Reports from Sweden 7 - May 2, 2007

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Hello People,

Reminder, past letters, essays and better photos are on on the website. Also there is a calender which tells you who is visiting us when, weather in Stockholm, and maps.
username: Sweden
password: Stockholm
(capital letter required)

There is an essay at the end: Before you arrive in Sweden ..

The big news of last week is that Will is busy with Jujitsu (Monday & Wednesday) and guitar (Thursday) and Robin is Mister Fotboll. He made the NSK team (NSK = "Norrtull Sports Klub" - Norrtull mean "north gate or toll" and is the name of our neighborhood). They have "training" Tuesday and Thursday, and games normally on Friday (this last week it was on Thursday - and they lost). So there is a new "dogi" for Jujitsu and yellow and black uniform for fotboll in our apartment.

On Friday we took the bus across town and meet a loud group of gymnasium (high school) seniors girls wearing their new hats and shouting out about the superiority of their school. The hats are white cloth caps with a black band and brim and look like captain's hats. They have the name of the school embroidered into them with gold.

We were headed to Södermalm. Söder mean south, like Norr is north for our area. Here a school friend of Will's had recommended the "Pelikan". Just say it phonetically and you'll know it mean "Pelican" - and you'll be reading Swedish! This restaurant specializes in traditional Swedish food, like meatballs and salmon. Robin had "pig's knuckles" and lots of mustards. I think the place was overwhelmed by all the graduation/long weekend/beginning of spring celebrations - which made things ... very ... slow....

This was a four day weekend. Kristina is not quite certain how anybody gets anything done around here with all the holidays, it has been only half a month since Easter week. Monday was "Walpurgis" and Tuesday was May Day. One of the things I like about these holidays is that all the buses have little Swedish flags on them. Also one of the families in our apartment complex raises a huge blue and yellow Swedish flag in the inner circle of the apartments.

Saturday and Sunday were just normal weekend days. On Saturday Robin, Kristina and I went to the greenhouses in the botanical gardens near here. The garden is about 3 kilometers from here so we biked. We only have two bikes, so Robin sat on the black bike's back rack. At the garden there are two greenhouses. The old Victorian greenhouse has a tropical lily pool on the inside. Apparently we are too early in the year to see the giant lily pads which will grow. The new and much large greenhouse is really nice, with a "Mediterranean" collection. It also include spiral staircase, a cafe and a balcony where we ate.

On Sunday Kristina and I took the bis to Gamale Stan where we went to one of the museums which is under the Slott (Palace). Then we meet Robin in the Karl XII park and had lunch. Meanwhile Will had meet some school friends in Djurgårdens, at Waldenmarsudde. This is the same place where we had a picnic by the harbor two weeks ago and Will played the guitar. He took the guitar with him again this time. If reasonable, Will will take the guitar with him. It often goes to school.

Monday was "Walpurgis", or bonfire night. The bonfire is suppose to ward off witches, and as Will has pointed out, after the bonfire there are absolutely no witches in Stockholm. It also marks the beginning of Spring and gymnasium graduation, even though seniors still have a few weeks of classes. In any case there are bonfire and spring choral singing all over the city, including one on Robin's practice soccer field 200 meters from here. But going to that would be too easy. So we took a series of buses, past other bonfires, to Skansen. Skansen is an "open air museum", much like Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. We arrived just as the fire was being lite. Will and Robin think it was actually smaller then the rally bonfire at Dartmouth. The wood was stacked up "tepee" style, about a dozen feet (3-4 meters) tall. Once the fire was roaring a choral group sang a lot of traditional Spring songs on a near by stage. The song, of course, were in Swedish which we did not understand. Next a folk music group called "Ranarim" came on. They were a lot of fun - even though we still have no idea what they said.

Tuesday was May Day. I searched the web to find out where there were rallies in town, but couldn't I came up with a lot of photos of last year's, with lots of red flag and marching workers of the world, but didn't find anything about this year.

