I can't remember the last time I didn't carve a pumpkin for Halloween. It's a yearly ritual: finding the perfect pumpkin, choosing a fun design, roasting the seeds...
Well, this year was no different, but it was the first time anyone has ever looked at me strangely for scooping the innards from a squash and cutting holes in it. We set up shop in Karen's dorm and got curious looks from several Swedes who wanted to know what we were doing. "Do Americans carve pumpkins for Christmas?" one of them asked. (We assured him this was not the case.) Halloween barely exists in Sweden, and if people celebrate, it is usually by dressing up, and not by trick-or-treating or making jack-o-lanterns.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Saturday, October 20, 2007
De Vackra Pumporna i Bjärred!
This morning I visited Holländarehusgård, a pumpkin patch in Bjärred, with some UC friends.
Halloween isn't a big holiday in Sweden, but stores and farms still sell lots of pumpkins.
The farm we visited, Holländarehusgård, is in the town of Bjärred, and it sells pumpkins as well as "färsk potatis" (new potatoes) and other veggies.
So many pumpkins, so little time. Which ones should we choose?
I bought two big pumpkins (one for me, one for a friend) and three small ones (for my windowsill). It added up to about 75 kronor ($12) for 12.5 kilos (27.5 pounds!) of pumpkins.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I went for a long walk after class today. Fall has definitely arrived in Lund and while it is very chilly, the city is looking absolutely beautiful.
I've been waking up to foggy windows and frosted roofs. Every morning it becomes a little bit harder to get out of bed and leave behind my warm blankets, so I usually bundle up before I wander down to the kitchen for a cup coffee.
Tomorrow's temperature will top out at about 3 degrees celsius (37° F)! Brrrrrrr... It might be time to put away the flip-flops for good.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Field trip to Denmark: déjà vu?
This morning, all of the UC kids bundled up (it was 35 degrees!) and hopped on a bus at 8:15AM. We zipped up the coast, drove onto a giant ferry, and sailed (bus and all) from Helsingborg, Sweden to Helsingor, Denmark.
Afterwards we drove up the coast to have lunch and then take a tour of Kronborg Castle, famously known as “Hamlet’s Castle.”
Yep, if you’ve been following closely, I’ve done this field trip before. It was a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip back in July. Lots of fun, and you can see some pictures if you click the link.
Still, it is a fun castle, and this time, camera-free, I was able to enjoy an official tour of the grounds, where we learned oodles about the warring nations of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden back in the 1600s, clever taxing gimmicks for trading ships passing through the Öresund, and exactly why the dark and creepy casemates are there (prisons and soldiers’ quarters, apparently).
Also, one of my fellow UC students, the very brave and sassy Izzy, had a go at some sword fighting against a Danish "knight" in the ballroom of the castle: who ever hits the other first wins… go Izzy!
Then it was back on the ferry! And back to Lund. Time for some studying!
Saturday, October 06, 2007
(Not so) cheap thrills.
This morning's shopping trip to Malmö included a stop at Gray's American Store. Behold! A store full of some of the products Americans love best, at extremely high prices (though not so high that I was unwilling to splurge).
You can choose from a wide selection of sugary, processed, and plain-old-American food products, including Bisquick, Aunt Jemima's syrup, Goldfish, Tabasco sauce, Captain Crunch, Pop Tarts, canned pumpkin, condensed milk, chocolate chips, Arm and Hammer baking soda, cranberry sauce, tortilla chips, and so many other tantalizingly appealing things.
Yikes. In my defense, these were well worth the splurge. Vanilla extract does not exist in Swedish grocery stores (I have looked! I have asked!) and Annie's just sounded darn good. The brownie mix cost was split three ways -- between me and two friends -- along with a large can of refried beans, both of which we will be cooking up next week for shared dinner of burritos and dessert.
I was a bit embarrassed about how sentimental we became over bottles of Snapple, packages of Goldfish, and Reese's Peanut Butter cups, but just seeing the products reminded me of how much I love my home. Sweden is great... but I really do love America the best.
Friday, October 05, 2007
A Weekend in Germany!
Last weekend, I watched Max race in the UCI Road World Championships... an amazing opportunity. Once a year, all of the world's best cyclists gather to compete for the world title, and this year it was in Stuttgart, Germany -- conveniently not too far from Lund, Sweden.
