Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kräftskiva i Ljusterö!


In Sweden, eating crayfish is a BIG deal. Who would've guessed? Eating crayfish is a yearly tradition typical for August* when the crayfish are in season (although these days frozen ones are available year-around - but that's not as fun, right?). 

The typical kräftskiva, or crayfish party, includes buckets of crayfish (see above), snaps (also above), newspaper hats (see below - not sure how necessary these are), and lots of singing. We actually had song sheets with both Swedish and English drinking songs, which our merry gang sang with great vigor, although slightly less harmony.

The entire meal reminded me of the Chesapeake Bay crab feasts I know so well from home. Picking meat out of the tiny cavities of crustaceans and drinking lots of beer/snaps. It is a time-consuming endeavor, but well worth the effort.

And this, all thanks to Greta & Magnus for hosting in their cozy country cabin on Ljusterö, an island just north of Stockholm. Tack så mycket!!

*You're right, this post is, once again, slightly belated. This wonderful celebration actually took place on September 1.

Monday, September 24, 2012

FUN @ Debaser

Last Saturday night, 3 American girls gallivanting through the streets of Stockholm found ourselves at Debaser in Medborgarplatsen where FUN played an excellent - albeit short - concert to several hundred fans. After enjoying cocktails with intriguing names such as Shady Place and Hips like Cinderella (I can recommend both), we managed to squeeze our way to within a couple meters of the stage, immersed in the intense cheers of a jam-packed&sweaty crowd. Perhaps these cheers were what prompted lead singer Nate Ruess to announce that we were his favorite crowd ever. He'd never say that to every crowd, right

Regardless, Ruess' voice is incredible, the band's music is light-hearted and fun, and the atmosphere of the show was indie-pop-haven. It made for a great night out, despite our failed attempts to meet the band afterwards. We settled instead for Sky Bar in Skrapen, Söder's highest building with incredible views overlooking the city.

My head and my feet faced the consequences on Sunday... but the night was well worth it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Party Time at the Sauna

Or rather, I should say, on the nude sun-bathing deck perched on the cliffs overlooking the sauna and surrounding docks. This post is late by a couple weeks - the party was August 25 - but I will write it anyway as a tribute to one of Stockholm's few beautiful, warm(ish) evenings this summer.*

For a fee of 200sek (that's about $30US), guests received a fruity welcome drink (or two); a buffet meal of fresh salmon, potatoes, and salad; an incredible, homemade chocolate raspberry pie; and all the chili nuts we could get our hands on. The classic Swedish BYOB applied - and guests certainly took advantage, some toting liters of vodka and whiskey. 

Built over 50 years ago, this partially-covered, wooden sun deck of Fredhällbadet overlooks Lake Mälaren and the islands Störa and Lilla Essingen. Despite it's central location, this corner of the island is tucked away and feels like a semi-escape from the city. 

Our presence at this annual jubilation dropped the average age by about 35 years - but that didn't mean our fellow sauna-ers couldn't party. The nearly full moon lit up the deck as we danced to the gubbrock band - "old-man rock" band - late into the night... or perhaps not so very late for us considering most of the others were still going strong when we bid our goodbyes. 

And the quote of the night: "I didn't recognize her with clothes on," whispered on more than a few occasions. Oh the joys of our naked sauna club.

*I can officially report that the temperature rose above 25°C (77°F) on a total of 5 days over the entire summer in Stockholm. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Confessions of an American Cycler in Stockholm

From April to November, my main mode of transportation through Stockholm is my bicycle. I bought my beloved cruiser the week I first arrived in Sweden, and have been a devoted rider ever since. 

Photo by NS (and his bike too!)

Over the last couple years, I have learned a lot about cycling in this city, one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, I should add. And I thought I was doing fairly well with my cycling competence until recently, as a series of events have unfolded, forcing me to completely rethink my form. 

Just this evening on my way home from Swedish class, I was pedaling uphill on Odengatan (one of Stockholm's busier streets) and cut left toward home. As I waited for a bus to pass before making the turn, I could just make out the face of the driver in the settling darkness - a face full of disapproval, shaking both head and finger at me for what may as well have been a mortal sin. Bus lane only: I must admit I'd thought of the possibility before, but it never seemed to be a problem for me to be there... 

Last week, I was vigorously cycling my way through the rain along Norrmälarstrand (one of the city's beautiful, waterside streets) when a stout man with glasses, a small dog, and a green umbrella with white polka dots approached the cross walk across the cycle path. I planned to sail smoothly behind him - but he stopped - forcing me to cut him off and prompting him to shriek a string of swear words in my direction while repeatedly smashing his umbrella against the ground until it broke. For a few seconds, I thought this angry fellow, whose morning I had just ruined, might actually chase me down. And on my 1-gear bike, I'm fairly certain he would've caught me. 

Which brings me to my next cycle faux pa: squeaky breaks. As you await a green light at an intersection and suddenly hear a high-pitched, screeching sound behind you, you can safely bet it is me. Oh the joys of a bike older than myself. Whether in car or on bike, there is no escaping the volume of this screech, especially on humid days. Pedestrians have actually told me how embarrassing my brakes are. Sometimes I share a sheepish chuckle with fellow-riders. But mostly I am on the receiving end of irritating glares.

Despite all of my cycle mishaps, big and small, there are a few things I do correctly: I always stay as far right as possible, allowing faster bikes (aka all bikes) to easily pass me. I wear a helmet. And I am happy to report that currently both my back and front lights are fully functional.

In conclusion, I have come to the realization that I still have a lot to learn about biking in Stockholm - and I guess it will probably be awhile before I'm doing this: