No matter how many times you try to pronounce Smedjebacken, there’s a good to great chance—unless you’re Swedish—you’ll butcher it. There’s a twisty-turny thing in that word, something akin to what the smart marketing people behind the the Noah’s Bagels chain call a “schmear,” but even that isn’t quite the right sound in a word where the accents marks aren’t where you’d expect and seem to vary with the speaker, at least to an American ear.
The spectators at the Dalarna and (above) Smedjebacken events take as much joy in watching the boats go by as their drivers and passengers do running in them (click image to enlarge). Photos courtesy/copyright Helmich Hillen and speedonthewater.com.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Ever.
First, the Swedes appreciate and respect the effort and have endless good patience in helping you get it right. Second, they get a huge, good-natured—make that joyful—kick out of hearing your attempts to pronounce it.
That’s the thing, the one I learned best from covering last weekend’s Poker Run Dalarna this weekend’s Smedjebacken Poker Run. Swedes are among the most joyful, playful and gracious people that, as a group, I’ve ever met. With roughly 50 boats each, both events had—at least by United States poker-run standards—modest turnouts. Both ran on relatively small bodies of water in the Swedish countryside.
And both had thousands of waving, joyful spectators lining the sea walls and shoreline, on the bridges and in the multiple spectator fleets along the courses.
For more images from yesterday’s Smedjedbacken Poker Run check out the slideshow above.
The fans, you see, take as much pure joy in watching the boats run as their owners and passengers do running them. It’s not about who has the newest model or which one is loaded with the most beautiful women in bikinis. It’s not about who knows who or who has what—the guy running the 27-foot Checkmate is just as valued and included—by everyone—as the guy running the 39-foot Cigarette.
Tomorrow I fly back to California, and I’ll start to write a feature article about these events for the July/August Speed On The Water digital magazine. I’ll certainly have plenty time to get it done on the plane. Still, I’m in early the stages of organizing a frightful number of data points, experiences and feeliings.
But this much I know.
Pure joy is at the heart of Swedish poker running. It’s that simple. In Swedish, they call it glädje.
And I can almost pronounce it.
Smjedbacken Poker Run Day 1: Cows, Horses, NASCAR Oil Pumps And More
Image Of The Week: Bridge Under Troubled Waters
Exploring The Stockholm Archipelago In An Outerlimits SL 44
Closer To The Heart And 5,000 Miles Away
Images From Poker Run Dalarna : Day Two
Images From Poker Run Dalarna: Day One
Euro Poker On The Water