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  • Katherine Sirvio

I was almost killed in Sweden

Well, at least that's what I thought at the time. My grandfather gave me the best high school graduation gift ever. I was probably too immature to appreciate exactly what he was giving me. It was a trip to our home country, and he had not even taken my mother there. This was special.

July 1988 - Wait - I am not from Sweden. My mothers' family is from Norway. Well, it was a trip to Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Okay, so that started my travel bug. So what about getting killed? Just hold on a minute and we will get to that.

Me and my Grandfather 1988

Traveling with my great aunt and grandfather, I took on the role of caregiver, student, and ​​explorer. This was my first time overseas (technically I had been out of the country several times already, but some how Canada, Mexico and St. Kitts don't seem to count). This was a whole new adventure. As we traipsed across Scandinavia, we stopped to see things like the Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, the Sognefjord in Norway and the Örebro Castle in Sweden. We grew weary of traveling together and needed some time to explore independently. Or at least I did. At 18, I was full of piss and vinegar, excitement and the urge to show my independence. I was an adult.

So with the bid adieu from my grandfather, I was off like a prom dress - or so the saying goes.

At this time, we were in Stockholm. I should probably point out that I wasn't a very good student in school. Actually, I was quite poor. However, I have learned a thing or two since then and am a better student at life - or so I would like to think. I did not know the history of Sweden, I did not know the culture, and I did not know the language. I was excited to get out on my own and to bring back that all important souvenir of a Hard Rock Cafe Stockholm sweatshirt. I was not looking for depth and meaning to my experiences at that time, just more to brag that I had had them.

So here comes the killing part...As I was out and about looking for my souvenirs, I came across a beautiful street market and series of shops. Markets and local hang outs are my favorite places to visit. I feel this allows you to truly see how the people of the area live, work, and play. It is not a tourist destination - so to speak. I also am lucky enough to find some friends on occasion this way. So, I was stopping in each little shop, buying little tid bits along the way. In an alley between two stores, there was a bunch of roses on the ground, kind of strewn around.

In my mind, this was common place around the market at home. The stuff that was going bad or not being packed back up at the end of the day was frequently dumped to the side or it could have fallen off of a truck headed to or from the market. Keep in mind, at this time - I am young, naive, not well traveled and well, yes, blonde. No, this was not super close to the market. Yes, I did start to pick up the roses.

"KILL, KILL, KILL" was shouted at me emphatically. I turned and looked, simultaneously dropping everything, startled and wide eyed. A heavy set, elderly lady in a dress with a large floral pattern was rambling emphatically at me and I did not understand a word. Swedish language just sounded like the 'Swedish Chef' Muppet to me until she began yelling at me. Then it just terrified me. Again, she came at me with the "KILL, KILL, KILL" , I stared and she started toward me. Her sturdy walk was purposeful and she was holding a broom and shaking it at me. At that point I felt it was best to pick up my things, leave the roses and run like hell.

As it turns out in 1986 Prime Minister Olaf Palme was assassinated on Sveavägen Street in Stockholm, walking home from the cinema with his wife (this is what Wikipedia told me). In 1988, the year I traveled there, the accused assassin was convicted (and FYI later acquitted) of the murder. I was at a street market near the area that this took place. Not understanding the culture in Sweden, I did not know it was customary to lay flowers at the site of the assassination. I was picking up the assassinated Prime Ministers Memorial Bouquets. The sturdy Swedish women was trying to tell me that, but I didn't understand. Mark this as social travel faux pas no. 008.

I hope you had a nice laugh at my story, or it brought a smile to your face.

Family at the Cabin

While traveling in Oslo, Norway, I was able to meet my Tante Karen, Cousin Canute and Gunnar. I ​​hardly remember the visits any longer. This is one of the many reasons I am very excited to be returning to Scandinavia in July 2017. My husband whose family is from Finland and I will explore and set forth for a whole new series of adventures on a multi-country road trip. Stay tuned for a summary of our fun. ​​

By the way, just a reminder, I am the luckiest girl in the world! Travel as much as you can, meet as many people as you can, be enlightened and in love with our differences - they are what make us all creatures of beauty and interesting! If we were all the same, it would be really boring. Travel in good health.


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