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Archive for June, 2008

The Big Trip: Malmo

We took one final overnight train from Stockholm to Malmo, Sweden. We could have just stayed on the train for a half hour longer and arrived in Copenhagen (our next major stop) but we really couldn’t leave Sweden without stepping foot in the hometown of our great greats. We arrived in Malmo at around 6:30 in the morning. So really really early. Our decided upon objective was to walk around and see what we could of the city. My unspoken objective was find any trace of our ancestors. Thanks to sturdy feet and an active imagination, I was able to achieve both objectives.

Since it was so early in the morning, the only thing we really could do for the first few hours was to walk–everywhere. We walked through Gamla Staden which is the old town of Malmo.

Lilla Torg

Kara is standing in Lilla Torg square which is at the center of Malmo’s charming old town. It was in this square that my relatives most likely strolled and shopped and proposed marriage in. It is also in this square that Kara and I were mistaken for actual Swedes. We hated having to speak English and ruin the moment, but it was pleasing to not be automatically labeled as Americans.

We then went for a huge long walk through a beautiful park downtown. This park was vast and green and really pleasant to walk through.

Row of trees

I love rows of trees.

I bet they were planted by my great great great something or other.

Speaking of my ancestors, I am pretty sure this is one of them.

Ancestor?

Resemblance?

Am I taking this ancestor thing too far? Yeah, I don’t think so either. So anyway, we also walked through a graveyard. Because, graveyards are interesting. They are also places where dead people are buried. Dead people are more often then not very, very old. You see where I am going with this?
Malmo gravestone

It could have been a relative–you never know. Kara and I did think this grave was beautiful either way.

We then found our way to this castle but were, sadly, too early for a tour. So, all we know about this place is that they call it a castle.

Malmo castle

We walked and we walked and finally we walked for long enough that stores started to open. This got us very excited. Stores opening meant we could go in and order one of these.

Malmo Cinnamon Roll

Oh the cinnamon roll. Did you know they are thought to have been invented in Sweden? We had several of these while in the country–from the good to the very very good. Our Malmo cinnamon roll was my favorite of all. By now this should not surprise you–I mean really, chances are very good one of my unknown Swedish cousins made it.

Before we left town Kara and I spent a good hour in a great arts and craft boutique that sold beautiful handicrafts from Malmo artists. We each ended up buying a pretty tea cup to remind us of our morning in Malmo. Afterward we couldn’t pass up lunch at this fine establishment:

Malmo steakhouse

“Probably the best steakhouse in town…”

You know, it probably was. Sadly I wasn’t able to stay long enough to find out for sure. We left Malmo roughly 6 hours after we arrived. I know we can’t say we really saw all Malmo has to offer but I am glad we stopped all the same. Honestly, somewhere out there I hope my great great grandfather knows Kara and I were there, in his hometown, playing homage to the heritage he gave us. At the very least, I think my grandpa will be happy we did.

feet in Malmo

This is for you grandpa.

Next up: Copenhagen

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The Big Trip: Stockholm

Ah. Sweden. For those that don’t know, I am descended from strong Swedish stock. Sure, I have some other nationalities rolling through my veins but due primarily to my very Swedish last name, I have always associated my heritage mostly as Swedish. So from the first minute our train passed the Swedish border it started to feel like home.

Kara and I were admittedly kind of excited to leave behind the cold and hungry times we had in Norway. The forecast was looking up and we were excited to explore a new city. Stockholm. Oh Stockholm. First off, it is beautiful. I love the water and so a city made up of many little islands is particularly exciting for me.

Stockholm view

Street view of Stockholm

If you go to Stockholm, I guarantee you will spend a lot of time in the city’s old town: Gamla Stan. You want to see why?

Gamla Stan

The old town area feels like a step back in history. It is clean and charming and full of beautiful buildings and interesting street corners.

Gamla Stan Street Corner

In this picture you can see how colorful the buildings are:

Gamla Stan buildings

We loved Gamla Stan. It is it’s own little island located in the center of the city. You can walk to it from several bridges connecting the other islands making up Stockholm. Aside from all the picturesque views, Gamla Stan also houses the royal palace. We tried to tour the palace but when we were there the main area was closed to visitors so we just watched the changing of the guards instead. (You can see our little homemade video here.)

A few things you can gather from this video: 1. My blood sugar must have been very low considering the violent shaking of my hands. 2. We are very patriotic. and 3. My hair. I know–it is wild and I look like a orphan living in the time of Annie. I just wanted you to know that I know that you know. Okay, moving on.

Kara and I stayed in hostels while in Scandinavia. I only mention this because while in Stockholm we heard about a boat hostel. So we thought, we are here one night, why not give it a go?

Kara outside of our boat hostel

Kara proudly posed outside of our tiny home for the night. Our room was on the bottom floor of the boat and gave us a tiny view out to the street.

Looking outside

It was a nice novelty to sleep on the ocean in a room smaller than my closet but in the end I really preferred this view:

Gamla Stan at night

Gamla Stan at dusk.

We did do more than hang out around old town. Although would you blame us if we didn’t? One of the things we did was eat. Oh, we ate in Sweden. Kara was determined the whole trip to eat a hot dog from a street vendor and finally we found our first one in Stockholm. It is safe to say that Chorizo dog was the single most blissful hot dog I have ever tasted in my life. We had two more the next day.

Soooo good.

Soooo. good.

We went to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is this really enormous ship that sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the ship was recovered from the ocean. Due to the unique quality of the water in the area, the ship survived without too much deterioration.

Vasa Ship

I would for sure recommend going to see this ship if you go to Stockholm. What I thought was most interesting was the detail of all the carvings on the ship. It is amazing how much artistry went into a military ship of the time.

Vasa close up

The other interesting fact is that when the ship sailed, it would have been painted in crazy colorful hues. Seriously, our guide told us that every inch would have been painted. Here are some examples:

Vasa in color

Can you imagine? Anyway, interesting stuff.

One of the complications of our visit was that the ferries and many boats were on strike. We managed to find one boat that was running and thus went on the only trip we could. We visited one of the islands in the archipelago.

Us on a ferry

Us on the boat.

We spent 2 hours on Fjaderholmarna which is a very small island that houses a few shops, artist’s workshops, and some places to eat food–but no hot dog stands, we looked. It is a very short walk around the island but it is a beautiful one.

View from the island

I never quite got comfortable on this island due to the wild birds that made it clear they didn’t like me once I started taking pictures of them. I don’t like wild birds very much. Kara was much braver than I:

brave kara

No way would I ever get close to that hole in the tree. Super creepy.

Our last few hours in Stockholm were spent looking for a souvenir. Now, I am not a big cheesy touristy souvenir person. But I had in my head that I wanted a great jacket that said Sweden on it (or something). You know, because I am SO Swedish. We went into pretty much every shop we could find but sadly, I could find nothing that I could bring myself to purchase. There is really no point to me telling you this except to warn you that the souvenir situation is dire. Stockholm can’t be perfect I guess…but it is pretty close.

Next time: A morning spent in our ancestor’s hometown.

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Mosaic Fun

So I know, I have been writing a lot about my trip. Something you might not know about me is when I am telling a story, I have a hard time cutting it short. I love details. They add background and depth to a story. This blog serves many purposes and one of them is for me to record my memories and stories. So I am going to record the only way I know how and the way I will most enjoy reading later. Most likely I have about 5 more posts to fully cover the trip. So for those who are wondering where the knitting has gone, don’t worry, it will be back.

This morning I finally caught up on all my blog reading. I had something like 1000 unread blog posts when I got back from my vacation and I didn’t want to miss out on anything so I just read when I could. In the last couple weeks I have seen a lot of these fun “answer questions and create a mosaic” mosaics. This morning I got a yen to do my own. So here goes:

How to make a mosaic:

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The Questions (and my answers):
1. What is your first name? Erin
2. What is your favorite food? Peanut Butter
3. What high school did you go to? Punahou
4. What is your favorite color? Green
5. Who is your celebrity crush? Eric Bana
6. Favorite drink? Chocolate Milk
7. Dream vacation? Egypt
8. Favorite dessert? Ice Cream
9. What you want to be when you grow up? Mom
10. What do you love most in life? Family
11. One Word to describe you. Dreamer
12. Your flickr name. girlwhoknits

Photo Credits:

1. Erin tells a secret, 2. Peanut butter on a spoon, 3. Punahou Carnival, 4. Green apple, 5. Eric Bana, 6. Chocolate Milk, HiLo Milk, 7. (0395) Giza Plateau Egypt, 8. Chocolate Ice Cream, 9. karate kid meets flying mom – _MG_3046.JPG, 10. The Calvo Family – Holidays, 11. day. dreamer., 12. Young_Knitter_Asleep

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The Big Trip: Bergen

This will be a short post which is appropriate considering the short time we spent in Bergen. We arrived in Bergen around 8pm after a long day touring Norway’s fjords. We were leaving Bergen three hours later on a night train back to Oslo. So three hours is all we had to enjoy beautiful Bergen. For the record, Kara and I would both agree that 3 hours was not enough. We could have easily spent a couple days there. But when you are on a time schedule, sometimes you just have to make do.

