...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Class trip to Söderköping

There's a picturesque little town south of Norrköping where a canal that goes right across Sweden passes through. The canal rests on a foot of a cliff that overlooks the whole town. The town is called Söderköping, and it is here where one of Sweden's biggest middle-age ports used to be. The city plan itself has been unchanged since 1250, and it's the little city's old charm that lures tourists from all around Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany who come all the way up here by car or boat. Today, I tagged along to a class field trip there that was led by my former Swedish teacher. She said I was very welcome, and looking back, it was even a good idea that I said yes because so few of the original students decided to show up.

We rode around town in this tourist train on wheels fitted with an audio-guide that describes the city's historical landmarks.

By now you must be asking yourself why many Swedish cities end in -köping. There's Linköping, Norrköping and Söderköping here in the Östergötland county alone, then there's Jonköping further down south and Nyköping a little further north. There's also Falköping, Enköping, Lidköping, Malmköping and another city that's simply called Köping. It can be little confusing especially if you don't manage to hear the first part of the city name. Apparently though, a "köping" is an old Swedish term for a market town, which had a status between a rural municipality and a city. This term is no longer used (the market town status itself doesn't exist anymore) and the köpings have grown to city status themselves. The names, though, at least for some of the köpings, had stuck. In Söderköping's case, the name derives from "söder" (south) and "köping" (market town).*

Here's the class going going up the 90-meter cliff to see a very beautiful view of the town below.

After the guided tour in the train, we had a picnic up in the cliff. We were sitting a bit too much under the sun for my liking and some crows hovered like vultures around us waiting for handouts. I had a good time anyway, mostly talking to my former teacher ViviAnne about what had happened with people from our class and my plans for the future. I mentioned that I didn't know how to swim and I found out that she used to be a swimming instructor. If I don't find a swim school for adults this summer, an offer of private lessons had been raised. I'm tempted by the concreteness of the idea and I'm already excited to start learning. My next "conquer-yourself" project? :-)

After that picnic, we went down the cliff again and toured the cobblestone-lined streets of the town below. The city itself (meaning not including the suburbs that span the municipality of Söderköping) is small and streets are narrow. There are few store chains: just the groceries, but no McDonalds to ruin the old-town feel. Most of the buildings are old and wooden but well-maintained, and they house cafés and bookstores which seem to be mostly family-owned. All the streets seem to lead to the town square, which has been described in the tour as the heart of Söderköping.

This interesting fountain-sculpture in the square has the name "Karusell" and was made by a Gunnel Frieberg in 1971. Don't you just love that child balancing upside-down on the head of another kid?

If the city square is Söderköping's heart, its stomach lies along the canal where the city's most popular – and Sweden's biggest – ice cream parlor, called Smultronstället, stands. They offer 60 different kinds of special ice cream in fancy cups and boats and bowls that are decorated with fruit and other edibles or spew out smoke. Of course there's a whole menu for regular ice cream cones as well, whose prices start at 16 kronor (= 1 scoop). Special ice cream prices start at 50 and go up to more than a hundred. Still, most people consider this ice-cream orgy to be so special that according to Smultronstället's website, they sell no less than 70 tons of ice cream yearly – for a store that's only open in the warm season! A trip here is a tradition. Most would even say that a trip to Söderköping is incomplete without it...


...which is why I just had to show you that I was there eating chocolate-chili ice cream with pumpkin seeds. It sounds scary but it tastes strangely delicious: cold, chocolately, crunchy (thanks to the pumpkin seeds), with a hint of spice and a hot aftertaste that lingers in the throat. I'm usually not so adventurous with flavors, but I don't regret choosing this one. Besides, it seemed a pity to go all the way there just to try vanilla ice cream!

* The letter Ö is the last letter in the Swedish alphabet. It's hard to describe how it sounds like as it's different from the German Ö. Depending on where you're from in Sweden, it may sound a little different too, but I can describe it like the E in "Sherman" or the U in "urge" -- if you exaggerate that sound a bit. If you're very curious, there's a wikidictionary link here where one can listen to someone say the word "nöt" (which means "nut"). Another thing is that that K's that go before Ö's are pronounced in Swedish as "sh". Therefore: Linköping |linsh(eu)ping|, Norrköping |norrsh(eu)ping|, Söderköping |s(eu)dersh(eu)ping|, etc.

6 Comments:

Blogger aka Cheryl said...

your ice cream sounds like the pepper-flavored one i had in thailand! cool, then hot ;)

2:24 AM

 
Anonymous Lara said...

köping as market place: means sense as köpa is to buy. :-) i thought the heads-on-top-of-one-another statue was too cute, too.

btw, do you speak swedish to your swedish teacher? cause i feel mooooost self-conscious when conversing in swedish with them but then i also feel that speaking english to them is just not proper. arghhh!

9:19 AM

 
Anonymous Lara said...

sorry...edit...makes sense, i mean. not "means sense". eww... :-D

9:21 AM

 
Blogger Ahoy! said...

Cheryl: Yay to hot-flavored ice cream! Now I remember that I also had wasabi ice cream once in Quezon City and liked it too.

Lara: It's the opposite for me. My Swedish seems to be the best in classroom settings and when talking to teachers and I feel more self-conscious when talking in Swedish to people I already know and been talking with in English for quite some time. But let's see... maybe when I shout out for help in the swimming pool, I'll end up shouting it in Filipino. Haha! :-)

12:29 PM

 
Blogger enilejna said...

wow! i want to go there. :) that ice cream sounds good. let's take a day trip?

got my swedish visa, without a hitch! yeayy! i'll probably book a flight for the 24th and arrive there the 25th, so i can have two days to get used to the city before the orientation starts on august 27. any ideas where i should stay for the duration of the orientation? or does linkoping take care of that already?

4:21 PM

 
Blogger Ahoy! said...

Yes, I'll take you there! The canal by the cliff is beautiful -- I just wasn't able to take good enough pictures so you've got to see it for real :-)

I think that LiU might arrange for your lodging at the Folk high school near the campus. But if they book you a hotel, say no and just stay over at our place ;-)

8:40 AM

 

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