en dag i Mariefred: en charmig stad på Mälaren

June 18th, 2014: We woke up fairly early on Wednesday with a a few things to do before heading out to Mariefred.  I showered while waiting for Sara and David to head to the flat and came out to find David making one of my favorite things in the world: Scandinavian breakfast. We buttered crisp bread, layered on thin slices of cheese, “guest quality” ham (haha we don’t know why it was called that!), cucumber sliced with a cheese slicer, and hard-boiled eggs.  It was deeeeelicious. IMG_4545 Next on our list was to stop by Vuxenskolan and UISS, our language school from last summer, and say hi to all of our old teachers and assistants.  I had emailed the director, Nelleke, a few weeks ago hoping we could snag a spot on the bus out to Hammarskog for Midsommar on Friday and she said for us to stop by Wednesday to double check.  We walked up during fika, actually the perfect time to come visit, and saw all of my favorite people!  My old teachers, Jenny and David, were there and I gave them big hugs.  Emma and Christian, two of the assistants from last summer, were running the fika and Christian picked me up off the ground with a big smile.  Its great to be back in Uppsala and to see these guys :) Vuxenskolan is right next to Uppsala C, so we walked over to catch our train to Mariefred.  Its a small, beautiful town situated on the Mälaren lake a little ways south of Uppsala.  We took a train to Stockholm, a train to Läggesta to meet David’s boyfriend Andreas, and then a bus to Mariefred.  On the train, David taught Sara how to play Spit so we had many rousing games on our journey. IMG_4549 Train/bus travel is expensive in Sweden but the trip was very easy!  The weather could not have been more beautiful: it was sunny, warm, a little breezy, and the sky was crystal blue. IMG_4558 Mariefred is quinessentually Swedish in all of my faovrite ways!  Painted houses, coffee shops and ice cream stands, flowers everywhere, strawberries in the streets.  We walked around for a little while before settling on a restaurant for dagens lunch: the daily special.  It was an incredible spread of locally grown vegetables simply prepared with herbs or raw and sprinkled with olive oil.  David, Andreas, and I chose the fish and Sara had the pork. IMG_4560 There was an outdoor area to sit and eat (my faaaavorite!!!) so we took our lunch across the street in the fresh air.  There were tons of super creepy and aggressive crows around, but they couldn’t spoil the fantastic lunch we were eating.  Look at this! IMG_4564 The crows got even more aggressive by the time we were finishing and one of them kept looking at David, opening its mouth, and turning its head sideways.  Super creepy… IMG_4566 After lunch, we walked down to the water to take some photos.  I hadn’t gotten a jumping picture in a while so my lovely friends indulged me and we got some good shots! DSC04916 Andreas wanted to show us the big castle, Gripsholms Slott, so we walked over and got tickets for a self-guided exploration.  It actually has the most portraits in all of Europe and was super interesting to walk around.  Portraits of kings and queens from everywhere in Europe hung on the walls with incredibly ornate frames– all of the pictures of old kings of Sweden from the history books are copies of these actual originals!  The castle grounds were also stunning: IMG_4581   IMG_4582   IMG_4606 The one especially notable thing that we saw inside was in the attic of the castle. I believe some king got a stuffed lion as a present, but the taxidermist had never seen a real lion before.  So he used his best judgement and tried to recreate this animal… We all agreed that its face, the biggest abomination of them all, looked like a mixture between a children’s toy, the Cheetos lion and the Pink Panther: IMG_4599 The castle was closing just when we finished our tour, so we found our way out  and relaxed by the water while we waited for one of Andreas’ friends to meet us at the castle.  Sara and I weren’t quite done taking photos so we had a little photoshoot on the lake.  Jumping pictures and nice pictures alike :) SONY DSC DSC04935 DSC04939 Sara had seen a sign for handmade Italian ice cream back in town, so we all headed over for a little fika. I got a scoop of stracciatella and Sara got melon gelato.  It was the perfect thing to cool us off after a lot of walking! We finally took the train and bus back to Uppsala and had a light dinner and a calm night.  Everyone was tired, but very happy, after our big adventure in Mariefred.  Another Swedish city to stick a pin in for me! :)

