Monday, March 26, 2007


To many of you, ”Köpenhamn,” but to most you, “Copenhagen.”

The capital city of Denmark, often overlooked because of Stockholm and grand continental European mega-cities, is the gateway from Scandinavia to the rest of Europe, lying at the southern-most tip of Sweden and bordering Germany. This marks the second Scandinavian country I have visited and, I assure you, “København” does not dissapoint. Like all Scandinavian countries, the Danes have some cool-looking letters like ”æ, ø, å.” Let’s give them a try…

Spending three nights and three days, especially on a weekend in spring, was møre than enough time to become familiar with the inner city, enough to actually feel at home. Copenhagen is small enough to walk everywhere and big enough to feel like a metropolitan city. There is a warmth and friendliness to Copenhagen that seems to welcome the traveler, something of which Denmark’s favorite son, Hans Christian Anderson, would be prøud. I stayed on a boat in Nyhavn (New Harbor) and, as usual when traveling, met people from all over Europe: Germany, England, Holland, Ireland, Sweden and more.

Perhaps it was the narrow, winding stræts, pastel-colored facades of centuries-old buildings, never-ending spires and towers that hover above a city without skyscrapers (I stopped counting after forty), the harbors and canals or the øutdoor cafes and restaurants embracing spring once again as temperatures hovered in the low-60s Fahrenheit, but one doesn’t need to spend much time here to get familiar and friendly with Copenhagen. I highly recommend this cozy capital, especially as a spot most Åmericans have not visited, but would remember forever.

Some highlights:

Sitting down to my first Danish meal, the classic “smorrebrød” open-faced sandwich of fish, meat and cheese, asking the sweet Danish waitress if she had time to show me around her city and subsequently getting turned down, all within two hours of arriving to Denmark!

Standing atop the Rundetårn (round tower) overlooking the city and continuing to relish this unæxpected European adventure when, off in the distance, I began to hear a marching band playing ”Stars and Stripes Forever.” Doing the equivalent of a triple-take with my ears, I soon saw the Palace Guard parading through the city as they always do when the Queen is in residence for the daily, and made-for-tourist, Changing of the Royal Guard. Apparently, ”Stars and Stripes Forever” is vintage parade music no matter where you are in the Western world. Who knew?

(Picture above) Walking out to visit ”Den Lille Havfru” or The Little Mermaid, Denmark’s national symbol and most vintage ”tourists only” site and, as always, being more entertained by the tourists than the actual reason for the journey. The main character in perhaps Hans Christian Anderson's most beloved tale, The Little Mermaid is always awaiting her prince, but is never lonely. I was there on a chilly Sunday morning in March and saw probably 75 tourists come through in just over an hour. Imagine a warm Saturday in July...

Walking aimlessly around the Latin Quarter, a university-type area just off the main thoroughfare of ”Strøget," stumbling upon a picturesque square and thinking to myself, “Now this is a very cool square. I wonder what the name of this one is.” Looking around I soon discovered that Scandinavian common sense was alive and well in Denmark with the naming of this area, “Kultorvet” or “the cool square.” Nice.

Leaving Christiania, a small section of Christianshavn just east of the inner city, which for forty years has served as a home to about 1,000 residents who are living a socialistic and communal lifestyle (simply put, but not totally accurate, a ”hippie commune”) and meeting ”Thomas, the Gardner” who proceeded for the next half-hour to share stories and familiarize me with the history and philosophy and current challenges of life in Christiania, possibly the most well-known living environment of its kind in the world.

(Picture above) Walking quickly through the "Statens Museum for Kunst" Art Museum, really just wanting to get to the Rembrandt area, but stopping for famous Danish painters and discovering a painting with a child that looks exactly like my brother when he was about nine years old (the one on the left). This painting, Still Life with Fish by Carl Bloch, was finished in 1878. An uncanny resemblance, minus the hat. I had to break the museum rules and snap a photograph. Our family will treasure this picture for a long time….yes, that brother, the one that makes all the blog comments and yes indeed this is one way of me “responding.”

