First day before the games begin...
We flew into Copenhagen early Sunday afternoon and immediately got passage for a 30-minute train ride across the Oresund into Sweden. This is a narrow strait of water connecting the North Sea to the Baltic. When we arrived in Lund we settled into our hotel and grabbed a quick lunch from a corner stand before meeting up with the rest of the class for a quick overview of the upcoming week.
That evening the Swedish students and faculty had put together food and drink so we could meet and get to know one another before the official start of the week. For those of you who didn’t know, the main reason for this trip is a course Amy is taking this last semester of nursing school to study the Swedish healthcare system. The week long coursework while we were in Sweden consisted of lectures and tours of various facilities such as a hospital, teen center, labor and delivery ward, patient hotel and emergency department among others.
The first night though, after conversation, eating and drinking, we got down to the real business at hand—learning the Swedish games Kubb and Brannboll. I, Chris, would like to state
Lynn, Amy, Chris
at the beginning of this that I was on the losing team for both games but only because of pure luck in the case of Kubb and because the scorekeeper couldn’t count in Brannboll. Also, I’m not a sore loser. Amy would like everyone to know that she is an absolute natural at Kubb and Chris, through lack of judgment nearly killed himself running the bases during Brannboll. If anyone needed to be told we were on opposing teams. However it all played out, in the end it seemed as if everyone had a great time and it was a nice introduction for the week ahead.
Now we’ll give you a quick summary of a few facets of the Swedish system that were particularly interesting to us as well as a few opinions not necessarily shared by all. Feel free to skip ahead to the +++ symbols if you have no interest in these observations.
Sweden has a comprehensive socialized healthcare system. Every Swedish citizen is guaranteed lifelong healthcare from the moment they are born. The maternity leave for parents is set up so that they have twelve months of leave at 80%!s(MISSING)alary up to
(Lucky)Winners of Kubb
a set maximum per month. They may split the time up in any manner they wish with one requirement being the father must take at least one of the twelve months. About 90% of babies are birthed with midwives as the primary responsible caregiver. Midwives in Sweden are all registered nurses with an additional two years of education, 50 hours of assistance to women during labor and active assistance on 50 deliveries for certification (MIDIRS Midwifery Digest Dec. 1999 9:4). While the US has a cesarean rate around 50%, Sweden stresses the use of c-section only in absolutely critical situations. The rooms we saw on a labor and delivery floor were set up for the mother’s and father’s comfort, and the birthing women are encouraged to deliver the baby in whatever position they are most comfortable in. ***Graphic detail to follow*** This means that if the women wants to get down and crawl on all fours to give birth, they do just that. In each of the facilities we toured and Swedish buildings in general, there is a real focus on design, color and art. The atmosphere does not have the sterile, clinical feel that we were accustomed to and
the not-Winners of Kubb
being surrounded by beauty gave a more calming and inviting environment to these medical facilities.
They have a liberal sex education and when we went to the teen center it was interesting to hear the philosophy and practical application of policy. Sexual activity is seen as a natural, healthy part of life and young people are encouraged to be responsible on many fronts. Open communication with parents, an understanding that sex should take place in loving, long-term relationships and not under pressure from peer groups or a boyfriend/girlfriend, availability of birth control and STD prevention, and lack of stigma regarding the discussion of these topics are only a few of the more salient points. These services are available to the teens and young people (up to early 20’s) anonymously and one of the generalizations that some of the lecturers made and became apparent in our observations was the practicality of the Swedish people and system. When you look at the statistics the success of this policy is evident. The U.S. has a teen pregnancy rate that is four times greater than Sweden’s. Here is a fascinating link to the Guttmacher Institute that includes and expands on some of these statistics
Lilly and Nichole during a break in lecture
It’s probably evident from this brief introduction how we felt about the healthcare in Sweden and we could continue on about end of life care, drug costs, etc. but it would probably be a bit more interesting to other travelers if we just left it at this and got on with the actual travel narrative.
