Monthly Archives: October 2011

Stockholm

Oh wait.  I detailed the alarming start to our day in Stockholm, but I never said anything about actually being in Stockholm.  Let me fix that.

What a great day.  The big deal this visit was Ostermalms Saluhal.

Ostermalms Saluhal

It is a huge indoor market.  And they have everything (well, accept Fish Throwers.  They’re only at Pike Place Market in Seattle).  Check out some of my favorite displays:

And then, of course, there were stalls that made reminded me why I chose the baking program over the culinary program:

Teeth! And eyes!

Feet! And heads!

Yes.  It is true. I am a kitchen weenie.  But you knew this and accepted it a long time ago.  Didn’t you?  So, back to my kind of market photos:

Beautiful!

We also walked by the water and enjoyed the sunshine, ducked into the bakery on Riddargatan for a cup of coffee, perused the shops a bit, … and eventually rode the bus back home to Vasteras.  An extra bonus for the day — Sweden turned their clocks back one hour Saturday night (fall back, spring forward).  One extra hour to sleep!

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Bathroom Humor

Chris and I played tourist yesterday.  We took the bus to Stockholm for the day.  And like any good traveller, I hit the bathroom before boarding the bus.  Well, that was my plan, anyway.  The bus station had one bathroom, and as is typical in Europe, you must pay to use it.  I waited in line outside the bathroom for what seemed like forever.  In actuality, it must have been long (you thought I was going to say that it was only a minute, didn’t you?).  Two people were in ahead of me, I assume they were a mom and daughter.  They were in there a looong time.  Suddenly, an older woman goes right up to the door (I resisted telling her that she was budding in line), bangs on the door, and yells something.  I assume she told the pair to get a move on because they hustled right out.  And they held the door for me!  Free pass to the lav!

Well, I zip right in, shut the door, and try to lock it.  There is NO LOCK on the inside of the door.  Now, I noticed that everyone else could lock the door (it showed it as locked on the outside, and I was in line long enough to take note of this before my turn).  I wondered, ‘how the heck do I lock the door?!?’  Last time I didn’t lock a public bathroom door, Richard Simmons (yes. sweatin’-to-the-oldies-Richard-Simmons) walked in on me.  I was NOT about to risk that again!

Okay, so here’s how it went.   Look, look, look.  There must be a lock somewhere on the door.  Mutter to myself.  No lock on the door.  Mutter to myself some more.  Hmmm, wait – there are buttons next to the door.  Shoot!  there are three buttons and only Swedish.  No English.  Well, how hard can this be?  One button is solo.  Two buttons are together – one white and one red.  I think the red one must be lock (because the symbol on the outside of the door turned red when it was locked) and the white on next to it would be the unlock button.  So I press the red one.  As you can probably guess, this was not a good choice.  Something starts quietly beeping.  Hmmmm.  What to do, what to so?  I open the door.  It keeps beeping.  Louder.  I mean it was pretty loud.  I think everyone in the station could hear it.  Hmmmm. What to do, what to do?

There is only one thing to do, of course.  I walk out of the bathroom, let the door shut behind me, and walk across the station as if I don’t hear a thing.  Super nonchalant, that’s me.  Until I see Chris.  He looks at me, then just looks at the floor and starts laughing.  He has no idea why there is an alarm going off, but he does (correctly) assume I had something to do with it.  We sit there a few minutes and I tell him what happened.  By this time, we have to head outside and board our bus.  We walk past the bathroom – everyone is looking at the closed door.  There is a red light flashing above the door and loud beeping.  We laugh as walk out.  Then I fess up that I never even got to go to the bathroom.  Then I really get the giggles.  Oh, and the first thing Chris says after I told him what happened?  ‘You have GOT to put this on your blog!’

Okay.  While we are talking about bathroom faux pas, I have one more story.  While in Prague, Rachel and I enjoyed tea at U-U-something-something cafe.  A pot of tea each.  And you know me — I had to go to the bathroom.  So, on our way out, Rachel and I find the restroom.  It had a cute little painting on the door: a person with wings. We stood there a moment and tried to figure out if it was a boy or girl.  the person was wearing pants and a jacket but it had winds.  Boy or girl?  Unisex, we decided!   Rachel went in first and took the far stall.  Uh oh, my stall had only a urinal.  Um, Rach?  I think this is the men’s room!  Out we went and looked for another door.  Aha!  Now it was obvious.  The Ladies’ Room painting was definitely a girl.  Jury is still out on the other painting.  It was obviously the Men’s Room; but the painting?  I still say unisex.

Boy? With Wings? Unisex? Help!

Okay. THIS is a girl. So therefore, in comparison, the other image is a boy. Got it! Wish we would have seen her first!

