Along the Away

a traveler's tales

Archive for August, 2012

When I returned home from India I wrote a post about India’s lasting impressions on me which ended with a spiel on gratitude. At the time, I wrote that the subject was mandatory for anyone who travels this great continent; it can’t be visited without raising all manner of gratefulness for the experience as well as for home.

On the flight back to Sydney from my recent travels I realised that pretty much all travel triggers a sense of appreciation, particularly felt in that last half hour before you land back on home soil, when you’re hanging on to the last moments of your journey before returning back to normal routine. And you usually do come home committed to keeping up new-found pleasures or habits. So I think this impressions post should become a post-travel tradition.

Four months in India is different to four weeks in Sweden and Denmark, but there’s certainly plenty to write about.

From the Away:

För Fan! I’m a not a big swearer, I’m more of a retro exclaimer; far out! holy moly! what the! But sometimes you do need something a bit more hardcore. Amongst the many Swedish swear words I learnt, this one is my favourite. I like the way it sounds, I like that it starts with F so you can start out hardcore (“Fffff…’) and quickly swerve into foreign hardcore which is less likely to cause notice (and offense) to the people around you. It’s a good one to have on hand, I use it quite a bit now. You can use Google Translate to work out what it means.

Simple food. It’s a fact that most people eat 10% of the same kind of food 90% of the time (this is not a certified fact, I read something like it once and have settled on my own statistics). So when you visit somewhere new it is refreshing to try new cuisine and new food combinations. When you stay with friends you get to adopt their food routine, and I quite liked the experience in Sweden. My favourite thing was having fresh bread with thin slices of cucumber and cheese (that you slice off a big wedge at the table with a fancy cheese slicer tool that I bought and am still trying to figure out how to use) for breakfast. I never would eat this for breakfast at home, I’m a muesli with fresh fruit and yoghurt or a breakfast smoothie kind of breakfaster – yes I usually start the day on a sweet note. But I really liked this morning change, I’m going to give it a go back home. I also liked the fresh, simple flavours we enjoyed in our Swedish summer dinnertimes. Lots of salmon and salad, shrimp in a yummy, light creamy dressing.

Beautiful homes.  It seems every Scandinavian home could be put in the page of an IKEA catalogue or feature a home interior blog. Every home I went to was stylish, bright, airy and welcoming. It is the land of IKEA I know, but wow!

Unassuming natures. There’s a stereotype that Swedes are cool and reserved; that it can be hard to break the ice with them. I was lucky to be visiting friends so my introduction to people was always going to start out on a warm note. While I do agree that Swedes are more reserved than other cultures when getting to know new people, they are still friendly – I met so many lovely people there. I suppose it is the introvert in me, but I appreciate unassuming natures and the more organic approach to sussing someone out and taking it as it comes. I find dramatic and extroverted personalities draining, so I liked how getting to know people in Sweden was calmer and felt more genuine than in other places.

And for Home:

Hot summers. So in Australia, summers are hot. We go out for the day with bare legs and arms and do not think of bringing a cardigan, even if we are not coming home til after dark. Any day is a beach day (yes, even if raining you could comfortably go for a swim in the ocean and feel OK about it). It is a reliable heat, so you can make plans accordingly and never be caught out.

Cold and Flu tablets. Oh happy little boxes of pretty coloured pills. Take this colour in the daytime, take this colour in the night time and voila, back to good again in 2-3 days. Never will I stray from Australia without them again. Never.

Aussie cafés, lattes and brunch. Café visits easily make up 80% of my weekends’ highlights. The café loitering, latte drinking, brunch ritual in Sydney (and Melbourne and beyond) is really top notch here; surprisingly I’m yet to find the experience matched anywhere else in the world!

