On our recent trip to Estonia, I left my family in a small shop filled mostly with Russian souvenirs and trinkets, which went along well with the very Russian man running the shop.
While I was off trying to find cash so my son could buy a Russian hat, the proprietor started trying to sell things to my husband. Though there were no Christmas decorations anywhere in the store, there was a small mechanical Santa Claus that would climb up and down a chain near the cash register.
The man asked in a thick Russian accent, “You want buy Climbing Clown?” referring to the climbing Santa Claus. “This Climbing Clown. You like? You buy!”
I guess he calls it Climbing Clown until December, because it just wouldn’t make sense to sell a Christmas item in November. Pretty clever guy. Luckily, I showed up just in time to substitute the hat for the “Climbing Clown” purchase.
We took a short trip to Tallinn, Estonia this week on what some people call a “Booze cruise.” In Stockholm, there are several short trips you can take by ship to Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga. It’s 2 nights on the ship and one day in the city. The best part is that it’s insanely cheap! How is it so cheap?
They make all their money off the Duty Free shop!
While my family and I take advantage of these great deals to visit another city, there are many people in Sweden who simply go on these cruises to stock up on cheap alcohol.
For those who don’t know, the only place to buy alcohol in Sweden is at the government run Systembolaget stores. I think this is a great system, but that’s for another post. The reason why this is significant for this post is because the prices are a bit expensive. So people go on these cruises and stock up on alcohol once they get far enough out to sea, bringing it back in little trolley carts.
I snapped a few photos when we were disembarking this morning in Stockholm:
Our family, on the other hand, does everything we can to avoid buying anything on the ship. We brought our own food to eat in the cabin both ways, because the other way this ship makes money is from the overpriced restaurants. And when you are a family of 4, that can get very expensive. We were quite happy with our meats and cheeses (with a glass of wine in a plastic bathroom cup for the adults).
It was a successful and cheap vacation. The only things that cost for us were lunch in Tallinn and the furry Russian hat my son wanted to buy. Not bad!
My son’s friend went trick-or-treating with his sister last weekend (because in Sweden, Halloween is 2 weeks for some reason).
The Swedes are still learning how Halloween works, which leads to some strange things ending up in the treat bag. On this occasion, the boy and his sister knocked on a door belonging to an old woman. She dug in her purse and dropped an old piece of money that is no longer valid and an aspirin.
Maybe the aspirin came in handy later for the parent who had to deal with sugar-hyped kids.
Much like my books, it’s about the funny things that happen as an expat living in Sweden. I interview a different fellow expat friend each week and we talk about the mysterious ways of the Swedes and all the various ways we’ve made embarassing mistakes here. Our humiliation is your entertainment!
Each episode is between 20-30 minutes. I hope you will check it out and enjoy it! It’s currently available on Spotify and on iTunes.
The direct link to the podcast page is: https://iceandsnow.se/
There will be a new episode every 2 weeks because…. wow, editing takes a lot of time!
The first episode is called, “What’s Scarier, Halloween or Surströmming?”
It’s Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden. Why do we celebrate? I don’t know. It’s so depressing heading toward winter so this is about all we have to look forward to this week. Maybe we need to eat a bunch of cinnamon buns to build up our warm layer of fat to get through the next warm months.
Sweden has a lot of food holidays. I thought I’d look up a few more. Here’s what I found just for the month of October, though I have to admit, these don’t seem to be as celebrated as today’s Cinnamon Bun Day. I’ve never seen advertisements at the bus stops for Shrimp Sandwich Day, but maybe I just didn’t notice.
- October 7 is Gräddtåtans dag (Cream cake day)
- October 14 is Shrimp Sandwich day. No thanks.
- October 15 is apparently Feta Cheese day
- October 18 is Chocolate Muffin day (Why isn’t this a bigger thing?!)
- October 25 is World Pasta Day. I can get on board with that.
We decided to book a trip for the winter. I asked the kids where they wanted to go. One of my suggestions was Barcelona and the other was Greece. One son said Greece and the other really wanted Barcelona. As he has never mentioned Barcelona, I wondered why he was so adamant about going. When the rest of us voted for Greece, he said, “But I’m tired of Europe. I’d like to see South America.”
Um, Barcelona is in Spain. Spain is in Europe.
“Oh, I thought you meant Brazil. Never mind. Greece then.”
Two things about this:
1. Oh, is a trip to Greece boring to you? Visiting one of the cradles of civilization, eating good food, getting to see sunshine in the middle of winter (remember we live in Sweden) not good enough for you?
2. Wait…. why Brazil?
As we rode through yet another small Italian town, my oldest son asked, “How come all of these towns have groups of old men just sitting around together all day? What are they doing?”
“What do you think they’re doing?”
“Probably complaining about the modern world.”
Why does renting a car have to be such a procedure? If we already booked the car and filled in all of our information on the computer, why do we still have to fill it out AGAIN on paper once we get to the rental counter? Isn’t that what the computer was for? Check my license and give me my keys!
That’s just a general rant about every time we rent a car. In Italy, you can imagine how slow the paperwork is, mostly because they are marking all the damages that are ALREADY on the vehicle.
After being talked into a good deal for full coverage insurance on our rental car (and taking 15 minutes to fill out paperwork that was already in the computer), we made our way to the garage to pick up the car. Knowing that they don’t always mark every dent and scratch, we checked the car and found two scratches to report so that we would not be responsible once we were done with the car.
My husband went to report the scratches to the attendant, who was very reluctant to move from his chair. He took a look at the paperwork, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Is no problem. Who cares? You have full coverage. Run the car into a wall if you like.”
Our motto for the rest of the trip, while driving down narrow streets full of potholes was “Oh well – FULL COVERAGE!”
As I mentioned before, my husband and I took a 4-day long anniversary trip to Italy this past weekend. With only 4 days, we wanted every minute to count, which turned out to be a problem when the Italians decided to strike at the Rome airport. Our plane was delayed 3 hours until they could confirm landing clearance, so we were given vouchers for food (that worked in every restaurant except the specific one we went to, of course), and boarded our plane later in the afternoon.
Once the plane finished boarding and the doors were closed, it needed to be de-iced. The de-icing truck began to do its job and then ran out of de-icing liquid. We had to wait 20 minutes for another de-icing truck.
Finally, the de-icing was complete and it was time for the plane to be pushed back from the gate. We slowly moved backwards and then stopped after just a few feet. The truck pushing the plane broke down and we had to wait 20 minutes for a replacement truck.
The flight went smoothly after all the delays and we landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport … only to wait on the tarmac an additional 20 minutes because of a plane in front of us.
My husband and I celebrated our 18th anniversary in the town of Bracciano, Italy over the weekend. While there, we visited the 15th century castle that towers over the town. It’s one of the most impressive castles in Italy and luckily it’s open to the public. Each room has a plaque with information, so one can learn about the furniture, portraits, or the people who stayed in the rooms.
One of the most “interesting” rooms was that of Isabella de-Medici. Isabella was rumored to push her lovers through a wooden door to the side of her bed when she was done with them, where they fell into a pit of blades and lye.
There were couples in the tour group in front of us that stopped to pose for smiling pictures with their arms around each other in front of the bed with the door in the background. My husband and I skipped that particular photo opportunity.
It is only this year that I learned what “Boxing day” means. Most Americans have heard this term and I guarantee that the majority of us just picture a boxing match or taking out frustration on relatives after being cooped up in a house with them over the holidays.
So for those who, like me, have never understood why the UK has a day to beat the crap out of people after Christmas, I will give you the information I learned this month from Reader’s Digest:
“… it’s actually a celebration of charitable giving…… The name comes from the ritual of opening ‘the box’ – the alms box – in the local parish church and distributing the contents to the poor.”
