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They had a carnival in our ghetto and the parade went past our door.

I baked some gourmet pizzas. The one has caramelized onion, spinach, and mushrooms, the other has this beet pasta sauce. I love the stuff but am bored of pasta, so that’s why I started investigating pizza dough.

We went to Uppsala for midsommar, the Scandinavian solstice festival. There was folk music and dancing around maypoles at Old Uppsala

I liked this fountain in Uppsala proper

The Linneaus botanical garden

On the night of the solstice I made Kostia and Dima go for a walk at 1:00 a.m. If you know me, you know that it took a supreme effort to stay awake and leave the house at that hour, but it was worth it. Here you can see the transition from dusk to dawn at 1:30 a.m.

That’s Dima

Finally, today was an historic day because Kostia cooked something from a recipe. We have several cookbooks in German that we inherited from Claudia when she moved away. Kostia wanted to keep the cookbooks, but since I don’t know German I told him he had to use them or else we had to give them away. So, he finally got around to it and made a very tasty zucchini frittata.

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Kostia and I went to Copenhagen for the weekend. My cousin Maureen is doing an internship there this year. I’d been to Copenhagen a couple times before, but it was Kostia’s first time in Denmark. We did a lot of walking, saw Kate Nash in concert (she was pretty good, but the more exciting thing was discovering her opening band, Mystery Jets), went to the sort of pathetic Tycho Brahe Planetarium, and went to a football (soccer) match. We bought books and hard liquor, both of which are significantly cheaper in Denmark than in Sweden. One of the books we bought was The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi, a novel about a refugee’s experience in Denmark. It’s a nice book, if a bit predictable. I recommend it for some meaningful light reading, if you know what I mean.

It was interesting to visit Denmark again after spending time in Sweden and learning some Swedish. Written Danish is comprehensible if you know Swedish, while spoken Danish is comprehensible for the first few syllables of an utterance, then becomes a lot of nasal mumbling, moaning and unexpected glottal stops. For all that the Swedish language gets made fun of, Danish is much funnier. :-)

The weather was spring-like in Copenhagen, if not terribly warm, so it was a bit of a shock to wake up from a train nap about an hour away from Falun, look out the window, and see that we were in the middle of a snowstorm. Sigh.

Here are some pictures from the weekend.

Kostia and The Little Mermaid

Me and the Opera House

Copenhagen From Above

Kostia and The Football

Me and Maureen

My left wrist, left hip, and all the under-used muscles of my body are sore today. Yesterday I tried Nordic skating for the first time. Falun is built among lakes, and there’s one particularly large one on which they clear paths for skating. One path goes all the way to Borlänge, a town about 20 kilometers away. You can see a map of it here. My friend Lenka and I just did the little loop, the red one, but we did it two and a third times, so that was about 14 kilometers of skating. It’s not as hard as running 14 kilometers, but it was still hard. It’s harder than skating in a circle on figure skates. I fell pretty spectacularly three times, and I can usually manage not to fall when I go to a skating rink. The skates are different – they’re kind of like little cross-country skis with blades, and you use exactly the same kind of boots you use for cross-country skiing. And the bumps and cracks in the natural ice can be pretty treacherous. Still, it was pretty fun and good exercise, and I’d like to try it again once I’ve recovered.

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me, stumbling along

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Lenka, more graceful than I am

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Check out the ice sailboat!

It turns out there are a lot of YouTube videos of Nordic skating. Check it out!

OK, it’s not my motherland. A lot of people ask me if I have Russian ancestry, since there can’t possibly be any other explanation for an American Russophile, and all I can say is, does a name like Megan Lindsay Case sound Russian to you? Not that I couldn’t be Russian on my mother’s side or something, but no, I’m not Russian. Still, coming back feels like a return to reality in a way, as if my last 10 months in Sweden were just a dream…

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On Tuesday I was pretty sad to wake up in Russia and not in Sweden. Our flat is pretty nice by Russian standards, though I feel like we live in a concrete box only barely concealed by some badly-laid linoleum. The worst part of it is how far we are from the center.

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When we went to our old neighbourhood, Komendantsky Prospect, which is an end-of-the-line metro station, the other day, that felt like going to civilization. But look, the kitchen is big and bright and comfy:

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Anyway, our location is only temporary and we plan to find something closer to the center in the fall. We’re lining up students and other work, and tomorrow we’ll go to Kostia’s family’s dacha for about a week. That will be nice. Kostia’s mom will feed us till we burst, we’ll go swimming in the river, eat shashlik, wash in the banya, drink milk fresh from the cow, be chased by aggressive turkeys when we go to get water from the well, and be eaten alive by mosquitoes. 

Travel tips: Five years ago I rode the ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm for the first time. I met several other young travellers on board, none of us had booked a cabin and we spent most of the night hanging out. When I finally got too tired to stand, I went to the room where they had train-style seats for the cabinless passengers and got a bit of sleep. Our experience on Saturday night was rather different. For one thing, the ship we were on didn’t have the seats for cabinless passengers, so I got a few hours of fitful sleep on a bench and Kostia didn’t sleep at all. For another thing, the Saturday night ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki is full of booze-cruising Finns. Listen up: if you’ve never been to Finland before, do not take the Saturday night ferry from Stockholm, because you will get a very bad first impression of Finns, who, in all my other experiences, have been incredibly nice, normal people. It’s just that people aren’t at their best on a booze cruise. And the segment of society that likes to booze cruise as a way of spending the weekend isn’t exactly the most, um, as Russians would say, culturniy. So. Take the ferry, it’s a fun, scenic and cheap way to travel, but be sure to get a cabin and don’t take it on a Friday or Saturday night. 

They’ve got a shiny new train on the Helsinki-St. Petersburg line! There are two trains between Helsinki and St. Petersburg daily, one Finnish and one Russian. The Finnish train is a typical European train, clean and modern and yada yada yada. The last time I took the Russian train, it was an old-fashioned Russian one, with closed compartments for six people each rather than rows of seats in pairs. The compartments had a sort of charm, but when we got to the station on Sunday and saw the sign that the train was fully booked, I was dreading it a bit, because the compartments are a lot less comfortable when filled to capacity, and furthermore I was dead tired from the night on the ferry and just wanted to go to sleep, and that’s nearly impossible in a compartment of six people with non-reclining seats. But when we got on the train on Sunday, it was new and clean and sleek and had seats in pairs rather than compartments! But, they retained the perk that the Finnish trains don’t have – a free snack. You can choose between the beer-salami-and-roll snack or the yogurt-juice-and-croissant snack. We had the former, of course. It was a real beer with 5.2% alcohol, not a Swedish lättöl, and a very generous portion of salami. Mmm.

Here‘s a little story about the world’s northernmost IKEA that involves Sweden and Russia. And Finland and Norway too.

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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