en motvillig farväl till min älskade Sverige


We got back from the cruise at about 11:45 on Monday morning and headed straight back to Uppsala and to class.  It was pretty rough to go from a poor nights sleep on the boat to Swedish class, lunch (with lots of coffee to keep us awake!!), afternoon grammar class, and then take the three kilometer walk home to our flats, but we all survived :)  I went right home after class and took a loooong nap, did some homework, and then went straight to bed!

Here’s Austen with his fika at lunch!



To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what we did on Tuesday.  Not a clue.


Wednesday was a very, very exciting day!  We had our final exam for the B1 Swedish course which took until 10:30, and then did a lesson on Swedish politics and the royal family.  I personally think that our dear King Carl Gustaf looks just like a turtle (please don’t kill me, Swedish government!), so I refer to him as  Sköldpadda Kungen (or the turtle king, for short :) ).  As an exercise, we were divided up in to groups to make a new political party and create a platform to convince the Swedish people (and our classmates) to vote for us.  We chose to make a Fikapartiet with the idea that everyone should have free fika every day, and that the Turtle King would pay for it himself ;)

After class I had made an appointment to finally get the tattoo I’ve been wanting for a while.  I’d changed my mind regarding where I wanted the tattoo about a million times, but decided to get the Swedish letters: å ä ö on my lower ankle.

I went with Austen and our friend Lyle who has a huge tattoo on his forearm. I think Lyle managed to take a picture of me when I was getting tattooed, but I don’t know if I want to see it ;)  The whole process took around 45 minutes, but the actual tattooing part was only about 10 minutes.  I was freaking out a little before she started, but in the end it really didn’t hurt too much at all.  The best way I can describe the pain is that it hurt as much as someone scratching you with a mechanical pencil.  Not bad!  Here’s the finished beauty:


I think I got super, super lucky with this whole experience because the tattooing wasn’t too painful, I was able to walk with no problems right afterwards, and its been healing like a dream.  No pain, no itching, no scabbing!  But don’t worry.. this is my first and only tattoo… it’s not a “gateway” tattoo ;)

Austen, David and I went out to V-Dala and Uplands for drinks for our last real night in Uppsala.  It was a beautiful night to be out on the balcony and in the garden while the sun went down.  Holly joined us a little later ;) David bought be a farewell drink and I couldn’t decide what I wanted, so he surprised me with a really delicious vanilla vodka drink with lime syrup and sprite!



Thursday was our last day of classes and I was feeling a little emotional about it.  I loved our morning class with Jenny and really didn’t want to leave Sweden in general, let alone stop learning Swedish for nearly 7 hours a day.  Everyone brought something to share for a big fika in the morning and we played Alias (sort of like Swedish charades but only using words) and then “David’s Game”- another word game we’d played in our A2+ class. It was a wonderful way to finish the three week course :)

At 12:00 we were called in to Drakensalen for the certificate presentations where all the graduating students were given a paper certifying their level of Swedish.  Looks pretty cool!


Liana, David, Austen and I saved our last lunch ticket for Hamnpaviljonen, our favorite place, and sat by the water and watched the boats during lunch. A bittersweet goodbye– there’s nowhere more beautiful to enjoy a meal in Uppsala!


After class we all went home to shower and change for the farewell dinner at Norrlands Nation that evening.  The theme was 70-talet (70’s) or a famous Swedish celebrity from the 1970s.  I dressed “lightly” in 70’s attire, but some people came as members of ABBA, Björn Borg, Pippi Långstrump, and the King and Queen of Sweden.  The outfits were amazing!



I got some of my tallest friends together for a picture with me in our 70’s attire.  David, Tim, and Austen are all at least 6 feet tall, so this photo made me look even shorter!  Haha :)


We had a very traditionally Nordic meal of reindeer, älg, potatoes, summer salad, and a pannacotta at the end.  Of course the meal was full of beer, cider, wine, snaps, and digestifs.  We were quite full! ;)


There were many performances, songs, speeches, and entertainment throughout the dinner.  We had a little break after dinner before dancing, so I got some pictures with my teachers from the 6 weeks.  I am so, so, incredibly thankful that I was a student in each of these teachers’ classes– they were amazing and are all truly wonderful people that I hope to keep in touch with as I begin my journey to move to Sweden! :)

Here are Jenny and David, my morning class teachers for A2+ and B1:


