Visiting my Swedish friend David, his family and friends

( ~20 minute read about David and his family who hosted me while I stayed in Sweden)

Since I was now on a Eurotrip, I found it apt that I visited a few of my European friends whom I met during my travels around the world.

My ride to Malmö was onboard flixbus which cost me just €2. It was supposed to be €5 but I had a one off ISIC card discount of €3). A train would’ve cost me around SEK90. It was a double decker bus and was quite empty when I boarded. It was on the way to Gothenburg from Germany before stopping in Copenhagen. ( No wifi )

Around 20 minutes later, we were driving on the Øresund Bridge that separates Denmark and Sweden. It was quite long and we were driving on it for more than 10 minutes. Arrived in Malmö around an hour later. It’s not too far away which explains why people commute to work everyday between Copenhagen and Malmö.

The city was empty as most people have drove home to their hometown for the midsummer holidays. I was waiting for my night train at 7pm to go to my friends house in Tranās around 2 hours away which means it would be around after 9.30pm when I get to my friend, Davids house. I texted him to tell his family can have their dinner and go to bed without waiting for me. I’l just see them the next morning (turns out they waited for me anyway).

Nothing much to see in Malmö I reckon. Only went to the old city and the town square. The main attraction of the city was the turning torso which you can pay to go up to. You can visit the city museum and castle not too far away from the city centre. Managed to grab a Swedish local number from Comviq.

People usually come to Malmö as a day trip when visiting Copenhagen. As you sit at the promenade in front of the turning torso, you can see Copenhagen Airport, the wind farms as well as the Øresund Bridge on the other side in Denmark.

The walk from the promenade near the turning to Torso back to the central station was much more further than I thought. I ended up having to run back and was in the train 10 minutes before departure. The 4 hour train ride to Stockholm has arrived but I will disembark halfway.

My friend, David whom I have not seen for more than a year picked me up at the slightly rainy Tranās  train station. Got into the car, had a slow stroll through the main street of Tranās then was whisked away to his house “in the forest” as he always says.

His parents were already at the door to welcome me to their cozy home the moment I arrived. Was expecting that we would have communication problems once I arrived there but apart from his dad Erik (whose English was a bit rusty from years of not using it), Mrs Karlsson spoke good English because she used to work in the SJ call centre (the Swedish Railways, together with David).

We had burgers for dinner at around 10-10.30pm. I was very hungry since I didn’t eat that much in Malmö. We talked a bit about my journey so far, how everything is back home, in Sweden etc. Not long after that, his brother Simon arrived home from work. He just officially graduated from high school and I missed the ceremony just a few days earlier. All the graduating students were paraded through town on a bus. Would have been cool to witness that. We talked a bit before he had to go to bed because he was working the next morning . He was doing extra hours for the midsummer holidays at a restaurant by Lake Sommen. The pay was more and he was also to start at a new job in Tranās town after the summer job at the restaurant ends in a few weeks.

David and both his siblings have worked at that restaurant after or during their school days at one time of their lives . Simon said he’ll try to ask if the manager if I and David can get a discount (or free entry) to the obstacle/adventure park next to the restaurant for the next day ( which also happens to be the peak of midsummers long weekend).

I was to sleep in his sisters, Emmas room. She now works and lives in Tranās. It was warm in the room with 2 doors, one is connected to David’s room and one to the temporary dining table and stairs leading downstairs to the living room. They were in the midst of renovating the dining room which also means the route to the shower room (behind the dining room) is cut off. You need to exit through the main door, walk outside (or in my case brisk walk in the cold summer nights) and enter the showers (also laundry room) via the back door.

Emmas room has a window that also functions as a door. I found out a few days later that there was supposed to be a balcony there but they didn’t managed to finish it and now Emma doesn’t live there anymore. It can be quite a hazard since it can be opened and if you don’t look carefully, you can fall 1 floor down to the ground. The view from this door/window is nevertheless very beautiful as it looks out towards the green fields and forests behind their property.

The next morning, we had some breakfast and was off for the 15 minute drive towards the restaurant where Simon was working. We went in the restaurant and it was starting to get packed with holidaymakers. We got the OK to enter the park for free which was great cos we were expecting at most a 50% discount (normal entry was around SEK 150-200 (?) per person). Spent around 1-1.5 hours there before making our way home. We had to rush home as we had promised to be home for lunch and his sister Emma was also coming home today to meet me and join for the family lunch.

Arrived home, food was already served at the table. His mom cooked us some traditional Swedish food such as Swedish meatballs, food made of reindeer and moose as well as fish (can’t remember the names). However, we were to fill up our plates and then bring it outside to the grassy area behind the house because it’s a tradition to eat outside your house during midsummer and luckily summer has been good this year with more sunshine and less rain. It was a pleasant summers days outside with gentle breezes. It was very delicious and we finished it off with some home made strawberry ice cream!

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The food Davids mom prepared for midsummer
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The food Davids mom prepared for midsummer
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Strawberry ice cream cake for dessert

It’s party/family time in Sweden because the midsummer long weekend. Emma had to leave early to get ready for a gathering with her friends in town. David and I also had to get ready as well as we were to spend time at his friend, Gustavs place in Mjölby under 1 hour away from Tranās by train. So we got ready and his dad sent us to the station and he’ll pick us up when we are done.

We arrived at Gustavs apartment not too far from the station. Their other friend Oscar was already there. We started off with a BBQ at a park with a small stream flowing through it. We put some beef patties on the BBQ and had some drinks while waiting for the patties to cook. We then continued back at Gustavs house with some more drinks and games, music and watching some youtube videos that they made as well as talking about another person (whose name I don’t remember, who was always doing funny stuff to Gustav).

However, I was feeling sick from the strong snuss and actually threw up because of it. Still an enjoyable midsummer night though. Later that night at around 11pm, their train driver friend Ola joined us and we walked around Mjölby town. Everything was obviously closed but people were still strolling around the parks. The sun did not seem to set or it only set max 30 minutes. The skies were always blue or dark blue throughout the night. By the time we arrived back in Tranās at around 1.30am, the sun was rising again.

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David, Oscar and Gustav at the BBQ
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11.30pm : View from the window of Gustavs apartment
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Walked around Mjölby town just after midnight

The next morning, Emma came over from town and had breakfast at home. Then the 3 of us went around the area to see their old school and viewed lake Sommen from a different point (don’t remember the name of the place). After all that driving (and a few comments from David about Emmas driving skills), we went home and got ready to head to lake Sommen for a dip. It might be summer but the water is still cold for me but maybe not so for them…lol…We then headed up a hill nearby the place we swam and had a picnic/dinner. The view was beautiful and along the 20-25 minute trek up there, we also stumbled on some ripening blueberries. A bit sour but you can eat it directly which was cool.

After the picnic, we went to his aunts house (Mr Erik Karlsson’s older sister) for some fika time – Swedish for just having some light food and drinks ( I guess it’s sort of like the English tea time?). The language barrier was more evident here as they were older and perhaps did not have the opportunity to learn English when they were in school. His aunt and her husband treated us to some more strawberry cake and some other Swedish pastry stuff that I can’t remember the name..sorry (I have pictures though).

It was already night when we left for home (the summer skies are of course still bright). Had to sort of our half done laundry because his mom had turned off the machine at the first sound of thunder when we were at the aunts place ( she drove home which was around 10 minutes away) .

Their house was prone to lightning strikes because it was on a slightly hilly terrain and there were no other taller structures nearby. The house has been hit a few times and caused short circuits. So now she’s a bit paranoid about it.

Was a bit tired from the day activities and David is of course always tired and had already went to bed. His father Erik was watching the Euro football match downstairs and at the same time keeping an eye on the British referendum on leaving the EU. The next morning his dad told me that the UK opted to leave the EU which was surprising to both us.

Alas, it was time to drive up to Stockholm. Emma was kind enough to allow us to borrow her car for a week so that we can explore more of the other parts of Sweden. It’s a shame that David had to start his internship orientation earlier than expected which meant that we couldn’t really leave Stockholm for long periods of time.

The journey we took headed north east and passed over Norrköping and Linköping. You can also see some fighter planes being paraded by the highway as the factory producing it was located nearby the town . We had to skip the main highway that passes south of the city (has a better city view) and take a detour because of a lorry accident at a major bridge resulting in it being closed for a few weeks. It was also the last day of holidays so there’s going to be a rush back to the city.

We arrived in Stockholm around 3-4 hours later. Got my Access card (Stockholm transport card) and we went grocery shopping at nearby Coop supermarket. It was also my 1st exposure to Swedish grocery prices. After Denmark, I wasn’t so shocked anymore although I did have to prepare my own breakfast, lunch and dinner for almost the whole duration of my time in Sweden. David rented a red coloured (as is a lot of houses in Sweden) cabin near Ākersberga. The landowner lived next door.

The owner had 2 cats and 2 imported goats that the owner kept in an enclosure in front of the property. It was next to the road and was a good socializing spot cos it seemed to attract the neighbours and their kids to come and pat the goats. He would go and feed them in the morning and at night.

As for the cabin, it was spacious for one person. It was like a self contained studio apartment. You have your own kitchen and toilet. There was also a lot of Ikea kitchenware thanks to his mom coming over and buying him some. Now there’s enough for a small party.

The cabin was cosy, clean, had a microwave and TV . The floor creaked a bit though which was a problem since I always woke up at night to go to the toilet. The water came from underground and had a slight yellowish colour but still safe to drink. With the same rent, you might get a small room in the city and you will have to find housemates too.

The next morning I joined him to the city so that he can teach me about the transport networks (or you can use the SJ app). Had a stomach ache halfway and had to stop at the the stop in Täby Centrum and to the mall (luckily toilets were opened and free..haha). David continued so as not to be late on his first day of orientation. I just needed to follow the same train and continue on to T-Centralen. Coincidentally, the Stockholm Free City Tour was about to start at around 10am near the Kulturhuset. So that’s what I did on my first day in the city.

The tour brought us to Drottninggatan (the main shopping street and purportedly the longest one in Scandinavia), Haymarket (Hötorget) where the Concert House is located (also where the Nobel Prize giving ceremony is held), Sveavägen (to the spot where the Prime Minister was shot dead in the 1980’s), Stureplan and lastly to Kungsträdgārden overlooking the Gamla Stan. I also managed to catch the guards procession accompanied by a musical band that were on their way to the Palace for the changing of guards.

Before meeting David and subsequently going home, I stopped by the tourist information centre in Kulturhuset and came across a cruise by Talink Silja along the Stockholm Archipelago for €2! Checked online and they had that price for a cruise which leaves in 2 days so I bought it.

The next day, we did the same routine which is leaving home by 8am. I was to meet David after work so that he can bring me on a public ferry that will give some glimpse of the city from the water. We took the ferry from Nybroplan and the ferry passed through Djurgārden where you can see the Gröna Lund and after disembarking at the wrong ferry stop, a bus ride and train later,we ended up near the Värtahamnen ferry terminal where I will take my cruise the next day.

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Gröna Lund as seen from inside the ferry
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Nordiska Museet : Museum of Cultural History
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Public ferry terminal in Nybroplan
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SVT building where David was interning

I had to wake up early for the cruise. It sailed at 7.10am which meant I had to leave the home by around 5.00am. Initially, the view from the cruise was amazing but after a few hours, the sight of the islands and blue pristine waters didn’t excite me anymore (still beautiful nevertheless).

Unsurprisingly, for €2 you only get a seat anywhere you can find one in the public lounges. No food etc. I already packed up my own meals. The cruise ship was on the way to Turku (Ābo), Finland. To go back, I had to switch cruise ships in Mariehamn, Āland Island to board the ship that was going the opposite direction from Turku to Stockholm.

Since the view was going to be the same for the next 5 hours, I decided to pay for the sauna (You get 1.5 hrs access). I also bought some duty free drinks which was slightly cheaper than Swedens systembolaget. Got back to Stockholm at almost 6pm. David was allowed to bring the SVT car home so no need to take the trains tonight.

It was now my 4th day in Stockholm (30th June). I walked around the city as usual. I was starting to know my way around the city or at least the CBD area. David showed me around Djurgārden and where the central station was and it is not T-Centralen which I initially thought was the central station. After a few wrong platforms,  we finally managed to take the train to the Mall of Scandinavia (claimed to be the biggest in Scandinavia).

July has arrived. I and David were to have the drinks after his done with work. We had some drinks at Gärdet which is a big park near his workplace at Sveriges Television (SVT). From the park, you can also see Kaknästornet (a broadcasting tower that you can pay to go up and enjoy the city view). We weren’t sure if we wanted to join his friends at a pub in Södermalm or not. We ended up not going.

