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June 30th 2008
Published: July 11th 2008
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Hello Peter and Kif blog fans,

So we got off our nice little Titanic feeling ferry ride from Riga to Stockholm. Our goal of the day was Kif's hometown of Mariestad, Sweden. Now Mariestad, or M-stad, is roughly a 3 hr train ride from Stockholm. Nice and easy right? Not so much, we tried to get the direct tickets at Stockholm central to Mariestad. However, it was Friday, apparently a very popular day to get out of Stockholm. So our only option for a direct train was at 6pm. It was 8am when we were trying to get the tickets. So we decided to take the side route via Hallsberg to Mariestad. So we hopped on the Hallsberg train and got there fine. We hopped on our smallest train of the trip to get us to M-stad (it was one engine, that's it). Off we went.

Everything was going well till we stopped at a tiny, hole of a town called Sjögård, and waited. A 45 minute delay, great. So we hopped off the train to discover the town, consisting of 4 houses and a barn when Kif overheard a young lady talking to the conductor. "Ullis?....Ullis!" it was Kif's cousin! taking the same train to Mariestad! Kif was really excited to see his cousin who he hadn't seen in 4 years. So excited infact, we think that is when he lost his eurail ticket. So if any of you are betting who would lose their documents first, it was Kif. Oops. oh well, we were off to his home town!

Warmly greeted by his family and some friends, we finally arrived in Mariestad, 2 hours late. But off we went to Siv, kif's aunts house where we fed! Home cooking! Oh how we missed it. We got fed Kassler and salad and a lot of it too. Needless to sy we were very happy. We also got some elbow room to fully unpack and relax. Peter also got to meet Kif's 2nd cousins Felicia and Mathilda who were also staying at his aunts house. But we crashed for the night.

The next day Peter got a quick bicycle tour of town. We visited gamla stan of Mariestad which is 425 years old and Mariestads domkyrka and so forth. Peter was quiet impressed of this picturesque hometown of Kif's. After the quick city tour we were off to the Sommerstugan. This was Kif's grandma's sommer cabin which has been in the family for over 50 years! Peter was bombarded with family members to meet. He met Mormor (grandma), Mimmi, Ulla (aunts), Mathias, Marlene, Ullis (cousins), Jacob, Markus (2nd cousins), Anton and Stefan (uncle and cousins husband). Kif was kind enough to tell everyone that Peter studied swedish back in Canada and new swedish. Peter looked blankly as Kif's family spoke swedish to him. He did very well though, which impressed Kif a lot. After some lunch and coffee and cake we headed back to set up and get ready for the party. The reason for the party? Well Kif's sister Kristin married an Aussie this winter (Dave) and many swedes couldn't make the trip down to Australia for the wedding so this party was to celebrate the wedding (minus the groom, he had to work and was dearly missed in Mariestad). Plus this was an excuse to invite so many people that Kif's family hadn't seen in years. Peter was even more swamped with swedes. He got to meet many interesting and fun people. Some notables (but in no particular order) Kifs other cousin (Mikael), Filip, Sofia, Eric, Karin, Frederick, Christine, Gustaf and Kristin (friends our age), Bengt (a swedish tv-personality rivaling Mr. Rogers in Canada, but way cooler), and many others (there were over 50 of them). The best way for Peter to meet all these crazy swedes was to put him to work. So kif and Peter got to serve champagne to the guests and mingle as well.

The guests were randomly seated together and dinner was served. More free delicious food! Peter mingled very well and was a hit at the dinner and after dinner we were treated to some amazing blues music, complements of Frederick and his friend and when most guests had left. Gustaf, Kristin (not Kifs sis), and their dad delighted the remaining guests with their violin play. They have been raised playing the violins and are amazingly talented at it. Peter was quoted saying "I love Mariestad!" It's a great place, come visit!