And here are Camilla and Emma- my afternoon teachers for grammar and conversation.. getting very in to the theme! :)


We danced and danced to lots of 70’s music late in to the night.  When it was time to go home, we all said some quite tearful goodbyes and reluctantly went back to our flats.  I have made some incredible friends on this trip and didn’t want my summer with them to end!  Hopefully I can come back next year to do it all over again :)



Friday was move-out day.  I furiously cleaned my flat and packed all my bags by 11:15 when someone from UISS came to check me out and give me back my 1000 SEK deposit.  Austen and I took a cab from the flats to my hotel right next to the train station (because there was NO WAY we were going to drag incredibly heavy luggage 3km through the streets of Uppsala!) and he went to his hostel to check in.  We met David, Liana, and Hannah for a Chinese food lunch and a little shopping, then David and I went off home and the others went in to Stockholm for the day.

I walked back to my hotel to repack everything and watch some Swedish TV for a relaxing afternoon.  David came over for dinner around 20:00 and we met Austen for one last chat outside in the beautiful moonlight just before midnight.  I hugged the crap out of those two boys, said goodbye, and went upstairs to get a few hours sleep before my 6:00 train in the morning to the airport.

Hej då, Sverige!  I’ll be back so soon :)

Viikonloppuna Helsingissä: en helg i helsingfors!


We had a half-day of classes on Thursday and all met after lunch to hop on a bus to get to the Viking harbor in southern Stockholm.  We all had to bring our luggage to school in the morning (walking it all the way from our Studentvägen flats about 30 minutes walking) so we were all ready to go at 1:45.

We boarded at 3:00 and all got our tickets and room assignments.  I was in a cabin with three other girls for the cruise ride and a hotel with two others for the nights in Helsinki.  They were not my “ideal” people to be put with, but we weren’t allowed to choose our roommates so I kind of got stuck.  Our cabin was on the 2nd floor, in the absolute BELLY of the ship, underneath the car deck. We didn’t have a window, but instead had this painting of a sea-view at sunset, so it was sunset all the time ;)


Austen was incredibly lucky and managed to get a hotel room on the 6th floor so I used it as a central location to keep my backpack and things I’d need between when the ship left Stockholm at 16:30 and when I went to bed.  We went up top on the deck to take some pictures as the ship was leaving Stockholm and it was a spectacular first few hours!



There was a huge dinner buffet on the boat so we all met at 19:30 to find our seats.  Nelleke (the program director) was very adamant about us trying the traditional Swedish smorgasbord in the correct way, so we started with cold meats and fish, then the warm dishes, then dessert.  There was unlimited wine and beer but I was feeling a little seasick so I stuck with water and ginger ale.  The food wasn’t anything special, but there were lots of options!  Dessert was very yummy :)  Fresh strawberries, cream, macaroons, and some chocolate mousse puffs.


After dinner, Austen and I went to the Jägermeister bar on the ship and they were doing karaoke from 21:00 to 22:30.  We stayed the entire time and had so much fun listening to the (mostly horrible) singers.  Some people from UISS came and sang, like a few of our musical teachers, but it was largely old Finnish men and women singing really… different… classic Finnish songs.  We tried to sing along and failed miserably :P

The boat was scheduled to stop in Åland, a Finnish island filled with almost exclusively Swedes and Swedish speakers, on the way to Helsinki.  Austen and I were watching a live band and dancers on the dance floor when we noticed the ship docking, so we ran outside in the rain to take some pictures.  We weren’t allowed off the boat (BOO!) and it was pitch-black outside, but it was cool to see!


We went back to watch the people on the dance floor again, which turned out to be super fun.  The band was really good and the dance floor started to get PACKED, so we had a great time watching all the men try and hit on the Finnish women and on some of our UISS friends.  We felt like we were watching an episode of a bad reality TV show ;)



We went to bed at around 12 and woke up for a big breakfast at 9:00 Finnish time.  The ship docked in Helsinki at 10:10 and we took a super short walk to the hotel (like 200 meters) to put our bags in the bag-room (since we couldn’t check in quite yet), and waited in the lobby for Sara to arrive.  Sara was a student in the first three week session of UISS and lives right outside Helsinki, so she agreed to be our tour guide for the weekend :)

Our first stop was the beautiful market right on the harbor.  There were tons of stalls with all sorts of handmade arts and crafts, grilled foods, and mountains of fruits and vegetables!