Checking my møbile phone’s internet each morning and discovering my NCAA tournament teams (see last week’s entry) had won!

(First picture above) Strolling Nyhavn morning, afternoon or night, just embracing the newly-arrived springtime with all the Danes and tourists. Outdoor cafes, ice cream cones, sunshine, boats in the harbor, a nice bræze--a Scandinavian spring will be truly grand.

Some of you may be wondering, "What about Tivoli?,” the famous amusement park in Copenhagen? Closed until åpril. However, I do have a seven-hour layover in Copenhagen on my way back from the U.S. this summer where I plan to experience Tivoli for a few hours…

The other picture above is Rosenborg Slot, a castle that is full of Danish Royalty items worth a whole lotta Danish kronor and a fine-looking castle, too.

And, almost as soon as it began, my Danish experience had ended. A great weekend getaway and a great way to welcome a new season to Scandinavia. If you're headed to København any time soon, let me know. I will be very tempted to join you.

Finally, don't look now, but "LHC" is storming through the Eliteserien playoffs. Yes, hockey season is in full swing and the Linköping Hockey Club caught fire at just the right time.



Go to Copenhagen.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Amerikansk Basketboll, March Madness and Following American Sports Abroad

As winter turns to spring and we're in between Swedish "red days" (holidays), America is experiencing the college basketball madness of the month of March. As I've been abnormally preoccupied with all things America this weekend, I figured there was no better time to share how I am surviving "without" my American sports scene--big quotes around "without."

Quick explanation for the Swedes:
"March Madness" is the affectionate term for the 6-round single-elimination college-level basketball tournament played every weekend throughout the month of March in the United States. American football and basketball at the college level is adored in the U.S. largely because the players are not paid in astronomical salaries as professional players are, which helps the common person relate to and appreciate the players a bit more than professionally-paid players. This college basketball tournament never fails to provide edge-of-your-seat excitement as favored teams lose to lower seeded teams and previously unheard of players, coaches and schools receive their one shot at tournament glory. The championship game is always played on the first Monday in April.

Upon hearing of my imminent journey to Sweden for a couple years, many people who know me well immediately began wondering how I might cope without my American sports. As stated in earlier blogs, I'm particularly fond of American football, basketball and baseball. Well, in this age of technology, for better or for worse, one simply does not need to go "without" these public, media-provided, social and cultural events. The better question for me is "How is Sean coping without his American the most ideal time of day?"

In a word, technology. The internet not only makes up for the distance with regards to news and sports, but due to ever increasing options and affordability, my following of various games and events is more thorough and enhanced than ever. If I was in the U.S., I would probably not purchase the internet coverage of events and would miss out on various advantages found through the net. All weekend I have been able to choose the game I watch with the click of the mouse, whereas on a U.S. television, one is left to the discretion of the television provider. That's a long explanation to say that, whether it's single games such as the Super Bowl or other games, or long series that cover a week or a month, most providers now have an internet option that allows those of us abroad the chance to see our games happen live. It's cool. There's only one drawback.....

....time. While events are understandably timed well for the U.S. audience, rarely is the time of these games suitable for normal viewing in Europe. In order to see my games live (and who wants to see games delayed these days anyways?), I need to be awake at all hours of the night. Sweden is 6 hours ahead of the east coast and 9 hours ahead of the west coast of the U.S. Anything that starts after a 2:00pm-west coast time, is pushing the boundary for me to have any kind of decent night's sleep. This inconvenience definitely reveals which games and events are the most important to me. I've learned that I will stay up to see my Bruins play a second-round NCAA tournament game, but I won't stay up to see St. Louis and Detroit in any of the World Series games (baseball, October). As seen in early February, I'll stay up for the ultimate American sporting event, the Super Bowl, but when Florida played Ohio St. in the American football national championship, I was only up because of jet lag, trying unsuccessfully to sleep.

A legitimate question at this point could be, "Sean, you're in Europe. Don't you have better things to do than follow American sports, which will always be here?" All I can say to that is I had naive hopes that I could leave some of these admittedly superficial things behind for a couple years, but when you're actually living in, and not just touring, Europe, life tends to settle in.