Aussie warmth and curiosity. Aussies are a naturally curious bunch. Extroverted and introverted types both approach meeting someone new with an open interest in getting to know them. While in Sweden, I would often find myself introduced to new people and the conversation would revert to common topics between the friends with no further expectation/reference to me until quite a while later. This was in part refreshing as it relieved the pressure of being the new person, but after a time it was also a bit alienating. In Australia, when someone new is introduced, particularly if they’re not a local, all interest and curiosity is on the new person. Where are you from, why are you here, have you done this, tell us about this… and so on. The conversation would not stray to topics that the new person is not included on for quite some time, and when it does there is a commentary provided to bring the new person up to speed. Aussies are warm and considerate hosts in this way; I wonder if it has something to do without our relative geographical isolation from other countries? I previously mentioned my appreciation for the unassuming nature of the Swedes, so this is not a dig at them, but rather a reminder to appreciate the warm nature of people at home (and of course both references are generalisations, there are variations in every culture).

I can’t wait to go back to both countries again – next time in Winter time, as I would love to experience a northern hemisphere Winter and Christmas and see the northern lights :-)


I took this photo on my last morning in Copenhagen, as I lingered over a last lazy breakfast watching the morning unfold.

This crazy busy square is called Amagertorv. It’s located on Strøget, the pedestrian-only shopping street (the first one in the world) which features some of the oldest buildings in the city – some from 1600.

The Stork Fountain was given to King Frederik VIII and Queen Louise on their silver wedding anniversary in 1888.  It is a popular meeting spot for people so it’s a great scene to people watch while drinking coffee and eating bread and cheese :-)

From here I was off to the airport – goodbye Copenhagen, till next time!

Strøget is famous for its shopping – every big European brand you can think of is there – a dream for an Aussie girl (even if much of the shopping was through the window). The street runs for 1.1kms – yikes! I walked through there many times, even on my way to other places, just to soak up the vibe and hustle and bustle. I stopped for fika lots, just to enjoy the people watching.

There were many street performances to watch too. This group were really entertaining, they juggled a bunch of apples amongst themselves to an instrumental track all while staying in character.

Nyhavn is definitely a highlight and is one of the most famous sights in Copenhagen. I came here on the first day of my holiday with my friend when we sat in the sunshine and drank Carlsbergs, then I came back lots of times during my week visit. Mostly to walk up and down eating ice cream, or to stop for lunch.

Copenhagen is still enjoyable in the rain, I spent a wet afternoon nice and dry inside the Denmark’s National Museum which had lots of interesting exhibitions from the Stone Age, the Viking Age, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Modern Danish History. It’s located in a magnificent building – actually it is in The Prince’s Palace, which was built by Nicolai Eigtved between 1743 and 1744 for Danish Crown Prince Frederik V and Crown Princess Louise. It is no longer used by the royal family, but it still feels royal :-)

This striking round tower is called Rundetårn. It was built between 1637 and 1642 – wowsers.  Hans Christian Andersen, amongst many other famous names, studied in the Library here! From somewhere in my research: ‘Waste from the privy ran down into a large bricked-up container (the latrine pit), but despite experiments with open windows and double doors, the stench up in the Tower was almost overpowering. Water closets were installed in 1902 but the pit was not emptied until 1921, when nine truckloads of muck were shipped off.’ Ewww!

The inside is built like a corkscrew – quite an amazing story behind it – there is more info plus some funny tales on the website, where I ‘borrowed’ this picture of the unique inside. The 209 m spiral ramp winds itself 7.5 times round the hollow core of the tower, forming the only connection between the individual parts of the building complex.

The angles of the structures are breathtaking inside, especially under the influence of the light.

The top is 34.8 m above the street so of course the view is well worth the walk all the way around, around, around to the top. Just love this skyline, love Copenhagen!

Oh Copenhagen! What a stunner, I love, love, love this city!

I arrived by train directly over the bridge from Sweden and walked from Central Station to the Generator Hostel – which I highly recommend, it’s clean and friendly with all the optional extras you could need.

After dropping off my stuff, I had a few hours of daylight to take a quick peek around the neighborhood. There’s a beautiful park right around the corner, Kongens Have (the literal translation is The Kings Garden but it’s also known as Rosenborg Castle Gardens). It’s the most visited park in Copenhagen as well as the oldest, having been established in the early 17th century.

