Meeting up with Alberto in Stockholm, he and his girlfriend Lucia told me that Swedes are extremely pretty. I was not convinced, having really only seen Scandinavians in the stereotypical long blond animal kind of way, which doesnt really make my heart race too much.
But then I walked to my accommodation after dinner, on a Saturday night, and followed that up with a superb breakfast buffet in Cafe Spring and I was indeed coming to see the light. There is a truckload of prettiness out here.
Or, of course, my extensive exposure to developing countries and the now perhaps ingrained preference for function over form means that I really no longer am even remotely used to people dressing up. If only because only mild exposure to equatorial climes results in a typically profuse sweat.
On a much more disturbing note, flying from Istanbul to Stockholm, I was chatting away with my neighbor on middle eastern and East African politics when, his neighbor, a woman about my age, interjected and joined the discussion.
She turned out to be Syrian Christian, who had lived in Sweden for most of her life, but now was coming back from a few month stay in the country of her birth.
Perhaps some 15 minutes into her joining the conversatino, us talking about the virtues, or lack thereof, of Assad, she mentioned that not only does the majority of Syrians support Assad, something even the international press agrees with, but that she did as well. Even though Assad's troops beheaded her husband only 8 months ago.
But, she went on. Just the day before, having traveled from Syria to Lebanon in order to fly to Istanbul, she crossed the Syrian border on her Swedish passport, together with two Shia boys who were planning on leaving the country permanently.
Having a feeling the border patrol were opposition forces, she showed her Swedish passport, not her Syrian identity document, and was waved through. The boys, showing their IDs, identifying them as Shia, were beheaded. On the spot.
Getting into Sweden was somewhat more civilized. Even though the airport felt like a hangover from the 1960s.