I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: there is no better way to be welcomed to a city than by your gorgeous, local friend who knows exactly where to take you and can give you the low down on the city. This is how we were met in Gothenburg.
The petite-drink of water that is Liana, welcomed us into her home and family immediately. Liana has moved to Sweden, home of her long-time boyfriend, Jonatan, and her more recent Master’s program at the University of Gothenburg. Liana was so open and welcoming with her home, she was generosity incarnate. We hadn’t been in a friend’s home in a very long time and the feeling was very welcome.
After we refreshed and rested we met up with Jonatan who was celebrating his last day at his old job and last weekend before starting his new job on Monday. On what Liana commented was an exceptionally warm night, we sat out for a drink and then went out for delicious falafels. Our local guides gave us the low down on all our Swedish questions (such as: Why is everything so expensive if your currency is worth less than ours? Answer: Because everybody makes a lot of money here, even in the shops. Oh……that’s socialism baby!)
The next day we set off for Uddevala. Home to Jonatan’s beautiful mother, Maude, his equally beautiful sister, Alexandra and her family, husband Felippe, and twin girls Valentina and Victoria (all of whom live across the street from Maude :D). We came to little Uddevala for Vickis and Vale’s (as they’re so nicknamed) 2nd birthday, which was happening the next day. We spent Saturday playing with the twins, having dinner with Jonatan’s (and Liana’s!) lovely family and taking an evening stroll around the little town. The town is mainly a shipping port, but it’s actually incredibly picturesque with a lovely creek running through the center of it. Jonatan kindly gave us the full tour of the town all the way up to the clock tower so we could overlook the city.
The next day all the action was at the twin’s birthday party. One word can describe the occasion: PINK. Please excuse me while I gush over these girls.
These girls are the cutest twin girls in the world (twin I say, don’t worry Cecily and Nico!). I was happy because by the time of the party I had 1-2 words of Swedish so the girls weren’t entirely scared by me anymore. Enjoying a family party was a great way to get a window into “real” Swedish life and it was sweet getting to know Jonatan and Liana’s family and friends.
This cake was SO good. It was one layer of yellow cake, a layer of jam, another layer of cake, a layer of nutella, another layer of cake, a layer of dulce de leche, and another layer of cake. Covered in chocolate icing and fresh strawberries on top. I could eat this everyday, and then you could roll me back to America.
Later that day we returned to Gothenburg by train and Jonatan told me about an interesting tenet of Swedish society, the “everyman’s right”. This freedom constitutes that every person is allowed to walk, camp, ride, ski or cycle on public land for as long as they like, and private land for one night. Meaning, if you want to go camping out in nature you can do so anywhere, no permit or fee necessary. If you are camping around Sweden and you find yourself of private land for the night, you are allowed to camp there for one night-as long as you do no damage to the property. How wonderfully civilized is that? It’s so uncommonly common sense! The emphasis is on the fact that the land belongs to everyone and it’s everyone’s right to enjoy it and utilize it. This emphasis is based on the fact that people do not disturb or destroy any of the land; and in Sweden, this can work because people understand it and therefore…don’t destroy the land. Can you imagine?
On our last day Liana took us around Gothenburg to show us her little scene and give us a feel for the city. First she took us to her University campus and showed us where her Masters Program is based out of.
Then, she took us to a nearby park where we visited the local animal park. It was so great! It was all Scandinavian based animals. Isn’t it sad when you go to a zoo and you see animals that are not meant to be in that weather, like the Polar Bears at the San Diego Zoo? And you just feel bad because they’re so not used to the weather? Well, not at this zoo! All local animals. We made friends with some Moose and visited the Reindeer.
Then we met up with Jonatan for a little end of the day shopping and dinner. They introduced Eric and I to the new phenomenon in Sweden, the adult onesie.
This explained the grey onesie I pictured in the last blog post. Apparently, this is all the rage in Sweden and the moment. So much so, that there are entire stores dedicated to them?! And then, we did indeed see people in these onesies! Adults! Out! In public! It was ludicrous, but such is fashion non?
To recover from the shock of “the onesie”, Liana and Jonatan took us to a store that puts the Sweet Factory to shame. Penny candy is a big tradition in Sweden, and this store took your bulk candy options to the max!
Thank goodness for the generosity and warmth of friends (and the simple pleasure of shopping with your girlfriend). It is a true and real joy being in the home of a friend, and having them open up their life to you. It was amazing to meet Liana’s extended Swedish family, Jonatan, Maude, Alexandra, Felippe, Victoria, Valentina and all his cousins and their partners. Their kindness and generosity was overwhelming. Everyone we met was so caring. As soon as they heard about our trip they asked how we were, if we were tired, if they could offer us any food or help us in any way. It was a wonderful emotional recharge to feel this generosity. French has a wonderful word for it, chaleureux. It means to be welcoming and hospitable in a warm way. That was definitely what we felt in Gothenburg and Uddevala, hospitality, warmth and welcomed.
It was sad to leave Liana and Jonatan because it was so fun being with friends after such a long while without really being with anyone we knew (except Jessica in Berlin). But of course, Liana was starting school a few days after our departure and we needed to go to Copenhagen (we had a flight to Italy from there). With heavy hearts we boarded the train; but if things work out and we come back to Europe, then we’ll be able to see Liana and Jonatan more often! Here’s hoping!
Next post all about Copenhagen coming soon!