I wanted to slap in an entry to brag about our summer vacation in Europe this year, as short as it was. Bear with me, this’ll be a big entry.

Backstory:  Mats (from Germany) was in Saskatoon for a work practicum and we worked in the same office. Over the period of his stay we became friends and did a lot of computer gaming after work. I visited Mats a couple years after that in Germany. This spring he sent me an invitation to his wedding in Sweden – at first I was wondering if it was possible on account of our own house purchase & own wedding budget, but Dad helped us out, donating the airmiles so we could get there and back. It was a one time opportunity I had to jump on, he said, and I’m glad I listened.

It was a long trip there – from toontown to toronto, to london, to stockholm, all with 4 hour + layovers in between.  It was over a 24 hour day traveling, after our train ride into stockholm and the walk to our hotel, and we were beyond tired, but we were definitely glad to have arrived.

I think we all know the stereotype of a typical swede, and I think it’s a fair assessment – I mean, compared to Saskatoon there was definitely a lot more attractive, tall, fair skinned, blond, slim people walking around. Almost more noticeable to me was the lack of fat, ugly and/or non-Caucasian elements in the people on the streets. But I digress.

We really didn’t have much get-up and go that night, just time for a quick look around, find supper, and bed. In our hotel room there was an article in the guest magazine, titled “Welcome to Sweden, it’s time to get naked”. (more on Sweden and nudity in a second). The next day we were off on the train to Domarudden, where the wedding was being held. I would sort of describe it as similar to any Canadian provincial park – cabins, restaurant, little lake and beach, hiking trails.  Accommodations for the wedding guests were in little two bunk-bed cabins.

And after supper, time to enjoy the lake and the sauna. Nearly every wedding guest was at the sauna that night (all in their birthday suits). Talk about a good icebreaker!  And it was a great experience. After the sauna got too hot you just walked down the dock and jumped in the lake (perfect temperature), and then, right back into the sauna. That routine lasted until morning, or at least what I thought was morning – Sweden is far enough north, that the sun never really quite sets at night (imagine perpetual dusk all night long).  On this trip we had a plenty of moments of _awestruck.dude.are.you.serious.i’m.moving.here_

I kind of thought there may be some strange European traditions that would come out during the ceremony, but the wedding itself was “everything you’re used to if you’re North American”. The only exception being that you could hear four+ languages being spoken at any time. The groom is from Germany, groom’s family is from Sweden and Australia, and the bride is from Holland.  thankfully for us, english was the common denominator.

Then on to Germany! In Cologne and Nord Rhine Westphalen we ate a lot..

Drank a lot (Joanne normally doesn’t like beer, but she would sell her soul for another Kölsch)

And saw a lot:

With one exception, our travels were smooth!

…We went one morning to Aachen, visited a spa and relaxed and enjoyed walking around and sightseeing (were also accosted by some drunk Aacheners. They were under the impression all Canadians lived with grizzly bears and drank motor oil instead of water…all true, of course)

..and due to some bad weather our train back to Cologne was canceled, and several thereafter. So it was no surprise that there was a LOT of people waiting to get on the first available train back to Cologne. When it arrived, I lost Joanne in the masses and wasn’t sure if she got on the train or not – I didn’t see her anywhere and quickly decided the best of the worst scenarios would be if she got on and I didn’t so I stayed put.

Turns out she got on,  and I had to wait an hour and a half for the next train (and then an hour train ride approx) – eventually we found each other in the lobby of our hotel. I was a bit worried for my girl – but to our advantage we both had enough time to think things through, each had money & ID & iPod touches, and we both knew our way around Cologne. A bit of an adventure, if you can call it that.

We ended our trip through Germany in Frankfurt, with only an afternoon to look around – so of course we hit up the Römer:

It was quite curious that, in the search for some hearty traditional German food in the Altstadt that evening, we ended up at a restaurant owned and run by a Spanish family. And it was the best meal of traditional german fare I had the whole trip, haha!

Those were the highlights..hope you enjoyed.