We woke up the next day to a Swedish breakfast of bread, sliced cheese, sliced cucumbers, chunks of tomato, messmör (a sweet butter made from whey), meat, and good strong coffee. I didn’t quite take to the messmör, but we’ve definitely incorporated the rest into our breakfast routine back home.
We spent the morning eating, talking, watching the kids play, doing laundry, and in general getting some much-needed down time. After lunch, we packed up and went into town to see the sights. Vӓsterås is one of the oldest cities in Northern Europe and has been inhabited since the time of the Vikings. It’s the site of a very large Viking burial mound, but since everything was covered in snow and we had four small children in tow, we sadly had to skip it. Instead, our friends took us on a tour of the historic parts of town – including the beautiful town church – and then we went shopping downtown.
|Walking through the historic district|
|The town church|
|One of the many old grave markers on the floor of the church. I believe this one was from the 1600s.|
I had been really good about not spending tons of money on souvenirs thus far, but when I saw some traditional Swedish Christmas candelabras on sale, I couldn’t resist. It wasn't until we were about to leave a couple days later that we realized we would need two very large and expensive adapters to make them work in the U.S. Thus our Swedish friends acquired two new candelabras.
I did bring home a very simple and very expensive white dress for Miren to use on St. Lucia’s day next year. You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to find a plain white dress or nightgown in the States, but after months of looking, I concluded that American girls apparently need everything bedazzled or covered in writing. So I gave up and suffered the high Swedish taxes instead.
|Time to shop!|
After our outing, we went back to the house to enjoy our favorite Swedish tradition of all – fika. Fika is sort of a mix between an American coffee break and English tea time. You stop the day for a cup of coffee or tea and often a sweet snack shared with friends and family. It differs from a regular old coffee break partly because it’s engrained in the culture and partly because it’s about pausing and socializing with other people. It’s not just something for office workers in the break room or a lone person stopping at a Starbucks for coffee to go. We’ve always done something sort of similar at home (lately it’s been a snack and cup of hot chocolate for the kids post-school day), but it was fun to hear an official term for it. The word nerd part of me also loves that it can be both a verb and a noun – i.e. “Let’s fika” or “Come over for fika.” For this fika, our friends treated us to more great coffee and authentic saffron buns (lussekatter). I tried making them the month before for Lucia’s Day, but these were infinitely better than my attempt.
After another lovely dinner and another lovely night talking and watching Swedish TV, we headed for bed. I had to wake up at 2am to assist with an online worship for work (a plus of working for an online church is that you can work anywhere, but it becomes a minus when you have a huge time change). But at least I knew I had one more day of relaxation before hitting the road again…