Trip Journal - Malmö

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Malmö - 09 June 1998

We finally entered the hallowed halls of Malmöhuset, and had a look at the exhibits. Everything was in Swedish, which is great for Swedish people and makes for a slightly more difficult experience for everyone else. There is a great exhibit showing how Sweden has changed since the ice age, with cool artifacts made of bone and stone. We don't really know what these artifacts were, but they were cool. Okay, so I'm being a little sarcastic. There was a life-size recreation of a grave mound (Begravningdös) that was discovered from ancient times. The different layers of the dirt were painted on the wall and the skeleton, clay jars, etc. put in the exact spot where they were located. They even had placed beer bottles and soda cans where someone had buried their trash. It was very impressive. After we'd seen all that, we intended to leave and go meet Karin and Alexander in front of Karin's dentist. Karin had a cleaning appointment and we were to be the babysitters for a half hour. However, we couldn't find our way out. The only problem with having museums in very old buildings is that modern museum traffic patterns cannot be used. The only way out is the way you came in, in most cases. But we didn't realize this until a few museums later. So we walked through a curved hallway with paintings hung on one side and windows on the other. It took me a while to realize that we must be in one of the towers of the fortress. In fact, I didn't actually realize it until we had gone down a narrow flight of stone stairs into the bottom of the tower, from where the canons fired on their enemy. We came back out of the canon room, walked back up the stairs and through the hallway, and came into another room. A man who worked there saw that we were holding the blue English explanation card, directed us upstairs to the King's rooms. We were too cowed by our navigational incompetence to confess we were lost, so we went up. And I'm glad we did, because they were very impressive. And it wasn't that late. The rooms are full of old tapestries, and wooden chests, and other furniture. It wasn't as nice as, say, what Louis the XIV had in his palaces, but the 1400s was a different, harder time, I guess. As you may have already guessed, the exit wasn't up in the King's rooms either. So we went all the way back the way we came, which must have been the right way to go, because our blue explanation card asked that we "kindly put the card back where we got it." We walked to the dentist, were there 10 minutes early, and Karin and Alexander had already arrived. Karin is the Queen of punctuality! Who arrives early for a dentist appointment?!?

Karin came out with a clean bill of health and we gave Alexander back. And headed back to the museums. Since we were passing by anyway, we decided to tackle the technical museum first before heading back to the other exhibits. I'm sure Paul "tackle" wouldn't have been the first word that came to Paul's mind. He really enjoyed seeing the exhibit on Sweden's airplanes, and Sweden's cars, and Sweden's motors and machines. They even had moving dioramas that showed how sugar and cooking oils were made. I concede that the diaramas were clever, but otherwise, I was pretty bored. Then we saw the submarine. Even I had to admit it was really cool. They have a real live full-sized 1944 submarine parked next to the building, and they've built an entryway so that it seems like you are just going into another room, but actually, you duck your head and squeeze into a submarine. Paul is still saying that it's the coolest thing we've seen in Sweden, and we've seen some pretty cool things since. Everything is original, and you can fool around with all the levers and gears. I have no idea how one person managed to live there for an extended period of time, much less a whole crew. It's so cramped. I had the same impression (only much more so) when I saw the Ku Chi tunnels in Vietnam. I don't think you should be required to spend long periods of time in confined spaces in order to prove your loyalty to your country.

There was nothing more for us at the technical museum after we had seen the submarine, so we headed back to the other exhibits. There is an animal exhibit filled with real specimens that have been stuffed. It's kind of sad, but they were all "collected" in the 1800s, so you can kind of forgive the indiscretion. The coolest part of the animal exhibit, however, is a glass-sided beehive. There is a hose to the outside world, and you can watch the bees fly back in with pollen on their legs and see what they do with themselves. I could have stayed an hour just watching their dance. But that was before I saw Djuriska Parken, which is an exhibit of "animals" all made from ordinary, everyday things. It is easily the funnniest exhibit I've seen in years. The ostrich had had "feathers" made out of frilly underthings. The garters were even sticking out. The alligators were made out of tires; one of them was wrapped in snow chains. There was an entomology exhibit in a wooden box with a glass cover. All the "insects" were placed on pins, and were made out of electronics parts. There was a school of fish all made out of shoe trees. It was so creative, I loved it.

Photo of St. Petri Läroverk High School
After brie sandwiches and tea at the Cafe Gustav Adolf, we walked to the St. Peter's School, where the daughter of one of Karin's colleagues was graduating that day. Lest you think that graduating is a staid, boring procession of black-robed students with mortarboards,as it is in the States, let us enlighten you. In Sweden, you dress up in your best clothes, and wear white Captain's hats. You come out of the school with your class, sing the Student's Song in front of your friends and family, who have all come out to watch this rite of passage, and are all wearing their hats from when they graduated.

Photo of the crowd
They are also carrying huge signs on wooden sticks that feature your cutest or funniest baby picture, and your name, nickname, class, and perhaps pictures of things that interest you, like musical instuments or soccer balls. They are also carrying bouquets of flowers, and toy swords, stuffed animals and champagne bottles,tied with ribbon in Sweden's colors, blue and yellow, that they will hang around your neck after you finish singing the song with your class. If you are worried about your good clothes, you will be wearing a funny, clear, plastic apron to protect them from all the flying champagne.