+++The city of Lund is more than 1000 years old. Until 1658 it, along with most of the Skane (southern region in Sweden), was a part of Denmark. One of the major landmarks there, the Lund Cathedral, was consecrated in 1145. On our first day after lecture we visited this impressive structure. Within the church is a functioning astronomical clock, which, in addition to marking the hour of the day also tracks the phases of the moon and where the sun will set. There is a board in place that is a calendar and can be used to determine upon which day a specific date will fall and for the calculation of altering religious holidays. The board is interchangeable and the one in place is accurate for the years 1923 through 2123, at which time it will need t be
Amy and Chris during a break in lecture
changed. The entire architecture of the church is impressive on the inside and out and it is still in use for services as well as the conferment of doctoral degrees. When you enter the church to the right of the altar is a stairway leading down into the crypts. Here the bishops of the past are interred and you are able to walk up to the stone pillars and tombs to feel the worn cool rock. Carved into three pillars are the mythical giant Finn, his wife and child. Legend has it that long ago a family of giants lived in the hills near Lund. A missionary by the name of Laurentius had come in search of a site to build a temple to Christ. The giants, upon hearing this, became apprehensive and so one day as Laurentius was preparing plans for his temple, the giant Finn came to him with an offer. His deal was such that Finn would build the church for Laurentius who must, at constructions end, have discovered Finn’s name. If Laurentius could not do this then Finn wanted the moon and sun for his child as payment. The missionary could not pay such a high
Ermalynn, Marie Fernbrant, and another Swedish professor whom I can't remember her name
price and offered instead his eyes to the giant as payment. The giant accepted this and began to build the church. According to the laws of the giants the name of a giant is closely guarded from man for with a giant’s name a man must be forgiven any debts incurred to the giant, and the giant will die. On the next to the last day of construction Laurentius was despairing that he had not discovered the name of the giant. As he was contemplating his fate he heard from the hills a child crying and a mother comforting the child with the words, “Quiet child, for at dawn your father Finn shall return to us with the missionary Laurentius’ eyes”. With great happiness Laurentius rushed to the temple and called out Finn’s name. In a rage Finn rushed to the pillars and was joined by his wife and child. Before they could tear down the temple the first ray of dawn entered the temple and struck them all, turning the giants to stone. The actual figures are worn with age and many of the crypts are nearly indiscernible from centuries of activity. It was an awesome experience, even more
Emergency Dept. tour
so because of the signs of great age and history and the fact that is still in use today.
We had been hoping to catch an English tour of the Cathedral but the tourist season does not pick up until June and there were no guided tours while we were there. After our self-guided tour, Amy, our friend Lilly and myself decided to take a train north to the city of Malmo for the day. A group of U.S. and Swedish students had already left while we were at the cathedral, and we thought it might be possible to meet up with them.
On the train ride to Malmo there were hordes of students all chanting and singing songs we couldn’t understand. It wasn’t until we reached Malmo and asked someone that we found out there was a big football (soccer) game that day between Malmo and Helsingborg. The Helsingborg supporters had arrived with gusto, wearing team scarves and chanting cadence like cheers as they disembarked and marched toward the stadium. As Americans it brought to mind the Quidditch match scenes from Harry Potter, sans flying brooms, robes and wizardry. It was a real spectacle and we had
never experienced anything quite like it in the States. As the rival fans began to arrive and grow in numbers, they would coalesce into parades of hundreds and march their way to the first pub along the route. There they would all stop and drink until, en masse, they would continue on to the next pub. It was incredible as you could hear the impromptu parades long before you saw them. The Malmo police were following close behind to prevent any hooliganism from fans of either side. Police with dogs, in vans and on horseback were all present and impressive in and of themselves. We actually got a video of part of the march and quite a few film photographs that we unfortunately can’t post here. The digital photos will have to do.
Along with the surprise football game, Malmo itself is a beautiful coastal city along the Baltic Sea. As happened on many of our days we got started so late in the afternoon that most of the museums and “sights” had closed for the day or were near closing so we weren’t able to see as much as we would have liked. It wasn’t quite tourist season
and we were in lecture until usually 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There was still plenty to see and do simply by walking the streets and stumbling upon old churches, beautiful architecture and squares, gorgeous parks (Malmo is nicknamed The City of Parks) and waterways and the always interesting people watching. We actually did run into the group of students who had arrived earlier in the day, but Amy, Lilly and I were still trying to see a building built along the coast that twists 90 degrees from its base to roof.
Since we had arrived in Sweden the weather had been unseasonably warm with daytime temperatures in the upper 60’s F (around 20 C). While the daylight hours weren’t as long as they had been in Iceland, they were much longer than we were accustomed to back home. Still as the sun got lower and the wind came whipping in from the Baltic towards the west, the nights were chilly. That evening in Malmo we walked within viewing distance of the building and then turned and headed back toward the train station. Along the way we stopped for some Thai food and it was an exceptional dinner.
A combination of the company, good food and conversation, and getting warmed up made the trip to Malmo a worthwhile one. On the train ride back we happened to get quite a few of the returning Lund students in our car. There were fans from both teams onboard and we thought Helsingborg must have won, as the Malmo fans seemed very quiet and sulky while the Helsingborg fans were rather exuberant and still singing away. At one point the drunken rowdy fans came close to blows but quickly made up and disembarked in Lund with no incident. The next morning while watching Swedish news we discovered that Malmo had won the match. Go figure.
