Tag Archives: Sweden

Swedish National Day – “Celebrate, or not to celebrate, that is the question”

Today is a sunny day in Sweden. Why don’t go out and enjoy the sunlight while… celebrating the National Day? Yes, today, 6 June, is a working-free holiday here in Sweden. And the reason is that Swedes are going to be proud of their country and wave flags all around the street, chanting the national anthem (where you won’t hear either the word Sweden or Swedish), eating/drinking typical and traditional dishes/beverages, being cheerful all day long and happily ‘forgetting’ about the reality for some hours.

Wrong. Swedes actually do that, or almost everything said above, but not today. This will happen in some weeks, in the second half of June, when time for the most important and desired and awaited day for all Swedes will come: Midsummer.

So, what do Swedes do on 6 June, the National Day? Well, they are supposed to celebrate it, but how many do that? How many do feel to imitate their well-known Norwegian neighbours’ celebrations?

The Swedish National Day was established by the government only few decades ago, in 1983. And, to be precise, only a bit more than ten years ago it became a red day in the calendar. The need to create such a day stems from both the willing to give a sort of continuity with a traditional former celebration called “The day of the Swedish flag” (Svenska flaggans dag), and to match somehow the more famous and cherished Norwegian Constitution day honoured every 17 May.

The choice to celebrate the 6th of June as a National day may be related to the fact the in the very same day, back to 1523 AD, Gustav Vasa was elected king of Sweden – that indeed put an end to the union between Sweden and Denmark; moreover, in June 6, 1809 a new constitution was adopted. What happens in Sweden nowadays is that there are colorful processions of national pride joyfully accompanied by marching bands and important people giving speeches. For those of you who are not aware of it yet, Sweden is constitutional monarchy, so there are a king and a queen. They take an active part during the celebration: in Stockholm, leaving the Royal Palace, they reach the famous outdoor museum Skansen.

Anyway, going back to the main point: yes, it’s the National day then. But what do Swedes do!? They are known to be not so patriotic – you may normally see many national flags waving in the streets or outside their houses, in institutional places or even on public transports; however, celebrating their nation is not their favourite thing to do. Another reason may be associated to the fact that many could put on the same level patriotism and right-winger supporters. Last but not least: if you ask a Swede which day he/she is proud of and longing for, you would probably hear (as mentioned before) Midsummer.

Actually, according to a study conducted by the University of Gothenburg, in the last years there has been “a significant increase in interest in celebrating National Day. Participation in other holidays is stable.” (The Local). And a good reason to celebrate this day may come from people who become de facto Swedish citizens: most of immigrants and expats receive their certificate of citizenship on June 6 – the king and the mayors throughout the country welcome officially the new Swedes.

Celebrating or not, it’s holiday: happy national day, and grattis Sverige!


Sources: https://www.thelocal.se/20170605/why-more-swedes-are-celebrating-national-day; http://www.swedishfreak.com/holiday/swedens-national-day/; https://www.thelocal.se/20150605/why-dont-swedes-care-for-the-national-day; https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/national-day/

Pictures: Featured image (http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=5882611); picture 2 (http://www.scandinavianperspectives.com/uncategorized/sweden-national-day-celebration-june-6th); picture 3 (http://shazzerspeak.com/2011/06/06/strange-swedish-national-day/).

Off to Denmark – one day trip with friends through the Baltic Sea

Living and studying in Sweden means more than only focusing on your own academic path or enjoying as much as you can the Swedish fika. Actually, when you’re a student here, there may be some chances to get to know new places and go through new landscapes that can enlighten your eyes and make you feel good.

If you live especially on the West Coast or the South of Sweden, it’s not so difficult to catch the opportunity to go and visit briefly countries such as Denmark, Germany, Poland and Norway. Well, that’s actually what happened to me few days ago. I’ve spent one wonderful day with some of my friends in Denmark – in a matter of few hours we were there and back to Gothenburg (for those of you who still don’t know what I’ve been doing and/or why I’ve been living in the second largest Swedish city, please have a look here).

Gothenburg is a city that strategically embraces the Göta älv, that is the river whose origin is in the Baltic Sea. Being a very important commercial port is not the only feature that makes Gothenburg a well known spot. Actually, its position is fairly favourable when it comes to travelling by ferry. If you happen to come here and plan to stay some time, why do not consider the option to take a ferry off to Denmark just for one day? It’s not that expensive, and especially if you are a group of friends, it can really be fun to spend some time on the ferry and then explore a little bit the North Denmark Region (Region Nordjylland).

