Scandinavian Summer, Day 12: Gällnö

IMG_2294

While planning the vacation part of the Sweden trip, multiple blogs and articles spoke of how a visit to an archipelago island was almost a non-negotiable part of a trip to Sweden.  This is true of both the East and West Coast archipelagos near Gothenburg and Stockholm, respectively but there seemed to be a greater focus on Stockholm.  I suspect this is mainly due to Stockholm being a more popular tourist destination, especially for those on shorter trips just trying to get a taste (or smaka!) of Sweden.

IMG_2330

I hadn’t made any plans so after returning to Stockholm, I had an inner debate on what to do on my only full day left before my return flight.  I really did want to explore an island within the Stockholm archipelago but I also thought wandering Gamla Stan more, seeing City Hall and going to the Nobel Museum also sounded really cool.  And it’s true, staying in Stockholm another day would have been awesome.  But, ultimately, I decided that there are always more museums to see and things that stay off the list so rather than do more of the same by staying in the city, I decided to venture out for a day trip to experience the Swedish Island lifestyle.

IMG_2314

Once I made that decision, I had to figure out which island I wanted to go to.  I was in Stockholm one week before the tourist season starts, aka Midsummer.  Once Summer arrives, there are many more ferries and seasonal routes open.  I really wanted to go to Utö but in the off-season, there was no direct ferry from Stockholm.  My second choice was Gällnö, reachable by direct ferry even in the off season. The ferry that was running was the Cinderella line (no Disney affiliation). It also went to Voxholm, Grinda, and Sandhamn.  Voxholm has the fortress and is nearby, but looks like a small town rather than a nature-focused island.  Grinda sounded a little too family-friendly but would have likely been fun.  Sandhamn was a two-hour ferry ride one-way and that just seemed like a little too much for a day trip.  Also, it has a reputation as a nice harbor for luxury yachts so I think it is a little posh.

IMG_2310

So, Gällnö.  I picked it because it sounded very undeveloped and a great place for biking, hiking and swimming.  There is a hostel there that is very popular in the Summer and, when passing it, I can see why.  It looks delightful and is in the most idyllic spot.

IMG_2232
Breakfast is served!

I had made up my mind the night before, so I timed my hotel breakfast so that I could enjoy the delicious food and then head to the pier without stressing about the time.  The breakfast was awesome.  I started in the drawing room but after I saw another guest outside, I wanted to eat outside too.  It was an amazing morning and the guy was very nice.  He was a bariatric surgeon from Chicago, traveling with his lawyer wife for what sounded like their annual big trip.  He was well-traveled and she joined us after awhile and they were fun and interesting to talk to over coffee.

I biked to the pier and boarded the ferry.  It left about 10 minutes later.  I paid onboard, a one-way passage with a small bike supplement since I took the bike from the hotel.  After 90 minutes, I was dropped off at Gällnö.  All by myself.  It was disconcerting to be the only one let off with only a few farmhouses visible as the ferry steamed merrily away.  Uh oh.

IMG_2269

But don’t worry!  Everything was fine.  I hopped on my bike and went towards the hostel and store.  The store was very small and had limited food, mostly geared towards group campers.  I wasn’t very hungry and only bought a snack, but a picnic would have been a good idea.

I kept biking and I’m pretty sure I biked on a hiking trail for a bit.  I found a beautiful beach and laid out in the sun for a bit.  I also scrambled around on some nearby rocks.  It was really beautiful.

IMG_2291

IMG_2299

IMG_2301

Then I hopped on my bike and went a few miles in the opposite direction and found another beautiful spot by the coast. I sat for a bit and really, didn’t think much about anything.  I just kind of sat and enjoyed how beautiful it was.  I tried to hone in on all the sensory inputs so I could have a vivid mental snapshot to go back to as a memory.

IMG_2315

Then, although it had only been a few hours, it was time to bike back towards the dock.  There was another timetable listed for another ship, maybe a commuter type ferry?  I flipped the dockside indicator to show that I was waiting for the boat.  I wanted to stick with what I knew so I waited for the Cinderella boat, which was the first one scheduled to arrive anyway.  They put the gangplank across and I boarded.  I bought a hearty late lunch (risotto!) that was impressively good for being cooked in a ship’s galley!

IMG_2337

I bought my ticket on-board again and word to the wise, if you think you can avoid the ticket lady, they do check your ticket stub as you disembark so no cheating!

I had to leave really early the next morning so I decided to take care of as much as I could the night before.  I took the tram to the rail station with my roll aboard, which I locked in an overnight locker.  The reason for this is that I was leaving so early the next morning that the tram to the station wouldn’t be open and I didn’t want to drag my suitcase for 1.5 miles.  I bought my Arlanda Express ticket as well.  On the way back to the hotel, I did some last minute sight-seeing along the way.

IMG_2349
Guard outside Stockholm Palace
IMG_2354
The stuff of nightmares.
IMG_2362
Kungliga Djurgarden Gate
IMG_2366
It’s a bird’s life, sitting on the head of a Swedish Aristocrat/Composer’s statue.

That night, I treated myself to a dinner at Oaxen Slip.  It was so good.  I had the herring dish again.  To me, it encapsulated new Swedish cuisine in one dish.  I had the rhubarb lemonade again and an awesome strawberry and merengue dessert.

 

 

Scandinavian Summer, Days 11: Stockholm Part 2

IMG_2181
View from the Terrace- I strongly recommend a visit!

After the conference, I headed into Stockholm.  Once I got to the city, I headed to the hotel which was on a boat!  Yes, after a less-than-stellar AirBnB earlier in the trip and seeing the boat from an amazing lunch at Oaxen, I had booked a two night stay at the Prince van Orangiën.  It is a former private yacht now turned into a unique boutique hotel.  I booked a room with a shared bath but had it to myself the two nights.

IMG_2215
The hotel.  There have been better pictures, I’m sure.

The boat was beautiful.  It was very luxurious with gleaming wood, marble fixtures, and gorgeous furnishings.  There were several deck areas to relax in and the central room was relaxing and opulent at the same time.  Breakfast was served in the mornings, although I could only partake the first morning since I had to leave super early on the second.  I highly recommend it, although I think when I go back in the future with SMS, I would book a room with a private bath just to ensure privacy and access (I sound like I’m talking about a private beach).

IMG_2162
Katrina-Sofia

So after check-in, I decided to find the cool part of Soderhalm which according to this guide, are south of Folkungagatan. So, really, it seems to be the area of Katrina-Sofia, at least on Google maps.  The hotel lent out complimentary bikes so I biked across several bridges to explore.

I went to Grandpa and tried on some clothes, leaving with two dresses that will hopefully evoke Swedish cool whenever I wear them.  Then I headed over to Urban Deli to peruse their grocery items (does anyone else like wandering through high-end grocery stores, especially on vacation?).  The store was awesome, although very Dean & Deluca and slightly impractical for a day-to-day shopping list but for a special treat?  An excellent choice.

IMG_2157
Park Nytorget
IMG_2156
Mural outside Urban Deli
IMG_2166
Going up the hill towards Sofia Church

After eating my snacks across the street in the Park Nytorget, I wandered up the hill towards Sofia Church.  The area’s historic name is Bergsprängargränd.  Based on the occasional information signs (SE/EN), it used to be the Stockholm slums where shipyard workers, rock-blasters and other day laborers lived.  The small red homes are still there but based on appearances, it looks like the real estate prices have climbed quite a bit since then.

Next, I wandered down the hill to Såzargatan.  This was also a poor shipbuilder neighborhood now almost completely rebuilt apart from a few protected houses.  There are three that are high above the street due to rock blasting that occurred after they were built.  #11 has a door that will open to a fairly significant drop so I wouldn’t recommend taking that exit.  There was also a box with an angled mirror called a “gossip mirror” so you could see who was on the street without having to actually stick your head out to look.  This sounds slightly creeper and antisocial but also kind of awesome.

IMG_2191
On the terrace, Fotografsika in the immediate background

THEN.  I found the highlight of my wanderings and a place that is very high on my list of recommended things to do in Stockholm.  Reg Anders Fogelströms Terrass has a fantastic view of the city.  Really, you have to go here…and it is not like me to tell any traveller that they have to do anything.  The views are exceptional and it just feels like it completely captures a quintessential Stockholm experience.

IMG_2189
Terrace View towards Gamla Stan
IMG_2182
Terrace View towards Tivoli Gorma Land
IMG_2206
The staircase from the cruise dock entrance/transportation hub.  For reference, the fotogarfiska is at the bottom.

There are a few ways to get there.  In addition to wandering through Katrina-Sofia, there is also a staircase near the Fotografiska which is great for my family taking cruises there later this year because the staircase is right across from the cruise ship docks.  Caution, there is a lot of construction there currently (Summer 2018) so it may be hard to cross the busy street.  There is also a way through the Slussen subway station and Katarina Elevator but again with the construction, it is still confusing and a longer walk than the staircase.  But no matter how you get there (take an Uber if you hate to walk!), I promise you, it will be worth it.  Well, at least on a day that you can enjoy the views, aka, maybe not during a storm.

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 10.05.56 AM
Screenshot of the Terrass.  I put an open circle around the ferry dock icon.  The filled in circle (blob) indicates the approximate location of the staircase.  I know it’s all smushed at the bottom but I wanted to show the islands you can see from the terrace.
IMG_2200
One of the protected old houses, covered in flowering vines.

Nearby, there is a small cafe with ice cream in the Summer and warm drinks in the Winter.  I wasn’t hungry but it looks like Fjällgatans Kaffestuga would be a great place for a fika!

IMG_2194
I am a sucker for peonies, like almost every other person.

Then I walked through a small neighborhood garden and another formerly poor neighborhood called Stigbergsgatan.  Then I went back to my bike and cycled to the hotel.  The evening was beautiful and I took several pictures of the boat.  Then, it was time to go to sleep.  The bed was very comfortable and I drifted off immediately.

