Finland round 2: Leah & Alex

After nearly seven months away from family and friends, we had our first visitor here in Linköping when my sister came to visit for her spring break. To say I was excited would be a vast understatement. I hadn’t seen a familiar face since moving, so to not only get to see someone, but to have that someone be my sister was beyond exciting. Alex traveled to Sweden with a few friends from school (whom we met up with throughout the trip) and I met her in Stockholm on a Tuesday afternoon. Our first order of business was a trip to Finland via ferry (the same one Jonathan took a while back), then a weekend in Linköping, followed by a trip south to spend a night in Malmö, Sweden and a few days in Copenhagen, Denmark.


The port of Helsinki

We were both excited about our trip to Helsinki. As many of you know, we grew up in an area that has a large population of people with Finnish ancestry, our family included, so we joked about how this was our trip to the “motherland”. The plan was to leave Stockholm Tuesday afternoon, spend a night on the ferry, explore Helsinki all day Wednesday, and spend Wednesday night on the ferry on our way back to Stockholm. We’d then take the train to Linköping to show Alex my new “home”.


No lifeboats for us down here!

We were skeptical of what our ferry cabin would consist of— it only cost us a total of $35 USD for both of our tickets plus the cabin for two nights, so we didn’t have high hopes. Fortunately, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, it was no Ritz Carlton (to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton, but I’m going assume I’m right), but we had enough space, comfortable beds, and a clean bathroom, so no major complaints. However, our cabin was located below the car deck, on the absolute lowest floor. This led to a series of “Titanic” references in which we envisioned ourselves, in the event of a disaster, trapped on our lower “peasant” level as all fancy people are given lifeboat priority (spoiler alert: we did not hit any icebergs).


After Jonathan’s rave reviews of the buffet (see previous blogpost), we made sure to buy tickets to that for our dinner option. We wasted time before dinner by checking out the on-board Duty Free shop. Alex found some souvenirs and we bought some wine for the room. After some brief shopping, we spent our time like most adults—playing yahztee and pick-up sticks while catching up. The weekend before our trip, I went to Tiger (something akin to a Swedish version of the dollar store, but slightly classier) and picked up some very grown up games—pick-up sticks, dominos, and yahtzee. Luckily, my sister is just as mature as I am, so the games ended up being good investments.

As expected, dinner was great! We knew of that beer/wine was unlimited during the 2-hr reservation, so we were among the first to show up and the last to leave (don’t judge us). This also allowed for multiple rounds of food, the highlights of which included amazing smoked salmon and other seafood, as well as an extensive dessert bar. Alex was less inclined to try the typical Swedish delicacies, such as the several varieties of pickled herring, regardless of my suggestions that she try immerse herself in the Swedish culture while visiting. To be fair, the one time I did “immerse” myself in the culture and sampled several types pickled herring at a “traditional” Swedish dinner, I ended up throwing up afterwards, so I can’t really blame her for not being more adventurous. We did, however, sample some caviar and salmon prepared a half dozen ways. Alex also tried to eat some shrimp but got creeped out because they came with eyes and legs attached (you know, like how shrimp actually exist in real life).

After maxing out the buffet, we decided to check out the “nightlife” on the ship. This included some very weird dance group that wore metallic gold windsuits supporting an aging singer in an 80’s Madonna-esque outfit. This was followed by a decent cover band that no one seemed to appreciate, then a DJ who was able to convince two people to dance. I know I’m not selling this well, but somehow we had a fantastic time. Our first night at the “Fun Club” (that was literally the name of it) did not disappoint.



Alex doesn’t understand art

We arrived to Helsinki Wednesday morning around 10am and spent some time wandering around and pointing at things in the distance we wanted to check out because neither of us had taken the time to actually plan ahead (typical of us and our trips together). We grabbed a nice breakfast, did some window shopping, found a few fancy churches, and ogled the most amazing chocolate selection at Frazer Café (seriously, SO MUCH chocolate, and baked goods!). After a couple hours, we met up with Alex’s friends, Catie, Kelsey, and Merita, who had flown to Helsinki previously and were staying a couple nights in the city. We met on the steps of the Cathedral (for Gossip Girl fans, this totally reminded me of the “Met Steps”; if you have never watched Gossip Girl, ignore that, neither have I because I’m an adult and would never refer to Gossip Girl in a blogpost).



