Not since 1987, when I returned to California from the Falkland Islands via London, have I been to Europe. It’s partly that, spending several months every year in the Southern Cone countries for work-related travel, I’d rather spend the rest of the year at home than travel through multiple time zones (as I’ve noted elsewhere, the jetlag issue is not so significant traveling to South America). I did fly once to Australia, invited by my former publisher, but Europe’s remained a low priority.
Last fall, though, I was surprised to read that Norwegian Airlines was beginning flights from my hometown of Oakland direct to Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Given my own Scandinavian heritage, with grandparents from both Norway and Sweden, my wife and I bought up some of the early discounts tickets and, tomorrow, we fly into Oslo, spend a few days there, rent a car to visit some of my distant relatives in western Sweden, and then take the train to Stockholm. From there, we will visit other relatives in Uppsala before flying back to California.
That doesn’t mean I’ll be ignoring my Southern Cone specialties. Both Norway and Sweden got substantial numbers of refugees from the region in the 1970s, and I’m curious to see signs of their legacy. In that context, it’s interesting to note that Boca Juniors, Argentina’s most successful soccer team, supposedly chose its colors after seeing the Swedish flag (pictured at top) at the nearby port of Buenos Aires, and San Telmo’s Svenska Kyrkan (Swedish church, pictured above) is a Scandinavian landmark.