Friday, July 29, 2011

Allsång På Skansen, Lotta På Liseborg, Sommarkrysset and Other Forms of Swedish Torture

It's summer time – (Sommartider Hej, Hej Sommartider) – and it is the time of year in most countries where bad TV reigns. There are reruns and summer reality shows (So You Think You Can Dance is excluded from this category, because it is just plain awesome). But Swedish summer TV is a special form of painful. It remains that one nugget of Swedish culture that is a complete mystery to me.

I realize that all Swedes don't LOVE Allsång På Skansen, Lotta and Sommarkrysset - three similar yet separate Swedish TV shows - but the audience is always made up of such a diverse bunch that I always end up scratching my head. There are the old folks with blue hair. There are the young kids in Crocs (Foppatofflor). There are teenagers who sing along. There are folks in their twenties, who should be at a bar or nightclub. There are a wide variety of parents.

This is probably the most Swedish bunch you will see in Sweden, because I think the amount of immigrants who might frequent this type of event are negligible. Because seriously, we don't get it. Really.

The artists are an assortment of folks singing harmless pop songs. There is folksy commentary. For the life of me I cannot think of an American equivalent. Think of American Bandstand, but with boybands and country music.

This summer we travelled a bit with some Swedish family, so I have seen a great deal of these shows.

I had the pleasure of learning about what a Jedward was (I apologize now if you decide to find out for yourself). I also saw a bunch of Swedish 'country singers' as I tried to bury my nose deeper in a book.

Sure, Måns Zelmerlof is easy on the eyes, but none of this show is easy on the ears or your tastebuds.

Seriously if you want a crash course in Swedish culture, look no further. You will totally understand the whole Abba thing like you never have before.

  Per Gessle gets a free pass, because he gave the world Roxette. But here is a taste of him on Allsang pa Skansen

Typical coversong fare on Lotta Pa Liseborg - You are warned!
Jedward on Sommarkryssat - Great Moments in TV history

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Swedish History - (or prehistory) - More Than Just The Vikings!

So if you read this blog now and then, you might have noticed that we are on the road a LOT this summer. Exploring beach towns, historical sites, Swedish cities and more.

It's been fun.

I admit though, that I am a total history buff. Or prehistory buff. I love all things archaeological, old and historical.

Mostly when people think Sweden they think Vikings. They think big ships and helmets. Hell, my High School Football team was called the Vikings and our mascot had a blond wig and a horned helmet.

Sadly in my travels I have found that while Sweden has a rich rich history, there hasn't been quite a fabulous way of marketing this great history in an uber tourist friendly package.

 It is true, many of Sweden's archaeological finds are far more subtle than say, those found in Greece, or the Middle East. There are no huge buildings of marble.

Most of the constructions and remains include hefty and incredible graves that involve wandering far off the beaten path. Or reconstructed villages with archery activities and people dressed in 'I think this was in my text-book' reconstructed clothing. Most of these places are staffed by local volunteers or the unemployed.

Mostly, I enjoyed this 'rugged' wandering into the middle of nowhere, following signs that promised Runestones and rock carvings. But sometimes it was a bit confusing. Sometimes there were several signs offering up information, and they didn't always agree.

And don't get me wrong, there are some GREAT tourist friendly sites out there. I will post about a few that I have visited and loved. But I still think that there are a few of us history/archaeology buffs out there that might allow for more.

Anyways, I finally got to take The Swede to one of my favorite spots in Sweden, Tanumshede. There we got to spend the day trying to analyze art from almost 3000 years ago. I love it. Who took the time to carve these? Why? What do they mean?

In Tanum and it's surroundings there are countless rock carvings from Sweden's Bronze Age. They remain a pretty big mystery, but there are certainly many theories as to why they might be there. If you are in the neighborhood it is well worth a visit. And the neighboring Vitlycke Museum is free to the public.

