Sweden and Finland 1987


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Note: This travelog was written in 2013, so many details have long been forgotten since I (Debbie) took the trip. I had just moved to Dallas from Minnesota and took advantage of the short time I had before starting my new job.

Friday, March 6, 1987: Flew from Dallas to Chicago to Copenhagen to Stockholm to Umeå, arriving at 1:30 PM. My second cousin Kristina met me at the airport and we went to her apartment in Umeå. We had been penpals since we were 11 years old, and this was our third time being together, including my previous trip to Sweden in 1985 and Kristina's trip to the US in 1986.

Saturday, March 7, 1987: We went back to the Umeå airport to pick up my lost luggage, then bought a European outlet-ready curling iron at Åhléns. We drove to Burträsk and did some sightseeing, visiting Gunnar's father, then longtime family friend Kåre, plus Kåre's parents and his friend, Leif. We settled in for the evening at Birgit and Gunnar's home, where I tried "kicking" -- a way of quickly getting around using the device shown in this photo. You balance a foot on one blade, and use your other foot to kick between the blades to move forward. You can store cargo on the small platform in front, so it's a very efficient way of getting around in the winter.
Birgit and Gunnar gave me a gift when I arrived --
-- a book about Swedish festivals and celebrations. Then we had a delicious dinner of beef with bernaise sauce, bread, and berries for dessert.
Sunday, March 8, 1987: The next morning, we drove to Bygdsiljium to do some downhill skiing.
Kristina's family gathered some extra winter clothes for me, as I had not packed anything appropriate for skiing.
We're ready! Can you tell which cousin is the experienced skiier?
My skiing experience up to this point consisted of some skiing lessons on a Minnesota golf course hill when I was young, so this was much bigger than anything I had attempted before. I was lucky to make it down the hill a couple of times without hurting myself, as Swedes all around me flew down the hill like they'd been doing it their whole life (which they probably had!).
We returned to Burträsk and met Kristina's friends, Eva and Boel, ...
... then we watched Kåre and Leif finish Kalvträskloppet, a 37-mile cross country ski race.
Kåre was a big hit with the ladies at the end of the race. Having spent time with him on my last visit, he was my friend now too.
Next, we visited Jon and Mari. I had met them during my last visit as well, except that now their baby son was a little boy, and they had a new baby girl. For dinner, we drove to Skellefteå and had dinner at the Golden Palace Chinese restaurant with Kristina's brother, Hans, and his friend, Ove. It was an interesting experience eating at a Chinese restaurant in Sweden, because the dishes and menu options aren't the same as in the United States, but it was still delicious.
Monday, March 9, 1987: After spending the night at Birgit and Gunnar's home again, we drove back to Skellefteå and shopped and met Eva and Boel again. For lunch, we ate at Max with Boel. Max is the Swedish equivalent of McDonald's, so that was a big hit with the American cousin, of course.
Before we left, we went to the top of a ski hill where we had a panoramic view of the city of Skellefteå.
We returned to Burträsk and visited my grandfather's sister, Nanny, and her husband, Johan. Nanny and my grandfather were the only two of their nine siblings still alive, and it was nice to see her and Johan again. Once again, family served as translators for our conversation and we enjoyed fika (roughly translates to coffee break) of fruit & juice.
We had another dinner at Birgit and Gunnar's of lasagna and ice cream before driving back to Umeå. Years later, I inherited my grandparents' photo albums of their trips to Sweden, and these two wonderful people were hosts at every visit. They also hosted my mother's visit in 1979 and later visits with my own family. They are very special people to me.
Tuesday, March 10, 1987: Their generosity continued the next day when Kristina and I left at 8:00 AM for Vasabåtarna, a ferry from Umea to Vaasa, Finland, and back. Birgit and Gunnar purchased the tickets for the two of us and it was a wonderful experience.
The Gulf of Bothnia is frozen over in March, but the ferry just plows right through it. However, ice this thick does slow down the progress, so the trip took longer than usual. The ferry was filled with both Swedes and Finns, and Kristina explained how I could tell the Finnish men from the Swedish men, since I couldn't tell the difference just from hearing them speak: "The Swedish men are more handsome." She was right, of course.
We passed our time on the comfortable ferry by reading, writing, having fika, and going out on deck to see the ice and take photos of each other. We also made several trips to the perfume counter, trying sample sprays to see what we liked.
Birgit and Gunnar had paid for lunch for us too, so we had an authentic Swedish buffet. This photo is from the ferry brochure, but what I remember most is the shell-on shrimp. I was young and had never had peel-and-eat shrimp before, so having as much as I wanted (but having to work for it) was the most amazing thing ever.
We arrived in Vaasa a couple of hours late at 4:30 PM (3:30 Swedish time), so we quickly walked around town and did a little shopping, such as purchasing this post card. I was thrilled to add another country to my small but growing list. It would be 15 years before I'd return to Finland.
Here I am in Vaasa (Vasa in Swedish), ...
... and here is Kristina.
We returned to boat an hour later. On the way back, I finally made my gift shop purchases -- chocolates and a bottle of perfume (Tamango by Leonard -- to this day, the scent takes me right back to the ferry). We ate, slept, and returned Umeå at 10:45 PM. It was extremely cold out, but Birgit and Gunnar's trusty Volvo started up with no problem (Kristina: "Of course it did, it's a Volvo!") and it had heated seats. Heated seats! This was also a new experience for me, and when the day finally came that I could afford a car myself with heated seats, I was so happy. Every time I flip the switch to heat my car seat, I think of that cold night with the heated seats and Robbie Nevil's "C'est la Vie" blasting on the radio to keep us awake as we drove back to Kristina's apartment.
Wednesday, March 11, 1987: We bought groceries (ham, corn flakes, wasa bread, rolls, tube cheese, and a Raider bar, according to my trip notes), ate, and cleaned up the apartment. Here's the view from Kristina's home looking to the right, ...
... and to the left. For dinner, we went to a restaurant called Eurasia for fried rice with Kristina and her friend, Maria J. Afterward, we went to Maria's apartment and ate blueberry tarts and drömmar, a type of cookie whose name translates to "dreams."
Thursday, March 12, 1987: Maria J. was a teacher and I visited her class of high school students in the morning and spoke to several students afterward.
They asked me questions and I replied, representing all Americans with my answers. The only question I remember now is that they asked me what was going to happen on the TV show, "Dallas," because they were a year or two behind on episodes in Sweden. A month later, Maria sent me a package of letters written by the students, and I kept in touch with a couple of them for several years.