I came for a walk here every morning of my stay, the tree lined paths are so dreamy, perfect for a wander and a ponder :-)

I also took a liking to this giant statue of Queen Caroline – so foreboding! I’m not sure what type of Queen she was, but the statue sure has presence.

The gardens inside the park were established in the Renaissance style by Christian IV in the early 1600’s – wow! That actually blows my mind; something tenderly brought to life and curated by a gardener vastly outlives its creator – by centuries! Nature is so humbling.

My favorite way to first explore a new place is hitting the streets, and the good thing about quality hostels is that they usually run or can connect you with a walking tour. My first morning in Copenhagen I joined a three hour free walking tour run by Sandalmans. They’re a worldwide organisation that facilitates free walking tours where people with vast local knowledge and a flair for communicating that knowledge can lead groups of tourists around their city. There is no fee or obligation to pay for the tour, however the tour leader is volunteering their time, so the idea is that you tip them what it was worth to you. My group was lead by a young, upbeat woman who definitely knew her Copenhagen. We walked all over with plenty of time for photo stops, stories and a refreshment break.

The tour started at Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square).

These freaky gargoyle dragons were made for the nearby Dragon Fountain in 1904, based on a sketch drawn in 1889. They ended up being quite a bit larger than the original sketch so eventually smaller dragons were made and these big ones were relocated in front of City Hall.

Also located in the square is Lurblæserne (The Lur Blowers), a famous statue. They have been there since 1911, when they were gifted by the Carlsberg Foundation to celebrate the 100 year birthday of the brewer JC Jacobsen. There is a legend that says the two vikings blow a sound on their trumpets (lurs) whenever a virgin passes by!

We started walking from here; we saw so much I couldn’t possible recall everything. Some standouts include:

Christiansborg Palace, where a statue of King Christian IX sits in the square out the front. The palace is the only building in the world that houses all three of a country’s branches of government (cool fun fact).

We walked by Nybrogade, a pretty canal with beautiful historic houses running alongside. The canal is so narrow, it was fun to watch the long passenger boats performing twenty-point turns in the corners to get through!

We watched the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace, where the Queen and her family live. Aussie born Princess Mary and her husband Prince Frederik live next door with their children.

This pretty cluster of buildings is in Copenhagen Nytorv (New Square) with the Court House on the right.

There’s those famous coloured building rows!

I also did a canal cruise with Sandemans which is an awesome way to see Copenhagen from another vantage point. Across the water here is Salt, a famous Copenhagen restaurant located in a refurbished 18th century corn warehouse. It is very pricey and a bit posh – I did not go there (this time!)

We got off at wharves along the way to see some sights.

Gefion Fountain is really striking, it’s another donated gift given to the city of Copenhagen by the Carlsberg Foundation, this time for the Carlsberg brewery’s 50 year anniversary in 1897.

I enjoyed the story our tour guide shared with us – Gefion was a Goddess in Norse mythology who was offered as much land in Sweden as she was able to plough during one day and night by the Swedish King Gylfe. To maximize her results she turned her four sons into strong oxen. Gefion and the oxen ploughed the land that is Zealand the Island where Copenhagen is situated. This left a huge hole in Sweden where Lake Vänern is placed. On a map the outline of Zealand matches the outline of Lake Vänern! So obviously it’s true.

The Little Mermaid is also a famous statue in Copenhagen although quite unassuming once you see it. It’s small but graceful and has a colorful history which explains its fame.

It is yet another gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen, installed in 1913.

The sculpture is made of bronze and granite and was inspired by Copenhagener Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a mermaid who falls in love with a handsome prince on land.

Carl Jacobsen fell in love with the character after watching a 1909 ballet performance based on the fairy tale at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen. He commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create the mermaid in the likeness of ballerina Ellen Price, who danced the lead role in the ballet.

Ellen wouldn’t model in the nude for sculptor Edvard Eriksen so although the mermaid’s face is modeled on the ballerina’s, Eriksen’s wife posed for the body.

The sculpture has been vandalised a number of times – she has lost her head, her arm, and had paint poured on her more than once! Copenhageners are quite protective of her though, so each time she has been patched up.