The “Cathedral” Steps


After discussing our options, we decided to all take a short ferry ride to a small island off Helsinki; Suomenlinna. Suomenlinna, which is actually a constellation of 6 small, interconnected islands, is a sea fortress that was built by the Swedes back in the 1700’s to protect against Russian expansionism. Although that didn’t work out as planned, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site popular with tourists and inhabited year-round by about 900 people. Although there are supposedly several shops and museums, we wandered off the designated “path” and found some old cannons, creepy stone tunnels built into hills, and what we assumed to be long-abandoned buildings. Definitely sea fortress-ish.post3


After we returned from Soumenlinna, it was time for me and Alex to return to the ferry. In anticipation of another buffet excursion and night out at the “Fun Club”, we decided to take a nap. Once we felt fully restored, we conquered the buffet again. Learning from our previous experience, we attempted to go in with a strategy of “pacing ourselves”. This strategy failed miserably, and we ended up struggling to consume what we believed to be appropriate amounts of desserts and wine, not to mention salmon, steak, and pork belly.

Satisfyingly stuffed, we made our way to the Fun Club for another night of….fun. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Wednesday nights at the Fun Club are when the action happens. Because of our later dinner reservation, we [fortunately] missed the metallic windsuit dancers. Instead, the cover band was playing a mix of American 80’s music and “traditional” music (i.e. almost like polka music), and the over 65+ year olds in the crowd were loving it. Alex and I did some professional people watching, because it was actually fun watching the couples from different places show of their different dancing styles. We then began narrating a “dancing with the stars”-like contest between the couples, even going so far as giving them names. We are clearly very easily entertained.

We took a break from people watching to grab another beer and ended up chatting with some Finnish passangers. Alex and I took this opportunity to show off our extensive knowledge of the Finnish language, which includes (and IS limited to):

-Kantapää (but pronounced more like “gundaba”; which is the “heel” or end of the bread)

-Istua (sit)

-Pannukakku (pancake; our mom makes an amazing Finnish pannukakku!)

-Paska poika (shit boy)

-Yksi, kaksi, kolme (one, two, three)

We also chose to bestow upon our new friends a very off-tune version of the piikkisika song, which our grandmother sang to us growing up:

”Piikkisika, piikkisika, por-quin-pine

Climbing way up high in the northern pine

I’ll take my sot gun and soot you down

Piikkisika, por-quin-pine”

When our Finnish friends asked why we say “sot gun” (instead of shot gun) and “soot” (instead of shoot), we said, “because that’s what you guys say!”. They were not convinced, but appreciated our performance nonetheless.

Satisfied with what we viewed as successful cultural exchange, we called it a night and went back to our room. The ferry docked around 10am, so we woke up a little early to grab breakfast and take in the sights as we arrived in Stockholm. We had a few hours before our train to Linköping, so we did a little sightseeing in Stockholm. Then we headed to my new home, followed by a week exploring more of the Nordic region (which will likely constitute a separate blog post, eventually!).



Cruise to Finland! How did we end up on a boat?

I finally got my first visitors since moving to Sweden. My friends Sal, Henry, and CJ were able to make it to Sweden for some great times. I was glad to be able to get to see some people from home finally. Sal and CJ were already on a Eurotrip moving around from country to country, I believe Sweden was number 7. Henry thought it would just be a great idea to come for the week, which is not surprising for him. After much discussion on what we wanted to do, we decided on taking a Viking Line cruise to Helsinki, Finland. We all met in Stockholm before going to the port to board the ship for the 40 hour cruise. The itinerary was as follows:

Depart Stockholm: 4:30PM   –   Arrive Helsinki: 10:10AM

Depart Helsinki: 5:30PM   –   Arrive Stockholm: 10:00AM

Initially, we weren’t sure that we wanted to spend that much time on the ship since we didn’t know what to expect. Seeing the ship for the first time, it was surprisingly bigger/better than expected. The cabin was quite small upon first entering, but it ended up being perfect for the four of us along with all the bags.

Naturally, the first thing we did shortly after boarding the ship was to eat. I heard from some people that the best bet was to do the buffet for various reasons, but the main reason was that beer/wine were unlimited during the session. The buffet sessions were broken up into two hour sessions, leaving a lot of time for eating and drinking. When we first get to our table, there’s a lady walking around with a cart of hard liquor for shots. Of course, take some Swedish “snaps” (schnapps) to start the meal.

The Viking buffet was awesome and had so many different options. Lots of different fish dishes were liked a lot by some, however, I stayed away from the pickled herring. Some of the groups favorites were the small bell peppers filled with hummus, Peru-style chorizo, meatballs, blue cheese with thyme or truffle flavored honey, and Éclairs filled with vanilla. I believe everyone agreed that the best overall option was the juniper berry marinated lamb fillet with blueberry and lingonberry jam.

You can visit this URL to view the offerings if you’d like:

Now that I am sure you’re hungry and wanting to take this cruise as well, that list wasn’t the only great thing. The beer and wine was on tap at the drink station and you were free to fill-up as many times as you wanted. This was the greatest thing possible! Can only say that we put a huge dent in both, surprised the taps were working after we left.

After dinner, we walked around the ship and visited the duty free shop to pick up some beer and liquor. We took in some interesting live music and chilled for the night. These cruises are very popular since they offer duty free shopping on the ship. This allows you to buy liquor and beer without the huge tax that you’d be paying in Sweden on these items. So it was not shocking to see people leaving with crates and dollies full of alcohol.

Once we arrived in Helsinki we didn’t really have any set plans, so we wandered. We found and appointed “Tony’s Deli” as the best café known to man (at least in Helsinki), due to their Buffalo Mozzarella filled focaccia. If you’re in Helsinki, definitely go to Tony’s Deli located at Bulevardi 7. Best thing I’ve had since moving to Europe.

After Tony’s, we walked around to check out some of the sites. Here are some of the pictures we were able to capture along the way (including Uspenski Cathedral & Helsinki Cathedral)

We also ended up at the mall and tried to find a shoe store that was carrying a shoe that I was looking for. We didn’t quite know where it was, so that was an adventure on its own. We did eventually find it, but they didn’t have the shoes anyway. At least a coat was purchased after the journey that was taken (thanks Henry). After all that walking, we stopped in a good ole’ Irish bar for a drink. We drank the “drink of my cousins” or something to that effect, Murphy’s Irish Stout. It was time to head back to the boat and set sail back to Stockholm.

Of course, we all were looking forward to the buffet once again. As soon as we can, we’re at the front of the buffet asking to be seated for the next session. Kim, the guy at the front says “you want to eat tonight?”,  followed by “we’re fully booked” and is just looking at us. Henry is staring directly at the seat layout and all the empty spots showing, Kim promptly turns it over. He then says, “We have 350 fisherman coming in tonight, but let me see what I can do” and walks into a back room. After a minute or two he comes back and says “you’re good”. Maybe he thought that he was drawing out the suspense in the situation, but that didn’t play very well.

We arrive at the buffet at the session time and there are quite a few people in the lobby and we were thinking, maybe he actually did do something. However, as soon as we were seated and there was nobody left coming in, the entire section we were sitting in was empty. With the exception of 2 other tables, it was only us. The running joke was certainly at Kim’s expense, “fully booked” was echoed many a time throughout the night. Once again, the buffet was great and the beer/wine taps flowed freely.

After dinner we enjoyed another night of having some drinks in the cabin, walking the ship, and listening to live music and a DJ. It was a weekday so it wasn’t hype in the club, so we had to make do. Sal, the “snapchat king” as he’s called, took some time to stroll the deck as we were inside. It was really cold out there, so that wasn’t for me. We reviewed some of his snapchats where his Beyoncé anthems were playing in the background haha. This was just too hilarious not to send some snaps back to him. If anyone needs to replay one, I may just have it saved for you. I am pretty sure the rest of the time, Beyoncé was mentioned no less than 10 times. Her music was on in the stores, posters for her tour were around, this was an all-around great time to keep that running joke going.

To end the trip, we arrived back in Stockholm and took a walk around the city before I had to catch my train back to Linköping. We stopped at the Nobel Museum, which was very cool and something I had not yet seen. Definitely recommend a stop there if you’re at all interested in the Nobel Prize and its winners in different categories.