We left the party after cleaning up in the wee hours of the night, which really could of been mistaken for 8 pm in the evening it was that bright! But we needed to get home to get some rest. Kif had arranged a babysitter for Peter since he needed to go off to a family reunion so Filip was going to play tourguide for Peter.

The next day, since Peter didn't really qualify as one of Kif's counsins, peter got an alternate plan. One of Kif's family friends named Filip was kind enough to drive Peter around some of the sites near Mariestad. They went to Varnhem first, which has a Romanesque Cathedral and the adjacent ruins of a monastery attached to it. After that, they drove through the dreaded Skövde to Ekornavallen. Ekornavallen is one of the only places in the world where there are graves of people from different time periods very close to each other. The tombs are spread out through a large field and span a time period of close to 1500 years. Skara and its beautiful cathedral was next. The cathedral was quite interesting because the nave was 64 metres long and the towers were 64 metres high, which is very rare in cathedral building. They drove out to the Läckö penninsula next to see Läckö Slot. The castle is located right next to the water and was built during the Thirty Years War between 1618 and 1648. The castle entrance was free, there was a free guided tour, and a free ice cream! It's hard to beat so many free things at once. After Läckö they drove to Husaby and Flyhov. There was a beautiful church in Husaby, as well as the remnants of a bishop's palace and the well where the first Christian king od Sweden was baptized. In nearby Flyhov there were drawings on some of the stones that were made during the Iron Age. Peter really enjoyed the drive around because he was able to see so many different and interesting things in a short time, and because he had an excellent guide.

In the mean time Kif went, with family in tow, to a family reunion (his mom's side) to Torsö. Torsö is a small island which is a 15 minute drive away from Mariestad. It has many summer cabins and small farms. Kifs grandma, mormor, has 4 brothers and their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren which were almost all there! There were 54/80 in total. Kif got fed more food and coffee and cake whilst mingling with his extended extended family. One of mormor's brothers had researched the history of the family and dated it back to the early 1700's! Kif got a new understanding of where he came from and was very happy to learn about his routes. After that he went home and met up with Peter.

That night was very quiet night back home at kifs aunt's house where we watched the Euro's final. The finals was a great match with Spain winning 1-0 over the Germans.

Next day, and the final full day in M-stad we actually got a guided tour of Göta Kanal and the surrounding areas around Mariestad. Göta Kanal is a canal system which links Värnen (swedens biggest lake) with Stockholm and the ocean. We also toured around the country side which was also picturesque and very nice. After that, Kif and his sister decided Peter had to try another Swedish tradition, mini-golf. So we went on a bit of a walking tour of M-stad, we tried some Mariestad ice cream, Kling glas! Peter also loved it. Our treck to the mini-golf course turned into an adventure since we lead Peter a different path which we thought was a short cut. Which turned out to be a path through a cow field and a bird sanctuary. Peter was questioning their path choice but we ended up at the course. Now the course is built to represent different landmarks around Mariestad, including the church which was carved out of a tree stump. Peter ended up schooling the hometown heroes by 7 and 17 strokes. Pfff, beginners luck, we celebrated with ice cream. Then we went back over to sommarstugan cause Peter had to try a very typical Turkish-turned-swedish-dish, Kebab pizza. It is delicious. So we kicked back and relaxed in sommar stugan devouring our last big free meal in Mariestad. Then it was time to say our good byes, both of us receiving giant mormor style hugs which only mormor can give. Another nice gesture that warmed our hearts.

Back at Siv's we repacked and got ready for the trip tomorrow, which would start at 5am! Whilst repacking Kif realized that his eurail pass had grown legs and magically disappeared! We have no idea where it went! Luckily Kif and Peter bought the insurance so hopefully Kif will get reimbursed back home in Vancouver!

Next morning we hopped on the train off to Oslo. The neighbours to the west. This shall be fun!


Things we learned in Mariestad:
-Kling ice cream is fantastic
-Peter is a mini-golfing machine
-M-stad is a great place!
-Mormor gives the best hugs
-Kebab pizza..mmmmmmm.....

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