The best word I can use to describe Bergen is charming. Everything about it oozed charm. We spent all of the night walking around the city and hoping to find a cheap and yummy hot dog stand in the road. We we very hungry but kept getting distracted by buildings:

and statues:

gazebos:

and mountain views:

My hands down favorite place to hang out in Bergen was the harbor. This is a waterfront area with a really active social scene. Lots of restaurants, people strolling, and activity was going on. I liked its energy. Oh, and it is beautiful:

We never did get our hot dog (that came later in the trip and it was SO worth the wait.) Someday I will come back to Bergen and when I do I will give it the time and attention it deserves. But for this trip, I was glad at the very least I got to spend this time there. Don’t you worry Bergen, I will be back. (preferably when you are warm and sunny)

Next: We arrive in the homeland.

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When we first talked about our itinerary in Norway, Kara mentioned that we needed to see the fjords. I quickly agreed, probably saying something like “of course”. I think we may have talked about it a couple of times before I finally fessed up and admitted that I didn’t know what a fjord is. Wikipedia defines a fjord as “a long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.”

But even after that explanation, I am not sure I fully understood what a fjord is until I saw this:

But let’s back up shall we? Our day began at 8:11am when our train from Oslo departed on it’s way to Myrdal. Then at Myrdal we switched to a different, more scenic train to take us to Flam.

Kara with the train.

Sometimes I am very artistic.

Flam (or at least what we saw of Flam) is a beautiful outpost catering to fjord sightseers. From there you buy tickets to go on various boat cruises and you maybe shop the thousands of souvenirs. We had about 50 minutes before our boat cruise began so we ended up looking at a lot of Norwegian sweaters and hats. When we grew tired of browsing those, we went outside and took some pictures with the trolls.

I have this picture of me at Epcot Center years ago, crouching down next to a troll–when we saw these guys it dawned on me, I have been to Norway before. Granted, it was Disney’s version of Norway but still. I even now remember that there is a fjord ride there. So I am not as unaware as I thought–just forgetful.

While we were in Flam, it began to rain. We were a little worried this would disturb our boat cruise but turns out, nothing really could. We boarded the boat to Gudvangen and pretty much the whole time we are seeing views like this:

And this:

Can you imagine living right there? Amazing.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Kara:

There were a bunch of other people on the boat but the weather made it so many people stayed inside a lot of the cruise. This enabled the more hard core of us to not be as crowded when looking at the views.

There was however, this one couple. It didn’t matter how hard it was raining or how many people surrounded them, they would not leave their post by the flag pole. Seriously, they never left. Nor would they really talk to each other. Or express emotion of any kind. We know, we watched them. Normally I wouldn’t care but I really did want them to move. Finally, after about an hour and a half at their post, they inexplicably moved. I seized the moment and finally got the picture I had been wanting:

A very patriotic fjord.

We loved the fjords. Kara even made up a new adjective: fjord-y. Honestly, we could have spent all day on that boat were it not for the cold. I feel in the interest of full disclosure we should show you what we really looked like while on the boat. First Kara:

And me:

In case you knitters can’t tell, I am rockin’ my gauntlets on this trip.

So yes, we were cold, but honestly I don’t remember this day as being miserable. There was no way it could have been. Besides, the weather just gave me an excuse to buy my favorite Norway souvenir:

Awww, yeah! Norway socks.

After the cruise we took a bus from Gudvangen to Voss. From Voss we boarded a train to Bergen. This whole series of trips we went on is what people refer to as “Norway in a Nutshell”. Trust me, this is something you really don’t want to miss. (I was going to say something like, “this is a nut you are going to want to crack” or something cheesy like that but it was too hard to pretend to say it seriously.  But really, go see the fjords.  Trust me.)

Next up: Bergen

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Dad.

Kara, Dad, and Me in Hong Kong

“Remember who you are”

That is what my Dad would always say to us when we left the house.  I am not sure I always had a specific answer for “who” I was but I knew I was meant to watch myself–to always honor my family and to hold tight to my personal integrity.  Years later I still hear his voice when I leave for my day. Because of him and my strong mother at his side, I now very clearly know who I am.

