Sunday, July 29, 2007

Panorama-rama: Excursion #5
Helsingborg and Kullen

My fifth week of classes looked something like this:

  • 20 hours of Swedish class.
  • 5 hours (at least) of homework.
  • 1 lecture (about Swedish film!)
  • 3 field trips (first to the Museum of Sketches for Public Art, second to the Botanical Gardens in Lund, and third to the Folketspark for a night of Swedish folk music and traditional dance).
A fun week, no doubt, but add Thursday night’s cocktail party to the list, and by Friday evening, I was feeling pretty tired. The idea of getting up at 7AM on a Saturday morning to travel with 80 other people to Helsingborg and Kullen didn’t sound too appealing.

Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of bed in the morning, took the bus into town, bought a sandwich at Mormor’s (the best bakery ever, with the exception of Berkeley’s Cheeseboard), and boarded the bus.

First stop: Dunkers Kulturhus in Helsingborg.

As the Swedish name probably suggests, the “kulturhus” is quite literally a “culture house,” containing a concert hall, theaters, Helsingborg’s local school of music and the arts, a café, a recording studio, an exhibit on the history of Helsingborg from the Ice Age until today, and modern art exhibitions (hence the banner with the giant mole in the picture).

“Dunkers” refers to Henry Dunker, dubbed “the Galoshes King.” Dunker ran a large rubber factory in Helsingborg in the 1880s, Helsingborgs Gummifabrik. He became the richest man in Sweden by producing a huge variety of rubber products, including tires, balls, shoes, rubber bands, weather stripping, and, of course, rubber boots (indispensable gear here in Sweden!). He was know both as an industrialist and a philanthropist, and when he died in 1962 he donated his fortune to the city. Thanks to Dunker, Helsingborg now has created Dunkers Kulturhus, Kultusmagasinet (museum), the Helsingborg campus of Lund University, and new seating in the Helsingborg stadium.

As we left Helsingborg, the skies looked rather threatening, and I worried that we might get rained on later in the day. Our next stop was Kullen, home to Kullaberg Nature Reserve. Luckily, as we drove up the coast, the weather stayed clear. We had some spectacular views of the water and we could see Denmark across the sea.

Sweden is gorgeous. I know I’ve said this before, but I am blown away every time I go to another part of the country (and to think I’ve only really seen Skåne!) You can tell Swedes really love their nature, and rightly so. Kullaberg offered yet another stellar opportunity to witness Swedish nature at its best. Bring on the panoramic shots:

The unique thing about Kullaberg is that it’s very much unlike the typical landscape of Skåne. The town of Kullen lies on a peninsula and Kullaberg is on a mountain that rises above it. The slopes are extremely steep and end in sheer cliff drop offs, which makes it all the more gorgeous and equally treacherous. Fortunately, if you stick the marked paths and/or paved roads, it’s very safe and the views were breathtaking. This was the first coordinated excursion I’ve made where it wasn’t raining (finally!) and the beautiful weather was a great bonus.

Kullaberg was very windy (as you can see in the pictures), but we managed to find a more sheltered spot to each lunch, and enjoy the view. There is a lighthouse at the highest point of the “mountain” (it’s really more of a very large hill) that is Scandnavia’s strongest light. It makes sense, as this peninsula juts out into the Öresund between Sweden and Denmark, a passage for many ships —- you wouldn’t want to run ashore. In the picture above, we're looking down to the shore below -- it's hard to get a feel for the scale, but we're about 175 meters up (about 575 feet).

Definitely worth the trip!

I love to ride my bicycle.

Did I ever mention that I eventually did find my way out of town on my bike?

The very first bike ride I went on in Sweden was with the local bicycle club – a bunch of guys, most of them over 30 and several of them in their 50s (or older). We took a twisting, turning route out of town and rode 45 miles at a blistering pace that was a bit of a challenge for my haven’t-ridden-a-bike-in-a-month, out-of-shape self. (I was a bit humbled by the 65 year old who easily rode me off his wheel!) By the time we got back, I was sweating profusely and could barely see straight, and I figured I would never again successfully retrace that route.