After sampling a few things, we walked over to the beautiful orthodox church just off the water.  There was a marching band and a drum line playing in the square so we sat down to watch a little of the performance!


Sara, Austen, Rebecca, Marie-Luise and I were all getting pretty hungry so we went in search of a place to have lunch.  Sara suggested a good but little-known Chinese restaurant, so we walked all around downtown Helsinki taking in the sights on the way.  Alexandersgatan is the main shopping street but there were a few cool inside/outside shopping areas that were kind of hidden off the main street (like this one:)


We passed the train station, went through the underground train station lines, located the Alko (which is the Finnish version of System Bolaget) and finally found the restaurant.  The food was delicious!

We decided to head to the Suomenlinna fort on one of the islands in Helsinki to look around and take pictures after lunch.  On the way to the harbor we heard a concert going on in a park and stopped to see 15 or 20 military men who had just come back from doing their service and who decided to perform in the middle of Helsinki.  They were doing Gangnam Style when we went by and they were charming (and attractive!!!):


We caught the ferry to the fort and it started raining a little bit so Sara, Rebecca and I all put our hoods (and scarves) up around or heads.  Our trusty photographer, Austen, took a picture of me being “babushka”:


We walked around the whole island and found some creepy old pieces of the fort that used to be dungeons or prison cells.  It was actually pitch black when we went exploring, so naturally Austen made scary noises and was threatening to hide behind things and jump out at us :P  We got some cool pictures inside instead :)


The top of the fort offered stunning views of Helsinki in the distance and the weather had cleared up nicely for us to take jumping pictures overlooking the Baltic Sea.  Here are some of my favorites!




We went back to the hotel to take a little rest and then met up around 20:00 to get some dinner and go check out the Tall Ships Festival in the Helsinki harbor.  Tons of ships from all over the world had sailed in, covered in flags, and ready to race the next day.  We were lucky enough to see all of them docked and walked around to take pictures!



We were all exhausted by the time we got home, so it was off to bed around 12:00!


Sara stayed over with me in my hotel room so we got up around 8:30, showered, and went down to eat my very favorite Scandinavian breakfast in the hotel.  We’d planned on going to the zoo on another island in Helsinki and I was SO EXCITED (because I love zoos more than a lot of things) and caught the ferry around 11.

When we got to the island, we went straight to the big cat area and saw tigers, lions, snow leopards, and all sorts of Nordic cats.  They were so cool!


Korkeasaari, the Helsinki zoo, is one of the largest Nordic zoos in the world, so we also got to see reindeer, moose, wolverines, wisents, bears, and all sorts of other animals.  The monkey house was particularly funny because there was one little monkey who came right up to the glass and watched the humans as much as we were watching him!


We were starving on the way back from the zoo so we went straight to one of Sara’s favorite restaurants for lunch: Vapiano.  Its a pasta place where they cook right in front of you and you get to choose the shape of pasta plus all the toppings.  It was delicioussssss!  Mine was penne with a white wine and garlic sauce, cherry tomatoes, pancetta, and sage:


We were pretty exhausted after the zoo and lunch and walking around everywhere, so we went back to the hotel for a siesta before going out to have drinks in the evening.  When everyone was rested, we walked to downtown Helsinki in search of a particular bar, but found out that it had a 24+ age limit.  We only discovered this AFTER I was let in to the bar, however… which means the bouncer must have liked me ;) (hair flip).

We settled on a cute bar around the corner called Hemingways and Sara and I had a blueberry spritzer drink that was super sweet and super delicious.  Austen had a very expensive .5L Karhu beer because it was made in Finland, and we decided to take the glasses.  Note: I have never done that before nor will I probably ever do it again, but now I have a really cool Finnish glass!


We had a really fun night out in Finland and even went for McDonalds afterwards (where we paid like $8 USD for a stinkin’ sandwich by itself!).  The city was so beautiful at night:



Our last morning in Helsinki was spent walking around and shopping a little, but mostly writing our final paper and presentation for class.  We had pretty spotty internet the whole trip but found that it was the strongest in the lobby of the hotel.  So, Austen, Rebecca and I packed, checked out of our rooms, and stationed ourselves in chairs to write.

