#1 Sweden/Berlin, May 2, 2000

Dear Everybody,

On landing in Stockholm, I was surprised to find that all of the passengers sat absolutely mute—not saying one word—until it was their row’s turn to exit the plane. In fact, the whole back half of the plane’s passengers didn’t stand up until much later, when it was nearly their turn to deplane!  Talk about laid back!

After getting hoteled, I walked down to Gamla Stan on the pedestrian street in front of my hotel. The city of Stockholm is very quiet and orderly. Gamla Stan is old and beautiful. I walked to the Royal Palace which had the army band performing in front of it.

The next morning I visited the Cathedral which was surprisingly fancy. I guess I’m thinking of what I saw in Oslo, Norway, and this all seems much fancier. I also went to the National Museum and saw the Hammershoi collection, Hammershoi being a ‘gray’ Dane.

The Vasa Museum held the ship that sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 because the king insisted on a second deck which made it top heavy. It was brought up out of the harbor in 1963 and is now on view. Families of the crew were invited to go on the maiden voyage and when the ship sank in the harbor, many died.

I had arranged to meet an ‘acquaintance’ from the Lonely Planet website. We thought we would explore the possibility of traveling together in Africa next year. Ake and I met for a beer. We made plans to go to Leksand (his home) the next day. That evening he had dinner with his two sons and I attended the Handel opera, “Orlando.”

On the bus with Åke the next morning, the landscape looked quite a bit like Minnesota, but the houses and the barns have been painted red. Ake said that was because red paint was kind of a by-product of the copper mines here, and it was cheap.

Birgitta, Ake’s sister, and brother-in-law, Thore, met us at the station and drove us to Ake’s house on Lake Siljan, a big beautiful lake. Part of his house is over 200 years old, and a part is 35 years old. Bergitta made coffee and we ate outside overlooking the lake, with a tablecloth, and two kinds of coffee cake. Out of politeness, they hesitate before eating, or getting in the car. They also do the inward ‘ya’ like people in my childhood Norwegian community. A ride around the area ended at Thore’s place of business—salmon processing and distribution. They gave us some salmon which later, Ake marinated with dill and fried in butter. The BEST!

For breakfast we had yoghurt and lingenberries with flat bread. It felt like I was back in my Norwegian/Minnesota childhood. We discussed the possibility of traveling together to Africa.

Soon it was time to go. I got a bus back to Stockholm and while on the bus wrote Ake this note which I emailed to him that evening:

A woman from the US of A
Went to Leksand to visit A-kay;
He fed her salmon with dill
She fed him whiskey until
He agreed to travel with her, hip hooray!

This winter they’ll go where it’s sunny
When the bees are done making their honey,
They’ll walk and they’ll roam
‘Til it’s time to go home
Which will be when they run out of money.

At the moment I’m riding this bus
Smiling while thinking of us,
Thanks for speaking so well
You speak clear as a bell
In English, you even can cuss!

In Leksand, for many a day
I enjoyed it more than I can say,
For the fun that I had
While saying at your pad
Thanks again, it was more than OK.

That evening I received this email from Ake:

Dear, Dear, I can’t figure!
In my chest my worn-out ticker
Suddenly was running quicker
(not because of all your liquor)
Was it you that pulled the trigger?

How this house appears bleaker
Now bereaved of all your vigor,
From my lonely chair of wicker;
Thanks for coming, Mrs. Kiecker.

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