The next two days after lecture we spent walking the cobblestone streets of Lund, looking in local shops, admiring the old architecture and still engaging in the always-entertaining people watching. It was amazing in each of the cities we were in to see the number of people who did not own cars (and the ones who did used them infrequently) and so walk, use public transportation or ride bicycles to get around. We mentioned this briefly in the Iceland entry but it was such an
Back of the cathedral that Finn built
ever present part of the culture it needs a little more expansion. Most of the people own more than one bicycle. They may have one at home if they take the train into the city for work where they keep another bicycle at the station for riding to work and around Lund. Rather than vast expanses of paved lots and parking garages there are fractionally smaller areas that have hundreds of stands for bicycles to park. I’m sure this is one of the reasons we did not see near the number of overweight or obese people as in the U.S. Accustomed to the insanity of traffic in the states we would stop at a pedestrian crosswalk and be surprised when cars would actually stop and wait patiently for us to cross. I’ve been nearly hit and flipped off numerous times in Orlando, and they were all when I had a Walk signal and right of way! On many of the major roads the right of way was controlled by signal but on most of the streets it was rare to see a moving vehicle, only pedestrians and bicyclists. The sidewalks along the major roads within the city are composed of
two parts, a section of smooth paved area for bicycles and a bit rougher area of cobblestone for pedestrians. A few times while we were walking with friends we would forget we were supposed to walk on the cobblestones and would be so engrossed in conversation would create some serious problems for the cyclists. Luckily we caught on quick enough and eventually there was always at least one person who would remind the rest not to walk in the bike lanes.
Nearly all of our time in Sweden was similar to Iceland in so much as we got home late and woke up early to fit as much as possible into a limited amount of time. For the most part everyone had certain groups they formed when class wasn’t in session but we had quite a few opportunities to get to know other students. Walking the city we ran into group members nearly every day. We would have a meal or drink, sometimes explore parts of the city together and we came away with a real sense of pleasure at getting to know the other travelers. Everyone reacted differently to the different portions of the trip, and it was
very helpful and interesting being able to hear so many diverse opinions and reactions to the variety of experiences we were all having.
On Thursday we made our way to the Botanical Gardens. We walked through the University grounds as the students were setting up for Lund Carnival. It was disappointing that we would be leaving before Lund Carnival was underway as it takes place only every four years and entails everything from a parade of floats to circus acts and burlesque shows. Hundreds of thousands arrive for the three days of celebration and it was a shame that we couldn’t stay for it.
Reaching the Botanical Gardens it was set up somewhat like an American park with a few differences. There were outdoor areas of cultivated and identified gardens along with a large group of beautiful greenhouses. We got there after the greenhouses had closed but were able to walk around the outdoor “exhibits” and common areas and peer in through the glass of the greenhouses. There were fields of blooming flowers and trees and college students gathered throughout the park. We came upon a huge cluster of various groups of students who were playing football, tug
of war, and best of all, Kubb and Brannboll! It was surprising to us that people would go out and randomly play the games we had been shown. We could equate it to teaching someone Red Rover. It’s a game many Americans know but you aren’t going to find random groups of people out playing it on a spring day. If you’re thinking along the lines of baseball or American football, it is usually only played within intramural or community leagues and rarely by random groups of college students and adults just looking to enjoy the weather. Anyhow, we left the Gardens and spent the rest of the night exploring Lund and looking for a place to eat.
Friday was the last official day of class and we were being treated that night to a traditional Swedish dinner. If you want to know what a traditional Swedish dinner might be, this is it: meatballs with some sort of sauce, potatoes, a berry dish, cucumbers, and some sort of vanilla-y puddingish thing for an apple cobbler type deal. All of this is an official description of the dishes served. . Chris started coming down with the cold virus that had
been spreading through the class, but that night after the marvelous dinner a group of students were all meeting at the &bar to go out and we had plenty of time to be miserable when we returned home (think about that one for awhile). Lilly had forgotten her key to the hostel in her room and was desperate to change into more comfortable shoes for the night. We took a bus to the train station and Amy and I walked with her to the hostel in the hope that her roommate would be in so Lilly could get her key. We had no such luck and thought maybe Nichole and Sonny who were staying at the same hostel as Lilly, might be at the &bar with the rest of the group. The thinking was that Lilly could use their key to get into the hostel and that, since it would be later in the night, her roommate was bound to be in by then. Of course, the group, excepting Sonny and Nichole were all there, so we sat down for a drink and after about an hour Sonny and Nichole arrived. They had been walking around for over an hour
More Malmo Po-Po
trying to find the bar. It was difficult to see because the ampersand had burned out so the only part you could see was ‘bar’. Everyone stuck around to talk and try and figure out exactly what the plan for the night was going to be. By the end, most everyone called it quits for the night, a few people wanted to go out to another club and we decided to go back to the hostel with Lilly and try and figure out a way in.