At 16:30 we said a tearful goodbye to our amazing tour guide (and friend, of course :) ) Sara, and boarded the ship to head back to Stockholm.  We had a stunning view of Helsinki from the top of the ship on the way out:


Austen and I had learned from the last trip that karaoke was the most entertaining activity on the ship, so we went super early to the bar and found great spots.  It ended up being a spectacular karaoke session filled with either friends from UISS singing Livin’ on a Prayer, Brandy, or Josh Groban, mixed in with a ton of old Finnish men and women singing more traditional Finnish songs (which we sang along loudly to!)

The waters were much rougher this trip so I was feeling a bit seasick when I went to the 2nd floor to go to bed.  I noticed right when I walked in to my cabin that it was flooding (and immediately panicked because I thought we were sinking) so I sprinted up 8 flights of stairs to the information desk to let them know.  After someone came down to unsuccessfully fix the problem, they gave us the only free room left on the boat which was on the 5th floor and HAD A WINDOW! We woke up the next morning to beautiful sunshine and views of Stockholm’s archipelago :)


After one final jumping picture on the top deck with Rebecca, we disembarked and were finally back in beautiful Sweden once again.  It was a spectacular trip and I’m glad I checked another Nordic country off my list!  Only one more to go :)


Stockholm, Uppsala, och Örebro: en fantastisk helg av resor!


Friday was our day-trip to Stockholm.  On the agenda was a morning at Millesgården, afternoon at the Stadshuset downtown, and free time in the city.  The pubrunda on Thursday night had hit some people pretty hard, so we went with a handful less people this time than the last day-trip :P

It only takes about 45 minutes to drive in to Stockholm so we arrived at Millesgården around 10:30.  Millesgården is the former residence and gardens of a very famous Swedish sculptor named Carl Milles.  The grounds overlook one of the harbors in Stockholm, and it was a beautiful day, so it made for some nice pictures :)  I opted to take the Swedish tour this time because the guide looked fun and peppy– but it turned out to be kind of a mistake.  I will be the first to admit that I’m not super interested in art, but for some reason I just really wasn’t captivated by what the guide was saying, and we had a few annoying people on the tour who kept getting in everyone’s way while taking pictures with their iPads. But, the house was pretty and the sculptures were nice overall!


My favorite part of the visit was definitely the view.  I took some great panoramas from the top of the gardens!


And I spent the day with some of my favorite (super tall!) people :)


After a lunch at the gardens, we got back on the bus and went in to town to the Kungsholmen island.  We arrived at the Stadshuset (City Hall) for a guided tour.  After the strange tour in the morning I decided to take this tour in English– and I’m so glad I did!  Our guide was adorable and told us tons of cool stories about the building.  They use the great hall to host the Nobel Peace Prize banquet annually and it houses the offices of many important politicians in the Stockholm Municipality.

The main staircase in the great hall was designed by the architect to be “comfortable” for all the ladies in long dresses who would be attending the Nobel banquet each year.  He actually built fullscale models of each staircase and had his (patient) wife walk up and down each one in long evening gowns and high heels, and let her choose the one that was the most comfortable :) Now THAT’S a gentleman ;)

Some of the architecture and painting inside the Stadshuset was absolutely beautiful– and each feature had a story.  The ceiling in the council chamber looked like the inside of an old viking longboat and was painted to look like a set of windows.  This was done to symbolize the openness of the council and anything discussed or decisions made in this room were said to be free to fly out of the ceiling and be heard by the people– nothing was to be secret.  What a cool idea!


And check out the view of Stockholm’s waterfront from the windows!


But the most impressive room was The Golden Room with very… interesting… things on the walls, but absolutely covered in gold leaf.  It took the architect quite a few years to complete this project!  There is apparently a lot of conversation about weather “Mother Sweden”, on the far wall, is supposed to look like Medusa or not ;)


After the tour we had several hours free to walk around in Stockholm. David and passed through Gamla Stan on our way to another island in Stockholm and I got a shot of one of the amazing alleyways:


We’ve both been to that part of Stockholm a bunch of times now so we weren’t too interested in doing the touristy things in Gamla Stan. Instead, David and I went to Södermalm and walked around the shops in the “trendy” part of Stockholm.  I was determined to find a piece of prinsesstårta but we literally couldn’t find a single konditori ANYWHERE.  What?!  I know!!  We ended up stopping for fika in a little café and I got a piece of chocolate cheesecake tar and a cup of coffee with cardamom instead.  Mmmm!


