Europe 1996


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Note: This travelog was written in 2013, so many details have long been forgotten since we took the trip.

Thursday, August 29, 1996: We flew from Indy to Chicago to Amsterdam to Göteborg (Gothenburg). During our layover in Amsterdam, we exchanged a little money to buy postcards and stamps. This was back in the days when we tried to send postcards from every destination. We arrived in Göteborg at 11:10 AM, and had to deal with the lost luggage department for a little while before taking the airport express bus from the airport to the city.

We were booked at the Panorama Hotel which is located up the hill from the conference center where we'd be spending much of our time. We now know that "Panorama" means "long walk to the top of the hill," and we keep that in mind when booking hotels now. This is a recent photo snagged from Google Street View since we took relatively few photos on this trip. It certainly wasn't sunny during our stay.
We headed down to the Svenska Mässan (Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre) to pick up our registration information for the World Congress on Rett Syndrome.
We had been married a month earlier and this trip was our honeymoon. Naturally, we spent the first evening of our honeymoon attending the Pre-Congress Genetic Genealogic Seminar. Researchers from around the world presented their findings, then participated in a question-and-answer session. We were jetlagged but the seminar was fascinating. One great thing about having a daughter with Rett Syndrome is that you get to learn a lot of interesting things about genetics and neurology.
Friday, August 30, 1996: Here is the view from the hotel at the top of the hill.
We enjoyed reading the poster presentations displayed around the conference. At this point, the evidence was clear that the syndrome was genetic in origin, but the MECP2 gene mutations that cause Rett Syndrome wouldn't be discovered for another three years.
This poster featured three sisters with Rett Syndrome in the same South American family. It was truly amazing to see cases of Rett Syndrome from all over the world. We spoke to researchers from Sweden who had done family searches of all the known Swedish cases and isolated small towns with higher-than-average ancestors with Rett Syndrome. Several months after the conference, those researchers were kind enough to run our daughter through their database and were able to provide us with her family tree going back many, many generations.
The night we checked into a hotel, an Australian man heard our accents and asked us if we were Debbie and Tom. He turned out to be Bill Callaghan, president of the Rett Syndrome Association of Australia, and he'd been told by our mutual Australian friend Desley to look for us. The next day, we spoke with him and met Dr. Helen Leonard, one of the leading Rett Syndrome researchers in Australia. We also met Maureen Woodcock, whose family's history with Rett Syndrome was instrumental in the discovery of the MECP2 gene several years later.
Our memory is fuzzy but we think we took a bus to the conference reception on Friday evening, then walked back through town until we found a restaurant to try. We had Chinese food at Restaurang Mandarin.
Saturday, August 31, 1996: On the last day of the conference, we attended some more talks, and had lunch at the McDonald's just around the corner. We learned that when the McDonald's staff asks you, "Company?", they are asking if you want it with fries and a drink. Ja! Again, it wasn't sunny during our visit but it was sunny when the Google Street View team went through town a few years ago, which is where this picture is from.
The highlight of the conference was when Queen Silvia of Sweden spoke to the delegates. We moved to the side of the auditorium where she would be entering and got to see her up close. She's very beautiful and spoke excellent English.
She met several families and their daughters with Rett Syndrome, ...
... and made a touching effort to greet each girl personally.

She also presented Dr. Bengt Hagberg with a well-deserved award recognizing his contributions to the field of Rett Syndrome research.

 

 

After the conference, jet lag was starting to hit us hard, so instead of attending the field trip to the Ågrenska Center, which features programs for children and adults with disabilities, we stayed in our room and had room service, featuring turkey and ham and cheese sandwiches.
Sunday, September 1, 1996: This was our first day to do some sightseeing on our own. Tom took the bus back to the airport in the morning to pick up a rental car which we brought with us on the Color Sea Cat at 2:15 PM.
Here's Tom in the car level of the ferry as the waterfront of Göteborg goes by.
Stena Line is a major player in the Baltic ferry business.
The trip to Denmark took less than two hours. We spent the time relaxing onboard and buying M&Ms and Tic Tacs in the gift shop. We arrived at the port of Frederickshavn at 4:00 PM.
We drove our car off of the ferry and headed to Hirtshals, a 40-minute drive to the other side of northern Denmark. Hirtshals is located on the mighty North Sea.
We walked along the pretty dunes of the coast for a little while, and then started looking for a restaurant in town.
We found the Fiskehuset, shown here in a notecard we received with our dinner. We stuffed ourselves on delicious fish appetizers and fish main courses and several rounds of Coca-Cola Light.
While in the restaurant, we saw a display of this pottery and loved it, so we purchased a bowl, a vase, and matching candlesticks in this pattern.
We walked through town some more after dinner, then drove around the northern Denmark countryside. We also purchased post cards and stamps and wrote some quick notes home. The ferry departed Frederickshavn at 10:45 PM and we returned to the hotel long after midnight.
Monday, September 2, 1996: We checked out of the Panorama Hotel in the morning and started the road trip portion of our vacation. Here is Debbie on the bridge that marks the border of Norway. What was once the Svinesund Bridge is now the Old Svinesund Bridge since a new one went in at the narrow point in the distance of this photo. We bought a burled wood cheese slicer at SveNo E6 gift shop on the Norwegian side of the bridge. Somewhere prior to arriving at the border, we bought some Snickers, Kex, Dr. Pepper, and Merry, a lemon-lime Swedish soda that is no longer made.