I love my Dad.

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The Big Trip: Oslo

After 5 blissful days in England, Kara and I packed our bags and excitedly set out for Norway. This was uncharted territory for both of us and we were excited to begin the Scandinavia leg of the trip. We flew into Oslo and took the train from the airport into the city center. We were in Oslo a total of 1 and a half days–although that time was interrupted by a 24 hour fjord trip in the middle (which I will cover in the next post.)

So Oslo. Oh Oslo. I am not going to lie, we had a rough go of it in Oslo. First off, it was cold. I should say that we expected Scandinavia to be a little chilly. We were prepared for 50-60 degree weather but that is not quite what welcomed us when we stepped off the plane. I started to get nervous about the light layers I packed, especially considering that when you are on a trip like this, you spend most of your time outdoors. That first day was cold–around 40 degrees. And then you add to that the second issue we had with Oslo. Hunger.

We soon learned that food was expensive here–especially considering the weak US dollar. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money on average food and so we bought groceries and instead we lived off of bread, cheese, fruit, and my favorite Norway treat, Nugatti. Nugatti is basically a Nutella like spread that you squeeze out from a toothpaste container.

I love me some Nugatti.

So despite a few set backs, we still managed to enjoy some great sights in Oslo. One of the things I really wanted to see in Scandinavia was some Viking stuff. I wasn’t sure what “stuff” meant. Just that I wanted to see something having to do with Vikings. I think this counts:

Real Viking Ship.

We went to the Viking Ship Museum (Vikingskipshuset) on our first day in Oslo. You have to take a ferry to get there. We quite liked taking the ferry.

At the Viking Ship Museum they have finds and ships excavated from the Viking age. It is a small museum and really you won’t need to spend too much time there, but we felt it was worth it for the unique items you get to see. I loved this decoration that was from a ship of the time:

The Vikings were artisans!

The rest of that first day we spent walking around the city and visiting the National Gallery of Norway. The highlight of that museum was seeing Norwegian Edvard Munch’s paintings. We even saw one version of The Scream.

The second day we spent in Oslo was the one we were looking forward to the most. It was May 17th which is Norway’s Constitution Day. We heard tell of parades and native dress and flags and dancing in the streets. And yes, we did see all those things. The only struggle is that they were accompanied by freezing rain and wind. By far, this was the hardest day we spent on the trip. Here is a picture of us waiting for the kid’s parade to begin:

Miserable.

We had no where to go to warm up as we were leaving that evening on the train. We also had slept the night before on a train and had no where to shower in the morning so we were wearing clothes we got cold by wearing the day before and had no opportunity to warm our body temperature. I had soggy socks and shoes on. Kara was wearing 4 layers. There was really nothing we could do about it so we just had to deal with the elements and still try to appreciate and absorb all we were seeing. Eventually, the kids did start the parade. We were watching in front of the palace along with the royal family.

One thing about Norway’s Constitution Day is that many Norwegians dress up in native costume. Not just performers but normal people just coming downtown to see the parade. It wasn’t just the old people either. It was a really cool thing to see and made me think how festive the 4th of July would be if we all dressed up in Colonial wear.

The other thing we saw a lot of were flags. Specifically the Norwegian Flag.

Me on Karl Johansgaten.

Karl Johansgaten is the main drag of Oslo. You can step on it right when you leave the train station and it is a straight shot to the palace. This street was lined with tall beautiful flagpoles flying the flag of Norway. I loved the sight of it.

When I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, we went and hid out in a subway station to try and get the blood flowing again. We knew we had one more sight in Oslo that we couldn’t miss out on or we would hang our heads in shame. With only a few hours left in the city, we gathered our courage and started the trek to Vigeland Sculpture Park. Frogner park is a large, beautiful, and green place to walk around and at it’s center is the coolest sculpture park filled with sculptures crafted by artist Gustav Vigeland. Most sculptures seemed to be of humans in various stages of life.

Attack of the toddlers.

I should admit that some of them kind of creeped me out. But then there were some that just exuded beauty and strength.

I could show you picture after picture but trust me, this is something you are going to want to see for yourself. In the end–and in hindsight–I really did enjoy Oslo. We made some great memories and I feel bad that the weather distracted us from the beauty of this city. I am glad I have pictures to finally allow me to fully appreciate the incredible view.

Next up: One word. Fjords.

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