I will begin by noting that the “k” in Linköping sounds more like a “sh”. And I think it has something to do with the umlaut over the “o”.
After taking a train through the very green Swedish countryside, I arrive at Linköping Station in the late afternoon. Matilda and Jesper are waiting for me, and we go to a nearby park for beach volleyball, drinks and snacks. Matilda had alerted a couple of her friends, they in turn passed the message along to some of their friends, and there are probably enough people to field two full games. Everyone is nice to use English when they remember, and on top of that, their English is great. Unlike some other European countries, Sweden doesn’t dub their television and movies. As a result, although the movies still have subtitles, many Swedes are very adept at conversational English.
The following day, which is also Ascension Day (Kristi himmelsfärdsdag), is a national holiday, and Matilda invites me to a brunch with friends from her university. It is a delicious home-cooked potluck breakfast. Matilda and I contribute some scrambled eggs and American banana pancakes, for which I couldn’t use Costco’s mix so I had to start from scratch. The meal is a feast and I meet a long-table’s worth of Matilda’s friends. One fun fact that comes to light is that many young Swedes who want to travel will start by working for about 6 months in Norway, the richest country per capita in the world. They live cheaply and make descent wages and are then prepared to travel the second 6 months of the year around the rest of the Europe or the world.
After brunch, Matilda and I venture to the nearby town of Vadstena, known for its Abbey Church and its Castle. After making the mandatory stops at these two well-preserved landmarks, Matilda and I enjoy a game of mini-golf before watching the conclusion of a city-wide tractor race. We approach a sign that describes this tractor race, and as we read it more closely, we see that it is occurring today and that it should be ending soon. As we are gripped by pure excitement watching the tractors roll in, we eat a traditional shrimp sandwhich, which is a slice of bread, a layer of eggs and mayo, all topped off with a mound of shrimp.
In the late afternoon, Matilda gives me a quick tour around Linköping, much of which is closed because of the holiday, and we finish at the city’s famous ice cream shop. Along with my ice cream, Matilda insists that I try some traditional salted black licorice, which was about as weird as it sounds. We hurry back home, change to get ready for fotboll (Swedish for soccer), and are off to meet some friends at the field. I am quickly reminded that I haven’t played fotboll for ages, and it shows, but I have fun nonetheless.
The day ends as the sun sets after 10pm with Matilda, Jesper and I sitting outside enjoying some tea, cheese and crackers, and other delectable snacks. My stay in Linköping was short, but I feel so lucky to have been able to tour around with Matilda, meet her friends, and explore some of the quieter areas of central Sweden.