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Published: April 28th 2014
I am curious about how May in Sweden will look…April brought few showers but so many flowers…what is to come?!
With a bit over a week off for Easter, I took advantage of some invitations to meet with two friends from my yoga teacher training program. Anh, who lives in Bonn, Germany, and Hannah, who lives in Amsterdam, Netherlands, each flew half way around the world to attend the training in San Francisco, last summer. It only seemed right that since we all were so close, we should spend time together, now.
I flew from Copenhagen to Bonn to stay with Anh and her husband. Germany is a few weeks ahead of Sweden in terms of spring’s arrival, so the trees were green and the lilacs out in full force. The tradition of hanging painted eggs on trees exists there, as well, but I did not spot any feathers.
We wandered the town of Bonn, stopping to take in the beautiful cherry tree lined street that is a travel destination. Though I was a week late to see the trees
in their full pink glory, I appreciated the natural beauty of the trees as I walked in the pink petals and enjoyed the street festivities.
Cologne, which is written Köln in German, is a neighboring city. We made our way over on the commuter train that links the cities to appreciate the famous cathedral and the city. During WWII, Cologne was flattened. Though the cathedral was spared, the town was decimated. They have since rebuilt the old town to imitate the buildings that stood before the war.
The cathedral is omnipresent. No matter where we were in the city, it seemed that when we turned the corner, the cathedral was visible. The height of the church could be oppressive, except the enormous arches and windows add some sense of lightness. I am astonished by the start date 1248. How could such a structure be built with the technology available at that time? While I “know” the answer to that, I remain impressed by human ingenuity and creativity.
Some surprises about my time in Germany included the train delays and
the average person’s spoken English ability. The stereotypes about Germans and Germany caused me to raise my eyebrows as train delays seemed to be announced each time we waited for a train. Anh shared that this is due to the old train tracks, the trains are modern, but the tracks are not. They are working on updating this, but the initial problem and the work to solve it leads to delays. I am not critiquing people’s ability to speak English, but I realized how spoiled I am in Scandinavia and how exemplary Scandinavian English is. This must come from necessity. 110 million German speakers allows for books to be translated, shows and movies to be dubbed, and business to be conducted in German. The story is quite different for the 9 million Swedes.
Anh and I took the quick train ride from Bonn to Amsterdam to see Hannah and take in the tulips! As we had both visited Amsterdam before, we were able to take the city on without any sense of frenzy or daunting to do lists. We enjoyed exploring our hip neighborhood, Pijp, using the tips of our AirBnB hosts. We
connected with Hannah, even taking her yoga class one evening! With her we also took a boat cruise on the canals, learning about the beautiful homes and newer buildings that line the numerous canals.
An unexpected highlight for me came from our visit and tour of the Rijksmuseum. This was closed on my last visit, it has been closed for the last 10 years, in fact. The tour enlightened us to the evolution of the museum and the reasons why the museum finally qualified for restoration to its original form. I had the great fortune of studying art history when I lived in Paris. This meant following a professor around the museums of Paris to discuss paintings in person instead of in dark rooms with slide reels. This tour sparked some part of me that has lain dormant. The discussion of the paintings, the history of the building, and interplay of it all with politics had me practically drooling. We soaked up the Vermeer paintings and the many Rembrandts, paying sufficient homage to “Nightwatch.” On another visit to Amsterdam I think I would enjoy visiting his house which has been preserved.
Keukenhof provided eye candy in the form of tulips, hyacinth, and daffodils. The experience reminded me a bit of being at Disneyland- every detail is intentional and you are not alone in wanting to appreciate the space…any space…I’m trying to say it was crowded. But, though we were not the only ones with the thought to take in the beauty of Keukenhof on a brilliantly sunny day over the Easter holidays, my appreciation of this manmade shrine to some of nature’s bounty was infringed upon too greatly.
Life moved a little faster in Amsterdam than Copenhagen or southern Sweden. Bikes abound, people pause for raw herring snacks at small stalls, and it is hard to walk for 5 minutes without running into a canal or bridge.
The days back in Sweden are long! The sun rises 5:30 and sets at 8:45; suddenly the blackout curtain in my bedroom makes sense! It is hard for me to believe how much more sun there will be before the solstice!
A few more long weekends remain before
school is out for summer! There is much in Sweden and Denmark to explore. All I can do is cross my fingers and hope the weather keeps smiling on us!
Wishing a happy and healthy spring to all.
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