Johannes Jensen wrote, “There is something of the freshness of mind, of the lightness of spirit in Linne which for centuries has been linked in people’s minds with the mountains of Sweden and Swedish joy in nature.” Of which I agree with completely. There is a beauty and charm to Sweden that is like no other, although I think that Mr. Jensen may have over looked one thing in his prose describing this northern European gem.
Candy. For me, venturing to a place I’ve not been to before, I find there is always something that sticks out that is unexpected and unusual. For Sweden, I’d expected and heard a little of the beauty and the welcoming attitude of the Swedish people and I’d always known that you’d not be hard pressed to find a good meal of cod and potatoes, or a dish of grillad pilgrimsmussla, but I had no idea of the vast amount of candy that is available everywhere, and in much more exotic variety than my home in Alaska (or anywhere else I’ve been). I’ve come across a bag or two of Swedish Fish candy in the U.S., but I think that is the extent of Swedish confectioneries that I’d seen prior to coming here. From a hundred varieties of chocolate to impossibly salty licorice, for those of you that have a sweet tooth, this is the country you want to visit. If, as the saying goes, “Life is like a box of chocolates …” in Sweden, life comes in a very, very large box.
After the long journey from Alaska to Gothenburg, Sweden, I arrived in the afternoon and took the rest of that day to try to reset my clock by sleeping the remainder of that day in order to be ready for work. Like Alaska, it is at a very northern latitude, so it gets light later in the morning and the sun sets quite early in the afternoon. Although I hadn’t yet had the chance to see the cacophony of candy that was available to me, I was able to immediately see some beauty in where I was staying: The Clarion Post Hotel. The Hotel is located in the middle of Gothenburg, which you can see is both an impressive building (a remodeled public post office) that is very modern and comfortable to stay in, is very beautiful during the evening, with other scenic hotels and lighted art for you to appreciate each time you exit the front doors. From the breakfasts to the accommodations to the artwork and staff, I enjoyed the hotel immensely and certainly would recommend a stay to my friends and plan to make my bookings there when I return.
Each morning and evening at the hotel there always seemed to be something happening in the heart of bustling Gothenburg. Another surprise was the introduction to popular holiday in Sweden: Saint Lucia’s Day. It isn’t something that I was aware of before my visit, but working with my new Swedish friends, I got a quick lesson; it is a Christmas celebration (the start of the Christmas season) in which there is a procession of lights (in the photo on my blog you’ll notice it is on some vehicles) in which one girl leading the procession wears a crown of candles or lights, followed by maidens that carry a single candle, all of them clad in white gowns. The celebrations were obvious in the streets and of what I saw, it looked like a lot of fun. Although I am not sure, there MUST be candy involved at some point. Some of my Swedish friends will have to chime in here and let us all know more about your holiday.
My first day of work was some good old fashion road-tripping. We headed north of Gothenburg towards Marstrand to do some photo and video work. More beauty in abundance. The countryside is not unlike Alaska and, although the actual temperature in Sweden was a bit warmer, I was welcomed to the damp west coast Swedish cold, which will chill your bones in a hurry. During our brief stops, I made sure that I wasn’t far from a warm vehicle and each day after I made sure that I was well dressed to be in the damp cold!
So after a nice ride north about 45 minutes we stopped at a couple of points along the Södra Strandgatan, a highway that eventually takes you to Marstrand. We’d found a few good places to take some photos and video, a process that at one time in my career I thought would be a matter of picking a spot, taking the shots and going on to the next, is now an expected routine of trying a location here, trying a location there, waiting for the weather conditions to be right, hoping the sun will peek out from behind the clouds… A hundred things that a whole team need to work at to get just right (and of course they did). I had a great team to work with, always gracious and thoughtful, making sure they would work as quickly as they could to get the job done and not have me outside any longer than they had to.
The next few photos shows us working to get some of those photos and video. We were on an outcrop of rocks that jutted out on the water called “Nordöhamnen.” We’d spent a few hours doing first some video then some still photography. Just like the view from the “office” in my truck, this job affords many of the same benefits; at each place we stopped, the views were great and in the times when there was a little lull in the action, I took in the scenery and appreciated where I was… The starkness of the winter landscape, the lichen and ice covered rocks under my feet, the geese floating on the water and anything else that could get my mind into the moment. So often when I travel, I am rushed because work doesn’t really afford the time I would have if I were on vacation, but when I get those moments, be they just a few moments or hours, I try to make sure that I take it in as best I can. I am getting better at it. I am hoping that I can share many of them with you!
