Tag Archive | culture

A Human Pace

The second reason that Paul Salopek’s Out of Eden Walk is so fascinating to me, is its theme.  As an Anthropology major many years ago, I have a lasting appreciation of cultural exploration. I have also been particularly interested in hominid evolution since interning at the Field Museum of Natural History back in 1999.  At the time, I was involved in a project to create a computer-based “field trip” touring students through human evolution.  Technology-wise, our efforts were laughable in the face of what is commonplace today.  In fact, the Out of Eden project itself has a program to bring classroom students along for the walk, as it were.  It looks really neat – I wish I were a teacher or homeschooling parent and could sign my students up!

But I digress…

My particular interest in hominid evolution and expansion has focused on the linguistic repercussions.  I have always wondered if it would be possible to track expansion out of Africa based on the similarities of languages… and for now I am left to keep wondering!  Mr. Salopek is a journalist – his trip isn’t intended for scientific research, or to bring new facts to light for the world community.  Instead, he is documenting the way life is now in each of these places, with reflection on the first humans to have walked before him.  His intent is to slow down his speed of observation to a walking pace, to get to know the locals on his trek, and to bring that experience to the rest of us.  He has chosen to travel in a mode that humans – and one might add only humans – have always had at their disposal: our two feet.  In doing so, with all the added support and conveniences of modern life apart from transportation, he showcases the tremendous effort it must have taken those first humans, the drive they must have had to reach new lands.  Along the way, he records the struggles and ambitions of modern people along his route, in conversations and interactions that point out our universal human similarities, as well as our large cultural differences.

This is what travel is always about, for me.  I can find similarities and difference a couple of towns over – and not more or less of either on the other side of the world!  I may not get to walk around the globe, or the country, or even this state, but whenever I reach a new destination, I am full of curiosity about the people who live there.  I do get out of my car, off the bus or train, and just walk, through neighborhoods, fields, skyscrapers, or backcountry trails.  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Salopek that you can’t see the world of people unless you are moving at a human pace.

Weekend in Sweden

It has been a long time since I’ve posted an entry here, and I have a backlog of adventures to tell you all about!  But first, I thought I’d share this letter my mother wrote me about a weekend adventure to Sweden!  Yes, that’s right – flew all the way to Sweden for the weekend – it is a great sneak peek at the country and the culture, enticing me to try to visit it for myself one of these days.

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We did a crazy fun thing: we went to Sweden for a long weekend.  In the middle of winter (it was -10 C) with lots of snow.  The adventure began when Jeff bought a car from Volvo and learned that Volvo would pick up travel costs for a round trip if we bought according to a particular program and actually laid hands on said Volvo at the Swedish factory in Gothenburg.  So we did.

The new Volvo... test-driven in Sweden, scheduled to arrive in Chicago in a little over a month.

The new Volvo… test-driven in Sweden, scheduled to arrive in Chicago in a little over a month.

During a bout of insomnia  just before leaving I stayed up most of the night reading a book on Nordic Art.  My interest in Sweden blossomed once I saw these beautiful paintings illuminated by winter light.

What we did in 4 days:

Flew over, picked up at airport by Volvo driver and transported to Radisson in downtown Gothenburg

Visited Volvo factory and test drove car

Then off to Gothenburg to see the FABULOUS art museum

Late afternoon cocoa in one of the many many coffee and cocoa houses. Everyone seems to be in one or another in the late afternoon.  People walk in for cocoa carrying cross country skis or their brief cases or their shopping bags.

Dinner in a wonderful fish restaurant.

(Gothenburg was laid out by the Dutch in the 1600’s and has lots of splendid canals, a port, and plenty of fish.)

On the way to Gotheburg Train Station, pale blue winter light at 8 am.

On the way to Gotheburg Train Station, pale blue winter light at 8 am.

Train the next morning across all of southern Sweden from Gothenburg (west coast) to Stockholm (east coast.  Again we were in a city built on many islands, blessed with good public transportation and very expensive taxis.

Swedish Academy

Swedish Academy

Wandered the old city called Gamla Stan on foot where we took in the Swedish Academy, seat of the Nobel prize, the King’s palace (freezing looking guard standing outdoors like at Buckingham Palace.  Brrr.), lots of cute shops and old buildings (mainly 17th and 18th centuries), and then to the modern downtown area on the next island which we accessed by walking over a charming bridge.

Dinner at a pub called Kvarnen which was featured in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Highly recommended by us due to the ambiance, good Swedish meatballs, and the drunks singing a capella with incredibly good harmony.

Night-time in a truly charming and eccentric hotel (the Lady Hamilton) on Gamla Stan.

View from the hotel in Stockholm

View from the hotel in Stockholm

Then 4—count ‘em, 4—museums all in one day.  We began with Fotografiska, a photography only museum, then took the tram to another island called Djurgarden—gorgeous place of parks and woods and mansions.  A princely playground. The museums there were the Thielska, Prince Eugen’s home and

Prince Eugen's Palace

Prince Eugen’s Palace

gallery (highly recommended) and then the Vasa.

While the previous two were paintings primarily, the Vasa is a boat.  What a boat.  This is the Swedish Titanic built in the 1600s.  As it was leaving the port of Stockholm on its maiden voyage it sank in the harbor.  Raided over 400 years later and housed in this building, the Vasa Museum.  This is what I imagine is a pirate’s dream ship and it certainly seems to be the model for the ones we’ve seen in every swashbuckling film ever.  The ship is amazing, covered with refined carvings everywhere on the exterior.  While visitors don’t go on board, we walk up different floors of the building alongside the boat with explanations in side galleries.  Well worth the visit.

Vasa Museum

Vasa Museum

Then we dragged back to the hotel, and walked down the street to a little restaurant where we ate reindeer with lingonberries—yummy.

Bedtime, then up in the morning and raced to the plane home.

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Anyone who has more in-depth knowledge of Sweden and what it has to offer, I’d love to get some recommendations from you!