On my not-so-great bike ride a week ago, I got lost. I never made it out of Lund. That meant it was time to re-strategize.

I choose a different side of town for my attempt to "escape" from Lund. After making 20 wrong turns and backtracking down Lund’s winding, cobbled streets, I finally rode beneath the freeway overpass and made it out of town! How liberating!

The scenery is a bit like riding on the outskirts of Davis. Very agricultural (and hence, lots of bugs), not too many cars, beautiful fields, cows… except that I think it’s even more beautiful here. The landscape in Lund is also a bit hillier; instead of the pancake flat California central valley, the roads are rolling, with small humps here and there. The roads are also not set out in a giant grid, they curve around and through the small towns. All in all, it’s beautiful!

I rode ten miles out of town before I decided I would continue to retrace the group ride route another time (since I was going “out and back”). A 20-miler: not too shabby, but also not up to my usual standards.

So, I enjoyed the beautiful Swedish countryside while cruising through tiny towns just outside of Lund: St. Råby, Bjällerup, Kyrkheddinge, and Dalby. I stopped to take pictures about every 3 minutes on the way out, and then relished the scenery on the way back. It was a great ride and beautiful weather, given that we’ve been getting a LOT of rain! Too much, in fact. And I’ve heard that massive storm front that has been causing damage in England is on it’s way to Sweden this week! Oh dear…


Friday, July 27, 2007

Fest i Sverige: Party in Sweden!

Last night, one of the student korridors hosted a cocktail party that we dubbed “Sverige’s Finest.” About 30 of us (Swedes and Americans) spent the evening dancing and having a grand ol’ time.

We’ve all agreed that we feel very lucky to have ended up with such great peers in this study abroad program. We’ve only known each other for five weeks and we come from seven different University of California campuses, and yet we all share one thing: we want to be in Sweden. We all have a reason for choosing this country, whether it be the presence of family or friends, ambitions to live abroad after college (one girl wants to move here at some point in the future), and the general idea that Sweden is a “cool” country. And of course, everyone is interested in learning a new language.

Some of the UC students are only here for the summer, which means they will be done next week! Yikes. Where did those six weeks go? All the people staying for the year and the fall are sad to see them go. We’re already making plans to meet up once we’re back in California.

Admittedly, one of my greatest fears about studying abroad was that I wouldn’t like my peers – or they wouldn’t like me. This has not been the case at all! We’ve all found people we like to hang out with and we’re quite a cohesive group (which may be one reason why I’ve been speaking so much more English than Swedish).

Tomorrow is the last organized excursion of the summer: a trip to Helsingborg. Looking forward to sharing that adventure as well!


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thrill of the week:

A little feta cheese, some tomatoes... voila! Linnea's Salad!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Excursion #4: Glimmingehus and Ales Stenar, “The Viking Stonehenge”

This past weekend, we traveled to the southern area of Skåne to explore some of the most famous tourist attractions in the area and in Sweden.

First, we went to Hammenhög and toured Glimmingehus, a very large stone house that dates back to the Middle Ages. It’s the best preserved building of its kind in Scandinavia and was home to rich noblemen who constructed the building to stand up to attacks from peasants and looters. It is, of course, surrounded by a moat, but there are other features of the house to protect its former residents and their riches.

For example, the individual stairsteps in the building are very tall. Our tour guide told us that this was a way to prevent soldiers (weighed down by very heavy armor) from successfully scaling the stairs and stealing the valuables on the floors above. On the third floor of the building, there are several holes in the floor that, in the past, were manned by the nobleman’s soldiers, ready to pour boiling hot oil or water down on enemies who had entered the building. The inhabitants of Glimmingehus could also keep an eye out for unwelcome visitors from the top of the roof, where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Germany.

