If possible, visit the countryside of Sweden. After spending a few days with a friend in his university town of Lund and the surrounding countryside, I cannot recommend it enough. The entire place looks like a storybook. I know this is a common descriptive phrase for me, but each has been a new story. Lund University looks like a kingdom, while the countryside ranges from rolling farms to lush green forests. It’s a lovely place all around.
Lund is located just over the bridge from Copenhagen, it was just a short 45 minute train ride after returning to Copenhagen from Aarhus. Immediately taking off to explore the city and the university, I think I fell in love. A country filled with legends of trolls and royal families is hard not to adore to begin with, I was hooked from the beginning. From the stunning cathedral that rises above the city, to the ballrooms and banquet halls of Lund University, everything was incredible. I think I told Philip he attended school at Hogwarts about a million times because it was that magical. Every building is covered in ivy and lilacs, separated by massive courtyards and fountains.
It was so neat to see another school in Scandinavia and be able to compare it to my experience in Aarhus, Denmark. There were many similarities, but also many differences as well. Overall, his school was full of spirit and competitions between the guilds (departments) of the school. From the stories, it sounds like an American Homecoming competition week that spans the entire year. It was interesting to note the differences between America and Lund. Also notable were the differences between a primarily college town of Lund, that is almost entirely made up of students, and Aarhus, a
much bigger city with only 20% students. I wasn’t under the impression that Europe would have “college towns” as we have in the US, but that would be the best way to describe Lund.
After exploring the town, we walked up to the top of the largest hill around Lund for a vantage point of the city. I was shocked to see that it looked almost exactly like Boise. It was lovely. We spent the rest of the evening catching up and planning for the next day.
The morning was one for sleeping in and I was very excited about that after a long week. Waking up a bit later than normal, we set out to see a few more sites and grab some lunch in Lund. Apparently the go-to student food is falafel, served in a pita it is essentially deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas. We grabbed a couple and found a spot for people watching in the main square. One of my favorite activities in any country, it was a great way to spend a late morning. After lunch, we stopped by a grocery store for a couple of snacks and were off to the train.
We spent most of the day at a national park about 15 minutes by train and another 15 minutes by bus. It was a long trip, but boy was it worth it. Taking off on the 7 kilometer (about 5 miles) hike that we had chosen, I thought I knew what to expect. However, I could not have been more wrong. The hike we chose took us down along a creek bed, winding through the most beautiful lush forest. As we walked, Philip told me that Swedish children learn nursery rhymes about these big rocks that become trolls. As shocked as I was to hear that this was something they told children, when you see these rocks it isn’t that far-fetched. The look exactly like the rock trolls from Frozen. (Needless to say, a few bars of “A Bit of a Fixer Upper” from Frozen were sung more than once.)
After meandering around the creek bed until we almost turned back around for fear the loop wouldn’t actually loop back, the trail led us up the ridge into farm fields. It was amazing, we were truly able to see all of the varying landscapes of Sweden throughout this trek. After the farmlands, we dropped back down through a more standard hardwood forest. This hike was the best way to see Sweden. I felt like I got to see more this way than another tour of another city. We had so much fun, telling stories and laughing along the way.
Exhausted we headed back to Lund and this time to the liquor store before dinner. In an effort to fight alcoholism, Sweden has enacted a massive alcohol tax and mandates that everything, including wine and beer, must be sold in a liquor store. It was so bizarre and incredibly expensive. Beer, which can only be sold singularly, not in 6 or 12 packs, is ridiculously expense. Pabst Blue Ribbon, an American cheap beer, was close to $2.50 USD per can! I was floored! We quickly got what Philip needed and were off for dinner.
Dinner was amazing. When asking what Swedish food I had to eat before leaving, the first thing he said was herring. Apparently on the major holidays of Christmas, Easter, and Midsommer (summer solstice) they eat all the same things, meatballs, sausage, and herring. According to Philip, the Swedish don’t really learn new recipes, so they have the same thing every time. The herring was in jars and come in many different flavors, we had the basic one stored in vinegar, and two others, mustard and lemon with chives. The craziest part of this is how to eat it. All in one bite goes the herring, a piece of boiled potatoes and sour cream with chives. A pairing I would not have put together, but it is so delicious. Add this with a bit of Akvavit (a Swedish strong alcohol flavored with herbs) and we had ourselves and very Swedish dinner. I loved all of it.
It has been so eye-opening to have the opportunity to visit my friends in their homes around the world and see their daily activities. Our lives are so completely different, but aligned just enough for our friendships to grow. It is so easy to believe that the way we do things is the way they are done around the world, but that is simply untrue. Even within one country life can be so different. These past few days in Denmark and Sweden have shown me entirely different perspectives, right down to something as simple as the landscape, from my last experiences here. I have had such an amazing time with my friends around the world and am so lucky to be able to have these great international friendships. I was sad to say goodbye to Philip but excited to be off to Luxembourg to meet up with four more of the gang and taste what Luxembourg, Germany, and France have to offer.
-The Very Hungry Traveler