Photo of decorated cars After all the students have emerged from the school and sung their songs, they line up and march down the street to the city theatre, where the families are already waiting with various forms of "interesting" transportation. There were hook-and-ladder trucks, Harleys with side cars and drivers wearing the old fashioned leather coats and helmets, and a flatbed truck with a big sound system and scantilly clad go-go dancers in the back. There were many vintage cars ranging from the pre-car horse-drawn carriage to 1940's classics to late 1960's american roadsters. There was another truck with two toilet "thrones" on the back, one with a canoe, a Jeep covered in foliage (birch of course). This was the most hilarious and joyful thing I had seen in a long time.

Paul and I thought we would be clever and climb up on to the balcony on the outside of the theater which overlooks the square, because it was the best place to take pictures, and also the best view. We realized too late that all of the students march up the same stairs and crowd around the balcony railing so they can be seen by everyone in the crowd. The one stairway that the crowd of students ascended was also the only way out for us, so we were trapped, and sheepishly aware that we would be in the background of every family's photos and videotapes of the event.

The band played the student song three times, and each class shouted out their designations (S3A) in unison a few hundred times (or so it seemed) and then finally everyone went back down to their various rides home, and we were able to sneak back down the balcony stairs.

Photo of decorated cars leaving the scene The students don't go straight home of course. They ride up and down the streets near the school waving their flags and blowing the horns. The locals who do not have children or friends graduating that day seem to quietly tolerate the intrusion into the otherwise orderly Swedish lifestyle. Perhaps they are a bit amused by it all, but probably not nearly as entertained as we visiting Americans. The bus to take us back to Limhamn was late, presumably because of the graduation traffic.

That evening, we attended the graduaton party for Jenny, the daughter of Karin's colleague. We were a little underdressed, as the women were wearing nice dresses and the men had on suits. We were wearing khakis, which is about the best we have to offer. It was a really good party with a beautiful spread - it must have been professionally done. The kiwis were cut into flowers with grapes in their centers - very fancy. There was bread, cheese, fruit, salads and salmon. And so many kinds of drinks. Then coffee and cakes afterward.

We talked to another of Karin's colleagues, Barbara, at dinner and then to a very nice couple who told us about their plans to visit the west coast of Florida soon. It's a strange summer destination to us, but it hasn't been that warm yet here. Barbara spoke excellent english, with a very proper british accent. After dinner, there were speeches, very serious and heartfelt with funny stories, all in Swedish of course, so we understood almost none of it. Jenny's sister spoke first, then later her father. We had to watch everyone else to know when to laugh. I was my impression that he called Jenny an angel several times. I think its impressive the relationship that parents have with their children here. There seems to be so much respect. It seems like a much more equal relationship than in the States. Jennie's father was so proud.

The Swedes know how to have a party. There are well-known rituals that everyone knows, loves, and enjoys. It seems to me that it is easy for people to relax because they know what their role is and they know what to expect. They have parties for turning 30, 40, 50, etc., and for graduation, midsummer, Christmas. There are certain songs you sing, and usually, the host puts together song sheets. After a song, you have a drink. It makes it easier to understand it when people in the States deplore the lack of tradition in our society; it's so hard to know what's expected in our fast-moving times. I think it's kind of exciting, though.

10 June 1998

Photo of Karin, Anna and Johnna in Lund On Wednesday, Karin and Alexander drove us to Lund, and we met Karin's friend and colleague, Anna, there. She's wonderful, and incredibly funny, which is a good thing, because she really didn't know very much about her town. (Just kidding, Anna!) We walked to the University and went into the Law Aula (lecture hall), which is an unbelievably beautiful building made of marble and wood. The ceiling in the entryway is domes and made of frosted glass painted with star designs on it. It amazes me to think that all these old buildings are such treasures and they are still used and appreciated for their practical as well as aesthetic value. We walked a little more around town, there is a general store that has old-fashioned things you can buy. The sign outside says, "Come in, even if you only want to look!" Then we headed up to Kulturen, easily my favorite part of Lund. It's an open air museum that takes up two city blocks and it connected by an old underground tunnel. Since the 1800s, they have been collecting old houses from all over Sweden, as well as rune stones from 1000 A.D. The oldest houses are from the 1500s. There are also old wooden churches, and bell towers. In some cases, the houses have to be rebuilt almost entirely, because they are in such bad shape. When we were there, they were re-thatching a roof, which was very interesting to watch. The houses also have original furnture in them. One house had a wooden swing right in front of the fireplace, presumably so that the very busy wife could cook, and keep an eye on the baby at the same time.