Scandinavian Summer, Day 7: Stockholm

IMG_1810
Embrace the ridiculous!

It was our last full day together so what better way to have couple-bonding time than borrowing a tandem bike from the hotel?  Well, actually, there are probably lots of better ideas since it can be a stressful experience but SMS and I did pretty well!  There were a few initial wobbles but then we were set.  SMS took the lead seat since he is a much more avid cyclist than I am and I just peddled along in the back.

We headed over to the Vasa museum, which was listed as a “must-do” by many sources.  The Vasa is a Swedish warship that sank very, very quickly in 1628 on its inaugural voyage.  It only made it ~1300 m before it heeled and water came rushing in.  Apparently, the center of gravity was much too high and it was very unstable.  This was actually known before the launch but there were time pressures (from the King!) to get the ship battle-ready.  There was an investigation which sort of fizzled out once the council realized the king would partially be at fault for approving the original plans so Henrik Hybertsson, the main ship designer died in 1627, seems to have been blamed and any other culpability assignments were avoided.

The Vasa is very impressive.  We took an English tour and then wandered around.  The museum has a lot of supporting exhibits.  The most interesting one to me was the movie about the ship and the excavation, complete with footage from 1961.  All in all, it was a very cool museum but if you have a really short time in Stockholm and you can’t get to it, I would say it’s ok.  There are so many amazing sights in the city so see what strikes your fancy, rather than being bossed into seeing something because everyone says you should! 🙂

After the Vasa, SMS was hungry.  When this occurs, it can be a quickly escalating emergency.  I talked him into checking out a restaurant a mile away, which we biked in tandem towards, a happy couple!  Forget the suspicious glare from SMS who has, unfortunately, been caught in a situation where I assure him that there will only be a small wait and the opposite occurs.

IMG_1841
A wonderful find!

IMG_1842

But in this case, it was an excellent idea!  I had used Yelp and found excellent reviews for Oaxen Slip , a self-described Nordic bistro.  We were seated on the covered patio and ordered several small plates.  It was all so good.  We also ordered a cocktail made from their housemade rhubarb lemonade and aqua de cedro.  It was amazing.  Our dishes included Norrøna herring with brown butter, warm potato salad, chopped egg, beetroots & hazelnuts and other dishes no longer on the menu but included a mozzarella dish with scattered bread crumbs, a reuben-like sandwich (good but not my favorite), and a delicious salad.

We also saw the Prince van Orangiën, a luxury yacht converted to a small hotel.  It looked very cute and got me thinking for my time in Stockholm after the conference…

After lunch, we cycled back to the hotel to turn in our tandem bike.  Then we walked over to the Fotografiska, the photography museum that had also received rave reviews.  It may have been better to take public transport since, by the end of the day, we had done  a lot of walking but it was still cool to see the city.  The museum itself was ok.  The exhibits were all modern photography and only highlighted the photos, with no technical details or camera equipment displayed.  There is a good snack bar with a great view but overall, I found it to be overhyped for my particular level of interest in modern photos.

After the museum, we walked towards Sodermalm, which I heard was a very cool part of the city.  We didn’t find the cool part on this walk.  I did find it when I returned to Stockholm but this walk was a bit of a bust.  Plus, we were walked out.  So, we hopped on the subway and headed to the Central train station.  We walked to the Smaka for some more food.  We finally got our Swedish meatballs (yay!) and then we sat down to listen to some live music.  I took a few classy crowd pictures (see below).

IMG_1872
Looks like the guy in the glasses caught me taking the photo!

We headed back to the hotel and up to the 9th floor.  This time, it was late enough that the rooftop, which is reserved for spa users during the day, was open!  We relaxed in hammock-like chairs and just chilled out for about 40 minutes.  It was delightful and the views were amazing.  I felt very lucky.  It was a nice way to mellow out after a busy day and enjoy each other’s company on our last day in Sweden together.

IMG_1901
So happy!

IMG_1892

IMG_1889

Scandinavian Summer, Day 6: Gothenburg to Stockholm

IMG_1757
Trädgårdsföreningen

Although I loved Gothenburg, we woke up and it was time to move on.  This trip, I booked two nights in each of the cities plus one night in Hven.  I would have been happy staying on the West Coast of Sweden but I had FOMO if I shortened our time in Stockholm.  I admit, there were several travel blog posts from the time Volvo was promoting its European Delivery that made a trip up the coast to the islands very tempting but ultimately, I resisted that particular temptation.

After another A+ waffle breakfast, we walked over to the Trädgårdsföreningen to see the gardens more closely than we had been allowed to during the GARDENfest.  The flowers were absolutely beautiful and I took a lot of pictures.  It was a quiet morning with beautiful light and it was really a delightful time.

