Days 17 and 18: From Gilding to Sewage – Danish Hotels are Odd

We woke up in the morning and made a quick trip to the church (seriously…did you expect me to pass one up that is open???) along with a trip to the local Viking museum. The museum was interesting because it was a museum build directly upon the ruins of the Viking settlement. There were lines on the floor that outlined exactly where the prior settlement buildings had been, including the remains of a murder victim! After this we checked out of our hotel.

Fun hotel fact: our hotel had the oldest elevator in Northern Europe – and it was a Kone elevator! One thing I love about this trip is just how much more in-tune I am to the products of the companies we visited, especially since I would normally never have paid attention to who made the elevator I was riding in!!

After checking out of our hotel we headed to the ferry to take a ride back to Zealand island. Despite not having any of Anna’s wonderful anti-nausea meds (thanks again, Anna!!) I did OK until the very end when, upon the ship doing a pretty quick 180 to line up with the dock, I got pretty queasy and green. Upon getting off the ferry in Odden (or Odde depending on what map you look at) we started driving. Ben, knowing what I love, saw a cute little roadside church and we stopped in. Come to find out, this was one of the churches in a brochure on roadside churches I had found on our first day in Denmark! Located in Overby, it was a very cute little church with a lovely graveyard. Something I found again in this church was a ship hanging from a ceiling. Apparently this custom is common in churches that are comprised of many seafaring parishioners – it is meant as a reminder to continually pray for their safe return.

We finally made our trip to Roskilde where we first stopped at the Viking Ship Museum. It was really cool! Centuries ago the citizens of the town sunk five different Viking ships in the harbor as a means of defense. They were excavated in the 1960s and are now in the museum. To get back to the purpose of this trip, supply chains, let me tell you – these ships embody that concept! Every single ship was made somewhere different in Scandinavia and every single one was used for various types of commerce – trade, raiding, simple transport between two places. Coming as far away as Ireland these ships WERE the supply chain during their times. Considering how much we’ve studied the benefits of train, plane, and boat it is interesting to think that for a 1000 years the same mode of transportation has essentially been the cheapest and most reliable – ships. This was something that I definitely took for granted on this trip and I’m hope I have a greater appreciation going forward.

After this we made our way to the Cathedral, thinking that we might have a chance to peak in for 5 minutes before they closed. As luck would have it, they were open until 6pm so we had a full hour to wander. Not surprisingly, this wasn’t enough time for me! Smilie: :-) What made this cathedral more interesting than some is that this is where the monarchs of Denmark are buried. Holy ostentatious Batman! These coffins/crypts were elaborate and, most of the time, gaudily over the top! Though this trip led to a breakthrough in my relationship with Ben: upon his death I am never to put him on display in a glass egg-shaped coffin. For anyone wondering where this revelation came from: this is how the current Queen will be displayed upon her death. I have no desire to ever go back to Denmark but I just might to see this after her death.

Random site note: I think I really took for granted how great it was that everything in Scandinavia had English plaques at all major tourist sites. Unlike Guatemala or Turkey (my last vacas) it was nice to be able to wander at my own pace and not have to pay for a guide at every interesting place so that I could get the full tourist information. It definitely made me sad that more of my high school Spanish and college German language classes did not make an impression.

We grabbed a bite to eat at a top rated restaurant near the Cathedral (or top rated in Lonely Planet) and made our way to our hotel. Ahh….our hotel. We walked in our room and the first thing we noticed was the sewage smell. Yes…sewage. There was something screwy with the plumbing. Luckily, we turned on the water to wash our hands and between that and the soap we used the smell greatly dissipated (and this hotel had two doors between the bathroom and the main room so we could just shut the door and open a window and be just fine). We figured that no one had used our room for awhile so we didn’t make a stink, mainly because of the view. OMG was the view gorgeous! Our room looked out at the sun setting over the Roskilde Fjord. We went out on the bar patio for one final drink to take in the view before we headed to bed.