The closest we got to Oslo was this sign and paying a toll on the Oslo Ringen at 2:43 in the afternoon.

In Brummundal, Norway, we stopped for water, gas, and a little sunshine.
This sign heralded our approach toward Lillehammer, ...
... but we didn't get any closer than this visitor center.
Our overnight destination was Glomstad Guest House in Tretten, Norway. Debbie's relatives raved about this place and suggested we stay here. While we can certainly see the appeal of staying here with a large group of relatives, including one who is fluent in Norwegian, it was not the best destination for American newlyweds who were about 40 years younger than the average age of the other people staying there.
We had an awkward, silent dinner in the dining room, then wandered down the road and saw some chickens and the view, but ultimately spent the majority of our time in our bath-and-showerless room killing flies and telling ourselves that we'd laugh about this later. We do. We definitely do.
Tuesday, September 3, 1996: We checked out after a difficult conversation that boiled down to the owner's insistence that we pay cash ("Kort! Kort!") despite the posted VISA sign and her confusion as to why we weren't staying for breakfast. For the first and last time ever, Debbie's two semesters of college Norwegian helped out slightly.
Free once again, we drove through the beautiful Norwegian countryside.
We stopped at a large gift shop where we bought Tom a famous Dale of Norway sweater much like the one shown in this brochure we kept as a souvenir, except with a classic crew neck.
In the mountain valleys, we passed sheep along the road, ...
... and in some cases, ON the road.
Pretty!
There's charming moss on the roof of this wayside rest.
This was one of several beautiful rainbows we saw.
We made it to Trondheim around 2:00 PM, parked, got out, but didn't linger or photograph anything, mostly because we really weren't sure what to do there. We do a lot more research on our destinations prior to our travels now that the Internet is much more useful, but back then? Not so much.
We stopped at a restaurant for some lunch just off of the highway, ...
... and were thrilled to see that Tripp Trapp chairs are in standard use for children. Our Claire had one of these stylish, adjustable wonders when she was young.
We passed several deer grazing near the road.
Another beautiful rainbow.

We got gas, drinks, and snacks in Malvik at 3:00, and spotted this awesome truck for Irene's Shipping Service.

We stopped for the night at the Grand Hotell in Strömsund. We discovered that it is difficult to find an open restaurant after 7:00 PM, but we got some pizza at Restaurang Hörnet just before it closed at 8:00. This is when we devised our plan to move to Scandinavia and stock it with vending machines and fast food restaurants, then retire young on the millions of kroner we'd make. It's no wonder we were so blown away by Japan and its ubiquitous vending machines years later.

Wednesday, September 4, 1996: Before leaving Strömsund, we did a little grocery shopping, then somewhere along the way, we found a Handelsbanken and sold our remaining Norwegian kroner and bought more Swedish kroner. We don't remember where this photo was taken but it sure does look like northern Minnesota.