And as often and as quickly as the moments that I am able enjoy a bit of the scenery come, they leave. It was back to work on that snowy outcrop. Again, with the group that I was working with, the laughs and smiles came easy… At least for the moment because it didn’t involve any audio (and my word you wouldn’t want to hear my attempt at Swedish). Just stand there and let the cameras and the people do their work. Turn here or there, look here or there. All and all pretty straightforward, although I was certainly happy at the end of it to be able to hop in my friends car and warm up.
That friend, more often than not, was my makeup artist Annica Gerber. I give a little pause at calling Annica simply my “makeup artist,” because she was certainly much more. Annica went far above and beyond the call of duty, making sure that, not only were we up and ready for the day, but got me set with makeup, provided plenty of taxi services all around the Gothenburg area and gave us some cross cultural references to everything from Swedish custom and culture to a comparison to life in Sweden compared to the US; Annica has lived in both the U.S. and Sweden, growing up and going to school in the United States, and was of Swedish decent, so lives and has a family in Sweden. She was enormously helpful. A big thank you for all the things you did, Annica! You filled plenty of shoes during my time there, and filled them all quite well. I think I’ll just call her friend (along with many, many others on this journey).
During the shoot on the first day we were around the Marstrand area, an island city with an obvious boating and sailing culture. I’ll have to say that my main motivation was actually obtaining an energy drink during my brief stop there. But on the run to the store, there were a couple of sites I was able to catch a quick look at, namely the harbor and, in the picture I’ve posted, a 17th century fortress named Carlsten that you can see in the background. The fortress was built for maritime defenses, although these days it is there for all of us to tour. I didn’t have the time to do it, but next time I will be taking a look at the fortress and try to get a little walking in the city (it’s car free).
Did I mention all the beautiful scenery? Traveling up and down the roads of the Swedish west coast there was so much of it that you really couldn’t take it all in with one trip. As I’ve mentioned, much of it reminded me of my home in Alaska. From the birches and snow to the wildlife, ice and snow-swept roads, Sweden would not be an unfamiliar place to those of us in North America that live in colder climates and it’s quite apparent where we got some of our traditions from the Scandinavians.
The light was turning to twilight and the next part of our day took us to a restaurant/truck stop/hotel named Edet Värdshus in Lilla Edets. Talk about style and comfort for truckers! It was a cozy place located next to a river where you can unwind, have a great meal and enjoy the scenery outside and the company of other truckers. They had a great menu, a hotel, a convenience store and, of course, a place to gas up. We spent a few hours there taking some photos and filling our bellies. I wouldn’t mind having this place to stop at along one of my routes!
After the first day of work, the crew was well aware of my love of horses, and took us to the local track, Åby Racetrack. Horses are BIG (as in popular) in Sweden–my kind of place. The track was bustling with people and there were a number of races slated for that evening. We came in, got ourselves warm, had a good cheeseburger and watched a couple of races before getting the chance to get a little exercise and go down to the stables where the horses were. Very nice stables. Heated and indoors, with shower rooms for the horses. As it happened, one of our friends family members raced horses so we got the grand tour. I did learn this: I should stick to riding horses and not betting on them. Although I didn’t wager any bets, I did try to pick my horse… That’s not easy at all!
Another day and more work. We started off, as we did most every day in Sweden, with Annica coming to the hotel and getting me ready, then we were off to another breakfast cafe in Gothenburg. Beckmans offers a nice spot for truckers to get the day started with a big breakfast (frukost). Although I wasn’t there to truck, I was happy to get a little something to eat before a full day of pics and video. We did a bit of shooting and interviewing there, and that would be just the start. Today would turn out to be a busy day, so it was nice to get some time to sit before our busy schedule would take us all around the city.
Our next stop was in a warehouse for more photos. The team had been working well into the day now, and although the days were long, we were still having a great time. Between photo sessions we’d take a break and have something to drink (tea, hot chocolate and coffee) and I was able to spy various jerseys hung in frames in the hallway of local soccer teams. Like many other places in Europe, soccer rules! Again, the people in the warehouse couldn’t have been more patient and accommodating with all of our running around and getting in their way. Thanks to all of you that let me interrupt your daily routine!
