For better or worse, a lot of my posts have been about running. This one is also about running. You see, I've had a lot of time to do nothing here in Sweden so far, and instead of doing nothing, I run a lot. That hasn't been true the past two days however.
Mia and I went back to Enkoping (there is supposed to be an umlaut - two dots - over the 'o', but I don't know how to type that) on Saturday for the Christmas holiday, 'Jul' in Swedish. I ate a lot of tomtegrot (again, 'o' umlaut). This is essentially porridge, that is essentially rice boiled in milk, and it is extraordinary. A 'tomte' is, from my understanding, a gnome of sorts. You can have a garden 'tomte', or an elven-like 'tomte' that helps Santa at Christmas (I guess it just means a short person with a beard...think Jeremy). But Santa is not Santa in Sweden - he's 'Jul-tomte' - Christmas-gnome. So tomtegrot is a traditional Swedish breakfast food that they only eat around the holidays, which is a shame, because, as I said, it's delicious.
Swedes celebrate Christmas on December 24 for some reason. The morning began with said tomtegrot being eaten, followed by lots of hours laying around doing nothing (though I managed to squeeze in a shower and a shave). Then, around 2pm (the sun will set at 2:47) we began opening presents. Mia's Dad donned a Santa hat and handed out presents, much the same way that my Dad hands our presents, though I don't think he ever wore a hat. But at 3pm, on one of the 4 TV channels, they showed a holiday special, which consisted of a medley of classic Disney movies, which was oddly entertaining and extremely nostalgic. There was Donald Duck, Lady and the Tramp, Cinderella, all the old favorites. But each clip was only 5-10 minutes. And at the end, they showed a 7-minute (or so) clip of a new Disney film, Ratatouille, which I hear is actually pretty good, especially if you like rats (and cooking).
After resuming the present-opening, dinner began. Back home, we started eating roast beef for Christmas, though I'm not sure why. We never ate ham, because my family doesn't like pigs. Here we had raw salmon. And Swedish meatballs, which do in fact exist outside of elementary school cafeterias. And we had boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs with shrimp, some sort of seafood-milk-omelet item, which was delicious, and some seafood salad. Dinner was excellent and not too different from what you might eat at a summer picnic at home.
The evening was spent eating homemade candy. Mia's Mom, knowing how stupid I am about food, actually made me some 'Andy-approved' chocolate, which consisted of broken pieces of Swedish crispbread, dipped in melted dark chocolate, and I was delighted.
This entry began about running, but somehow morphed into a description of Christmas in Sweden. Tonight, back in Uppsala, I ran, again. It was dark outside (yet only 3:30pm), so I ran into town instead of my normal jaunt into the forest. Actually I floated into town. After two days of rest, despite gorging myself on food, my legs were feeling pretty chipper, and the running was effortless. I've been keeping track of my runs by time alone, and though I know I'm running faster than 8-minute miles, I use that as a base to figure out how far I run. I've been averaging about 7 miles per day, with a goal of covering 50km per week, or about 32 miles, which has been easy.
Running has always been my preferred was of exploring a new place, and tonight was especially enjoyable, considering the ease with which I ticked off the km's. I glided into the old city, down the cobblestone pathway and across a small footbridge spanning the river. There are two low-head dams on the river, and if I learned anything in swimming class, it's that those low-head dams are killers. I'll do my best to avoid those monsters. After the bridge I turned west, ambling down another cobblestoned footpath along the riverside. The city at night is gorgeous, especially this time of year, when the tress are graced with white lights, and the shops are decorated with red and green flowers. Tonight was fairly mild, and I didn't need to wear gloves. I continued to follow the river, and ran far enough to find the sailboats moored against the bulkhead. There is a large, gaff-rigged ketch, very old, under winter cover. I'm curious as to it's use here, and it's called 'Sunbeam', and hails from Uppsala. The river, I realized, actually runs into the Stockholm archipelago, and further into the Baltic Sea. It's actually possible to reach the Atlantic from here, hence the several cruising boats moored alongside the old ketch.
I continued running along the river, looking for another bridge to cross over and continue on home. I noticed a large outdoor hockey rink on the opposite shore, with zambonies smoothing the ice for the hockey game that was going on. I wanted to get a closer look. I soon realized, like an idiot, that there would be no more bridges, hence all the boats that were moored at this end of town. Feeling stupid, I turned around and made my way back to the last bridge I'd passed.
As I turned north and headed home, I was given a magnificent view of the castle in town, which remains brilliantly lit up at night, standing high on the only hill in Uppsala. I wound my way through some back alleys in old city, just to marvel at the ancient architecture and remember how cool it is to be living in a town like this, and remind myself why I enjoy running-as-exploration so much. In another 15 minutes I was back at Flogsta, at our apartment. I promptly devoured a bowl of leftover tomtegrot. Man, that stuff is tasty.