We arrived early in Umeå and decided to do some quick shopping downtown on Kungspassagen rather than show up at our hosts' doorstep an hour ahead of schedule. We bought a bunch of CDs, including Jennifer Rush and Cliff Richard's fantastic Heathcliff soundtrack, one of our all-time favorite CDs. We also bought some adorable children's board books, all in Swedish, of course. One of them contained no words at all and ended up being a favorite of Jill's.
We wrapped up our shopping by 4:30 and headed toward Sävar, home of Debbie's second cousin and lifelong penpal, Kristina. It had been nearly 10 years since Debbie's last visit to Sweden in 1987, so this was the highlight of the trip.
Thursday, September 5, 1996: We were too busy catching up and having fun the night before to take pictures, so our first picture is of Kristina and two-year-old Elina having breakfast. We didn't know it at the time, but Kristina was pregnant with her son Edvin, who was born eight months later.
Tom couldn't resist playing with Kristina and David's dog Tippi.
It was even more fun to play with adorable Elina.
What is the Swedish word for adorable? It's bedårande, according to trusty Google Translate.
Elina was just a little wary of Tippi but everyone got along just fine.
In early September, it is already pretty cold in Sweden, so little ones must bundle up to go outside.
Debbie got to hold Elina while everyone else prepared to go. Kristina's parents, Birgit and Gunnar, were joining us for lunch.
Car rides make Swedish tots sleepy.
We went to the Skeppsvik archipelago on the Gulf of Bothnia, ...
... and got this wonderful photo of Gunnar, Birgit, Kristina, and David. Birgit gestured to take a picture of us, referring to us as "nygiften," which Debbie recognized as meaning "newlyweds." Every time we visit Scandinavia, we understand more and more of the words being said around us.
Across the street was the original mansion of the area, now a restaurant, Skeppsvik Herrgård (Manor House), where we were greeted by the first of several roosters.
It was wonderful to spend time with Gunnar and Birgit and catch up with them.
Afterward, we spent some time enjoying the nice weather outside.
Little Elina had great fun following the roosters around.
Patient David followed along as she tried to make friends with them, but they kept a safe distance.
In the evening, we went shopping in Umeå and bought some Swedish groceries, a salt and pepper shaker set, a top for Debbie, and a lovely black and gold candelabra. We looked for a place to have dinner. David and Kristina finally agreed to have dinner at Max, a Swedish fast food hamburger restaurant similar to McDonald's, since the Americans wanted to go there. At dusk, we returned to Sävar and went out looking for moose. Sweden is filled with moose souvenirs, so we wanted to see the real thing, and sure enough, we saw some in the distance. Our hosts promised to show us more moose the next time we visited, and they certainly did!
Friday, September 6, 1996: It is always hard to say goodbye to Kristina, since we don't know how many years it will be before we see each other again, but it was even harder after spending time with David and Elina too. Fortunately, we were back seven years later.
We still had our rental car, and we were headed back south. The Gulf of Bothnia beckoned on a beautiful sunny day, so we took a slight detour to go see it again.
We saw the Höga Kusten (High Coast) Bridge near Sandöverken, but it wasn't due to open for another year.
We reached Söderhamn in the afternoon and bought some toys for our daughters at Barnens Hus (translated: children's house). With a name that cute, who can resist?
Kristina had told us about a store in Valbo that we just had to visit. It was called IKEA and we had never heard of it before. This was the first time we had ever experienced the awesomeness of IKEA, but we couldn't buy anything since our suitcases were full and we couldn't ship furniture home!
By 5:30, we were in Avesta, beholding the giant Dala Horse there. At Turistbyrå Dalahästen, we bought some small souvenirs, including tiny Dala horse earrings and various sizes of Dala horses. Debbie had been raised with a blue Dala horse, so of course, we selected the blue ones. Different regions of Sweden have different styles of decoration, but this red style is probably the best known. We also made reservations here to stay at a local hotel in town.
After finding the hotel we had reserved was situated over a bar and wasn't actually staffed by anyone, we found another hotel nearby in Markustorget, a shopping mall.
The Nya Star Avesta was on the second floor of the mall and overlooked the action in the parking lot below, but it was comfortable and we enjoyed the convenient access to the stores below.
Saturday, September 7, 1996: The next day, we continued to drive toward Göteborg. We got a photo of a Preem gas station somewhere along the way because we think the name and the logo are adorable. We spotted another one in Poland years later.
We also got a photo of the famous golden arches, but we don't recall eating there. According to the receipts we saved, we had spaghetti with köttfärssås (Bolognese sauce) somewhere for dinner, probably somewhere near our hotel, ...
... the Landvetter Airport Hotel at the Göteborg airport, shown here in a photo from the brochure.
Sunday, September 8, 1996: We bought a few more souvenirs (M&Ms, a moose t-shirt, and Fidji lotion, soap, perfume, and eau de toilette, since Fidji was hard to find in the US) before taking off at 8:45 AM from Göteborg, shown here. During our layover in Amsterdam, we got our film developed and bought more Fidji eau de toilette and Fidji deodorant. Then we were heading back to Chicago and then home again.

** THE END **


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