December 18 was a 12 hour traveling day. Way to boring to describe in detail. I’ll start my story after sun set while I was on the bus between Copenhagen and Ebeltoft. The sun went down at 3pm all I could see of the landscape was the Christmas lights outlining the houses, single farm homes, small villages all seen by the fairy lights around trees and roof tops. The bus dropped me at a deserted station. I had called my friend and we figured out where I was. 10minutes later a car stopped just outside and flashed its lights. My friend had plastered herself against the station window “Hiiii!!!” and then the door opened and one, two, three women came piling in. I was so happy to see them. It was my friend, her sister and mother. Dinner that night seemed so normal, it was as if no time had passed since the last time I had sat down for dinner with them back in South Africa.
The few days in Denmark passed peacefully. We hung out and it could have been as if I’d been there every winter. It didn’t feel weird or strange or anything. I was up first every day. They had the habit of actually sleeping late. I’ve never quite got the hang of it. My friend and I had known each other for 13 years, but I hadn’t seen her for the past 5 years. This was the best Christmas present ever.
On the first day we went for a walk in Skærsø forest. I kept thinking of the Heidi animations. The little town with its large church tower looked just like in the picture. I’ve always read that Europe had forests and in the Heidi animations they always showed how Heidi missed the forest. It was winter, we had bundled up and I just couldn’t get comfy with all my layers. After a few minutes of walking we started crunching the gravel at the same pace. It struck me that even though it was winter there were green trees and grass.
I did the touristy thing, took out my camera and started taking pictures of our surroundings. Much more colorful then my idea of winter in S.A. My friend was really great at being a tour guide, asking if I want pictures in front of nice buildings or historical places in Ebeltoft.
All the stores in Ebeltoft where selling winter clothes, nothing that would fit into my bag. I found the town really picturesque. Christmas lights in every window. Really simple, no patters or flashing lights, just yellow fairy lights. We walked under a grey sky over cold cobble stones and went to have some coffee. Back at her home most of the time was spent playing 30 Seconds and talking.
The next morning was my friend’s birthday. We had a birthday breakfast. Lots of Danish flags on the food. A birthday lunch followed later.
I like going to “normal” stores in other countries. Just seeing how it looks like where they buy bread can be really interesting. So when the family decided to go shopping I went with. Dubai has fruit and vegetables, yes. But nothings as fresh as it was there. Everything here is imported. There where veggies I’ve never seen and fruit I didn’t know of. The pork was also packed with all the other meats. Big hams just lay there in the fridges and alcohol was part of the store. Dubai has definitely altered my thinking… I bought my friend a bottle of wine for her birthday.
After lunch we all went for a walk, the wind was blowing and it seemed likely to rain. The pace was quick but it felt relaxed. We were trying to get to the top of a certain hill before sundown. It was one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. Green hills stretched out with the sea on one side and the bay on the other. On top of the hill there was no cover against the wind which decided to bite our faces. It was icy cold but totally worth it, at least for me who wasn’t use to Denmark!
My umbrella had vanished from my pocket when we walked back. That evening we had a Danish desert or sweet or something, which, according to the name, had something to do with apples. But was more like a tiny round doughnuts which we dipped into syrup. I liked it.
21 December at 8:30 I was standing outside without a jacket, wearing pink crocs with my tights taking picture after picture of the sun rise. My wet hair felt frozen. Sunrise that late still seems weird, even after experiencing it. Today we went to pick up the Christmas tree. It was another hour spent in Danish conversation. I didn’t mind it, I mean, I was in Denmark. I just sometimes had no idea what they were talking about. My friend was good at keeping me on track though, translating the bullet points of the conversation and ignoring the parts she knew I wouldn’t get or didn’t care about. The carrot cake was good.
We had lunch and then went to visit one of her other friends in the town were her high school had been. It was a nice gathering, the other family where hosting an annual Christmas gathering to which every- and anybody was invited. There was warm wine and cookies and I expect everything was very much Danish. Apparently the warm wine was only acceptable, but not superb. I didn’t know how it should taste and can’t say that I liked it, nor did I dislike it. It was an interesting experience.
She gave me a tour of her high school town. There was a huge Christmas tree and all the little streets leading away from it were also decorated with lights. It was only 17:30, but since it was winter all the shops where already closed and walking around was pointless. The church tower was almost invisible against the night sky. There was homemade pizza on the table when we got back. The Christmas movie for that night was The Grinch, I’d never seen it before.
December 22 we went back to Ebeltoft. They took me on a tour of the Old Town. It’s only a few streets, but it’s really nice. We went into the church and I snapped a few pictures of buildings and streets that interested me. We had lunch at a café. My friend’s mum drove us through a national park with some mountains. The scenery was stunning. We climbed up onto a hill for a better view. It was so cold I didn’t want to take my gloves off for pictures. My body was warm under all the layers of clothes, though.
