Friday, September 30, 2011

Twisted Vagabondage Tale From Sweden

Not gay, just very Swedish
There's nothing like a bit of Christianity to tame even the most savage of heathens. Bear with me. I'm not being a colonial racist here. I'm merely talking about what happened when the word of the Lord hit Scandinavia and Vikings were transformed into a more forgiving race of minimalist, assemble your own plywood furniture loving people. I'm talking Sweden here, folks.

A bit of the Viking in all Swedes, however, rears its unkept head once a year on the famed Midsummer Festival when these otherwise-soft-spoken people, who are firm adherents of langom (everything in moderation), are mutated into a rowdy mass of vodka-swilling maniacs, bursting out “skål!” before they jettison yet another shot of fermented potato down their throats. I was told Swedes toast skål (like “cheers”) as that's what the Vikings did—albeit with an actual skull, swilling their booze from the craniums of their enemies.

Apart from Christmas, Midsummer is the most celebrated holiday in Sweden. It refers to the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, taking place on a Friday or Saturday between June 19 and 26. Besides getting blasted out of their minds, Swedes also raise a huge maypole around which they drunkenly dance. Before the maypole is raised, greens and flowers are used to cover the entire post.

Gay-ish, but still not gay
The Midsummer celebration I attended took place outside of Stolkholm—way outside of Stolkholm—in a place called Monkfoss, which is kind of like a town in Upstate New York. In other words, there was a shitload of green, lots of pretty wild flowers, copious swarms of black mosquitos and not much else to do but get toasted.

So, in Monkfoss (Monk Falls in English), that's what people do: sip, gulp and swill any booze that's not nailed down. Since we all know you can't nail down liquid, that's a heck of a lot of alcohol. This was fine by me. I enjoy my liquor as much as the next lush. Nevertheless, I did have trouble keeping up with my Swedish hosts. They found my southern California affection for sweet, bubbly drinks pathetic. As I didn't want to disappoint, I hoisted the snaps along with everyone else. Snaps is a Swedish word for a shot of clear, fiery alcohol that is drunk when any group of people cluster around a table.

Our Midsummer celebration began quietly and subdued. Not for me, of course. I'm a loud, vulgar American by nature. I'm only referring to my Swedish hosts, because it's customary in Sweden to listen as opposed to aimlessly blabbing like I do. In general, Swedes are known to speak softly and calmly. Put this together with the fact that Monkfoss is located miles closer to the Arctic Circle than Stolkholm. Cold weather breeds quiet people who are used to being cooped up inside, not out in the street making noise like tropical folks. That, of course, is where the snaps comes in handy.

Alright, maybe a little gay
Once the party got underway, we sat outside at a long table under the maypole's watchful eye, toasting vodka shots every five minutes and feasting on delicious dishes such as pickled herring, new potatoes and the year's first strawberries. Someone put on Huey Lewis and the News, then everyone started dancing the robot. 

Now, I knew I wasn't in California. I wasn't even in the current decade. I was somewhere in rural Sweden, getting comfortably numb with a bunch of former Vikings, who got more debauched as the hours went on. At some point, I realized it was close to 7 a.m. It wasn't easy to discern that the whole night had passed, as there is only daylight during the summer in Monkfoss, no actual darkness. It was finally time to close the curtains and sleep tight.

Lara Sterling authors Twisted Vagabondage Tales for travelers who like it rough. She is prettier than Vagabonding author Rolf Potts (though Rolf is very pretty) and could kick his ass (though only if he'd like that). She has written for Playboy and Larry Flynt Publications but now hosts an online radio show and blogs at


  1. I have heard of this before, but I've not been to Scandinavia (yet). Thanks for posting!

  2. the celebrations ..are fun, but it is a little weird but funny...

  3. My name is Jose Luis Sanchez del Valle

    The celebration of the Christians is very good.

  4. christian fernandezOctober 5, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    i think its very nice and rich their folk