It started taking shape just a year ago when former co-dentist (now a full-fledged Oral Hygienist in Sweden) Badette Larsson and family vacationed here. She invited us (it eventually came down to just me) to visit them at Malmo, Sweden. Finally, after securing a Schengen visa, a two-way ticket to Copenhagen, Denmark (a steal at P46,000) and being one of the last registrants for the Stockholm Marathon (they re-opened registration on Feb. after some runners backed out), I was off. From Copenhagen, Badette welcomed me and we took a 10-minute train ride that traversed a bay and led us into Malmo.
I had 2 weeks to acclimatize and condition before the big race so I ran around the Bunkeflostrand area 3x a week, exploring the various subdivisions (no snooty guards, nor gates here), the shoreline, swamps and hills along well marked trails at 10 am onwards. In between, I shopped (Ikea and other malls were just a bike ride away), helped in the house, doing laundry and washing dishes. I also met up with Uffe & Badette’s circle of friends and close family, along with other Filipinos there. Many times I wandered aimlessly around downtown Malmo, appreciating the well preserved towns, modern architecture and immersing in both food and culture. It’s easy to move around since Swedes are a warm people who could dish out good English, not to mention a good looking lot.
Soon, I was on my way to Stockholm and deposited my stuffs (after walking from the airport and pulling my wheeled luggage) at the Best Hostel at Skeppsbron, an island dotted with castles, museums and medieval bridges. Our room is shared with 12 other travelers from around the world and it felt surprisingly safe with everyone respecting each other’s bed space and privacy. Two days before the big day, I explored Stockholm with its numerous fortress islands, castles and waterways. Being the capital, it’s more grandiose and touristy with museum and palaces at every turn. I was usually dead tired when I reached our room so I always have a great sleep in the company of strangers. The marathon commenced at 12 noon and under chilly rain and howling winds, I was able to improve my personal record. (Pls. wait for the actual account in a few months. In the meantime, you could read the full text in the current issue of Frontrunner magazine)
When I got back to Malmo, Badette was on leave so we booked flights and a nice hotel room in – surprise, surprise – the fabled city of Prague, Czech republic, most unknowing that the Charles river and bridge (the main city attraction) had been inundated by rising flood waters. But there were enough sites to visit in their medieval Old Town, Prague castle and Wensceslas Square. It’ a lot of tram rides, walking and hiking. But the scenes are to die for, especially the panoramic view of the city from the castle.
When we returned to Malmo, Badette still had the time to drive me around the modern districts of the city and even the southernmost tip of Sweden (I drove during parts of the journey). I was able to also take in Copenhagen, just a train ride away in one day.
No doubt, it was a memorable and even-filled vacay but the most unforgettable ones are times spent with the Larssons who took me in their abode and made me feel at home. Up to now, I still dream of Uffe’s homemade barbecues and meatballs and their swiss bagoong (Kalles kaviar). Tack så mycket, Sweden!