Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sweden and Denmark

'Blonde and sausages' would be pretty close synonyms for these Scandinavian countries I visited last weekend. Other descriptive words would include: super sophisticated, quiet and vodka.

I land in Malmö and immediatley feel the absence of a city's hustle and bustle, alongside the exposure to language with dots and circles above characters. The airport is spick and span, looks expensive; it smelt of expensive perfume.

People spoke flawless English with a strong American accent (thanks to the undubbed American television rage in the country), and dressed very well.

The bus ride from the airport into the city gave me a good summary of how green the country is. The expanse of land is tremendous and it is all deep, rich, healthy green with perfectly manicured fields - something I gawed at from the plane too.

I was visiting an old friend from Dubai in Sweden - and thanks to him and his silver card, I got to crash with him at the Hilton for free! I had come there for the Midsummer's Day celebrations on Friday, June 22 - which is a national holiday in the country.

Midsummer's Day is the longest day in the year in Sweden and is celebrated with much gusto behind closed doors (ie in people's homes). I suppose that explains why a walk around the city Friday morning felt like walking in a movie set. Beautiful, colourful houses, small quaint streets, churches with pointy oxidised green copper roofs, and not a soul to be seen.

I felt strange even talking loudly, afraid I might wake someone - where was everyone!?

We were lucky to be invited to a Swedish style fiesta for this day - which is when we realised everyone was inside filling glasses of strawberry cider whilst preparing the sausages and flower tiaras.

Soon a small dance in the garden would take place during which a decorated flower cross would be stomped into the soil, promising a rich harvest for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, thanks to the rain - we had to skip this step and begin with the food.

We ate raw herring (which is also a fish by the way), and I don't know how this Sashmi type food entered a sausage and meatball cuisine - but it was the speciality of the evening. During the meal, we stopped every 10 minutes to sing a song in Swedish, after which we had to scull down a shot of Vodka Schnaps. Topped with a huge bowl of strawberries and cream, I felt like a spoilt drunk princess - I wish I had the flower tiarra.

3-shots and two wines later, I was eating raw fish, playing Swedish games and singing Swedish karoke till the wee hours of the morning. After 10 hours of these sacred Swedish Midsummer's day rituals, our contribution to Sweden's good harvest was complete and we set on home.

The next day was bigtime recovering from hangover day. As we head out to get some greasy hangover food - yet again we saw noone on the streets. Where was everyone today? I think the Swedes need to learn to leave their Ikea furniture alone for a while.

The next day we needed to get out of this no-people city so we made a trip to Copenhagen in Denmark. This is where it seemed all the people were.

Similar style to Malmö, yet bigger and busier - Copenhagen had a pleasant and more 'happening' scene. Here you could actually talk at normal volume without fear of waking people, and there were signs of life on the streets.

A long walk with a Danish friend and two hot-dogs later, we were ready to head back to Malmö as we had no Danish money left. I don't understand why they are part of the EU - and don't have Euro yet. Was very inconvenient and the exchange service fee was ridiculous.

All in all, the cities were quite typically Scandinavian -- Hansel and Gretal (yes I know they are German!) is what I was reminded of. As a brown-skinned, black-haired girl I stood out amongst the Swedish barbie dolls, and although I enjoyed experiencing these Nordic countries, I am quite happy to be back in Madrid.

Although totally disorganised, you can check out some photos here.

(Blog photo - shows the dancing around the cross ritual of Midsummers Day in Sweden courtesy:
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