The next day was a little eventful. We had to stop for gas and this was when not having a PIN for our credit cards really caused problems – we couldn’t use the self-serve stations because we couldn’t pay for the gas! We had to drive around until we found a station with an attendant and even then had to guess as to how much gas to pump and ended up having to use a debit card. Luckily this was the only time the stupid Chip and Signature cards didn’t work. We got the car delivered to the airport though a little later than we’d planned due to the gas station dilemmas and then got into the craziness of the check-in line. Of course we got in the wrong line and had problems checking in (none of my credit cards would bring up my ticked and I had problems connecting to the WiFi to get my confirmation number in the email) and I had to pay extra because I was 10 pounds over and they wouldn’t let me take anything out because then all the other bags would be too heavy and we’d not be allowed to bring them on the plane. Ugh…. After all of this bag craziness I’m not too keen on SAS airlines right now. Luckily we made our flight with only about 10 minutes to spare and the flight back was uneventful. Home was so great – I didn’t realize how much I missed my dog and cats until I hadn’t seen them in 2+ weeks. I am not looking to work tomorrow but all good things……..

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Day 16: Just Because it’s Gilded Doesn’t Make it Great

So, we last left off with the gawd-awfully awesome black and gold-gilded bathroom. I knew it was too good to be true – and it was. We were woken up in the middle of the night by “drip..splat…………….drip..splat……………..drip..splat” of the air conditioner. Positive: the room had AC. Negative: it dripped loudly onto the carpet. After a  middle-of the night trip to the front desk we were told that we could switch rooms in the morning.

We got to sleep in a little more and had breakfast at the hotel before we started out to visit Aarhus (pronounced oar-huus). As my luck has it, every single church was closed. Seriously – Scandinavian churches have something against me! We went to the Aros art museum where we saw some very interesting exhibits, including a room filled with fog and another with ceiling fans being reflected onto the floor. The most famous work of art here is The Boy.

Afterwards we took a walk up to Den Gamle By, an outdoor air museum that showcases Danish city life (unlike most other ones that highlight farming life). The Botanical Gardens were connected so we decided to take a horse and carriage ride around it. Gorgeous! We also decided to grab some lunch here and boy was I happy we did – they had meatballs! I know, dear readers, that you’ve picked up on the lack of meatballs in my postings so I’m happy that I am able to bring them back one more time. They were actually quite tasty and I’m glad that I was able to have them one last time.

After changin grooms and relaxing (aka napping due to the lack of sleep due to the AC the previous night) we headed out to the canal for dinner before heading back to the hotel and bed. Only one more full day in Denmark before we head back to the good ole U.S.of.A.

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Day 15: Wrong Turns, Castles, the Blues, and Gawd-Awfully Awesome Bathrooms

The day started bright and early. We repacked, grabbed a quick breakfast, and made it on the bus with everyone else for the ride to the airport and our car. It was bittersweet to see everyone go off in one direction and Ben and I going off on another – it really hit home that the VT Scan portion of the trip was over.

We made it to our car. A Renault Clio that we’ve named Chloe for the next three days. She’s a diesel and every now and then we’ll look at each other due to some smell that she’s exuding but so far she’s been great.

Leaving the airport Ben had one very firm request: whatever I did, do NOT direct him through downtown Copenhagen. I agreed that was a bad idea and promised that I wouldn’t – only to direct him through downtown Copenhagen. It was truly a mistake and the first introduction to the fact that Danish road signs are not always the best. The highlight to this was that we were driving past den lille havfrue or the Little Mermaid as she’s more known. She was what I expected – a huge tourist attraction of a small statue. But I can now say that I’ve seen one of THE big things to see in the city.

Little Mermaid

Little Mermaid

We made our way north and checked out Kronborg Castle. We both thought it was impressive and loved the various models outside that showed the various stages of construction. Plus, Ben got to see Sweden. Sadly, the way things are looking, we won’t actually get over there for him to say “I’ve been there!”. From here we made our way to Frederiksborg Castle. The guidebooks are correct when they say that it’s the Versailles of Denmark. Now it is a wonderful art museum. Much grander than Kronborg, there was just something about it that I didn’t like as much as the other. This one made me feel that it was a place that some rich people centuries ago built because they wanted to show off their wealth – really ostentatious. However Kronborg had real military defense requirements that, to me, made the expense justified. Either way, I liked either. Though, to keep with the purpose of the blog, I think that the supply chain to replenish Kronborg would also be easier. Less variables (easily by sea, so cheaper costs) but there would be potential disruptions to deliveries, due to the constant wars with Sweden during the times of major use. Sadly, they did not go into the lean systems used by the Queen to organize and run her households efficiently. I may have to doc them some points on my rapid plant assessment sheet when I fill it out. Smilie: :-)