Afterwards, I decided we needed snacks for the train and we accidentally came across the downtown Saluhallen, which was awesome because I had actually meant to visit there at some point during the trip but then forgot.  There were multiple stands with the most fantastic looking food.  We bought some nuts, bread, cheese and the world’s tastiest crackers.   The cheese tray also included two macarons for dessert.  Yay!  The merchants were really nice and it was a great stop.  I’m always a little superstitious about buying nice food for the train since I have a childhood memory of when Mom and Dad splurged on a really nice grocery haul for an overnight train to Norway and the bag was left in the train station.  TBH, I think it may have been partially my fault since I was usually entrusted with stuff as the oldest kid but regardless, in the fluster (cluster?) of getting six people with luggage on the overnight train, the food was left behind.

IMG_1764
This may look unattractive in its half-eaten state but it was DELICIOUS!

This time, however, the food came with us.  The train took us through the green countryside and forest across the country to Stockholm.  We walked from the central train station to our hotel, Downtown Camper.  It took about 5 minutes and it was very convenient.  The hotel was great but much bigger than I expected, with big tour groups as part of their main clientele.  It was fine but based on the website, I thought it was going to be much smaller and boutique-y.  No matter, it was still great.

IMG_1783
Happy at the bar

We walked towards the Kungsträdgården where the Smaka food festival was going on.  We checked it out and decided to come back later when we were hungrier.  We headed back to the hotel and had a drink in the 9th floor bar that had an exceptional view of the city.  After our happy hour, we went back to the Smaka and had a few small dishes, including reindeer!

IMG_1791
People feasting at Smaka!
IMG_1793
Reindeer Games
IMG_1794
The most handsome Swede!

We walked towards the Gamla Stan (old town) and walked towards the Riddarholmen Church, which has a beautiful wrought iron spire.  It’s the burial ground of all the Swedish monarchs with the exception of that Catholic convert who went to Rome, Queen Christina.  She will show up again in my Uppsalla recap!  Back to the church, I wonder what it’s like to be a young royal heir and know exactly where you will be in several decades?

IMG_1802
Riddarholmen

IMG_1804

Then, it was back to the hotel and to bed, gearing up for tomorrow’s full day in Stockholm!

Scandinavian Summer, Day 5: Gothenburg and Trollhättan

IMG_1660
Looking up the canal near the Riverfront

In reading these trip synopsis, I would caution you that part of the fantastic-ness of this trip was the incredible weather we were lucky enough to experience.  Apart from one drizzly morning during my conference when I was inside anyway, it was bluebird skies all day, every day and the days are quite long in a Swedish June.

IMG_1665

So, we woke up and ate at the Hotel Royal.  The breakfast spread included a waffle maker station so it got the A+ of the trip from SMS.  Then we walked towards the water to go to the Emigranternas Hus.  The old customs house, now a casino, was the center of emmigration from Sweden in the late 1800s-early 1900s.  1.3 million Swedes, about 1/4 of the population, moved to the US and took over Chicago.  I kid, I kid, they went to a lot of places in the US although Chicago was a huge destination.  The small museum located on two floors highlights the trip between Gothenburg and England and then England to the US.  It is really well done with a few interactive displays, such as walking through a re-creation of a ship’s berthing area, complete with (stuffed) rats :(.  Upstairs, there are more display signs with texts and pictures to give more detail on the movement out of Sweden.  Basically, many people were running out of farmland as the plots got smaller and smaller as they were divided up among the next generation.  Stories were told of little country mice Swedes that got caught up in the city life of Gothenburg and swindled out of the remainder of their passage money.

There was also a slightly perplexing set of poster-board-like displays on racism in America.   So, the text first states how Swedes were treated pretty well in the US for unknown reason (implicit in the text is “Because Swedes are $#%^ing AWESOME” as there’s a lot of understated but powerful Swedish pride!).  Then it point out the contrast between how Irish were treated, which was almost as bad as African-Americans which then leads into a discussion of slavery all the way up to Black Lives Matter.  In three paragraphs.  This seems to give short-shrift to a topic on which there are whole museums dedicated to, but at least they tried?  After pointing out how racist America was/is (and I’m not arguing that this is incorrect), the Swedish author did point out that Swedes aren’t perfect either (*what?!*) because they liken the attitude of Americans to the Irish as similar to the Swedish disdain for “Finnish males in the 1960s migration.”  Sigh, poor Finns. Anyway, it’s a comprehensive but slightly weirdly abbreviated, off-handed addressing of a pretty big topic.

After our museum tour, we met with one of the staff and did some genealogy research.  It was absolutely fascinating.  I may have a new hobby!  SMS didn’t have a lot of info- a name, an approximate birth year, and a departure date.  From that info, we figured out great-grandmother Thekla’s birthday (we were one year off) and found her whole family in the Parrish record.  She had 5 siblings and the oldest fraternal twins were 16 years older than her.  Her mother had her at age 45 in 1870!  This sounds very 2018!  The record showed that one of her brothers left for Amerika in 1885 and then she left with her sister in 1887.  It was really neat to see how records last and can tell stories so many years later.

IMG_1670
It is fun to celebrate in a flatbed truck!

