Sunday, October 26, 2008

Linköpinglivin' Welcomes Budget Travel Readers

A special welcome to Linköping and Sweden for all readers discovering Linköpinglivin’ for the first time.

Budget Travel, one of the most popular monthly travel magazines in the United States, seeks to help the common traveler find unique and affordable experiences of travel both inside the U.S. and worldwide. The November issue of Budget Travel has a feature about how to start a travel blog and includes some advice from (and a link to) Linköpinglivin’.

For over two years, Linköpinglivin’ has taken a sometimes playful and sometimes meaningful look at Sweden through the eyes of a foreigner. Linköping (pronounced "Lin-shipping") is found two hours south of Stockholm and is Sweden's fifth largest city. This blog can be intriguing for Americans of Swedish or Scandinavian descent, helpful for foreigners who have responsibilities or relationships with Swedes and entertaining, maybe even enlightening, for Swedish readers who until now have made up more than half of the weekly readers.

However, this is an interesting time to potentially increase the Linköpinglivin' readership level since my memorable experience of living and working in Sweden will be coming to an end next week. While the blog itself will continue as my travel and new cultural exposures are only just beginning, the Swedish focus will be shifting, and shifting quite dramatically, too.

After one more journey to Prague to visit my Dad this coming week, my adventure abroad will continue, but far from the European escapade that I have come to enjoy so much.

Linköpinglivin’ welcomes first-time readers and promises all readers that if you’ve come to look forward to this weekly perspective on culture and travel, rest assured that your best procrastination excuse will indeed be continuing.

See you next week as we wrap-up Sweden and look to the next great experience of people and travel a long way from where we started.
Pictures above:
1. The November issue of Budget Travel (see an earlier blog entry on the subject of starting a travel blog from April 2008 on Linköpinglivin').
2. Though all Scandinavian flags have this type of cross pattern, Sweden's is the beloved blå o gul, blue and yellow.
3. Me during my first adventure in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's Old Town, in 2006.
4. Linköping has a massive cathedral called Domkyrkan. I've always enjoyed the smaller town community and charm of this humble city with some really great people. They will all be missed.
5. Bikes are the friendly mode of transportation for many in Sweden and Linköping's main square always reveals this....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Swedish Fun Facts: One Last Time...

It’s been over two years, but new things keep popping up in Sweden (or old things that I realize I never mentioned on Linköpinglivin’), so settle in for one last go 'round of Swedish Fun Facts:

*Swedes refer to the weeks of the year not as “the last week in February” or “the middle weekend in October,” but, predictably in Sweden, the weeks of the year all have numbers. The first week in January is Week 1, the fourth week in January is Week 4, etc. Christmas is always Week 52 and as for the other week numbers, who in the world could ever keep track? Well, not even the Swedes. That’s why they have a handy website: Just click here and all your woes about the weeks will be solved! The numbers of the week starts to work as soon as you get a calendar which includes them…

*Many of you have started to notice the wide array of “köping” towns located in southern Sweden. In addition to Linköping and the previously mentioned Norrköping and Söderköping, there is also Nyköping, Enköping, Jonköping, and just Köping. Köpa means “to buy” in Swedish and these were commercial towns on the way from Stockholm to Malmö and the rest of Europe in days gone by.

*Sweden is a country, similar to what is well known about Japan, where guests are generally expected to remove their shoes upon entering a home. Those shoes are usually full of snow, mud, rainwater and such that mess up what is usually a nice Swedish hardwood floor.

*Worldwide opinion considers Swedes to be very open about sex and there is a strong perception of strong promiscuity among Swedish women. This mis-perception came from a Swedish film in the early 70s that pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable and became internationally acclaimed. The fact is that Swedes are very modest in public and are extra sensitive when a woman is publicly degraded for the sake of advertising or tabloids.

*However, Swedes are also known for letting go a little bit when they leave the boundaries of their own country! Apparently, lagom (“not too much, not too little, just right”) often only applies to a Swede only while in Sweden…

*In Sweden, if you don't want to receive advertisements in your mailbox, you merely need to post a sign or attach a sticker "Ingen reklam, tack," which means "No advertisements, thanks." How un-American of them!

*I heard recently that as high as 4% of the Swedish population traveled to Thailand last year alone (approximately 360,000). That’s the same percentage of Americans that OWN a passport… (other recent popular travel spots for Swedes escaping the darkness of winter have been the Canary Islands and the Costa Del Sol in Spain).

*Swedes usually consider November the longest month of winter (even though it’s not officially winter yet) because it’s too early for snow, but it’s getting darker and darker every day and the next festive occasion is still a month away… Glad I’m skipping town before November’s darkness arrives!

This has been fun. There’s plenty more interesting, curious and unexplained fun facts about Sweden and her people, but you’ll just have to come here and find out for yourself from now on. I will leave Sweden in two weeks.

After lamenting recently about my overlooking of Stockholm’s bar made entirely of ice, I decided to try it out during my last trip to Sweden’s capital. Tons of fun, as I knew it would be. It was really "cool."

Unexpectedly, I had one more visitor to Sweden, the last of my 26. Kelly Ronan, a former student with whom I worked at the University of Washington made the trek up from Romania where she is working for the fall. From Stockholm to Linköping, IKEA to the Ice Bar, frukost to fika, Kelly was a more than memorable final guest. Thanks for the impressive pilgrimage, Robo, and for our continuing friendship long after Seattle.

Pictures above;

1. One recently-captured crayfish looks much bigger than it actually is in the hands of a student with whom I work.

2. That is one American-sized kanelbulle found in a storefront window in Linköping.

3 - 5. Friend and final visitor, Kelly, enjoys a boat ride and a cold bar in Stockholm.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why It's So Cool To Live In Linköping - Part 5: Norin's Ost

If you’re not hungry when you start reading this blog entry, you will be by the end of it. Ost means “cheese” in Swedish and the mere sound of that word causes fika-loving Swedish hearts to soar.

