It is with sadness that we leave Sweden on Thursday, after spending two weeks of making a wide sweep around the southern part of the elongated country (looking at a map, I see that we traveled only 1/4 of Sweden — it is longer and larger than most people think).
Sweden is a country that my daughter and I have come to love over the past few years and multiple trips here. It is a country that has become enmeshed in my psyche since I first came here for an extended stay five years ago. Back then, I thought I would eventually come to discover the soul of this great country. I don’t know that I have — or that I ever will. It’s almost as if you have to be born a Swede to understand Sweden.
That is to say you must suffer the cold and the dark, the rigidness of the state (try buying a bottle of booze after 4 p.m. on Saturday — impossible with Mother Monopoly looking after its children), the concepts of lagom (balance in all things, neither too much nor too little) and Jantelagen (which Wikipedia describes as group behavior in Scandinavian societies that negatively portrays and criticizes individual success as unworthy and inappropriate — no wonder Swedes are characteristically shy), and the pressure to be duktig, above all, a good Swede who follows society’s rules.
You must also know the joy of the long summer days, the importance of Midsummer, the coziness that candles provide during the dark days, the concept of mysig, which essentially means cozy but is in fact much more than that, something akin to a sense of safety and comfort. A person can be as mysig as an event or setting.
Sweden is a place of birthday speeches (one by each person attending it seems). It is a nation of song (Swedes sing at the table during many holidays), one of sill (herring) and schnapps and often too many skåls (cheers) on weekends when Swedes abandon the concept of lagom, consuming in excess and forced to take busses and taxis home because of the state’s strict — and admirable — drunk driving policies.
Sweden is as charming as it is quirky, and charming perhaps because it is quirky, like the saying “Good Day Ax Handles” to mean nonsense – look it up, Goddag yxskaft; or the raucous rite of passage known as Studenten, marking graduation from high school; and a whole nation sitting down on Christmas Eve to watch Kalle Anka (Donald Duck). The list could go on.
Like me, my daughter loves Sweden and wants to be part of it. She says, “Swedes have a different perspective on things, and it’s often better than ours, but I suppose there are many places and people like that. I just don’t know much about them.”
The truth is she does not know much of Sweden either. It is a complex place that runs deep, a land of extreme contrasts. Sweden is both happy and sad. Its sadness plummets as deeply as its winter cold; its happiness soars as high as an endless summer sky. During my years here, I’ve never seen a more beautiful summer day than in Sweden — or experienced more of a struggle for happiness in the winter.
Two weeks of travel around Sweden, five years of coming here on a regular basis, and though I know much more about this enchanting land than most of my fellow countrymen, its soul continues to elude me. Will it forever be?
She’ll lead you down a path / There’ll be tenderness in the air / She’ll let you come just far enough / So you know she’s really there / She’ll look at you and smile / And her eyes will say / She’s got a secret garden / Where everything you want / Where everything you need / Will always stay / A million miles away — lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden
On Friday, I fly to Barcelona to board Carnival Cruise Lines’ newest ship, the 130,000-ton Carnival Breeze.
I’m looking forward to such innovations as the Thrill Theater, described as an exhilarating, multi-dimensional attraction that combines a high-definition 3D projection system with interactive special effects to deliver a truly immersive movie-going experience.
Carnival Breeze is also be the first ship to feature all of the new entertainment offerings that are part of the line’s Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement initiative. Avid Cruisers, do you have an interest in hearing more about any of these program:
I look forward to experiencing Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in tandem with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, and the BlueIguana Cantina serving authentic tacos and burritos, along with two new watering holes — the Caribbean-inspired RedFrog Rum Bar and the Mexican-themed BlueIguana Tequila Bar.
Carrie Finley-Bajak (@cruisebuzz) has the roundup of cruise news in the social sphere. Look for her coverage of
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From the Deck Chair’s Aaron Saunders is preparing for his Live Voyage Report: HANSEATIC to Alaska by digitally penning a piece on Arctic Expedition Cruises For Avid Cruiser Voyages.
Geoff Edwards is winding up his l-o-n-g cruise on Crystal Serenity, spending the day in Charleston, South Carolina.