In the evening Will, Kristina and I went to Jazz club in downtown. The group had three women who rotated the role of lead guitar and singer. They were from Canada, so we could actually follow the words. They were good and a lot of fun to listen to.

Back to school and work today.


Old Greenhouse

Old Greenhouse Top

New Greenhouse

Robin on the Lion
at Karl XII park

Stockholm at Night from Skansen

Robin at the Bonfire

Will at the Bonfire

Before you arrive in Sweden ...

So if you are coming to Sweden what are the things you should know? Well, I guess maybe we should start with money. The basic unit is call the "Kronor" - which means "Crown". Sweden is one of the few countries which didn't adopt the Euro, but I think there is now some fixed exchange rate between them. The kronor is worth 15 cents, or one dollar is worth 6.68 kronor. This is what you want to bear in mind. That 100 kronor bill is worth 15 dollars. You can figure out everything based on that. Prices are a bit more then Hanover, but less then New York City, maybe like Boston.

The kronor is subdivided into a in 100 öre. But do not worry about these too much. I have only seen a 50 öre coin, and that was at the grocery store when buying something by weight. They will weigh something calculate the price to the last öre, and then round it down to the nearest 50 öre.

Speaking of weight - everything is in metric here. This is good, and please stick to it, because something as simple as a "mile" can cause problems. In the past in Sweden there was a unit of distance called a "mil", "mile", "land mile" or "long mile", which was the distance you can walk between taking a break for a rest. Now I suppose that you could try to subvert the word and say that since you took four rest stops between Gamala Stan and Odenplan (coffee twice, an ice cream and a Wienerbröd) that maybe you have traveled four or five "miles", even if the signs tell you 1,5 km, but we will see through that. An ancient "mil" use to be about six and a half miles, but when metric was adopted it was redefined as 10 kilometers. So, the long and the short is, if you want to know how far it is, ask how many "kilometers" it is - and convert yourself, because a mile may not be a mile. (The above land mile is mentioned in "Journey to the Center of the Earth", when they are trekking across Iceland. I remembered this and looked it up when writing my chapter on measurement units).

Two useful metric units which I had not seen before are the hectogram (hg) which is the unit bakeries will sell cookies in. They weigh out the cookies and then a hundred grams, or about 3.5 ounces, is an hectogram. Also at a restaurant you might buy your wine by the deciliter. 1 wineglass = 1 deciliter. Here you have been drinking metric all the time and didn't even know it! (By the way there are 3x1024 molecules - or 3 yocto molecules in a glass of wine - why have I calculated that recently?)

What about the language? First I find that we get by just fine in English. Of all the people I have encountered only two didn't understand my English. But it is useful to be able to say the pleasantries. Here is my short list, (I am the last person you should ask. Will and Robin know more Swedish then they admit).

  hello                 hej (or) hej hej  "hey" (or) "hey hey"
  thanks                tack              "tuck"
  thanks you very much  tack sa mycket    "tuck saw mewcket"
  yes                   ja                "yaa"
  no                    nej               "ney"
Finally, about that funny alphabet. In Swedish (Svenska) there are twenty nine letters;

Note that Å, Ä and Ö come at the end of the alphabet, that is where you will find them in an English-Svenska dictionary. Those of you who have studied German will recognize the umlaut on the "A" and "O", but that other letter, the "o" on the "A" is called a "ring" (I just learned this today). For years I thought that the Å was called an "angstrom", because in physics we use that symbol for 10-10 meters. But really it is a unit named after a Swedish scientist, Anders Ångström (he managed to get two of those letters into his name).

They are very few words where dropping the ring or umlaut will get you into trouble. But one of them is cheese. Cheese is "ost", where as "öst" is east, as in the neighborhood called Östermalms. Where these two very different words could complicated things is that if you ask for a ticket to Austria (Österrike = Eastern kingdom) but forget the umlauts (Osterrike = cheesy kingdom) you could end up in Wisconsin.