The afternoon was spent decorating the Christmas tree, them wrapping presents and me stitching up my very tired looking denim bag. I should probably replace it, soon! I’ve never had a “real” Christmas tree. We just had an old plastic one in South Africa. This one, with presents under it, looked just like the pictures.
23 December I had to leave. It had been so lovely seeing them again, spending time with an old friend. Getting to re-know her family and befriending her sister, who wasn’t a toddler anymore. Everybody was up early except her sister, we had breakfast together. All 3 of them helped in making me a lunch box while I was ordered to sit at the table and asked what I wanted on my sandwiches. It’s a really good memory. My friend and her mum drove me to the bus stop and I set off for Stockholm.
The journey was from Ebeltoft to Aarhus, then to Copenhagen and then the longest bit of the journey to Stockholm. It was another 12 hour train day. I arrived in Stockholm only to be rejected by a ticket machine and then found an Iranian taxi driver who took me to the address my mum had emailed me.
The scenery from the train and busses window had been lovely. Winter in Northern Europe. I had witnessed glimpses of it at a very high speed, but I much preferred the glimpses to flying and only seeing the airports.
My mum, aunt and cousin where in Stockholm. It had been a really long day of sitting, so I went for a walk. I found a 24hour store that sold the Danish cheese I had grown fond of.
The next morning (24 December) started with a bang we wanted to catch the only ferry that day which left at 8:30 to see, I don’t know, something Swedish? After missing the ferry we split up and I went for a walk in Gamla Stan (Old Town). I wondered through the streets and soon learned that there wasn’t truly something unique in these streets, just touristy stores, but still interesting architecture. I kept darting into tourist stores to warm up.
That afternoon I had to figure out the laundry machine. Not too difficult and so we had clean and, to our surprise, dry clothes, the next morning. I went down to the store for bacon and eggs. We had a big breakfast every morning which was nice.
It started to snow that evening. It was the first time I ever experienced it. It really looked like in the movies. Tiny white flakes floating down. I had mastered the art of dressing warm I just had exceptionally rosy cheeks most of the time. I tried to snap a selfie of me covered in white snowflakes, but it wouldn’t work.
The next morning we took a train to – well, I can’t remember where we initially intended on going, because we ended up on the wrong train. Through the train window I glimpsed Fotografiska. The photography museum I still wanted to visit. The train went through snow covered earth and trees. It passed lakes and tiny churches. The whole world was white. Something I had never experienced.
The train stopped and there was 20minutes before the next one would arrive. We walked around, took pictures, I struggled with my selfie stick using it for the first time while my hands where almost numb being out of my gloves. The ground was icy and my feet slipped when I tried to walk in the footsteps of who ever had walked up that path before me. After this wonderful side journey we returned to the train. It drove us back through the beautiful countryside. The rest of the family wanted to visit the beach, but I opted out. Not being a particular fan of the beach even on hot summer days.
I decided to go back to Gamla Stan and search for hot chocolate. I had read that in Stockholm you can order “real hot chocolate”. It’s made from real chocolate, not powder and sugar. This sounded so idealistic that I spent a lot of time trying to find it. Every time I had watched Chocolat I said that someday I wanted to taste real hot chocolate, like Johnny Depp does in the movie…
I got directions to the hot chocolate place, but ended up only finding warm wine. I paid a few Krona for it, but after tasting that it was almost as good as red flavored golden syrup I abandoned the attempt. I wondered through the not tourist filled streets, granted these where less interesting, no stores, but still I liked it. Got to see a lot of the great building styles.
Sunset was around 3pm. So it sometimes seemed quite unpractical to return home for lunch and then set out again. This is how I ended up at a really stuffy restaurant ordering the lasagna from the kiddies menu. It was much cheaper than the rest of the dishes, considering I was in a tourist environment, and the portion was really large. I don’t know how they could serve this on the kiddies menu. It was really good and I liked being able to watch all the people walking past. I drained a few glasses of water with my food and returned to the outside.
I just had time to get home, meet mum and then we wanted to visit an old church. There was to be a Bach concert there that afternoon. It wasn’t that we were great fans of his work, but listening to beautiful music in old churches are part of our European memories. It was a 15 minute walk to Katarina Kyrka. The graveyard right next to the church was of course also covered in snow. There were little lights and Christmas trees everywhere! I liked the music.
After getting home I decided to grab my bag and walk to the store. We needed a few things and it was only 5p.m. even though it was already dark. We had steak for dinner and listened to a Joel Osteen sermon that night.
26 December we woke up with the plan to visit Uppsala. We took the train after breakfast. This was the only day that the cold bothered us too much. We walked passed a half frozen river and went to visit the church. There was a service going on when we got there, all in Swedish, obviously. I love those old churches. People have been coming to pray there for centuries and I get to pray there today. It’s awesome.
