I flew into an airport on the outskirts of Stockholm and spent the following week with Staffan, Anna, and their two month old baby, Perols Olof Erik Hillman. A decade and a half ago Staffan lived with my family as a foreign exchange student, and we quickly became best friends sharing amazing times our senior year in high school. He has since managed to visit Alaska a few times, but until now I'd not made good on my frequent promise to visit him in his home country. Very much in agreement with the saying that time flies when you're having fun, the visit was far too brief, though it was still wonderful to catch up, and to meet both Anna and Erik for the first time.
We spent the first few days at their beautiful and peaceful summer house in Öregrund on the edge of the Baltic. It was a very relaxing place, and a nice chance to catch up on both visiting and resting. From there we drove west to visit Anna's family and to see where Staffan and Anna will be building their new house. We then headed to Falun to visit Staffan's parents. And finally we quickly toured Stockholm before I flew out for Italy. The trip was far too quick, but quite wonderful.
Staffan holding Erik, who at this point is still forming an opinion of the strange visitor his parents call "uncle" making funny sounds and repeatedly pointing a silver flashing object at him.
Erik loved to be bounced in his "baby sitter" chair. Actually, the harder your bounced him, the more he seemed to like it. It proved the most effective way to help him to sleep too -- either bouncing him vigorously in the chair, or pushing him along in his carriage on bumpy roads.
Sailing the Baltic
Staffan and I managed to go sailing for a few hours on the Baltic while staying in Öregrund. Behind me there's about 40 kilometers of open ocean before you reach some Finnish islands, and even further to the mainland of Finland.
The view of the Baltic from their summer home is beautiful.
Someone managed to snap off this photo while I was asleep, caught in the act of napping while I was theoretically babysitting. I started out rocking Erik to sleep, but managed to put myself to sleep, too. We made a good pair.
Staffan standing in front of the pile of logs that will eventually be re-assembled into their new house. He and Anna bought the house up north, then had it taken apart and brought down to the village where Anna's parents live. It's a beautiful location.
We spent a day with Anna's family. Both her parents are school teachers, and quite amusing and easy going. It was a very enjoyable day, toward the end of which we walked down to the take a look at the lake. We're standing in a harbor from which an impressive giant canoe has been used for centuries to paddle across the lake holding 100 people and taking them all to church one day a year.
The Falun Copper Mine
The Falun Copper Mine was actively mined from sometime around 800 AD until 1992. It's a very impressive collection of seemingly endless shafts and tunnels. Staffan and I enjoyed an hour long guided tour into the mine's depths. Though there is no longer mining done, waste products collected from the mining process are still used to create a distinctive red paint that colors houses all over Sweden.
We stayed with Staffan's parent's in Falun, whom I'd met in 1992 at the end of the year that Staffan stayed with us. As with everyone I saw this trip, they made me feel completely comfortable and at home. (Erik wasn't especially happy about this picture taking session.)
Walking Through Falun
My last day in Sweden, Staffan and Anna took me on a walking tour of Falun, a very pretty city. We took our time, enjoying the sights.
Running Through Falun
We actually took a little too much time enjoying the sights, and after lunch we realized that we had very little time before I had to catch my bus. Staffan wasn't willing to not show me the old part of Stockholm, so we said goodbye to Anna and Erik then took off on a running tour of old Falun. It was a unique way to see the town, though I was disappointed to discover that I've managed to get out of shape again -- or maybe I can blame it on overheating due to wearing long underwear and too many jackets.