Hej, y’all! Lily here. We’re back this week for another installment of Swedish Sundays, which will cover Monday through Wednesday of my family’s visit. We’ll discuss visiting the ICEBAR, preparing an American-style Thanksgiving dinner in Sweden, and visiting Vikings. Most of the places we went during this week I had gone to before and wanted to share with my family, and they did not disappoint. Enjoy Part Two! – Lily
Monday, November 25
After breakfast, Brandon and I went up to the Nest while the kids stayed in the room. We signed up for access to the sauna and spa room, which included use of robes and slippers, for the rest of the week. The rooftop pool was open and heated, too. Side note: the toiletries at Downtown Camper smelled so good! This area was not open to kids, so our plan was to go first thing in the morning before breakfast for some relaxing quiet time.
Lily had class on Monday from 11:40 a.m. to 1 p.m. Our plan was to go to school with her and check out where she had been studying, then wander around and find something to do while she was in class. Her program was housed in the same building as the National Music School in the Norrmalm section of Stockholm, and a quick walk from the subway stop.
Brandon, Max and I walked a few blocks before coming across a beautiful park with a playground and a few paths. We had stumbled upon Humlegården in the Östermalm district. Max jumped on the swings for a bit before we continued walking across the park, in what was formerly a royal garden where hops (hence “Humle”), along with fruit and spices, were grown.
On the other side of the park, we realized we stood at the entrance to the Kungliga biblioteket, the National Library of Sweden. The library is open to the public, however serious scholarly work takes place here, so it is very quiet. The main attraction for many visitors is the Codex Gigas, aka the Devil’s Bible, thought to be the largest preserved medieval manuscript in the world. It is kept in a specially lit and sealed off room to protect it. After spending some time looking at the manuscript and other displays in the room, we found the library cafe and enjoyed a light fika before heading back to meet Lily at her school.
I woke up not feeling so hot, a bit of a headache and sore throat, so Lily took me to a nearby pharmacy (apotek) to pick up some meds. I ended up with a throat spray and some Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, both of which helped over the course of the week.
Lily had a few hours until her next class, so she thought we would have time to head over to Skansen, an open-air museum, for a bit before she had to return. We arrived within a half hour of closing, so we decided to hold off on going in and opted to go to the gift shop and then to a cute cafe across the street for a prix fixe lunch.
After lunch, Lily left for campus while the three of us made our way back to the hotel to get ready for our reservation at the ICEBAR. Lily met up with us at the hotel and we walked over. The entire bar is made of ice and only a limited number of people are allowed inside at a time. When it was time, put on our parkas and mittens and headed inside. Our drinks were served in glasses made of ice. The theme for the ICEBAR changes every year, and during our visit it was The Promised Land, which was inspired by Swedes like my great-grandmother and her family who left Sweden for a better life in the US. It felt very surreal to read stories about these emigres knowing that they are part of our family’s history too.
Before we left for Sweden, Lily had mentioned that she wanted Max to stay with her one night at her host home. They decided Monday would work best, so after the ICEBAR, Lily and Max left to head back to Taby. Brandon and I had a date night in Stockholm!
Like many date nights we have at home, this entailed shopping and dinner 🙂 Walking around the city, Lily had pointed out Clas Ohlson, a retail store that’s sort of like a well-organized home section of Target with Ikea prices. We had seen so many pretty displays of lighted paper stars and candelabras in windows everywhere, we wanted to see if we could find them there. Since outlets are different in the US, we didn’t want to get anything electric. It turns out that the paper stars are sold flat – perfect for packing – and Brandon found a battery powered light to go inside it. Success!
We walked through the rest of the Gallerian mall to get back to our hotel where we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Campfire restaurant inside.
Tuesday, November 26
Lily and Max met us back at the hotel for breakfast before Lily had to leave for class. Tuesday was Lily’s night to cook for her host family, so we planned to make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for them. Weeks before, her host mom ordered a turkey from the grocery store — turkey is not quite as popular in Sweden as it is in the US, so it was a special order. Lily had won a contest at her school where she won a grocery store gift card, which she used to purchase most of our provisions. Lily had discovered an American food store at the mall by her host home where she was able to find Thanksgiving staples like French-fried onions and cream of mushroom soup for green bean casserole, and pumpkin puree and Crisco for pie. Lily and Max made the pie on Monday night, and we planned to make the rest of the dinner after Lily got out of school.
While Lily was in class, we headed over to the Vasa Museum, home of the best preserved 17th century ship. The museum was built around the ship, and conservators are still in the process of restoring it bit by bit. We spent a couple of hours here before meeting up with Lily again.
