Before he began his trip (and while I was in the last week of mine), Seth Kugel posted requesting readers provide him with ideas for a five-day intinerary in Sweden for under $100 a day. I found his post shortly after I got home, and I thought he could probably do Öland for that, but I couldn't possibly have come up with enough ideas from my two days in Kalmar and Öland to provide a five-day itinerary. Plus, with my rental car and one of the more expensive rooms I stayed in, there was no way I was going to recommend anything for under $100 a day.
So when I learned that the winning itinerary was to Kalmar and Öland, I couldn't wait to read about it. First, I felt extremely validated by having included these places in my own itinerary. It's not as if Kalmar is a common destination for travelers from the US, and most people I talked to about my vacation had never heard of Kalmar and had no idea where it or Öland were even located.
Also, it was thrilling to hear him describe places I just went to. Except here's the wistful part: he seems to have found things I didn't find and had some really cool experiences I missed out on. He had the benefit of getting advice from someone who has roots in the area. His source was a Swedish student whose family has a vacation home on Öland. And so he ate kroppkakor, which I never even heard of:
Mikaela encouraged me to try kroppkakor, the regional specialty, at her favorite spot, a speck of a shop called Kroppkakan, a few minutes by bus from the center. Kroppkakor are racquetball-size potato dumplings, filled with chopped pork and onion, seasoned with allspice, and — this is where things get ridiculous — topped with butter, heavy cream and lingonberry jam. Clearly, they are not diet food.
I also never made it to the Kalmar Läns Museum, nor to the Kullzénska Caféet for "the best pies with ice cream or vanilla custard." Nor did I attend a soccer match (which is okay with me). And I didn't meet anyone at all on Öland (other than the nice kid at the tourist bureau). There are advantages to traveling slower (Seth was biking).
It's not that I regret anything about my trip. Seth had five days; I had one-and-a-half. Two would have been about right. If I'd had five days for Kalmar and Öland, I would have found somewhere else to go.
I do want to learn how to have a more immersive experience, which Seth seems to be doing quite well. I suspect most of that is about who I am and the degree to which I would need to step outside my comfort zone. I'm still a relative novice at traveling. I still have much to learn, and I'm looking forward to learning it and putting it into action.