And while living here will never become normal for me, I have allowed myself a few of these guilty pleasures yes, even while living abroad and experiencing the adventure of a new country and culture--speaking of which, Linköpinglivin will be coming to you from another country next weekend.

See you next week to find out what new locale is next on the agenda.

Monday, March 12, 2007


An important, but previously unmentioned, part of my Swedish experience thus far has been the faith community at a church just outside of Linköping Centrum, Ryttargårdskyrkan. From the first time I visited in August, I've been welcomed and encouraged to continue returning, which I have whenever I am in town (usually 3 out of 4 Sundays a month). With English-translated services, I'm able to actually feel like a part of the congregation and quickly moved from outside observer to participant, largely due to various members reaching out to me (not something Swedes are particularly known for...).

Ryttargårdskyrkan is from a Protestant, Evangelical Free background, one that is fairly familiar to the church communities I have been a part of in the States. While nationwide, only about 5% of Swedes attend church on a regular basis (most of Sweden is traditionally of the "Svenskakyrkan" or state Lutheran Church), this structured and intentional community of people has been irreplaceable for me to feel connected and to get to know Swedes on a deeper level. To all of you at Ryttargårdskyrkan who may be reading, "tack så mycket" for your continued welcome and interest in me.

The third picture above is the five themes that this church strives to uphold for this community:

Tillbedjan: Prayer
Tillväxt: Growth
Tillsammans: Community
Tjänst: Service
Tro: Faith

After just one month of legitimate winter, springtime has hit Sweden. Today was 15 degrees Celsius, or 62 degrees Farenheit! I'm not naive enough to think that there won't perhaps be some more snow and cold weather in the coming weeks, but I think I have made it through the bulk of my first "svensk vinter." I feel a blog coming ode to the majesty of spring. See you next week.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More Interesting Swedish Things and a Translation

And......English once again, much to the delight of everyone. Should you care enough and want a translation of last week's attempt at "På Svenska," please see the bottom of this blog entry (and thank you for indulging my weeklong linguistical vanity--it won't happen again anytime soon, I assure you).

More "Interesting Swedish Things Not Interesting Enough For an Entire Blog Entry" (see October 2, 2006 for the first edition of this entry theme):

  • You've always thought the sky is blue, the Pope is Catholic and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. But you, my friend, have never been to Sweden. Up here, during the dark months, the sun rises in the south and sets in the southwest. We have just come through the darkest period and are already seeing the sun rise at 7:00 and set at 18:00 ("6pm" for most of you). And yes, the sky is blue and Pope Catholic in Sweden, too.

  • The Driving Under the Influence laws are extremely strict in Sweden. While some people, including me, can have one drink and be under the legal limit, there seems to be a social norm that, if you're driving any time soon, you really just shouldn't touch alcohol. Yes, a good social norm and only increases the bike and public transportation usage in Linköping.

  • For the continuing education of American readers, I was going to do a whole blog on "the average Swede." Alas, The Local, an online Sweden newspaper in English, beat me to it with an article: Check it out (for dollars, divide the average income in Swedish Krowns by 7, e.g., 350,000 SEK average income = $50,000):

  • Every country has its sports heroes. The LeBron James, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter of Sweden is Henrik Larsson (fotboll), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (fotboll), Anja Pärsson (downhill skiing) and Peter Forsberg (NHL and Olympic Gold Medal in '06). Swedes adore these sports icons.

  • There are no Starbucks anywhere in Scandinavia. Many Swedes who've been to America say it's just not good (read: "strong") enough for the experienced coffee culture up here. However, there is a Tully's in Stockholm. Go figure.

  • "Fika" is not just a noun, but also a verb: "Jag fikar" (I fika), "Jag fikade" (I fikaed), "Jag har fikat" (I have fikaed) and "Jag ska fika" (I will fika). Jättekul!

