Thursday, January 31, 2013

Foodie Explorations in Stockholm

I'm not really a foodie, but when I travel, I like to build my days around meals (actually, I do that all the time...), and I do my best to eat what and when the locals eat.  Granted, I've never really tested myself by going to a part of the world worthy of garnering Andrew Zimmern's attention, but you will NOT find me in a McDonald's or a Starbucks at any cost!

My recollection is fuzzy due to extreme jetlag and attentiveness to the work mission, but I believe I ate fish with every meal in Sweden, mostly because it was unabashedly fantastic.  My other overriding memory from Sweden's food is that it's also unabashedly expensive.  I recall an excellent coffee room called Vete-Katten, where two coffees and four pastries come to something approaching 40USD.

The hotels we get are clean, fairly spartan, and pretty expensive (at least by my standards), but the inclusion of breakfast in the rate makes things remarkably more reasonable, as there are a couple days where I easily plow through fifty bucks worth of food before 8am.  There are certainly less expensive ways to get food there; an outdoor market near our hotel is totally unconcerned with adverse weather.

Come rain or snow...

With breakfast carrying us well into the day, all we really need to be concerned with is snacking and dinner.  A loose search for akvavit and pickled herring lands us at Den Gyldene Freden (OK, we were looking for beer, and got lucky to find the other things).  This place was built as a restaurant and has been operating as such since 1722.  The akvavit reminds me of Génépi in France, and the pickled herring is apparently an excellent preparation, as it can be done poorly, and this stuff is good.  Also, it's not to be confused with sour herring, which must be opened under running water or else you have to burn your house down to get the smell out.

Den Gyldene Freden

Another meal takes us here (not on the company dime, as it's exorbitantly expensive):

A flickering welcome

This gem is located in a building dating to 1651.  The food and service?  Stunning.  Vendace roe, reindeer fillet, and cheesecake with cloudberries, oh my.  Our table is about 30' below street level, and getting down there feels like a trip to the catacombs.

Inside the vaulted caverns of Fem Små Hus

The extraordinarily short days wreak havoc with our appetites, however.  We'd find ourselves walking around after dark, discussing what type of food we'd like, if we could find something good within walking distance, plans for the rest of the night, etc., and then realize that it was 3:45...

Other meals feature numerous varieties of fish, including excellent arctic char, unfamiliar preparations of halibut, and a sushi course comprised entirely of fish from Scandinavian waters, including the best raw scallops I've ever had.  A work dinner introduces me to raw reindeer (the dish includes bits of dried reindeer heart, too), and I must say that I'm a fan.

Cafe along Österlånggatan

In case you've noticed a trend, all of this food is happening in increasingly old establishments.  The cafe pictured above takes the cake, though.  Built as a stable in the 1400s, it's not a roped-off national historic monument; it's simply open for business.  Mind.  Blown.  Excellent cappuccino, too.

In general, the age at which we consider something "old" in the US doesn't even move the needle in other parts of the world.  It almost makes me feel like a post-modernist pig to be living in a house built in 1954.

Rory looks pensive

And one last photo from a trip to the tourist-trap Ice Bar, where they tell you that your knowledge of how to stay warm is of no consequence and give you a glorified poncho to keep you alive.  The place was kind of rubbish, but it did make for a fun photo or two!

All in all, loved the food there and found the search for it to be an excellent avenue to explore the city.  Executive summary: go there and eat fish :)


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Have fun pronouncing that tongue twister?  Snickering 'cause it starts with "fart?"  I don't care; it's the name of THE coolest shop I've ever been in.  The shop wouldn't be what it is without considering its import beyond its walls and contents, though.  Meet Freddy:


Freddy works in this shop in Stockholm, and it's a purveyor of exquisite nautical gear.  He's a cool dude, in large part due to his encyclopedic knowledge of every item in there.  More on him in a minute.

Fartygsmagasinet is chock-full of antique nautical and maritime equipment.  Every cubic foot seems to be filled with something precious, and I'm abjectly terrified of touching anything, so I scrunch my shoulders together as much as I can and explore gingerly.

I'll take two!

From simple little brass latches and portholes to chronographs, diving helmets, and air pumps, the shop is a literal treasure trove of items recovered from decommissioned and wrecked ships.  Their entire inventory is near ten thousand items, most stored offsite.  I believe only a couple thousand are in the shop, and most of them are exorbitantly priced, which will make sense very shortly.

On to Freddy.  At first we're just curious, but then we start testing him.  Turns out that he can, for any item we select, tell us: which craftsman in which city in which country made the item in which year,  which ship it was installed in, when the item was recovered from the ship, why the ship sank or was decommissioned, where the item went next, when it came into the care of the shop, perhaps when it was sold from the shop a couple decades ago, when it came back into the care of the shop, so on and so forth.  We're stunned.  I've never met anyone in any walk of life who's a repository of information like he is.

We decide to pass on purchasing any $10k chronographs (no credit cards accepted) and leave the shop in a mixture of shock and astonishment; it's simply not every day that one accidentally wanders into a place like this.

Next time you're in Stockholm, specifically Gamla Stan, you'd best stop in...


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I hate museums.  Especially the historical kind.  Hate hate hate.  Some art museums, I'm pretty OK with, but one of the most dreadful ways I can imagine spending a day is shuffling around learning how [insert group of people] did [insert daily chore] in the [insert past era] in [insert geographic region].  It's like my own personal version of Mad Libs from Hell.  Put slightly more eloquently, my hate for museums burns hotter than a syphilitic hooker in a police line-up.

The Vasamuseet changed all that.  Holy shit.

The Vasa is a Swedish warship that sank in 1628 and was raised, mostly intact, in 1961.  Yes, it sat essentially undisturbed for 333 years.  When they raised it, they moved it to shore and built a building around it, and then set about restoring it and learning about how it was built, why it sank, and otherwise all about their ancestors.

It's stunning.

Bow view

It's a look into our human past that resonated with me.  Here's a spectacle of engineering, construction, and ingenuity, and it's steeped in culture and national pride that we could all learn from.  Furthermore, the photos and accounts of the recovery effort were top-notch.  You think your shoes have a lot of suction when they get stuck in the mud?

Gun ports along the port side

The ship was decked out from bow to stern with hand-carved wooden sculptures, many of which are in excellent condition.  There were enough bits of paint left on the ship when it was raised that they've been able to reconstruct its full color scheme.  They found unused sails, folded neatly.  Even the lower sections of the masts were intact.  Basically, it's stunning that the Swedish waters preserved it to the degree they did, and that's what made it fascinating to me.

Stern carvings

Every detail on the ship is both ornate and functional, and all designed without the advent of CAD :).  The museum was kind enough to build multiple levels from which to view the ship, so while we weren't allowed inside, we could get right up close to just about every detail and feature.

Stern and port view

The level of craftsmanship in the sculptures was a little mind-blowing to me.  The lions' heads on the gun ports were curious as they were only visible with the ports open, and they were definitely designed to intimidate the enemy.  As though the rows of lurking cannons weren't intimidation enough.

Lion carving on starboard side

I could easily have spent all day in there with Rory, but a) we got hungry, and b) it was daylight hours, so we felt obligated to be outside in case the sun made an appearance.  I left Vasamuseet impressed like I've never been impressed before, and I'd -highly- recommend it as a must-do on any visit to Stockholm.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Streets of Stockholm

We chose one hell of a time to visit the 60th parallel: 3 weeks before the winter solstice.  Consequently, the darkness was oppressive.  After work duties were complete, my afternoons (dark by ~3pm) and evenings were spent wandering the streets.  It rained and/or snowed continuously until the day before we left, so most of my memories are of being cold and damp.

Bus passes by a decorated street

Street shopping

The entire city and countryside were resplendent with Christmas season decorations, so the streets were alive with nicely done lights.  Curiously absent were glaring displays like we're used to in the good ol' US of A...

The Tekniska Hogskolan T-Bana station; one of many that are filled with permanent artwork, feel very cave-y, and are super awesome

I wanted to spend a day traveling the subways with camera and tripod, but time did not allow.  As such, click here for a great photo tour of the subway system.

One burned out

Vaguely American

For the scant hours each day that the sun was technically up, it wasn't all that light out.  The snow kept it pretty gray, but we felt obligated to make the most of the "daylight."  We really only had two days to explore, and it didn't make sense to travel that far and be put off by the weather.

Proud home

I really enjoyed the architecture; stately buildings were plentiful, well-manicured, and easily viewable.  A few of them were even lit well at night!

Freshly fallen snow coats the grounds of the Swedish House of Knights (Riddarhuset)

Stockholm is a city of islands and water; with bridges and lights everywhere, photographic opportunities were ample.

Under one of many bridges

Waterfront (click for -much- larger)

We also spent a good chunk of time wandering around the old city, Gamla Stan, and I'll write more about that later.  In short, it's -super- old.

Quiet street in Gamla Stan

In all fairness, southern Sweden is warmer than most other places of such latitude, as global weather patterns bring warmer air to Stockholm than, say, Saint Petersburg.  Furthermore, the true cold snaps hadn't set in yet, so we were the silly tourists who thought this was "winter."

Tower at Sergel's Square

Shimmery structure at the Radisson Hotel

I have a lot more to share, and much of what's left centers around the food we ate and where we got it from, so we'll cap this post here and delve into the food stuff in the next post or the one after.


Monday, January 14, 2013

On Wings

I suppose I've been traveling a bit lately.  Hindsight has revealed a lot of time away from the farm in the past year, in a healthy mix of work and play.

Last month, work took me to a new part of the world: Sweden.  Once again, I've got too much to share to jam it all into one post, so I'll break it up and give you vultures more reasons to drop by.

No matter how much time I spend traveling, I remain utterly fascinated by flight as both terrain and light march through endless permutations.  As such, I'd like to share a couple photos from the flight to Stockholm (which, from Reno, is a classic "you can't get there from here" scenario).

Horizon warms with bonus planet

My fascination has vectored into turning flights into photographic opportunities.  On one hand, if you've looked out a plane window once, you've seen it all, but I enjoy the challenge of seeing the scenery with new eyes.

Using the scratched window to my advantage.  Peekaboo!

Much more from Sweden to come.  Executive summary: cold, dark, expensive.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013


No real substance here, just some bright colors to mesmerize you for a moment.  Bonus points for identifying the subject.

Shine on


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holes and Light

Super creative title, I know.  Writer's block.

Here are a couple photos from a neat piece of public art in downtown Reno.  There's a good chance you've walked by this before (if you live in Reno or visit frequently) without really noticing it.

Setting sun imparts a glow

It's just outside Campo, but it's above street level, and those who walk by too fast tend not to be looking up.  Every time I study this piece, it reminds me of something else.  I've run the gamut from cheese to submarine and back, and all I know is that it's cool and has subtle patterns that aren't obvious at first glance.

Colors 'n stuff

Many thanks to my svelte photo-assistant Nate.  Photos like this tend to be fairly complicated to set up and light, but I believe the work is worth it.

I sincerely hope that all of you out there are doing what makes you happy.  More on that later.


Past Detritus