Overall, it was a great trip and am very glad that they all made the trip to make this happen!



Christmas in Copenhagen

We decided that we were going to spend Christmas in Denmark. Even though we weren’t going to be home for Christmas, we still wanted a home-cooked meal, so we rented an apartment (that was pet-friendly, so Kobe could come!) through Airbnb. We also decided to rent a car instead of taking the train so that we could make our own schedule and bring as much stuff as we wanted.

It was about 4.5 hours of driving to get from Linköping, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark. Since our usual road trip during the holidays is going from Chicago to the UP, this was much shorter, even though we crossed international borders. We hadn’t had any snow at this point, so the drive was a breeze. The highlight was definitely crossing the Øresund Bridge (perhaps I’m partial to bridges after making innumerable treks across the Mackinac Bridge when I was in school at Michigan). The nearly 5-mile bridge connects Malmö, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark via road and railway. Because they weren’t originally able to construct the entire bridge high enough for ships to pass, a significant portion (about 2.5 miles) is actually an underwater tunnel! As neat as it was, the 400 SEK (about $50) toll was significantly less cool. Either way, it was still cheaper for us to drive and pay the toll than to pay for the train there, so I still consider it a win-win.


The apartment we rented was a spacious 2-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking a cute courtyard. Our host was very thoughtful and put up some Christmas decorations and lights for us, so it felt even more “homey”. The neighborhood is what I’m assuming is Copenhagen’s version of Wicker Park (i.e. lots of hipsters, stores full of random stuff I’m convinced no one actually buys, and multiple non-chain coffee shops on every block), so it was like we were right back home. It was also close (about a 10 min walk) to the main downtown area, so it was a perfect place for us to stay.

On our first day (Christmas Eve), we arrived in Copenhagen around 2pm. We spent some time unpacking, exploring the neighborhood, and relaxing a bit. We knew it would be tough to find someplace to grab dinner because it was Christmas Eve, but eventually found a Pakistani restaurant that was open. The meal was surprisingly great; Jonathan has been missing out on “real” spicy food (Swedes aren’t too keen on spicy, or “strong”, food), so he was happy with our unconventional holiday meal.

Christmas morning, I woke up fairly early and went for a run with Kobe in the nearby Sødermarken Park (see pictures). Halfway through our run, we stumbled into what was apparently the dog park, as we soon had several dogs [playfully] chasing after us. We stopped so Kobe could play for a while and then eventually made our way back to the apartment.


After a quick breakfast, Jonathan and I went to explore the city a bit more. The weather was surprisingly nice for late December, so we were able to spend a few hours walking around looking at various castles, cathedrals, and other sights. We have TONS of pictures from our afternoon of exploring.


Eventually, we headed back to the apartment to make our mini-Christmas dinner: ham, veggies, and mashed potatoes, with some homemade glögg that Jonathan’s friends had made (glögg is a traditional Swedish holiday drink that is similar to mulled wine). I was able to Skype with my family a bit, which was much needed after a few bouts of homesickness throughout the past couple days. It was weird seeing them all together and not getting to be there with them, but I’m thankful that I was able to talk to them several times throughout our trip.

After dinner, we visited Tivoli Gardens, the “19th century amusement park and pleasure garden” (disclaimer: I have no idea what a “pleasure garden” is supposed to be). It is the second-oldest amusement park in the world and the most-visited amusement park in Scandinavia, though it is very different from most American parks I’ve been to, mainly due to its size (there are maybe a dozen or so rides, and only one legitimate rollercoaster). The amusement park wasn’t our primary interest in visiting Tivoli, at least not at this time of year. That’s because around Christmastime, Tivoli Gardens is decorated with over 2 million Christmas lights and hosts all sorts of Christmas-themed shows and games. This is of course why we waited until night to visit; we wanted to see the gardens in all their Christmas light glory. It was definitely worth the trip, and of course we took a lot of photos. And since we got there early enough to see everything, I was able to convince Jonathan to ride the rollercoaster with me. [This was another major difference from American amusement parks: we probably waited in line for the rollercoaster for 5 to 10 MINUTES! I’m pretty sure even bathroom lines are at least 30 minutes long at Cedar Point or Six Flags]


The day after Christmas we spent a portion of the day inside relaxing due to crummy, rainy weather (this is when we started binging “Making a Murder” on Netflix, so it was still time well spent). However, we had some friends from Linköping who were also visiting Copenhagen that night, so we eventually made it over to their hotel. Jonathan had spent some time earlier looking up places to go out, and we settled on “Culture Box”. Even though it wasn’t a super busy night, we still had lots of fun. The club was very reminiscent to one of our favorites back home, and they also had a free beer hour from 11pm-12am, so not a bad deal.