Later on, Kristina and I went out for waffles at Brännlands Wärdshus, then we shopped for groceries and baking supplies at Åhléns. I did laundry while Kristina went back to work, and I managed to get stuck in the drying room -- a large room where you hang wet clothes out to dry while warm air circulates. I was pretty convinced that I was going to die there of dehydration until I finally figured out how to open the door.

Friday, March 13, 1987: Another day, another class of students. I visited Kåre's class of middle school students in the afternoon. They spoke very little English, so Kåre translated much of my answers to their questions. After Q&A time, I signed autographs, hugged the kids, and gave out my address. A month later, I received a package of letters. Some were covered in stickers, some contained school pictures, and all of them were adorable. Like Maria's students, I kept in touch with some of the kids for several years.
Back at Kristina's apartment that afternoon, I ate sammler and baked drömmar with Kåre. I have been unable to figure out what "sammler" means in my notes, so your guess is as good as mine. It's pretty rare that the Internet lets me down, so I'll have to ask my Swedish family the next time I see them.
It was time to get dressed for going out. Kristina took this picture of me after getting ready.
Eva, Boel, Erika, Hans, Ove, and Kåre came to Kristina's apartment for fika. Left to right: Ove, Hans, Kristina, and Boel.
Left to right: Boel, me, Erika, and Eva.
Left to right: Erika, Eva, Kare, Ove, and Hans. We went to Krogen's to go dancing, and I had an amazing time dancing with my handsome Swedish friends.

Saturday, March 14, 1987: The next morning, we went to downtown Umeå to shop where I heard "Twist and Shout" while waiting in line to buy a bright pink wool coat. We had some fika with Eva, Boel, Erika, Hans, Ove, Kåre, and Maria, shopped a little more with Kåre and Maria, and did a little more driving around Umeå, followed by hamburgers and fries at Frasse Grillen. Too soon, it was time to pack for my flight back home the next morning.

** THE END **


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