That said, the building has never actually come under attack. Apparently rumors spread far and wide that it would be a BAD plan to attack this house (and so I guess their defense systems worked!).

After Glimmingehus, we got back on the bus and headed for Kåseberga, on the southern coast of Skåne. Our first stop in town was to walk down to the harbor and eat some smoked fish! Our program coordinators had arranged for a taste test at one of the local smokehouses. I was a little nervous – while I do like fish, I was wary after my pickled herring adventures during midsummer.

We were served two kinds of smoked mackerel (“makrill”) and one kind of herring (“sill”). They were delicious!! It’s definitely worth a trip back to the Kåseberga/Ystad area of Sweden just to get my hands on some more of that fish and to enjoy the beautiful shoreline.

After lunch, we hiked up a huge hill to see “the Viking Stonehenge”: Ales Stenar (or “Ale’s Stones), a 1500 year old set of stones in the outline of a ship. It’s over 200 feet long and is made up of 59 stones. Like Stonehenge, there is a lot of speculation as to how and why the stones got there. Theories range from burial monuments to sun clocks or calendars. It’s pretty cool looking and it sits on a top of a hill with a stunning view! Though I’ve found it’s pretty hard to find a view here in Sweden that isn’t stunning…

Still more to come, but I can only crank out these blogs so fast. I need to go study some Swedish!

Vi ses!

Malmö, Malmö, Malmö, MFF! Malmooooooooö!

Looks like I need to back track a little bit, so let’s go back in time to last Tuesday:

At the brilliant suggestion of one of my classmates, a group of us went to see a soccer game in Malmö. I eagerly forked over 165 kronor to see Malmö FF play against Djurgården IF, a team from Stockholm and Malmö FF’s archrival.

Utilizing my 8-kronor-per-ride Sommarkortet, we took a bus from right in front of our dorm to Malmö (Swedish public transportation, how I adore thee) and then walked five blocks to Malmö Stadion, which seats about 27,000 people and was built for the World Cup in 1958.

We stocked up on Malmö t-shirts and scarves (surprisingly inexpensive compared to what you’d pay in the U.S.) and grabbed hot dogs, beer, and chocolate (also VERY cheap as far as sporting events go) before heading to our seats.

Then the fun began. We learned some cheers (see title of this post), the word “goal” (Mål!!!) and how much Swedes love their soccer.

Djurgården IF scored the first goal, but Malmö countered with another goal in the second half of the game. This is how they celebrated:

(This would NOT go over well in the United States… it was pretty exciting!)

The game ended in a tie, which is a shame because Malmö FF’s offense missed a few very key opportunities… however, it was a lot of fun and I got a few really great Swedish souvenirs.

Heja Malmö FF!

P.S. Thanks to Karen and Mia for letting me swipe some photos!

Monday, July 23, 2007

The end of an era.
(*spoiler free*)

I couldn't have been more excited for the last installment in the Harry Potter series. I have been reading these books since I was 11 or 12 years old, and now, 10 years later, we've arrived at the end.

Fortunately, there is at least one other person in Lund right now who is equally obsessed with Harry Potter and this final book. On Saturday, after we returned from our field trip to Glimmingehus and Ales Stenar and the rest of our classmates went back to the dorms, Melissa and I went on a mission. We were desperate to get our copies of the final Harry Potter book before it was too late.

Unfortunately, Lund being the small city that it is, EVERYTHING closes at 4PM on the weekend. The only thing open past 4PM, as far as I can tell, is Pressbyrån (a chain of convenience stores) and the falafel stand (falafel and kebabs are as popular in Sweden as burritos are in California -- a store on every corner).

That meant we had to go to the mall. It took us an hour to catch the bus and get across town to Academibokhandeln, the only bookstore in Lund that we knew was open, and we arrived 10 minutes before closing. We ran through the mall like we were being chased by Death Eaters and magically (ha, sorry) we arrived just in time to buy our books!

I finished my copy last night, and it was GREAT. I won't say any more, because I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't finished, but it was my favorite book so far, really härlig.