In my case, my friends and I had the initial plan to reach Frederikshavn, a town whose harbour is well connected with the Scandinavian neighbours, as well as being famous for the quality of the fish. Once there, our idea was to move and visit briefly another small and still very important port town up in the north of Nordjylland, a town called Skagen. Its size is actually inversely proportional to its beauty and its historical background. Skagen was indeed home of many Danish Impressionist artists – who started the indeed so called Skagen Painters during the 19th century. Moreover, it’s fairly peculiar, considering its architectural style and the characteristic landscape where sand and dunes shape the seaside. By the way, before letting you show some glimpses of our short trip, let me just say that if you go there, you’ll have the chance to meet the point that both divides and unifies the Nordic Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Now, welcome on board and enjoy the rest!

 

Meet Martin Molin – Let your eyes and your ears feel the magic

He might be perceived and considered a genius; but guess what he thinks about ‘being a genius’: “I don’t believe in any of this about geniuses and talents. Especially not when it comes to music. As long as you have a dream, you can succeed. (…) Believe in your dream and don’t let others judge you. You might not be going wrong with what you are doing, you just have to find the right context for you”. And you know what? I understand him. It’s not that easy to be confident about this perception of ‘being a genius’. I personally think that sometimes talent is just there, and it’s up to us to somehow find it out. But he basically says that everyone has talent: it’s up to us to work hard in order to unfold it. And yes, his insight gives me hope, as it should give it to you. So I like it.

Coming back to us, the person I’m referring to is a very (and objectively) talented Swedish musician, called Martin Molin. He’s part of a folktronica and post-rock band, Wintergatan. Before going straight to the point where you’ll probably be thinking “W-o-w”, just let me introduce briefly Martin. Born in 1983, he has struggled so much to become the great artist that currently is. After finishing the school, for three years he has tried to enter a college in order to pursue his musical dreams. Always rejected, he didn’t give up, and eventually an academy accepted his application. For our ears’ sake. And he has written many songs for his band even though he said: “I’ve tried writing lyrics, but I’m totally useless at it. All I can write is emails, so I’ll stick to that”.

Martin has been in love with music since his childhood/adolescence. However, and apparently, his romantic feelings for music were shared with something else: mechanics. Specifically, mechanics embodied in Lego Technic. The shapes and the lines that could be created and intertwined, new small mechanical creatures and all the reasonings behind that: a way to escape the reality of the simple things, and embrace the complexity. He really loved that. And the amazing combination of music and mechanics has led him to build something… magical.

Try to have a look at this, first. Then, if you want, just come back here: you’ll know more about that. But first, enjoy:

 

In 2014, Martin started working on a project that initially was supposed to be accomplished within a couple of months. Eventually, it turned out to be 16 months. Actually, after the very first six months, Martin was not able to reach a way out. However he didn’t leave his idea behind: against the unsatisfying results, he kept on trying again and again. And the outcome of the project is what your eyes and ears have met in the video: called Wintergatan “Marble Machine”, it can be defined as a sort of handcrafted music box.

What you can see it’s a machine where marbles (two-thou-sounds!!), a hand crank, wooden levers, and in total more than 3000 moving parts, match perfectly together, originating the show performed by those sounds and rhythms. Some instruments, that is to say a vibraphone, a bass, three pads and a percussion are activated both manually by some levers and by a pre-set sequence; this process leads the marbles to be released following the ideal tempo drawn by Martin’s mind.

A creative mind, and saying creative it’s not enough I would add. Giving birth to such a brilliant machine is something not so common. Martin was really able to combine the two passions that accompanied him throughout his youth. And this mixture gave us the chance to appreciate and admire such a talented human being making up something remarkably splendid.

Currently, Martin has been working to a new model of the Marble Machine: his aim is to bring it with him when touring for his concerts. After all, as he said: I am still totally fascinated by complex systems and constructions. And cogs. I love cogs!


Sources

Photos: https://zirconet.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/cose-la-wintergatan-marble-machine-di-martin-molin/

Quotations by Martin Molin: https://www.stim.se/en/interviews/studio-martin-molin 

Fulufjället Entrance

Finding Old Tjikko: World’s Third Oldest Tree

First of all, allow me to say happy birthday to our beloved Earth. Happy birthday, Earth! I don’t really know how old he is, but I am happy that we declare April 22nd as Earth Day. Now to celebrate it, I will write about the best tree I’ve ever met. His name is Old Tjikko. He lives in Fulufjället National Park, Dalarna, Sweden. He is 9550 years old. Continue reading

“More openness, trust and tolerance”: do you want to run with Kristina?

