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A Day Off…Sort of…

‘m now sitting here in the Stadsbibliotek (City Library) in Malmö, and I have just my own schedule to deal with today, so I can take my time and fill everyone in. I’ve had to figure out how to get internet access here, and it seems that the best and cheapest way is to go to the library, and you can reserve a computer for 30 minutes, so I’ve done that now. A Swedish keyboard is different from an American one in small ways, so I’m always typing quickly and then make a mistake like typing Iäm instead of I’m. I’m learning though. 

I’ll use this opportunity to write more about everything that’s happened in the three days I’ve been here. The first day, I flew into Iceland to the very cute Keflavik Aiport. While this is the main airport for the country, it really shows how small Iceland is. It’s also quite expensive, except if you shop at the duty free. I’ll be getting from Brennivin to bring home with me!

My trip to Arlanda Airport outside of Stockholm, and except for waiting for my luggage, it was very quick. As I went through EU customs in Iceland, I just had to walk out of there to the train. The trip into Stockholm Central station was fine, but I had to figure out where to go from there. I had decided on the plain that although I had originally planned to go to Skövde, I would instead got to Mariestad, as it’s right on Vännern, the biggest lake in Sweden, and should be prettier. I had to wait in line (a national habit here in Sweden) to speak with someone, so that I could reserve my seat on the train. I have a Eurail pass here, but I went on one of the X2000 trains, which is new and extremely fast (187 mph!) and it cost me an extra SEK65 to reserve a seat. It took about 1 1/4 hours to get to Hallsberg, where I changed trains to a local Västtraffik train to Mariestad. 

The trains here are great and they are scheduled so that when you change trains, you never have to wait more than 15 minutes at a station. They all run on time too, so it’s so easy. No wonder the Swedes all use them. Another reason could be the price of gas, which seems to average SEK11.50 for a liter (translation: with about SEK6.9 equalling one US dollar, that’s about one dollar seventy cents per liter, and there are 4.05 liters in a gallon, so that’s over seven dollars US for a US gallon. And we think we’re paying a lot for gas!)

I managed to get a bed at the Hostel in Mariestad, and it was only SEK180 for the night. I was in a room with 6 beds, but I was the only person in it. I got to call my internet geneology friend Elisabeth Simensen, and we arrange to meet the next day to go to all the places where the Hurtig part of the family came from. As at this point I hadn’t slept for 28 hours, I at least tried to stay up for a little bit so that I could try to get on a Swedish time schedule. I walked around the small city, and got to bed around 10 p.m. Of course it was still light out.

After falling asleep, I woke up at 2 a.m. The light was still up, or came up, and try as I might I couldn’t fall asleep again. I got up at 3 a.m. and started to organize my things into a better way to travel around Sweden, took a shower, ate a couple of fruit leathers that I brought with me, and went outside to journal a little and walked out the breakwater (which was across the street from the hostel) out to the lake. I was starting to get into vacation mode as I couldn’t do anything but hang out, but I was getting hungry. None of the bakeries or grocery stores opened until 8 a.m. By 7 a.m. the sun was getting very strong, and I just had to move around so I went out and walked a bit around. Finally 8 a.m. came and I grabbed some great Swedish pastries at the Konditorei and then went next door and bought some yogurt and fruit and juice, plus some other snack items for later. 

As I didn’t sleep well, I decided that I was getting too old to be in a hostel, and that I would move to a hotel the next night that was closer to the train line that would take me south to Skåne the next day. Elisabeth picked me up, and we drove to the first place on the journey, the village of Ullervad. I found out that Elisabeth has family in Maynard (my home town) and she new my great-grandmother’s sister Milde when she was young. Milde Tornell had emigrated to the USA, and then moved back to Sweden. Elisabeth new her when she was in the nursing home in Ullervad. We went to the cemetary there, and not only did we find the gravestone of Milde and her husband, but I also found the gravestone of her sister Selma. I’ve got pictures of all that to put up here later. I also found out that in Sweden, they only keep grave stone up for a set number of years, and if someone doesn’t pay a maintenance fee, they will taken down the stones and put someone else’s up there. I at least gave my name as a contact for these graves.

Next, Elisabeth and I traveled to the small house (stuga) where my great great grandfather Anders Hurtig lived in at the end of his life. It’s in the middle of nowhere. If Elisabeth wasn’t there, I never would have found it. It’s in a logging area on a dirt track (road is too good of a word for it). Walking up to it, I could just feel goosebumps coming onto me as this was a place I’ve been wanting to see all my life. It’s a little cottage, probably about 15 x 20 feet, with a small barn, a root cellar, and a small well. I don’t know if he farmed around there, but it would have been difficult. It’s very wooded and a little marshy. We stayed and took some pictures, and I got a couple of stones from the place so I could bring the spirit of it back home with me. 