After the deep dive into genealogy, which I think I was more into than SMS even though it wasn’t my family, it was time for lunch!  On our way to lunch, we were passed by a flatbed truck packed with Swedish young people wearing yacht captain outfits (guys) and traditional dress (ladies).  They were clearly celebrating with loud music and sound makers.  I’m pretty sure it was a graduation celebration but I’ll be honest, I’m not completely sure.

We went to the Feskekôrka, an indoor fish market.  There were beautiful displays of fresh seafood and some ready-made options.  We opted for a picnic at the self-serve tables outside.  We bought herring with lingonberries, a shrimp sandwich, and fish soup.   It was very tasty.  It was also a bit cheaper than going to one of the restaurants attached to the fish market but we were able to eat the same things offered there.

On our way to the train station, we passed the Gelaterian Goteborg.  Sorry Hven, I found another paradise.  Oh my goodness.  It was amazing!  It was a super-cute shop with delicious gelato.  I had the licorice which actually tasted like a delicious adffogato.  I can’t get over how delicious it was.  SMS was a trooper and indulged my stop even though I hadn’t thought I was hungry after such a delicious lunch!

IMG_1728
In front of the 1801 locks

After feasting, it was time to continue retracing Great-Grandmother Thekla’s footprints by going to Trollhättan.  Americans may know the place best as the site of Saab headquarters.  There’s now a few museums there but we decided to walk along the Göta canal towards the current (and former) locks, one of West Sweden’s seven wonders!  The Göta canal was completed in 1832.  There were three lock systems to see.  The first was opened in 1801 by King Gustav IV Adolf.  It was a series of eight locks and although too small for exclusive use by the time the canal opened, they were used until 1916.  The second set of locks was from 1844.  Finally, the current lock system has been in place since 1916.

The locks are super-cool.  Each Summer, there are river boat cruise that go along the river as well as thousands of private craft.  In order to navigate the Falls, the locks are used to bring the boats up or down to the necessary level.

IMG_1735
Yum, yum, yum!

After admiring the incredible feats of engineering and taming of the falls, we walked back to Trollhättan to catch the train back to Gothenburg.  I had some licorice to tide me over until we got dinner.  We walked along the Kunsportsavenyn but ended up going a little into the side neighborhood Vasastaden to eat traditional food at Smaka, which was tasty.  We ordered the Smorgasbord sampler, which was a feast!

It was an awesome day, one of those days where we fit so much into it that it makes me wonder why I can’t be that efficient with my time at home!

Scandinavian Summer, Day 4: Gothenburg and Garden Fest

IMG_1632
At GARDENfest

After a great night of sleep, I was firmly a fan of glamping!  We were both awake on the early side thanks to the jet lag and sun.  We went for a walk along the coast and took in the mellow beauty of Hven.  Then it was time to pack up, walk to the bus stop, and wait for the bus.

And wait.  And wait.  After 15 minutes and seeing one local walk up the hill, I realized that the National holiday may have affected the schedule so we set out to walk to the ferry.  Fortunately, there were several a day since we were heading to the Swedish port of Landskrona.

We walked across the island which, I confess, might have lost a little luster due to an unexpected delay and dragging a roll-aboard behind me (SMS helped!).  I chided myself, asking why was I so antsy to leave paradise.  But there were other places to go and explore…like Gothenburg!

We got on the ferry, bought a breakfast pastry, and sat outside for the half hour ride.  Then we hopped on a bus to the train station and purchased our passes.  We only had 13 minutes, which was a tight time window to find out how things worked, buy the tickets and make it to the train platform.  We did it, though, and SMS had a convenience store hot dog to tide him over through the 3 hour train ride.

By the way, let me interrupt this slight boring recitation of travel connection to rave about selective smartphone use during travel.  Specifically, Google maps. The transit feature for directions is very, very good and really helps with bus and train connections.  When I travel, I like to experience the new surroundings and not get caught up with stuff back home.  Disconnecting from a smartphone is the quickest way to do that but there are advantages to having one.  So, I used the phone sparingly- I didn’t check the NYTimes multiple times a day, I didn’t look at Facebook.  But I did use it as an e-guide for local information, travel timetables, and Yelp reviews.

We arrived at the central train station and walked to our hotel.  It was only 5 minutes away and on the edge of the walkable section of tourist-interest Gothenburg which, for this quick visit, extended from the train station down to the Göta älv, the river that empties into the North Sea.  Our hotel was the Hotel Royal with beautiful Art Neauveau interiors.  It was clean, comfortable and had a beautifully tiled bathroom.  The location was excellent as a base for exploring by foot.  I highly recommend it!

It is funny when checking into the hotel because they emphasize that they are the “oldest hotel in Gothenburg.”  In my mind, that doesn’t bring up the best connotations for how the hotel will be.  As it turns out, they are 1. proud of their history and 2. really emphasizing the importance of not losing the keys.  It did not mean that the place was musty, dusty and a wee bit smelly, which is what “oldest hotel” brings to mind.

