American MeatHeads In Europe - Day 1 - 6/17/09
Sweden: Vikings, Boston Bars, and Long-Ass Words

Flying to Sweden is a lot easier when you take an Ambien, and both Mark and I slept soundly on our overnight flight, save for a dream in which I thought I was being hit in the face with a softball, leading to my jolting awake and thrashing about, causing the woman next to me to spill her coffee.

Our first in Stockholm was, depressingly, the Russian Embassy, to make another attempt at getting my Visa. Since it was already 1:30 in the afternoon, the Embassy was of course closed - I guess they only work from 9am-noon every day. I suppose I should have expected this, what with their being Russians and all. I will take one last shot tomorrow morning.

After our failure at Russian embassy, Mark and I quickly made friends with Erkel (yes, like Urkel), the proprietor of a local Swedish restaurant, who pointed us in the direction of a cheap hostel where we could share a roomful of bunk beds with eight 15-year olds traveling across Europe. As we sat in our bunks while our roommates engaged in a lively game of "Never Have I Ever", it suddenly occurred to us that we had no idea where this trip was going to lead. If not Russia, then what? But that question would resolve itself soon, we supposed, and it would do us little good to worry about it now. For now, all we could do was make the best of Stockholm. And so we did, and learned the following things about Sweden in the process:

- Vikings didn't have horns. This tragic revelation was avalanched onto us at the Stockholm Historic Museum (aka the Stockholm Viking Museum). Mark and I had promised our mother we would visit at least one museum (and add at least a little culture to our otherwise alcohol-saturated trip), so of course we immediately set about tracking down the place that had the most stuff about Vikings. There was also this Virgin Mary exhibit, comprised entirely of paintings and sculptures of the Virgin Mary. I don't know why there was a stripper swing.

I'd always shared the common American conception of Vikings being inseparable from their horn-helmets (or, even better, actually having horns and then wearing helmets with accommodating holes), but I was stunned to learn from the museum that this was not the case. Apparently, of all the Vikings relics ever uncovered, few helmets have been found, and none of them had horns. What's worse, it seems that most Vikings weren't even plundering explorers, and just chilled at home in crappy little villages. Honestly, it feels like one of my children has been aborted.

- Swedish is a long language. The Swedish language follows the Germanic tradition of putting words together to make new, longer words, which apparently makes things very clear for them, but sometimes it gets a little out of control:

Mark and I pretty quickly gave up trying to pronounce any of the street names and developed our own obnoxious but hilarious dialect of just tacking on loud gibberish to the first few syllables of any long Swedish word. "Hey, do you know where SviergdenRUKTENBROKTEN is? I think it's near the corner of GottenFRUGENSHADLANT and HogartenRAMBAHSHARTANLOTTEN! This cracked Mark and I up literally every time we did it, and set everyone we met's opinion of Americans back several years.

- Despite the traditional language (or perhaps because of it) Sweden is basically a bilingual country. Some signs are all Swedish, others are all English, but most are a mixture. Everyone speaks English, so we had no trouble finding our way around. All the TV commercials are a strange mix of languages as well - an English 'World of Warcraft' commercial starring Ozzy Osborne will be immediately followed by a bilingual Dell commercial (the Wizzomalk computer!), followed by a totally Swedish fertilizer commercial.

- The first store we saw upon stepping off the plane was a 7-Eleven at the airport. We then went on to see about a million more 7-Elevens. There might actually be more 7-Elevens in Stockholm than there are in Los Angeles. We learned that American culture in general has integrated itself pretty well into Sweden, leading to our photo-hunt game of
Spot the American Store (part 1):

There are 3. Answers below.

- They have Boston bars in Sweden. O'Leary's is this international chain of Irish-American pubs decorated to the gills with Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins paraphernalia. It's sickenly tacky, yet sadly accurate. Here's a picture of Mark eating Apple Pie, which cost 45 Cronor.

- Sweden's pretty far north, which means that during the summer it stays light extremely late. O'Leary's closed and put us out on the street at 11pm, when this picture was taken:

This makes only the second time I've been kicked out of a bar when it's still light out.

- Skank. I just found this sign amusing.

Spot the American Store (part 1) ANSWERS:
A) Ben & Jerry's, B) 7-Eleven, C) Body Works

Read the whole trip! Day: 0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5-7 - 8 - 9



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