The rest of the day, we visited a number of beautiful old churches where some of my relatives where married or confirmed or christened. And we looked at a lot of graveyard, trying to find stones. We didn’t find any, but they might be where we looked but the stones aren’t there anymore. It was very warm, and I’ve found out since that Mariestad was the warmest place in Sweden that day. It was in the upper 80’s which is very rare for Sweden in June.

Elisabeth was more than kind, drove me everywhere, wouldn’t let me pay for my lunch, and drove me to Skövde so that I could get a hotel room. She also allowed me to try to speak as much Swedish as possible, and I got much better by the end of the day. Her English is pretty good, so I could always fall back on that. I had brought some maple syrup from New England to give as a gift and she liked that, but it certainly wasn’t a fair trade here. I’m going to try to find out some information about her relatives in Maynard.

I managed to get a hotel room in Skövde (which is pronounce khov-deh, where the kh sounds like a capaccino machine; it’s the most difficult sound in Swedish for me to say, but I’m getting better!) It was difficult to get a room and when I finally got one, it was so amazingly tiny. I did sleep well though, and was able to recharge my batteries for my camera.

The next day, I went across the street to take the train from Skövde to Nässjö (there’s that capaccino sound again) and then change to the X2000 train to Lund. On the train to Nässjö, there were a couple of students drinking, playing loud Swedish rap music or old American 70’s songs I knew in high school. Then in Jönköping, a group of 8 students got on and then they turned up the music. They were drinking beer, and it was only 10 a.m.! You can tell they were getting a little crazy, as one of them took out a condom, unrolled it, and thread it through the piercing in his nasal septum! That was bizarre. Just goes to show that kids are kids wherever they are.

The trip from Nässjö to Lund was uneventful, except the seat I reserved faced backwards, and I really don’t like that, so I asked to switch seats. When I got to Lund, I found out that there was not only a conference, but it was graduation from gymnasiet (high school), so all the graduates were dressed up, wearing sailor hats (a tradition for graduates here), walking around blowing whistles and singing off key. Oh, and of course, drinking beer. I went to the tourist information to try to book a room, and they said that all the hotels were filled because of the conference, and my best bet was the hostel, but that wasn’t open until 5 p.m. I tried to call Jenny Rosenkvist, my newly found cousin, but couldn’t get throught to her. I got some lunch, and then went back. I only had Jenny’s work number, so I went to the tourist information center to see if they could help me find a number at her office so I could locate her, when the woman told me “Well, we could just look up her cell phone number.” I was surprised that that was public knowledge. So, I called got her, and she and her mother Karin met me at Lund’s Cathedral, which is a lovely large church with some beautiful artwork. There’s also a medieval clock there that I got to see run. 

Next, Jenny, Karin, and I went to the museum at Lund University, where they had actual houses from different parts of Sweden and of different social classes that had been brought there. There were representative items, like spinning wheels that are almost the sam as the one that we have at my parent’s house. That was great, and then we went to a restarant where we met Stig-Åke Rosenkvist and Jenny’s boyfriend Jacob. I showed lots of pictures and what research I had, as well as heard their stories. Again, I’m trying to use my Swedish, but sometimes I have to go to my English. They speak English also, but aren’t as comfortable with it as Elisabeth is. After dinner, I got my bed at the hostel, which is an actual train, and I’m sleeping in a sleeper, where we have three beds in a room smaller than the hotel room I had in Skövde. Then, we went over to Stig-Åke and Karin’s house in Furulund where I was able to show them more of my geneology work, and they showed me more picturs of their family. We made plans to get together on Friday to go see all the villages where the Bilqvist family is from, and then on Saturday, I’ll meet up with another cousin, Kristina Larsson, who will show me arount to other places.

I’m getting better at understanding Swedish, but the people down here speak with a Skånska accent, and their vowel sounds are different, so it’s not as easy. They sound more like the Danes here, which is not surprising, as Copenhagen is quite close.

I’m going to go now and get some lunch, check out what seems like a cool museum here, and get outside. It’s overcast and in the high 50’s/low 60’s now, so itäs quite a difference. I’m planning on staying in Lund until Sunday, and then take the train to Karlkrona, to see where my mother’s mother’s family is from. I don’t have anyone there to help me, so I’ll be doing it on my own. 

Malmö seems to be famous for it’s falaffel shops, so I’ll go get a sandwich now. Don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to write, but wanted to use this time to catch up.


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