Just about two years ago, we had the opportunity to make a couple of new friends from Sweden. We met Lena and Toni through couchsurfing while they were living in Barcelona studying Spanish. The four of us very quickly became good friends and we were bummed when they had to return to their regular lives back up north. Before they left, though, they threw out one of those "if-you-ever-get-the-chance, you-should-come-visit-us" invitations that people do sometimes to be nice. Well, this'll serve as a warning to you if you've (or haven't yet) said something similar to me. You just might find me/us darkening your doorstep one day:
But first, the day before Diana and I left for Sweden, I came across the photo below on instagram (whereisdarrennow). It had a Swedish caption so I wasn't positive, but it looked a hell of a lot like a wedding photo. Sure enough, on the day before we went to visit them, and without telling anyone in advance, Toni and Lena GOT MARRIED! Congrats to the newly-improved couple!
I'm not sure how much of a honeymoon it was being with us, but we had a great time!
After they picked us up at the airport, we drove directly to their "summer house", which is located about 15 minutes outside of town. Apparently, lots of Swedish folks have summer houses where they go during the summer (duh!) to enjoy the outdoors and get eaten by mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. Lena and Toni's place is a simple but exceptionally lovely and cosy with a bunch of out buildings on a couple of acres surrounded by lakes, farms, and other summer houses.
In fact, the whole area looks a lot like this random scene from one of our day trips. Amazingly beautiful, isn't it?
Random photo from near the summer of house with a typical, but unusual (for me) fence:
We had a fun-filled first day with one of the best parts being a traditional Swedish dinner served up by Lena's mom. We ate reindeer and other local delicacies (including handpicked lingonberries, of course!). Karen, thanks for the fine, fine food and to Lena for sharing your mom with us! Karen, when your travels bring you south, you're always welcome at our place!
Skelleftea, if you're like me and never heard of it before, is a smallish town (population just over 30,000) located way up in northeastern Sweden just inland from the Baltic sea and almost up near the border with Finland. It's just about an hour south (via car) of the arctic circle and the farthest north that I had ever been! To give you an idea of how far north that is, get on a plane in Barcelona or Boston, and fly straight north for FOUR hours! If you look at a map of where Alaska and Russia almost touch, it's just about there!!!
One of the things that I was most looking forward was experiencing 24-hour daylight. We were a few weeks late for 24 hours of sun but it didn't get dark during our entire one-week trip. This is a photo of the summer house (to the right of the flagpole) that I took at right around midnight:
It's strange because the sun rose at about 2am, completely circled the sky, and then set at about 11pm almost where it came up. To better grasp how cool it was, imagine that you're facing north and standing on a large clock with the 12 out in front of you and the 6 behind you on the ground. The sun would rise at about the 1:30 position, circle around you to the right, be at the 6 position in the middle of the day, continue to circle around you to the left, and set at around the 10:30 position. Awesome, no? The only problem with this, of course, is the opposite darkness, which happens during the middle of the winter. I definitely want to go back to experience it and the northern lights one day!
The next morning, we woke up leisurely and ate a breakfast of local breads, jams, sausages, and cheeses. After breakfast, I got to watch Toni at work. There was a wasp nest in one of the house's eves, which Toni was about to do battle with. Before he started, he put on a beekeeper hat that had a net to cover his entire head, a pair of heavy gloves, and a jacket. Lena, on the other hand, like some battlefield war reporter, ran over to snap photos to later post on instafacetwitgrambook completely unprotected. Fortunately, there were no casualties and the wasps were dispatched like Sant Jordi's dragon!
After the battle was won, we headed into town to check it, and their apartment, out. Their apartment is super cool and located above the town's main plaza. We walked around town for about an hour or so before heading off on our next adventure.
Part of the view of Skelleftea from Lena and Toni's apartment:
This is just the first part of our Swedish adventure. For part 2, click here (story coming soon).