The beauty of travel is that it breaks the monotony that life can become. We are all creatures of habit, and our natural tendency is to do what we have done before. Travel takes us away from what we always do, and challenges us to adapt to something new. It’s not really hard since human beings are kinda great at adapting (when we have to).
Recently, I had to travel to Europe on business. The great part is that I have relatives in Copenhagen. So after the business was done, I was able to enjoy some time with them. Early on the morning of my last day there, my cousin picked me up at my hotel, and we headed north from Copenhagen about 45 kilometers to a town that English speakers call Elsinore, but the Danes call Helsingor. If the name Elsinore sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because Shakespeare set one of his most famous plays there. Elsinore is the hometown of Hamlet, fictional prince of Denmark. And the Danes have accommodated tourists by actually building a castle there.
But that wasn’t the principal reason for us to go to Helsingor. It’s a charming little village with lots of very old buildings, stores, and an ancient church to visit. And it has a twin city in nearby Sweden.
So since I had never been to Sweden before, we first got on the ferry to Sweden. The ferry was named (wait for it) the Hamlet. It’s only a 20-minute ride, and the town in Sweden where you land is a village called Helsingborg (apparently some guy named Helsing was a big shot around these parts).
Helsingborg features a medieval-looking fortress at the top of a hill from where we got a great view of the town and the harbor. Of course, after that much exercise, two 60-something guys were ready for lunch. We could have played it safe with burgers at the Helsingborg McDonalds or KFC, but we opted for the challenge of local fare instead. We found a tiny restaurant that had a sign outside advertising their Swedish meatballs special. So we went in, and ordered it. Now, I had never before had the opportunity to have Swedish meatballs. It’s not common fare where I live (outside of my local Ikea). And truth be told, I am not a very adventurous eater. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to have my first Swedish meatballs in Sweden. Of course they were absolutely delicious. We were both glad we decided to take a chance.
My trip to the twin cities of Helsingore and Helsingborg brought home how valuable it is for people our age to put ourselves into situations that force us to break out of the everyday way of doing things. And of course, it wasn’t just the Swedish meatballs. It’s not everyday I climb a fortress in Sweden, and tour cities that were around in Shakespeare’s time. It’s unusual for me to be in two countries where the native languages are ones I do not speak. And during the business portion of the trip, I taught a seminar in English to Danish-speaking students. For me, it was a step outside my comfort zone because I don’t normally address an audience in my job.
However, I think that doing these sorts of things keep us young. So there was a real therapeutic benefit to the trip. And in addition to eating Swedish meatballs in Sweden, I got to eat Danish for breakfast in Denmark!