We left Zeeland and were planning to head to the island of Funen, specifically the town of Middlefart because really, who doesn’t want to stay at a place called Middlefart (yes, we were acting like middleschoolers). However, upon arrival, the town was dead so we next set our sights on Frederica. The town was also dead BUT it was for a good reason – they were having the first night of a blues festival with a variety of BBQ options. We each grabbed a plate (ribs for Ben and pulled pork for me) and ended up chatting with a family from Russia, who recently immigrated to Denmark via Cyprus. They had a cute little girl who drew pictures for Ben and I. She was obsessed with hearts and flowers – every animal or building drawn had them as decorations. After this we decided to forge onward to Aarhus (second largest city in Denmark) where we learned that, if everyone is flashing their lights at you, you should pull over (we, OK I, hadn’t fully turned on the car’s front or rear lights). We utilized the free Wi-Fi at the library in Frederica to book a room at the Royal Hotel in Aarhus. It was a huge steal, it’s in the middle of town, and it has the most gawd awful black and gold color scheme in the bathroom. Now it’s off to sleep since we’re going to either explore the area or head further north to the North Sea shores.

Who says black and gold bathrooms are not in style?

Who says black and gold bathrooms are not in style?

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Day 14: Gjort. Tehnyt. Bitmiş. Fait. Fertig. Hecho. Hotovo!!!

Gjort. Tehnyt. Bitmiş. Fait. Fertig. Hecho. Hotovo. However you want to pronounce the word it still means the same thing. I am DONE with my MBA!! Today was the last day of class requirements (minus one final letter but that is so minor that I’m not counting it) which means that once my grades are posted I will officially have my MBA and a piece of paper to prove it. Now if only I had actually learned something…… Smilie: :-)

The day started with my emailing my roomie (and project mate) Allison my final portions of our group paper for Stora Enso. Final paper DONE! (yes, I will do one final read-through before it is submitted but that is trivial considering the previous three years.) After breakfast (no meatballs, sadly) it was off to Maersk.

I did not know what to expect from Maersk. The largest shipping transportation company in the world, I really wasn’t sure whether this was going to be another lecture with no substance. I admit that, after it all was said and done, I’m still not sure what my reaction and thoughts really are. The first two presentations were quite good but for some reason I was having problems grasping the relationship between their topics and our coursework. Do not get me wrong – these were great lectures and I recognize how lucky I was to hear about the history of Maersk and the interesting things that the internal consultants are doing (I might apply to Maersk just to see what happens – it seems like a great, interesting company to work for). However, what really struck me was how it appeared that the consultants were limited. It was very much a pull system – they only got to work on things to which they were invited in. They appeared to be quite busy but I couldn’t help but think that, with their obvious talent, they could really spot deficiencies in the company but were constrained by their mandate. I really would like to see how great they could be if they worked both in a push and pull system.

The second speaker, Ida, was great. She really delved into the logistical aspects of getting a container from Point A to Point B. It was interesting to hear that many times clients will purchase space but then, when it comes time to load, they just don’t show up. I had asked what happenes if the ship isn’t full and the answer was essentially “It ships no matter what.” she did a great job of explaining the financials behind such decisions and relating those financials back to the impact on the supply chain. And she is only 31 years old! Talk about making a person feel as if they haven’t accomplished anything in their life! She was really impressive.

Next was the tour of Carlsberg. This was really a tour lite in that it wasn’t of the production (they don’t give tours in the summer) but the canned tour any tourist can take at the old brewery. Despite some confustion on the time we got a nice, quick tour and then were let loose. For me, this meant the official end of my MBA as the class was over! Yipee! I admit that, in celebration and anticipation, I brought my cap and tassle with me from graduation and put it on. It feels so great to be officially done. And it was pretty darn fun to end it with a beer in hand!

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After Carlsberg Ben, Pete, and I took off and explored a little more of Copenhagen before dinner. We tried to visit some more churches (shocking, I know) and, to bring us back to where it all stared in Helsinki, most were closed (or at least the really interesting ones). We made our way to Nyhaven where I think we had the best Slurpees from 7-11 in our lives (it got REALLY hot here today).

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The night ended with a final group dinner afterwich Dr. Hoopes gave out the “back of the bus” awards which we had all voted on yesterday. Still not sure how this happened, I was tied for the vote of “most American”, “most interesting purchase” (no clue what anyone was thinking unless they meant my awesome Biosaurus corn snacks and then yes, they are the most awesome thing purchased), and “person who contributed most to the local economies.” On this I do take some umbrage because I have been keeping and totally my receipts. Compared to what some people have told me they were spending nightly on alcohol I think it’s safe to say that this one should be regiven. Smilie: :-) The group dinner ended with one final picture – that of the six of us who all were done after the end of the trip. Congratulations Allison, Cathy, Allyson, Meredith, and Marc – we did it!

IMG_2887Afterwards Ben and I walked around Tivoli Gardens which is just a block down from the hotel. We rode one rollercosatesr and walked around for about two hours before we headed back to the hotel. We did stop for a few moments to listen to the main act on stage tonight – Jaime Cullum. I don’t  know whether it indicates that I’m old or just an American out of touch with European music that I had no clue who this person was. Tomorrow we leave with the rest of the group for the airport where we will head off to pick up our car for our three day vaca in Denmark without 27 othe rpeople along. I can’t wait!

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Day 13: Optimus Duck and More Closed Churches*

*This post had originally been titled ‘Everything is Awesome’ but a ton of people had already done that so I changed mine.

I finally woke up early enough to take my meds and have breakfast! Win!!! Pete jokingly sent me a text message to let me know that there were no meatballs but instead there were Danishes. Haha Pete, very funny!

We were soon at Lego. First we had a production plant tour where we saw the process of how Lego bricks were made. Best of all: ROBOTS! Though these were not cooly named. They run a pretty tight, smooth ship. There is a lot of automation and conveyor belt systems. It was really interesting to hear how they used to not do the different colors there but, for efficiency, they moved that in-house. By this point certain things are starting to appear to be standard, i.e., the morning meeting where shift managers go over any issues from the previous shift. All the companies that are really doing a great job of implementing lean practices appear to be doing similar things an Lego was no different.

After this we went to another office where we had some interesting lectures on the Lego History and their supply chain. I think everyone who just finished Hatfield’s Strategic Management class was groaning internally when the second speaker pulled up Porter’s Five Forces and gave an overview. I kept hearing Hatfield’s voice in the back of my head saying “Porter isn’t enough. In fact, it’s actually pretty bad!” I think that, in the manner that Lego is utilizing such theory, they are doing a good job of using it for the tool that it is. And their numbers speak for themselves – huge growth! However, I wonder how much of that is due to the increased spending capability of people more so than Lego being creativiely strategic. From a supply chain perspective they are kings – they control and can set the price for almost all of their inputs. However it will be interesting to watch how Lego continues to grow (or not grow) as markets change and fluctuate.

But on a final note – we got free Legos! First we got a brick at the plant visit that said “I was here”. Next, we had a timed activity where we were all given 6 brick, 30 seconds, and were told to create a duck. Next, we were given a truck to build. I of course mounted my duck to the top of my truck and declared it Optimus Duck (not to be confused with Ducktimus Prime). But the best thing – at the end we were given a box of Legos! I chose the 3-in-1 that had a truck, boat, and (most excitingly) a helicopter!!! Who says Lego can’t market to girls!

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Next up was Legoland! I admit that I was not too thrilled. Amusement parks are really not my thing – with all the amazing little towns around the area I’d have rather been dropped off to explore one of those for awhile. That said, Legoland was fun. The miniature village at the beginning was fun to see and Pete and I had fun joking about how all the churches were closed (going back to our unsuccessful attempt in Helsinki to find one open). Doing this though meant that we lost sight of everyone else. After his declaration of “I really don’t like rollercoasters” I inadvertently led him onto one. In my defense, the sign did say “Dragon to the Right” because really, how can you NOT go see a dragon? And of course, when it was our turn to get on the ride broke. He was a good sport, though, and we both survived none the worse for wear. After this we met up with some others for a rousing game of Firetruck. I’ll spare you the details but all you need to know is my team lost. We finally ended the day with the ride to Copenhagen. I personally am excited to get there because Ben landed this morning and it’s been two weeks since I’ve seen him!

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Day 12: The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and…..CRAP!