tillbaka till uppsala: den vackraste staden i Skandinavien

June 16th, 2014

I traveled back from Lysekil to meet up with Sara for our last night in Göteborg.  I got in town around 5 and we were both craving pizza, so we set out on a mission to find some.  On our way, we passed Systembolaget, the state-run liquor store.  Sara and I thought it would be nice to have dinner and then go back to my b&b to watch some Netflix and have a few ciders, so I stopped in to get my first Somersby of the summer. Our pizza adventure took us all over Göteborg.  We passed by two places that looked pretty sketchy and finally stumbled upon one in the area of town next to Göteborg Universitet.  I was bummed that we didn’t have much time to see that part of the city because it was really calm and beautiful.  I’d thought about studying there before but seeing the buildings and the area definitely puts this university on my list! IMG_4486 IMG_4490IMG_4483

We were so full from our pizza that we didn’t end up drinking our Somersby but we brought it with us to Uppsala the next day.  All in all, Göteborg was a great city and one that I would come back to visit!

June 17th, 2014

Sara and I headed to the airport in the morning to catch our flight to Stockholm and train to Uppsala.  We arrived just after 12 and David, a great friend from the Swedish program last summer, met us at the train station to take us to his flat. Its amazing how wonderful I feel when I’m in Sweden… I relax completely, breathe more deeply, enjoy just taking in the sights and sounds around me, and have no stress whatsoever.  Its such a total 180º from life in DC. IMG_4640 IMG_4631 IMG_4637 To be allowed in the Nations, or student run pubs and restaurants, Sara and I needed guest cards. We went to the office with a “lightly altered” UVA student ID that “happened” to say that I was graduating in 2015, and for 75 kronor I got my pass.  We went to Värmlands Nation for a light lunch of warm mackor, or sandwiches, to tide us over until dinner time.  It has one of the coolest bars of all the nations– underground in a cellar! IMG_4511We hung out at David’s adorable apartment for a little while until dinner.  He lives in a 5 bedroom flat right off of the main walking street in Uppsala– about a 10 minute walk to Vuxenskolan where we studied last year. Its probably my dream apartment: small but a super efficient and clever use of space, modern and clean with old Swedish country touches, and full of windows. Anyone want to buy a place with me? :)

We had decided to go to my absolute FAVORITE nation for dinner: GH.  GH, or Gästrike-Hälsinge (an area in Sweden), has the most beautiful garden restaurant where we hung out all summer last year.  They have a delicious summer menu for dinner and both food and drink are much more reasonably priced here for students. It was pretty chilly, maybe 55-60º out, so we chose to sit outside under the heaters and under blankets.  Even with the cooler weather, it was still spectacular to be back at GH!

IMG_4520 David ordered a slow roasted lamb on a really nice potato gratäng that had super thin slices of potatoes stacked up and baked in the oven with cream.  Even a nice meal like that was only about 80 kr, under the standard 100 – 200 kronor or above ($15 – $30USD) that almost anything costs in real restaurants. IMG_4524 Sara and I both had the caesar chicken sandwich which was TO DIE FOR.  It was a piece of roasted chicken on a ciabatta roll with a parmesan and garlic cream sauce, pancetta, lettuce and tomato.  It might have been because we were starving, but both of us agreed that it was the best meal we’d had in quite a long time. IMG_4525 Since it was a Tuesday, Snerikes (or Södermanlands‑Nerikes nation) was having its club night. We weren’t in the mood to party amongst the Swedes (which were few and far between anyway since it was the summer), but we decided to head over there for a drink before going home.

There’s no going anywhere in Uppsala without passing by the beautiful domkyrka (church), so we took the opportunity to snap a picture of the beauty and take a selfie too :) IMG_4510 10373806_10152566634582474_5886563161369511184_n copy Snerikes has a beautiful outside deck in the back so we had some Briska (the inferior version of Somersby) and snuggled under blankets.  We planned the next day while we relaxed: a trip to Mariefred, a small town right on the Mälaren lake about two hours away from Uppsala. IMG_4535 On the way home from Snerikes, we popped in to the ICA near David’s apartment for some godis (candy).  I hadn’t gotten any yet on the trip but I had been hunting for my favorite kind: kantareller (mushrooms).  These are little marshmallow mushrooms that taste like bubblegum and no one in all of Göteborg carried them!  Luckily I found some at ICA and got my second favorite candy, chocolate covered gummy bears, as well. IMG_4540 Stay tuned for my next day’s adventure in Mariefred! :)

en resa till Lysekil, fisksoppa, och min favorit prinsesstårta!

