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Monday, July 9, 2012

The saga of Megan's trip to Sweden

The trip was actually a bit more like a Greek Odyssey than a saga. In either case, on the whole there was much less genealogy.

I have a goal. I jump on any bandwagon that I think might bring me a little closer to that goal. Like Odysseus (if I may be so pretentious) the sailing has not gone exactly as I have planned, but unlike him I feel each experience adds to my journey, maybe it brings me a little bit closer to my goal of being able to do this kind of thing for the rest of my life. I feel I have now over/misused that metaphor.


This summer I have decided to take the trip to Sweden. I wrote in my earlier blog about why and how I was choosing a mainland Scandinavian language to learn. Well, even though I decided to do a PhD in English at Western Michigan University with Dr. Jana Schulman, instead of a PhD in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin Michigan, I still felt that I was lacking real experience in Scandinavia and that I should go there given the opportunity. I had already sorted out how I would get here and what I would take. And a Scandinavian language will most certainly put me in better stead for the future, so I took the opportunity.

Sweden is actually not the most obvious choice for someone interested in Norse history, and certainly Norse literature unless you are hoping to study runes or look at the archaeology of the early religious sites. I am hoping to specialize in neither of those things. But there is a rich Norse history here, which I am going to try and take in every chance I can, as well as visiting historical sites that have cropped up between then and now. One thing that is my specialty, however, is how we use history to give us identity. Having already had a stop over at the Leif Erikson airport and traveled to Finland on the Viking Line cruise ship (complete with their plethora of Viking themed booze) I feel I will have lots of material.


I flew out with Iceland Air, but had to take the Air Canada plane through Boston first. I'll just say, flying through the United States, less than pleasant. It didn't help that when I arrived at Pearson International airport the computers were down. I had to join a huge line to check in my bags. I was three hours early for my flight, but had about one hour by the time we checked in the bag. Then the lady at the check in told me that my ticket was actually just a stand by ticket. I told her 'well, that's nice but I have two connecting flights to catch, each with only one hour in the terminal.' She said that I should remind the person at the gate, just so that they don't forget. It is at about that time that I leave my mother behind to worry about how I'm actually getting to Sweden.

So now I have to go through the American checkpoints, with the rather intensive security procedures. Apparently I look a bit suspicious (I know that's not how it works but I am pretending) because I get stopped for the physical, you know the one where they check the bottom of your feet. At least there were no witches turning people into pigs (okay, I'll stop now).

I get to the terminal. No trouble actually getting a seat, but they do make you worry. In Boston I have to change terminals to get on my flight to Iceland. Everyone speaks in this lovely Boston accent, but I managed to figure it out. The lady at the check in point is actually babysitting some kids while checking in passengers. Strange, but also really cute.

When I arrive in Iceland the Leif Eriksson airport is tiny. It is also the middle of the night, but since they are so far north and it is early July/late June the sun never really sets. In the most brilliant move on my part I walk out of the bathroom without my purse. I notice about two minutes later when I find it at the customer service desk.

There is an exhibit here about the Norse in North America. I am not really surprised, but I am a little excited to see it. The European arrival in North America is such a powerful moment in history. So because there is a universality to its power (though that power will affect different people in different ways and for different reasons) it is interesting to see where and how often it is made reference to.

Thankfully the only real delay experienced is on the last flight, when I am not connecting with anything else that has been timed. The computers in Reykjavik are also down, and we can not board the plane for an extra 45 minutes.

The plane arrived in Arlanda, Stockholm on July 1, Canada Day. I find a computer to let people know that I have arrived. My bag, sadly, has decided it will go it's own way. Three flights, one from stand by, I was actually expecting it. I have been studying my Swedish, but everyone here also speaks English, so we arrange for me to call to have my bag delivered when it sees fit to arrive and when I know where the heck I should have it sent to.

I take the bus to Uppsala and am super early to check in to the Uppsala International Summer Session. Which is actually good because I get good and lost looking for the check-in. I saw a lot of the city centre though and found that not having my big bag with me was a great blessing.

I checked in, listening my darnedest to the Swedish for some sort of comprehension. But finally I made it to the little apartment that someone has left for me over the summer. It is super stylishly decorated.

My bag came to school one day later. Inside there was a little tag from the TSA letting me know that they had opened my bag to inspect it. What can I say, I am really suspicious. But both bottles of maple syrup were still there and in tact.

All in all, remarkable journey. Tiring, slightly invasive, unnecessarily worrying but ultimately the smoothest it could actually possibly go. And they even hand delivered my bag to me. What service.

Things I will be sure not to miss while I am in Sweden:
1. Gamla Uppsala (I mean I'm already right here)
2. The Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm
3. The Viking Market on the Island of Birka

(I'm going to save a trip tot he Foteviken viking Museum for a trip to Denmark, because it is actually way closer to that than to where I am here in Sweden. For more information about Viking heritage tourism in Scandinavia check out the Scanbalt website).

Looking forward over these six weeks to seeing some of Sweden, to exploring the history of the country and talar svenska.


  1. Have a great time in Uppsala!

  2. Cool! Did they let you swing that sword? That is what I would have requested ;-)