Scandinavian Summer, Day 5: Gothenburg and Trollhättan

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Looking up the canal near the Riverfront

In reading these trip synopsis, I would caution you that part of the fantastic-ness of this trip was the incredible weather we were lucky enough to experience.  Apart from one drizzly morning during my conference when I was inside anyway, it was bluebird skies all day, every day and the days are quite long in a Swedish June.

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So, we woke up and ate at the Hotel Royal.  The breakfast spread included a waffle maker station so it got the A+ of the trip from SMS.  Then we walked towards the water to go to the Emigranternas Hus.  The old customs house, now a casino, was the center of emmigration from Sweden in the late 1800s-early 1900s.  1.3 million Swedes, about 1/4 of the population, moved to the US and took over Chicago.  I kid, I kid, they went to a lot of places in the US although Chicago was a huge destination.  The small museum located on two floors highlights the trip between Gothenburg and England and then England to the US.  It is really well done with a few interactive displays, such as walking through a re-creation of a ship’s berthing area, complete with (stuffed) rats :(.  Upstairs, there are more display signs with texts and pictures to give more detail on the movement out of Sweden.  Basically, many people were running out of farmland as the plots got smaller and smaller as they were divided up among the next generation.  Stories were told of little country mice Swedes that got caught up in the city life of Gothenburg and swindled out of the remainder of their passage money.

There was also a slightly perplexing set of poster-board-like displays on racism in America.   So, the text first states how Swedes were treated pretty well in the US for unknown reason (implicit in the text is “Because Swedes are $#%^ing AWESOME” as there’s a lot of understated but powerful Swedish pride!).  Then it point out the contrast between how Irish were treated, which was almost as bad as African-Americans which then leads into a discussion of slavery all the way up to Black Lives Matter.  In three paragraphs.  This seems to give short-shrift to a topic on which there are whole museums dedicated to, but at least they tried?  After pointing out how racist America was/is (and I’m not arguing that this is incorrect), the Swedish author did point out that Swedes are perfect either (*what?!*) because they liken the attitude of Americans to the Irish as similar to the Swedish disdain for “Finnish males in the 1960s migration.”  Sigh, poor Finns. Anyway, it’s a comprehensive but slightly weirdly abbreviated, off-handed addressing of a pretty big topic.

After our museum tour, we met with one of the staff and did some genealogy research.  It was absolutely fascinating.  I may have a new hobby!  SMS didn’t have a lot of info- a name, an approximate birth year, and a departure date.  From that info, we figured out great-grandmother Thekla’s birthday (we were one year off) and found her whole family in the Parrish record.  She had 5 siblings and the oldest fraternal twins were 16 years older than her.  Her mother had her at age 45 in 1870!  This sounds very 2018!  The record showed that one of her brothers left for Amerika in 1885 and then she left with her sister in 1887.  It was really neat to see how records last and can tell stories so many years later.

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It is fun to celebrate in a flatbed truck!

After the deep dive into genealogy, which I think I was more into than SMS even though it wasn’t my family, it was time for lunch!  On our way to lunch, we were passed by a flatbed truck packed with Swedish young people wearing yacht captain outfits (guys) and traditional dress (ladies).  They were clearly celebrating with loud music and sound makers.  I’m pretty sure it was a graduation celebration but I’ll be honest, I’m not completely sure.

We went to the Feskekôrka, an indoor fish market.  There were beautiful displays of fresh seafood and some ready-made options.  We opted for a picnic at the self-serve tables outside.  We bought herring with lingonberries, a shrimp sandwich, and fish soup.   It was very tasty.  It was also a bit cheaper than going to one of the restaurants attached to the fish market but we were able to eat the same things offered there.

On our way to the train station, we passed the Gelaterian Goteborg.  Sorry Hven, I found another paradise.  Oh my goodness.  It was amazing!  It was a super-cute shop with delicious gelato.  I had the licorice which actually tasted like a delicious adffogato.  I can’t get over how delicious it was.  SMS was a trooper and indulged my stop even though I hadn’t thought I was hungry after such a delicious lunch!

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In front of the 1801 locks

After feasting, it was time to continue retracing Great-Grandmother Thekla’s footprints by going to Trollhättan.  Americans may know the place best as the site of Saab headquarters.  There’s now a few museums there but we decided to walk along the Göta canal towards the current (and former) locks, one of West Sweden’s seven wonders!  The Göta canal was completed in 1832.  There were three lock systems to see.  The first was opened in 1801 by King Gustav IV Adolf.  It was a series of eight locks and although too small for exclusive use by the time the canal opened, they were used until 1916.  The second set of locks was from 1844.  Finally, the current lock system has been in place since 1916.

The locks are super-cool.  Each Summer, there are river boat cruise that go along the river as well as thousands of private craft.  In order to navigate the Falls, the locks are used to bring the boats up or down to the necessary level.

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Yum, yum, yum!

After admiring the incredible feats of engineering and taming of the falls, we walked back to Trollhättan to catch the train back to Gothenburg.  I had some licorice to tide me over until we got dinner.  We walked along the Kunsportsavenyn but ended up going a little into the side neighborhood Vasastaden to eat traditional food at Smaka, which was tasty.  We ordered the Smorgasbord sampler, which was a feast!

It was an awesome day, one of those days where we fit so much into it that it makes me wonder why I can’t be that efficient with my time at home!

Scandinavian Summer, Day 4: Gothenburg and Garden Fest

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At GARDENfest

After a great night of sleep, I was firmly a fan of glamping!  We were both awake on the early side thanks to the jet lag and sun.  We went for a walk along the coast and took in the mellow beauty of Hven.  Then it was time to pack up, walk to the bus stop, and wait for the bus.

And wait.  And wait.  After 15 minutes and seeing one local walk up the hill, I realized that the National holiday may have affected the schedule so we set out to walk to the ferry.  Fortunately, there were several a day since we were heading to the Swedish port of Landskrona.

We walked across the island which, I confess, might have lost a little luster due to an unexpected delay and dragging a roll-aboard behind me (SMS helped!).  I chided myself, asking why was I so antsy to leave paradise.  But there were other places to go and explore…like Gothenburg!

We got on the ferry, bought a breakfast pastry, and sat outside for the half hour ride.  Then we hopped on a bus to the train station and purchased our passes.  We only had 13 minutes, which was a tight time window to find out how things worked, buy the tickets and make it to the train platform.  We did it, though, and SMS had a convenience store hot dog to tide him over through the 3 hour train ride.

By the way, let me interrupt this slight boring recitation of travel connection to rave about selective smartphone use during travel.  Specifically, Google maps. The transit feature for directions is very, very good and really helps with bus and train connections.  When I travel, I like to experience the new surroundings and not get caught up with stuff back home.  Disconnecting from a smartphone is the quickest way to do that but there are advantages to having one.  So, I used the phone sparingly- I didn’t check the NYTimes multiple times a day, I didn’t look at Facebook.  But I did use it as an e-guide for local information, travel timetables, and Yelp reviews.

We arrived at the central train station and walked to our hotel.  It was only 5 minutes away and on the edge of the walkable section of tourist-interest Gothenburg which, for this quick visit, extended from the train station down to the Göta älv, the river that empties into the North Sea.  Our hotel was the Hotel Royal with beautiful Art Neauveau interiors.  It was clean, comfortable and had a beautifully tiled bathroom.  The location was excellent as a base for exploring by foot.  I highly recommend it!

It is funny when checking into the hotel because they emphasize that they are the “oldest hotel in Gothenburg.”  In my mind, that doesn’t bring up the best connotations for how the hotel will be.  As it turns out, they are 1. proud of their history and 2. really emphasizing the importance of not losing the keys.  It did not mean that the place was musty, dusty and a wee bit smelly, which is what “oldest hotel” brings to mind.

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Wrinkly poster

I knew there was a music festival that night and it turned out that the hotel manager was going.  GARDEN was a first time music festival held in the Trädgårdsföreningen, the Gothenburg Garden Society’s park.  The National was playing and I really like them.  I had also heard good things about Future Islands.  So, we decided to go check out it out!

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Trädgårdsföreningen

We walked over to the garden and bought tickets.  The festival definitely drew a crowd but it wasn’t crowded, if that makes sense.  We went to the bar area where we got drinks and also admired the coolest hand-washing station at the ladies room- an outside shower-like water stream emptying into a clawfoot tub in a decorated inside/outside room.  Very Instagram-able.

