So, it’s fall in Sweden already, if you can believe it. You can see it with your eyes and you can feel it in the details all around you. The leaves of changing colors in the trees, the way they cover the ground and crunch under your shoes, the air cool, crisp, and clear. It just feels like a great time of year to be out for a walk, like the dried-cornstalks, hayrides, and pumpkin beers are right around the corner.
I’m on the train, heading from Malmo to Helsingborg, having just spent the last two days in the former. It’s crazy hot here in the train car, not a seat vacant and people standing in the aisle. I’m hiding from the sun under the brim of my ball cap, watching the city turn to the green fields of Skåne County, the red and white houses with the black roofs atop the rolling hills, the cashmere color of the dry fields at the end of the summer season, the tall, towering presence of the wind turbines above the small trees. Luckily I’m on the shady side, and the sun is spilling in on the other. There is a girl across the way who looks like she’s been to hell and back.
With that, a few musings from the road in Sweden:
Sweden is definitely not the place for a writer to live. The price of booze is just outrageous. The typical cocktail costs about $18. A beer? $10. It’s totally killing my inspiration.
For an initial greeting, the Swedes say hello with a big hearty “Hey” or “Hey Hey,” just like we Americans do. Everyone has their own way of saying it, their own pitch. Some of the women really carry it out. “Hey heeeyyyy.” As you might imagine, the language gets a little more complicated from there.
Speaking of, everyone talks about the blonde-haired women in Sweden — who by the way are fantastic — but it’s the brunettes with blue eyes that have my attention. I know what you’re thinking, but yes, brown-haired Swedes do exist, and let me be the first to tell you that it’s hella exotic. The only downside is that the Swedish women are very shy, so don’t wait on an invitation to make your move, fellas, because it’s not going to come.
The flag of Skåne County is an interesting story. For a long time, about 700 years, Skåne was under Denmark’s control and influence. Most of Skåne is located closer to Copenhagen than it is to Stockholm, and even today many residents identify more with Copenhagen than Stockholm. Now, people say it’s “just a coincidence” that Skåne’s flag is a combination of the Swedish and Danish flags, but I’m not buying it!
Malmo, the city I’m currently departing, is leading the charge for change in terms of sustainability in Sweden. They’re doing an awfully nice job, which I will tell you more about later. I think the success definitely has something to do with the diversity and “college-town” setting. Check this: Of the 307,000 residents, 50% are under the age of 35, and the population represents 170 countries on a whole. Pretty impressive.
Some Swedes laugh at how prude Americans are, especially when it comes to nudity in terms of hitting the sauna and skinnydipping. This is one area in which I agree we need to step it up. We are, without question, a bunch of self-conscious weenies. I find the Swedes willingness to bare all a bit surprising, though, given the fact that they are, as mentioned, extremely shy as a population.
A Swedish “fika” refers generally to a coffee break, but when enjoyed during leisure time, it involves a coffee and some sort of cake or cookie. It can be used as a verb or a noun. Let’s fika, baby.
All right. From Helsingborg, I’ll continue making my way north to the islands off the west coast. I’ll check back in a few days. For now, here’s a little glimpse of the fall colors from Malmo: