Denmark, Day Nine: Visiting the Land of My Father’s Father’s Father’s Father

Sunday, June 12

Sunday was also a free day, but unlike Saturday, there was to be no use of the Copenhagen Card. I had a more important mission in mind for Sunday.

My family through my paternal grandfather’s side is Swedish-Finnish, a heritage which has  always had a pretty strong influence on me growing up. Not so much in the sense that we are deeply in touch with our roots and uphold proper traditions and holidays or speak the language (any language); actually, we’re extremely silly about it in most ways while still being extremely proud of it. My grandfather once had t-shirts with our last name written in runes printed for the entire family; I gave him a longship made out of duct tape (not real size) for Christmas one year. We also once made him a lawn chair with the Swedish flag in blue and yellow duct tape for his birthday one year, not to mention the long-running joke about painting yellow stripes on my mom’s extremely blue Volvo station wagon. So you can understand why I zeroed in on the Scandinavian country when it came time to pick a destination, even if it wasn’t a Scandinavian country we’d ever actually had anything to do with. (I had to do the best I could, after all; there wasn’t time to wait for Sweden or Finland to come up on the KIIS list.)

Given all of the above silliness, I was actually a little apprehensive about what I’d find when I went. Five generations is a good span of time (on a non-geological scale); was it going to turn out that I didn’t really have that much in common with our general area of origin? But, while I was only there for four weeks and can only have picked up on fairly superficial elements of the culture (and, again, it wasn’t actually the right culture), I was a bit surprised by how many Danish things I immediately identified with. Like the huge amounts of bread, and the pervasiveness of tea (having grown up in an area where saying ‘tea’ makes people automatically think ‘iced’, this one was particularly enthralling to me), and the general lack of small talk. Whenever our group talked about the differences in Danish and American culture, someone would inevitably bring up how weird it was that in Denmark people didn’t usually make eye contact, while I spent the whole trip thinking thank God, finally a place where no one expects me to make eye contact.

Anyway, with all this at the forefront of my mind and the weight of upholding the family silliness in our almost-native land on my shoulders, I felt I had certain responsibilities. And one of the things that entailed was that when someone told me that a small group was planning to go to Sweden on Sunday and would I like to join them, there was no possible way I could turn that down.

On the recommendation of Dr. Dupont we were going to Lund, a university city on the very edge of the country, pretty much the minimum distance we could travel into Sweden without swimming across the Øresund and making personal landfall on the coast. As far as visiting a country goes, this was about the equivalent of running up, ringing the doorbell, and running away again, but you have to take what you can get.

What we initially couldn’t get was our train tickets. Unsurprisingly, the Copenhagen Card’s free public transport didn’t extend outside the country, so we had to cover this one on our own, and no one could actually figure out the ticket machines. They also refused (pretty much at random, as far as we could tell) to take certain credit cards. Given everything that had happened to me the past week, I was extremely surprised when mine turned out to work just fine. Everyone did eventually end up with a ticket, but we weren’t able to get the cheaper round-trip ones. So, when we did arrive in Lund (after being very disappointed that the guy who came by on the train to check our passports did not stamp them), the first thing we did was make sure we could get back.

We were in luck, and located quite possibly the most helpful clerk in existence at the train station, who told us exactly what train we needed to get back and not only got us a group ticket but finagled it so that we could split the cost among all of our credit cards (a particular necessity given that nobody had Swedish kroner).

With our return trip ensured, our next priority was to get lunch. The rest of the group opted for a kebab shop, but my attention had been caught by a crepe stand we had passed on our way out of the train station. Nothing wrong with kebab shops, but it’s a general principle of my life that if I have the opportunity to eat a crepe, I am going to take that opportunity. So while everyone else got their food, I walked back to the stand and got a banana and Nutella crepe, which was delicious. I got Nutella all over my face trying to eat it, and found this to be a completely acceptable sacrifice.

On the way back to the kebab shop I ran into subset of the KIIS group, who had also decided to go to Sweden that day. Evidently this was an attractive venture across the board. I showed them to the kebab shop where some brief socializing took place before we parted ways for the rest of the day.

Thus fortified, we set out to explore Lund.

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Exploring Lund didn’t involve anything terribly exciting. I’m not in a position to make an authoritative statement on tourist activities in Lund; it’s entirely possible that there was a bustling area of activity somewhere in there, but if there was we never found it. Everywhere we saw was quiet and still and rather cozy. This shouldn’t be taken as a complaint, mind. Actually, I have such incredibly low standards for what constitutes a thriving metropolis that even as quiet as it was compared to Copenhagen, Lund still seemed quite large to me, but it was still quiet compared to Copenhagen and after a stressful week (largely eustress, but still), it was a nice change of pace. We went through the university grounds, which felt a bit odd since I had to restrain the urge to run to class, and visited the cathedral.

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It was made by those who are dead, and the dead keep it.

It was made by those who are dead, and the dead keep it…presumably.

And after the cathedral we walked around the local botanical gardens.

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The original plan had been to stay in Lund into the evening, but we were quickly realizing that there was just not going to be enough to do to take us all that time. Even when we took our time meandering around the streets and trying to buy souvenirs (a fruitless errand; all the shops were closed), we found ourselves back at the train station well before we had planned. Being on no sort of real schedule, though, no one had a problem with going back early.

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We were still bound by the train schedule, though, and we had a bit of time before the next one back to Copenhagen left, so we stopped in about the only place we could find that was open, a small grocery store. I visited the candy section and picked out an assortment to take back home, along with a bar of chocolate with hazelnuts. Being fairly parched, I also got what I thought was a bottle of water, but since I do not read Swedish I turned out to have mistakenly picked up a bottle of carbonated water. Thirsty as I was, I simply couldn’t manage to drink it. I even let it go flat to see if that would make it any more palatable, but it didn’t. Put out by this, I took advantage of a stop into the ubiquitous train station 7-11 to get a smoothie (not trusting water bottle labeling at that point) as well as a postcard, my sole souvenir from Lund unless you count a paper bag that used to have some candy in it.

Sadly, we didn’t get our passports stamped on the way back either.

Since we had gotten back earlier than planned, the rest of the group decided to go tour the Carlsberg Brewery, another one of the Copenhagen Card’s free sites. Since I don’t even find alcohol interesting to drink, let alone look at, I instead stopped by another ubiquitous train station 7-11 for some pizza and went back to the hostel.

After all, I had to inform all my relatives that I had been to Sweden.

 

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