A Swedish Lesson

Text and photography by Peter Lundström

A few issues back, I was told I couldn’t use the word besserwisser. This was supposedly due to it not being a word that our demographic (that’s you) would know. Although my noble task to try and educate and widen the vocabulary of the English youth was declined, it sparked a new idea. Instead of making it into a German lesson, I would change the subject into something I actually knew something about. This is the condensed version of the life and history, as well as some fascinating facts, about my fellow countrymen, the Swedes.

It has to be said that during the course of compiling this info and pictures for this article, the question was often sprung up of how it would be possible to tie snowboarding and Swedish history together. That was however never the real intention. The cunning plan was through the somewhat different shots, to trick you into reading the following nonsense, and hopefully you’d learn something new. I hope it’ll work. So before we embark on this journey through time and space, through the centre of Scandiland, be aware that the following 1,700 words do not contain a speck of snowboarding trivia.

The Coastline

Here’s a little history lesson for you kids. Back in 1905, the union between Norway and Sweden was broken. Sweden lost the oil, the oh-so-fabulous woollen cardigans and of course the amazing coastline. But according to a recent study between Finland, Sweden and Norway, we didn’t suffer for it. The research had somehow come to the conclusion that people in Sweden are the happiest. That’s right, Norway, you can take your amazing coastline and your shitty roads, lube ’em up with all that oil and stuff ’em up your woollen cardigans, because we are having a party over here. Yehey! However this doesn’t quite fit with the fact that Sweden is one of the countries that has the highest rates of suicides per capita. I can’t explain.

Above: A non-suicidal sailor by the name of Jonas Gustafsson drops a boneless from his 45-foot fishing boat called ‘Floater’, in the stunning frozen coastline of Umeå, Sweden.

War

Yet another history lesson for you young ones. Once upon a time, Sweden was all about war. At one point, at the beginning of the 18th century, we ruled almost half of Europe and commanded the most advanced army in the world. A few centuries before that, the Swedes had, together with their Norse buddies in the west, been raping and pillaging England for about 200 years. But all things, not even necessarily good, must come to an end. After quite a few years of literarily ‘killing it’, King Karl XII went haywire and lost everything. Coincidentally, this is the warrior king that the Swedish neo-Nazis nowadays have as their front figure. It’s fitting that the neo-Nazis’ biggest hero is perhaps Sweden’s biggest loser of all time. Haha, oh, how I chuckle. Anyway, quite a few years after this huge losing streak, Sweden gave up on war and is the present-day nation state with the longest history of continuous peace.

Although whether or not our ‘neutral’ behaviour in WW2 equates to peace-loving actions of noble gender or just economical gain, I can’t tell.

Above: Anton Gunnarsson strikes a blow for peace in Umeå, Sweden. Frontside 180 over an obsolete piece of war machinery. Please note the peace sign on the side of the tank.

Inventions

According to a recent study done by a bunch of besserwissers, the most famous Swede is ping-pong player calledJo Waldner. This is because China has more registered ping-pong players than Sweden has citizens, and therefore knows of the former world champ. But what about Alfred Nobel? You know, the Nobel prize? Although usually an award given to geniuses of all sorts, recent nominations have cast a dark shadow over the prize. What about when Bush and Blair were put up for the Nobel peace prize? What idiot piece of shit made those two nominations? Flabbergasting. Pardon my French, by the way. Maybe I’m way out of line here, but wouldn’t that be as repulsive as giving a Humanitarian of the Century award to Jeffrey Dahlmer and Dr Mengele? Just a thought. Do stop me if I’m wrong.

Above: Jonas Gustafsson putting down a switch and a regular hammer on a non-adjustable spanner in Mo I Rana, Norway. What’s the song Monkey Wrench by the Foo Fighters about anyway? “I don’t want to be your monkey wrench”. Is anyone calling Dave Grohl a spanner? Whatever.

You might also think that Alfred was just this rad dude who, through his will, put up an award for other rad dudes. This wasn’t really the case. Alfred’s fame and enormous fortune came from making nitro-glycerine a more stable compound, and in 1867 he obtained the patent for dynamite. Ka-ching!

