Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sweeden's yust like Minnesotah? Yah betcha!

I took my first trip to Sweden this week and I have to tell you -- it looks just like Minnesota. Right down the yellow birch in fall, the calmly undulating highways, the way they had to blast through walls of rock to make those highways. They too have legends about shipwrecks and lots of blond-haired folks named Anderson. The main differences I noticed were a lack of maples providing red and orange color (even the forests are blond), a serious increase in the number of vowel sounds and the price of beer, and, oh yeah, how everyone I met had a cradle-to-grave safety net of health insurance and unemployment coverage. So, you win some, you lose some, I guess.

On the bus ride between Stockholm and Nyköping (pronounced, naturally, nee-sher-ping), I spent a lot of time imagining those Swedes hundreds of years ago, crossing the ocean, arriving in the United States (apparently to Delaware?), breaking out across the nation in horse buggies a la Oregon Trail, arriving eventually in Minnesota. That cold, dark, northern land reminded them exactly of home. And for some reason, after traveling thousands of miles to escape persecution or poverty, they chose to set up shop in the same god-forsaken climate with the shortest growing season in the lower 48.

That must be why those Scandinavian types don't have a reputation for being so smart. Sven and Ole are just the tip of the iceberg.

I also discovered that Duluth's sister city, Växjö (something like vek-shoe), is the Swedish equivalent of Nowheresville. Are we not, at times, the exact same thing?


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