Linköping, Sweden

I will begin by noting that the “k” in Linköping sounds more like a “sh”. And I think it has something to do with the umlaut over the “o”.

Train in Sweden

After taking a train through the very green Swedish countryside, I arrive at Linköping Station in the late afternoon. Matilda and Jesper are waiting for me, and we go to a nearby park for beach volleyball, drinks and snacks. Matilda had alerted a couple of her friends, they in turn passed the message along to some of their friends, and there are probably enough people to field two full games. Everyone is nice to use English when they remember, and on top of that, their English is great. Unlike some other European countries, Sweden doesn’t dub their television and movies. As a result, although the movies still have subtitles, many Swedes are very adept at conversational English.

Brunch in Linkoping

The following day, which is also Ascension Day (Kristi himmelsfärdsdag), is a national holiday, and Matilda invites me to a brunch with friends from her university. It is a delicious home-cooked potluck breakfast. Matilda and I contribute some scrambled eggs and American banana pancakes, for which I couldn’t use Costco’s mix so I had to start from scratch. The meal is a feast and I meet a long-table’s worth of Matilda’s friends. One fun fact that comes to light is that many young Swedes who want to travel will start by working for about 6 months in Norway, the richest country per capita in the world. They live cheaply and make descent wages and are then prepared to travel the second 6 months of the year around the rest of the Europe or the world.

Vadstena Castle

After brunch, Matilda and I venture to the nearby town of Vadstena, known for its Abbey Church and its Castle. After making the mandatory stops at these two well-preserved landmarks, Matilda and I enjoy a game of mini-golf before watching the conclusion of a city-wide tractor race. We approach a sign that describes this tractor race, and as we read it more closely, we see that it is occurring today and that it should be ending soon. As we are gripped by pure excitement watching the tractors roll in, we eat a traditional shrimp sandwhich, which is a slice of bread, a layer of eggs and mayo, all topped off with a mound of shrimp.

Downtown Linkoping

In the late afternoon, Matilda gives me a quick tour around Linköping, much of which is closed because of the holiday, and we finish at the city’s famous ice cream shop. Along with my ice cream, Matilda insists that I try some traditional salted black licorice, which was about as weird as it sounds. We hurry back home, change to get ready for fotboll (Swedish for soccer), and are off to meet some friends at the field. I am quickly reminded that I haven’t played fotboll for ages, and it shows, but I have fun nonetheless.

Matilda and I eating ice cream

The day ends as the sun sets after 10pm with Matilda, Jesper and I sitting outside enjoying some tea, cheese and crackers, and other delectable snacks. My stay in Linköping was short, but I feel so lucky to have been able to tour around with Matilda, meet her friends, and explore some of the quieter areas of central Sweden.

A Friendly Welcome

Feeling more at home while traveling can be a challenge. Sleeping in hostels, constantly meeting new people, and not having go-to restaurants or cafes can be fun but also tiring. Although Stockholm is about 5500 miles (8800 kilometers) from San Francisco, I met up with several friends, had a chance to try their go-to restaurants, and even enjoyed some home cooking. I can’t thank them enough for making my Swedish experience feel so comfortable. I met up with Siri, an old friend from University, for a quick work break. I had dinner and drinks with Liina and Mikael, a couple I met while scuba diving in Bali just a couple months ago. They took me to a great restaurant where I had a chance to sample some traditional Swedish foods while we caught up on each other’s lives. And I stayed in Linkoping for two nights with Matilda, whom I’d met in southern Cambodian caves. When I arrived at the train stations, Matilda and Jesper, whom I’d also met before, were waiting with a picnic packed, and we went to a nearby park to play volleyball. They had brought me several traditional Swedish beers from around the country as well as a couple very Swedish dishes. One new dish I tried was cut up raw fish swimming in various sauces. Out of all the sauces, I think I liked the mustard-based one the most. And finally, they brought me some Swedish chocolate, which was the perfect ending to our picnic in the park. Thank you so much to everyone for going out of your way and making me feel comfortable!