Since I’ve Been Gone

May 3, 2011 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on Since I’ve Been Gone 

Yeah this has been fun…

And this…

Note – the upward graph means the dollar is getting weaker.  I got here March 15th.  Fun!

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Copenhagen

August 10, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on Copenhagen 

If Stockholm is your rich, cool, fun to hang out with, worldly aunt, Copenhagen is her slightly rowdier slightly hipper husband. The one who sometimes needs to be told that, no honey, another shot of tequila is NOT a good idea in fact.

Where the rest of Scandinavia sleeps, Copenhagen stays out drinking. The rest is pristine. Denmark has some graffiti, some roughness to its edges. Stockholm warms you with its beauty and its easy sense of living. Copenhagen makes you pay attention to the live music bursting out of its walls until late into the night. Not everyone here goes to bed at midnight, it shouts at you.

Oh and in the meantime we’ll just feed you meals like you’ve never had, give you drinks prepared by European mixology champions, and satiate whatever type of appetite you had when you got here.

It’s currently home to the worlds best restaurant, Noma. I didn’t expect reservations as they are booked for a year out at this point. But…I have at least seen the best restaurant in the world. And here’s what the front looks like.

No foodie’s quest is ever really done, and so I shall have to return when I have the clout of say, Paul Allen. You see his yacht, the Octopus, was parked in the harbor and I can only imagine the man with the largest private yacht in the world had reservations at this most exclusive of restaurants. Once again, this is his personal yacht, not a cruise ship. So, two “bests” sightings in the flesh in one weekend. Not bad.

I drive a freakin’ scooter.  Whatever.

Where does one go in Copenhagen to really imbibe? I’m not talking McFadden’s style drinking.  Real drinking.  You should join Grommit at his Bar 1105, and if you’re lucky he will tell you the story behind those skull-shaped glasses called the “Unlucky Tourist.” Around 10:30 it turns into a scene, so we got there at 9:00 and secured a front row seat to the action. He regaled us with stories of the tiki culture, praised certain American drinks and bars, walked through his entire menu and his philosophy behind it, and described his recent competition win that now shows up on his menu as a “Copenhagen”.

The bar itself is simple, austere. A few low black chairs in front greet you as walk into the slate grey room, and a simple bar adorns one wall. The whole room can’t hold more than 100 people and even that is pushing it. The DJ spins upbeat electronic and lounge, but that’s not why you’re there either.

You’re there to drink, plain and simple. And if you can make it be sure to try the drink with this description. “A confused Mexican walks into a bar looking for passion. She leaves in the arms of a German. It was a match made in heaven”. Drink you will, with expertly crafted drinks by true champions of their art.

Now let’s suppose you stayed up a little too late at Bar 1105, and in the morning you feel somewhat like an unlucky tourist yourself.  Head over to the Coffee Collective and grab a cappuccino.  After telling him I was from Chicago and knew Intelligentsia coffee the barista pulls my coffees back from me and says “Let me make you another one.  A better one.”  I told him he needed to look up Crop to Cup, ’cause they’re better.

This about says it all...

So you’ve got your caffeine fix, and have done some sightseeing in Copenhagen.  Maybe you saw Nyhavn?

Anyway you’re HUNGRY at this point and you don’t have reservations at Noma because you’re not a big shot, nor particularly wealthy.  Head to Aamann’s for some open-faced sandwiches.  These still embody the “New Scandinavian” cuisine making waves in the foodie world, and making Noma the best restaurant of the year.

Braised pork belly in there somewhere

Fresh salmon salad

After lunch you want to ride your bike around aimlessly until you find this amazing statue :

Gotta love those Danes.  Now if you need a little r & r after all this work, head on over to Christiania, on the eastern edge of the city.  “Founded” in the 1970’s, it’s basically like the people at Woodstock never left, with slightly less mud.  A smallish area of the city, pot is legal here and I think  some other stuff as well, but I didn’t ask.  The rules include : no needles, no guns, no fighting, no pills.  Also no showers and no soap, but that’s not written anywhere.  They don’t think they are part of the EU, and are generally pretty chill.  That’s probably because everyone is stoned, but still.  You enter down aptly named Pusher Street, and the first bar you see has a sign offering free pot to any women who show them their… Yeah.  There’s really not a whole lot else going on.  A few bars, a bike shop, a couple other businesses.  Mostly people just kind of…hanging out.  So we had a beer in the main bar, in so far as anything there is “main” anything.  While it’s cool to live and let live, and I’m all for these people being allowed to stay there and do their thing…I could never choose to live there.  They need some serious Febreeze and a shower, asap.  But hey, it works for them.  Back to Europe now, shall we?