Lesson of this post?  Go to the bathroom BEFORE leaving the apartment and don’t go again until returning home!  Well hey, at least I can laugh at myself.  And now you can laugh at me too.

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Birthdays

Lucky me!  My birthday lasted for days.  It began when Rachel took me to the Prague Royal Orchestra’s performance in the Municipal House.

The Municipal House, Prague

We thoroughly enjoyed the performance: Pachelbel’s Canon in D, Mozart’s Divertimento D, and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  The music was beautiful, as were our surroundings.

Check out the interior of the Municipal Bldg!

But seriously, all this couldn’t hold a candle to my date!

My date, Rachel.

After the concert, we set out to find Rachel’s favorite dessert, palachinka. Unfortunately, Rachel’s favorite stop for palachinka was closed.  But that afforded us the opportunity to seek out  a new restaurant and try their palachinka.  Well, we never did find a restaurant that was still open AND served palachinka, which is (I’m told) a delicious local version of crepes.  They will be on the ‘must have’ list for my next visit to Prague.  I did, however, enjoy a walking tour of part of Prague and time to chat with Rachel.  But you know, we both wanted a little sweet treat to end our evening.  So, we shared two slices of scrumptious cake (one slice of one cake, one slice of another).

Yummmm

Yes, we ended up at McDonalds.  Really.  But just look at these slices of cake.  McDonalds in The States definitely does not serve this.  And it was on real plates, too!  And the cake was quite good.  At McDonalds.  Go figure.

So my birthday celebration had really begun one day, but according to the calendar, it was really two days later.  Rachel and her friends started my birthday by singing a wonderful rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ at midnight.  How fun is that? (I’d say, quite fun.  And surprising, too).

On my actual calendar birthday day, I spent the morning with Rachel and headed off to the airport (she took me to the train and sent me on my way – with great directions – so she could go to class).  For the record, I held it together when I said goodbye because I will see Rachel in Sweden next weekend.  You all know me; I’m not so good with good-byes.   (can we say that is part of my charm?  No?  Okay.)

Prague Airport

Anyway, I headed back to Sweden, with a stop in Zurich.

I took the bus from Arlanda (Stockholm’s airport) back to Vasteras and enjoyed a beautiful ride.  The bus had wifi!  But, I didn’t stay on-line long — the scenery was just too beautiful: farmland, countryside, water, sunset, autumn leaves,…

Chris met me at the Vasteras station and cooked a delicious birthday dinner at home.  My day ended with texts from Max.  What a birthday – I spent it with all three bears even though they were in three different countries.  I also received greetings, from friends and family back in The  States, thanks to phones, Facebook, and email.  What a great day.

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Czech out the Swedish Chef!

The culinary experiences of this trip were:

-part sentimental (Rachel’s favorites: Cafe Louvre,  Dr. Placka pizza stand, U-u-something-something which is Rachel and Lisa’s name for a great teahouse, … )

-part educational (local treats: street food here, salad there, soup in between).

Rachel enjoying trdelnik

Sharing tea with Rachel at U-u-something-something

-part comforting: I cooked and baked a little in the penthouse.  Everyone needs mom’s cooking once in a while!  It was fun to play in the kitchen while Rachel and her roommates were off at class.  They came home to an apartment filled with (I hope) delicious aromas.  Okay, they always come home to tempting aromas because there is an Indian restaurant on the first floor of their building.  But the aromas and food I mention here were intended for them, not for the restaurant patrons.

Of course, there are some places whose food experience just make you feel at home, no matter where you are.

the taste of Seattle + the look of Prague

I must admit, we just looked at this Starbucks and admired the fabulous doors. It was a sign of home that made us smile, but we wanted the local experience.

Okay, shopping was a challenge.  I was feeling confident about shopping because I figured out the Swedish ingredients…I was all that and a bag of chips (bag of flour?).  Yeah – until I looked at the shelves in Rachel’s market.

cukr = sugar

I figured out the sugar and flour, but was at a loss for baking powder, yeast, and cocoa.  Rachel and I scoured the shelves but came up empty (or uncertain).  So, we went back to her apartment and asked her Czech buddy, Leona, for translations.  I was set!  Rachel provided me detailed directions to get to the big grocery store and I went (by myself!) while she was in class.   Did I mention that I went by myself?  It was actually very easy because Rachel gave me great directions – including details on the route and instruction for riding the tram.  She made it simple (whew!).  So, translations and directions in hand, I set out to the the big Tesco and found all I needed.

Um, yeah. Apparently, I didn’t need translations for the products in the big Tesco.  Made me laugh.