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Warpaint

Then it was time for the music.  We listened to Warpaint.  It was a quartet of women and they were excellent!  It was a great new-to-me discovery.  The Future Islands lead singer bops around the stage like a big ol’ weirdo.  It’s simultaneously cool that he’s into it and a little distractingly funny.

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The National 

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Finally, it was time for The National.  The lead singer’s voice is really beautiful and although a lot of their songs drift to the melancholy, it was really a great show.  At one point, he ran through the crowd which was pretty cool.  I thought the funniest part was the sound guy frantically trying to feed out the mike wire to allow the show to go on!  I hope he got a bonus because he did an excellent job.

Then it was time to head back.  We saw a few late-night bar options but we were tired and so it was back to the hotel!

 

Hven is a Place on Earth!

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Hven!

Hven/Ven, Sweden is a beautiful island in the Øresund strait between Sweden and Denmark.  The Denmark spelling adds the “H,” the Swedes just stick with Ven.  It’s claim to fame is Danish astro

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On the ferry, SMS and poster by my side!

nomer Tycho Brahe but since 1660, the island has belonged to the Swedes.  It is the most idyllic, beautiful place with the coast line called Backafall rapidly rising up 50 meter bluffs to otherwise flat island.

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Our tent and one of the bikes

I visited for the day in 2010 and I’ve always wanted to go back to Hven.  This trip allowed me to show it to SMS.   This time, in order to make our own experience and enjoy it more fully, I booked an overnight stay in a “Glamping” tent at Camp Ven, with towels and linens provided. See, I had read that most Swedish cabin rentals expect a person to bring their own linens and since SMS and I were packing lightly, I wanted a “linens provided” option.   Otherwise, renting a small cabin would have been equally as wonderful.


They day started off with some excitement. We had left Hotel Ibsens for the ferry- there’s only one a day!- with plenty of time. When we were 2/3 of the way there, SMS asked me if I was ready for my presentation next week. I froze. I suddenly realized I had left my poster in the luggage storeroom of the hotel. Fortunately, it was only one stop away but after giving SMS directions to the dock and my suitcase, I ran. 16 minutes later, I was back with poster in hand. Whew. That would have been really bad.

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Much more relaxed!


So, although slightly sweaty, we made it!  We sat outside and enjoyed the ride. 90 minutes later, we were in Hven. We took the bus to the stop closest to Camp Ven and walked the rest of the way. The bus made me realize that even though credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, the key is almost. I’m glad I had the small change for the bus so take away point- it’s good to have the equivalent of 20 bucks in cash on you as a traveler.

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Lunch at the Hven Distillary
We checked in and, once we dropped our bags off inside the tent, we were glamping!  Fun!  Our first activity was biking the island, which is really the main point of being on Hven. With a few mild inclines and occasional steep ones from the bluff to the shore, it is useful to have a bike with 3 gears.
We rented from Camp Ven but they were the same bikes available at the large rental spot just up the hill from the ferry landing Bivekkin.  I would recommend renting from there because that way, you can bike back to the ferry. Since I had a smallish carryon, I would have gotten a bike with a cart. This would have been helpful the next day when the bus didn’t show up and we had to walk to the ferry. I am pretty sure it was because it was a holiday (June 6 Sweden National Day) but there was no holiday schedule listed on the bus stop sign.
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Anyway, logistics advice aside, biking around Hven is amazing. The colors are so vivid between the green fields and blue sky. The biking is pretty mellow and goes along marked paths that are mostly packed gravel, occasionally with some looser bits and some pavement.
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SMS, owning his fashion choices! (It’s his bathing suit!)
We went to Norreborg beach and went swimming. We walked to the edge of the dock and jumped in off the ladder into chest deep water. It was cool but not terrible. The Pacific near San Diego is much worse!  We dried out on the rocks and then continued on. We went to the smaller port Kyrkbackens and had a drink at Bread on Wine.  The kitchen at that time was closed, but they were open for drinks.  There were a few places on Hven that seemed to have opening hours posted but I’m pretty sure it was kitchen hours since we went to a few places outside of the posted hours and could get drinks (beer, coffee in the a.m.) but no food.
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Ribs for dinner
We had a feast of a meal back at Camp Ven, which had an associated restaurant Strandvagen with outside seating with a gorgeous view of the Øresund. I had the ribs, SMS had the chickpea stew, and we split ice cream for dessert. I had a really nice French rose that I’m hoping to find back home.
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View from our tent
We finished our dinner and got ready for bed. It was early but we had been battling jet lag this trip plus our bellies were full!

