Every person in DIS is part of a core course, and everyone will go with their core class on a study tour of a country or two. My core course in Medical Practice and Policy, and for our trip we spend a few days in Stockholm, Sweden, and Tallinn, Estonia. Initially, I was pretty apprehensive about the Estonia part of the trip. It’s this foreign place that I knew nothing about, and if my communism class in high school taught me anything it was that Soviet Russia was nothing to mess around with. However, Estonia turned out to be a blessing in disguise and was an incredible experience. However, that is later in the trip, so let me start in the beginning.
As a temporary Danish resident I am biased towards all other Scandinavian countries. Sure Norway, Sweden, and Finland are probably cool in their own ways, but they can’t even hold Denmark’s jock-strap. That being said, Stockholm was a very picturesque city. We arrived Friday afternoon after a 45 minute flight from Copenhagen and took a bus to the Quality Globe Hotel in the Globen region of Stockholm. It was much better than our hostels that we stayed in during our short study tour of Western Denmark, as we got a large buffet breakfast, wifi, a sauna, gym, and other goodies that were extraneous rather than necessary to our time in Stockholm. That night we all went to a vegetarian buffet that looked over the entire city. The food was pretty good, the company was even better, and the view was the best.
The following day we spent a good bit of our time in Gamla Stan which is the old section of Stockholm. This is the side of Sweden you’d see in romantic movie. Cobblestone streets leading to narrow alleys surrounded by colorful, century-old buildings made up Gamla Stan. At this point, in typical DIS fashion, we were split into groups and sent out on a scavenger hunt of a new and unfamiliar place. They made us do it when we first arrived, they made us do it in Western Denmark, and they made us do it in Rome. So naturally, we had to explore the oldest region of Stockholm by ourselves equipped with only our maps and our sense of direction. We started at a large church in the center of Gamla Stan and made our way through the Royal Palace, the narrow alley-ways, and finally the Parlament building.
It’s not all fun and games here in Sweden, and we spent much of our times going to several clinics in Stockholm and finding about their healthcare systems. Our first stop was to a neonatal clinic, which was very different from American systems because it is run completely by midwives. In Scandinavia I have noticed that midwives play an crucial role in delivering a baby and the mother’s health in general. An OB/GYN is only consulted if there is a complication that a midwife cannot handle, but besides these situations the midwife will be there from the beginning to the very end and at every step on the way in between. At this clinic we also saw the two different styles of care. One of them was the typical child birthing room with the machines and the standard hospital beds and what have you. However, this clinic has been experimenting with a new type of hospital room that resembles a standard bedroom, with cabinets and drawers holding all the medical equipment. It is believed that this setting is more relaxing for the mother, and with a more comfortable setting it makes childbirth that much easier. The partner is there at every step of the way as well and plays a very active role during the entire process. It was astonishing to see the differences between this system and our American system, but that has been the overall trend during my time in Europe.
We spent about three days in Sweden. During our time we went to several museums, visited the national forest (which used to be the ancient coastline of Sweden many millennia ago), and explored the city in general. I apologize for short changing Sweden. It really was an awesome place, but it was nothing in comparison to Estonia. I know what you’re thinking. “But Deep, isn’t Estonia just a poor former-Soviet State? How can it even compare to Sweden? I can’t even point to Estonia on a map!” I thought the same thing before going there as well, but upon my arrival all my perceptions of the city changed.
On Wednesday, November 24th, we took an overnight ferry to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. The cruise was a much needed break from the constant hospital visits, and we were able to enjoy ourselves as we made our way to Tallinn. When we arrived in the afternoon on the 25th we checked into the hotel and made our way straight to the old town of Tallinn. Here is a brief history lesson. Over the past 1000 years Estonia has been free for less than 100 of those years. Originally, they were invaded by the Danes (good job Danmark). Funny story, the Danes had two groups of soliders waiting to invade Tallinn on one night 1000 years ago. As the first group went into invade the city, the Estonian gave up without a fight, and proceded to celebrate their new overlords with copious amounts of beer. Now this is where the Estonians show just how tricky they are. Once the Danes were good and drunk the Estonians attacked, slaughtering all the soliders that thought they were getting a free beer. However, the second group of soliders came in after hearing the cries of their dying comrades, and at that point the jig was up and the Estonians actually surrendered. From this moment Estonia was passed from one country to another, from Danmark to Sweden to Germany to Russia (and maybe a few other countries as well. I don’t quite remember). Well, 900 some years later Estonia enjoyed their first taste of independence after the Russian revolution, and enjoyed 20 years of independence before being invaded by the Nazis. After WWII the Soviets took control of Estonia, and Estonia was controlled by the Soviets until 1991 where they finally regained their independence and have maintained it since. They have been independent for a record 21 years, but jokingly they are waiting for their new overlords to show up on any given day.
The old city of Tallinn is a unique place with influences from each of their previous invaders. Each building is different in its own way, and because of this mixture of influences Tallinn is one of the most interesting places I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
I have three more countries to visit, Greece, France, and Ireland, before heading back home. Be on the lookout for those blog posts as well as more on my Danish adventures!
Indtil næste gang!