Sweden: August 25th to September 4th
When I say I had high expectations for our trip to Sweden, I really mean for pretty much the entire car journey there I was silently hyperventilating that we might go all that way and we might end up having a rubbish time.
There’s always the possibility things could go pear shaped when I’m involved. Or my children are involved. Or my vivid imagination is involved. Or maybe, just maybe I have a habit of over think these things.
Which ever way you shake it, driving to the northern-est-ish parts of Sweden, from pretty much anywhere, even if you do happen to be on the northern side of the equator, is a long, LONG way to go for a few beers and pizza. So I was all kinds of all relieved when before we’d even parked the car we were greeted with shouts and screams and teary eyes. About 11.2 seconds later every one of my (over thought) neurosis dissolved into rounds of bear hugs and kisses and exclamations of how big and tall and long haired everyone was looking. We were bustled; tired, hungry and travel weary into the never before seen and yet completely familiar home of much missed friends. Sitting eating dinner together in that strange way that makes you feel you were together only yesterday but by the specialness of the welcome you know it’s been a long long time between drinks.
Before we went to bed I hung out the window, the air turning cold, the sun finally fading, the lake melting to silver, my lungs inhaling clean mountain air and I already started (over) thinking how on earth we were going to leave.
About six years ago my dear friend Linda, her husband Martin and their daughters Solvieg and Freja packed up their house in Brisbane and moved to a little patch of rural paradise, on an island about 6 hours north of Stockholm. Their dream is to farm sustainability, breathe fresh air, let their kids experience the boredom, hard work and freedom country living can bring, enjoy good food, good company and live a simple life. For ten days we lived the joy of their dream. And on the off chance we didn’t already feel motivated and excited about creating the same lifestyle for ourselves, we came away determination to make our country life as enjoyable as theirs.
The girls were in their element, doing school work in the mornings and then running amok in the afternoons with their friends. We climbed the mountain at the back of their house to pick blueberries and build a timber cubby when the rain came. We rowed across the lake without sinking or capsizing – seven girls, one boat, that’s a feat of genius right there. Everyone sweated it out in the sauna and froze their bits off swimming in the icy lake midway through. Everyone except me because I greatly value my internal thermostat. We drove into town, I got proposed to by a Swede, we bought groceries with labels we couldn’t read and ate sausages from a wagon near the service station. The kids wrote a play and spent more than a week rehearsing and making costumes from cardboard. We drove to a bigger town and visited a great museum showing the history of this area of Sweden. The next day we made the 2 hour round trip again so we could go op shopping and stock up on wooly socks. The girls spent half a day at a Swedish school talking up the sharks and spiders lurking around every Australian corner, in return they came home chanting “hejdo bajs korv”….. We had goodis on Saturday, a tradition which will come home with us, because with or without the ‘e’ everyone should have goodies on a Saturday! We discovered the best gelato I have ever tasted (and yes I have been to Italy and yes I have had Italian gelato and yes it was still better). Linda and I solved the problems of the world whilst we walked around the lake, cooked, washed dishes (oh Lord, there were dishes), folded laundry and helped the kids concoct cardboard costumery.
Wally and Martin solved the problems of the farm, building an annex for the barn, wiring lights, moving animals, shoveling poo and pulling down scaffolding.
It was like living in a commune. Only, maybe nicer! Actually I don’t really know because I’ve never lived in a commune but if it’s like that, sign me up. If they have a dishwasher!
Whilst we were there a friend, well versed in the magical lure of the Arctic Circle sent me a message asking ‘has Sweden reached in and grabbed your soul?’
Yes. Yes. Yes, oh yes it has. My soul was grabbed the moment our tyres hit the ferry. The days surrounded by earth and trees and water and friendship just served to make the embrace a little tighter.
Because really, what’s not to love about a country where it’s totally fine to shout “goodbye poo sausage” to your school mates and the practice of ladling spoonfuls of Lingonberry jam onto pretty much anything is actively encouraged?