Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 Moments of 2012

2012 was a big year for us (it seems like every year is a big year) so we wanted to capture the Top 10 moments with pictures (and a little text).

10. Travelling within Europe
Our new location in Sweden has allowed us to travel much more easily (and cheaply) within Europe. We definitely took advantage of our geography and booked a crazy-ton amount of travel in 2012.  We were fortunate enough to visit Vienna, Austria, Budapest, Hungary, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Zurich and Lucerne Switzerland.  We were also lucky enough to travel with some amazing friends and family who wanted to explore other places outside of Sweden and didn't mind if we tagged along.

Vienna, Austria
At the baths in Budapest

Lucerne, Switzerland

Copenhagen, Denmark
9. The House Hunters International Experience
Now, filming the show wasn't the highlight, but being able to share our experience of moving to Sweden and showing our friends and family the Stockholm area was really rewarding.  We had so much fun with our 4am US screening of the show with our family that it made it a really fun time.

8. Record number of visitors from the US
I think the Swedish Tourism Board should cut us a check for how many visitors we had frequenting all of their museums, cafes and riding the T-bana.  We may have single-handedly increased tourism to Tallinn, Estonia as well and I'm sure Icelandair saw a spike in their flights from Boston to Stockholm. All joking aside, we have really appreciated everyone coming out to visit us. Life can feel kind of lonely out here sometimes and each visit was like a warm bath of love from our friends and family.  We soaked it all in like we try to soak in the sunshine and we hated saying goodbye each and every time.  So many thanks to Samantha, Kyle, Eric, Erica, Simmons, and Kirsten for making the long and expensive trek to Stockholm to see us -- you are the definition of awesome!  A big thank you to the Ferlands and Dwyers for coming out repeatedly to visit us and for bringing pieces of home cooking, baking, and family love with you.  This first year in Sweden would have been much more difficult if we hadn't had your love and support.

7. Living the Swedish lifestyle
Adjusting to life in Sweden hasn't been as tough as we had thought it would be prior to the move.  In general, life is fairly laid-back with an emphasis on personal fitness and a nice work-life balance.  People speak Swedish around you but they are amenable to changing to English once they see you don't understand them.  They never make you feel guilty or rude for not knowing Swedish and in fact, some mothers have encouraged me to forgo learning with a shrug like, "Why? Everyone here speaks English."  While we may be behind a bit in the language assimilation, we have tried SUPER hard on the social life, food, work and cultural assimilation.  We are grateful to have a great group of friends, really nice neighbors, and other Swedes show us the ropes of living in Sweden.  It was surprisingly more difficult to adjust to the constant sunlight in the summer than the constant darkness in the winter.  We've found that you can always turn lights on in the house but you can't turn the sun off to go to sleep.  In the winter, you put on your skis and skates and get outside or you go for a walk - everyday. If you wait until the "weather is nice," you'll be inside all winter long.  The winter is too long to take that type of approach.

Hiking/mushroom picking
Going Viking in Birka
Swimming in the lake in the summer
Exploring the beautiful Swedish countryside

Celebrating Spring with cherry blossoms

So much sunlight!
The sun was at the noon position at 5:30pm in May

Celebrating milestones with new friends
Learning new traditions - like the Easter witch

6. Mt. Pilatus
All of Switzerland is exactly how you picture it in your mind. There are cows grazing on the hillsides with their bells ringing softly in the distance.  The cog-railway chugs up the super steep slopes of the mountains and the sun, though distant, still manages to burn your skin at the top of the mountain.  Our day spent at Mt. Pilatus was the highlight of our brief trip to Switzerland.  It was everything I was hoping it would be - at the summit, you could see far in every direction and each view was just as beautiful and amazing.  I want to live at the summit of Mt. Pilatus and never come down.  Is that possible?  It has got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world and one of the few places where my soul just felt right

5. Jon's 6 weeks off from work
One of the main reasons why we moved here was for more family time.  I think Jon's 6 week combination of vacation and parental leave is a good example of one of the big pros for moving so far away.  His full summer vacation recap can be found here but in short, it was great to have a big summer break.

4. Archipelago
We first attempted a trip to the Stockholm archipelago when my parents were in town with a trip to Vaxholm.  It was basically an island suburb of Stockholm, so it was more developed than we had expected.  While beautiful, it wasn't until we went to Grinda that we discovered what it meant to go "Full Swedish" and sunbathe on the rocks with nothing to do but watch the boats bump on the water.  We had a picnic, drank some beers and had some good quality quiet time in the sun.  It was probably the most relaxing time I had all summer long.

3. Visby, Gotland
We have never traveled to a place and said, "We MUST come back here" quite like we have with Visby, Gotland.  The medieval town was amazingly picturesque and we truly felt transported back in time.  I think Jon wished we had brought Calvin's viking swords and helmets for some re-enactments in the meadows.  We wish we had more time to explore the island of Gotland so it's definitely on our list of 2013 must-visits.

Visby is also where we started our, "How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites can Calvin Poop in?" count.  For 2012, we accomplished 5 UNESCO site poops: Visby, Birka, and Drottningholm (Sweden) Kronberg Castle (Denmark), and Budapest, Hungary.
Yay for historic poops!
2. The Swedish Christmas Season
Before moving to Sweden, a CDC colleague who lived in Stockholm for 4 years said, "Christmas time in Sweden is magical!"  It was this statement, in addition to my natural excitement for Christmas, that made me super excited for the Christmas season in Stockholm.  As promised, the Stockholm city was lit in beautiful lights and everyone hung their advent stars in their windows.  With new fallen snow, the sky brightened and everything looked, well, magical.  It was like living in a snow globe - a winter wonderland.  It was all of those classic Christmas songs from Bing Crosby personified.  I was living in a 1940's Christmas paradise.  We experienced the beautiful Swedish tradition of St. Lucia, the Christmas markets of Gamla Stan, the imaginative windows of NK, and a fabulous winter wonderland.


1. Moving to Sweden
Without this big decision, we never would have had all of the wonderful moments listed above.  The move itself was fairly easy and we were so overwhelmed with all of the newness that anything stressful passed by fairly quickly.  I re-read our first impressions of Sweden blog and found that I understand a lot of the things that at first seemed so strange.  I'm glad we captured it because the newness has faded away into the normality of everyday living.
January 25 and December 27, 2012

Overall,  it was definitely a fantastic year with a lot of great opportunities as well as challenges.  We can't wait to see what exciting new adventures 2013 brings!

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