I am officially exactly one week behind on blogging. It could be worse.
I last left you in Norrebro Bryghus with my European Business class. This was at about 3:30 on Friday afternoon. By 5:30 I was loaded into a car with Thomas, Lærke, Pelle, and Sofus on our way to Sweden.
We were going to Sweden for two reasons. First, Lisbeth was in Sweden all week working extra hours. Apparently Southern Sweden doesn’t have enough doctors and she could make some extra money for their next trip. We were on our way to pick her up. Secondly, I had never been to Sweden and my host parents had decided that I should. I agreed and so we went.
After a 20 minute drive North to Helsingor we were on the ferry headed to another country. The ferry itself is actually worth mentioning. Though the trip was short (no more than 25 minutes) the set-up was actually very nice. The style was sleek and simple with white walls and colorful, strange shaped chairs. Of course there was a little cafe and a hot dog place. But there were also two slot machines, a bar, and a mini-mart. Having only ridden the concrete boxes that serve as ferries on Puget sound (though I had never thought of them so negatively until now), the whole thing seemed over the top. Thomas explained that at one point in the journey we crossed into international waters, which helped to explain the huddle of people clutching cigarettes and alcohol (heavily taxed items) milling around until about 10 minutes in when the loudspeakers announced something in Danish/Swedish. Also, I learned that Sweden sells alcohol in liquor stores like many US states. Thomas explained this as we watched a man look sadly down at the bottle in his hand as we crossed into Swedish waters.
Off the ferry we headed to the cabin that our neighbors and family friends had lent us for the weekend. We took a moment to get out of the industrialized city of Helsingborg and into the countryside where I could see an immediate difference between Denmark and Sweden. This is also when I realized that I was in Sweden, a whole other country. Yea, strange, right? Including Denmark and the US I have been in six countries prior to this so Sweden counted as 14.2% of the countries that I had been to and I hadn’t even had to prove that I should be there. There wasn’t even anyone sitting at the customs both! I was a little disappointed. Anyway, back the countryside. It was lovely. Along the road there were yellow and green fields with a think forest of trees just beyond them. Every so often a small yellow or red house would be plopped down into the middle of one of these fields, reminding me, for some reason, of LEGOs. And there were finally hills, small hills, but it was an improvement over Denmark in this respect.
The cabin was small and basic. No water and no power. Despite that (or maybe because of), it was wonderful. It was a traditional Swedish red (I didn’t know there was such a thing) dot surrounded on two sides by a cow pasture and a national nature reserve on the other two. The inside was just as idyllic. With no electric lights we had to open all of the windows and light candles as soon as we arrived but doing this only seemed right. Electricity would just have ruined the mood.
Our Swedish cabin
After a freezing trying to cook dinner over the small fire and stuffing myself with the sausages we did cook, we all went to sleep early.
The morning was still cold but the hot oatmeal warmed me up right away and we took off on a hike around the nature reserve. We hiked for about three hours and at the end Thomas asked me how this compared to the forests in Washington. I couldn’t bring myself to break it to him that Washington had Sweden beat here. So I just avoided the lie and said that both were lovely and shouldn’t we be going to get Lisbeth soon?
Pelle is apparently good at catching animals
And that’s what we did. Lisbeth was justifiably exhausted but she was still ready to get hiking. The next stop was a nature reserve along the coast, but we were not there for the nature. We were there for a very special piece of art. This is somewhat of a secret and I am not positive i should be telling you about it…but oh well, lucky you. A nature reserve is supposed to be an area reserved for nature, right? This means no construction or man-made distractions not sanctioned by the government. So how did a man, for 30 years, manage to collect driftwood and turn it into a sculpture? I don’t know, but I do know that sculpture does not do this monument justice. My family had a hard time describing what exactly we were going to go see, and now I can understand why. We follow the majority of the other hikers off of the path for maybe half a kilometer and I see Pelle leaning against an upright wooden rectangle. I admit that I was a little disappointed. Sure, the box seemed to be maybe 6 or seven feet tall and a couple of feet deep but nothing very impressive. Certainly nothing worth driving out of our way to see. But then I took a step forward and saw this.
My first look into Ladonia
This was the microstate of Ladonia. For 30 years an art professor had been coming here illegally to collect driftwood and turn it into this monumental fortress by the sea. Basically the story is this: the government wanted the fortress to come down and the artist didn’t want it to. After years in court the government won. The new owner of the fortress simply said, and I’m paraphrasing, “I don’t care. Your rules don’t apply here, we are a free country. Long live glorious Ladonia.” And that is the story of one of the strangest places I have ever visited. Does this count as country number 8?
A view of my host family
When we finally left Ladonia we went further into the nature reserve towards the sea. The sun was starting to set as we climbed up the coastal highway past small clusterings of white buildings below. With the green around, the sea behind, and the reddening sky above, it looked like something out of a magazine. And apparently we weren’t the only ones that thought so. There was a photo shoot for Volvo happening along the road. An elegantly tall blonde woman in a long turquoise dress was standing to the left of the car while an even taller man in a suit (top three or so buttons unbuttoned of course) stood next to her. My first thought was “wow, they must be cold,” and my second was “wow, that picture is gorgeous.” Not the gorgeous people, not the gorgeous car, but everything as whole. I admit, if that car could get me to this place and this view on a consistent basis…I would buy it.
At the top of the cliff, where the road had to stop or take the plunge down into the see, we got out and walked a ways to make our cup of noodle dinner. It’s good to know that some things are consistent everywhere you go. Apparently marshmallows are apparently not one of those things. We roasted Haribo marshmallows. If you have ever had a Haribo candy with the soft white bottom that you have always thought might be marshmallow then you have had this and it does not roast well. I never thought I would say this, especially not while in Europe, but I think it has too much sugar.
Our meal was timed almost perfectly with the sun. As we finished Pelle and Sofus raced to the top of the hill where the sun was almost disappearing into the water. The rest of us followed more slowly but our steps did quicken as we neared the top. I couldn’t believe I was in Sweden watching this sunset. It all seemed to perfect.
As the last piece of the glowing orb was swallowed (you know the way the last bit always seems to go down faster, like momentum is finally sucking it in), my host family started clapping. Though fitting I also thought it was strange. Lisbeth leaned over and told me that during the summer Skagen, Denmark there are bands and orchestras that play on the beach as the sun goes down and everyone, including the musicians, applauds the suns exit as the music stops. And that, she told me, is where we were going in two weeks. I can’t wait.