The fast track to Borlänge
From Lund we booked passage on the train to Borlänge. We took the X2000, Sweden's high-speed train. It is capable of traveling 170 MPH, but since it shares the tracks with regular trains, its speed is restricted to 120 MPH. Still, awfully fast. And the conductors not only take tickets, they sell candy.
The train switches tracks at Mjölby, which gave me enough time to enjoy a delicious hot dog before resuming our journey.
Arriving in Borlänge, we were met by Monika's moster (aunt) Gerd. She took us home and we immediately sat down for fika. Roughly, "fika" translates as "coffee break" and is always accompanied by some sort of snack. Swedes consume as much coffee as we do in the US; as such, this custom is taken very seriously. Moster Gerd had been baking for days in preparation for our stay, and the coffee was super-strong, as it has been everywhere we've been so far. So, if you like baked goods and jet fuel for coffee, you'll like fika.
Borlänge dates to the 14th century, and is situated in the province of Dalarna. The symbol of this region is the Dalahäst, a carved wooden horse, painted bright red and decorated. These horses are everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. I knew the were ubiquitous, but I was surprised to see these examples cast in concrete as barricades at a gas station:
I was left to explore the city center one day while Monika and Moster Gerd went on an outing together. This was my first time out without Monika as a translator, and I was a little nervous. Luckily, I found my way to a guitar shop, where I had a lovely conversation with the proprietors. Fortunately, their English was better than my Swedish, and we managed to figure out the rest as we went along. The manager, Mikael, pointed me in the direction of some of the sights and, later in the day, even helped me find a rental car agency by calling them on the phone for me. Thanks guys!
The town is laid out around a central square, with houses and apartments placed outside the stores and shops. The buildings are close together and very clean; it was great to walk around the streets in the late afternoon light.
I found myself noticing details I might not otherwise look for in the US. Take this telephone manhole cover. Pretty cool logo, I thought...
The next day at Moster Gerd's house was gardening day. She and Monika set about the task of planting flowers and turning over the garden. I volunteered to mow the lawn, which was amazingly pleasant in the clean air and sun. Did you know that lawnmower blades spin backwards in Europe? No, not really. Gotcha though, didn't I?....
This is truly an incredible place, and was founded and continues to be run by a single man, Harald Henrysson. The depth of this museum is astounding; people from all over the world send Harald photos, recordings, videos, newspaper articles, stage costumes - anything imaginable that has to do with Jussi Björling. Harald accepts it all, and faithfully catalogs and displays everything.
We listened to many recordings, and Harald showed us some rare US television appearance footage from the 50's. Amazing. By the way, if you've never heard Jussi Björling sing Nessun Dorma, take a moment and treat yourself.
Into the rented car we climbed, and off we drove. Next up, Kungsör.