So, I flew down to Germany on a Friday afternoon and got ready for an exciting weekend. It was my first trip to Germany, and I would not only be seeing Max, but staying in a hotel with America's top cyclists -- the ones whom I admire and idolize as some of the best in the world. Amazing. (The first time I ran into George Hincapie in the hall, I tried very hard not to squeal loudly/hug him/pass out. I just calmly walked past him -- and, for the record, he didn't even notice me.)
Saturday was the women's elite road race and Max's race: the under 23 category. I took the S-Bahn from my hotel in Möhringen to the start/finish line at Killesberg Messa. I wandered along the course, caught the end of the women's race, and then waited for the U23 race to begin. Here's Max, zipping by on his way to the U.S.A. tent to get ready.
I figured out very quickly that it would have been well worth my money to buy a ticket for the race. The race planners strategically covered all the fences and barriers around the start/finish area with opaque cloth, so enterprising fans wouldn't be able to peer through the chain link and watch the show for free. I was irked. But I didn't have 20 Euros so I settled for walking around the course and finding some good places to watch.
After the start -- blink and you'll miss 'em! -- I surveyed the beginning of the course. The peloton was in for a challenge: 9 laps of a hilly course, adding up to 170 kilometers.
I spent the first several laps taking pictures of all of the people who had gathered to watch the race. Lots of fans had camped out in RVs and had clearly staked out their spot well in advance. This race was my first ever glimpse of REAL cycling fans. Europeans take their cycling (and their soccer) seriously. I hate to say it, but American cycling fans have nothing on the people I saw. Flags, banners, campers, tables and chairs, TVs, satelite dishes, weird hats... a couple of families were even running cafes out of their RVs (cappuccino and a sandwich, anyone?).
It was a windy day and the barricades kept falling over. The fans, while enthusiastic and a bit crazy, were also fierce supporters of their riders, and quickly helped the race organizers right the fences. Luckily, the U23 peloton was nowhere near when this happened, but earlier in the day, the elite women were not so lucky: about 10 girls got taken out by a falling barrier.
The only mystery: the napping man (see picture). Why on earth would you come to the World Cycling Championships and then TAKE A NAP?? Clearly not a true cycling fan.
WHOOSH... after half an hour, the peloton flew past again. I did, rather fortuitously, get a shot of Max (going at least 30 mph).
The countries most well-represented by their fans seemed to be Italy, Norway, and (duh) Germany. Um... sprechen sie schwedisch? It's been a while since I've traveled to a place where my language skills -- Spanish, English, and Swedish -- haven't done me any good. Towards the end of the day, I had an amusing conversation with an old Italian man where I garbled away in a mix of all three of the languages.
Several kilometers into the course was the steepest climb of the race: about 400 meters long and at a 13 percent grade. (Try doing that 9 times...)
There were some beautiful views of Stuttgart, a city built over hills and valleys.
The laps were long, so it was a bit of a wait to see the peloton pass by again. A glimpse of the TV helicopter was a good sign that the riders were on their way.
The whole world was represented: Britian, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, South Africa, Iran, Malaysia, Venezuela, Belarus, Moldova, Austrailia -- and the winner was from Slovakia!
Max finished the race towards the back, but the important thing was that he finished his first race of this scale. About one-third of the racers who started didn't finish at all! It was exciting to see him do so well, and he hopes to be back next year.
That evening, after running around and figuring out schedules for departing the next morning, we decided to go downtown to relax and eat some dinner. We had just left the hotel to walk to the train station when Max realized he had forgotten his wallet. He ran back in while I waited outside. A minute later, Max came outside leaning over and holding his head in his hands. He said he had hit his head... and when he pulled his hand away, it was covered in blood.
Long story short, Max cut his head on a wall (don't ask), but it was very superficial and the team doctor had him fixed up in no time.
Sooooo, let's try that again. Off to dinner!
We got off at the main station, Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, and I spotted one of those model train displays where I gladly paid 50 euro cents to "drive" the models -- you know how I love trains.
We enjoyed our beer, pizza, and pasta in Schlossplatz at a little outdoor restaurant.
Flying home out of Stuttgart, my flight was canceled! I was really bummed at first, but when I was rebooked on Lufthansa, things got a lot better. Not only did my new flight back to Copenhagen arrive two hours earlier than my previously scheduled flight, but I was upgraded to economy plus! The front of the plane (dedicated to business and economy plus) was very empty: I counted only two other people besides me in the surrounding thirty seats. I had a row to myself and I was served a meal on an hour and half long flight! I was pretty happy.