Day 21: alcohol appreciation with Inger
Worth a mention:
- Online gambling is advertised on TV, regularly
- Kim’s friend couldn’t believe Australia doesn’t have H&M, Topshop (as at June) or Weekday, or that Zara’s just only opened its first stores ever in Oz
- Sweden has given birth to brands Nudie Jeans, Cheap Monday and retailer H&M
Last night we arrived in Lund to a slightly cooler evening than we were used to in Copenhagen, let alone Alicante. Shilan, Kim’s flatmate both here and in Los Angeles when I’d road tripped with Matt and Linton the summer before last, greeted us at the door. After some local Chinese for dinner, the weather came up again in conversation as we made a quick dash from the restaurant to the apartment in the rain. “This is summer in Sweden, Adam. It’s fucking depressing,” Shilan said.
After breakfast with Kim’s dad, Leif (who still doesn’t know of our €90 fine), we take the train into Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden. Kim’s mum, Inger, works in retail and the store she works at is in one of several shopping centres scattered throughout the city. Kim knows all the girls that work with Inger and we spent a while chatting with the group out the back of the store. One of the girls is absolutely floored at the knowledge Australia doesn’t house its own H&M or Topshop. Floored. We now know that Topshop and Topman have arrived in Melbourne and, according to the Interweb, H&M to arrive in 2013/2014.
Being the day before Midsommar’s Eve, some could even say the eve of Midsommar’s Eve, and because tomorrow’s a public holiday, we stock up on alcohol supplies for tomorrow evening. Midsommar’s Eve is the celebration on the eve of the summer solstice and a big deal in Sweden. Incredibly, liquor store System Bolaget has a total monopoly on alcohol sales in Sweden as the only company in the country from which you can buy grog. That’s like living your whole life and only ever buying drinks from Liquorland. I later learn that the company is State-run, as was the pharmaceutical industry until only a few years ago. I stock up on beer and four flavours of Rekorderlig cider, my favourite brand of cider: Hallon-Stjärnfrukt (raspberry-starfruit), Strawberry-Lime, Sommarcider Vildäpple-Fläder (summer cider wild apple-elderberry) and Skogsbär (berry).
Detouring past Inger’s place to drop our day’s shopping and enough liquor to quench a flat of teens for a week on Schoolies, we leave the city and walk down to Pildammsparken Park. It reminded me of Vondel Park, minus the cyclists; luscious greenery, large fountains centred in its lake and an active array of wildlife.
Returning to collect the nine different brands of beer, four ciders and anything else we’d found, Inger invites us to stay for coffee. We get on to talking about my beer quest (how many different beers can I cram into a nine-country trip) and she asks if I’ve tried Schnapps. Not the sweet, mixer-style but the hard liquor that you shot like vodka or tequila. Before I could finish my sentence, and without hesitation, she stands and reaches for two bottles from her cupboard and pours a shot each of OP Anderson and Gammel Dansk, eagerly waiting for me to down them both. Not even five minutes later she leaves the kitchen and returns with some Wild Africa cream liquor – waiting for a special occasion to crack it open and seemingly our visit before Midsommar’s Eve is as good as any. The two of us don’t farewell Inger until closer to 10:00pm. Both of us left feeling somewhat inebriated. I left with rosy cheeks.
Day 22: midsommar’s eve
Worth a mention:
- Sweden sells caviar in a tube
- Bananas are SEK 21.90 / AUD$3.14 a kg
- MasterChef Australia season two is current daytime TV viewing – I told Kim I bet I could predict who wins
- I paid SEK 237 / AUD$33.93 to feel like a local
As if it were New Year’s Eve, people have been stocking their pantries, queuing at supermarkets and lining up for their alcohol in preparation for this night: Midsommar’s Eve. Aside from Christmas, this is the most celebrated holiday in Scandinavian culture in recognition of the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.
I’ll admit upfront, I was forewarned. It’s traditional to wear a headpiece made entirely from flowers and leafage and, when in Rome, I decided to fit in with the locals. However, the locals that don these floral halos are entirely female-skewed and fresh out of diapers; not even my ‘I’m a tourist’ card saved me and within half-an-hour I’d gifted my headpiece to Shilan – who wore it as a necklace as it was too large for her head. Moreover, I paid over AUD $30 for this experience.
I’m almost certain I’d never eaten any of the delights prepared for the Midsommar celebrations: herring done five different ways in five different sauces, a pasta and leaf salad combo, radishes and finely chopped red onion, boiled eggs halved with caviar atop (from a tube), boiled ‘Midsommar’ potatoes and sour cream with chives. Did I mention the copious amounts of alcohol I bought yesterday?
Late in the afternoon we stumbled to the nearby park and played a game that I can only describe as a cross between ten pin bowling and pétanque and involves nocking down an arrangement of wooden planks by throwing underarm a smaller wooden stick. That evening, the drinking ensued well in to the white, bright, day lit night.
Day 24: salami, the only meat Kim will eat
Worth a mention:
- 163kph – the top speed aboard our train between Malmö and Lund
Having spent the day before (a) recovering and (b) seeing the local sights of Lund, today Kim and I took a trip in to Malmö: Sweden’s third largest city. Known for its soccer team, of which a friend of Shilan’s was due to start playing for before a season ending injury during training while I was in town, as well as its architectural marvel in the Turning Torso. The tower is 190 metres tall, took five years to build and is comprised of 54 stories, all of these private residencies.
Nearby is Västra Hamnen. A beach-side apartment community, and by beach I mean pebbles upon which old women tan with reflective boards directed at their face, that looks out towards Øresund, the strait that separates the Danish island of Zealand from the southern Swedish province of Scania, and Øresund bridge, the longest road and rail bridge in Europe linking Sweden with Denmark. Whilst the concrete jungle of residencies isn’t striking, the incorporation of water canals throughout links the ocean to the suburban and provides great fodder for Kodak moments.
For a more normal Swedish outing, Kim and Shilan took me to the movies and saw Bad Teacher, screening in English with Swedish subtitles. Better than the sub-par comedy was going to Candy People beforehand; a massive ‘self-scoop’ confectionary store near the cinemas. Think of those popup lolly stores at the airports or shopping malls and then quadruple it – that’s how large this place was.
That night I faced the task of repacking my bags in readiness for London in the morning, and unsurprisingly it was the most challenging rearrangement of luggage contents of the trip yet. I won’t lie to you, the €40 worth of Marabou chocolate I bought to take home did not make packing any easier either.