Saturday, September 22, 2007

Touring Sweden on two wheels.

Saturdays and Sundays are the best days for riding my bike -- I have time! When it’s A) not raining, and B) not too windy, it’s very easy to talk myself into a spin out in the Skåne countryside.

Last weekend, I rode with the local bike club, CK Lunedi. As always, I showed up at Clemenstorget, and found a group of 15 Swedish men on bikes. Many of them are a little bit shy. About half of them don't speak English very well. And for some reason, they don’t talk to me until we are least 10 kilometers into the ride. But they are all VERY kind. Once we do start talking, it is hard to stop.

Last Sunday, for example, I met Per, who is probably in his 50s. He asked me what I'm studying and mentioned that his wife teaches a course on Swedish culture at the University (a class I almost took!). Stefan, another rider, is in his 20s, and just moved to Lund to study Spanish. He encouraged me to speak in Swedish while we were riding. Not on the bike, I panted, as we hustled up another hill. (It’s hard enough when I’m breathing normally!) Gudmundur, or Gummi for short, is Icelandic, in his 30s, and lives in the same neighborhood as I do! He mentioned that he's learning Swedish, too.

ALL of them dropped me going up the climbs. And I mean all of them. But they waited for me, which was nice.

Today, I retraced part of the 75 mile route that we rode last weekend. Instead of my usual route, which goes southeast, I went due north. I took my camera with me and, since I have a cold, I took it easy and enjoyed the countryside.

I left town and passed through Stångby and Håstad before I arrived in Örtofta. The town is made up of only a few little streets, a sugar factory, and a train station. Also: streets named after fruits (I saw apple and pear…)

Leaving Örtofta, there was another factory…

Then I crossed Highway 104 and rode along the outskirts of Eslöv. Rum och frukost, anyone? (Bed and breakfast, that is…)

Into Remarlöv and towards Trollenäs. Out to Österby, and then it was time to turn around.

On the way back, I caught of glimpse of my future home here in Sweden. Nice digs, huh?

I also saw a milestone, with distances to all the nearby cities. The date carved in the stone said 1927, and it reminded me of the big stone street markers we have in the some parts of Berkeley… or that Mille Bornes card game!

Coming back into Örtofta, I got a different perspective of the sugar factory:

Back under the railroad tracks…

In Örtofta, I took a break to do some train watching. (Something I actually enjoy... I've got a thing for trains.) The route that runs north to south in Skåne is the perfect line to enjoy some train watching because it's the main corridor in Southern Sweden.

Sitting on a bridge, I watched no more than six trains pass by in just 15 minutes (three freight trains, two Pågatåg commuter trains, and one big SJ train due for Stockholm or Göteborg.) See?

It was a good ride. And a good day. I think my cold is already a little bit better. :-)


Thursday, September 20, 2007


(Note: Sorry for the blogging delay! Classes have started, and with the fall semester in full swing, other things have been keeping me busy. But now, here’s the latest!)

Last Saturday, bright and early, we caught the bus to Älmhult, a city located a few hours north in the province of Småland. According to an IKEA postcard, “Forests, furniture, and stone fences. That’s Älmhult in a nutshell.” Actually, that sounds about right. It’s not a very big town – only 8,000 residents – and IKEA is a huge part of its culture. The first IKEA store was opened there in 1958! As the founder of the company, Mr. Ingvar Kamprad, once said, “Älmhult is, and always will be, the heart of IKEA.”

Fun fact: Did you know that the company’s name is actually an abbreviation for Ingvar Kamprad Emltaryd Agunnaryd? (Emltaryd is the farm where Ingvar was born, and it was located near the town of Agunnaryd.)

As you may or may not know, I LOVE IKEA. I had been waiting for this field trip since June (when the rumors of this trip began), and when we pulled up in front of the store, I couldn’t hide my excitement. I pulled out my camera and, along with a bunch of others, started taking photos of the store and the parking lot.

Our coordinators arranged for a tour of IKEA by one of the managers of the Älmhult store, who showed us around, explained her job, and pointed out some of the strategies they use in the store to encourage customers to spend money! For example, they always arrange a display at the beginning of the showroom walkway to grab a customer's attention – the “first buy.” IKEA also designs all those cool rooms with a specific customer demographic in mind, whether it is starving students, retirees, or families with children. Also, are your familiar with those huge wire bins in IKEA filled with pillows, towels, slippers, dish brushes, wrapping paper, and just about anything else? Well, IKEA has discovered that they can sell up to 500% more of an item if it’s in a giant bin than when it is stocked on a shelf. (Now you know!)

