Raughley Goes to Europe: Oh Hai, Sweden!

Wow!  A lot sure has happened since last I wrote!  First and most importantly, my bathroom is once again a thing of splendor and joy!  Actually, for the first time ever it is a thing of splendor and joy.  It used to be the worst room in the house, but by now it rivals the living room for prize of Fanciest and Most Modern!  No more toilet-smell coming from the sink, no more surprise leaks from random places, no more toilet bowl that never refills itself!  It’s a marvel of modern engineering!

In other news (that may be expanded upon in its own post), I’ve left TLG.  I had a good run of more than 2 years, but finally I just had to leave.  I won’t get into details here, but I’m glad to have moved on and excited for this coming semester, though it won’t be any more relaxing for the lack of TLG, that’s for certain.

In the meantime, I’ve been jaunting all over Europe for several months now!  Intermittently, at least.  It all began back in October when I took a long weekend to visit my dear friend Joanne in Stockholm…

Oddly enough, I’ve wanted to go to Sweden for years.  Sophomore year of High School I took an AP Modern European History class that I’ve often cited, when pressed, as the onset of my passion for history.  As one does in a European history class, we learned about the 30 Years’ War in which Protestants and Catholics tramped all over Germany killing each other.  Midway through the war, dashing young Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus swept onto the scene and mopped the battlefield with his enemies.  He was quite the warrior and renaissance man and I did my MEH paper on him and became as enthralled as his contemporaries!

Gustavus Adolphus
And who wouldn’t?

While studying abroad in Russia, my good friend Lauren spent her spring break in Stockholm with her parents while I trekked down to Kiev and Chernobyl with a motley cru of coursemates.  Lauren and I had vastly different spring break experiences.  She brought me back a Gustavus Adolphus bookmark though, so that was awesome!

While Lauren enjoyed an ABBA and IKEA-filled socialist paradise with her parents, I wandered the irradiated and abandoned streets of a socialist nightmare. Hey wait, is that the Swedish Royal Palace on the left? Oh wait, no, it’s just an empty Soviet apartment building.

Finally, October 2012, my turn had come.

Joanne moved to Sweden this summer and started working in architecture again!  (A brief primer on my friends for any new readers–Joanne is an Irish Architect who lived in Chkhorotsqkhu for a year and Lauren and I studied abroad together then at Stanford together.  She visited me in Georgia and we got press ganged into picking grapes for a marshrutka driver in a village.)  I took this opportunity to visit her in the great northern capital and off I went to Sweden for a long weekend!*

When I first arrived in Stockholm, I went to exchange my money for some Swedish Korona.  I approached the exchange desk and was immediately greeted by a pretty and ridiculously friendly Swedish girl who worked there.  “Hey!” she chirped.

I was taken aback by her casual friendliness, but maybe it was just from living in Georgia and DC before that that I was unused to random cheery kindness from strangers.  I smiled and said, “Oh, hey!” back and proceeded to exchange my money.  Next stop- bus ticket!

I walked up to the counter where a tall, chunky Swedish guy with a gently receding hairline looked up at me, smiled, and said “Hey!”  Again with the familiarity!  I got my ticket and headed for the bus where a charming grizzly bus driver stamped my ticket with one final “Hey!” and I was off into the city.

Wandering around and following Joanne’s directions that I’d scribbled onto a scrap of newspaper, I quickly found Joanne’s office and we were reunited after more than a year apart!  It was joyous and wonderful!  I’ll spare you most of the boring details of the weekend, and give you the highlights reel:

Joanne explained to me that in Swedish, “Hej” means “Hello”.  What I’d taken for casual familiarity and friendliness was really just people speaking Swedish to me.  The best part?  Formal Hello is “Hej hej.” (Replace the J’s with Y’s to transliterate to English)

I got to take myself out to museums while Joanne was working the next day and saw the Vasa, a huge old wooden warship that sank something like 1500 meters after leaving the dock.  It was basically perfectly preserved in the Baltic mud!

Joanne and her boyfriend Johan and I went to the national Armory at the Swedish Royal Palace and I got to see the clothes Gustavus Adolphus was killed in.  Like literally!  They had faded bloodstains and a bullet hole!  This is my 17th Century Swedish hero we’re talking about!

Overall, Sweden seems really great, despite its lackluster palace!  It was a very pleasant trip and I got to do a bit of historical wish-fulfillment!  I got to see Joanne after ages and meet her Swedish boyfriend who is the complete opposite of “uncool, yo.”

Tune in Next Time for the next stage of my crazy European adventure.  Just to give you a taste of what’s to come: Sweden is just the first of 10 countries that I’ve been to in the past three months.

*Note- Living in (or near) Europe is indeed this awesome.

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