A weekend in the country

Warning: hastily written, cliché descriptions, and general scatter-brained recollections to follow. For a more coherent version, check the daily cal’s travel blog in a couple of days. What’s more, for photographic evidence that the following misadventures did indeed occur, check out the new picasa album, linked to on the right sidebar of this blog.

Last Saturday I hopped in the auto-Lönngren and sped down the motorväg towards the bridge to Danmark on the way to Germany with my friend, former roomie and cycling-buddy Johanna’s family- Mamma, Pappa, brother, Johanna, and me. The ride down was filled with tricky riddles and alphabetized guessing games in Swedish. When I compare it to what my family does on car rides (eat loads of cinnibears and make crude jokes about beloved Star Wars characters, for example) it seems no wonder that Mamma and Pappa Lönngren have raised a crop of geniuses.

There is a tradition in the German countryside of lighting enormous bonfires on the night before Easter. As we wound our way through the green-grey countryside, small and large fires appeared dotting the landscape. Even as I was stressing about not being able to guess the answer to a riddle, I couldn’t help looking out at the fires and was reminded strongly of a quote from the venerable Thomas Hardy that I will spare you all pain (but it would be my joy) of repeating. Later that night, we visited breifly an easter fire in Johanna’s small village. Although we only stayed for a few minutes, it was long enough for me to get the idea. I think Johanna sumarized the experience best: “Massor gamla gubber som dricker öl och röka pipor…men barn har det roligt i alla fall.” It’s just tons of old men who drink beer and smoke pipes. but the kids have fun anyway. Sounds sorta like forth of July. Oh, and there’s hotdogs too.

And then it was home to la Casa Lönngren. Whenever I visit the family of one of my dear friends, I always have a sort of “aha-moment”, a moment when it all seems to come together and I understand why my friend is the way that they are. I had that moment when I walked into the Lönngrens’ kitchen in rural Germany and saw all of the beautifully organized, healthy foods and tea-making contraptions. Not to mention the full-fledged finnish sauna in their backyard (HEJ!) and the preponderance of well-loved musical instruments in their living room.

Johanna’s family is tri-lingual, meaning that all of them can speak German, Swedish, and English (all of them pretty close to fluently). I am also positive that they are all extremely intelligent, organized, creative, musical and loving people. I like to imagine them sort of like the Bach family, actually. And although they typically have a rule of speaking Swedish in Sweden and Germany in Germany (makes sense, right?) they were gracious enough to speak Swedish with me the entire time, which was very kind of them. Except of course when I wasn’t part of the conversation and a few times Mamma Lönngren forgot that I can’t understand German (although I was sort of beginning to by the end of the weekend!). It was positively strange to be in a situation where Swedish was the easy fallback language, although a lot of times it is still very hard for me to express exactly what I want to say.

On Easter morning, which also was Johanna’s birthday, we started the day off right with cake for breakfast. Then Mamma Löngrenn hid little chocolate eggs all around their garden. She is quite good at hiding, the eggs where tricky to find. Johanna’s brother found most of them, like 20. I found like five. But I think I deserve a handicap since it wasn’t my home turf. Also the massive amounts of cinnibears comsumed in my childhood may have something to do with it. God knows what’s really in those things.

Later in the day, because we weren’t tired of looking for stuff, we drove to a forested area to play a round of geo-caching. It involved some coordinates written on a piece of paper, the GPS on Pappa Löngrenns cell phone, finding hidden little time capsules that gave the clue to the location of the next little time capsule, and a whole lotta swamps. In short, a good time was had by all, including Bandit, the family dog. There were several other adventures that day that I think would be rather long for me to recount just now.

The next day, in true Arielle and Johanna fashion, we biked to Lüneburg, the big city near Johanna’s small town. Mamma Lönngren told me that Lüneburg is actually one of the most beautiful cities left in Germany, because most of the old buildings weren’t destroyed in the war. The bombers thought the city was too lovely, so they spared it. When she told me that Bach once played the organ, the very organ I was now standing in front of, I pretended to fan myself and said I was about to faint. I was only partially joking. History often overwhelms me. Remember Berlin? My history film-and-book saturated childhood might have something to do with it. Also, the cinnibears.

By happenstance after mass in Lüneburg we ran into two of Johanna’s friends from her days in the church choir.They were sweet and we took a coffee with them. One of them was so very excited that I was a native English speaker, and insisted upon practicing English with me. It was a little strange at first since I hadn’t spoken English for several days, which was a bizarre feeling on my side.

My last night in Lüneburg Johanna and I went for a run through the forest that stretches forth from the fields just outside of her house. I said “hallo” to a man walking his dogs and climbed up a wooden ladder to a weird little watch-posty thing. It was positively medieval.

The next morning I awoke at 5 am to be driven to the train station. From that point I took a train to Hamburg, a bus and a boat to Danmark, and a train to Sweden…from which point I walked home.

When I finally departed the buss in Danmark, I walked to the København train station and found to my surprise that I remembered my way to the bathroom from when I was last in that station five years ago. I even remembered enough about the streets in the city to take a short spin around town and breathe some of the salty harbor air into my lungs before catching the öresundståg north.

No matter how much I love Sweden and how much I will never be able to understand (yet) Danish (although I can read it, and Danes understand me in Swedish…yay!) there is something about København that makes my blood boil. It is strange, truly a connection I don’t understand, and I remember feeling that way when I was last in the Harbor city those years ago. I don’t know if I really like Danmark, but it think Danmark likes me. It must be something like my Danish ancestors calling out to be from their mounded graves: “du er dansk! Hvad gør du i sverige? Kom gaerne til Danmark!” Sorry, dead viking relatives, I hear you but I don’t understand you. Can you speak Swedish, please?

At the same time, what a relief it was to step off the train into Lund and find folk on the streets, back after spending Easter with there families. Even after such a wonderful weekend, it is good to be back…To be back in a land were I can read the signs, what joy! Sverige, du harliga land!

Lessons learned (because I like learning):

The bus ride through Danmark is far more epic when one is listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. In fact, life itself is far more epic when listening to the Lord of the rings soundtrack. Don’t forget your passport at the Danish border-happened to someone on my bus.  Finnish saunas are…um…well…aaaa…finnish saunas. Germany is still freaking cold. German, you are hard to understand. Danish, you are very hard to understand. Danish amnesty international people will not bother you if you tell them you only speak Swedish.

* Also, Anyone who can guess what the title of this post is referencing wins my undying affection. Anyone, that is, excepting CMCM who I know for a fact gets the reference and therefore doesn’t have to guess-but nonetheless already has my undying affection.

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