IKEA by the numbers…
Year the company was founded: 1943
Stores located in Sweden: 14
Stores located worldwide: 260
Stores opened in the last year: 12 (in Cyprus, Portugal, Romania, and Italy, among other countries. Eastern Europe is their newest market.)
Year the first IKEA was opened in the USA: 1985 (in Philadephia)
Year the first IKEA was opened in California: 1990 (in Burbank)
Items available through IKEA: over 8,000
Visitors to IKEA stores, worldwide, in 2007: over 500 million

Well, it looks like IKEA just might take over the world, and I think that would be OK with me!

Here we are in front of the store with our purchases:

After shopping, we headed over to the IKEA Inn, where we enjoyed a tasty buffet lunch. Then it was off to the IKEA museum, where we took a walk through IKEA’s history and decades of different IKEA furniture. My personal favorites? The 1970s and 1980s rooms.

After we'd had our fill of IKEA-awesomness, we were off to Wanås. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been to Wanås before, but it is SUCH a cool place that I was more than happy to return. Essentially, Wanås is a giant, outdoor art museum set in a beautiful forest. You’ll be wandering around and suddenly you might stumble upon a giant glass enclosure that looks like a mirage, or ten swings hanging from a giant tree, or recliners made out of logs and bamboo mats, where if you lie down, you hear a voice telling a quiet story. Or, you might happen upon a giant stone outhouse, with room for quite a few people (see pic!). There’s a modern little bridge, a house with no doors, a house with no walls, an enormous metal spider, and a stone pyramid. Each art piece is separated from the others, so you have to make your way up and down meandering dirt paths to find the next one.

I got to be the tour guide, since I sort of knew my way around, and we ran around for two hours seeing as much as we could. Our favorite part, though, was the giant swing tree:

We got back to Lund in the evening, and later I went out on the town with Karen for Lund’s Culture Night. We met up with Emma and wandered around the Stortorget and Mårtenstorget enjoying the music, free coffee and kanelbulle, and watching an acrobatic group perform. Lots of fun, even though it was COLD!!

Next time: an update on life in Lund (academically, socially, and otherwise!)

Hej då!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Le Tour de Sweden, the Final Stage: Säffle!

On August 17th, Max and I hopped on yet another train and headed north to Säffle, the town where my mom lived (when she was 17) with her host family. Our destination? Talludden, her host family's summer house.

It was like taking a peek into the past – the kind of Sweden my mom lived in for an entire year. The house at Talludden was one of the places my mom encouraged me to try to visit, and now I know why. It's beautiful! Talludden sits on Sweden's biggest lake, Lake Vänern. The main house was built by my "morfar," my mom's host father, and is a pleasant mix of old and new. The wallpaper, the furniture, and the kitchen give it an old feel. So does the black and white photo of morfar and mormor. But it hangs right beside a newer photo: Lina's kids with their grandma. There's a new indoor shower, but there's a rustic outhouse next to the toolshed. The rest of the place -- the swingset, the flagpole, the two other cabins, the bench facing the lake – made me feel very much at home.

On Friday, we took a tour of Säffle – through the small downtown area where morfar used to own a shoe store, and past one of the landmarks that I remember best in Säffle (from my visit in 2nd grade): the happy face stoplight!

We also took a walk to the old family house in Säffle, where my mom spent her year with her host sister Christina (siblings Christer, and Göran were already out of the house with young families of their own). (Christer is pictured here on the left!). I also remember the house from my visit 13 years ago – but the property was sold a few years ago (after mormor's death), so we didn't get to go inside.

Then, while Max rode his bike, I hiked through the woods and picked blueberries, chanterelle mushrooms, and lingonberries with Lina and Magnus.

We ate delicious food (fresh shrimp, barbeque, potatoes, homemade lingonberry jam) and took a quick dip in the chilly lake.

On Sunday, I didn't really want to go back to Lund! Säffle and Talludden were so peaceful and relaxing…

But now I'm back. Updates on what's been happening lately very soon (really!!) Stay tuned for a blog entry that I hope to post this weekend: we're going on a joint field trip tomorrow with the UC students from Copenhagen! We'll travel first to Älmhult to see the original IKEA store and visit the IKEA museum (I'm so excited!), and then we'll travel to Wanås Castle in Knislinge. I've seen Wanås before, but it was REALLY cool, so I'm excited to return.

And that's my Tour de Sweden.

Til later,

P.S. Happy 24th Birthday, Carl!!