Sweden in Berkeley

All the Swedish things you can find in Berkeley, California:

1. Bokmärken: Bokmärken are little pictures that little kids collect. They’re like stickers, without the sticky part on the back. They can be flowers, or maybe toys, animals, angels, and during Christmas you can get Santa Claus ones. If you’re lucky, you can find glitter ones. I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do with them, other than accumulate as many as you can. After all these years in the US, I finally have found some – at Payn’s Stationary Store in Berkeley. They had whole stacks!


And then,  I found more at a store called Twig and Fig. However, it was going out of business.

2. Carl Larsson: This is a famous Swedish painter from back in the day. They sell letter-writing cards with his paintings on them in the stationary stores in Berkeley. But, they only seem to sell them during Christmas, from what I gathered from the various clerks. They sell wintry scenes that he painted. So I didn’t find any of his stuff during my summer in Berkeley. However, five years ago, when I was working in Maryland, I went on a work trip to California during the summer, and during that trip, my boss and I drove to Davis, California, just to visit and explore. We chanced to visit some stationary stores at which I found tons of Carl Larsson stuff. I only bought one thing (a set of greeting cards) at that time and I’d always yearned to go back and get more. Davis is only one hour from Berkeley by train, and the train comes pretty frequently for US standards. So towards the end of my summer at WIRED, I biked to the Berkeley train station, bought a ticket, and hopped on the Davis-bound train. I didn’t remember the name of the Davis stationary store, so I just went to all of them, and as soon as I stepped into the one called “Newsbeat,” something felt familiar! It was the same store I’d been in 5 years before. However, they didn’t have any Carl Larsson greeting cards this summer. They did have a calendar of Larsson paintings, and a pack of postcards! So the hunt after all that was very fun, and I went back and examined the cards I’d bought 5 years ago. The company making them is called “Pomegranate.” I went on their site and lo and behold, they have 16 different Carl Larsson items features 🙂

Update: I went to Berkeley in December, 2019, for a conference. There was NO sign of any Carl Larsson cards anywhere to be found, in any of the stationary stores I revisited, contrary to what they’d promised. And I was there for less than a week, so I did not get a chance to take the train to Davis and visit Newsbeat again.

3. The Swedish couple at Golden Gate Park: I wrote before about the sad lack of Swedish tourists I found in San Francisco this summer. But on my second to last Friday, I went to the Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean. While walking near the Botanical Gardens, I kept passing and re-passing a middle-aged couple who looked American (all three of us were kind of lost). The only reason I got interested in them was because even when I was only 3 feet away, I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I couldn’t even hear indistinct murmurs of what they were saying. When people talk softly like that, there’s a chance they are Swedish. But I put it out of my mind until I overtook them, and as finally the direction of their mouths was directly towards my ears (and maybe the air currents were trending my way, too) I heard actual words from them, and yes, they were Swedish. I wanted to stick close to them after that, but you sadly can’t do things like that without exciting suspicion.

4. Swedish books at the library: they have 2 Pippi Longstocking chapter books in the kids’ section of the Berkeley Central Public library; and other Astrid Lindgren books besides. They also had a book from back in the day by a guy called Hjalmer Söderberg, which I didn’t really like and is in my list of books, and they had other Swedish books besides that, too.

5. Swedish lady at the Farmer’s Market: This is a farmer’s market that takes place along Shattuck Street, near the CVS and Safeway, on Thursday afternoons. A lady at one of the booths was offering crackers. She said her Swedish partner, who was away for the month in Sweden, made them by hand according to some traditional recipe. The crackers were really good.

6. Swedish consulate: This is very near Ghirardelli Square and the curvy Lombard Street. It’s on a hill overlooking the water. It’s a snow-white, quaint and stately building with a large ship’s anchor out front. It’s got a very nice flag outside, and I don’t mean the Norwegian or Danish ones.


(The view from the side of the snow-white building.)

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