Sunday, June 15th:

I woke up rested Sunday morning with plans to head to Lysekil to see Fredrik, a Swedish teacher of mine from Svenska Skolan in DC. Lysekil, a small but beautiful town about an hour and a half north of Göteborg, is right on the coast and reminds me a lot of Risør, Norway which I visited last year.  The bus ride was quick, easy, and very scenic!  We even got to ride a ferry across the lake instead of taking the long way around in to town.

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I got in to town around 2 and Fredrik was waiting for me at the stop by the harbor.  We took a short walk to my hostel by the water so that I could check in and drop off my small bag. The hostel was called Strandflickorna, or The Beach Girls.  It looked like an old and cozy B&B with a beautiful view of the sea.  I got a corner room with lots of windows. Check out this view!

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We headed farther around the water until we got to the beautiful red granite coast.  There were huge rocks, mostly very smooth and super slippery when wet.  Some years ago there was a big market for the red granite and people started carving and destroying the rocks, so there was an effort to preserve the rest.  You can still see big slices out of the cliffs.

The sky was beautiful, the water was a deep blue, and there was a spectacular sea breeze!

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We walked around for about an hour or so and Fredrik was a wonderful tour guide!  I learned a lot about the different kinds of industries in Lysekil– it was the original homeplace of the Abba brand of sill!  There are only 15,000 people who live in the town year round but it blossoms to 50,000 in the summer during the tourist season.

Fredrik knew of a spectacular fish restaurant on the harbor and we went for a late lunch/early dinner.  We are both foodies so we talked about our most memorable meals and the best things we’d ever eaten.  For our meal, Fredrik ordered a beautiful piece of fish and I asked for the fish soup.  While we were waiting on our meal, we started with the included sill and salad buffet.  Since Lysekil is a harbor town, we knew everything was going to be fresh and delicious, so I tried it all!

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On my plate I have three different kinds of sill (pickled herring), a fresh corn salad, smoked salmon with a honey, mustard, and dill sauce, fresh potato salad, and a hard boiled egg (of course!).  It was all delicious but my favorite was the sill marinated in carrot and onion.

Our main courses came and I was blown away with how fresh the seafood was and what a significant difference it made in the flavor.  I can’t recall which fish Fredrik ended up ordering but it was a thick piece grilled to perfection on a bed of herbed risotto, fresh summer vegetables, a tomato and red pepper puree, and shrimps. So good!

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My fish soup was creamy and fresh with a parsley oil drizzle on the top.  It was filled with pieces of torsk, or cod, mussels, shrimp, and crayfish. There were also thin shavings of fennel and carrots along with some peppery microgreens.  The best part was dipping the bread in the slightly saffron-infused cream broth!

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After lunch we walked around some more (I think I got close to 28,000 steps in that day!) and went through the old part of town, Gamle Lysekil.  I had a great time exploring and learning new things about the town’s history and people.  Fredrik and I walked by an adorable konditori, or bakery, that he had been planning to take me to the next morning for fika. They have the best prinsesstårta in town– I guess my love for that cake is well known around the world! ;)

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We were pretty tired from all the walking and the delicious meal so we parted ways at my hostel and agreed to meet in the morning. It was a great day!

Monday, June 16th:

I woke up and checked out of my hotel around 9am and waited for Fredrik to meet me at the harbor.  It was overcast but still stunning:

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We went to the konditori and got our prinsesstårta for a delicious start to the day.  We each got one for ourselves… in hindsight we should have shared.  But I managed to make a big dent in mine!!

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All in all, it was a fantastic trip and a beautiful place to photograph.  I would recommend that everyone take a trip up to see it for themselves!  I certainly will be back :)