We headed home to Uppsala around 19:00 and the bus ride was quiet as we all dozed off after a long day in the sun.  Definitely another beautiful day in Sweden :)


David and I had planned a big trip to IKEA Saturday morning!  I woke up nice and pigg (energetic), totally excited for my first Swedish IKEA experience. We took the bus from Uppsala C and hopped off at the beautiful store a short 9 minutes later.  Of course I had to commemorate the experience with a jumping picture :)  This one is a little more “Where’s Waldo”… can you find me?


David wanted to get some breakfast while we were there, so I got a cup of coffee while he ate.  The Saturday breakfast was incredibly impressive!  It looked totally homemade and had every kind of traditional Swedish food you could possibly think of.  Look how beautiful it is!


After breakfast, we started the hunt for apartment furniture.  Since David is here for the 9 weeks of our Swedish program and then staying to do his Master’s at Uppsala University, he had a long list of furniture that he needed for his new apartment.  Bed, desk, chair, mattress, etc.  We had quite a mission!

I drooled all the way through the store, fantasizing my dream Swedish kitchen and nearly refusing to leave the little sample staged apartments that were PERFECT. But, I controlled myself and didn’t buy anything but a small backpack to use as an extra piece of luggage to take all of my Swedish purchases home from my trip :)

We went down to the warehouse and picked up all the pieces for David’s furniture to drop them off at the delivery counter.  It took lots of strength and two trolleys full… but we did it!


We’d planned on going to the little hidden river after IKEA because it was so incredibly hot outside on Saturday, but people had made other plans so we decided to reschedule.  I caught up on some cleaning, reading, and homework Saturday night in anticipation of my trip to Örebro the next morning!


I woke up pretty early to catch the bus to Enköping and train to Örebro on Sunday morning to visit a friend of mine who lives in Örebro, about two hours west of Uppsala. I was so excited to visit and had a super easy trip.  My train got in at 11:15 and Maria was there to meet me at the station.  I hurried to get my return trip ticket from the ticket office (since my chip card doesn’t like the automatic machines :( ) and once that was settled, we set off to explore the little town!

Örebro is a super old city from the 1300s but its beautiful and charming!  There’s a great big castle in the middle that had a cool “Open Art” exhibit going on so we walked around and checked out some of the works on display.  Even though it was kind of overcast, the castle still looked beautiful next to the river!


We met Maria’s boyfriend, Jim, in the middle of town to go to a cool spot for lunch.  Jim’s friend Mattias, who has been living in L.A. for a few years now, was back in town for the summer and joined us for lunch as well.  It was great company!

Mattias picked us up and we drove out to a restaurant called Naturens Hus on a nature reserve right on Lake Hjälmaren and had a lovely lunch by the water.  We walked around the lake on some of the trails afterwards and chatted about all sorts of things, from horrible roommates to how to move to Sweden permanently. :)  Check out this beautiful trail overlooking the marsh and the lake:


After lunch, we headed back to Maria and Jim’s flat for a fika.  We’d stopped at a grocery on the way home to get some mazariner (little sweet almond and apricot cakes), dammsugare (“vacuum cleaners”, or a brown and green chocolate cake), and kaffe, and I picked up some Swedish strawberries as well.  It was the perfect pick-me-up… a little sugar and a little caffeine :)


Maria and I decided to take a walk after fika and we must have gone several miles overall!  It ended up being a beautiful day, so we walked all the way to Örebro University and found some fresh raspberries growing in some bushes along the way.  Mmmm– reminds me of summers in Chicago when I was little!

Maria has studied in the DC area and loves the Unites States, and I love Sweden, so while we walked, we laughed and chatted about the idea of just swapping passports with each other and trading lives :) Maybe someday we can!

We headed back home and had a (delicious!) light dinner of tortellini with fresh vegetables as a cold summer salad before I had to head back to the train.  Jim and Maria walked be back to the station and we said goodbye, and I was off again back to Uppsala.  It was a whirlwind of a day, but was SO good to see Maria and she was the perfect hostess :)  I wholeheartedly recommend taking a trip out to Örebro and I can’t wait to visit again on my next trip to Sweden!


Stay tuned for my next blog post all about my cruise and adventures in Helsinki, Finland when I get back on Monday!