A few more shots around Copenhagen :

Hans!

Stockholm was amazing.  I was just happy my entire time there.  Copenhagen – Copenhagen is where I’d want to party.  This party would start on a boat around 11:00 a.m., relax around dinnertime for an amazing meal, and pick back up again with some incredible cocktails.  We’d finish as the sun’s coming up, singing Mr. Jones in a karaoke bar just off the main square near City Hall.  That’s how we’d do it.

Also, we saw this guy fit his entire body through a tennis racket. I love Copenhagen.

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Candyland

August 9, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on Candyland 

You can’t help but hear things about Stockholm before you go. Urban legends, myths of titanic proportion, fellow travelers who almost foam at the mouth talking about how much they love it.

All of them are true. Every last one.

Sitting right outside Stockholm is an archipelago of about 3,000 islands that comprise a breathtaking national treasure and one’s view as the ferry from Helsinki pulls into port. The weather as I woke was 70 and sunny, and stayed that way for the rest of my time in town.

My hostel was actually on a boat, and so for a few days after I left Sweden even the entire world was rocking ever so slightly. After walking almost two miles to get there I was a sweaty mess, and decided it was the perfect time for a run. Everywhere i went there were jogging paths (silent J) and they all converged on the water at some point. My hostel host, not acquainted with the idea of running long distances, was adamant that the 7 mile loop around Södermalm was too much, and directed me to a smaller island nearby. Hundreds of people out running and biking, and an almost hidden beach where locals were sprawled out enjoying the almost never-ending sun this time of year. Trails, hills, water, forest, and sunbathing Swedes. Probably the best running locale I’ve ever found. Two hours later the rest of my adventures in Sweden could begin.

The next two days are somewhat of a blur, but I remember a lot of museums. Good to see but you’re not really interested in that, except for one maybe, the Vasa museum. Vasa in Swedish means “old old wooden ship”. Well not exactly but that’s what the museum is. Several hundred years ago the Swedes, at war with Poland, built the Vasa as one of its grandest ships. So grand, in fact that it sank less than a mile out to sea, where it sat until the 1950’s. Then they literally lifted the entire ship out of the channel and put it in a museum, where you can find it today in its entirety. It looks like this:

My favorite part was of course the description of punishments merited out on board. Some of the worst crimes were punishable by tying the offender up with rope, and throwing him over the bow and dragging him underneath the entire ship.  So…maybe a “time out” isn’t quite bad after all.

Other highlights of the museum marathon included :

The Royal Armory

The Royal Carriage House

The Museum of Economics and Currency (leave it alone, I went to Univ of Chicago.  I’m a dork)

The largest currency in the world.

And Drottningholm Palace, where the royal family currently lives.

After two days of back breaking..hard work? I needed a rest.  So I hopped on board a sailboat and decided to see some of these islands everyone was talking about.  Six hours on a sailboat, can’t be too tough can it?  You’re assuming there’s wind.  Any wind.  At all.  Like someone on shore sneezing.  Not for the first hour and a half there wasn’t!  So we sat in the harbor for an hour and a half, even though the ship had a motor.  I don’t know.  Slowly the wind picked up and we did get a nice tour of the islands that look like this:

At some point during the cruise I started talking with the only two girls close to my age, two native Swedes it turns out.  As the usual conversational topics progress, they tell me that they both work for the tourism agency in the city and are out here exploring the cruise around the islands.  Oh okay, nice.  As this thought floats around, I suddenly realize what’s going on here.

“You work for the tourism agency?”

“Yeah, that’s what we said.”

“So you’re getting paid right now?”

“Yeah”

“You just took a six hour sailboat cruise in perfect weather and got paid for it?”

“Pretty much.”

I need to look for a different kind of job.

The rest of my time in Sweden was pretty chill, which was great for me but makes less than perfect reading.  So instead, a few pictures :

And yes, the women are as beautiful as everyone says they are.

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You can see Russia from Finland.

July 10, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on You can see Russia from Finland. 

