Seattle (Clay Robinson, Chad, Daniel Hinds, D.J. Del Rosario and Tony Scaringi).

3. A reunion of college friends where we went to school in Santa Barbara, California, a place as close to paradise as you will find in the USA (okay, besides Hawaii). Left to right: Jason Sunukjian, Jason Berns, Matt Gazaway, Dan Deeble and me in front of the famous Santa Barbara mission on yet another perfect day in "SB."

4. The Swedish summertime game of KUBB is introduced in the United States!

5. A competitive introductory game of KUBB lasts well over two hours and successfully adds one more Swedish product to the long list of Swedish items loved by Americans (IKEA, Volvo, ABBA, Pippi Longstocking and KUBB...).

The weekly commitment of "a new post by Monday night" should return to Linköpinglivin' this coming Monday. Good to be back. Vi ses snart!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Why It's So Cool to Live in Linköping - Part 1: Domkyrka

Some of you have figured it out. “Linköpinglivin’” may be a catchy title, but we all know this blog is about life in Sweden and sometimes even expands throughout Europe. In an effort to be true to the title, and to pass on some love and credit where love and credit are due, this week commences a five-part occasional series on what makes Linköping a special place to live. No better place to start than the undeniable heart of the city’s history and culture, Linköping’s Domkyrka (Cathedral).

To American eyes, the Domkyrkan is a quintessential example of historical Europe, a stunning architectural and historical edifice that simply defies what we would have ever thought could be built in the 1200s. To Swedish eyes, the Domkrykan may very well be taken for granted as one more historical icon in a part of the world with many historical icons. My hope is that the Domkrykan captures the imagination and wonder of Europe for the American and that the Swede takes a moment to re-consider (and even re-visit with fresh eyes?) this remarkable achievement.

From far away, off in the distance, as someone is approaching Linköping, the Domkrykan marks the spot, the heart of Linköping’s otherwise humble historical district. As one stands at the entrance and looks up, the surprise that this cathedral is in a town like Linköping reveals a naïve historical perspective, that only the biggest towns have the biggest toys. Linköping, being on a central road of both north-south and east-west commerce before and after Sweden’s dynastic era in the Middle Ages, was a natural location for pilgrims seeking a place to pay homage. The first limestones were laid in 1230 (1230!), and the initial church finally was completed in the mid 1500s. Throughout Europe, the townspeople who laid cathedrals’ foundations knew they would never see the completion in their lifetime, nor would the six generations after them! Apparently instant gratification is a recent concept…

Over that period of time of building, a lot changed in Europe. What was Romanesque architecture (rounded arches, large supports inside) became Gothic (pointed arches, outer buttress support) with a small element of Early English (decorative), as well. What was Catholic became Protestant and has ended up to resemble the Anglican Church of England more than anything else (the Swedish State Church, Svenskyrkan, is officially Lutheran).

The sense of awe and wonder that Americans seek when visiting Europe is not lost on the Domkyrkan. The second largest cathedral in Sweden (Uppsala – north of Stockholm), the Domkyrkan can be enjoyed any time of day, open and free to the public, and is still used for daily services of Vespers, occasional Mass and Sunday services in the evenings as well as visiting instrumental and choir concerts. As for attendance, only 5% of Swedes attend church regularly, but predictably the Christmas service is the high point of the calendar for the Domkrykan. Personally, the Santa Lucia concert celebrating light in the middle of darkness on December 13th was simply the most magical thing I witnessed my first year in not just Sweden, but all of Europe.

Whether visiting for spiritual, historical or cultural reasons, whether sharing the faith of the people who constructed it or simply curious, the Domkyrkan is one of many highlights throughout Linköping that will be covered in the coming weeks and months on Linköpinlivin’.

Finally, this month marks the seventh anniversary of my Grandmother Dorothy’s passing in October of 2000. Prior to coming to Sweden, I read Grandma’s trip diary from her Scandinavian tour back in 1982:

“After leaving Stockholm we went to Copenhagen stopping in Linköping to hear a concert in the cathedral there.”

If only Grandma had known that 24 years later, her then 9-year old grandson would be living and working in that city of the cathedral, doing his own trip journaling about the Domkyrkan. She would be delighted with this experience, as am I. Here’s to Grandma, the Domkyrkan and Linköping.

Pictures above:

1. Who would ever think that something this colossal would be found in quaint Linköping?
2. Inside the Domkrykan, the nave.
3. Pointed arches and buttresses (sometimes “flying”) reveal the Gothic architecture of the High Middle Ages (1000 – 1500).
4. The photographer’s favorite angle of Linköping’s Domkyrka.
5. A picture taken from Linköping University captures the stature of the Domkyrkan in comparison to the rest of Linköping.