We spent Thanksgiving in Stockholm, Sweden, a lovely city not known for turkey dinners, football, or parades with giant cartoon character balloons. As expected, it was cold and got dark early (around 3:30!) but the city had a warm spirit and candles set in many shop and apartment windows for the Christmas season gave it a special sparkle. Set on a bunch of islands between the Baltic Sea and a fresh water lake, the city is relatively compact with a handful of brick and copper-topped towers gracing the skyline. We toured the Royal Palace (modeled after Versailles) and the Vasa Museum, home to a fully reconstructed 17th century merchant ship which sunk in the city's harbor on its maiden voyage. At Skansen, an open air museum on Swedish life and folkways, we saw glass blowers, reindeer, and the world's largest cigar. We satisfied our need for Swedish meatballs but did not indulge in the French hot dog which seemed to be for sale everywhere.
Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip was the day we spent with Christer and Cecilia, a Swedish couple who made a special trek to Stockholm to see us. Over 25 years ago, Christer was an exchange student and spent the school year at my in-laws' house and his picture is still hanging on the wall there. The two of them had a whole afternoon of activities mapped out for us complete with snacks -- thermoses of glögg (hot mulled wine) and a tin of pepparkakor, a gingery Christmas cookie which we enjoyed on a short ferry ride. They took us to dinner at a medieval pub featuring still more glögg and a true groaning board of Swedish specialties which we chased down with beer and snaps (aquavit). Each toast with snaps was accompanied by a song and a great cry of "skål!" It was a day well worth giving up turkey and the trimmings.