September began slowly as a month watching good ol' Max the dog in Rushden for our friends Scott and Chrissy, surrounded by the sight of fields and the clip-clop of passing horses. Our time became anything but peaceful when we left at the end of the month to set off on our Whirlwind Tour of Europe. We have only just had a chance to come up for air to post this update!
From Rushden we drove to Dover, where we spent the night, took a ferry to Dunkirk before the break of dawn, and drove to Amsterdam. Our stop in this city featured a boat tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Canals, a visit to the Anne Frank House, waffles, and the Red Light District.
We left Amsterdam and spent the night with Thilo (Hans' German foreign exchange student during high school) en route to Copenhagen.
In Copenhagen we had a morning to enjoy the beautiful Københavns Havn (Copenhagen's Harbor), seeing the bright buildings, being awestruck with the old ships, and relaxing with some coffee, tea, and avocado on rye.
The photo above is from the gorgeous Copenhagen neighborhood of Nyhavn.
After that, we headed northeast, across the Øresund Bridge ("...the longest tunnel-bridge for car and train traffic in Europe and the longest bridge crossing a country border in the world," according to Wikipedia), to Stockholm where Hans' Swedish family, Olle and Signe, graciously hosted us for a week.
Some highlights from Stockholm…
- spending time with Hans' family and figuring out how we are related
- a visit to The Vasa Museet (a 300-year-old resurrected warship that sunk in Stockholm harbor after sailing for only 1,300 meters...it's a genuinely fascinating story and you can read more here)
- food, as always
- walking along Stockholm's lake
- strolling through Gamla Stan
- time to unwind a bit!
On to the photos!
1. Beautiful buildings surrounding the main square in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's old town.
2. The restored Vasa ship is 98% original and the museum is WELL worth a visit if you're ever in Stockholm!
3. We celebrated 5 years of marriage by visiting Highclere Castle for a day during the centennial memorial of the end of WW1. Any Downton fanatics in the house?
4. Ginny, our car, getting much needed new “front shoes” in Stockholm
5. Fancy façades line the canals in Amsterdam
Most Interesting Things We've Done or Seen
Hans' favorite: A very brief stop by the castle where my grandpa Nordgren got remarried was an unexpected surprise. Connecting with family and my heritage was really special!
Rachel's favorite: The Vasa Museum was SUPER interesting because the ship is this extremely well-preserved time capsule of life in 17th-century Sweden. The Vasa sank 1,300 meters into her maiden voyage due to a serious design flaw and a bit of wind. A few days later, we visited the Stockholm IKEA to see just how far Swedish design has come in the last couple of centuries!
Mutual favorite: our river cruise in Amsterdam!
We're also reflecting a lot on our visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam in light of the recent domestic terrorism attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Rachel especially remembers this quote from the museum...
"Some time this terrible war will be over. Surely the time will come when we are people again, and [not] just Jews." - Anne Frank
We want to remember that every single one of us bears the label of "person" before anything else. Any other label used to degrade a person's inherent humanity and dignity, or separate people into an "us vs them" dichotomy, is (not to put too fine a point on it) not our best work as humans. Let's do better.
The top photo features (from left to right) Hans, Rachel, Signe, Fredrik, and Olle. Olle is Hans' 2nd cousin twice removed. Signe is Olle's wife and Fredrik is one of their three sons. We feel so blessed to have met them, and it was wonderful to get acquainted! They almost didn't let Banjo leave ;)
Botton left: Scott tries to teach Banjo to take a treat "gently" from his hand. It didn't work...Scott nearly lost a few fingers. Max is the dog next to Banjo. Milo and Bruce are next to Banjo and Max, and were taken with Scott and Chrissy on their month-long trip while we watched Max.
Bottom right: Rachel reconnected with her friend Martina from the international program at Washburn University, where we attended college.
Best in Food
Hans: I'm going to cheat a wee bit and mention my favorite sweet and favorite savory. We spent a week in Stockholm with Signe and Olle (my Swedish family) and Signe treated us to some of the most Swedish dishes she could come up with. My favorite savory was oven roasted salmon and my favorite sweets were Signe's homemade cardamom cinnamon rolls on Sweden's national cinnamon roll day. Good timing - lucky us!
Rachel: a few things! First of all, Scott is the king of roast chicken...it is absolute perfection. Second of all, we were positively spoiled by Signe and Olle, and being welcomed around the family table felt especially sweet since we've been apart from our immediate families for so long. I also really loved the avocado toast on rye that we had in Copenhagen.
A Note From Banjo...
I luved mi tiem wif Maax. We layd arond awl dae. An we runned in ze feelds to! I lernt too eat blak berries frum ze thornee vin.
Then my stoopid hoomins decieded to cramp mee in back of kar 197 timez in last free weaks. I wundre, amn I in prizon? They do dis so much that I wish I could have stayed with nice Oola and Seegna. Oola give mee lotsa bellie rubz. Dae has rume for mee too stehhhhch and relaks.
Only ting keep me gooing: biskits!