Wow. A lot has happened since we last talked. We’ve actually got Russian spies (hot redheads at that!) in our country. And for some reason they lived in Jersey. Explain that one to me. Maybe they were looking for strategic smells or something. Greece actually outperformed what it was targeted to by the IMF, but really 50 as a retirement age? Come on now. Narcissism hit an all time high. Transocean looks set to become the next Enron perhaps. A princess was dumped and Ellen now lives happily and richly in a beautiful apartment in Stockholm.

The Russians are obviously my favorite. Spies! Real spies! This is fantastic.

Ok sorry. I got carried away.

Let me set the record straight. I don’t have kids, nor do I still actually need a babysitter. There seems to be some misperception when I say “I went to Finland to visit my au pair.” See an au pair is a 19-22 year old European girl who comes to live at your house and watch your kids for a year while she learns English or something.

Hmm. As I repeat this to myself, I realize that I should probably get one of these like, now. What an amazing arrangement. Kyle, Christine, I am borrowing Allison for the next year.

Anyway Tiina was my family’s au pair manyyyyyyyyyy years ago, and I say that because my sisters persist in telling me I am old. They’ll get over it eventually. She has come to visit us several times and so I wanted to return the favor, see her, see her family, and see Finland.

I also tried to visit Russia but couldn’t get a visa. Current events being what they are, it makes more sense now. Maybe I am a spy and just don’t know it yet.

So again. I do not have kids, nor do I still need a babysitter. Well…..on that last point…debatable. But whatever.

We had an excellent visit, a good mixture of sightseeing and also seeing how actual locals live. Apparently they love Guitar Hero just as much as we do, and so I got beat soundly several times by her 13 year old son Joona. At least the 5 year old didn’t want to beat me. Although she did make me wave to her friends in something that sort of resembled show and tell, I’m not sure.

You may have heard rumblings of this thing called Midsummer Fest, when everyone in Scandinavia celebrates essentially 24 hours of sunlight by throwing parties, eating lots of food, burning things (not like they do in Columbus, OH but controlled burning), and generally making merry. This, I suspect, is followed shortly thereafter by 24 hours of crying as they realize the days are from here on out getting shorter, and sunlight is becoming yet again a rare commodity. But I can’t be certain.

We drove about 70 km outside Helsinki to Tiina’s parents house where her husband Janni had prepared no less than 45 courses for us to eat. Grilled salmon, lamb, salads, potatoes, and on. But if there’s one thing you should about me, it’s how predictable I am when choosing a favorite. He made this chanterelle mushroom sauce, which he then ladled into a mushroom that looked like a huge cremini, but not quite a portabella. Then. Then, he wrapped them in bacon and grilled them. Anything wrapped in bacon is good, but a fire grilled mushroom wrapped in bacon?

After dinner it was time for the sauna. Most Finnish houses have saunas in them, and I think we should start doing this. Basically you grab a beer, sweat half to death, take a cold shower, run outside to chill out, drink some beer, and do it all over again. It’s amazing. Great way to spend three hours. Yeah. Sometimes these sauna going sessions last three hours. But the best part is the self-flagellation. You grab this birch whip, and use it to beat yourself, more or less. Apparently the birch stimulates the skin and has healing properties? Get your “Thats what she said” comments out now… It was cool, regardless of any healing properties. Well, no, actually it was easily 110 degrees inside and I almost melted. A perfect way to induce an incredible sleep…

One of the best things about all of Scandinavia is the vast amounts of water everywhere, which means you have to take boats and ferries everywhere. So my trip from Helsinki to Stockholm occurred on an overnight ferry. It was nice, except for all the pro-Ghana jerks watching the USA-Ghana world cup game. One thing was interesting though. The buffet is touted as one of the best deals around. It was €32 which I thought was kind of steep. I continued to think it was steep until I walked by the drink station and saw a few spouts for wine and several taps for beer. Unsure at first if this was free or not, my questions were soon answered by a guy who walked up, slammed his wine, refilled to the brim, slammed THE ENTIRE GLASS, and did this three more times.

I wasn’t sure, but I began to think this might be why there was a two hour time limit on the buffet.

Catch up with you next in Stockholm, where I woke up the following morning…

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Auschwitz

July 8, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on Auschwitz 

“You are now standing on the spot where over 1,000,000 people were sentenced to death.”

How do you even begin to contemplate that?

