Now in Sweden, Jönköping (which is pronounced youn-shou-ping), the town we have to thank for Hans. I haven’t had time to write in quite a while because in Spain, we had no internet.
Patricia picked me up at the Alicante airport on Monday with her cousin after a completely uneventful flight (which is always a good thing), and we spoke some Spanish, then English, on the 2-3 hour drive back to her house in Lorca. We had to wait to pick her mother up from the train station (she was coming in from Madrid after working in the morning), so we got some ice cream (and I realized at this point that I’d had at LEAST one ice cream per day…), and then moved Patricia’s car so that she didn’t get a ticket (though later she explained several times that no-parking zones are sort of optional, so I’m not exactly sure why we had to move the car…) to her family’s house in Lorca. She explained it was in a really nice part of town, but that her house was built before all the others, so it wasn’t as nice (the other houses were basically mansions). So we finished our ice creams and headed over to the train station on foot to pick up her mom. With her mother in tow, we headed up to the country house.
At the country house (maybe 5-10 minutes outside of Lorca), I got to meet Patricia’s grandmother, who was wonderful (as was her mother). The geography reminded me a lot of Mexico—basically desert and mountains—and the country house is on the side of a big mountain, with high ceilings to keep it cool and a pool and outdoor kitchen. I put my things down, changed into my bathing suit and went for a swim in the very refreshing pool. We all ate some dinner together—salad, chicken, quiche & cherries for dessert—and talked into the night about politics and history. Finally I went to sleep and slept very very well, which was not surprising in the least considering my previous few nights of sleep were severely lacking length.
We woke up on Tuesday morning and headed for a town called Mojacar that probably would have been half an hour away if Patricia hadn’t gone around a mountain, but it’s ok. I got to see more of Spain, and we drove past the beach on our way up the hill to the town. It overlooks the Mediterranean and is almost identical to pictures I’ve seen of Santorini in the whitewash and shapes of the houses and other buildings, as well as the bright flowers and cobblestone streets. After walking through the streets of the beautiful town, we made our way down the mountain and onto the beach where we ate some lunch (and I got my daily ice cream fix), then laid out in the Spanish sun and I got to swim in the Mediterranean a bit. It was quite glorious. On our way home, we stopped by another beach that Patricia told me was more for Spaniards, which it was full of. There was an awesome little cave in the side of the rocks by the side of the beach there, which I thought was just so incredible.
We came home and napped for a while, then went to dinner at a place Patricia had grown up eating at, where one family owned the restaurant, raised the pigs, killed them, cleaned them and prepared them (or at least had staff that did it…). So we had chorrizo and some sausage, excellent and incredibly greasy all of it. Plus some Sangria. Delicious!
The next day we visited Real Castle #2, basically in the middle of Lorca on a mountain. This one was from the 13th century and was the frontier castle for the Christians while the Moors still had control of the more Southern part of Spain for hundreds of years. So the area has influences from Christian and Muslim cultures, which I think is pretty cool. It was a beautiful castle and they had people dressed up as if they were from the 13th century, playing characters—sweet. I understood probably 75% of what they said…maybe a little less…but I tried!! I did learn a lot about the castle and area.
After the castle and a nice dinner, we headed to Murcia with Patricia’s mother, where we walked around and I got to see Murcia, then they took me to the train station and I took the last train to Terrellanos, the station closest to the airport. From there, I called a taxi and slept in the airport. Thursday at 6am, I flew out of Alicante with a bunch of Swedes to the land of Narnia (just kidding—Sweden).
Hans picked me up from the Gothenburg airport and we went into town to a park and ate the wonderful picnic of fruit and champagne (from Chapel Hill, Hungary!) Hans had brought. We walked around Gothenburg a bit and got some ice cream (obviously), then headed back to his house. There, we met up with his brother, Peter (his parents were on vacation in Germany, got back today), and got Lebanese food, candy and some beer and sat out on the beach of the lake in Jönköping, eating and watching the sun set—very pleasant. We went home and to sleep early.
Today, we got up and went to an island on the lake by Jönköping across from a town called Gränna, but I can’t remember the island’s name. It was a 40-ish minute drive, and then we took a ferry across the water to the island, which is where the first kings of Sweden lived (and the very first king of Sweden was murdered…). Once we got there, we tried to rent bikes, but there were none left by the rental place at the dock, so we had to walk further inland. First, we explored the herb garden and old castle that were right by the dock. We finally found the place with bikes, though, after a bit of wandering. There, we had fica (I’m not sure if I’m spelling that correctly…actually, I’m pretty sure I’m not…but oh well…), which is basically a snack—it can be anything from a small sandwich to cake and coffee or a coke. So we had meatball sandwiches (appropriate) and Coca Cola light (European diet coke). Then we got bikes and took a very nice ride down to the end of the island (about 25 minutes) where there were some castle ruins—the place where the first Swedish king was killed, and that was destroyed in the 14th century.
The island was so beautiful—the water was the clearest I’ve ever seen and the sky was perfect, with, as Hans put it, “Simpson’s clouds.” The temperature was just right—warm enough to not be cold, even biking, but not so warm that you were sweating profusely. We headed back to the dock on our bikes, caught a ferry back over to the main land, had some ice cream and drove back to Hans’ house where his parents were back from their vacation. A great start to the Sweden trip.