We packed up and headed home that Sunday. Even though we had yet to see any snow this winter, it of course started snowing on our way back. Luckily, I drove the whole way to Copenhagen, so Jonathan had to drive the whole way back. This was probably in everyone’s best interest, since I hate driving in the snow.

The rest of our break was spent at home, relaxing and enjoying some time off. We ended up getting a LOT of snow, so we took daily hikes through the woods with Kobe so he could play in the snow. We also did a lot of cooking, baking, and of course, eating.

More Pictures to come…

Göta Canal; The Berg locks

A few weeks ago, we took a trip the the “famous” Berg locks:” The Berg locks are the Göta Canal’s biggest tourist attraction, situated near the town of Linköping. The famous lock area on the canal is in Berg, which has one flight of seven locks and another two double locks.”

We happened to go during an annual festival that included food, activities, and a run/swim race. By no means were we looking to participate in the swim/run, but we figured we’d at least check it out. The area also has restaurants, cafes, and mini golf available for visitors.

The downside of trip was timing; by the time we arrived, a storm was well on its way towards us. As soon as we parked and got out of the car, the rain started. It alternated between a light drizzle and a torrential downpour pretty much the entire time we were there. The rain didn’t seem to faze the run/swim participants, likely because they all had wetsuits (I suppose if you’re planning on swimming in Sweden during September, you don’t take any chances). When the race started, it was clear, but it quickly started raining before they got to the water  (you’ll see the quick change in the sky and weather in the pictures).

It will be nice to get back there to get some more sightseeing done while the weather is nice. Maybe next year we can even participate in the swim/run 😉

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Don’t bank on it!

Getting a Swedish bank account was no easy feat! We thought we were ahead of the game by having our personal numbers in hand and coming in with 3 months of pay (I am back on a fellowship payment schedule, so I get paid 3 months at a time). Unfortunately, our preparation did not pay off.

Our first obstacle was the fact that bank hours in Sweden are RIDICULOUS! If I could switch career paths, I’d become a banker in Sweden. Most banks aren’t open at all on weekends, and during the week they are only open from 10am to 3pm. Sometimes, you can get an appointment between 3pm and 5pm, IF you’re a customer, which we weren’t yet. However, they don’t put that info about “by appointment only” after 3pm, so our first attempt ended in us being told to come back before 3pm.

So, I left work early (again) so we could try (again) to get a bank account. This happened to be on a miserably rainy day, so by the time we met at the bank we were completely soaking wet. We walked into the bank and were “welcomed” by a super unfriendly lady, who, when asked if we could open an account, simply said, “that’s impossible”. After a few seconds of awkward silence, we realized she wasn’t about to offer an explanation. When prompted, she told us that they had over 100 people waiting to open accounts but weren’t letting any new accounts open until November. So, if we wanted, we could be added to the list and come back in December. If that doesn’t work, we could go to another bank. Cool. Super helpful.

So we walk back into the rain, trying to figure out what to do next. At this time, it’s already after 2:30, which back home means we would have plenty of time, but here it meant that time was running out. I couldn’t justify taking off from work early for a third time just to open a stupid bank account, and since no one thought banks should be open on weekends, we were determined to get this done now.

After wandering around a bit, we found another bank. After struggling to figure out how to open the door (a combination of our lack of Swedish skills plus these stupid buttons they have on doors sometimes, but that can be saved for another post), we made it. With only minutes to spare, we made it to the front of the line and got to open our account. The lady make some jokes about how we need to learn Swedish and also made fun of me for not knowing my own phone number (Swedish phone numbers are weird! Who remembers phone numbers anyway?!), but I didn’t care because she opened our account!