Uppsala apparently has some “ruin stones”. I asked for directions to these and was told that “behind that building over there is a park with ruin stones.” “Park” to me had always meant a little green patch. This was a snow covered park and at first glance I didn’t realize that this was what the guys had been talking about. I had never heard of ruin stone. Other ancient stones, yes. These? No. They seemed interesting, but my archaeology subject hadn’t covered this part of the world, so I didn’t thoroughly understand them.
We split up, and mum and I took the train back home through the snow. Since it was early I wanted to do something, anything, but since it was winter most places where closed. I ended up back in Gamla Stan. It was only a few tiny streets and there wasn’t that much to do, but I like walking. In Gamla Stan I could walk and dive into warm shops when my legs started burning with cold. I replaced the umbrella I had lost in Denmark.
27 December I though today would be a good day to go to Fotografiska. Mum said she wanted to go with. On the map it looked like an easy walk. Forgetting the cold, the snow and my sore muscles, we set off. After 15minutes I thought it would have been much cleverer taking the train to the nearest station and had no idea why I hadn’t thought of this when we started. We walked according to the map and found ourselves standing at the top of a truly magnificent view. We were above most of the buildings and had a view of the sun lighting up the city. But there was no sign of the museum or any other human movement. This clearly wasn’t the way.
We ended up at a Starbucks and I got mixed directions to Fotografiska in broken English. I missed a step on the stairs to the train staition and promptly slid down to the bottom step. After this Mum decided to carry on with her own stuff that day and I continued to search for the museum. At the station I received the first thorough directions and the guy mentioned that the café in the museum had a beautiful view.
I walked down frozen metal stairs so slowly being scared of falling and then found my way. There was a board flashing the time and temperature, it was 10am and -6C. I was surprised that I didn’t feel cold. The museum was small, but totally worth it. It was strange, the way the artists had chosen to take the pictures. They were really good. I was surprised by an old photo of Madonna and Sean Penn. I walked through the place twice. I was intrigued by Adi Nes’s photos of the military. He captures soldiers as individuals, not just as a mass army. I went up to the café for lunch. The guy at the station was right. The view was quite something. I spent some time in the gift shop and ended up buying a few postcards with extraordinary photos. Nothing else appealed to me, I have too many coffee mugs and sweatshirts already.
Yet again I found myself in Gamla Stan. If more places had been open I’m sure I wouldn’t have returned this often, but I still hadn’t found hot chocolate! I retraced my steps and found it, somehow, I just saw the place, Chokladkoppen. I have to say that I was unfortunately disappointed. I had expected something like in Chocolat, where the texture was thick. When the waiter put a bowl and spoon in front of me this is what I’d expected, but it was thin. It tasted like a chocolate late. I had wanted to try it, so I was still happy that I have had the chance. Since then I’ve found a recipe and made a really nice batch of real hot chocolate here in Dubai.
Mum, my aunt and I wanted to see Evita that night. I went to buy the tickets that afternoon. I put the tickets in my bag with my passport. Carrying these with made me feel really nervous and I kept worrying that I’d leave my bag somewhere and lose my passport. Problem was that without my passport I couldn’t use my credit card… They wanted to check my ID every time I bought something even just chips.
I got on the train and then the bus to IKEA. It was further than I had expected. It was dusk, but still pretty. IKEA isn’t my favorite store, I just thought I’d buy a bedspread there, planning on somehow going straight to the bedding part of the store and immediately leaving. Anybody who knows IKEA will know that it took me ages to get to the bedspreads and then I was worried that there wouldn’t be time for me to get back, have dinner and see Evita, so I went to the IKEA café. Ironically I still made it home in time for dinner.
I got home, took a nap and headed to see Evita with mum and my aunt. It was beautiful. I know the story and followed everything in Swedish. The narrator was very good at times I had to remind myself that it was not Antonio Banderas on the stage.
28 December I woke and felt my throat throbbing I searched through my bag and found the antibiotics I had packed for just such an occasion. After breakfast we had to hurry because the only ferry that day was leaving at 8:30 and we still hadn’t seen the archipelago.
The ferry ride was lovely. It went passed many tiny islands, some seemed like villages and others had only 2 or 3 homes on them. The plan was to go to Voxholm. Totally worth it. We located an open coffee shop, the sign had a pelican on it. Their coffee was good and their cakes spectacular. After this we went for a walk around the village. Accidentally intruded on a service in a church. We split up and walked around, then met again at the coffee shop. We ordered soup for lunch. I took 2 slices of cake as takeaway. The lemon meringue was delicious. We took the bus back to Stockholm. I had a nap, went to Ica and the day ended.
I had my sick day on 29 December I had walked quite far to find a modern shopping center and now decided that there wasn’t anything there that I wanted. I sat down wondering what to do next. I went straight home and back to bed. After my morning nap I had lunch and then an afternoon nap. The next day we were leaving. This definitely wasn’t the bang I had planned to leave with I thought as I packed. The airport was just like any other airport and the feeling that we were or had been in Sweden started evaporating.