Swedish Summer Stories, part 2

Before I begin with the other Swedish summer stories that I want to tell, I will include another one of my posts from summer of 2009, that has a distinctly California summer vibe...

July 18, 2009

"Tonight we went for crab cakes and lobster tacos and wine tasting on the pier. I love the view looking back at Santa Barbara from out there. I love looking at the pier even when I'm not on it, seeing it stretch so quaintly out over the water, all the wooden painted buildings, how it defines our little town's coastline. I was told not too long ago that piers like this are, to many foreigners, a distinctly American image, that they are not commonly done anywhere else just like we do them here... wooden pilings holding up baitshops, restaurants, ferris wheels, and other such things as they do on our coasts. I liked that."

Now, to contrast, some Swedish summer stories from 2012...

1) In June my company went overnight to the archipelago for a party. I heard of other friends’ companies doing the same over the summertime. We took a boat ride out there, had a fancy dinner at the restaurant/hotel, and then had drinks by the water, at a little dockside bar. It was close to summer solstice, midsummer, so though we stayed by the pier deep into the evening, the sky never got any darker than that of early sunset. Some children that were staying on the island were out in a rowboat, paddling themselves back and forth from shore to dock to rocky output. Many of us stayed overnight in cabins on the island, rustic ones without a restroom or running water. The cabins were dotted around through the forest and just meters above the shoreline. We goofed around by the water’s edge, in the middle of the night, daring each other to go in, and some of us did. We shared beers and boxed wine as we partied around a picnic table and in the cabin I was staying in. I woke up in the morning after maybe just four hours of sleep, before my cabin had awoke. I stepped out into the forest. It was cool, and a light mist was coming down. Green everywhere. I sat on the front step. Not a sound could be heard. So close to the city yet still, there I was, with my company, in the forest on an island.  

2) Something that is very Swedish is the way that the whole world, but especially certain destinations, become the fraternal playground of endless numbers of Swedes come summertime. With their multiple weeks of vacation and high value placed on travel, you'll find them and they'll find each other, everywhere. Story after story, I heard about friends who went to this place or that place and ran into friends accidentally or intentionally, since they were all coincidentally planning on being there. Two vacationing colleagues of mine literally bumped into each other walking down the street in Santa Barbara. The hot spots... Croatia for sailing, California for the Pacific Coast Highway tour, Italy for vineyard and coastal explorations, New York for rooftop bars and shopping, and the French Riviera for sun, champagne and pool lounging. If you're Swedish or with Swedes, you will guaranteed be able to meet up with friends in these destinations.
I stayed in a house with 15 Swedes near St. Tropez for a week this summer. Over that week, we met up at a dayclub with a handful of other Swedes that most of us in our group knew in one way or another. Almost every day, a few from our group would take a car out to meet up with other friends who happened to be in Riviera towns nearby. I even did that, on the last day, to visit a Swedish friend who was staying with his friends in a vineyard villa twenty minutes away. He is one of my close friends in Sweden and just happened to be there the same week I was. Would have been a strange coincidence, but not really... it was just a normal Swedish summer story.

3) Have I not described for you yet the Swedish tradition of crayfish parties (kräftskiva) during August and September? That was the first Swedish cultural tradition I ever participated in while actually in Sweden. It's really one of the most laidback of the traditions here...you drink a lot and eat a lot of bread and butter and break open salted dill crayfish with messy hands, and yes, drink some more. You make a fun hat and sing a lot. I went out to the far reaches of the Stockholm archipelago a few weeks ago, to stay in another one of those rustic cottages that sit on a Baltic shoreline. About 20 of us went out there, and in candlelight with the sounds of heavy rain against the windows, we celebrated the end of a particularly cloudy and wet Swedish summer season.
The weekend was filled with Swedish summer elements... from the miniature red cottage outhouses, to the hiking around the rocks in rubber boots, to the breakfast food, to the jumping into the cold sea since there were no showers. But it was at the end of the weekend, as we waited for the ferry during our journey back to Stockhom, where the most Swedish thing of all, in my opinion, happened. Our car was coming to a stop, when one of the guys in the car pointed to the forested hill next to the road. "Blåbär!!!" the boys shouted. Blueberries. We were hardly parked before they went scurrying out and up the hill. I came up after a minute, and one of them was kneeled in a patch, eating berry after berry. Another guy was walking around with a bag, methodically collecting. "What are you doing with the berries?" I asked him.
"I'm going to make blueberry jam!" he said. Blueberry jam. I just stood there a moment, taking it in. These barely 30 year old guys, yelling about blueberries and picking them til their hands were blue and collecting them to make jam. If that wasn't Swedish, I don't know what is. I loved it.
I started picking some. Never loved blueberries. But Swedish ones... they are bigger, sweeter, more tart. And also, they probably taste better when you've been in the forest, picking them yourself.


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