These pictures aren't the best, but I tried to capture some of my favorite bits of the giant carving outside the museum.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Farbror and Other Swedish Dilemmas

In Swedish, the names for family members have a tendency to be ver sensible. Grandma is either Farmor - father's mother or Mormor - mother's mother. No play on names, no Granny and Nonny. It's all very sensible.

The other titles continue in this fashion, there is Farbror and Morbror for uncles. And systerdotter for nieces. Great.

But lately ive been struggling with what to call the in-laws. See Little Swede has two farbror and they have two wives. So what do we call the wives? My American brother's wife is we call his aunt.

My Swedish family says calling these women Tant is out. They say we should say farsyster. Father's sister. I'm fine with this. But the swedes I work with always point out that when I talk about my nieces, I'm talking really about my husband's nieces. I admit, this bothers mea bit since I've known these girls their whole lives.

So what do you call married ins in your family in Swedish? Or do you not call them at all?

Ps. This post is coming from my phone, my only Internet at the moment. Bear withthemistakes please, ill fix them as soon as I can login for reals.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

There Are No Pedophiles In Sweden – Or More Likely, Who Cares?

This summer, on my Ultimate Swedish Roadtrip, we've been hitting the beach. We've been hitting the beach on the 'West Side' in Bohus and south, we've been hitting the 'East Side' in Osterlen and then heading north. At the end of all this, I could write you quite a treatise on Swedish beachside towns.

But one of the things that I still sometimes makes my jaw drop a bit, beachside - but also makes me smile, because I think it is how it should be - all of those naked little kids running along the water's edge. And there are a lot of them. Little boys and little girls, diapers' stripped off, digging in the dirt.

The kids are little ones of about one, to bigger kids of about four or five.

When the girls get a little older, they run around in just a pair of bikini bottoms, no tops. Climibing in rocks, digging in the sand, kids being kids.

My first thought was, I admit, very American. 'What about all of the pedophiles?'

And then, I realized, it wasn't really a big deal at all. There was nothing here that could be exploited, the kids were just having a great time. Even if there were pedophiles lurking in the bushes, these kids were with their parents, playing and safe. They were getting a chance to be a kid and not have to worry about anything. And so, I watched as my Swede carried away my naked LO.

I watched them take a dip in the sea. And when I was done appreciating it, I also learned what a complete PITA it is to get rid of sand from all of those normally covered up areas.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Best Concert in Sweden – Hands Down – Soundtrack of Our Lives

Before we headed off on our roadtrip this summer, The Swede and I made some attempts to try to plan our wedding anniversary. With kid in tow, and on the road, it would be tricky. But we would be swinging by some friends of ours and checking out their new cottage on the way, maybe we could manage to finagle a babysitter as well?

When we checked with said friends, not only did they 'yay' on the babysitter idea, they also suggested we check out this place: Slussens Pensionat.

So we did. What can I say but Thank you Thank you Thank you! A quick trip to the website left me scratching my head – Soundtrack of Our Lives were playing? At this little inn? Could that be right? Well if so, it would be totally sold out the week before, right? So I sent off an email and got a quick response. “Nope, we still have some good tables left for that night.”

What? OK. So it wasn't cheap, but it was our big night out, so we booked the tickets.

And it was the greatest concert I've been to in Sweden. In fact, I would go so far as to say it definitely makes my top 5 concerts of all time, and during my college years I made it my mission to go to as many concerts as humanly possible.

Before I went, my knowledge of Soundtrack of Our Lives was pretty limited. If you haven't heard of them, check them out. I'd heard a few of their hit songs, I think we have one of their albums on CD somewhere. I've enjoyed their stuff, but never really gotten to into it. A BIG regret, can I say.

Anyway, the band was tight. The crowd started off as a nice cozy little dinner crowd, and then somewhere during the course of the four hour long show, things went a little nutty. There was actually no stage, so eventually the crowd and the band merged together as one. At the end, no one was sitting down – it was my first Swedish concert where everyone got out of their seats. And no, you couldn't really blame the booze. It was too friggin expensive for a large majority of us to consume too much.