This beautiful church is called St Albans Church, known as ‘the English Church’. It was built between 1885-1887.

Copenhagen is such a pretty city, so many photo-worthy shots at every turn.

The tour also took us over to Christiania, which is a self-proclaimed autonomous community living in a collectively shared and controlled village. It was founded in 1971, when a group of people cut a hole in the fence of an unused military barracks. Soon the area was known for it’s Pusher Street, where you could buy hash and pot.

Today around 1,000 people live there, many of them the original settlers. The population numbers are capped, if you grew up there or marry into a family you get preference. Every year more than 500,000 people come to visit, though there are quite a lot of rules to adhere to such as no hard drugs, photography, talking on the phone or running (apparently it alarms people that cops are there!)

It was interesting to take a walk there but it felt a bit awkward to be honest. I mean, it’s a neighborhood not a tourist attraction! And I think I did get a bit high just walking down Pusher St and breathing at the same time.

And that concluded our tour. I highly recommend the Sandamans free walking tour if you’re in Copenhagen, I would not have learnt as much as I did about each site if I had wandered around on my own.

This very yummy Swedish dish may sound a bit odd at first to us non-Swedish people, but it all makes sense once you have tried some – it’s delicious!

When my Sverige was living in Sydney she made reference to a Swedish Sandwich Cake a few times – at first I figured it was a lost in translation term (like when she insisted that her parents live in a tree house – later understood to be a wooden house). I thought maybe it was a sponge cake, sandwiched with some jam and cream, you know, normal like.

But then on her last days before she was going home to Sweden she grew increasingly excited about her mum making her a sandwich cake for her homecoming – and then I found out it really is a sandwich cake. Like, a sandwich, pretending to be a cake. With tuna and prawns. Sounded like a recipe for disaster.

And then after Sverige left us my housemates and I tried making one for our Halloween party. We made it in the shape of a snake, which just made a wrong thing even wronger. It was disgusting.

And now, on my last night visiting with my friend we decided to make one! Here is how it goes:

Firstly everyone must put on a floral apron. Just kidding, not everyone, just the workers – the pug is in charge, he does not need one.

Then you follow this picture tutorial on assembling the cake:

Finally it undergoes the pug inspection:

And it passed! Mmmmm yummy!!

I wish I could make it again at home in Sydney but I fear it’s not possible without the magic of being in Sweden. And I have no pug to supervise me…

Oh Stockholm!

August 10, 2012 Hej Sweden, Travel Comments

Time for a mini-break, so off we hop on a train in Älmhult to Stockholm for a few days!

Quite unfortunately I was hit with a head cold just before we left and it really hit me hard while away. I tried getting cold & flu tablets in the chemist but to my surprise they didn’t have anything of the sort! Even my friend seemed a bit miffed when I tried to explain them to her. Never again will I travel without them, as I spent a torturous week being a stuffed up, snot filled cotton head :-( Despite this, Stockholm was a fabulous city to visit and definitely on the list to revisit another time.

It’s such a beautiful city, it’s actually 14 connected islands! We meandered around all day everyday, along the waterways, the old part of town (Gamla Stan), the Swedish Royal Palace, went on a boat tour and traveled the subway. I love a city that is built for wandering on foot, it’s my favourite way to explore a city.

So, let’s look at the highlights:

Waitin’ for a train in Älmhult – any time with my Sverige baby is a highlight, even hanging out on train platforms in the rain. Yes it is summer, despite the winter clothing.

Really can’t get enough of the wandering around in pretty European cities. We just walked and walked, stopping here and there to look in stores or take photos. Or drink coffee :-)

We went on a boat cruise around the islands – it’s a must in a city that’s made up of 14 of them! We listened to an audio tour while we cruised about which was filled with lots of facts about buildings, islands, parks and historical events as we passed them by.

Dusk was a magical time to go for our tour, so pretty.

We walked around Gamla Stan, the wonderfully preserved medieval part of town and where Stockholm was founded 1252 (1252 – holy-unbelievable!) We cruised down Riksgatan, which is the main street passing through the Swedish Parliament Buildings.