But did we die? Scandinavian Summer ADVENTURE!!!!

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Hypothetical question: if you knew that roller coaster had been closed all day for repairs (for unknown reasons to you), would you ride the coaster for the first ride upon reopening?

Ok, assuming the answer is yes (because why would it not), would you feel at all concerned that this was occurring in a foreign country and your fellow passengers were a bunch of rowdy, albeit delightful, Swedish teens who, in explaining why we were chosen as the “test passagiers,” said, “Danish do not like the Swedes.”  When I (oh shoot, losing the hypothetical here) said we were Finnish, he replied, “They don’t like the Finns either.”  Of course they don’t!  I have it on high authority from the book The Almost Nearly Perfect People that no one likes the Finns.

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Bright lights, like moths to a flame…

So, yes, at Bakken, SMS and I proved that smart people can do dumb things by waiting in line for the Rutschebanen, a wooden roller coaster open since 1932 after the ticket counter woman told us it had been under repair since 0900 that day and she did not think it would reopen. However, we saw some cars being tested, first empty, then with five employees. The line grew behind us- in front of us were the aforementioned Swedish teens. How did we know they were Swedish?  Apart from one telling us so, it was reinforced twenty minutes later, when the Danish ride operator was giving instructions, they made Swedish chef noises waving their arms over their heads saying “Borgi borgi,” which cause the ride operator to say, in Danish-accented English, “If you don’t understand, why don’t you just say so.”

Well, we didn’t understand the instructions either but we just decided to keep quiet, since SMS had already made vague threats that if I did any more Swedish chef impressions, there was going to be martial discord [note: this didn’t look quite right and I realize I should have written “marital” rather than “martial” but since martial means warlike and SMS was getting really tired of my Swedish chef impression, I’m going to leave it].  So, not knowing what was going on, away we went.  We ascended to the first drop-off.  Once we made it through that, I was pretty sure the chances of flying off the track were fairly minimal.  There were two semi-steep declines with one set of double bumps in the middle that were distinctly spine-unfriendly.  Near the end of the ride, the cars go into a tunnel that is guarded by a plywood naked woman’s torso and the cars go between her legs.  Very classy and appreciated by teens, at least Swedish boys.

So.  It was awesome!  After the first ride, the operator said something to which there were enthusiastic “Ja” replies. SMS and I may not be geniuses with strong self-preservation skills, but even we could figure out we were going again. Yay!  Then a third time, where we switched near the front. Then a fourth time where we switched trains. And then finally, for good measure, a fifth time. Bonus: it was all free!!!

Now, although everything seemed to be ok, the ride did not reopen to paying passengers after our test passenger run.  So, I still have no idea what was wrong but at least I am alive, typing this post.
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Now, you may ask, “This seems very stupid.  As one of your two blog readers (hi Mom and Mother-in-law Linda!), why would you do such things?” To have a good story for my blog, duh!

Jk. I felt ok because 1. Employees went first and don’t you think they wouldn’t ride if they had no faith in their repair and 2. The other test passagiers were teenagers, aka minors.  Who would want to hurt a child?

It was so funny because basically, the whole process seems like it just wouldn’t fly in the US. And that’s why I love Denmark 🇩🇰 !

Scandinavian Summer, Day 3: Copenhagen and Klampenborg

After another, less severe jet-laggy night, we woke up early and headed down to the hotel breakfast buffet. I love breakfast buffets in Europe!  The cheeses, seedy breads, skyr yogurt, and porridge- so good! There were also fresh juices in non-SMS approved tiny glasses and very importantly, good coffee!


We rented bikes for the day from the hotel. Not the best deal in town but pretty close to asking price and it was easy. We bikes along the Lake and then over to the Little Mermaid and Kastellet. Next, we headed over to Nyhaven and the arts center. We biked over the bridge and headed for the Vors Frelsers church.

