There And Back Again: A Swedish Christmas Adventure

Quick question: where did the first 1/6th of the year go? I had several intentions of writing a blog post immediately after returning from my three-week hiatus in Sweden with my sister, but time just kind of slipped away. Also I had to go back to work and do adult-life things, like buy groceries and get a promotion and purchase a new bedroom set. All necessary things, I assure you.

Okay so moving on, or perhaps backwards, to the middle of December (way back in 2017), when Sara and I were at home, mentally preparing ourselves for the 9 hours we would be spending on 2 different planes over the course of the next two days. Traveling across time zones is just the weirdest thing ever.

We were packed and ready to go. The parents were kind enough to give us a lift to the cities, and once we made it through security it was time to begin the waiting game. Our flight from Minneapolis was delayed about an hour, and we finally boarded around 7:30 after sitting in the airport for 3 hours. Upon arrival in Iceland, 6:30 am Icelandic time and 1:00 am MN time, we were baffled to discover a strike was in progress. Yes, an actual strike by the maintenance crew for Icelandair. They wanted more money. Same old story. Anyway, our 7:30 am flight was delayed until who knows when, with more information being provided at 9 am. So, the waiting game continued. We did board the plane at 9 am for Stockholm, thank goodness. I did not relish the idea of hanging out in Reykjavik. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the opportunity to explore the country, I just had places to be and people to meet 1700 miles east of there. We did end up getting to said places and meeting up with said people. Our flight into Sweden took about 3 hours, and we made it to Arlanda around 1:30 pm. Sweden time. A total of 11 hours had passed since adjourning our journey; needless to say, we were a bit sleepy. And in need of a shower.

I shan’t regale you with the minute details of our time in Sweden, but let me tell you that there was definitely sight-seeing, family-visiting, and walking in the rain. Sweden is a damp, dark country in the winter. Nearly everyone we talked to said that we really should come back in the summer, it’s so much nicer in the summer, why did you come in the winter, it’s so dark and there’s nothing to do, and so on. We really just wanted to go on an adventure in a semi-foreign country and see if we could manage it. Well, we didn’t die or get mugged so I’d say we managed it just fine.

On to the photos.

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This is Mälaren, a very large lake with many fingers, stretching East to West, North to South. This photo is taken from Hässelby Strand, where Sara and I stayed for two of the three weeks.
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Flowers in December!
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The big clock tower in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan. It’s only like, 4:00 in this photo. Depressing, right?
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The Christmas Market in Gamla Stan, held in Stortorget Square, was quite quaint, with several homemade goodies, glögg, and reindeer meat.
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The Christmas Market in Old Town.
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The man standing below the half moon of lights is selling candied almonds. I didn’t have any but boy did they smell delicious!

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Christmas trees in the King’s Courtyard.

So that was the first week. We figured out how the trains worked, went to Old Town and the Mall of Scandinavia (which is the largest mall in Sweden, but is still way smaller than the Mall of America), and we bought groceries and slept and watched Netflix. Swedish Netflix is just subpar compared to American Netflix, because TV shows are released at different times in different countries. Sad, I know. We learned that the hard way.


The next series of photos are from our time in Skåne County, in southern Sweden. Our cousin and his family live near Malmö, so we traveled by train to spend Christmas with them. Apparently Skåne is just littered with castles, being on the coast it makes sense. We visited a castle which is now a museum/restaurant, although we did not eat at the restaurant due to the fact that it was closed due to the fact that it was Christmas Day. There was a nice forested path around the little lake that the castle sat near. It was fairly chilly and misty, but it was nice to go exploring.

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The two-year-old was not impressed with my camera. It interrupted his castle-staring.

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I found a small herd of horses, and they were hanging out in the distance but I coaxed them over and soon they were close enough for us to pet them. They were friendly little buggers. When I was in Sweden I was told that it is “illegal” to have one horse by itself. Horses are herd animals and therefore need a buddy. I’m totally on board with that law. 🙂

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Just five-year-old things.
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This guy lived next to a road and was therefore much less impressed by my clicks and kisses. Grass is more important.
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Finally, the castle! How regal.

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Okay so that was the castle we visited on a rainy Christmas Day. On the 26th, my cousin took Sara, his 5-year-old daughter and I to the southernmost point in Sweden, as seen below. This was the first day of the 4-day-long cold I was plagued with during the trip. Sara was also ill. Riding the 4-hour train ride back to Stockholm the next day was not fun, I tell you what. I think people looked at us like we had the Black Plague or something.

