03 November 2011

Passport check

Once we, at long last, had Ursula's complete name approved and registered by the Swedish authorities we could request a hard copy of her records from Skatteverket - a document we needed in order apply for a passport for her at the Danish embassy in Stockholm.

For this we also needed a passport photo which turned out to be a rather difficult thing to obtain. For starters the requirements for passport photos are quite strict and it can be difficult taking baby photos that meet all of these requirements. Adding to our difficulties were the fact that Swedish photographers have no experience taking photos that meet the requirements - when applying for a Swedish passport you do not have to bring a photo as the authorities insist on taking the picture themselves.

We started out by attempting to take a picture at home in the living room with our digital camera, but we weren't really happy with the results and we also worried that we might not be able to have such a photo printed according to the requirements.

Ekerö Centrum

So one Friday we made a little excursion from Bromma to Ekerö Centrum to have pictures taken at a professional photographer. This little excursion of course took most of our day since you can't take acceptable pictures of a baby while it is sleeping, sleepy, eating, hungry, bored or in need of a clean diaper. In the end we got a set of photos in which Ursula was sitting at an odd angle and the hands holding her up for the photographer were apparent. We were rather sceptical as to the acceptability of the photos - the photographer on the other hand was convinced that they were sufficiently good.

When we went to the Danish embassy in Stockholm on the following Monday it turned out - of course - that the pictures really were not good enough. So we hurried (well, as much as you can hurry considering the complications mentioned above for baby photographing) on over to Östermalm for some new ones. This photographer had newer equipment and seemed generally more in the loop and the pictures he took were a lot nicer than the first set - for one thing Ursula sat more straight in these - but a few fingers from the hands holding her were still visible. Also this photographer had confidence in the Danish authorities' tolerance for passport photos of babies.

House of Denmark - housing the Danish embassy in Stockholm

Tue ran back to the embassy before visiting hours ended - and was told that those fingers couldn't be accepted (or that the embassy staff would be really sorry to forward our application to the police in Denmark and have them reject the photos). Might it be possible to explain to the good photographer that the fingers were not allowed to be there? Tue was promised that he would be allowed to enter the embassy after normal visiting hours to hand in new pictures.

Back in Östermalm the photographer was surprised that the photos were not acceptable but did not mind photoshopping the fingers away - at no extra charge. The 'new' pictures were accepted and away the application went.

A little over a month later we could pick up the passport at the embassy and wonder about all the fuss over the fingers - that part of the photo had been cropped away anyway.

Also babies look like criminals in their passports

01 November 2011

Winter is approaching

If the cooler temperatures, the progressively barer trees, and the increasing darkness weren't sufficiently clear indications of winter approaching, other signs leave no doubt.

The landlord
has placed large boxes of sand to strew on icy stairs and pathways:

The rescue stations along Lake Mälaren have had ladders added for use rescuing people who have gone through the ice:

And people have started wearing hats and gloves, but these seem to still come off from time to time and consequently get lost:

26 October 2011

New apartment - new neighbourhood - new season

Late in August we moved again. This time to our third neighbourhood here in Stockholm. Seasons come and go rapidly this far north, so our departure from Lidingö coincided with the end of the summer:

We were very happy living on Lidingö, but Alvik and the autumn isn't half bad either:

20 October 2011

Family tour

When we moved to Stockholm in 2009 it was because Tue got a scholarship for doing a post-doc at Stockholm University. The scholarship was initially for 1 year, but it was expected easily to be extended to a second year (and indeed it was). Further extension is not an option. There are two primary reasons for this: for one thing one can only be a tax exempted researcher in Sweden for 2 years; secondly it is not legal in Sweden to hire someone temporarily for more than 2 years (i.e. if a person were to be hired by the university for more than 2 years this person would have all the legal rights of a permanent employee - and in Sweden it is not easy to fire permanent employees).

All in all this means that since shortly prior to Ursula's birth - for the first time since 1995 - Tue has been what is in this day and age known as employment seeking. It has be said, though, that employment hasn't been sought particularly intensively yet as parenting has been the top priority (well, we also moved again - it all takes time).

Obviously there are advantages to being two parents at home. Everyday live, to mention just one aspect, is more managable with an extra pair of hands around the house. Another advantage is that it is relatively unproblematic to go to Jutland for half a month visiting the extended family. In this way most of our relatives have now met Ursula even though we don't live close to any of them.

With one aunt

With another aunt

With her great grandmother
Generation gap - what generation gap?

14 September 2011

Swedish families

In Sweden it is possible to constitute a couple in a number of different ways: as married people, as sambor (living together, but not married - this is what we are now), and as särbor (living apart and not married - one could say that Lisbeth and Tue were särbor until Lisbeth moved to California .. that was just before this blog started). All three options are gender neutral so what you choose to be is initially mostly about your personal attitude(s) towards marriage and the concept of living together.

But of course from a legal point of view it matters. As särbor you have no particular legal rights, as sambor only a few and as a married couple by far the most.

If for example you get a child together, the law in Sweden (as well as in Denmark) stipulates that the father of the child is the person the marriage points to. If you are married when the child is born Skatteverket (The Swedish Tax Agency) will automatically register both the father and mother, and just as automatically joint custody will be granted. If, on the other hand, you are not married Skatteverket will only register the mother of the child and she will initially get sole custody. Later on, it is the responsibility of the municipality to determine who the father is, at which point you can apply for joint custody. Naively we assumed these things would be formalities quickly dealt with...

Lidingö city hall

Our biggest problem was the timing. While all of our friends here in Sweden thought that it was downright fantastic that our daughter was born Midsummer's Eve itself, the fact remains that Sweden for practical purposes shuts down during the month of July. Thus it was around the beginning of August before we were contacted by Lidingö municipality. When we were finally able to book an appointment at city hall we were quite puzzled as to why they wanted to know the birth weight. It turned out that when establishing the fatherhood the municipality is required to inform the 'potential' father of the time of conception (calculated based on the date of birth and the birth weight) before he signs the form in the presence of 2 witnesses. All this feels a bit awkward when as a sambo you show up voluntarily to get registered as the father of your child - and not particularly useful when it comes down to the details as the calculated time of conception is given as a 6 week interval.

Only then did Skatteverket register the fatherhood and the joint custody, so that we finally were able to get on with our lives and apply for the acceptance and registration of the complete name of the child...

Most recently we've learned that the joint custody only is valid from the day Skatteverket registers it and not already from the birth of the child. In other words: after falling prey to a bout of municipal peeping (*) one still has to put up with 'only' being the father (with the all the privileges and duties that entails) as of a rather random date mostly influenced by both municipal and national slovenliness as well as the efficiency of the mail service.

(*) In Danish there's an excellent expression for municipal peeping, i.e. when authorities violate (or border on violating) your intimate privacy in the name of following rules and regulations: dyneløfteri, which literally translates as 'lifting of duvets'.

03 September 2011

The bicycle counter on the bridge to Lidingö may be good for counting bikes, but it isn't particularly good at measuring the temperature: the summer this year has been better in Stockholm than in Denmark, but we haven't reached 35 C (95 F) - at least not in the shade...

14 August 2011

Lunch with a view (part 2)

An elephant from Cirkus Scott who had put up their tent on Ladugårdsgärdet near the Kaknäs tower

These weeks we are spending most of our time on two things: 1) Ursula and what surrounding issues 2) moving. But there has to be time for enjoying life as well so when we recently got up to a sunny morning after a couple of days with heavy rain we decided to go up the Kaknäs tower again. We had been talking about going up the tower already last summer and now that we had been up there in the winter we were even more curious to see Stockholm from above clad in green instead of clad in white.

Ursula was once again very good at travelling by bus and even let the grown-ups eat their lunch before she wanted food herself.

View over the Värta harbour and the bridge to Lidingö

And in August it is significantly less cold for the fingers to capture the view.

View over Stockholm's Old Town

21 July 2011

A different sort of journey

This blog has become more about documenting the little trips we take in and around the country we currently live in and much less about our daily lives and the characteristics, traditions and odd things and habits we encounter in the new culture.

However, the trip frequency is rather low at the moment while we embark on a completely different journey: 4 weeks ago we welcomed little Ursula to our little travelling family.

She is, however, already doing quite well on public transportation so while her flight temper has yet to be discovered, we hope for happy travels in the future for all three of us.

18 June 2011

Countryside Street Art

We were actually a bit surprised that it was on Blidö, far from the hectic city, we were find this particular style of mailbox decoration:

07 June 2011

5-day weekend

Today it was back to work after a looooooooooooooong weekend: Thursday it was Ascension Day (a holiday in Sweden) and lots of people found a way to take Friday off from work as well. On top of this yesterday was a very special day here in Sweden: the national day, the day of the Swedish flag and the name day of the king. This day is not the only day that Sweden is a nation (as suggested by a Basque friend of ours), rather it is the anniversary of the foundation of 'modern' Sweden: on June 6th 1523 Gustav Vasa became king of Sweden. However, it wasn't until 1916 that the day was officially recognised (as The day of the Swedish flag). In 1983 the day was renamed as national day of Sweden and only as late as 2005 was it made a public holiday - in return for which the Swedes gave up having Whit Monday as a holiday.

Even though this was our 3rd Swedish national day this was our first time getting a day off on account of it (as it was during the weekend for the 2 preceding years - a problem that never arises with Whit Monday as we'd like to point out). Fortunately for us it was a beautiful day and we were able to enjoy lunch on the balcony.

06 June 2011

Snake's Head (Fritillary)

Our trip to Danmark actually started somewhere else in the vicinity of Uppsala: on Uppsala Kungsäng (Kungsängen in this context is read as Kungs-ängen, that is King-meadow - not to be confused with the Swedish bed stores Kung-sängen, 'the King bed'). We had read that in late May this meadow offers the view of lots of blooming snake's heads (in Swedish known as kungsängslilja, 'king-meadow-lily'). Truth be told the experience didn't have quite the grandeur we expected: the flowers are very pretty, but we had allowed ourselves to expect a virtually purple meadow...

As with everything else related to botany in this country we were able to find traces of this gentleman:

04 June 2011

And then we went to Danmark

That is the village of Danmark[1] just outside Uppsala. Danmark is close to freeway E4 so even though we only recently learned that the village there is called Danmark we had previously noticed the church ('Church of Danmark').

[1] Yes, Danmark is the name for Denmark in both Danish and Swedish.

28 May 2011

Bottled mail

When we got off the boat in Stämmarsund on Blidö we discovered a mailbox of a kind we had never even anticipated finding: a message-in-a-bottle-box!

22 May 2011


When Kirsten and Steen came to see us in Stockholm again recently we planned a trip on the water a sunny day in May.

Departure from Strömkajen ('current-quay', central Stockholm)

We set the course for Blidö in order to try out the northern parts of the Stockholmian archipelago.

Colony of cormorants

As it turned out there was a small glitch in our planning. The day before our trip we called Blidö Wärdshus to ask if they would be the day we went to Blidö. We were told they would be - but when we got out there that turned out to be a misunderstanding. So there we were, lunch hungry, no open restaurants and with 3-4 hour till the next boat departing Blidö. Fortunately the weather was excellent, so we tried to relax and make the best of it.

Nice spot for relaxing with a book..

It turned out there was a bus from Blidö to Norrtälje one hour earlier then the next boat departure - our stomachs dictated that we take that bus. It was an interesting little bus ride: In order to reach the main land the bus crossed water no less than twice with the typical small yellow car ferries (from Blidö to Yxlan and onwards from Yxlan to Furusund) and 6 bridges (Furusund-Svartnö-Humlö-Idö/Nässelgrundet-Storö-Solö-main land).

Google maps: Trip from Blidö (lower right corner) to the main land (upper left corner)
Click the map for a larger version

Once in Norrtälje we made haste in getting a meal (late lunch/early dinner) in a pub before taking a much more boring express bus from Norrtälje to Stockholm (Freeway - Yaaaaaaaaaawn).

12 May 2011

Trip to Sörmland

We had decided to spend Easter this year making a small trip of Södermanland, or Sörmland as it is popularly known. And where is Sörmland? The short answer is that Sörmland is immediately south of Stockholm. The long answer needs to point out that Sweden can be divided in two different ways: in the 25 traditional provinces (landskap in Swedish) that today only have historical and cultural significance, and in the 21 counties (län in Swedish) that make up the administrative division of Sweden. The old province Sörmland (Sudermania in Latin) consists of Sörmland county and the parts of Stockholm county that are south of lake Mälaren.

One of our primary destination was Stendörren ('The stone door') natural preserve where a couple of islets and skerries are connected by wooden bridges so that one can visit the archipelago by foot. Fortunately the Easter weather was perfect for such outdoor activities.

Our trip continued to the nearest town, Nyköping ('New market town'), which is the capital of Sörmland county and turned out to be one of the nicer Swedish countryside towns we've visited. By the local stream, Nyköpingsån, we found this monument for one of the city's proud sons.

We decided to try something new and booked one night at Yxtaholm castle just outside of Flen. Although certainly picturesque there on the Yxtaholm islet between lakes Yxtasjön and Långsjön, it was more what we'd call a manor house than a castle.

In Mariefred by the shore of lake Mälarens we found Gripsholm castle which fits our expectations for a castle much better.

We also noticed a few pieces of cultural heritage reminding us that the area was populated already in the 11th century (translation and a few notes grabbed from the plaques posted next to the stones).

They fared like men - far after gold
and in the east - gave the eagle food[1]
They died in the south - in Serkland[2]

[1] giving the eagle food is a poetic term for killing enemies.
[2] Serkland, land of the Saracens land, presumably refers to an area by the Caspian Sea.

Tola had this stone raised to commemorate her son Harald, brother of Ingvar. Ingvar is mentioned in the Icelandic sagas as Ingvar the travelled. Ingvar's fateful expedition through Russia to the Caspian Sea is said to mentioned on almost 30 runestones in the valley around lake Mälaren.

Hälgulv (?) and Öulv they had this stone raised
in memory of their brother Kätilmund and
(built) a bridge in memory of Soma, their mother.
But Brune (?), her brother, carved (the runes)

25 April 2011

Happy Easter

A little late now that Easter is almost over, but we have been busy enjoying the incredible Easter weather in Sweden this year - more about that later.

19 April 2011

Spring is coming

By now almost all the ice is gone - and yesterday we saw the first trees sporting new leaves. At the same time we are trying to get used to the fact that it is already 2 years since we left Switzerland.

07 April 2011

Bicycle counter

While busy removing all the gravel of a long winter and the last piles of black'ish snow Lidingö municipality also found the time to do a little something for their image as 'Island of Health' by putting up a bicycle counter on the bridge to/from Lidingö.

21 March 2011

07 March 2011

On ice

Skating is Tue's boss' hobby, so it probably had to happen sooner or later: a group skating trip.
On a beautiful sunny winter Saturday we met up at Norrviken. Tue couldn't actually remember having had on a pair of skates before - and once they were on the result was much like the famous clip from Disney's Bambi. While the others skated a proper trip Tue focused on building up a few basic skills - realistically, it will require several hours on the ice before it becomes real skating...

26 February 2011

Lunch with a view

We had barely told you of the return of fresh snow and extreme frost to Stockholm before our faithfully returning camp visitor announced his arrival in order to experience some real winter before it was too late.

On a clear, cold winter Sunday we went up the tallest building in Stockholm, the Kaknäs tower, and enjoyed lunch with a view to Djurgården and Östermalm.

On this day it was quite chilly on the outdoors observation deck on the 31st floor - but the view towards Lidingö tempted..