IMG_1739
Wrinkly poster

I knew there was a music festival that night and it turned out that the hotel manager was going.  GARDEN was a first time music festival held in the Trädgårdsföreningen, the Gothenburg Garden Society’s park.  The National was playing and I really like them.  I had also heard good things about Future Islands.  So, we decided to go check out it out!

IMG_1757
Trädgårdsföreningen

We walked over to the garden and bought tickets.  The festival definitely drew a crowd but it wasn’t crowded, if that makes sense.  We went to the bar area where we got drinks and also admired the coolest hand-washing station at the ladies room- an outside shower-like water stream emptying into a clawfoot tub in a decorated inside/outside room.  Very Instagram-able.

IMG_1636
Warpaint

Then it was time for the music.  We listened to Warpaint.  It was a quartet of women and they were excellent!  It was a great new-to-me discovery.  The Future Islands lead singer bops around the stage like a big ol’ weirdo.  It’s simultaneously cool that he’s into it and a little distractingly funny.

IMG_1651
The National 

IMG_1649

Finally, it was time for The National.  The lead singer’s voice is really beautiful and although a lot of their songs drift to the melancholy, it was really a great show.  At one point, he ran through the crowd which was pretty cool.  I thought the funniest part was the sound guy frantically trying to feed out the mike wire to allow the show to go on!  I hope he got a bonus because he did an excellent job.

Then it was time to head back.  We saw a few late-night bar options but we were tired and so it was back to the hotel!

 

Hven is a Place on Earth!

IMG_1539
Hven!

Hven/Ven, Sweden is a beautiful island in the Øresund strait between Sweden and Denmark.  The Denmark spelling adds the “H,” the Swedes just stick with Ven.  It’s claim to fame is Danish astro

IMG_1514
On the ferry, SMS and poster by my side!

nomer Tycho Brahe but since 1660, the island has belonged to the Swedes.  It is the most idyllic, beautiful place with the coast line called Backafall rapidly rising up 50 meter bluffs to otherwise flat island.

IMG_1545
Our tent and one of the bikes

I visited for the day in 2010 and I’ve always wanted to go back to Hven.  This trip allowed me to show it to SMS.   This time, in order to make our own experience and enjoy it more fully, I booked an overnight stay in a “Glamping” tent at Camp Ven, with towels and linens provided. See, I had read that most Swedish cabin rentals expect a person to bring their own linens and since SMS and I were packing lightly, I wanted a “linens provided” option.   Otherwise, renting a small cabin would have been equally as wonderful.


They day started off with some excitement. We had left Hotel Ibsens for the ferry- there’s only one a day!- with plenty of time. When we were 2/3 of the way there, SMS asked me if I was ready for my presentation next week. I froze. I suddenly realized I had left my poster in the luggage storeroom of the hotel. Fortunately, it was only one stop away but after giving SMS directions to the dock and my suitcase, I ran. 16 minutes later, I was back with poster in hand. Whew. That would have been really bad.

IMG_6804
Much more relaxed!


So, although slightly sweaty, we made it!  We sat outside and enjoyed the ride. 90 minutes later, we were in Hven. We took the bus to the stop closest to Camp Ven and walked the rest of the way. The bus made me realize that even though credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, the key is almost. I’m glad I had the small change for the bus so take away point- it’s good to have the equivalent of 20 bucks in cash on you as a traveler.

IMG_1528
Lunch at the Hven Distillary
We checked in and, once we dropped our bags off inside the tent, we were glamping!  Fun!  Our first activity was biking the island, which is really the main point of being on Hven. With a few mild inclines and occasional steep ones from the bluff to the shore, it is useful to have a bike with 3 gears.
We rented from Camp Ven but they were the same bikes available at the large rental spot just up the hill from the ferry landing Bivekkin.  I would recommend renting from there because that way, you can bike back to the ferry. Since I had a smallish carryon, I would have gotten a bike with a cart. This would have been helpful the next day when the bus didn’t show up and we had to walk to the ferry. I am pretty sure it was because it was a holiday (June 6 Sweden National Day) but there was no holiday schedule listed on the bus stop sign.
IMG_1574
Anyway, logistics advice aside, biking around Hven is amazing. The colors are so vivid between the green fields and blue sky. The biking is pretty mellow and goes along marked paths that are mostly packed gravel, occasionally with some looser bits and some pavement.
IMG_1535
SMS, owning his fashion choices! (It’s his bathing suit!)
We went to Norreborg beach and went swimming. We walked to the edge of the dock and jumped in off the ladder into chest deep water. It was cool but not terrible. The Pacific near San Diego is much worse!  We dried out on the rocks and then continued on. We went to the smaller port Kyrkbackens and had a drink at Bread on Wine.  The kitchen at that time was closed, but they were open for drinks.  There were a few places on Hven that seemed to have opening hours posted but I’m pretty sure it was kitchen hours since we went to a few places outside of the posted hours and could get drinks (beer, coffee in the a.m.) but no food.
IMG_1606
Ribs for dinner
We had a feast of a meal back at Camp Ven, which had an associated restaurant Strandvagen with outside seating with a gorgeous view of the Øresund. I had the ribs, SMS had the chickpea stew, and we split ice cream for dessert. I had a really nice French rose that I’m hoping to find back home.
IMG_1546
View from our tent
We finished our dinner and got ready for bed. It was early but we had been battling jet lag this trip plus our bellies were full!