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We arrived shortly after 10 and bought our tickets to ascend the spire. I’ve never seen anything like it (apart from the other time when I climbed it ~2010). You transition to the exterior of the spire for the last 1/3 of the climb. The staircase peters out just below the golden dome that tops the spire. There is no protective glass or jumper nets. Even better, the handrail goes from shoulder-height at the start down to waist-height at the very top. It is very disconcerting. We found out we were fortunate to show up when we did because there was a big line when we descended and left. I wouldn’t want to jostle too much at the top, that’s for sure!


We headed to Reffen, the food container area on Paper Island, passing Christiana and Noma’s new location along the way.  We ordered fries which I sort of wish we didn’t because we had a great lunch reservation but hunger levels were rapidly rising to crisis levels.

After our snack, we cycled over to Restaurant Sondehaan, a historic smørrebrød restaurant. We had aqua vit and smørrebrød.  I ordered the scrambled eggs and eel, mostly because I read about it as a “you’d never think about it but you’ve got to try it.”  Truth!  It was delicious. My second one was Rene’s (of NOMA fame) favorite. Halibut on caraway rye with dill. Both were really good- very high topping:bread ratio. SMS ordered the small plate of the day. It started with a make-your-own with two types of halibut. The next course was a minced steak with egg or as SMS said, “Look, it’s Loco Moco.”  Finally, his set ended with an almond cake that was quite good. Overall, I enjoyed mine more as I wanted the smørrebrød made for me by the experts rather than a make-my-own as a novice.


After lunch, we were hurting from fatigue. So we went to the hotel and napped. Then, we bought train tickets to Klampenborg for us and our bikes. We cycled the very short distance to Bellevue beach. Bikes are totally unnecessary for the beach- I had just wanted them for the path into Bakken.

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Entrance to Bakken

After some sun time and a swim, it was time for the amusement park. We went on three rides- two coasters and a very tame swan ride, which is basically a swan paddle boat on an elevated track rather than water. The riders peddling causes the swan to coast along the track. The roller coasters well…it’s worthy of a separate blog post so I’ll hold off for now!

After our fun, we headed back into the city. We split a pizza and a salmon tartare dish at the hotel restaurant, which was a perfect amount of food. Then, off to bed!

Scandinavian Summer, Day 2: Copenhagen

After a night of jet-lag caused insomnia, I was woken up by my phone. It was the AirBnB host asking me to let in the next guest and give her the keys. What?!  Well, it turned out that his wife, who was the one home during my stay, was asleep on the floor with her phone (uselessly) by her face. She had been up till 5, which I heard because of my insomnia, but apparently, she allowed herself to sleep. Honestly, I wanted to spill water on her head. I let in the next guest, warned her about the good/bad of the place, and managed to find another pair of keys. She left and for me, sleeping time was over.

I got up, dressed for the day, and headed out for Jaegerstradde, a very cool street in Norrebro. I walked through the Kierkegaard cemetery which is a very beautiful green space. Signs abound that having too much fun is not appropriate but that CPHers are allowed to use the park recreationally.

On Jaegerstradde, I first grabbed a coffee from Coffee Collective. It was a very bright but low acidity blend. Then it was off to Grod, for a breakfast porridge. I bought one of the preset menu options rather than make my own. I had the diced apples, almond pieces and caramel sauce porridge. It was tasty although I left about half the caramel sauce behind. After breakfast, I walked through a neighborhood park where a flea market was going on.  It seems that paying through cell phone via individual merchant code is very popular.  I can’t remember what it’s called in Denmark but in Sweden, signs abounded for “Swish.”  The playground area was interesting because there was a climbing structure for kids in the shape of a crashed airplane.  This seems potentially phobia-inducing.

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A crashed airplane climbing structure.  Don’t fly on planes, kids!!!

I walked back through the cemetery, this time stopping by the graves of Hans Christian Anderson and Soren Kierkegaard. Then, I let myself into the house where sleeping beauty continued to snooze, grabbed my bags, and left. I left a two-star review on AirBnB. The bed was fine and the room clean but I would never recommend the place.

Then I walked to Hotel Ibsens and left my bags. I want to Torvellhalen to wander among the food stalls. I was pretty hungry so I bought a Le Confit du Canard sandwich at Ma Poule and another coffee from a place not quite as good as the Collective.

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Another “would-have, should-have” potential purchase from Flying Tiger.  What is this amazing foreign game?!?!