I was practically giddy, though, because I made it to the store (using public transportation that provide zero English) AND BACK, all by myself, without error.  Yay!  I mean really – who wants to call her daughter and say ,’Hi, Honey.  I’m lost.  I am on the corner of two streets I can’t pronounce.  How do I get to your home?’  Who wants that, I ask you?!  I, for one, do not.  So, again, I was feeling like all that and a bag of chips (or maybe a bag of Czech groceries!).  Ingredients in hand, I was able to make the items Rachel requested.  Chili, rolls/mini challah, shepherds’ pie, and cookies.  The differences in the some of the ingredients (Czech vs Swedish vs American) was interesting and added to my feeling of accomplishment when everything turned out okay.

mini challah

chocolate cookies - perfect because they didn't require brown sugar (something we couldn't find)

Oh, one more thing about grocery shopping.  Look at these teas!

Tea anyone?

Again, made me laugh.  Just what does the tea with the underwear pic do for you?

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Prague with Rachel

Visiting Rachel in Prague was wonderful.  Simply wonderful.  From beginning to end.  So, let’s take it from the beginning:

I had strict instructions to exit the Prague airport, walk to our designated meeting place, and call her.  Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see her waiting, flowers in hand, just outside the exit.  She looked beautiful!  Happy, radiant, healthy, beautiful!  I was so happy to see her. And hug her!  We had ample time to catch up on our bus, train, and tram rides to her apartment.  I was immediately impressed by her knowledge of Prague and the Czech language.  She is completely at home.  And speaking of home, check out (or Czech out) her apartment building!

Rachel's building. She and her roommates share the top floor (the penthouse suite).

Her window is that beautiful one at the very top of the building,and it provides a lovely view:

View from Rachel's bedroom

After we dropped off my stuff at the apartment, Rachel took me to the Prague Castle area.  She was an excellent tour guide, providing insightful commentary on the castle and surrounding area while allowing me to play tourist.

Me. Playing tourist.

First stop: The Charles Bridge.  Legend has it, those that touch the image of the Czech martyr saint being thrown from the Charles Bridge guarantee their return to Prague.  You bet I touched it.  On to the castle and surrounding buildings.  Rachel was very indulgent, letting me stare, sometimes open mouthed, at the absolutely amazing architecture.

Prague Castle
Prague Castle Church

Prague Castle  and the surrounding buildings are sights to be seen. The buildings’ detail simply boggles my mind.  And while I am amazed, interested, and awed by these buildings, I must admit that I don’t find them all inviting.  But that’s okay – because I wasn’t invited to live in them anyway, right?

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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

I’m in Prague visiting Rachel!

Rachel!

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Say what?

So.  Swedish.  Now there’s a challenging language!  I heard a little story about one of Chris’s coworkers who wanted to learn Swedish before coming to Vasteras on business.  He studied with one of those self-paced learning programs.  Feeling quite confident, he spoke Swedish to a local.  The Swede listened to him and enthusiastically encouraged him to continue his efforts to speak Chinese.  She thought his Swedish was Chinese!  This, I fear, would be me.  And therefore, I did not make an effort to learn Swedish before I arrived here.  My mistake.  I do not like that I don’t understand or speak Swedish.  I try in earnest to get in and out of stores without the salespeople knowing I don’t speak Swedish.  Mind you, Swedes speak English very well.  When I admit my lack of Swedish language skills, everyone seems happy to speak English to me.  It’s just that I would like to be able to speak Swedish.  This is something I’ll definitely work on between now and the time I return for our next visit.

I sought a little intro to Swedish on line and found this very helpful video: Simple Swedish.  There are actually three installments even though I have only posted a link to the first one.  Watch the video and you will see what I am up against.  Oh, and it is true – Swedish television isn’t censored like in the States.

So, while I have no Swedish language skills, I do enjoy trying to figure out the language as I go.  I am picking up some words here and there and enjoying stretching out  my brain a bit. Some Swedish words are very similar to their English translations, or just obvious in their use: Hatt= hat.  Ut= out.  In= in.  Hamburgare= hamburger. Bageri= bakery.  Hej= hello.

Then again, some words make me think I am inside one big Ikea, where the Swedish names of things sound almost like English words (but not quite) or the Swedish words sound like what the item’s function.  Consider:  muggar= mug.  Nudlar= noodles. Kollegieblock= notepad.  This phenomenom led for a major giggle-fest the last time Chris and I went shopping.  I commented about this topic and mentioned a few examples (like I just did here).  Then I told him that I saw a plunger in the store and it was called a poopenpusher.  I just about had him going, but  thenI burst out laughing.  Alas, he caught on.  But I had the giggles anyway.  Then he started reading Swedish sounding like the Muppets’ Swedish Chef and I was a goner!  For the record, I love the Swedish Chef.  ‘Bork Bork, Bork!’

The Swedish Chef

Okay, I also love all the other Muppets, too!

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