  • I tried a very unique sport the other day, one created and loved by Swedes: "Innebandy" or "floor ball." Think ice hockey on a court with a ball. Also, think leagues of all levels and ages throughout Sweden. Plus, "innebandy" is just fun to say!

  • Perhaps Swedes can help me with this one, but there is a political movement in Sweden, established for the purpose of erasing the monarchy, that recently proposed putting Pippi "Långstrump" on the coin. I don't know for sure, but assume, this was just a gimmick to bring attention to their cause, but you can decide for yourself: Regardless, this is one more evidence of the fact that Pippi rules Sweden.

  • The Swedish traditions continue to surprise, fascinate, entertain and usually fill me up. The tradition of "Semla" is no different. As seen in a picture above, semla or multiple semla ("semlor") is a rich, tasty, fattening pastry treat available just about everywhere leading up to Fat Tuesday and the Lenten season. Most people agree that it's a good thing Swedes only choose to bring out the semlor one month a year....

  • Pictures above:

1. A picture from the small town of Vadstena on Lake Vattern about a 45-minute drive from Linköping. I love this picture because it captures Sweden's historical grandeur (castle) and playful charm ("barn" on a playground) all in one.

2. The Domkyrkan at night.

3. Semlor, enough said.

4. The Stockholm skyline in winter from Skansen Outdoor Museum.

5. The Vasa with my friends, Judith and Stine. The Vasa sank in the 1600s, was raised in the 1950s and now sits in a museum in Stockholm. The oldest preserved ship in all of Europe is a stunning sight and the premiere museum attraction in Stockholm.

And without further ado:

"My Dad Comes To Linköping"

If you have been reading this blog since last August, then you have already met my Dad, John. Last November, I traveled to Prague to see him and his new home. He teaches English in Prague. My blog entry from Prague is one of my favorites.This weekend, my Dad arrived to the Central Train Station on Friday at 9:00pm and left today, Sunday, at 1:00pm. Yes, a short weekend, but a good weekend for two Americans in Linköping.

After my Dad arrived on Friday, we walked around the Linköping City Center and decided to have dinner at Afrodite, a Greek restaurant on Nygatan (New street). This restaurant is a favorite for my company and the food is really good, so it was a perfect beginning to our weekend.

On Saturday, we went to Linköping University and Colonia. Then, Gamla Linköping, but it was closed! Bad. Gamla Linköping opens at 12:00 and we were there at 11:00. Sorry, Dad. No chocolate for you today. We took pictures, then left for the Domkyrkan (The Church) and palace.

My Dad and I both like history, so the Domkrykan, the palace and the city hall were very good. We walked around the historical area of Linköping, but soon we need to have a break….that’s right. We needed to eat cinnamon buns and drink coffee. That’s right. It was time for my Dad’s first fika!

We walked to Wayne’s Coffee and he met my friends at Wayne’s. Then, we saw many people and friends who were walking around the city center. My Dad thinks that I know everyone in Linköping now, because he met a lot of people on Saturday. I showed him the state-run liquor store, Norin’s Cheese shop and the big square and other places in the city center. Then we left for the Cloetta Center and ice hockey between the Linköping Hockey Club and Malmö.

It was a good game. At the beginning of the third period, no one had a goal. Then, Linköping scored a goal, then a second, then a third and then one more was really fun. Linköping won 4 – 0. Really exciting.

The pictures at the top are of my Dad and three friends who are students at Linköping University, Cecilia, Hampus and Vaclav. Cecilia and Hampus live at Colonia and Vaclav is from Prague, so he and my Dad talked a lot about Prague, Czechs and beer from Prague. Really cool.

After the game, we walked to the Bishop’s Arms British Pub on Ågatan and saw people from my Swedish language class. Today, my Dad and I walked to Ryttargårds Church and sang in Swedish. My Dad was singing in Swedish. I was laughing, just like you are laughing at my first blog in Swedish. I already have a teacher for Swedish, so I don’t need any more. I will not approve any comments that show all of my problems in Swedish. Thanks for your help, everyone.

And my Mom, Dianne, will come to Linköping in April. We’ll see you for fika in Linköping.