Now, the hostel is a converted set of train cars that sits on a disconnected portion of rail. There are cars containing the common areas, cars that are set up with bathrooms and showers, and then the last three cars are the sleeping cars. Each sleeping car had multiple rooms with three bunks apiece and it was a tight fit. Still, when we looked at it one night it was cheap, clean, had a great location and was interesting. Lilly had said she left a window open and Chris figured we could boost her through the window if all else failed. Hopefully we would pick the right window and she wouldn’t get stuck.
When we got to the hostel it was late, so there wasn’t anyone in the common areas to let us in and we were thinking it was a slim chance that anyone would be coming along that late who could let us in. While we stood up at the entrance to catch anyone’s attention who might be getting in late, Lilly took off her shoes and started walking along the train to try and find someone who was up and could let her in. It was then that we saw exactly how difficult this was going to be. The tracks, much like those in the states, sat up on a small hill/incline and the cars themselves were old and high off the ground, even if it had been flat ground they sat on. We were all in good spirits despite the entire snafu, and luckily, before we had the opportunity to try Chris’ brilliant B&E plan, someone came along who let us into the hostel. Lilly’s roommate was in and not long after that Nichole and Sonny got in for the night. It turned out the club hadn’t been open so they just called it a night and we talked
awhile before heading out to walk back to the hotel. It was interesting that being in Sweden and an entirely different frame of mind we had such a different reaction to the entire episode than we would have back home. If we had been facing a twenty minute walk to get home late at night, and had forgotten our keys somewhere we would not have been nearly as amused as we all were in Lund. It was just a part of the entire experience and we were laughing about it even while we were living through it.
On Saturday, our final full day in Sweden, our Swedish hosts took anyone who was interested on a driving tour of the Southeastern portion of the Skane. Sweden is divided into regions, provinces, counties, and multiple other distinctions. Some of these have an official recognized purpose and some are merely regional persuasions that have carried over from the historical past and have no real modern day governing purpose or recognition, simply a strong tie to the people’s hearts. The Skane is the breadbasket of Sweden. We were told it is extraordinarily different from the vast tracts of forest in the north
where the population is sparse and the land extends into the Arctic Circle. Our drive to the coast was typically beautiful. Picturesque villages, apple orchards, rolling countryside and flowers in bloom were standard, though the warm weather had gone and it never got above 60 F during the day. Our first stop was in the coastal village of Kaseberga where the Ales Stenar (Ale Stones) are found. We were told a bit facetiously that this was Sweden’s answer to Stonehenge but it is similar in the sense that no one is certain of the Ale Stones significance. There are 59 stones arranged in the diagram of a ship on the hilltop overlooking the Baltic. Each stone weighs from 1100 to 3900 pounds (500 to 1800 kilos) and from the Baltic the hill raises steeply from the beach. On the backside of the hill it’s an easy enough climb if you aren’t trying to carry a rock that weighs anywhere from a half to two tons up with you. There are different theories for the stones significance from the idea it might be a burial marker for a ship lost at sea to a calendar device of some sort as the
sun rises and sets at opposing points during midsummer and midwinter. After everyone started filtering down from the hilltop we ate a lunch our hosts had prepared for the group and then we all got in our respective vehicles and took off for Applets hus i Kiviks (House of Apples in Kiviks). Apples are a huge cash crop in that area of Sweden and the House of Apples has a great selection of juices, alcoholic beverages and cider. We weren’t there long as the best time to visit is in September when the Apple Festival takes place. Still, it was nice to see and the host who’s car we were in had grown up in a small fishing village in the area and was providing us with some really interesting commentary. Our last stop was a small town where they are taking part in the reintroduction of the White Stork and a farm where the world-renowned Swedish Warmblood horse is bred. On most of the buildings there were huge nests perched and we were able to watch several storks preening themselves as we walked around the Warmblood farm.
We arrived back at the hotel in late afternoon and
went out one last night to walk around Lund and look for a place to eat dinner. We packed most of our gear up that night and were up early to gather our stuff and catch the bus to the train station where we were meeting Lilly, Nichole and Sonny for the train ride to Copenhagen.
Sorry these posting are taking so long but we’re suffering from some serious blog lag. Denmark will be coming up…
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