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Djuret / Animal

July 2, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on Djuret / Animal 

Djuret : (n) 1 – the Swedish word for animal. 2 – Restaurant in Stockholm that serves up ecologically friendly sustainable fair wrapped in a crispy bacon crust.

Elevation, you’ve got competition.

On the recommendation of my friend and classmate Michaela, I decided to try out a restaurant that sounded pretty interesting. It didn’t hurt that it fit in nicely with my world view and how I think food should be appreciated. Djuret only serves one animal on its menu at a time. One. They take in the entire animal, butcher it, and spend the next several nights serving it.

I like this for two reasons. First, I hate wasting food and think killing an animal to use only a small part is such a waste. If the animal is going to make a sacrifice, at least do it the justice of using it in its entirety. And second, this style restaurant challenges the chef. It makes her use all her creativity and ingenuity to come up with dishes that won’t get boring, and will progress through a meal without seeming redundant.

This month’s animal? “Happy pig from Rocklunda”. Bring on the bacon.

Any questions? Just ask your placemat.

Long before you taste the food, you are made keenly aware that you are in a carnivore’s den. No vegetarian options here, thank you very much. This is a meat lover’s mecca, a refined cave that offers no apologies for its love of flesh. The lampshades are small grills, turned upside down and converted into light fixtures. Hanging meathooks adorn the walls and watch over you as you eat. Meat grinders double as candle holders. And your table covering? Over the nice white tablecloth, butcher’s paper with anatomical diagrams of the meal you are about to enjoy.

One thing this restaurant doesn’t do is discriminate. (Well, perhaps against vegetarians and PETA members) Steakhouses tend to be male oriented hangouts, designed by and for men. I’m thinking here of The Strip House in NYC that’s actually designed to look like an old school bordello. Djuret was clearly designed to appeal to both sexes, without regard for anything other than an appreciation of crispy animal dishes. (Come on, you and I can both name a number of man-eaters we’ve met over the years. Women love flesh too!) This was apparent not only in the decor but in the dishes as well, which I’ll get to shortly. No 32-oz porterhouses on this menu. This was actually refreshing – its purpose was singular, and clearly executed. And all this before I’d seen a menu.

Two appetizers, four entrees. And some olives. TGIFridays, you can keep your 48 page menu. There’s no excess fat here.

As I sipped my Sweden-brewed liter stein of Sleepy Bulldog IPA, I decided on my appetizer and entree.

I'll have a litre of ale...

I started with a sausage “pot au feu”. The sausages were made in-house, and tasted fresher than any I’ve had. They were sprinkled throughout with herbs, and cooked in a beer broth. A complete bite consisted of sausage, some grilled onion, blanched carrot, boiled potato, and a bit of the beer broth that the chef had foamed over the top of the dish. They had me at “home made sausages” but it gets better.

It is truly a shame I can’t upload pictures, (HA You’re reading the edited version because now I can!) because the next dish really impressed me. Bone-in Pork rib, singular, grilled. Served with braised cabbage, sautéed shallots and creamy potatoes. When it came to the table, I was unsure where the bone actually was. I’d never had a rib cut like this. It looked more like a slab of bacon before it’s been sliced. The skin was incredibly crispy and contained hints of honey. The next layer was fat unlike I’d experienced in ribs before. A far cry from chewy, nasty fat, this was a perfect coating for the rest of the bite. It easily gave way as you chewed, melting over every piece of meat and giving it a much more luxurious feel. The meat itself was moist and smokey. I’m not entirely sure how they pulled off so many different flavors and textures in one piece of meat to be honest. You progress from a crispy skin to a melted layer of fat to a piece of meat that’s obviously been smoked for some time…I’d be hard pressed to replicate that at home.

The entire plating

Layer upon glorious layer...

I hated it.

I think I tasted the cabbage and potatoes, but can’t really remember, and if you’re reading this far about such a meat-focused restaurant, you don’t care either.

The service was impeccable, and the waitstaff was all dressed in sharp black shirts and dark jeans. It’s kinda like, they’re formal, but they like to party. This is, after all, a butcher shop. They can’t be too uptight.

As I finished the last of my Sleepy Bulldog, I wondered if finally I had found a restaurant I wanted to emulate more than Elevation in Aspen. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the wasabi caesar and perfectly crafted pasta dishes waiting for you out West. The local, creative, sustainable cuisine being served at Djuret is at the very least a worthy competitor. I’ll just have to return to see if every single visit is as good. One of many reasons I found to return to this amazing city.