But did we die? Scandinavian Summer ADVENTURE!!!!

IMG_1465

Hypothetical question: if you knew that roller coaster had been closed all day for repairs (for unknown reasons to you), would you ride the coaster for the first ride upon reopening?

Ok, assuming the answer is yes (because why would it not), would you feel at all concerned that this was occurring in a foreign country and your fellow passengers were a bunch of rowdy, albeit delightful, Swedish teens who, in explaining why we were chosen as the “test passagiers,” said, “Danish do not like the Swedes.”  When I (oh shoot, losing the hypothetical here) said we were Finnish, he replied, “They don’t like the Finns either.”  Of course they don’t!  I have it on high authority from the book The Almost Nearly Perfect People that no one likes the Finns.

IMG_1478
Bright lights, like moths to a flame…

So, yes, at Bakken, SMS and I proved that smart people can do dumb things by waiting in line for the Rutschebanen, a wooden roller coaster open since 1932 after the ticket counter woman told us it had been under repair since 0900 that day and she did not think it would reopen. However, we saw some cars being tested, first empty, then with five employees. The line grew behind us- in front of us were the aforementioned Swedish teens. How did we know they were Swedish?  Apart from one telling us so, it was reinforced twenty minutes later, when the Danish ride operator was giving instructions, they made Swedish chef noises waving their arms over their heads saying “Borgi borgi,” which cause the ride operator to say, in Danish-accented English, “If you don’t understand, why don’t you just say so.”

Well, we didn’t understand the instructions either but we just decided to keep quiet, since SMS had already made vague threats that if I did any more Swedish chef impressions, there was going to be martial discord [note: this didn’t look quite right and I realize I should have written “marital” rather than “martial” but since martial means warlike and SMS was getting really tired of my Swedish chef impression, I’m going to leave it].  So, not knowing what was going on, away we went.  We ascended to the first drop-off.  Once we made it through that, I was pretty sure the chances of flying off the track were fairly minimal.  There were two semi-steep declines with one set of double bumps in the middle that were distinctly spine-unfriendly.  Near the end of the ride, the cars go into a tunnel that is guarded by a plywood naked woman’s torso and the cars go between her legs.  Very classy and appreciated by teens, at least Swedish boys.

So.  It was awesome!  After the first ride, the operator said something to which there were enthusiastic “Ja” replies. SMS and I may not be geniuses with strong self-preservation skills, but even we could figure out we were going again. Yay!  Then a third time, where we switched near the front. Then a fourth time where we switched trains. And then finally, for good measure, a fifth time. Bonus: it was all free!!!

Now, although everything seemed to be ok, the ride did not reopen to paying passengers after our test passenger run.  So, I still have no idea what was wrong but at least I am alive, typing this post.
IMG_1462

Now, you may ask, “This seems very stupid.  As one of your two blog readers (hi Mom and Mother-in-law Linda!), why would you do such things?” To have a good story for my blog, duh!

Jk. I felt ok because 1. Employees went first and don’t you think they wouldn’t ride if they had no faith in their repair and 2. The other test passagiers were teenagers, aka minors.  Who would want to hurt a child?

It was so funny because basically, the whole process seems like it just wouldn’t fly in the US. And that’s why I love Denmark 🇩🇰 !

Scandinavian Summer, Day 3: Copenhagen and Klampenborg

After another, less severe jet-laggy night, we woke up early and headed down to the hotel breakfast buffet. I love breakfast buffets in Europe!  The cheeses, seedy breads, skyr yogurt, and porridge- so good! There were also fresh juices in non-SMS approved tiny glasses and very importantly, good coffee!


We rented bikes for the day from the hotel. Not the best deal in town but pretty close to asking price and it was easy. We bikes along the Lake and then over to the Little Mermaid and Kastellet. Next, we headed over to Nyhaven and the arts center. We biked over the bridge and headed for the Vors Frelsers church.

IMG_1376

We arrived shortly after 10 and bought our tickets to ascend the spire. I’ve never seen anything like it (apart from the other time when I climbed it ~2010). You transition to the exterior of the spire for the last 1/3 of the climb. The staircase peters out just below the golden dome that tops the spire. There is no protective glass or jumper nets. Even better, the handrail goes from shoulder-height at the start down to waist-height at the very top. It is very disconcerting. We found out we were fortunate to show up when we did because there was a big line when we descended and left. I wouldn’t want to jostle too much at the top, that’s for sure!


We headed to Reffen, the food container area on Paper Island, passing Christiana and Noma’s new location along the way.  We ordered fries which I sort of wish we didn’t because we had a great lunch reservation but hunger levels were rapidly rising to crisis levels.

After our snack, we cycled over to Restaurant Sondehaan, a historic smørrebrød restaurant. We had aqua vit and smørrebrød.  I ordered the scrambled eggs and eel, mostly because I read about it as a “you’d never think about it but you’ve got to try it.”  Truth!  It was delicious. My second one was Rene’s (of NOMA fame) favorite. Halibut on caraway rye with dill. Both were really good- very high topping:bread ratio. SMS ordered the small plate of the day. It started with a make-your-own with two types of halibut. The next course was a minced steak with egg or as SMS said, “Look, it’s Loco Moco.”  Finally, his set ended with an almond cake that was quite good. Overall, I enjoyed mine more as I wanted the smørrebrød made for me by the experts rather than a make-my-own as a novice.


After lunch, we were hurting from fatigue. So we went to the hotel and napped. Then, we bought train tickets to Klampenborg for us and our bikes. We cycled the very short distance to Bellevue beach. Bikes are totally unnecessary for the beach- I had just wanted them for the path into Bakken.

IMG_1460
Entrance to Bakken

After some sun time and a swim, it was time for the amusement park. We went on three rides- two coasters and a very tame swan ride, which is basically a swan paddle boat on an elevated track rather than water. The riders peddling causes the swan to coast along the track. The roller coasters well…it’s worthy of a separate blog post so I’ll hold off for now!

After our fun, we headed back into the city. We split a pizza and a salmon tartare dish at the hotel restaurant, which was a perfect amount of food. Then, off to bed!

Scandinavian Summer, Day 2: Copenhagen

After a night of jet-lag caused insomnia, I was woken up by my phone. It was the AirBnB host asking me to let in the next guest and give her the keys. What?!  Well, it turned out that his wife, who was the one home during my stay, was asleep on the floor with her phone (uselessly) by her face. She had been up till 5, which I heard because of my insomnia, but apparently, she allowed herself to sleep. Honestly, I wanted to spill water on her head. I let in the next guest, warned her about the good/bad of the place, and managed to find another pair of keys. She left and for me, sleeping time was over.

I got up, dressed for the day, and headed out for Jaegerstradde, a very cool street in Norrebro. I walked through the Kierkegaard cemetery which is a very beautiful green space. Signs abound that having too much fun is not appropriate but that CPHers are allowed to use the park recreationally.

On Jaegerstradde, I first grabbed a coffee from Coffee Collective. It was a very bright but low acidity blend. Then it was off to Grod, for a breakfast porridge. I bought one of the preset menu options rather than make my own. I had the diced apples, almond pieces and caramel sauce porridge. It was tasty although I left about half the caramel sauce behind. After breakfast, I walked through a neighborhood park where a flea market was going on.  It seems that paying through cell phone via individual merchant code is very popular.  I can’t remember what it’s called in Denmark but in Sweden, signs abounded for “Swish.”  The playground area was interesting because there was a climbing structure for kids in the shape of a crashed airplane.  This seems potentially phobia-inducing.

IMG_1358
A crashed airplane climbing structure.  Don’t fly on planes, kids!!!

I walked back through the cemetery, this time stopping by the graves of Hans Christian Anderson and Soren Kierkegaard. Then, I let myself into the house where sleeping beauty continued to snooze, grabbed my bags, and left. I left a two-star review on AirBnB. The bed was fine and the room clean but I would never recommend the place.

Then I walked to Hotel Ibsens and left my bags. I want to Torvellhalen to wander among the food stalls. I was pretty hungry so I bought a Le Confit du Canard sandwich at Ma Poule and another coffee from a place not quite as good as the Collective.

IMG_1375
Another “would-have, should-have” potential purchase from Flying Tiger.  What is this amazing foreign game?!?!

Finally, it was time to pick up SMS!  I bought a Danish flag to wave at the airport. I almost bought an inflatable sumo suit at Flying Tiger but I didn’t. SMS says he’s happy I didn’t get it but I bet he would have secretly loved it!  We met up with each other pretty quickly and headed into the city. We checked into the hotel. We decided to walk over to the Islands Brygge public swimmjng area. We walked near the round tower and stroget. We tried to climb the Fers Kli church tower but we arrived 15 minutes after closing. So, off to the swimmjng area, preceded by a quick snack at Egils Deli.  We got three delicious smorbrod- a tuna, pate and hummus.

IMG_1378
Pre-swim snack!


We decided that we had known a total of zero (0) people who have drowned by swimming after eating so off we went. We entered the water by jumping off the 4.9 m high platform. On the way down, I was a little sad I didn’t know the water temp. Too late!!  The water was brisk and quite refreshing. We were surprised it was as warm as it was, but I had heard it was a very warm May so maybe that’s why.

IMG_1382
Biking the CPH

After our swim, we rented city bikes and headed back to our hotel. We went across the street to Kasalet Cafe and ordered the Stockholm platter, which was a smoresbord feast!  Falafel, hummus, meatball, sausage, bread, salad. It was so good!