** I wrote this at my writing group this afternoon and thought I'd share it with you.**
I’ll never forget the summer I went to Sweden at the age of seventeen. I had been penfriends with Anna for about four years and she had already stayed at my home the previous summer. She’d thought the rows of terraced houses in the Welsh Valleys were tiny and was amused with how my family ate chips most days of the week.
Looking back on it, I can’t believe I was brave enough at that tender age to take a flight for the very first time to a strange country and from Heathrow Airport of all places!
Upon my return, my father told me that he couldn’t get over how I just walked off to the terminal gate without even turning around to say ‘Goodbye’ to any of my family. My mind must have been set on going off on an adventure.
I ended up taking a window seat inside the Boeing 707 seated next to two business men. I even remember asking them if I had to pay when the stewardess turned up with the tea and coffee trolley.
At one point during the journey, I thought the wing was about to fall off as the flap rose.
The main thing that hit me as we circled to land in Gothenburg Airport was the amount of trees and lakes. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.
Unfortunately, by then I had severe earache and felt nauseous. What didn’t help matters was, as I waited at the luggage carousel, eventually the crowd drifted away having retrieved their cases, and there was only one remaining. It looked like mine, but it wasn’t.
I was met by Anna and her family as I struggled to fight back the tears, explaining that I felt sick and my suitcase had gone off on its own journey some place else. Thankfully, Anna’s German Step-father, Harald, took control of the situation. He discovered my suitcase was in Tel Aviv and I’d have to wait another 24 hours for its return.
Anna’s home was fantastic. The family lived upstairs and slept downstairs. It was much bigger than our terraced home. Also, back in those days it seemed unusual for families to have two cars which a lot in that area seemed to have. Not only two cars, but also two houses. Their main house and their smaller summer house in the woods.
I witnessed my first Swedish sunset from the balcony that evening, reminding me of a quote by the author, Mark Twain: “Happiness is a Swedish sunset; it is there for all, but most of us look the other way and lose it” A Swedish sunset is thought to be the most beautiful sunset in the world. I can well believe it.
I spent a fortnight at Anna’s home and met her friends. We partied and picnicked and had such fun.
I saw wild elk in the woods, went to a crayfish and vodka party, visited the fair at Gothenburg, the Match Factory in Jonkoping, the second largest lake in Sweden, Lake Vettern, which is sixty five miles long and has an island with a giant in the middle of it. One of Anna’s friends, Annelei presented me with a miniature giant her father had carved for me. I had a ball that summer.
I was sad when it was time to leave a beautiful country where the sunset was pure poetry.