Finally, it was time to pick up SMS!  I bought a Danish flag to wave at the airport. I almost bought an inflatable sumo suit at Flying Tiger but I didn’t. SMS says he’s happy I didn’t get it but I bet he would have secretly loved it!  We met up with each other pretty quickly and headed into the city. We checked into the hotel. We decided to walk over to the Islands Brygge public swimmjng area. We walked near the round tower and stroget. We tried to climb the Fers Kli church tower but we arrived 15 minutes after closing. So, off to the swimmjng area, preceded by a quick snack at Egils Deli.  We got three delicious smorbrod- a tuna, pate and hummus.

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Pre-swim snack!


We decided that we had known a total of zero (0) people who have drowned by swimming after eating so off we went. We entered the water by jumping off the 4.9 m high platform. On the way down, I was a little sad I didn’t know the water temp. Too late!!  The water was brisk and quite refreshing. We were surprised it was as warm as it was, by I had heard it was a very warm May so maybe that’s why.

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Biking the CPH

After our swim, we rented city bikes and headed back to our hotel. We went across the street to Kasalet Cafe and ordered the Stockholm platter, which was a smoresbord feast!  Falafel, hummus, meatball, sausage, bread, salad. It was so good!

Scandinavian Summer: Intro and Day 1

An abstract I submitted to an international conference in Uppsala, Sweden was accepted back in April and I decided to go ahead with the presentation and the trip.  Seeing as I love vacations, I added some vacation before and after the conference to enjoy Sweden (and a little bit of Denmark!).  I didn’t think SMS could go b/c his vacation days were low but since his mother’s side is from Sweden, he decided to take a few unpaid days so we could explore together.  YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!

I scheduled things rather tightly between work and my departure flight, but it ended up working out!  My initial flight was delayed so I worked with a nice United rep over the phone for a new itinerary. Relatedly, have you ever been on hold so long that you’re worried that the person has forgotten about you/assigned you to purgatory/will never come back?!  No…me neither.

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The beer garden is hiding behind the plants!!

My new itinerary was longer and gave me a 4.5 hour layover in Munich. I did some on-the-fly research and quickly found out that going into Munich proper would be pretty tight, time wise. But I found a good alternative!  I decided to take a cab to Freising and have a beer break at Weihenstephan, the oldest brewery (since 1040) in the world!  The public transportation option seemed straight-forward but would take too long.

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This picture makes the beer look small. It was not.

It was a beautiful day!  It was a little tricky to find the actual Biergarten on the brewery grounds but not too bad. I sat outside and tried to (discretely?) check out how things worked. It looked like there was waiter service inside, while the outside was a self-service counter. I ordered a 1L lager and a small pretzel. After I sat down, I realized most people were drinking 0.5L but had several consecutively.

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Such a great day!

I read my book and drank my beer. I looked for an Uber and oops, no luck!  I didn’t have the number for a cab company. I had taken a cab there because I was unable to find the Uber I requested (5€ penalty!). I was hoping for an Uber back but I had left plenty of time to take the bus. As I started to walk, I checked again and success!  An Uber Black was nearby. I got to the airport, went through security and was still 1 hour early for my flight.

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How awesome is this? A self-serve Nespresso right by the gate- yes, please!

All the flights went well. I was mistaken for German the whole way, which tends to happen when I go to Western Europe.  SMS and I together really makes people think we’re German.

I walked to my AirBnB and waited for 25 minutes to be let in. Apparently, the woman was in the kitchen where she can’t hear the buzzer. I thought that was a shitty excuse since I was there exactly when I said and wouldn’t you think a normal person would listen out for the bell. The price was right for the room but between my arrival and the next morning, I would not recommend the place.

I went out for a long run and saw a lot of sights. Unfortunately, my phone charge was low so I didn’t bring it. But I ran along the Sortedams So, Öster Anlaeg Park, my parents’ old street Stolkholmsstade, and around the Kastelett ramparts. It was about 7 miles, which I’m very happy about since I have a marathon in Sept and I have not been running distances!

Then it was time for a shower and bed. I spoke with the AirBnB woman for a bit. She was nice and a bit strange, which I think was just her rather than a communication barrier but who knows. Again, it was such a poor experience that I have no interest in keeping in touch so no big deal. Jet lag was a bit tough that night but hopefully tomorrow will be better!