Sunday, August 30, 2009

Little Things

Two weeks have passed since I returned to the United States, and dear friends keep asking me when I will write the rest of the story of my trip to Sweden.

With all my heart, I miss the sense of amazement that filled me for two full weeks in that beautiful place. Little things --things the Swedes themselves probably don't even notice-- were fascinating to me, things that look ordinary but on closer inspection were very different indeed.

For example, playing cards with E for ess (ace), D for dam (queen) and Kn for knight (jack). I could still play solitaire even with these strange abbreviations staring back at me.
On the sides of cigarette packages, no mitigated, watered-down warning from some remote surgeon general, but a giant stark bold statement "SMOKING KILLS." No pussy-footing around the matter and you got to appreciate that! The warning, however, is about as effective there as it is here.
I went to a loppis, which is sort of like a flea market. There were 10 million things there I would have bought if I had A. known the value of a krona well enough to recognize a bargain, B. possessed all the kronor I needed, and C. had a much bigger suitcase.
What I loved most were the textiles, the great piles of old tablecloths, handworked kitchen cloths in red and white (which I search for fruitlessly at home), doilies and antimacassars like the ones my great-grandmother made. There were so many choices I couldn't make up my mind.

I bought a little hand-embroidered tapestry that says, "älska mig mest när jag förtjänar det minst för det är när jag behöver det mest." I'm not writing that perfectly, but what it means is, Love me the most when I deserve it the least, because that is when I need it the most.
Maybe I am a particularly unadaptive traveler, but I never did get used to the money, never did find a convenient formula to do in my head to calculate 7SEK=$1. I never got past the sense of using Monopoly money, never made sense of prices which seemed very expensive to me.

Swedish kronor are very beautiful, though, the coins are thick and satisfying, and the bills colorful and lovely.
Bathrooms have these on the walls, to hang towels and drying laundry on. The hot water runs through them so they are heated, always hot, and things dry quickly. Wish I could rig one up in my house.
There were indeed Volvos everywhere. People drive stick-shift and think Americans are odd to drive automatics. I never drove while I was there, but I could have because the rules are quite straightforward. Streetlights have the usual configuration of red, yellow and green, but the yellow light has a different function; it flashes right before a red light turns green.
There is, of course, much more I can tell you, but some things deserve a post unto themselves. Food, for example. Signs, for another. The flower shop. Clouds. The Swedish language. Culture.

Not to mention the individual places I saw, Stockholm, Skansen, the Vasamuseet, Öland, Oskarshamn, the Kosta Boda Art Hotel, Äspo Hard Rock Laboratory, Korpamoen and the Utvandrarna Musuem.

And I have a lot to say about the America-Sweden connection. I will try to get to these things soon. Thanks for reading!


beachcomber said...

I envy this trip of yours and understand how the simple things seem to fascinate us. Even just a trip up to BC, we find many of our photos are of street signs and warnings and we laugh at the odd ways those Cannucks have of saying simple things....they say "cutlery" instead of silverware. So cute! Traveling outside our comfort zone is good for us all.

Indie said...

It's fun to notice the differences.

And I totally agree with you about traveling outside our comfort zone.

However, that is psychologically taxing for a person like me, who has to make sense of everything and find meaning everywhere, who is pounded by semiotics, metaphor and omens in everyday life.

I never realized how much I need to work on developing a better psychological filtering system until this trip!

Having said that, I can't wait to do it again!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi K, doing it bit by bit these days, huh? I've been checking in here from time to time, just to find... nothing new! So I'm double glad you gave us a tiny insight. Still I'm under the impression it's my two-year-travel to the US. Exactly these things astounded me too, just vice versa! Too funny. Sweden is very similar to Germany, now you're warned to what to expect once you'll visit with me my dear ;-) I believe I'll sooner make it overseas than you stopping by here, ain't that right? Anyway, I've noticed you're not friends with M. on FB. How come? Oh, and, thx for finally reading and commenting one of my blogs! :) TTYS, hugs, R.

kymk said...

I love the towel rack. I want to make one for my house.

Melanie said...

Those towel racks are ubiquitous in Europe. We are remodelling our bathroom and installing one here; they're great!

Anonymous said...

I hope you will forgive me for veering slightly off-topic, but did you see the Vasa while you were in Sweden?

"Sweden’s most famous dis­covery, the royal warship Vasa, is housed in a popular museum, where visitors can admire the ship’s details, down to the flashing teeth of the carved lions that adorn its elaborate exterior. The Vasa was raised from the Stockholm harbor in 1961, 333 years after it sank on its maiden voyage."

I read all about the Vasa in National Geographic Magazine when I was a kid. My eyes grew wider with each turn of the page.

Did you see the Vasa? Did you bring home any pictures of it?

Indie said...

I did!! It was the highlight of my trip to Stockholm. I will post about that next. It was incredible. :-)