Saturday, August 9, 2014

Trains, Temples, and Trotters!

Wednesday morning we said goodbye to Lund. So far, it was probably the most fun place we had visited, but the B&B had new guests coming, so we had to pack it up and move it out. We managed a picture near the Domkyrka with the hometown newspaper for a little free publicity when we get home, then went to see one last museum. It turned out to be a bust: just the ruins of the foundation of 9th or 10th century church under a restaurant. The old Catholic Church was torn down during the Reformation when all of Sweden was declared Lutheran by the King. All that remains are the rocks that were its foundation, so they built a restaurant on top of it. Yawn. We drag all of our luggage through the streets and Craig happens to notice a hand-written sign in the window of a beauty parlor that translates to Now Available: MASSAGE! Time for me to see if there really is a Swedish Massage to be had. Turns out the masseuse is from CHICAGO; she married a Swedish man and attended massage school in Sweden. Does this still count??


After a pretty good hour-long rub-down, we park ourselves near the Lund train station for a couple of hours watching dogs, people, and some mounted police before we catch our final train toward Stockholm and check into a really minimalist B&B. (It was cheap.) The location was unique for us; sixth floor apartment, with a window overlooking a mortuary. The day had been warm, so we lay down (with the windows open) and listened to Stockholm. We estimate it sounds like NYC on a very, very calm day.


Thursday morning is our day to visit the Stockholm Temple. We do a session there and take some pictures, then go in search of some Swedish food. (This has been harder to find in Sweden than you'd think. As nearly as I can tell, Swedes live entirely on pizza and sushi, with an occasional smattering of Thai. Pizzerias dot the Swedish landscape like Starbucks dot Seattle, pretty much one or more to a corner.) We decide to try our luck in the absolute heart of Stockholm - Gamla Stan (Old Town) and there, in the middle of the ancient square, directly across from the Alfred Nobel Museum, we find a Swedish restaurant. (No doubt it's just there for the tourists.) I have the Swedish meatballs and Craig has the Swedish platter consisting of salmon, herring, shrimp, and reindeer. (Don't look for Rudolph at Christmas this year, kids.)



We do a little shopping, stop by the Royal Palace (No, the King would not see us - but the guard was polite about it.) and marvel at the narrow alleyways all through this little section of Stockholm. The old buildings really are pretty cool, and I find that I am actually beginning to like walking on the cobblestones.



By Friday we have had it with museums and churches - time to break out of the tourist box! I find a Stockholm race track but the website is all in Swedish. In an astounding feat of linguistic legerdemain, Craig translates enough to figure out the time and location, and that TODAY is free entry! We take several trains and busses across town and know we have arrived when we join the very non-touristy cooler-bearing, race-form reading, boot-stomping crowd heading to the track. It's a TON of fun. I find out that harness-racing is really big in Sweden. The horses are all trotters (I don't see any pacers) but they run two really cool pony races where kids aspiring to one day drive their own sulky can race their trotting ponies on the same track as the big boys. Afterward, the winning pony gets a wreath and a ribbon and the driver get interviewed for TV. Many in the audience are parents of the kids and/or owners of some of the horses racing, so it is a fun crowd with none of the hard-core gambling or heavy drinking sometimes seen on thoroughbred tracks at home. I twist Craig's arm and make him place a fifty crown bet on an American horse - all the other USA horses have won. It loses, but at least we can now say we've had "a bit of a flutter." They even have a race just for women jockeys in which the girls ride instead of drive their trotters. I've never seen this before but am assured by the elderly couple next to me that it's a popular tradition brought over from France. Their daughter is riding and we sympathize when she comes in third. We head back to the hotel (2 days in the minimalist B&B were enough) having had more fun watching horses in the sun than we've had in all the museums put together.

















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