I apologize for being lazy lately. I suppose that's what easy going summertime does to you. When arriving back in Skövde in early/mid July showed me that almost no one was in town, it was a shock. Now that it is the first day of August, people are returning home from long vacations and it's another shock to see the streets filling up. Today I walked to meet J for lunch at a local Thai restaurant and was shocked at how many cars were on the road during the lunch rush hour.
This is my last week of summer break. School begins again next Monday (SFI, that is). My goal this week is to study as much as possible. Because I wasn't feeling the textbook so far today, instead I have chosen to delve into Mio, min Mio. J's sister's family gave it to me for a birthday present when I arrived back in Sweden. It's a book by the famous Astrid Lindgren, who many of you might know (without knowing). She wrote all of the Pippi Longstocking books. Her writing is similar to Roald Dahl's, I would say. It's great practice for the likes of me who is currently learning Swedish. It's not too simple, yet not too difficult. I've been looking up words all morning, yet I still get the flow of the storytelling and can enjoy it. Another good point about it is it's not a boring news article or some such. Stories are a great way to learn a language.
To catch you all up a bit, J had two weeks off from work. The first week we basically stuck around the area of Skaraborg (now morphed into the giant län of Västra Götaland, but Skaraborg is still used for this particular area). In my last entry I posted several shots from the lovely little Vättern-shore town of Karlsborg. The second week of J's vacation we decided to make a road trip down onto the continent to Hamburg, Germany. I hadn't seen any of the rest of Europe (I know, I know) and so we decided to make a short 3 day trip to Hamburg. Why Hamburg? Well Denmark is right next door to Sweden so it's much easier to make, say, a weekend trip down to Copenhagen or some such place there. But since J had some more time than a weekend off, I wanted to see more of Europe if possible, and we also needed it to be a shorter distance. The closest, biggest city in Germany to drive to? Hamburg! Here are just a few shots to give you an idea of the city in case some of you haven't been:
This is Öresundsbron, the bridge that connects Sweden and Denmark. It runs between Malmö and Köpenhamn (or Copenhagen). You can drive all the way to Germany by land, which is what we did, or you can take an option of several ferries instead of bridges.
This is one of the main squares, you could say, in Hamburg.
Although Hamburg is not a port city, it's situated right on the large river Elbe, right where two smaller rivers flow into it named Alster and Bille. It has many of these pretty canals running through the city.
One of the last rows of old houses still standing built pre World War II.
One of the many soaring churches gracing the city's skyline. This one, the church of Saint Nikolai (or Nicholas) is a monument left standing from the firebombs during WWII. It was quite eerie in that it was such a large, blackened, crumbling building amongst all the hubbub and newness of the rest of the city.
The town hall right in the middle of downtown. The architecture in this city just amazed me. Quite beautiful, with all the detail.
I enjoyed the vibe of Hamburg. Compared to the small town of 50,000 in which I currently reside, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany. Overall it had a few million residents to boat about. I loved being elsewhere and experiencing a new culture. Germany reminded me much more of the U.S. than Sweden does. Although Sweden is quite influenced by U.S. culture and is a perfectly Western, modern society, Germany just seemed closer to the mark if I had to compare similarities with my home country. The Germans we encountered were outspoken and almost always the first to strike up a conversation with us. Everyone there seemed to smoke, or at least it is a very smoker friendly society (it reminded me of the States ca. 15 years ago). There also happened to be some litter on the ground and a few homeless people here and there. I'm not saying Germany is better than Sweden with all of these things, it just seemed much more like the country I hail from. And I just can't fail to mention the heavy food - meat and potatoes. Absolutely delicious meat and potatoes. It's a good thing we walked just about everywhere on that mini vacation, otherwise I probably would have noticeably gained some weight! All in all, it was great to finally delve into another part of Europe.
Needless to say, it felt wonderful coming home to Sweden. It truly does feel like home, now. Which is another plus of all my travels recently. Not only did I come back home to Sweden after our brief visit to Germany (and all through Denmark), but I reiterate my homecoming back in July from three weeks in the U.S. as well. Both times it felt good to come home to Sweden. Within the past month, I've traveled within 5 countries! As I lovingly make fun of my heritage: not bad for an American!
Alas, I should probably get back to my studying. Probably with the textbook this time. I thought I would come out of my silence and update you all a bit on happenings! Enjoy summer while it is here. It's noticeably dwindling here in Sweden. On a bright note: maybe we'll have a crayfish party sometime soon!