Day Trip to Norrköping

We took a day trip to Linköping’s “sister city,” Norrköping this weekend. Jonathan & I had been talking about going to Norrköping at some point because it is home to one of Sweden’s better professional basketball teams. It also has a small branch of my university’s campus. However, for this trip, we were going with some members of my lab group to do some shopping and check out an interactive science center (because we’re scientists, duh).

To get there, we took the regional train. Norrköping is only one stop from Linköping, so it only took 30 minutes to get there. Soon after getting off the train, we saw some very enthusiastic hockey fans who were excited about Norrköping Vita Häsen’s (or “White Horses”) first game of the season. They were even waiting outside for the pub to open at noon so they could be sure to get a good seat (and a few drinks) before the game started. It kind of made me sad that I’m not back home for college football this year (I miss you, Duffy’s!).

After eating lunch, we headed to the “Visualization Centre”. This is a small, interactive science museum that was partially created by the department I now work for. Their contribution was some fMRI scans of people (as well as one of a mummy!). The fMRI scans are put into this huge touchscreen table, and you get to then sort through the layers (i.e. skin, muscle, bone, etc) of the patient to “diagnose” what was wrong with him. It was a really cool learning experience; however, it was kind of creepy knowing that they were scans of real people.

After the museum, we walked around a bit more. Although the city is smaller than Linköping, we all agreed it was prettier. It is situated on water, so there are several bridges, small dams, and little waterfalls. There’s also a tram that runs right down the middle of the main street downtown. We took the time to document everything, as a true tourist should. We really got to embrace our “tourist” status, as a majority of the people we were with were also fairly recent transplants who had moved here (from Italy, France, etc) to be part of our research group.

Finally, we did a bit of shopping. There were two malls that together had the bulk of what we’re learning to be “typical” Swedish stores. Of course, there’s H&M, as well as similar store called the New Yorker (lol), some shoe stores, housewares, and so on. By this time, Jonathan and I were pretty tired (the night before we had gone to “Valla Rave”, but that will be covered in a separate post). The only purchase we made was a set of coasters…because we’re adults now 😉

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Linköpings Stadsfest…Our First Street Festival

Recently, we went to our first street festival in Linköping. After going to so many street fests in Chicago, we weren’t really sure what to expect from our first Swedish experience. While there were other parts to the festival, like music performers and carnival rides, our main interest was in the International Food Market. There were dozens of booths with so many different kinds of food. You could tell where each booth was from since they were all flying their country flags above the booths to make it easy. So we naturally decided we wanted to try everything; why wouldn’t we??

Each booth prepared the food in the biggest pots I have ever seen! It was like those cartoons where the witch is stirring the witches brew in a cauldron, but multiply that by 5. It was impressive to see them stir everything with a canoe paddle, kudos to those workers! On to the most important part of the fest- the food. We had to go 2 days to get it all in.

I will say up front that we skipped the following: Snapchat-1059988781853064077

We started in France with the Roquefort mussels, plus five different kinds of dried salami that we took home. Next, we moved to Germany (for wurst), followed by Thailand. We couldn’t pass up the Australia booth, either, where we got the alligator burger. We also took home bottle of chili-infused olive oil from the Italy booth. Our final stop was the British fudge booth that had about 100 options of homemade fudge. There were definitely too many for my taste, but Leah didn’t agree with that sentiment (note from Leah: I’m pretty sure that was a fat joke).


Kangaroo, duck, chorizo, & boar salami

Kangaroo, duck, chorizo, & boar salami


Dinner & a Loooong Walk

So, we decided to make some dinner and take Kobe on a long walk. I guess it was both for him and for us to explore and see where all these paths through the forrest led. We took some random pictures and this was the result. It’s the weekend so we’ll give you a break on the reading!

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Lone Mushroom

Lone Mushroom

Biking, Shopping, and Systembolaget

We’re still getting used to biking everywhere, which has been pretty fun and exciting. It’s definitely exercise that I wouldn’t have gotten back in Chicago. It really helps that all the bike paths are on Google Maps and we can get turn-by-turn directions specifically for bikes. Whether it’s riding to the store, work (Leah so far), or pub, the ride has been well. So far, we’ve taken the bus on a Friday or Saturday night.