Instead, we continued on to Vitabergsparken which is a park near Sofias church in Södermalm. The park was full of young people chilling and relaxing over some drinks as it was a Friday night. A few Roma people were around collecting empty cans and bottles for recycling. We stayed til around 9.30pm and then started to explore that part of the city. Heading south, we walked up the Globen were the 2016 Eurovision was hosted and took the train back to the the Ringvägen.

After a Mcdonalds dinner, we walked along the main street of the suburb (Ringvägen leading up to Horngatan) until we ended up at Monteliusvägen. The view of the city at midnight was beautiful where the skies were not totally dark even though it was already 12 am. During weekends, the buses and trains run throughout the night but not frequent.

Since we missed the train, we had to wait for the next one that comes in around an hour. Arrived home at around 2.30 am and we needed to wake up for the drive up to Dalarna to meet up with his parents for his granddads birthday celebration.

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Chilling at Gärdet near the SVT building and Kaknästornet
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Vitabergsparken
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Globen
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City view : Gamla stan from Montelliusvägen after midnight

We followed the E18 which is the main highway that heads up to Uppsala and Dalarna and eventually to Oslo, Norway. We stopped by Uppsala for a couple of hours. It was not a very big city and the main attraction was the large cathedral as well as the old castle nearby. We basically just walked around the town before continuing our journey to Dalarna. It’s usually a day trip for tourists coming to Stockholm cos it’s not too far away.

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The drive up to Dalarna
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Uppsala Cathedral

Again, his parents were already there when we arrived. It was a house with 1 bedroom that is able to fit 4 people (1 bed for 2 people and 1 bunk bed for 2 more ), equipped with it’s own toilet, washing machine and a small kitchen cum living room which had  a TV on top of the fridge. The entrance of the cabin faced an old abandoned house over 100 years old and to the left of it is a house (also quite old) rented out to a family friend.

His grandfathers house was located in Vibberbo, Dalarna surrounded by lush green grass, tall trees and blue lakes. Once we were all ready, all 4 of us headed to his grandfathers house just next door to the house we were staying in. His grandfathers house itself was like a living museum as it was full of old things such as old furniture of which some are still in use. David brought me around the house to show me the things that they used to play with when they were kids.

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Davids granddads birthday dinner
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Old stuff at the grandfathers place
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Old furniture

Dinner was ready to be served. Now we were just waiting for other relatives to arrive. There were lots of salmon and potato dishes as well as other Swedish delicacies. Not forgetting also the Swedish flag on the table.

Once everyone arrived, we sang happy birthday to him (in Swedish which is why I only watched). We talked over dinner. 80% in Swedish so I was only able to join in once in awhile (or else, I just continued eating the delicious salmon dish).

They had a cabin on a small island in the middle of a lake that I was allowed to visit. So David brought me to the cabin to have a look. It was around a 5 minute boat row from the lakeside. Made of wood, the cabin had a rustic look and feel to it with a porch in front. We didn’t have the keys to get in so I peeked from the window to have a look what’s inside.

It had a table and a bed and perhaps a lamp because there was no running water and electricity. Apart from the cabin, we walked along the small island which was overgrown with grass making it a bit difficult to walk through some parts but the view of the lake was beautiful. It was 9.30 pm when we were there and I can still see the sun shining and the noises birds and from the surrounding nature gives you a feeling of peace and tranquility.

We went back to the cabin afterwards and David decided to go for jog  and I walked along the main road. Managed to see a glimpse of an beaver (?) swimming in one of the lakes.

Went to bed around 12am with the skies a still a bit bluish and it never turned dark during my whole stay. Dalarna was more to the north than Stockholm. Mrs Karlsson moved out of the bedroom as a snoring competition was going on between me and Davids dad Erik..haha..I apologized for my snoring even before I went to bed as my snoring gets worse when I’m tired. She said it was OK as Erik snored loud too and she was used to it even back home in Tranās. I still feel bad though cos she had to sleep in the long chair outside in the living room/kitchen.