“We are always strangers to someone else. Learning to live together is fighting against racism”  

Tahar Ben Jelloun

I wanted to start writing this post with a sentence by a famous Moroccan author who has been trying to fight racism and hate for many years. I’ve read one of his books, and I highly recommend them to you, if you have never had the chance to embrace his words. However, the significant sentence it’s also an assist for me to talk about another special person who comes from Sweden: Kristina Paltén. And perhaps, after reading some lines of my post, you’ll be able to get why I linked Ben Jelloun’s words to Kristina.

I’ve stumbled upon her story few days ago, and I straight away thought that it was extremely worth sharing it. Who is Kristina? She is a Swedish runner. And what about when a runner wants to change the world? Well, you just can’t stop her. She will jump over fears and doubts, and she will start running. And fighting prejudices with kindness and smile.

That is exactly what Kristina has done.

Everything started in the first half of 2015. The idea was to challenge personal fears, as well as general prejudices that the Western societies might have against Islam, and people following that faith: people who might deemed to be so different from Europeans, giving strength to the misleading dichotomy “we/us”. The choice of Iran was especially due to the fact that it is a Muslim country with Sharia law: would have it been possible to see a woman from Europe running through a foreign nation, with an additional series of limitations?

The adventure that led Kristina to Iran didn’t begin without difficulties. As you can read from her blog, many concerns featured her first steps in her project. “One of my intentions with this trip is to challenge fears. And I definitely do, on a daily basis”, she says. Fears of what could have happened, fears to see her permit denied, or to get no sponsors and magazines willing to buy her articles that she would share. Fears that, eventually, didn’t stop her at all.

The first weeks were incredibly full of things to do, people to meet and the trip to plan. Kristina mentions that many people gave her a great hand: pieces of advice, contacts that could be useful in Iran, reassurances about the hospitality and friendliness of the locals. Among the people who helped her, some of her Iranian friends as well as a freelance journalist, André Larsson, who contacted Kristina and proposed her to make a movie about her journey, following her steps in the following months. The enthusiasm that arises line after line on her blog is amazing. She knows what her goal is, she knows that the only way to being herself is doing what she really wants. She feels that people around her believe in this project, and that a positive energy is permeating the air she breathes. And gradually, brick by brick, her dream becomes true, even though at some point she still didn’t have flight tickets and, most importantly, a visa: that would mean that she could go to Iran anyway, but without the permission to be filmed by a journalist such as André.

Anyway… remember the positive energy? Apparently reached Iran before than she could, and speeded up the visa process: Kristina got it eventually, and the packing list could get started! In early September of the same year, her adventure in Iran officially began: over the next 58 days, she would cover 1,840 kilometers, starting from Bazargan, close to the Turkish borders, and ending in the north-eastern border at Bajgiran. The experience she had turned out to be fantastic. “I want a world where we trust each other and listen to one another”: a symbolic leitmotiv of her journey, and a tangible feeling she could actually sense. Along with the physical challenges carried by the path she undertook, Kristina had the chance to see stunning landscapes, and taste the smile and the hospitality of the people she ran across.

A family that gave Kristina some fruit and water

A young woman who asked Kristina to take a picture with her

The journey ended few months later, in November, and a movie, “Alone through Iran – 1144 miles of trust” is ready to be screened. At this point, I just would like to hug her. And I leave you all with her words of wisdom:

“Today I feel like “muslim” has become synonymous with “terrorist” or “fundamentalist”. There are around 1,5 billion muslims around the world today, and I’m guessing most of them are really nice. With this run I want to question my own prejudices, learn more about a culture I know little about and meet a lot of people. I hope my run will contribute to more openness, trust and tolerance both within myself but also in the world”

Thanks, Kristina.


Featured image: https://www.facebook.com/alonethroughiran/?hc_location=ufi

All the pictures belong to Kristina Paltén. Follow her blog: http://www.palten.se/se/index.asp?Sida=235

Other source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/swedish-woman-runs-alone-across-iran-break-prejudice-2022055010

Forest in Sweden

How Forest Changed Me

I was born and raised in the big city of Jakarta, a city with population more than 10 million. You see building everywhere. Cars, roads, skyscraper, you name it. It does not really sleep even during the midnight. I thought Jakarta has almost everything a city should have. Until I move to Sweden. One of the very easy thing to spot: it does not have forests. Today is Forest Day so let’s talk about it! Continue reading