Jag gillar Sverige så mycket! One Friday morning, I set off on my first lone excursion – Stockholm bound. I feel the excitement of taking a journey to a new place, particularly because I am taking the train, my favourite mode of transport in Europe. I have packed as lightly as possible, trying to be the savvy Euro traveller I so admire and not the crazy-haired, bag lady I usually am. With me are my laptop, guidebook, and not one, but two novels. My two plus months in Sweden have taught me the Swedes are a reserved bunch, so I well and truly have my entertainment for the five-hour journey covered. I will write a blog post, munch on my snacks and read the book about Malmö I recently bought. I grab a flat white and head to the train. When I get to my carriage, I find a heavily-pregnant lady, all hair and belly, struggling to get her luggage on board. I give her a hand and in what I think is a Kenyan accent, she tells me how stupid the trains are for not having facilities for people like her. She is feisty and funny, and I like her immediately. We work out that we are one compartment away from one another, and say that we might catch up on our journey.
I settle into my compartment, take out my laptop, put my bag away, and set myself up by the window with my coffee. The train slowly edges away from the platform and I am off! I sit there and think smugly – what a lady of the world I am! – as I stretch out in my very own compartment with writing to do, coffee to drink and places to see. Before long, my solitude is over as I am joined by a lady a few stops along the way. I can barely see her face for all her jacka (it’s jacka-rama over here in frosty Sweden right now), but she sheds her heavy-duty parka and turns to me with a warm smile, introducing herself to me as Monica.
Monica sits beside me and so begins the swapping of our stories. She is a HR trainer from Kristianstad, semi-retired and heading to Stockholm for a friend’s 60th birthday party. We chat for nearly half-an-hour, until I notice my pregnant friend pacing up and down outside our compartment. I welcome her in and introduce her to Monica. Joanna, as I guessed, is from Kenya, and she quickly cuts through the small talk and has us soon talking about life, careers, good relationships, and then not so good relationships! There is a lot of knee slapping and loud laughter, as the three of us bond over shared experiences. We head off to lunch a few carriages away, helping Joanna along the way and quickly finding her a seat in the restaurant. We eat and talk like three old friends, a motley crew from different corners of the globe.
When we head back to the compartment, Joanna leaves us to return to her compartment. She is nervous about the dodgy-looking men sitting there with her luggage. At the next stop, Monica and I are joined by four new passengers and suddenly our compartment is full. We are all sitting in the wrong seats, no thanks to Monica and me, and soon we are chatting with the young guy across from us. He is a uni student from Morocco studying in Sweden, and speaks numerous languages as many here seem to do. The lady next to him interjects occasionally, speaking only to Monica in Swedish. The lady next to me with her young child is also listening in, but is shy with her head down. When I start to talk to the Moroccan student about Australia, and about my father being born in Morocco, the two ladies look at me, and very slowly and cautiously, begin to speak with me in broken English. They lack confidence at first, but before long they are talking away excitably. Monica calls a friend in Stockholm, and suddenly I have a day-long guided tour arranged for me on the Monday. I sit there, with my bag and laptop and jacka all on top of me, a child’s legs resting on my knees, snacks and books firmly packed away for another journey, feeling every inch the bag lady and so happy to have made such wonderful new friends.
So here is My Swedish salad, a mixture of great things, just like the compartment I was lucky to find myself in. I like Sweden so much!
120 g mixed salad
3 or 4 boiled chat potatoes, skin on and halved
1 celery stick, diced
half a cucumber, diced
handful of olives
2 eggs, boiled and quartered
1/3 red onion, sliced
100 g smoked salmon
1 or 2 tablespoons caviar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons whole-egg mayonnaise or crème fraîche
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh chives
sea salt and ground black pepper
Arrange the salad on a large platter or in two separate plates. Top with the cooled boiled potatoes, egg, celery, cucumber, olives and red onion. Drizzle over some olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, and then neatly arrange the smoked salmon on top. Add a good dollop of caviar on top, depending on what you can afford! Combine the remaining ingredients to make your dressing, checking that the seasoning is good and there is the right amount of lemon to cut through the creaminess. Spoon it generously over the salad and serve with love!
Ps. I thought about not sharing this, because it is mucho embarrassing and proves what an non-savvy Euro traveller I am … After saying goodbye to some of my new friends, the Moroccan student and I walked a few metres along the platform, before he suddenly turned and started waving at people behind us. I, of course, turned and did the same. To my horror, I didn’t know these people from a bar of soap. They looked at me like I was a complete nutter. Not such a woman of the world, it seems!