In Linköping, we have a little cheese shop. Actually, there are two of these little cheese shops in Linköping and then one more up the road in Norrköping. These are the kinds of shops Americans walk into and think, “I love being in Europe!”

Most people might think of these kinds of shops being in France, Switzerland, Italy and other places where cows (and sheep and goats) roam, but we have one up in Sweden, too. We have one in Linköping. And, in this humble bloggers opinion, it’s the best little cheese shop in the entire country.

Go Linköping.

To conclude our five-part Linköpinglivin' series on why living in Linköping is so cool, we take a look at Norins Ost.

Lena and Mats Norin are the third generation of cheese shop owners in their family. Since 1931, making Norin’s Ost the oldest cheese shop in Sweden, the Norin family has provided Linköping with Swedish-made, and more recently France- and Italian-imported, fresh cheese of all kinds: Hard, soft, cow, sheep, goat, blue, white, sharp, mild, expensive, inexpensive, cheese that smells bad, cheese that smells good, cheese that you will hate and cheese that you will love.

It’s an acquired taste, but if you know what I’m talking about, the smell of a good cheese shop can’t be beat. (And if you have never been in one, you will want to leave at first waft, but stick with it - it gets better.)

As if merely importing and “maturing” (as opposed to the actual making) wasn’t enough, the Norin family spends time distributing their cheeses throughout Sweden, educating groups, business and individuals about the art of cheese, wine and virtually everything that makes for a good picnic as well as working hard to find the next great discovery in the wide world of cheese. Speaking of good picnics, you can also pick up marmalade, crackers, vinegars, olive oils, cookies, chocolate truffles, pesto, olives, mustard and dried fruits of all kinds at Norin’s Ost shops.

Fresh, local, variety, high quality, personal touch, Linköping knows where to get the best cheese for breakfast, lunch, dinner or fika. Just check out the website and observe what one American travel writer affectionately refers to as “a festival of mold,” the European cheese shop.

Pictures above:

1. Norins Ost is found on Storgatan above Stora Torget and also down on Nygatan below Trädgårdstorget in Linköping and on Knäppingsborg in Norrköping.

2 - 4: Cheese, glorious cheese.

5. Lena Norin and an American treasuring the time behind the glass at a European cheese shop.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda in Sweden

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda in Sweden

After over two years, 100 weekly blog postings, hundreds of fikas, a few trips here and there and a lifetime of adventures and experiences as a privileged temporary local in Sweden, my days of watching and living everything Swedish are coming to an abrupt end.

On November 3rd (less than a month), I will step on a plane that will take me away from Sweden, only to return someday as a visitor. Where that plane will take me is something for a later blog entry, but for now I want to consider, in the midst of all the things I have experienced and enjoyed in this great land, a few of the things I wish I had been able to fit into my all-too-short Swedish escapade, but sadly did not.

In good ol’ American optimism, the following list can also be considered a list of goals for me to accomplish as a visitor to Sweden in the future, because I hope to always have a trip to Sweden planned in my future. Like most Americans I have talked to who have at one time lived here in Sweden, I shall miss it terribly when I am gone.

10 regrets, also known as goals for the future, from Sweden:

10. I never made it north for the midnight sun experience. In fact, even more than the midnight sun, I would have liked to get to the north of Sweden to compare and contrast the Sweden I have come to know with what life is like up there. Most people around here with whom I share this regret gently reassure me with the following words, “That’s okay, Sean. We’ve lived here our whole lives and we’ve never been up there….”

9. Not only did I never make it to the famed (at least outside of Sweden) Ice Hotel, but I didn’t even do the Ice Bar, which is located in Stockholm and Copenhagen. I take solace in the fact that this is a touristy experience that I never did, but then again, I loved all the other touristy things I did in Sweden (Skansen and the Vasa Museum over 10 times each – c’mon, I had visitors, of course!).

8. I never learned to like, or really even try, the Swedes’ beloved caviar-in-a-tube or liver paste that spreads like butter , both popular with the over 1,000 fikas in which I participated. Okay, I’ll admit, this one is NOT a goal for the future.

7. Unless something strange happens in the next few weeks, I will never have had to experience anything remotely having to do with Sweden’s health care system, which makes my personal defense of this “socialist” system a little weaker to my American friends and family…

6. In addition to the north, I missed Dalarna, the Glass Kingdom and the island off the east coast of Sweden, Götland, which apparently has an outstanding medieval city in Visby. And if that’s not enough, with all the travel I did, I never made it up to Norway…..ouch.

5. Though it vastly improved over the course of time, my “sj” and “sk” Swedish pronunciations always revealed me to be the English speaking soul that I am. I hate those letters….

4. Bilar and Äntligen bread, two of my favorite everyday foods in Sweden, are two of the many things I will regretfully need to be weaned off of.

3. The Royal Palace at Drottningholm. Yeah, missed that, too. But I saw the Vasa 11 times….

2. I never walked onto someone else’s property, threw down my tent and sleeping bag and stayed overnight. Nope, won’t be doing much allmänsrätt in the U.S., that’s for sure.

1. You know those high taxes I’ve been paying from my salary and every last cinnamon bun or train ticket purchase? Yeah, those high taxes. Well, I won’t ever see one krona of that in paternity leave, retirement, health benefits or education. Of all my Top 10 lists, this is the strongest #1 ever. This is one big regret that will take a long time to get over…
See you next week as we continue to bring the Sweden portion of this blog to a close, but don't think that, just because I happen to be leaving Sweden, this blog will be ending. Oh no, we've only just begun, everyone. We've only just begun....