After spending a few hours there, we were on to the chilly port for more of the same. Because it an active port, we found ourselves in another busy place with trucks and containers being moved at quite a bustling rate. And although this was in an industrial area of the city, there was still beauty to be had! Here is a shot that looks out over the water, but it still gives a hint at both how hardy and self-sufficient the Swedes are, with both wind generators in the background and someone who had rode their bicycle to work that day!
And they certainly have a sense of humor: An interesting stop sign man that was one of a couple I’d seen around the port. Funny, but gets the point across. There were so many examples of the great work environment I had with the crew; it was chilly nearly every day I was there, but that was always offset by the warmhearted, hard-working people I was with. If it was time to get to work, everyone was on it! If it was time for a break, everyone took a break, warmed up and got back to the task at hand. If I had a suggestion or two, they were happy to give it a try. Quite a team.
Part of that day’s plan was to get some pictures of me around the port. Sorry for posting so many images of myself, but for the most part, the camera is pointed at me so when it comes time to tell a story of where I have been, I tend to be standing in front of that camera, along with the scenery. So thanks for being a sport. Ever see Lisa Kelly in a truckers hat? Probably not. I used to wear them all the time, but I haven’t lately and I don’t recall many images being put out of me in a cap for public consumption… Well, here we go with me in baseball caps.
The next few image are me checking the phone in said cap. The camera caught me checking in! A bit of a challenge with gloves on, but the trusty iPhone was keeping me up-to-date. I probably should have checked the temperature… At that point, it must have been at least -150F (well, ok, probably not quite). But, the cars were close by, and having learned from the day before that I’d well better be layered and wearing warm clothes, I was quite prepared for the work around the windy port.
I’ve always liked the look and feel of a port, no matter where it is. That industrial look with all the colorful containers and the round the clock business of the place is a reminder of how small the world is, and how much we need things moved from one place to the next. The speed at which these containers are moved around, unloaded and loaded, placed at a certain area, found by someone else and sent on it’s way is just impressive. It’s a busy, but organized place. Organized chaos. Not all that different than how life is for me these days (although I am pretty sure that the organization at these places is far better than my own!)
The sun was again waning in the sky and it was time to hurry and get the last shots of the day in before the glowing orange sun slipped below the Swedish horizon. We’d found a few more spots to take some last minute shots, so we could get back to the warmth of the office and get a few more photos in the studio. I was ready. The outdoors were beautiful, but a nice heated studio sounded pretty good and my toes were telling me to get in and get warmed up. The sun was setting and we were off to the city. Time for a change of venue and a change of wardrobe.
This was the last part of our work after a number of days: Some photo studio sessions that kept me indoors which, along with it being warm, also gave me a better chance to visit with everyone and have a good time. We’d been working at quite a pace and, a few days in, my head clock was finally starting to sync with the local time… Which usually means that it will soon be time for me to head back home and readjust all over again.
Studio work is every bit as tough as video work. Not so much in the movement here and there, but the lack of movement. Find a good spot and hold it. And hold it. And hold it. Sometimes you can stay in particular pose, or a variation of that pose for many minutes and even hours! Fortunately, there was plenty of candy on all the tables (surprised?), and a lot of chumming around with everyone. Another long day, but an enjoyable one. We got the shots we needed and It was time to head back for one more night of taking it easy and getting to bed early: I had to be up at 3:30am to be whisked off to the airport and spend the next 24 hours getting home sweet home.
So my trip to Gothenburg exceeded all my expectations and I was so happy to have been invited to spend some time there. The traveling adventures continue, and this is one of the great ones, particularly to close out 2012. The year was filled with travel and I am so grateful to have been able to have seen so many places, and make so many friends, all over the world. Sweden is right at the top of the list when it comes to so many categories; working environment, warm, inviting people, beautiful sights that remind me of home… So many things. It is a place that I want to return to not only to see friends, but to give trucking a try in the far north. I hear that it’s much like the trucking I am familiar with at home. But that is only part of it. Sweden has so much to offer and I was only there long enough to get a quick taste of some of those things, and there are so many things that I’d like to spend more time and savor… Even more of that candy.
Tack så mycket, Sverige. Hoppas att återvända snart!