Photo of Karin, Anna and Johnna eating lunch Our plan had been for all of us to have lunch at the Kulturen restaurant before Paul and I went into the museum. Then Karin and Anna would stay outside with Alexander (who hates museums) and have a chance to catch up. The service could only be called incredibly slow. We had to ask a waiter to come take our order three times before he could find the time to come over. Then, once he had taken it, he had to come back to confirm it. When we were finally served, it was the wrong thing, and the waiter actually accused Anna and Karin of lying about what they had ordered! According to Peter, the service is always bad there, but people keep coming, so there's no incentive to change the way the restaurant operates. As it was, we never got our coffee, and Karin and Anna practically had to cause a scene in order to get someone to take their money. I think I would have just left. But we were in the museum at the time, and blissfully unaware.

We only had time to see the early wooden houses at Kulturen, because we wanted to watch the astrological clock strike 3:00 at the Cathedral. It's called Horologum Mirabile Lundense and it was build around 1380, although it was completely restored in 1923. The whole Universe (as it was then known) is represented, with Earth, and specifically Lund, placed in the center, with the other planets revolving around it. Two knights sit on horses at the top of the clock and clash swords to signal the hour, but as from our vantage point, they seemed to be hitting each other over the head. Perhaps after all these hundreds of years, they are sick of working together.

Under the astrological clock, Mary and Jesus are sitting, flanked by two trumpeters. This is where all the action happens. As was usual in Medieval times, Jesus is sitting in Mary's lap, but he looks to old to be doing so. At 3:00, the knights conked each other on the head, then a 14th century song of praise, In Dulchi Jubilo, started to play. The trumpeters put their instuments to their lips to play, and then a paige comes out of the left door, followed by Kings representing the entire known world (Europe, Asia, and Africa), and some others whom I didn't recognize. The bottom of the clock has all the days of the year displayed in a circle, and Chronos points out what today is. In the center of the calendar, St. Lawrence, the Cathedral's patron saint, sits smiling. For those of you who haven't read the Book of Saints since your Cathecism days, or who aren't familiar with Catholisicm, St. Lawrence was burned on a pyre in the year 258, because he refused to hand over the Church revenues when the emporer demanded them. The Pope told Lawrence to give the Church's gold and silver to the poor, blind, sick and infirm, which he did. Later, when Lawrence was ordered to hand over all the loot, he brought all the poor and sick people to the gates of the emporer's palace and said, "Here are your revenues." The emporer, who didn't have much of a sense of humor, ordered Lawrence burned to death. The story goes that he lay dying on the pyre with a smile on his face. He said, "I thank Thee, Lord, that I am worthy to pass through Thy gates," and then he died.

The construction of the Lund Cathedral was begun around 1104. Lund then belonged to Denmark, and the Danish King, Erik Ejegod, had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and had seen the Pope the year before. Erik had managed to convince the Pope that Denmark should no longer be part of the Hamburg-Bremen diocese, that it should become its own separate diocese, with Lund as its spiritual center. And, since Lund was now so important, it must have a Cathedral. An Episcopal Church had been begun on the site of the future Cathedral, paid for with funds (and land) given by Canute the Holy, Denmark's patron saint. It's not clear why it was okay to take over that site for the Cathedral, but that is what happened. Donatus was the chief architect, and his son, Donatus the Younger, finished the job. The most interesting part of the Church is the crypt, which is held up by a series of pillars. Two of them are especially interesting. One pillar has a man with his arms around the pillar. He's kind of goofy looking, and doesn't fit in with the rest of the Church decor. No one knows who he is, but there are a lot of guesses. One of the most famous is that the man was the Giant, Finn, who opposed Christianity and fought the building of the Cathedral. As punishment, God demanded that he be turned to stone and hold up a part of the Church himself. Other people say that the figure is Christ or Sampson, but I'm inclined to go with the Finn theory. Giants weren't very tall back then, though. There is another even weirder pillar. The brochure says that the pillar shows a man with a smaller figure in his arms, but to me, it looks like the man, who is small and crouched down, has the smaller figure in his mouth. The guesses here range from the ridiculous (Mary and Jesus?) to the sublime (Donatus' wife and child?) There's all sorts of speculation about the symbolism of the "strength" belts that both figures are wearing, that it may represent God's power, etc., etc. I think maybe there was an accident, maybe some fallen rock, and one of the workers saved another. The stronger one is represented as the bigger figure and the one who was saved is in his arms. But I'm no expert...

11 June 1998

Photo of Paul waiting on Karin and Peter On Thursday, we told Peter and Karin that we would make dinner for them. They never have a minute to themselves, as anyone with a small child understands. So the plan was that we would watch Alexander if he wasn't asleep, and our hosts were to enjoy themselves on the lawn for no less than one hour before dinner. Paul acted as the French waiter, and served drinks and snacks to Karin and Peter while we cooked. We made red peppers stuffed with wild rice, spinach and mushrooms, with homemade honey wheat bread, and for dessert, there were fresh Swedish strawberries with cream and shortbread. Naturally, all of this was accompanied by Sam Adams Boston Lager, the best American beer we could find at the Systembolaget (the state-run place where you buy alcohol). It was a great evening, even though Alexander The Individual didn't stick to his end of the bargain, and insisted on joining us for dinner. We hope our hosts enjoyed it!