by Shirley Dahlgren, Becketwood Member
Yes, the fast lane! Traveling via wheelchair through airports gets you quickly to the head of the line and first on the plane (to the delight of my family accompanying me), and traveling in a wheelchair pushed by the young and fit over rough terrain and cobblestones can reach remarkable speeds. With the loving assistance of family, consisting of son Kris, daughter-in-law Terry, son-in-law Paul, and grandchildren Emily and Peter, I was finally able to visit Sweden, the land of 98% of my DNA.
We agreed that a three-day stopover in Iceland would be an adventure. Despite unrelenting rain and cold, we were fascinated by the dark and stony landscapes, interrupted by many craters, waterfalls, geysers, hot water lagoons and black sand beaches. It was on descending a twisty, rocky path to a black sand beach at reckless speed that an ascending tourist called out, “You go girl!”
Of course, we spent a day in the heart of Reykjavik, careening past beckoning shop windows—galleries, craft shops, beautiful Icelandic wool sweaters—faster than I could say “stop,” but somehow managed to check out the gift shop of the popular (I kid you not) Penis Museum. No, I didn’t buy a t-shirt.
The most amazing sight in Reykjavik is the Hallgrímskirkja church with its sweeping stepped-concrete façade, presiding over the city with a 244-foot tower. In my mind, the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis can’t hold a candle to it.
Up before dawn after our three-day experience in Iceland, we left our two-cabin Airbnb (thanks to Emily we had great accommodations the whole trip) and drove to the airport for our flight to Sweden, the birthplace of all four of my immigrant grandparents. Again, traveling in the fast lane in the airports, we hit a snag. My borrowed wheelchair didn’t show up in Stockholm. We got a loaner from Icelandic Air and the next day they delivered our battered chair. Now we had two wheelchairs, two cars, and six people to caravan through the many tunnels (Stockholm is all islands), ubiquitous roundabouts and stoplights, guided by Swedish language signage. My one year of high school Swedish was useless in determining who goes when – cars, bikes, pedestrians? Our peerless navigators Peter and Emily, each in a car, communicated by phone. We will also have endless admiration for our skilled and courageous drivers Kris and Paul, who later agreed that next time we should take public transportation. I guess you could say that Terry and Shirley were cheerleaders.
We couldn’t possibly cover all of the usual tourist attractions, but we spent many hours walking (me, riding) the cobblestoned streets, and it was important to us to visit the royal palace, where mother’s mother, Fredrika Amalia Andersson was known in family lore as a lady-in-waiting. Since there are public records of her being a seamstress, it is likely that she was using that skill in the palace. I have a beautiful vest that she brought from Sweden, pieced form scraps of lovely embroidered silk bound in black velvet. Royal snippets? We also visited Maria Magdalena Kyrka where she and grandfather Johan Landin had married and also buried their infant daughter, Alma Elisabet.
Our Airbnb in Stockholm was wonderful. Its four levels, still in 1960s décor, provided us with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and lots of living space. It had been featured in the movie Stockholm East, and photographed by Ikea. As to food, we had cardamom rolls daily and a combination of Swedish restaurants and interesting places that Peter had researched in the New York Times. One of these was a breakfast place on a horse farm.
One last time through the tunnels and roundabouts and then we explored the beautiful countryside, more family-related churches and, finally, in the small village of Öre, grandfather Johan’s birthplace, still recognizable from a photograph we had. No longer occupied, its red siding was complemented by a nearby herd of Holstein cows.
Our last stop was Sigtuna on Lake Malaren, the oldest town in Sweden and possibly the most beautiful. Our adventure ended, we joined the fast lane at the airport, still happy to be related to each other, and I cashed in some of the carats from my golden years cache. Skål!