More on the weekend soon.

Your Harry Potter fanatic,

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Busy, busy, busy...

...hunting down and reading Harry Potter #7, doing laundry, buying groceries, riding my bicycle, writing essays in Swedish, taking field trips, and sleeping in.

I have pictures to post and stories to tell from my latest adventures, so please stay tuned -- I will be back shortly.

In the meantime, enjoy the last Harry Potter book! Oh my, it's a good one.

Trevlig vecka!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bicycling blunders.
or: "How to Go On a Bicycle Ride in Lund," by Linnea.

Step #1: Gear up in spandex, grab your bicycle, leave your dorm, and proceed to nearest bicycle path.

Obstacle: A finicky derailleur and yucky noises when you shift gears. A trip to the bike shop reveals a bent derailleur hanger. (Non-cycling folks: there's no need to Google bike mechanics. Just know that this was a bad way to start my bicycle ride.) Solution? A $25 fix at the bike shop.

Step #2:Proceed, once again, to the nearest bike path and look for a nice road on the outskirts of Lund.

Obstacle: Get lost in random neighborhood. Solution? Take a picture of the Harry Potter movie poster in Swedish (this one is for you, Aunt Barbie!) and keep riding. You'll get there somehow.

Step #3: Find a gosh darn street that gets you OUT of the city and into the beautiful countryside and endless open road.

Obstacle: Bike path dead ends into a four-lane highway.

And yet another obstacle: Bike path dead ends into a random street.

Step #4: Abandon the concept of riding your bike for real exercise. Instead, toodle around Lund and enjoy the nice weather, take pictures of slides, the Swedish countryside, and bike paths, all while attempting to take silly self-portraits.

Obstacle: The self-timer function is really hard to use, especially when you don't have a good tripod.

Step #5: Return home. Decide that tomorrow's ride will be much better (and include the use of a map).

Obstacle: Treacherous mechanical discovery -- faulty chain ring bolts (one is missing and one is loose.)

Step #6: Shove bike in the corner and wait until Max gets to Sweden in August (or until I have the energy to go to the bike shop again... whichever comes first). :-(

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I love the weekend!
(Harry Potter, sleeping in, and a trip to Denmark.)

Friday morning: the LONG anticipated end to a three week, whirlwind initiation to the Swedish language and culture. Most of us were very nervous about our Swedish exam, which involved eight pages of grammar and a page long essay! We studied, studied, studied, and I think it paid off for most of us in the end. We celebrated with a huge party on Friday night.

Saturday also marked the arrival of a long anticipated event: the fifth Harry Potter movie! (Definitely worth our 100 kronor or $15). Saturday was also the first day in a while that we have seen some sun and temperatures over 70 degrees! A wonderful lazy day…

Today, we went to Kronborg (aka Hamlet’s Castle) in Denmark. (A brief interlude praising the public transportation here: it’s easy, cheap, and amazing. I recently bought a “Sommarkortet” summer pass which allows me to travel any distance, anywhere in Skåne, by bus or by train, for only 8 kronor or $1.25! What a deal!) So, for $1.25, I got a forty minute train ride to Helsingborg and then paid another $3.25 for a 20 minute ferry ride to Helsingør, Denmark.

Wow, what a STUNNING trip.

First of all, I have never in my life been on a ferry that HUGE. The boarding ramp was like getting on an airplane – elevated so that we could enter the ferry on what was probably equivalent to the fifth or sixth story above the water. Huge big rig trucks and cars drove up three different entrance ramps to load onto the bottom levels of the boat. And inside? Three different levels for passengers, including several restaurants and cafes, a grocery store (!), and a big viewing deck. We were all wowed.