Stopping for a happy snap on Riksbron (upon Googling I found this means National Bridge or State Bridge, which I find a bit amusing as I come from a place with a famous city-named bridge that is quite a hell of a lot bigger than this one haha!)

We went to visit the Royal Palace and did a tour there which was time well spent. We were lucky to catch the changing of the guard when we were done with looking inside the palace. When the band marched through they played a number of standard marchy-marchy music pieces. Then something pricked at the ears – something familiar… what the! It was Euphoria, the EuroVision 2012 winning song which so happens to be by Swedish artist Loreen. That song played constantly on the radio when I was in Sweden, it was hilarious when the Royal Palace marching band started playing it too!!

Definitely a highlight was taking a look inside the Nobel Museum. The museum is a testament to Alfred Nobel (1833–1896) who was a fascinating man who seemed to have his fingers in everything. He was a scholar, engineer, chemist and an inventor (he invented dynamite!) In his will he left his fortune in trust to set up and bankroll the Nobel Prize which as we know, still awards a prize in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace each year to this day. A really cool element in the museum was the ceiling where a poster for each of the 800+ Laureates who have been awarded the Nobel Prize runs along a cableway. There are also computer stations around where you can read all about the achievements of Nobel Prize winners.

There was also a cinema showing some amazing short films – truly inspirational interviews and archived footage showcasing various winners and their work.

My favourite thing had to be in the cafe there – and no I’m not talking about food for once! Lucky I had read in my Lonely Planet book to look under the chairs – they are all signed by various Nobel Prize winners! How cool is that?

Back out into the sunshine, we had such lovely weather for wandering. Helloo there pretty Sverige baby, Helloo pretty Stockholm…

Such awesome people watching, and dog watching too. The bustling vibe in the laneways was really my favourite thing!

Oh God, and the architecture! Please can I live here? Please!!

We walked over to Djurgården, a big green island where a few of the most famous museums are.

Cities on the water are just the best. Feels a bit like Sydney in that respect, but oh so different in architecture and vibe. I really love it though, I wanted to come back here even before I left it.

Sverige went to the Nordic Museum while I went to the Vasa museum. If I had time I would have liked to go there, it was pretty on the outside.

Firstly a quick hello to Astrid Lindgren – author of Pippi Longstocking. Next time I will check out her museum too!

I am glad I went to the Vasa Museet, it was just awesome! There is a giant 17th century warship in there, all in one piece! It tragically went on a trip to the bottom of the seabed barely a kilometre into its maiden voyage. It was a very fancy warship built for battle but unfortunately built a little bit out of proportion! It sunk in 1628 and was raised back to land in 1961, where it was painstakingly reconstructed and now sits in the museum. There’s heaps to see at the museum aside from the Vasa itself – lots of exhibits about the history of seafaring and life at sea.

Stockholm at night was fun, though I so wish I had been in better health. My head cold really knocked me out at night, particularly the first night when I took Panadeine Forte then went out for drinks – do not recommend this combination! Went a bit loopy and do not remember much about that night at all! The second night we caught up with one of Sverige’s friends who lives in Stockholm, we went to a cosy pub in Gamla Stan and had such a nice night.

Oh I loved my Stockholm mini-break and hanging out with my friend discovering the amazing in her country :-)

Pretty windows

August 9, 2012 Hej Sweden, Travel Comments

Our first stop after getting back home from Gotland was to visit Sverige’s fiance’s mum and pick up Göran who had been holidaying there while we were away.

They live on a working farm in a really beautiful house, it felt so peaceful. We settled down to have dinner at this pretty table and I had to take a pic of the window as I find Swedish windows so inspiring. Not just for the view outside them, but also for the way they are dressed. Sverige told me that it is a Swedish style to dress windows with candles, lights, flowers and light curtains to bring in some light and cheerfulness. That came about because the winters are long and dark, the sun rises late and sets early, but just because it’s dark outside doesn’t mean it has to be inside! I love it!