In today’s foodie world, terms like organic, sustainable, local, locavore, and on and on are being touted as what you should do, how you’re supposed to eat. Essentially you should know your food, know the choices you are making, and be aware of the consequences of what you put in your body. Mr. Pollan calls this “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

At Djuret in Stockholm, there is no dilemma.

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“Night”life in Scandinavia

July 1, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on “Night”life in Scandinavia 

You remember my trip to Istanbul? (you member, member? – George Lopez) Going out in Scandinavia is just like that, without the mafia and ugly people. In other words, expensive as all get out. You can expect to pay upwards of $40 for a drink* and it will usually be small. Some of the wine pours have been liberal but that’s about it. Many places close early as well, and since the sun is always at least peeking over the horizon, you feel slightly like you’re getting gypped a bit.

That being said, and me being rather determined, I’ve still had an absolute blast. After returning from Estonia, Tiina met me up and brought me to this restaurant called Seahorse. (I love seahorses. I love seahorse things. Lighthouses rule.) There we met her coworker Mari who is “your age and knows where to go out.” Seahorse was a traditional Finnish restaurant, and one of their specialities is fried herring.

Now, my exposure to herring is limited to Monty Python movies. It’s ludicrous to suggest cutting down a tree with a fish in any case, but for some reason I always assumed herring were large. I guess because the nights who say Ni could only be so ridiculous, and cutting down a tree with a large fish is less ridiculous than cutting down a tree with a small fish? Anyway I am sad to report that my first thought upon seeing the fried fish on my plate was “There is NO way anyone could cut down a tree with that.” Not even a sapling. Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me.

First you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with....a herring!!!

Despite not being useful as a lumberjack’s tool, the fried herring was really good. I also had some of Mari’s liver, and that refers to her dinner entree and is not some vague reference to fraternity style hazing.

Afterward we went to a jazz club called Birdland that played live jazz for about twenty minutes. Then, as we tried to buy our $36 drinks, the cash register breaks. We can’t get anyones’ attention to order drinks and even pay exact change with cash. I figured just throw over €100 and be done with it! No. No one will help us. Finally I hear the owner speaking with an American accent. Thinking I can win some favor, I ask where in the US he’s from.
Kansas City – he snaps at me.
“Well he may be from KC but he definitely fits in in Finland.” – Mari. Despite my experiences otherwise, Finns will readily tell you they are not the most talkative, gregarious bunch. I can’t say this was my particular experience, but they all seem to sing the same song when it comes to a national temperament. I don’t know.

Mari agrees to put up my antics for one more night, and so we meet up after a day of sightseeing. Now…Tiina was my old au pair many years ago and so babysat me when I was about 11 or 12. But some relationships, especially separated by years and distance, don’t adjust to changing circumstances. She gives me very clear instructions about how to get where I’m going and about how to get home. Then gives me the address written down in case I miss the last night bus. Ready for a rowdy night, I inquire as to when the trains start up again in the morning. She just shakes her head at me and laughs.

Long story short, around 4:00 a.m. I can’t help but think “Man, my babysitter is gonna be so pissed!!!”

We went to a place called M Bar which was one of many outdoor terraces Finns love frequenting the few months of the year they can. Much like Chicago in that way actually. After being accosted by a guy so out of control he didn’t know where he was (he told me I looked like Roger Federer and then accused me of being French) Mari and I started discussing how Finnish 20 somethings did the whole dating thing. Apparently – guys PAY ATTENTION – it is customary for the girls to approach guys. AND the guys there don’t know how to respond. They don’t make small talk. They don’t ask follow up questions. So all you have to do is show up, wait for a girl to approach you, and make small talk. Now I know lots of people who struggle with this back home as well, but not nearly enough to classify it as a national problem. I was slightly incredulous. It seems to good to be true. And this carries over into Sweden, based on the conversations I’ve had with locals. It’s unbelievable. I would think that guys cooped up for months at a time would at least make an attempt! Trip over yourself, whatever, but talk to the damn girl!

Neither country so far stays open too late, as a general rule. Which seems odd because I would think, again, that you’d want to take advantage of sun when you had it. What do I know…

Tuesday night I was out in Stockholm with a group of locals I met, and this hysterical character named Jonas. Picture a well-heeled Swede – in shape, smartly dressed, very witty. We start discussing jobs, business school, etc and he tells me what he does.