Once we docked in Helsingør, we were truly blown away. My two friends, Melissa and Karen, and I kept looking around at the amazingly beautiful buildings, exclaiming, “ooh!” and “wow!” We also, quite a few times, couldn’t help but say, “Can you believe we’re in Denmark??” I get this feeling that in Lund we’ve been so busy getting settled in and learning Swedish that we sometimes almost forget that we are living in a foreign country. We were all struck by the beauty of Denmark – and I think it shocked us back to reality. (“Look where we are! Isn’t this amazing??”) It was a nice reminder: I do need to step back once and a while to truly appreciate the opportunities and experiences that I’ve been blessed with while studying abroad.

Anyway, the Kronborg Castle belonged to Fredrik II and is from the Renaissance. It’s most commonly known as “Hamlet’s Castle” because the castle was the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In 2000, it was also named as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. It’s a major tourist attraction and we were among people of many nationalities (including Danes) who chose this beautiful Sunday to explore the castle.

For $12, we toured the King and Queens bedchambers, a beautiful ballroom, the casemates beneath the castle, and a chapel, which was the only part of the building left in tact when it was ravaged by a fire in 1629. The whole castle was VERY cool.

It was a great trip and a wonderful way to finish off the weekend.

Upcoming plans: Tomorrow, I start another three week round of Swedish classes and I’m going to reserve a Harry Potter book, and on Tuesday many of us will be attending a soccer match in Malmö. I’ll do my best to keep the blogs coming your way!

Take care!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Excursion #3: Malmöhus castle.

The excursions hosted by the Folk Universitetet are great. They’re:

1. Free (they take care of transportation and entry fees).
2. Fun (a nice break from the classroom and time to socialize with my peers).
3. Almost all located in Skåne (which has given me a much better sense of the local culture and history).

This past Wednesday, we went to Malmöhus Castle in Malmö (about 20 minutes south of Lund.) Apparently, Malmöhus Castle is the oldest remaining Renaissance castle in Scandinavia. Since it was built in 1434, it has housed royalty, prisoners, the Danish mint, and today, the city of Malmö’s Art Museum, the City Museum and the Natural History Museum.

We went on a tour through the original buildings and some of the museum’s exhibits, including one that tells the story of Malmö as a city. My favorite exhibit was one called “Kaffe,” which, of course, recognizes coffee’s hugely significant role in Swedish culture. In my pictures you can see some of the exhibit: old coffee advertisements, a huge tower of coffee (I drink Zoega, the green package, every morning), a breakdown of coffee's magic in symbol form (the text says "coffee = friendship"), and, finally, Melissa and me drinking coffee in the café downstairs. Mmm!

The museum also had some cool natural history exhibits with a dinosaur cave, taxidermied Swedish animals (Moose!! Wild boars! Foxes!), and some live fish and reptiles as well.

Our plans for the weekend brewed while we sipped kaffe and explored the museum. The most popular ideas involved sleeping in and visiting Denmark on Sunday. Friday was the END of the first round of our Swedish classes so people were eager to use the weekend to relax!

I’ve decided to go to Denmark on Sunday to visit Hamlet’s castle with some of my Californian friends. It’s nice to really feel settled in a bit in terms of getting to know people. I’ve faced dual pressures, both from Swedes and from my American peers, to be accepted and to make friends. While I desperately want to be able to speak Swedish well and feel comfortable in Lund, I also want to connect with other Americans, who are (currently) my social circle.

The summer time is making it a little difficult to figure out where I belong. I am surrounding by awesome, English-speaking college students, and the dorms are a little quiet because many Swedes are home for the summer. I’m enjoying myself right now, but I think the fall term will be a nice change, when I will be able to get to know more Swedish students.

Lastly: thanks to everyone who has sent me a message so far. I am very appreciative of the comments left on my blog and the email messages I’ve received. My apologies if I am slow to respond – even in my third week here I am still busy getting settled and studying Swedish!

Hope everyone is well!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Resisting the desire to blog...

I have a BIG Swedish test tomorrow, which means I don't have time to write about what I've been up to! I have some great stories and pictures that I'm ready to post, but it will have to wait until the weekend, after I've finished my exam. I want to blog, I really do, but studying must come first.