I have a new favorite guitarist. And maybe a slight crush on the keyboardist who looked like that indie guy from Criminal Minds totally jamming out. But most of all I had fun. A lot of fun. I danced, I clapped. I laughed and smiled.

It was fun. I am a fan.

Thank you babysitting friends, Thank you Slussens Pensionat and Thank You Soundtrack of our Lives

Apparently they do these gigs at least once a year. If you have a chance - check them out!

(You can check out some of the footage from older shows on their website here)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Swedish Butter - Probably The Best Stuff On Earth

Ah Swedish butter, how I have forgotten that it is true manna of the gods.

Growing up, Swedish butter was something we dreamed about. Seriously. In my house, my mother was always on a diet despite weighing all of 100 pounds. This meant mysterious American foods like 'Butter Buds' and 'Pam' which had 'All the flavor of butter' but none of the fat - or so they claimed.

The trips we took to Sweden were filled with Bregott's Extra Salted butter - because the extra salt meant you didn't have to refrigerate the butter. At our Swedish family's house they kept a tub of butter on the counter. And the father in that family? He heaped about a a centimeter high layer of butter on every slice of bread he ate. So when in Sweden I could butter my sandwiches 'The Swedish Way.' (This was second  only to when I got to get sugar cereals on my birthday - and by sugar I mean Honey nut Cheerios, not Cookie Crisp).

Since moving to Sweden, I've managed to wean myself from the Extra Salty to the Organic, but I still stick to Bregotts.

Except on this road trip. When some friends of ours, who joined us for a leg of the trip, were made responsible for refrigerated perishables. Turns out they are Swedish margarine lovers.  I guess someone has to eat Swedish margarine.

The first day I thought, 'This won't be so bad, it's just a few days.' But man, after the second day of margarine open-faced smorgas for breakfast, I was jonesing for some Bregotts.

I ended up getting a small container to tide me over. I don't know if there is anything quite like it in the States, since my exposure to real butter was pretty limited.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On the Radio - oh oh - On the Swedish Radio....

As I mentioned before, we are on a road trip! And it is amazing. Who knew Sweden had so many beach towns. And what do they all do in the winter?

But while we are driving, we listen to a lot of radio. A lot of Swedish radio. And I can say it has made the journey very very interesting.

There are a few Swedish national stations - you can find them at

These stations are like NPR - interesting stories, informative, not too much of a political slant but a suggestion of one. The stories are a bit like This American Life (download it now from Itunes if you aren't listening to it already - Ira Glass is a modern day radio hero).

Today we listened to a great discussion on what is 'Being Swedish.' The other day we heard a similar discussion about multiculturalism in Sweden and what it means. But there are all kinds of discussions on these stations.

One highlight is the Summer Speakers - Swedish Celebrities host their own one hour show, complete with music and storytelling. Listening to Ingmar Bergman's hour is still one of my most memorable moments of Swedish radio.

That said, what always drives me crazy is the music. It is meant to appeal to a very broad audience, and it just feels like it always misses the mark. The stories are so interesting that we don't want to change the station during the songs (this of course doesn't apply to the Summer Speakers most of the time), but I just wish they would keep it a little more focused -like all rap, or all showtunes, because mixing the two confuses the hell out of me.

Anyways, back to relaxing - have you heard anything interesting on Swedish radio? If you have a good link, let me know.

(Posted during a 5 minute interent borrowing time at a friend's house. Please forgive any errors)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Road Trip!

I've been traveling around Sweden as of late, so I'm sorry things have been a little sparse around here. The weather is too nice to be inside in front of the computer.

We are driving around Sweden for the next few weeks, but I'll try to keep updating in the mean time.

I've got my recommended Swedish reads with me and so far so good.