Tag archives for Malmö

5 things that are already making my 2012 in Sweden fantastic

I love the idea of New Year’s resolutions. Keeping them is another thing altogether.

I don’t think I’ve ever kept a New Year’s resolution that has been life-changing… or kept one at all, if we’re being honest. I’m much better with Lenten promises. It’s really hard to forget what you promised to do in just 40 days.

This year is going to be different, though. I swear. I have only two resolutions, and I’ve got a plan for at least one of them. The plan for resolution #2 is still in the works, but I fully intend to create a plan and work on it. Immediately, if not sooner.

My first resolution for 2012 is to cultivate more contentment in my life. I have a tendency to obsess about where I want to be six months, a year, and five years from now, and sometimes I realize that I forget to enjoy the here and now. I’m not giving up on all my goal-setting and crazy ambition, but I’m going to try to temper all that forward-thinking with more satisfaction with what I have now.

To that end, I’m going to start practicing deliberate gratitude on a regular basis. Numerous internet experts say that gratitude has amazing benefits on your health and well-being, and if an internet expert says it, it has to be true. Right?

At the very least, the New York Times said, “Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others, including romantic partners.”

I can’t really argue with that. So to start the year off right, here are 5 things that are already making my 2012 fantastic. Read more » >>

My Big Fat Swedish Wedding

Love of planning and unhurried, deliberate journey to the altar be damned. The big day came and went, and my Swede and I tied the knot!

Since then, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the wedding: what it was like, what we did, and so on. It was a long, exciting, joyful day full of activities… and here’s what it looked like. Read more » >>

Adventures in Skåne: A Trip to the Viking Reserve

Steve, my co-conspirator in many Swedish-themed adventures, has been talking about going to the Viking village outside of Malmö for months. Months, I tell you. We had never quite found the right time, though. Either our schedules didn’t work, or the park wasn’t open, or it was suddenly pouring rain… you get my drift.

Steve's affinity for the Vikings is long-standing. Photo: Steve Marr

On Tuesday, however, the stars finally aligned for our trip to Foteviken to visit the Viking Reserve. A train, a bus, and a walk through a construction site later, we were on location and ready for some outsized old timey experiences.

Here’s the first thing I didn’t realize about the Viking Reserve: When they say “Reserve,” they mean it in the “an area of land set aside for people to live in” way, which is to say that there are real Vikings that work and live their lives there. They build their own houses out of wood and clay, weave and sew their own clothes, and cobble their own shoes.

It said as much in my Lonely Planet guidebook, but I didn’t really believe it. I can barely stand the cold of winter, and I do my best to swaddle myself in wool clothes and modern conveniences. As Steve and I wandered around, we were on the hunt for evidence of people living among the chickens, intricately constructed fences, and ominous spider webs.

Viking carvings, Viking fences, Viking weather vanes, Viking ship-sized spiderwebs. Photos: Kate Wiseman

We walked through the village for awhile, speculating about the functions of the different things we saw lying around: plants that had been carefully arranged to dry, cooking instruments, different structures throughout the property. There were runes and carved figures everywhere, and we wondered if people knew the meanings behind them or if they were just reproductions of things that had been found in history books. And in the meantime, we found some props to play with.

Steve is the philosopher Viking. I am clearly just out of my mind. Photos: Kate Wiseman and Steve Marr

After wandering around the village for about an hour, we found our proof of people living in the village in the form of two Vikings, Jessica and Peter. They were both beyond awesome.

Real life Vikings. Photos: Kate Wiseman

Talking with them was by far the best part of our trip. They told us about the work they do at the Viking reserve—they’re part of a small group of paid employees—as well as what goes on at the reserve after hours.

People who live in the community are members of a Viking Association in Sweden, and while there is no entrance exam, joining a Viking community is tantamount to enrolling in an immersive program in Viking history, culture, and traditions. The members work together on projects to improve the community, and they have even built all their own houses. Everyone has their own specialty—Jessica’s is carpentry, and Peter’s is as a blacksmith—­but they end up exchanging their knowledge with each other.

At night, the Vikings come together to make food according to recipes from the time and spend time together. Some people do crafts, while others sing. Storytelling is a common source of entertainment. People come and people go, and the community is especially small during the winter months.

As the two kept talking, I couldn’t help but feel that we were having a discussion with people from another age. Even though some of the members of the Viking community at Fotoviken have day jobs and commitments in “the real world,” the world that more dedicated Vikings like Jessica and Peter live in is real: overlapping with our lives, and yet somehow separate. It’s hard to believe that people willingly choose to live on a windy bluff by the sea in Sweden, but they do, and you can hear the pleasure they take in having chosen a simple, deliberate, and yet undeniably labor-intensive lifestyle.

Although the buildings and exhibition at Foteviken were interesting, I left more impressed by the people and the spirit of the Viking Reserve than anything else. Before we went, I thought there was a strong chance that the experience would be totally kitschy, and I was both glad and surprised to be met with people who were more earnest than anything else. A little crazy, granted, but earnest in their craziness.

Viking beer! Photos: Kate Wiseman and Steve Marr

Imagine our happiness when we realized we could wrap up our successful day with a Foteviken Viking beer and a salmon pie! (Extreme happiness.) For future visitors, the beer was really sour (authentically so? who knows!) and probably not worth the money, but it had runes on the label, so it was still a satisfying purchase. Skål to the Vikings!


Cope With Summer Rain Like a Swede

I posted a brief update earlier this week about how the cold snap had ended and the sun was out and an evening canal boat just made my day by being too-cute-to-be-true.

And then the next day the rains started again.

I would just like to say that I am trying very hard to be positive here, because by suffering through one of the coldest Swedish winters on record I feel like I earned a summer characterized by above-average beauty, unbroken pleasantness, and gorgeous weather.

Yes, some might say: But Kate, you went home to the US for six weeks and skipped most of January! You were barely here during the winter! What are you talking about?? DON’T CARE. WAS TERRIBLE. WANT SUN NOW.

So anyway, positive thinking, zen, ommmmmmmm, rain is dripping on me in my lotus pose, ommm…

In the midst of all this pain and suffering, though, is the truly hilarious range of reactions I’ve seen Swedes have towards the rain. There are a few who have gone into full-scale depression, hiding under blankets and drinking hot chocolate and bemoaning their impending doom/the coming of winter (surely somebody besides me did this), while the vast majority are just engaging in some moderate complaining about the injustice of it all.

Then there’s a third group: a select number of people who have clearly become totally numb to the concept of weather and refuse to pay any attention to it at all.

On Friday, I went to Lilla Torg (means, literally, “little square”) in Malmö for dinner and drinks with a couple of friends to say goodbye to Frida, who, incidentally, is moving to Scotland to be with her Scottish boyfriend. I tell you, these Swedes… just finding love connections everywhere.

Lilla Torg is in extremely old section of town, and it’s really cute: lots of restaurants and bars clustered together, all with outdoor seating areas, umbrellas to sit under, blankets for when it gets cold, heating lamps, etc. We were at an Indian restaurant, and we had just gotten our food when it started to pour monsoon season levels of rain on the whole square. I expected the normal migration of people from outside to in, waiters taking peoples’ food and dinner guests collecting their purses and coats, but people were totally unfazed.

I don’t know if you can really see this, but it’s raining so hard on the cobblestones that there’s about 1.5 feet of bounceback. Crazy! Photo: Kate Wiseman

When the rain started, the people eating shifted chairs and bags and moved a little closer together to avoid the gaps in umbrellas. The waiters took roundabout ways from one table to the next to avoid being showered more than necessary. And people continued to line up outside for a table—people in high heels, silk dresses, and umbrellas.

Can you see the woman's shoes? She's on her way out the door... Wowzah! Photo: Kate Wiseman

Unbelievable! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It was a little like when I was in college, and there was some sort of policy that dictated the start and end dates for heat and air conditioning. Regardless of whether it was 100 degrees out or 50, the heat would be on between October 15 and May 15. And then when the air conditioning was on (between May 15 and October 15, of course), the ambient temperature indoors was cold enough to give you double pneumonia and the flu if you didn’t bring a cardigan indoors with you… even in July.

It’s the same here, but with people: clearly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s warm or cold, rainy or dry—if it’s summer, they’re going out. The weather doesn’t play a role in the evening. The decision has been made: if they’re going out, they’re going out! They’re certainly not wearing anything boring, either; forget the rain boots and jackets that I was sporting. It’s full force party wear accessorized perhaps with an umbrella that can be discreetly tucked away.

I love it. These people are a total inspiration to me. I, too, would like to be totally impervious to the fickle Swedish weather. I haven’t made it there yet, but perhaps with time…

Mmm... proof that the weather is not going to hold us back from enjoying some of our most-cherished memories of summertime. Photo: Kate Wiseman

And lest you think the pain is unending over here, well… it’s not. The skies cleared for the whole day today, and my friend Malin and I bicycled to the beach where we both had some delicious ice cream. Sooooooo nice… and especially appreciated after the downpour.

Brief Update from Southern Sweden

My proper blog post is going up tomorrow, but I just had to share this story and video with you.

I know that North America is currently besieged by a nasty heat wave, but here in Skåne (the southernmost state of Sweden), we’ve been enduring a prolonged cold snap. Plummeting temperatures, wind, miserable amounts of rain, even a little hail here and there—all of a sudden, I realized that July is almost over, and then it will be August, and then it’s the fall, which means IT’S ALMOST WINTER AGAIN. Ahhhhh!!!

(Don’t mind me, I’m just a little traumatized from last year.)

Well, we FINALLY got some sunshine yesterday, and it was warm enough to wear sandals again, so life is good. I worked until about 7:30 last night in Malmö, and just as I was closing up the office around 8:00, I heard what sounded like an accordion being played in close proximity. Is there a radio in here? I wondered, and took another look through the office. I couldn’t find anything, so I locked up, and then it started again.

I crossed the street, looked over the edge into the canal, and there it was! An evening canal boat full of guests, drinking beer and wine, just cruising through Malmö to the sweet music of an old man and his accordion- and guitar-playing friends.

Check it out!

How awesome is that? When I saw this, I thought: Now this is Sweden. What a great way to spend a summer evening in Malmö.

If you can’t watch the video right now (not that you would be reading blogs at work or anything… right??), here’s a photo.

A lovely evening in Malmö. Photo: Kate Wiseman

I hope you are enjoying summer wherever you are—stay cool, keep warm, whatever it takes!