The Mawlers' Swedish Get-Away

Got Yule?

In December, the average American is probably thinking of Orlando, Key West, Jamaica, or some other warm, sunny spot. Naturally, we thought it would be excellent fun to stick ourselves where the sun don't shine. And by that, we mean Stockholm, Sweden. Technically, the sun does shine here, but only for about 6 hours on the solstice.

What Stockholm does have, however, is God Jul, meaning, literally "Good Yule" or "Merry Christmas".

In Swedish, apparently, "God" means "good," which is not to be confused with "God is good". God, on the other hand is Gott. So, good God, I suppose, would be something like God Gott.

Anyway, there are signs all over Stockholm that say God Jul.

Christmas is one of the most festive times in Stockholm. Everyone says that, I guess, but here it's pretty true. Streets are decked out with lights (which have prime viewing since there are 18 hours of darkness here every day at this time of year). There are Jul Maknad, "Yule Markets" all around town, which sell tchotchkies, reindeer skins, many different kinds of pressed meats, woolen sweaters, candies and sweets, and, of course, Glögg.

Glögg is pretty much heaven. It's 25 degrees or so, and after 6 hours outside, there's no part of your body that still feels anything. Glögg is warm (almost hot, but not quite) mulled, spiced wine. It's served with raisins and almonds in it, soaking up the mulled wine. It's especially tasty, and served all over the Jul Maknad in the market booths.

Glögg, in shorter terms, is what makes it possible to get from one part of the market to another when you've already frozen to death.

This very nearly ends our Swedish vocabulary. We ran into a fellow in Borders the night before we left for Sweden who told us of all the countries in Europe, Sweden was the one in which the most people were likely to speak English. I've been told this many times before… "Oh, everyone there speaks English." But, in Sweden, it appears to be true.

I have taken to starting with a slow, "Hello." This is my way of indicating that I don't speak Swedish, and I'd like to conduct this transaction in English. The standard greeting, which is mildy confusing for me is, "Hej," which is pronounced, "Hey." That makes it enough like home that my brain processes that everyone is a friendly southerner here and saying "Hey" to be familiar.

So far, the "Hello" method has worked out well. I don't really know any Swedish, and neither does stuart. This is very unusual for us - we would normally come having learned at least a few travel phrases, but due to lack of time and lack of sleep, we didn't get there for this trip. We even had "Learn Swedish Before You Land" with us on the way over, but we were more inclined to study the insides of our eyelids.

Interestingly, we have been to several restaurants where the menu (meny in Swedish, pronounced the same) is only in Swedish, and we've giggled and tried to triangulate what the dishes are. Last night, we accidentally ordered a dish that had some sort of thinly sliced meat on top. That became mine, instead of stuart's. In addition, we've determined that nötter means "nut" and a few other key ingredients. Given a week with some sleep, we might be able to figure this place out.

What kind of crazy idea was it to come to a place with 6 hours of daylight in the freezing cold? Well, a good one, we think. It is cold and dark, but on the plus side, everyone sounds like the Swedish chef.

The previous installment:
How to get to Sweden in Coach

The next installment:
Lazy Stockholm Afternoon

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All materials © 2007 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler