Blood soup and randy RussiansBlood soup and randy Russians It’s eleven pm local time and I swallow my first mouthful of Goose Blood soup. It’s surprisingly pleasant; cinnamon more than anything hitting my taste buds. Opposite me my girlfriend’s grandparents stare at me with anticipation. To my right, sisters, cousins and parents offer a subtle nod of approval. To my left the other sisters’ boyfriends, experienced campaigners at this, lean slowly back in their chairs and sip knowingly on their wine. There’s no way they’d go near that soup.
“This is fine”, I think to myself, “what’s the problem?”, and a minute later I plunge in for a second spoonful, feeling confident I was fitting in on my first night in Sweden. Then the congealed skin caught and hung from my spoon, flapping gently as I raised it from the bowl.
Thankfully a skål was hastily offered (a toast), and a far more pleasant Swedish tradition swept round the table and took the attention away from my catch, allowing me to say my thanks, and welcome on the main course – an actual goose. I was in Lund where I was to spend a few nights at Tilda’s house before we set off on our journey all the way to Australia, we hope, overland.
After many more skåls (pronounced ‘skolls’), I persuaded Tilda that a late night walk in the local park would be wise, as would a wee play the see-saw. Six hours and an x-ray later she wasn’t so sure…… However, she was given the all clear after the x-ray and, despite nearly crippling their daughter on the very first day, I gained approval from Pia and Bose and two days later, we boarded our first of many, many trains, north to Stockholm.
We stayed with big-sister Lina and I spent three days seeing first-hand what an enchanting capital city Stokholm is. Built on an archipelago of islands clinging to the mainland, there is a boat every direction you look. The vibrant blue and yellow national flags reflect in the icy water and the old, cobbled streets hum with activity. After a hectic few day meeting Tilda’s friends and even more of her family, I realised just how incredibly kind, courteous and fun Swedish people always are. I had met Tilda the previous summer working for a Swedish language school in Brighton, so I already knew this. But, the way Swedes always speak, even to each other, in English if an English speaker is around is so endearing. Appreciation of other languages and cultures is something that us Brits really have to work on….
Well, we’d said our farewells. We’d visited Tilda’s other grandparents in their old peoples’ home (named ‘the raison house’ by the residents) and eaten their delicious moose-stew. Everything we could possibly need in the deepest depths of Siberia or in the scorching heat of Cambodia, we had bought. We were ready. We hauled on our backpacks and walked to the ferry terminal where we checked in for our overnight ‘Talink’ crossing to Riga, Latvia. We did seem to be the only two people on the entire vessel not being a fifty year old Russian man wearing a leather jacket and sporting a rather dirty look, but hey, travelling is never meant to be dull.
XXXX miles gone, XXXX to go……