The day started early and we had to leave for a very short trip to the boat terminal for our ferry ride to Denmark. The three hour trip was pretty uneventful. I said au revouir to Sweden atop the ferry with Liz as we made our way out of Gothenburg. Anna was nice enough to give me some more of her Dramamine-like drugs and, despite a pretty bad headache by the end, I was sea-sickness-free. While on I decided to get rid of my last Euro coin by throwing it in a slot machine – and I won big. Or as “Big” as you can win with essentially $0.80. It made me $10, all in 1 Kroner coins. What I thought was going to be a quick game turned into more than 10 minutes as I tried to lose money (crazy thought, I know!). In the ship’s store I found these awesome snacks – Dinosaur cheese puffs! I ended up buying all three kinds for the car ride this weekend.

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Once off the ferry we found the bus and, minus some driving around in circles to pick up three classmates who had went right instead of left at the terminal (I would have done the same thing if I hadn’t been right behind Dr. Hoopes – it was poorly labeled if I say so myself) we were off to southern Denmark. The plan had been to get into Kolding around 3pm and then have the rest of the day to relax and head into town to celebrate roomie Allison’s birthday. Boy, were we in for an adventure!

We stopped for lunch at a roadside rest stop. Fun fact: Apparently the Danes do not believe in toilet seat covers. Thank goodness for all my sorority squats in the group pictures as my calves were able to handle the situation. Shortly after getting on the road we heard a huge “BANG” followed by “THUMP THUMP THUMP”. Jan, our bus driver, pulled over and determined that we could limp the 500 meters to the next roadside water closet. Upon inspection we had blown an inner tire in the back. Four hours later – yup, you read that right, it was FOUR HOURS – the repair guy came and changed the tire. We had the spare but not the tools to do it and there was initially some delay due to the bus being from Sweden but the repair being in Denmark.

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I have to say, I was really impressed with how great our group handled the situation. Everyone found something to do. I read a book for a little bit and then just sat and chatted with others. A group got a game of stickball (with a real Danish stick) going thanks to Alex having a tennis ball in his bag. Jenn taught some people this really fun game that has crazy rules I’m convinced she just made up to see how everyone one would deal with it. Cathy had Heads Up on her phone which a bunch of us played. Fun fact: thanks to this game I realize that I am officially OLD – I did not know a single pop person mentioned in this game. In addition there was a cultural sight down a path from the stop where, ages ago, the winning side of an army would take their captive soldiers and kill them and throw them and their weapons in the bog. Now it’s just a cow pasture. In the end, I actually found this to be one of my happiest memories of the trip so far and I think others were also pleasantly pleased with how relaxing a four hour unexpected stop at a Danish Roadside Water Closet could be. Though I have no desire to ever go back to Skanderborg, Denmark.

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A late arrival at the hotel meant a late dinner. Afterwards, it was off to bed for me. Tomorrow is a (hopefully!) fun-filled day at Lego Headquarters and Legoland!

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Day 11: Trucks, Cars, Boats, and Strawberries

We got to “sleep in” today, meaning I didn’t have to be up until 7:30. Woo hoo! I did have to do some work before we got on the bus but for the most part it was a relaxing morning.

Our first tour today was Volvo Trucks (not to be confused with Volvo Cars). Consider that all my other preconceptions about how these plants would be set up have been grossly inaccurate I had no clue what to expect. Suprisingly, this plant was set up how I had thought the Saab plant would be set up. Holy Moly was this an assembly line in peak lean fashion! The trucks were put on dolly’s that moved at a 7-minute’s snail’s pace past assembly line workers (or robots) who assembled 60 Volvo Trucks a day. Everything was timed appropriately, just-in-time was down to a two-hour window, workers were cross-trained, and inventory was brought when they needed it exactly when they needed it. I was impressed! And to top it off, our guide Jenny was a total delight! After Maria from Stora Enso she may be my new favorite guide!

Fun fact: Volvo makes their trucks with the flat front unlike those in the U.S. because of the different regulations regarding length of trucks – in the U.S. the cab doesn’t count but in many other countries it does. Hence, Volvo (and others) have shrunk down the cabs to make them as small as possible to squeak in under length regulations.

To make even more of a positive impression on me, Volvo has a tradition at the plant of flying flags out front of whatever country visitors that day are from. Today there was the Stars and Stripes flying along with Sweden and Japan!

Volvo Trucks

Volvo Trucks

After this was a quick trip to the Volvo Museum. I admit: I was underwhelmed. I’m still not quite feeling 100% (a mixture of eating foods with onions in them because it’s just too hard to find meals without that over here and either lack of sleep or something weird is interfering with my thyroid meds) so that may have been part of it but I have to say that for me, this was one thing I could have skipped. Cars are fun to look at for about 5 minutes and then I’m done.

