Cheers to Piteå
During my senior year at Wesleyan, a Swedish fellow named Erik Westberg graced the university chamber choir with his conducting talents. Erik’s presence alone attracted some of the school’s best voices, and his passionate efforts helped transform the previously mediocre outfit into a darn good college choir. It was a great joy for me to once again belong to a choir, and I give Erik all the credit. At the end of the semester, Erik somehow managed to bring over his Swedish choir from the Piteå Music School to the U.S. for a joint concert. It was delightful. Now that I’m in Sweden, I had to visit Piteå and Erik.
Piteå rests along the northern coast of Sweden between the larger cities of Umeå and Luleå, just an hour’s drive from Lapland country. From Lund it takes two quick flights (Copenhagen-Stockholm, Stockholm-Luleå) and a forty minute taxi ride to get there. One could also take the train, but that would take roughly 18 hours. Sweden is lonnngg. My plane landed in Luleå around 22:30, so when all said and done I arrived in Piteå around 23:30, pretty late. I had been communicating with Erik throughout the day, letting him know that I had been unable to get there earlier. But he was quite chipper despite the time, and generously invited me to his apartment for a glass of wine. Not only wine, he had also prepared some modest snacks of crackers with cheese and Swedish caviar. Yum.
We chatted until it got late, and I realized that I should probably head to the hostel. Erik had told me about the local hostel several weeks back, but I actually had never booked anything. I was just planning to show up with the expectation that they would have a bed available. Erik asked me if I had checked in and I responded that I had not. Ah, he observed. “They’ve closed for the night.” It turns out the place was technically a boarding house, and not a true hostel. Whoops. “Don’t worry,” he assured me. “I thought that might happen.” Erik led me downstairs to one of the building’s common rooms. “You can stay here. The couch has a pull-out bed.” Swedish hospitality is superb.