When I was growing up (Some would argue that I still am) I had always wanted to visit two particular countries in the world. Australia was the first, I have an uncle over there who would send us little pots of Vegemite (I don't think it ever lasted very long, my sister and I would eat it straight from the pot) and some pictures of various sights around Australia along with our Christmas presents, so I had a good idea of what the country looked (and tasted) like. I was 19 when I finally got myself together and headed over to the other side of the world, although still in awe of the place I wasn't wholly surprised when I saw kangaroos hopping around, interesting-shaped rocks, golden beaches stretching for miles, sharks eating surfers and people rubbing vegemite over themselves.
The second place I'd always dreamed of going was Sweden. In stark contrast to my reasonable knowledge of Australia, I knew absolutely nothing about the place. There were no relatives to send me packets of smörgåsbord, no-one to send me pictures of elk and I don't think I'd even met a Swedish person until I was 19 (In Australia funnily enough). In my head I pictured the whole of Sweden to be a large lagoon-type beach on the Baltic sea with blonde people sitting around it in the sun in the summer, and skiing around it in the winter. When my friend, Sud, invited me over in the summer of 2005 I jumped at the opportunity - It was summer, so I only needed to pack some swim-shorts for the lagoon. My illusion was of course shattered when we landed in Sweden... they had an AIRPORT!! I hadn't taken this into account when I was a child. From that point onwards, I was amazed at everything that the country had to offer. Trains, cities (very pretty ones), cars and all sorts - thankfully the blonde people were there, as was the Baltic coast.
In a week, I'll be making my third trip to the country - placing it second on my 'Countries I've visited the most' list, which I don't keep at all. I really, really like Sweden - each time I've visited I've had such a great time - I've found the Swedes to be very kind and chatty, despite that initial 'cold-shoulder' you seem to get when you first meet someone over there. Stockholm is a very pretty city and you'd do very well to try and see the sunrise when the streets are empty. Over the last year or so, I've been entertaining the idea of a move over there to start an Elk farm in the north - I'm no closer to that now than I was a year ago.
Last year we visited to celebrate Valborg, a festival held in the spring where bonfires are lit, fireworks are let off and alcohol is drunk in vast quantities. This time around, we're going to be celebrating Midsommarafton (Midsummer Evening) where bonfires are lit, fireworks are let off and alcohol is drunk in vast quantities, but about two months later than Valborg. We've made absolutely no plans, short of getting to the airport and back.... wish us luck!