Other inventions that have made a few brainiac Swedes wealthy beyond their wildest dreams include the adjustable wrench, the Celsius thermometer, the pacemaker, Skype and the vehicle we in Sweden refer to as a ‘Kick’.

Above: In Sweden we call it a Kick. Jonas Gustafsson, about to blow up, hucking through an up-scaled version of the vehicle Swedes refer to as a Kick. All painted up in the vibrant Falu-red colour. Umeå, Sweden.

Fishing

Along with the aforementioned break with Norway, Sweden also lost some amazing fishing grounds. The Baltic Sea is getting polluted from all directions and the fishing industry is suffering. To make up for this great loss in national income, we sell the worst tasting fish, the pike (or the esox lucius) to France and claim it’s a delicacy. We might have lost some amazing fishing grounds, but we ain’t stupid. Bon appetit, suckers. This is of course when the aggravated Frenchie with a bit of Scandi knowledge exclaims: “But you eat Baltic fermented herring, you morons!” Touché.

When there were no more sea bass to be found at his fishing grounds back home, Jonas Gustafsson decided to try his luck on the other side of the boarder. Hemsedal, Norway has a lot more to offer than just massive kickers.

Weather

Being a bum in the northern part of Sweden must suck. Not only do you have to deal with the –30°C in the wintertime, not to mention the dark winter days, but according to the most recent bum statistics, compiled by a bunch of besserwissers, you also have a 90% chance of being mentally ill and/or a drug addict. Taking this into consideration, you would guess that the location of Vuoggatjålme/Arjeplog would be the last place a homeless person would like to reside. During the winter of ’96, the mercury dropped to a record breaking –53°C. A bit nippy, eh?

Despite being one of Sweden’s hardest working snowboarders, Jonas Gustafsson has to live on the streets and beg for petty cash to be able to fund his rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. On top of that, he has to watch his buddy Armani Gunnarsson rush by every morning on his way to Wall Street. Life isn’t fair.

We’ve Got Wood

After trying to write something about the Swedish wood business, one of Sweden’s largest industries, I realised that wood is just plain boring. So I figured that the other Swedish invention that produces hard logs would be more interesting, namely the Swedish penis enlargement pump. But just as I was going to claim it as being a masterpiece of Swedish engineering, I dropped by the www.penisdoctor.org. To my surprise, and also to what I believe to be contrary to common belief, the pump was invented not by a Swede, but by an Austrian named Otto.

But Otto was far from the first to think of enhancing procedures. “Though the ancient Greeks actually preferred small genitals, they nonetheless, exerted extra effort in ensuring that their genitals remained healthy. Their refined tastes led them to view small penises as aesthetically superior over large ones. During this period, young men exercised naked and they protected their genitals by stretching the prepuce over the glans and fastening it using a ribbon to the penile base.” Am I letting you in on more history than you care to know about?

How much wood would Anton Gunnarsson chuck, if he would chuck wood? Not that much, after realising the stupidity in having the chainsaw running while trying to huck an invert on this phallus symbol, ironically, made of hard wood.

Wine and Booze

Sweden is not a big producer of wine. Although we do love to consume it. As a matter of fact, up until 2006, booze, that being mainly Vodka, was Sweden’s largest export. Yep, we sure like the occasional booze fest. Something that we (or actually just the Swedish government) also like is to put an enormous amount of tax on our beloved spirits. Take the recognised Swedish brand of Vodka, Absolut, for instance. There is probably no other country in which it is sold, except for Norway, that has a higher price on the product. You’d think that it would be the cheapest in the country that produces it. Oh, the agony. So if you want to have a cheap night on the town, don’t come here.

Although somewhat gay (as in Paris, of course) and French in his appearance, Antoine Gunnarsson is here depicting, with a hippie ollie, the Swedes’ relationship to wine and spirits. We sure love it.

So that’s a bite-sized bit of Sweden, far from the full story and some times even, maybe, far from the truth. The only way to find out the real deal is to book your flight today, grab your mosquito spray, pack your reindeer sled and depart on an excursion to (don’t listen to the Yanks claiming otherwise) the best frickin’ country in the world.

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