That’s nice, but there are still a few people out there who could use a good knock-out.
For the person who has everything… Well, I bet they don’t have THIS!
December 13th in Sweden is Lucia day. It’s basically a celebration of light in the darkness, based on an Italian saint who had her eyes gouged out (really gets kids in the Christmas spirit).
All over Sweden, choirs of children dress in white robes while one girl (the Lucia) has a crown of lit candles on her head. The other children carry their candles.
I volunteered to be the helping parent for one of my son’s classes on this celebration. All I knew was that I was required to stand on the side with a bucket of water in case someone caught on fire. Sounded kind of exciting.
It turns out that kids catching fire was the LEAST of my worries.
First of all, I had to help the teacher accompany the kids from the school to the church. This was like trying to herd goats that are constantly stopping to make and throw snowballs at each other. (Yes, goats totally do that.) I almost had 2 kids get run over because they didn’t stop at the crossing light and were way too cool to acknowledge my screaming “STOP!”, causing them to be stuck in the middle of the road with cars speeding past.
During rehearsal, no one caught on fire (good thing, since they didn’t give us our buckets for rehearsal), but 2 kids almost fainted and a few burned their hands on dripping wax.
I think that all parents should have to assist with a class activity or outing to understand what these teachers have to deal with every day. Not just observing the class, but actually having to herd them, instruct them and keep them alive.
To sum up:
- Teachers should be paid more.
- Kids are like goats.
- I am never volunteering to help out with a school class again.
P.S. The actual Lucia concert went just fine. I think these kids behave a lot better when parents and cameras are watching. haha!
I like to wear jewelry, but I also like to be practical. Fortunately, I found the perfect necklace!
My husband was singing in a beautiful Advent concert that I attended this past weekend. Everything was very tasteful, old-fashioned, Christmassy, etc., until the beautiful chandeliers were lowered and the altar boys lit the candles with….. a blow torch attached to a stick.
Hey, this may be a reverent celebration, but this concert is only an hour long and we’ve got to get these candles lit quick! Get the blow torch!
Side note: This church was originally built in the 1600s but has burned down twice. Um… maybe less blow torches duct-taped to sticks in the main chapel? Just an idea.
For several years now, here in Sweden, I’ve been seeing stores advertise for “Black Friday.” It’s not the chaos of the U.S., but more regular type sales. As far as I know, nothing opens early.
The reason that I and other Americans find Swedish “Black Friday” sales ridiculous is that there is no point behind them. In the U.S., the entire country has the day off on Thursday, which leads many to also have Friday off as well.
In Sweden, we obviously don’t have Thanksgiving, so this is a normal Monday – Friday work week. They might put up lights in the city this weekend, since it’s so dark, and most things naturally kick off around the first of Advent, which makes sense.
On Thanksgiving Thursday in the U.S., almost every business is closed. There are basically no stores open either, so everyone is crowded in a house with no options but to visit with their family. When Friday comes, people are thrilled to have an excuse to leave the house.
No one here in Sweden has a day off to shop this Friday. Not to mention that Swedish “sales” aren’t all that great. Currently at the grocery store, you can get two bags of shredded cheese for 30 SEK. What’s the price for one bag? 14.50 SEK.
Can we adopt other cultural traditions from the U.S. instead? Barbecues and snow-cone stands maybe? Real nachos with actual melted cheese?
Another trip to Italy coming up this fall. What do you think of my itinerary?
We can start at the Egizio Museum, have a coffee at the Piazza, swing by the GATES OF HELL and maybe round up the day at the cinema?
My 10-yr old wishes you all a happy Easter from the Easter spider rabbit.
On our upcoming trip to Portugal, our hotel shows photos of peacocks that roam the walls and streets of the area. This was charming and exotic when we booked, but lately, I’ve been reminded of the sound a peacock makes. This may not be the relaxing trip we were hoping for.