However, I got some BIG news from the U.S. today, which is why I am writing a quick blog post. Max won the under 23 National Men's Road Race! This is big! He beat other talented cyclists from around the U.S. and is now a NATIONAL champion! I'm so excited!!

Click on the picture -- it will link you to the article on his victory.

More on Sweden soon,

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Island of Ven!
Usually, a summertime trip to this tiny island is a popular idea for an excursion, but as we stood in the rain at the bus stop this morning, everyone was grumbling. “I hope they cancel it,” said my friend without a waterproof coat. “I am really not looking forward to this,” said another girl wearing flip-flops. I grinned and said nothing, as I was feeling very happy in my new rubber boots, wool socks, and rain shell.

Good news: they did not cancel the trip, and I’m almost positive everyone had a great time, despite the weather.

The Island of Ven is a quick, hour-long trip from Lund. We took a bus ride up the coast to Landskrona and then rode a ferry across the Öresund. Before we docked on the island, people debated the feasibility of the day’s plan – to rent bicycles and ride around the island, which is only 4.5 km long and 2.4 km wide. Were we willing to do it in the rain? Most people decided that whether they walked or rode a bike they were going to get wet, so they might as well do it in style, on one of Ven's yellow, one-speed rental cruisers.

We literally dove in and were wet within minutes (my jeans got soaked, but my feet were dry!) as we sped along the main road which bisects the island. I don’t know who was leading the group, but we ended up arriving at the opposite end of the island (where there is another ferry that can take you to Denmark), climbing up a steep dirt path on foot, and then off-roading it along cliffs bordering the sea. It was a blast.

We toodled back onto the main road and found a café for lunch. I brought my own sandwich but dropped an astounding 40 kronor ($6!!) on a latte, though it was worth it.

After lunch was a tour of the Tycho Brahe Museum, and here is where the history begins.

Tycho Brahe lived in the latter half of the 16th century and was one of the best astronomers of his time. It was Tycho who made the Island of Ven famous – it was given to him as a gift by King Fredrik II for Tycho to do his research. We toured Tycho’s underground observatory and saw the site where the Uraniborg castle used to stand In Tycho’s time, Ven became the center of Europe’s advanced astronomical research..

Our tour guide was very good, and he asked us to remember three things about Tycho:

1. He was an incredibly skilled instrument-maker. He designed various instruments that allowed him and his students to make extremely accurate measurements of the astronomical movements.

2. He was a leader in introducing the concept of empirical research techniques. Tycho insisted on seeking out the facts, rather than theorizing. It was his research philosophy that helped spur the use empirical research techniques in Europe.

3. His research led to some of today’s most important theories. His most talented student, Johannes Kepler, used the data collected by Tycho to establish the laws of planetary motion (and served as the foundations for Newton’s theory of gravity). Basically, Tycho helped shape the modern view of the world – major stuff.

Anyway, enough history – but that’s what we learned! Very informative, especially since I’ve never been the science type…

It was still raining when we got back to Lund, but now it’s FINALLY stopped. I’m hoping it stays dry for at least a day! I would like to see some sun!

Trevlig helg! (Have a good weekend!)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

By the way...
Feel free to comment on my blog postings, even if it's just to say hello! It's nice to know who's reading my blog. :-) Just click the "comments" link at the end of each post.

We're getting lots of rain in southern Sweden. It's causing problems in areas like Småland, where dams are bursting, and generally making everyone in Sweden grumble -- you call this summer? Where's the sun??

The 4th of July was a bit rainy but cleared up just in time for an 8PM BBQ on the lawn outside my dorm, complete with beer, meat, apple crisp, and thirty rowdy American and Swedish students. Lots of fun! Today, it poured, and when I walked past yesterday's BBQ spot, it was flooded with five inches of water! (I keep telling the rain to move along to somewhere it's needed, like California, but it's not listening to me so far.)

Tomorrow: Island of Ven. In the rain. :-) I'll keep you posted!