The next day, we said goodbye to her mum and drove Emmas car to Falu Gruva which is an old iron mine and now open to visitors. After the safety briefing and some initial introduction of the place , we went down the shaft through a series of stairs. The roof of the tunnels underneath was not too low (at least for me it wasn’t). I was able to walk up right for most of the tour.

The guide told us of the conditions the miners were subjected to when they were working and how having a torch or fire was important to find your way down there. She turned off lights to show how dark it was and true enough, you can’t see a single thing without any source of light. After the tour, we (thankfully) took the lift to return back to the surface because we were deep below the mine.

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Falu Gruva Mine
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Lunch at Maxx
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Siljan Lake view from Tällberg

We continued our drive to another town by the lake Siljan. But before that, we stopped by Maxx which is a Swedish fast food chain for lunch. I liked it and I had it a few more times before leaving Sweden.

The drive to the town was full of the typical beautiful Swedish countryside. We had a brief stop at the village of Tällberg with their red coloured walls and white windows dotted the landscape of blue lakes and green forests. The air was fresh. Unfortunately, the weather was not the best which is why we had to cut short our initial plan of chilling in Bräcke (we only filled up the tank there). It was a mix of sunny and cloudy with the occasional light rain kinda weather but we managed to take some good photos.

We returned home to Vibberbo, where I cooked some Asian dishes for them. Erik seemed to like it or I hope so anyway. He kept some to be brought back to Tranās for Mrs Karlsson to try.

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Asian dishes I made for them

The next day, Erik was still continuing to cut the tall grass surrounding the property. So we decided to take a swim around the the area of the lake where I saw the beaver swimming a few days ago. The water was very cold so we had a quick plunge and was out of the water within 5 minutes. Wasn’t pleasant at all.

Before we left for Stockholm. Davids dad told us he found an old unused beaver nest by the lake that he can show us. It was around 15 minutes walk from the cabin. Along the way, he also showed the types of trees used to build houses, how to differentiate the types of trees etc. It was a learning experience for me and perhaps for David too.

We left a few hours later to go back to Stockholm. The next day, the Malaysian ambassador was having an open house at her house in conjuction with Eid celebrations. I wanted to attend and have some Malaysian dishes. It was celebrated a day earlier than the counterparts in Malaysia.

I left home to take the bus to the ambassadors official residence quite early the next morning as it was located in Viking Hill in the south east of the city. It took me almost 2 hours to get there by a combination of trains and buses. There were not too many Malaysians at the event because there were not that many of them living in the country. They estimated there were around 1000 Malaysians in Sweden. That’s the rough figure because not everyone is registered with the embassy. Most of them were professionals working with multi national companies, doctors etc. I managed to take a selfie with the Ambassador Norliah Othman as well.

 

I met David in the city after the event and he brought me to another part of the city which we haven’t been to yet mostly in the west and south west areas. We started from Odenplan and continued on exploring the blue line which had fancy wall graffitis as well as purportedly longest escalator in Stockholm.

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City Hall building

We took the a bus line that passed through a highway where you can see Lilla and Stora Essingen, and then switched to a rail replacement bus that went all the way to a hill which becomes a small skiing spot during the winter in Hammerbybacken. Without the ski lifts, the walk up the hill was quite challenging for me. City folks can be seen exercising on the trails leading up the hill.

From the top of the hill, you can see a span of forests and lakes to the east of the city. We chilled a bit before heading down to the city hall some pizza for dinner somewhere nearby.  It was our last night together in Stockholm as David needed to leave with his friends for Bolanger for the Peace and Love music festival where he is volunteering in return for food and accommodation.

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View from the top of the hill in Hammerbybacken

I still had a day before my flight to Helsinki which meant I had the house to my own for one day. I followed him to Tekniska Hogskolan station where his friends will pick him up and bid him farewell before I continued on my city exploration of the places that I missed out such as Stockholm University , the Natural History Museum and revisit places that I liked. Had my last dinner meal at Maxx near the central station before heading home.

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Arlanda Airport : Goodbye Sweden

I told David and his family that I will visit them again around winter which is something that I have yet to fulfil. I hope I will be able to come back to see them again. I’ll bring some coffee powder this time since they’re a big fan of coffee. I would like to express my gratitude and thanks for their willingness to host me when I visited the country. I’ve been able to see the country from the perspective of a Swede and a tourist thanks to them.

Vi ses!

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