Volvo Museum

Volvo Museum

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From here we were off for a tour of Volvo Cars. After coming from Volvo Trucks, I was imagining a similar process. Wow was I mistaken! Yes, they had a similar assembly line process but this one was much more chaotic and less one smooth assembly. This was set up more in cells at the very beginning and didn’t become the smooth process until the very end. However, we got to wear these awesome safety goggles so there is yet another picture of me wearing safety gear, even though we weren’t supposed to take any pics. Oops!

Safety Gear at Volvo Cars!

Safety Gear at Volvo Cars!

Fun fact: Volvo’s plant doesn’t make just one type of vehicle at this plant – they could have as many going through as there are models. It seemed quite chaotic but they made it work.

On the way back to the hotel I finally stopped and got some Swedish Strawberries. I was listening to a travel blog about Sweden before I came and one of the things that it mentioned was how amazing the strawberries where. I am not sure that they were amazing but it was nice to have some fresh fruit after all the carbs I’ve been eating!

We got back to the hotel and a bunch of us got changed to go take a Padden Boat. This was essentially a guided tour of the Gothenburg canal. I did great during the canal part but when we got the harbor I was definitely second guessing myself. Me + small boat bobbing in water does not equal a good time. Luckily I got back on land before I go too sick.

Me With Who I Assume in Padden from Padden Canal Tours

Me With Who I Assume in Padden from Padden Canal Tours

After this a bunch of us walked to the Haga area and then up to Skansen Kronen or the Crown Redoubt, a 17th century fortification. The climb was hard but the view was amazing!

Stairs

Stairs

Skansen Kronen

Skansen Kronen

View from Skansen Kronen

View from Skansen Kronen

After another good dinner at the hotel it was off to the room for me to blog, work a little on my paper, pack, and try to get an early night. We leave Sweden for good tomorrow and enter the final days of this trip – Hello Denmark!!

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Day 10: Paper, paper, and more paper!!!

6am came bright and early but we had to be on the road by 7:15 to make Stora Enso by 9am. Allison and I completed our on-board presentation as we were rolling up to the plant.

I’ve been in various plants before but never a paper plant and this was eye-opening. Stora Enso’s Hylte plant was HUGE! We suited up safety vests, helmets, and goggles for a two hour tour of how newspaper is made.

Allison and I on the Stora Enso Tour

Allison and I on the Stora Enso Tour

Our guide, Maria, did a great job of taking us step-by-step through the process. They have definitely implemented a variety of lean production characteristics but what most impressed me was their willingness to admit that they are facing a variety of challenges. Two of the four paper mills have been shuttered and they refuse to go down without a fight. Of note for this tour, we were allowed to take as many photos as we’d like.

Over lunch Maria was commenting that they had explored the option of producing shrimp in the excess steam/water tanks since they had the space and necessary inputs. It was actually very refreshing to see a company admit such things compared to the other companies that showed us their best side. The visit ended with a very interesting brainstorming exercise where we formed groups of four to come up with our ideas of what they should do. I was really impressed with all the creative thoughts that people had and Stora Enso’s willingness to appear to seriously consider some of those. I am not sure that a U.S. company would have a) been so forthright acknowledging their challenges and b) being willing to solicit ideas. Though they have a lot of work ahead I hope that I am able to revisit the plant in 10 years to see all the amazing, creative things that they have done.

Random Items Found in Recycled Paper

Random Items Found in Recycled Paper

Birch Tree Growing out of Unused Machineryry

Birch Tree Growing out of Unused Machinery

Piles of Woodchips Used for Paper

Piles of Woodchips Used for Paper

Huge Crane Unloading Timber

Huge Crane Unloading Timber

Finished Paper

Finished Paper

Fun fact: you should NEVER recycle Post-It Notes. The glue makes the machines get clogged and they have to be thrown away/burned. Who knew!?

This was followed by a two hour bus ride to Gothenburg, our home base for the next two days. After a great dinner at the hotel – easily one of the best I’ve had on this vacation consisting of a seafood salad on toast, veal meatball with lingonberries and potatoes, and a great chocolate dessert with raspberry mouse – a few of use took a walk around Gothenburg. I ended the evening with drinks with Allyson (not the roomie – the other awesome Allyson on the trip) and Mark in the hotel lobby (which is located above the train station – very cool and surprisingly quiet!). I’m off to try to work on my final paper and then sleep.