Checking out the nightlife around the city has been something to look forward to. The students are just starting to come back to campus and all others returning from holiday. The streets are very lively and people/bikes are all over the place. There’s a main square called Stora Torget that houses everything that one would need. Shopping, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, etc. can all be found here which makes it a one-stop shop for the area. The area features multiple bars and clubs all within walking distance from each other which makes it easier to hop around from place to place if necessary.

With a little help from some locals, we’ve been able to easily decipher the demographic of each place. This was definitely necessary in order to stay away from the really young, drunk, loud, and obnoxious frat boy/party girl types. Although our first experience in one of these was quite interesting. If you’ve been out in Chicago, let’s just say it was basically the ‘Hangge Uppe’. The only thing that it did have going for it was the DJ booth setup overlooking the dance floor, but even that couldn’t overcome the overall vibe for me.

On a side note, they have random blackjack tables in a bunch of these bars and clubs which is a way to reduce or increase what you spend that night. Didn’t test that out.

Liquor is certainly much more expensive then back at home at the liquor store (system bolaget) or while out. I knew that we should’ve taken advantage of duty free on the way here!! Just to give a little comparison…A fifth of basic Smirnoff is about $30 – $35 (240-250 SEK) compared to the $15 at home. This is mainly due to the Swedish taxes.

On the other hand, beer is less expensive and there are many different choices. This has been nice just picking the one bottle of the things we want to try. There’s definitely a trade-off, but going out, the liquor cost is something to be aware of.


Biking is great, but MY LEGS HURT SO BAD! I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually (I hope), but I guess it just showcases how badly I needed to get into shape. But in all honesty, biking everywhere has been a lot of fun. It’s a nice, stress-free way to see everything and hop from place to place quickly. However, if we don’t come back in amazing shape, I’m going to be pissed! (Kidding…kind of…..)

Going out has been fun here. The city is similar in size and demographic (as far as resident to student ratio) to Ann Arbor, so the adjustment has been really easy for me. It’s also super convenient that all the main places we go to are in the main square, Stora Torget, as Jonathan mentioned. A friend of ours told us that the city purposely put all the bars and clubs together so that they could cut down on police patrols (you know, just have one pair of cops hang out in the middle of everything, instead of having to roam around) . However, this allegedly “backfired” because all the drunk students were now concentrated in one area. This made the area the “most dangerous place in Sweden” for a minute. Note: we found the “most dangerous place in Sweden” title to be hilarious, as it really meant that maybe 1 time they had to arrest a drunk college student. Seriously, that’s it. They do have a pair of cops that hang out in the middle of the street, but I think they really just to it for the entertainment of watching the drunk kids struggle to play it cool.

The liquor store, systembolaget, is the bane of my existence. Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but it is a bit of a pain. There is a government-run monopoly on liquor sales, so all liquor (and beer and wine that’s over a certain percentage alcohol) has to be sold in the systembolaget. Just going to one of 2 places in town to get liquor would be annoying, but they make it even worse with their hours. They’re only open at certain times, like until 7pm on weekdays and 4pm on Saturdays! We found this out the hard way when we went to purchase some alcohol at 5pm on a Saturday and it was CLOSED. So, of course, our only option was to stock up while it was open, just in case of emergencies.

systembolaget hours 3


Starting with a blank canvas

Our apartment is amazing! It’s big, clean, spacious and really just perfect! However, it came TOTALLY empty. So immediately after arriving in Linköping (which, as you read in Jonathan’s post, wasn’t a simple feat at all), we had to at least pick up the essentials so we could sleep on something besides the floor. However, it should be noted that we hadn’t slept in a LONG time, maybe 36 hours, but I stopped counting. We had gone through the stress of arriving, finding our way around, and now were in the always-intimidating Ikea. Anyone who knows me knows how indecisive I am (seriously, never ask me to go to dinner and make me decide where to eat—we’ll both starve before I come to a decision). So, factoring in the fatigue and stress into my already indecisive nature; it’s amazing that Jonathan survived the whole experience! But, as always, he gracefully rose to the challenge, we survived the first shopping trip, and we didn’t have to sleep on the floor! We made about a million more trips to Ikea and other stores, and things are finally starting to come together. However, it’s still a work in progress, so stay tuned for “after” pictures!


