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Friday, October 31, 2014

Foreign Travel: Noticing the Differences

Do you remember the Sesame Street song "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things doesn't belong...."?

While traveling to Sweden this past summer, I liked noticing the things that were different or the same there as they are here, or with what I had grown to be familiar with.

If you don't get a lot of exposure to other places (which I don't), you get a narrow view of the world and make silly assumptions.

I just want to point out a few things I noticed (but there were many many things).  Of course there is the given of a different language, and not being able to read anything or communicate in the language of the country but there are smaller things that might get overlooked.

Many of the flush toilets have this button-type, vs a handle-type flush.

Certainly not everywhere, but in the historic guest house where we stayed, the door knobs were not round and they were situated higher on the door than they are in America.

This closet door didn't have a knob at all, but opened and closed with the same key that would lock it.

These light switch cover plates were round, and the switch itself was also situated higher on the wall than they are in the U.S.  Of course the plugs are different too and so is the wattage.

Well you knew I was going to notice this, right?

We don't have bidets routinely in the U.S. but they are all over Europe and other countries.  WE seem to be the ones' out of step and not the other way around.

Someday, I'm going to learn to use one.

And also notice the radiant heaters fueled by water., and the same will be true for this towel warmer.

I noticed in retrospect that while I see people with a lot, or at least one tattoo in the States, I hardly saw anyone with them where we visited in Sweden.  I'm sure they have them, but I didn't see shops offering them, or people with them.  The same goes for more non-traditional forms of body piercing.

In America it has become the norm for people to take their dogs with them everywhere they go.  I didn't see very many dogs in Sweden, and certainly not on the beaches and other publicly shared spaces.

As mentioned in a previous post, some of the grocery carts are locked and coin op and you get your coin back when you return and relock the cart.  That's a pretty smart invention for keeping carts together and not just left willy-nilly like we tend to do in America.  We also saw at least one store with a scanner so that you scanned your items as you shopped and then they were tallied up at the end.  In Sweden, you don't get bags with your purchases.  You either bring your own, or you buy them.  So far, that hasn't caught on on the States, but it will.  It is already a law in Eugene, Oregon as I discovered in September.

Also previously mentioned, window screens are not common in Sweden (and in most countries except for the U.S., Australia and Canada).

I don't know if this is the norm, or not, but shower curtains did not seem to be in use (that's mineral deposit from well water, by the way).

Some of this was intuitive, and some of it was trial and error.  I may or may not have sprayed the entire room with water...including my head and face...just trying to figure it out.

Portions in restaurants tend to be small, and prices tend to be high.  This meal with 7-8 little meatballs and about a half cup of mashed potatoes cost around $26.12, U.S.  Which was a shock to this fat, cheap American.

There are many many more examples.  I will do a post on currency, and products, and souvenirs, and language...stay tuned for more.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Armenian Presence in Sweden

While visiting Sweden (specifically, Linkoping, Norrkoping and Stockholm), I noticed that some of the businesses, and shall I say this without sounding like I'm "profiling", didn't look native to Sweden.  I surmised based only on appearance, I was seeing a fairly large representation of Armenians in Sweden.  I don't know if that was actually the origin of the nationality of those I saw or not, but when I came home, I did a little looking and this is what I discovered:

Honestly, I don't know quite how to best explain it, so here is a link with the history. Be sure to check it out, it's interesting. Sweden and Armenia have a long history and association.  As with many associations, there is trade and economics involved.  So what I perceived to be Armenians, may, in fact be Armenian Swedes...those of Armenian descent who were born and raised in Sweden, in the same way I have come to know African Americans, Mexican American's etc.

I know I'm ignorant, and culturally incompetent, and this may be a no-brainer to most people who didn't grow up isolated in one rural environment all their life like I did, but I found it of interest.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Beggars in Linkoping Sweden

stock photo from Google
When we visited Sweden (both in Linkoping and in Stockholm), I noticed "foreign" (well, not Swedish?) beggars, or panhandlers, or solicitors, or homeless or however you wish to term it in front of many stores.  In Stockholm, I have the image of a deformed man on double crutches who ambled up and down the cobble streets.

Those that I saw were seated and quiet but nevertheless made their presence known with their quiet pleas for assistance.

This is not a post about the debate between defending or denigrating those in this situation.  I don't have answers, and the debate rages on.  I only seek to notice.  I saw them there, as I see them here.  They have different clothing, different nationalities, and different faces and no doubt different languages, but there is no mistaking them when you see them.  I notice that right or wrong, good or bad, I observed that the attitude towards them is much the same there as it is here.  Sometimes referred to as "gypsies" or "Romas" in Sweden, no doubt due to their country or ethnicity of origin.

In trying to do some rudimentary research on the situation in Sweden or Linkopen, or Stockholm, I cam across the following two resources you may find of interest, which outline the ongoing debate.

The first is from Skyscraper City and is a chat thread on the topic "The Balkan Beggar Problem in Your City".  Here you will clearly see the demonstration of the universal debate.