We were very excited to meet Lily’s host family and prepare an American Thanksgiving dinner for them. Our family loves the Thanksgivings we have spent with my Aunt Carol and Uncle Terry for the past 19 years, and it was an adventure to try to recreate her recipes in another country and in a different kitchen. Our menu: turkey, gravy, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing balls, homemade applesauce, pumpkin pie and whipped cream.
Once we got the turkey in the oven, Lily wanted to show us Morby Centrum, the mall where she hung out with her friends and shopped for groceries (yes! There are couple of grocery stores in the mall!). Brandon and I needed swimsuits for the hotel sauna, which we eventually (thankfully) found at H&M. We stopped by Espresso House, a coffee chain similar to Starbucks, for a lovely fika of coffee drinks and pastries before heading back to the Haussling’s to finish preparing Thanksgiving dinner.
Sidenote: one of the first things we noticed around Stockholm and the mall is that all of the retail stores had signs for Black Friday sales. Even though Swedes do not officially celebrate Thanksgiving, the concept of promoting sales seemed to be very popular. Note: these sales were not relegated to just Friday nor were there any special hours like our stores — it was just a theme for the week!
Lily’s host family was very welcoming and kind. Her host mom set up their dining room for our dinner, and they had just put up some of their holiday decorations. It was just beautiful.
Dinner turned out great, although Swedish potatoes seem to have a different texture/consistency, so when I mashed them they came out more doughy than fluffy. Baking them in the oven for a bit seemed to help fix them — and everything else came out perfectly! Lily’s host dad really liked the pumpkin pie 🙂
We brought a few gifts from home to give to Lily’s family, which we shared after dinner and dessert. It was a fun night of conversation and cultural exchange.
Lily decided to stay with us the rest of the week, so she packed a bag to bring back to the hotel along with her school backpack. While she was doing that, her host mom pulled me aside to sneak some Christmas presents for Lily into my bag to bring back with me without Lily knowing until Christmas morning (spoiler: we were successful!). So very thoughtful!
Before we knew it, our fun evening was over and the four of us walked to the train and headed back to the hotel.
Wednesday, November 27
Brandon and I left our sleepy children to go to the Nest for a sauna and dip in the outside pool in our new swimsuits, robes and slippers. We learned that while Swedes usually sauna in the nude, when men and women sauna together in a shared space it is more appropriate to wear a bathing suit – a major relief for our American sensibilities! Since it was early in the morning, there were only a handful of people in the Nest and we were able to enjoy some quiet time. Even though it was winter, lightly snowing, the pool was warm and inviting. We had an amazing view of Stockholm as we swam. A very refreshing way to start the day.
Lily had class at 1 p.m., so after breakfast we hung out in our room for a bit and decided to walk across town to Lily’s school in time to enjoy a fika at Karla Cafe, one of Lily’s favorite places to go a couple of blocks away. For most of our trip, Lily would order in Swedish for us — she did so beautifully, and received a few compliments on her new skills, too! We enjoyed pastries and coffee in a cozy spot at the back of the cafe.
After walking Lily to school, the three of us boarded a bus to head over to Tekniska museet, the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology. This was the perfect place to spend an afternoon with our own tech fiend, especially the Play Beyond Play exhibit, which was all about computer games. We zoomed through the rest of the museum so we could leave in time to meet Lily when she got out of class. The Tekniska is one of several museums clustered together in this more open/rural area of Stockholm. Other museums include the Maritime Museum, the National Sports Museum, the Police Museum and the Museum of Ethnography.
Lily made reservations at a Viking restaurant on Gamla Stan called Aifur, so we freshened up at the hotel before walking across the bridge to go to dinner. She had been there before and was excited to take us there. Down one of the winding cobblestone streets, there is a small sign on a wall where you descend some stone steps to an entrance below street level. Upon entering, a Viking greets you at the door, asks your name and then blows a horn and shouts out your arrival to everyone else in the restaurant. Everyone stops what they are doing to clap for your entrance and then you get seated. The tables are long and are meant for people to share with other parties like one big happy Viking family. They are known for their mead and live music, and their attempt to recreate an authentic as possible Iron Age menu. It was wild and lots of fun!
After dinner, we wandered around Gamla Stan enjoying the cool evening air and holiday lights and decorations everywhere, and walked back to the hotel where we enjoyed ice cream sundaes at Campfire before turning in for the night.
Tune in next week for the final installment featuring: Swedish takes on Bocce ball and Thanksgiving dinner!