Getting everything we need for the apartment was definitely a lot more work than anticipated. Not exactly being sure of what everything is led to a snag in the operation all together. The great thing is that the HUGE Ikea has free Wi-Fi and we were able to Google Translate everything imaginable. That was a big relief in finding what we needed. We abandoned the map of the store with words that we have never seen and just roamed to get what we needed. That’s a great plan and all, but Wi-Fi definitely sped up the process and changed up our plan.

Our apartment is new; our neighbors were telling us how they heard all of the work being done each morning. Everything inside of it was gutted and replaced with new appliances, floor, walls, etc. It looked exactly like the pictures that were online, which was a bit of a shock in itself. There weren’t pictures from 5 years ago with the best possible camera angles and lighting. Having a clean slate was something that we were looking forward to. Pictures Below:


kitchen 2kitchen

Bedroom # 1




Internet! That’s another thing that has been a little odd and we haven’t dealt with in a long time. We haven’t been able to get internet setup yet as we are waiting on our Personal Numbers, which are essentially the Social Security numbers here. We do have a McDonald’s 2 minutes away from our apartment, so we can go there for our internet needs. Certainly not the most convenient, but it could be worse. I am pretty sure that I never want to eat McDonald’s again though.

Back to the grind of getting everything for our apartment. We did have a rental car for the first 5 days in which we tried to get everything that we could. Since the return of the car, it’s been pretty much carrying everything back on our bikes. Bringing the curtain rods back via bike makes me feel that we can bring back anything. Still in the process of getting everything put together and I must say that it looks like an Ikea showroom so far! Not too bad.


We’ve moved to Sweden!!!

As most everybody reading this knows, we relocated to Linköping, Sweden as of August 5, 2015. Up to this point, the move has been great! There’s a universal agreement that there’s always stress during any type of moving situation. I am not sure that is a great outlook on moving, but that seems to be the norm. Of course moving to a different country provides another type of stress, starting with the initial confirmation of the move itself.

When considering a move, there are so many different aspects that must be thoroughly thought out. Once the decision on the location was made, it was time to actually sit down and come up with a plan. Our checklist was a mile long and there were many factors that were dependent on others. It definitely seemed as if nothing was actually being checked off the actual checklist. More often than not, we were adding new things to the list. After months, weeks, and hours we got it all done! Don’t worry, moving along to when we actually got here. What’s a good blog without an intro?

After making it to O’Hare Airport, checking 7 huge suitcases along with Kobe (our dog, for those who don’t know), we were on our way. Arriving in Stockholm was when it started to get real interesting. Weren’t really looking forward to this particular commute. We weren’t sure where the animal pickup was, but luckily for us he was dropped off at the baggage claim. Trying to maneuver the 3 carts; 2 with all of our baggage and 1 with Kobe inside of his crate was an adventure in its own right. We got through customs where we had to declare Kobe without incident, which was what we had worried a little about.

We rented a car and chose one of the biggest cars we could get. Apparently, there weren’t many big automatic transmission vehicles available for the trek so we went with the Volvo V70. Finding the way to the rental car location, picking up the car, and driving back to the terminal wasn’t as bad as expected. I can’t lie, I was a little nervous to drive and that was confirmed when I drove off the lot and immediately saw about 5 signs that I had never seen before. I was just glad to be driving on the same side of the road as in the states. Finally get to the terminal to pick up Leah, Kobe, and all of the bags. This was the next obstacle as we were talking about not being sure the bags would all fit. We hadn’t played Tetris in a while and right about now is when we’d need to be experts.

We finally got everything arranged and in the car after about 30 minutes of putting the bags in, removing them, and putting them back in. There was literally no room for anything else, not even another backpack. Not sure what we would’ve done if it hadn’t fit, but glad we didn’t have to go down that road. The drive from Stockholm to Linköping was very easy and at that point much appreciated. The GPS that we purchased prior to leaving failed, but we discovered the car we rented had GPS in it although they specifically said that it wouldn’t. I am still confident that I could’ve found the way there without it. Leah wasn’t so sure about that AT ALL.

Needless to say, we made it to Linköping and picked up our apartment keys in time. We received little to no information at that time, but we figured some things out and let ourselves in…Finally HOME!!

-JM & LM