Moving on to a better topic, Smygehuk!

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The distances to various major European cities from this point.
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Sara and Freja, looking out across the Baltic Sea.
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A rare photo of me, plus Sara and Freja.
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It was hella windy, as you might be able to tell by this photo.
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And this photo.
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And this one.
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This was a giant metal funnel thing you could peer through. If you scroll down to the photo immediately past the daisy photo, you will see a giant metal statue of a man sitting on a giant metal chair, with the giant metal funnel in front of him as if he were looking through it.
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A daisy! A real, live daisy! In December!
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The giant metal man, chair, and funnel, as described in the photo above the daisy photo.
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The Southern Swedish Sea.
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The most quaint boathouses I ever did see!

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My cousin and his daughter, cheesin’!

Okay, so good food, laughs, and sharing memories basically sums up our time in Skåne county. Oh, we also went to Copenhagen, Denmark for a few hours, basically to say we did it. The bridge between Sweden and mainland Europe is about 15 kilometers, and because we took a car (there is a train that passes underneath the bridge for regular commuters) we had to pay a $60 fee. Both ways. But hey now I can say I’ve visited Denmark, so that’s a thing!


After we got back to Stockholm and spent two days recovering from our respective colds, we spent our last Saturday in Sweden with our good family friends, who took us to Sweden’s oldest town, Sigtuna.

But first, we made a pit stop along the way:

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This is actually the church in Sweden where my parents got married!

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As you can likely imagine, Sweden is home to many, many, many runestones. So many, in fact, that people decided to use them when building walls. It makes sense, why waste a perfectly good piece of stone by putting it in a museum?
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It’s also the church where my grandparents on my Mom’s side are buried.
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Isn’t it just the prettiest?
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Håtuna = village name; k:a = church
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Oh, the moss on that stone wall! How vibrant!

Okay so after our pit stop we continued down the road to Sigtuna. Being the oldest town in Sweden means you should probably be home to some pretty bad-ass ruins, and sure enough, there were some bad-ass ruins.

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This is St. Olof’s Church, which is through to be built around the year 1100. Nobody really knows who built it, but it is dedicated to the Norwegian Viking King Olaf Tryggvasson. Apparently there are remains of an even older stone church that this currently really old church is built upon. It is thought to be the first one built in Sweden.
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Can you spot the sneaky runestone, built into the wall of the ruin?
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There is a fence around the church, likely to keep mischievous children out or because it’s currently crumbling down and is a liability, probably both.
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Usually these runestones say something about someone’s father, but it’s hard to say.

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Here was another, less interesting ruin.
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The house that was located near the second ruin was vastly more interesting.
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A festive tree in the middle of the town square.
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Sigtuna has the loveliest, most colorful buildings and it was wonderful.

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More colorful buildings.

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This café, Tant Bruns Kaffestuga, is thought to be one of the oldest in Sweden, serving coffee since the 1700s and it’s still open today!
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Such festive windows!
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The cutest little ever-gnome! (I just made that up, will be officially claiming the term)

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The cutest door award goes to this fella.

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How classically Sweden is this little house?

After our stint in Sigtuna, we headed over to Uppsala, a university town through-and-through. Uppsala Univeristy is the oldest university in Sweden and all of the Nordic countries that is still in operation. Fancy, huh?

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This is the Uppsala domkyrka, a super huge church with lots of important people buried in it, like the first king of Sweden and Carl Linnaeus, the famous botanist.
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Very symmetrical.

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Below this gorgeous stained glass window is an enormous pipe organ; a few of the pipes can be seen glinting in the shadows to the left.

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The first king of Sweden.
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And his crest.

It was a good day of sight-seeing, to be sure.


The remaining photos are from one of our last outings into the city. I managed to get a few photos in between rain showers.

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SO MANY SWANS AND DUCKS
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A classic shot of Stockholm.

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A remaining rose in Kungsträdgården.
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They had a large ice skating rink in Kungsträdgården as well, open to the public.

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I included this photo because this is the very bench we sat on as a family in 2010, as you can see below.
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My dad took this photo. Don’t we look like a happy bunch! My brother is pissed, my sister is mad, and I’m eating ice cream. This photo ended up being on our Christmas card for that year 🙂

Well, that’s it, folks! I hope you enjoyed browsing through my photos and reading about my adventure. It’s easier if I don’t set a timeline for these things, so I’ll just say till next time, dear reader!

 

 

 

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