Turns out he owns a distributorship that only distributes women’s lingerie. Despite the fact that this is an awesome job, it does have its downsides, or at least hysterical moments. Like if you’re on a sample buying trip in the USA, and get stopped at customs. And the agent opens your small suitcase to find it packed to the brim with women’s undergarments. I’m just glad I personally have not had to get out of a situation like that yet. However I’m glad guys like Jonas exist because, at least in my opinion, women’s lingerie is a good thing and should be distributed.

My favorite quote so far comes from Mari. It’s midsummer festival and Helsinki is fairly empty. She’s been expressing frustration with the dating scene and Finnish guys all night. I asked why the city was so empty on one of the longest days of the year.

“Because everyone goes to some damn summer cottage with their friends, and they all sit around and murmur at each other.”

So, until next time, here’s murmuring at you kid…

* slight exaggeration.

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Back in the U.S.S.R.

June 28, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on Back in the U.S.S.R. 

In my effort to abide by rule #17 of my travel (go somewhere that makes other people say “Why the hell would you go there???”) I spent a day wandering around Tallinn, Estonia. Unless you’re a single male who has studied abroad and have heard other people say “Bro, you gotta go. The women are HOT” you probably are wondering the same thing.

The quick and dirty. Super well-preserved medieval town on the Baltic coast, site of several anti-communist uprisings and held a decent solidarity movement. Germanic and Polish influences, and yes. Their women are nice as well.

This is where pictures come in handy. There’s not a whole lot to tell here. The ferry over was a 2 hour ride through calm waters under a crystal clear sky (terrible). Then I wandered around Old Town for a while, and, because I love markets, popped over to their market. Or whatever it was. Instead of normal things you’d find at a market, I found way too many pair of womens’ underwear that looked like it belonged in the 1930’s. Weird.

A view from the top of the Old Town

I did see the ex-KGB headquarters though, and the bricked over windows in the basement where “special” prisoners were questioned. I’ll upload a picture later.  Which is now apparently.

They bricked over the windows in the basement. Damn Russians.

Lunch was at a place called the Beer House, and all the waitresses were dressed in old school leder….leader….something hosen. Those traditional German outfits. You know what I’m talking about, I’ve seen you drinking St. Pauly Girl. When I walked in and saw a midget dressed in pirate costume, I knew I was in the right place. Expecting a good beer but unsure about the food I stayed anyway. On the beer – house brewed honey Weiss. Very solid beer.

As for the food…I was pleasantly surprised. Really surprised. These Estonians can cook. I started
with a plate of homemade rosemary sausages that were good, but not enough to really convince me. The entree did.

Grilled pork ribs, but they were cut more like beef short ribs than traditional pork ribs. Smoked and grilled, they had a nice crust followed by a juicy, smokey finish. Again, pictures will follow here. The ribs were served over potatoes, carrots, and parsnips and accompanied by a spicy mustard sauce flavored with cinnamon (that was cool…going to be worked on at home) and a tart cherry sauce. I’m pretty sure I licked the plate clean. Pork ribs are tough, especially the short rib cut. If you’re not braising them, you better be spot on with your chosen technique. These guys were. Well done Estonia, well done.

Mmmmmmm Pork.....

At that point it was pretty much time for me to head back. There’s not exactly a ton to do, but you could probably spend two, maybe three, days wandering around. If you wandered reaaaaaaalllllllyyyyy slowly.

The ferry ride back was during the final USA game in group play. So of course the ship was only playing the England game. I must have hit “refresh” on my world cup app about 1,000 times, convinced we lost. It read 90 minutes and then all of a sudden up pops Landon Donovan’s goal. The two other Americans and I went nuts and then everyone stared at us. People here definitely don’t hate Americans, but they do hate our soccer team. Oh well. That’s over now.

On to Finland, which you will hear about soon enough!

Last little side note here. The WC has been linked to a few other blogs, which I think is pretty cool. One is a discussion of men’s urinals because of my post about the bathroom at the Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong. Because I’m vain I google myself every now and then. You should too. Yourself, not me. Well me too if you want. I wont complain.

Keep on keeping on…

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On the road again…

June 27, 2010 · Posted in Travel · Comments Off on On the road again… 

Or more precisely, the plane, train, ferry, and road again. There’s only so long someone with my affliction (wanderlust, immaturity, living in fantasy land) can stay in one place before you start feeling the grass growing underneath.

