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Published: December 10th 2013
It happened! The turn from a mild winter into the one I imagined Sweden to have arrived. We had a “category 3” storm last week, complete with 44 mph winds and hail. It was exciting! Now the cobblestoned streets are bit treacherous and the Christmas decorations around town need to tended to, but there seems to be no lasting damage. It does mean, though, that my bike rides to work are a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future.
The holiday lights do in fact cut through the increasing darkness, as I was promised. Christmas decorations and markets have sprung up around town. Lights like candles and illuminated stars seem to be the most popular for homes. The town has some chandelier sort of lights hanging overhead on the pedestrian streets. The most familiar decoration is the substantial tree now graces the town square.
Our staffroom at school is now full of saffron rolls, gingersnaps, and spice cakes. I even gave the local Julmust a go. I understood that Sweden is the only country in the world where Coke consumption goes down at Christmas,
and Julmust is the reason! It is a local soda that has a Christmas label, and if I may say so, a medicinal scent. A colleague told me that I will see this same drink with a new label at Easter. I look forward to the other traditions that will surely come to my attention in these next weeks.
This week at school I can look forward to the Lucia Day parade. From what I know, the girls wear white dresses and carry a candle or a wreath on their heads with candles. I think the boys may also wear white, but I have also seen some gingerbread men costumes… We’ll see, but I think there will be a parade through our upper school of the younger students processing and singing for St. Lucia. I am very excited!
As the 10th
approached, my school, like many in Sweden, celebrated Nobel Day the Friday before. Though I knew about the prize in general, the day was educational and wonderful fun. I learned about the history of Alfred Nobel and the awards, marveled at how thoughtful the students were in nominating their peers and
teachers for International Baccalaureate Learner Profile Awards, and then continued to be impressed by the students as they dressed in their finest for a formal lunch. With the boys in suits and the girls formal dresses, we enjoyed a lunch of salmon, like the dinner served to the Nobel Laureates. The music teacher played the piano through lunch and parent volunteers served the kids completing the formal air. I could not help but relish the day and the traditions in place at the school.
Beyond enjoying my students and colleagues, I’ve also taken advantage of my location in the world with some weekend jaunts. A friend from work has had visitors in from Vienna twice already this year. Each time I have been fed incredible homemade Austrian delights. YUM!
This last visit also inspired us to take a trip to Copenhagen one evening to enjoy the ballet. The ballet was performed in the beautiful old opera house. We left our coats on pegs, no formal coat rooms, and then watched a lovely ballet. There was definitely a difference between attending the ballet in Copenhagen than in New York
City, though I am not sure I could put my finger on it. Perhaps it was just a less formal feeling?
Beyond the ballet, a day trip to the Danish island Bornholm seemed to be a worthwhile adventure! Though it was definitely off-season for such a visit, we couldn’t get enough of the island! I can only imagine it in the summer. We flew from Copenhagen on a little propeller plane and rented a car to circumnavigate the island while taking in its small towns and sites. We took a very speedy ferry back to Sweden and are all plotting when and how to return to enjoy the island in warmer weather.
It only seemed right to return the favor of a visit, so we set off for Vienna! It has been many years since I was last in Vienna, and with local tour guides, it was definitely like seeing a new city. We took in the Christmas markets, ate plenty of delicious food, sampled the hot Christmas punches at various stands around town, and generally enjoyed the city! Hopefully a future visit will allow for more time to see
an opera and visit a museum or two. But, I feel like this time I was given a proper tour complete with history lessons and insider tips!
Taking advantage of the local goodies, I braved the icy streets over the weekend for a taste of glögg- a mulled wine. It was unlike the tasty warm punch we drank in Vienna in that it was less sweet. We were served the wine with almonds and raisins to put into the cup. Traditionally, there is also a plate of gingerbread cookies and blue cheese that accompanies the glögg. Admittedly, the combination of ginger cookie and blue cheese seemed a bit outrageous, but it was delicious!!
Life is as hectic here as it is at home before the holidays! I'm squeezing in another weekend trip and then will wait anxiously for my family to arrive!
Hoping, as always, that this finds everyone in good spirits and health!
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