The last time I wrote, I still had a week left in Jönköping. That last week went by in the blink of an eye. I took Matty to eat at my favorite places, including an amazing gelato shop called Glassfabriken across from my apartment. Matt loved kanelbulle (cinnamon rolls), so we visited several cafes throughout the week in pursuit of the scrumptious Swedish specialty. On Thursday I invited my coworkers to my goodbye fika and we ate chocolate cake and chatted, which was a pleasure as always. On Friday evening we had the farewell dinner for the summer students which turned into an improv dance and karaoke show. I so enjoyed the short month in which I got to know all the summer students and I am excited that my job might entail something like this in the future. I miss my coworkers and friends in Jönköping, especially Monika and Leticia, although I’ve been so busy the past week I haven’t had time to dwell on my departure. Before I tell you about the Lowe European Vacation, I want to list a few things I learned from my time in Sweden:
1) Taking a break at work and getting to know your coworkers is okay and makes the work day a lot more fun.
2) Drinking coffee after every meal is a lovely tradition.
3) Just because people don’t smile at you in public doesn’t mean they aren’t nice or that they hate you.
4) Sun and warmth deserves to be appreciated and celebrated.
5) Americans aren’t the only people who wear sneakers a lot.
6) Work to live, don’t live to work.
7) Immigration issues exist in many other places besides the U.S., especially in the European Union countries.
8) The U.S. is truly a culture of convenience: places are open at night, on the weekends, etc., drinks are big, and refills are free. And I must say, I love it!
These are just a few of the many things I learned, but I’m excited to write about Germany and England, so I’ll continue. On Saturday, June 29th, Matthew and I flew to Berlin to meet my parents, who had flown in a couple of hours earlier. Matthew’s exchange family from his trip last year greeted us at the airport, and I had the pleasure of getting to know Bozena, his exchange mother. We ate dinner with them almost every night, and the highlight was when one of the family members from Morocco cooked a delicious Moroccan meal. It was quite easy to get around in Germany because Matthew knows German. I’m sure we could have survived with English, but knowing the language of a country makes everything so much smoother. Berlin is a curious city–it has simultaneously been destroyed and revived by World War II. Everything in the city seems to be related to the war somehow: either this building was bombed or that street was separated by the Berlin Wall or this street held Hitler’s bunker, etc. Although I do not think the Germans are proud of their role in World War II, it seems that they have found survival not by trying to forget the war nor by adopting the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” attitude that the former Confederacy had, but by keeping the imperfect, raw, often disturbing history alive. Berlin has the added peculiarity that it was one city divided between the Soviet Union and the Capitalist Allies after the war. During our visit we took a photo at Checkpoint Charlie (the crossing point between East and West Berlin), complete with Soviet and American soldier reenactors, we visited the Deutsch Democratic Republic Museum, which told the story of East Germany, and we visited a haunting concentration camp that was turned into a Soviet “special camp” after the war. Besides visiting the wonderful museums filled with Prussian excavations and eating yummy street food, our sightseeing centered on how World War II and its effects shaped Berlin. While it may sound like a sobering visit, it was tempered by time with Matty’s exchange family. Matthew loves Germany, especially Berlin, so he really enjoyed visiting again. My parents seemed to like the city as well: it was their first trip outside of the U.S. and the Caribbean, and they found that it wasn’t as different as they imagined.
Next we flew to London, which is a city I’ve dreamed of visiting since I first read Harry Potter at the age of 9. London was everything I imagined, plus about a million more people. Although the population isn’t as dense as New York City or many cities in China, for some reason London seemed incredibly crowded. Perhaps it’s because it is the height of tourist season; regardless, the city was always alive and always bustling to the maximum. There is so much to see in London that we had to go nonstop–the fact that our hotel room was practically a shoebox didn’t phase us much because we were never there. The first night we went to King’s Cross Station to find Platform 9 3/4, (on my insistence of course), but it took us quite a while to get to King’s Cross because of the inordinate number of people on the Tube. At one point the Tube stopped in the middle of the tracks on the way to a stop because of traffic on the line. We were packed in and the heat was rising, but after about 10 minutes we finally started moving again. One lady had an anxiety attack because she was claustrophobic and had been on the Tube behind a train that was bombed in the London bombings a few years back. After that episode, we became somewhat accustomed to the crowds and did our best to see everything we could, which included the British Museum (with the Rosetta Stone and many other astounding artifacts), Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, (so cool for a Philippa Gregory fan like me), Harrod’s, Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye, places that inspired settings in Harry Potter, and Daniel Radcliffe in the West End play The Cripple of Inishmaan. (It was a great performance!) I also met up with Erica, one of my great friends from high school, which was wonderful. We were both Harry Potter obsessed in high school, (who am I kidding, we are still obsessed), so being in London together was a dream come true. I also ran into a guy I know from college named Daniel at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey. Who would have thought?
I fell in love with London, but I don’t know if I could live in such crowded quarters. However if I ever have to move to, say, Wales, I wouldn’t mind! Stockholm was still the most beautiful city to me because it flowed so well, but London was more alive–the fact that it has been an important capital since the time of the Roman Empire only adds to its aura.
My travels are now coming to an end. I’m currently on a flight from London to Newark, and then from there I will fly to Charleston where Jake will collect me. I am really excited to see him! My internship combined with the amazing family vacation to Germany and England has satiated my desire to wander, at least for a bit. I am looking forward to some barbeque, sweet tea, and familiar faces and places.
I found the title quote of this post on George Eliot’s tomb at Westminster Abbey. I wrote it down while walking through the awe-inspiring majesty of the Abbey because it struck a chord with me. I was lucky in this trip to Sweden, Germany, and England because I spent time in places and with people that I love and I also visited many places full of beauty and brilliant history that I revere. Moreover, I will always look with reverence upon the wonderful experience I had in Europe during the summer of 2013. Now I just have to work on that “goodness” part that Eliot mentions. This is the end of my travel blog proper. I have truly enjoyed writing and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my escapades. I may write again in the future–never say never! Thank you for taking the time to read. It means a lot! I plan to post some photos as soon as I get them all downloaded to my computer, but it will probably take a little while to get them posted, as I took many.