In my case that was 12 weeks, long enough to take some classes, graduate, ski one more time, see my awesome goddaughter be born, and plan my trip back over to the Continent. Which includes Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, and Poland. I was, until yesterday, pretty excited about watching the World Cup over in Europe but….we’ll come back to that. (Italy wtf was that? Seriously?)

But hey now that I have my MBA, I’ve got another 40 years to work. What’s four weeks in the span of that time? So off to Europe I go, and will try and keep you updated along the way. Some
stuff will have to wait. Like pictures. Apple “makes” an attachment to the iPad that allows you to upload pics from your camera directly. Except no one has actually seen one in any store. Every one told me to order it online but I was leaving too soon. God forbid you go into a store and expect to buy something, you know, at that moment. Despite my love for Apple products (talk to me after I get the iPhone 4 though) I hate their retail stores. No one that works there has had any sort of customer service or sales training. Anyway. I digress. Some stuff besides pictures will have to wait. I tend to get caught up with people I’ve met, things to explore, and local watering holes to test out before writing my blog. Somehow those watering hole visits go long, which prohibits my from editing, especially on an iPad with a funny keyboard.

Let’s go back to the World Cup. Usually I root for the USA and Italy until the USA gets knocked out. Then I root for Italy, and whoever is playing against France or England. Which, right now, is exactly NO ONE. France and Italy, the finalists last time, didn’t advance out of their weak groups, and the USA and England are both out in the first round. Someone in Italy needs to be fired and probably imprisoned for that. Unbelievable. Now I am just going to watch and hope someone other than Ronaldo and Messi does something cool.

So, for the next few weeks I will be, yet again, refusing to grow up and do something responsible with my time. Sit back, enjoy your jobs, and relax knowing that some of us are out here doing the hard work of having fun in foreign lands for you.

Cheers!

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The Backpacker’s Essential

April 1, 2010 · Posted in Policy, Travel · Comments Off on The Backpacker’s Essential 

Having done a fair bit of backpacking in my time, I think I should provide some perspective on what exactly to bring when backpacking.  This can be around Europe, Asia, Latin America, wherever.  This list will ensure you look like every other backpacker out there and cannot be mistaken for someone who has recently showered.  This is not a comprehensive list and merely my tongue-in-cheek random compilation.

Enjoy!

Backpacker packing list

– Che tshirt
– Hammer and sickle t shirt
– One other ironic t shirt from wherever you are that’s supposed to shout your independence but just makes you look like every other mildly rebellious American. The “same same” t shirt from SE Asia fits here…
– Two days stubble.  (not necessarily recommended for women)
– Birkenstocks
– Friend with dreds (okay if this is actually you)
– One item of your choice – ridiculously over priced compared to everything else you own (a Canon DSLR is an excellent choice here – it’s high saturation in this particular market means it’s less likely to get stolen. Careful of your lenses though.)
– Street vendor bracelets
– For women – combo shirt/skirt/sarong, unwashed.
– Unintentional sense of irony
– Condescending attitude to everyone with a real suitcase and hence, not a real traveler like you
– A stench
– A book by famous dead philosopher or poet or politician. Anything communist is a good choice here.
– A towel. See Douglas Adams.  He was right.
– A CD player or Walkman. You wouldn’t dare own an iPod.
– Nothing clean.
– A country more dangerous or exotic than everyone you meet, that you have traveled to that’s less dangerous than current country, so you can always interject and say “yes but when in east Timor don’t do THAT!”
– Cigarettes.

Specific instructions for Americans
– Your gear will look cleaner and newer than most, despite the dirt you tried to rub on it before you left home
– Leave 2003, skip the Canadian flag on your North Face backpack. You’re not fooling anyone and it’s a dead giveaway anyway.
– Check the WHO health rankings before you travel. A handful of third world countries have better health systems than we do – might pay to get hurt there.
– English words in a foreign accent do not a linguist make.

– Bush didn’t hurt travelers reputations that bad and Obama won’t help them. It’s up to you so don’t be a humongous ass and expect everything to be easy. There’s a reason people like Canadians.  They’re just nicer.

– Except parting with your money. That’s always easy.

This should get you started.  You’re practically ready to have your very own, full-blown backpacking adventure.

I’m serious about the towel.

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