Sunset over Gothenburg

Sunset over Gothenburg

View from the Hotel Lobby

View from the Hotel Lobby

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Day 9: Swedish Outdoor Activities – I think I’ll keep my day job

Today was an “off” day that was spent at an outdoor adventure area. We got to Ramkvilla at 10am and first had seven teamwork activities. My team competed valiantly but sadly came in last. However, one of the activities was the rope-tieing competition where all four people – never letting go of the roap, had to tie a square knot. I’m proud to say that our group came in first with a quick time of 2:36. Only one other team completed it and there time was over four minutes.

Afterwards we were turned loose to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, or just laze around in the sauna and hot tub. I was having some aching back muscles from the super soft beds so I opted for the sauna and hot tub first. I think I actually fell asleep in the hot tub – it felt that great. Afterwards I made my way over the most awesome activity of the day – competitive ax throwing! Sadly, I need to keep my day job but it was quite fun.

Ax Throwing

Ax Throwing

After this I decided that it was such a pleasant day that I would just take my book and sit by the lake until it was time to head back to Vaxjo.

Sitting by the Lake

Sitting by the Lake

The evening was spent in the hotel bar working with roomie Allison on our early morning presentation about Stora Enso, one of the largest paper manufacturers in the world. After a quick repacking of my clothes (I seriously have no clue why I cannot keep that suitcase more organized!) I was off to bed.

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Day 8: Crystal, Glen Campbell, and My Next Career as a Glass Blower

It was nice to not have to set an alarm until 8am! We didn’t have to be on the road until 9:30 as we headed south. Since I got such a great night’s sleep I was able to work on the previous day’s blog which I hadn’t been able to do the night before (I was falling asleep as I was writing it!) and work a little on my paper and presentation with Allison.

The day really was one of driving to different little crystal and glass factories. The very first place had someone actually blowing the glass and we got to see a product completed from start to finish. Surprisingly, the specialized tools used were especially interesting to me. The gentleman working had so many tools for cutting, shaping, smoothing, rounding, etc.! I would not have thought that it was such a specialized process! I admit that I bought some things at a few of the gift shops (Xmas presents for many have been bought!) but not nearly as much as I had budgeted or expected. Woo hoo self-control! There was one piece in particular that I just kept eyeing – and its price tag – but in the end just couldn’t do it. 1) I’d never have heard the end of it from Ben, 2) I think his response just might have been “I hate that”, and 3) It was the sort of piece that you would had to have designed an entire room around. Too many variables and there was a bus load of people waiting. Though I was able to get the web address of one place – I may help contribute to the global ecommerce supply chain once I’m back in the states. OR there may be some new pieces added to the wedding registry! Smilie: :-)

The night ended at the Kosta Hyttsill Glasscenter. At the Kosta glass factory, this was an evening meal in traditional of a Swedish glassblower. According to our hosts, in the cold dark of winter, after the blowers had checked on their families and homes, they would go back to the factories and sit around and socialize where they would make herring and potatoes because both were easy to cook. I can say that, though my taste for herring has NOT changed, it does taste much better with a good helping of lingonberries on top. J Sadly (or happily??) I am now +2 days since my last meal of meatballs. Is it possible to go into meatball withdrawal?

Afterward dinner someone gave an excellent demonstration on glassblowing by making a gorgeous blue and white plate. Afterwards he asked for volunteers and, after the initial rush, I volunteered. According to him, I have an excellent blowing technique. This was followed by dessert and a great band made up of the workers at the factory. Any night I hear Rhinestone Cowboy – especially on vaca in Sweden – is a great night in my book. Afterwards it was a quite drive back to the hotel where I was able to finish my blog from yesterday (I was too tired last night to finish) and to finish this one. I may go for a quick walk around the town square but then I think it’s going to be an earlier evening for me than the past couple of nights. We have what I hope is an interesting day ahead of us tomorrow. It’s another “free” day but Dr. Hoopes has arranged for a variety of outdoor activities at an outdoor wilderness area that we’re told ranges from hiking to kayaking to ax throwing. I will leave you, my dear readers, to guess which one I am most excited about participating in.

Blowing the glass

Blowing the glass – courtesy of Cathy

Finished Product: I might have a new career!

Finished Product: I might have a new career! – courtesy of Allison

"Artistic" Shot

“Artistic” Shot – courtesy of Allison

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