The second is a research-based article from Linkoping University on the topic of "The Fading of Compassion" which posits that as the number of those in need rises, compassion, conversely, drops.

This is not the space for this debate, but an opportunity to ponder the debate within yourself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Attraction Review: Linkoping Cathedral in Linkoping Sweden

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Well, I certainly didn't get a photo this fantastic.  I took a million, but only seemed to capture a corner here or a corner there.  This cathedral, Linkopings Domkyrka or Linkoping Cathedral, is immense, impressive, beautiful and awe inspiring.

The present structure is about 800 years old, but an earlier church stood on the site in 1120.  You can see the remnants of the original church in the center, and there are historical dioramas of the original church and its history available to view.

Living in America, which for the immigrants calling themselves Americans, is a relatively new country in terms of the history for our immigrants, it is hard to wrap my brain around being within such an old structure.

It is dark and cavernous inside yet peaceful.  It is always important to remember that while it is a "tourist attraction", it is still a church and people are there also to pray and reflect.  The kids we had with us (ages 2 and 4) were exceptionally good inside, but know your kids and judge for yourself if they can handle a visit's not a place for them to run around yelling and playing.  We only had a couple of comical moments that were short-lived.  "Little Man", age 2, at one point said loudly "SSSHHHHH!!!!! BE QUIET!"  Well, he had the right idea anyway.  There was also a small area with some playthings in it and he wasn't overly happy when it was time to leave.  Voices echo in there! :-).

There are some more modern additions:  a memorial tree and a famed, commissioned window of Mary.  The church offers handouts on the history of the church and these more modern additions.  There are crypts.  People are buried under the floor.  It would be interesting to know more about them.  The floor has what I can only inaccurately describe as flat to the floor headstones marking these graves.  It would be an amazing place to sit and contemplate, meditate or pray.  Such an enduring place of history.

I erroneously assume that cathedrals are Catholic.  Some are, but certainly many I have visited are not.  Sweden is predominantly Lutheran.  It would be fantastic to have a guided tour of the entire place to understand it better.  A must visit if cathedrals interest you at all.  I love the architecture and art of them, and the peaceful grandeur that often takes my breath away.  I'm not at all a religious person, but cathedrals and churches are fascinating and beautiful.

Enjoy some photos:

Steeples against a stormy sky

The date for this portion


Those doors are big!

examples of markers for burial crypts

tomb inside the church

relics dating between 1000 and 1100


Monday, October 27, 2014

Attraction Review: Old Rose's Mercantile in La Grande, Oregon

A good friend of mine ("Thelma" of my famed "Thelma and Louise" posts) and I went on a fall drive and ended up stopping at Old Rose's Mercantile on Foothill Road in La Grande, Oregon on Saturday, October 25, 2014.

Old Rose's Mercantile is a converted barn on private residential/farm property that is a festive extravaganza between October and November.  This is when they pour on the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas cheer.  The barn gets a bit too cold in December and onward. 

They have pumpkins as you can see, and a hay ride for kids, and a kids hay bale maze.  The grounds and the mercantile which is chock full of seasonal gifts and decorations is so creatively displayed that it is just a treat to stop in and check it out.

The surrounding marsh, valley and mountains are breathtaking.  Such a beautiful location, and fun place to stop.  The barn has history too!  Just ask.  I think it has a connection to the Pony Express or something to that effect.

Check their facebook page via the link above for hours.  They are located at 59552 Foothill Road in La Grande, Oregon.  You can call them at either 541-963-8549 or 541-910-7774.  Enjoy the photos.

Surrounding area from nearby marsh overlook on Foothill Road

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Linkoping Sweden

I'm assuming this is a church
Linkoping Sweden is varied and fascinating.  We stayed in the country on a very old, peaceful, and beautiful estate with family and ventured into town for various errands and sight seeing excursions.

If I didn't look at any signs, I could believe that I was still in Oregon.  Many of the rural areas and vegetation are similar in many ways.  There is both city life and country life.  It has about 150,000 inhabitants in about 16.28 square miles with the county itself covering about 4,100 square miles.

I can't say that I ever got a full feel for the layout of the town.  There were more rural and more urban areas of various ages.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  While I don't know what all of these photos are of (and perhaps Janet can help me), enjoy the variety. 

Old Town Linkoping

Old Town Linkoping

Old Town Linkoping

Apartment buildings

A greasy spoon is a greasy spoon anywhere, right?

Theater in Old Town Linkoping

What's playing at the theater

A view of the Cathedral from Old Town Linkoping

Old church in Old Town Linkoping

A more modern building in Linkoping

I really need the story on this giant statue in the middle of a roundabout.  See the car for scale?

Would love to know the story of the chubby bathing beauty about to dive

More modern buildings in the Tech district

Modern buildings in the tech district

A rainbow!

Soccer stadium from the rear

Hockey arena

Hockey Arena

Soccer Stadium from another angle

Soccer Stadium

Soccer Stadium

Look at those clouds and the pending sunset!

Perfect end to a perfect day.