Monday, August 17, 2020

Sweden 2020 Day 3

January 29

We met up for the complimentary breakfast down in the lobby.  I’ve had complimentary hotel continental breakfasts before.  I previously presumed “continental” meant the European continent.  Maybe they didn’t. It was a breakfast spread coming close rivaling some Disney World buffets with a long bar of breads, cereals, meats and a selection of fresh juices.

After crossing the street (really the best way to do this) and plugging in my computer in the classroom, I learned our company had decided no international travel was mandatory.  
Nice timing there.  
I opted to come home in two days anyway.

Since almost everyone in the class was staying at our hotel, it made the appearance of the mid-morning sandwiches more confusing than the previous day following the giant hotel breakfast and the fruit and coffee. Jim inquired, “Do you always eat lunch before you eat lunch?”  One of the Swedes explained, “We eat like Hobbits, this is second breakfast.”

Since they all looked generally healthy, I believe this confirms the connection to all the biking. Lars was one of many who commuted that way, and moving binders down to our room for the class was one of only a handful of times he used the elevator in a thirty plus year career in the company.

The class was effective, generally well received, yet likely an extremely dull source of material for a humor based travelogue, which is a shame considering how massively intelligent and experienced in this area the rest of people I’m on the team with are.

The food however, continued to be amazing.  Lunch was a nice spread again, and we met an unusual flavor on the dessert bar.  One side had chocolate ice cream; the selection on the other side looked like vanilla, but was grayer than the yellow of the high end stuff.  It had anise flavor in it.  
This country had licorice flavored ice cream!  
It was starting to grow on me.

The having no idea what time it was followed me throughout the dark and soggy visit.  The moment exhaustion hit the hardest was every day between one and two in the afternoon, when it was a constant struggle to maintain awakeness. Whether it's because that was right after lunch, or it corresponded to the start of the workday at home, I’m not sure.  I am sure that it must have had an interesting effect as the section I was in charge of presenting occurred during that time frame, and we’re all lucky I didn't pitch face first off the podium after telling everyone to start an example exercise.

Instead of a sweet treat in the afternoon, there were savory cardamom buns.  This, along with the overall volume of food, would be the other reason (outside of general interest in a awesomely historical area) we all jumped at Lars’s offer to take us on a walking tour of the old city in Stockholm.

We were going to go freshen up at the next door (woo!) hotel first, but before that I had to finish some New Jersey work.  Not trusting hotel Wi-Fi, I stayed in the classroom for a bit.  Another overly polite Swedish woman from the restaurant asked how long I would be.  I answered that I needed a couple of minutes to finish.  She pointed out she had to lock up the room now and I countered with, “You should have led with that, I’ll finish up outside.”

I didn’t understand that by “lock up the room,” she didn't mean "lock up the classroom." She meant, “lock up all of  Restaurang S”.  I learned this when I tried to leave and was unsuccessful.  Luckily it was an easy to figure out lock that I could set to fasten again when the door closed, allowing me to not miss the night’s trip by adding a new unusual location I could fall asleep in, or possibly investigating the Swedish jail system from the inside.

We started by calling for an Uber, which I would normally be opposed to. This stems from years of being yelled at Up the Lake as a reminder not to hitch hike when other people did it.  Yes, I got in trouble when other people did stuff wrong.  No wonder I was the “good one," excluding scrabble of course.

Luckily, in Sweden, Uber drivers must have taxi licenses. That means they’re the same as a cab, except functioning on their own time.  This guy owned a cab company, and was a subject matter expert on cab culture in general. He told us about the London black cabs, the extensive requirements and encyclopedic street knowledge testing of the drivers. These are reasons why A) Uber is illegal in London, and B) Those cabs cost a fortune.

He drove us into Old Town.  The sogginess abated a bit to a light mist, which made walking around in the darkness easier.  The Dark and Soggy effect on attempts to take any pictures was in full effect however.- apologies for blurriness.  It was around dinner time, but felt like midnight due to the lack of light, and the fact that almost all of the many tourist and other stores were closed. I guess they focus attracting outsiders to operations when they have almost twenty-four hours of daylight.

Still it was fascinating to see cobblestone streets,  towering castles and other structures two to three times older than my entire country. 
Naturally I referenced Eddie Izzard’s “Europe, where the history comes from” bit.  Kerry recognized it and quoted some of his other routines, making me look slightly less insane than usual.  Some of the cool history Lars provided was about how the ancient Swedes founded Stockholm there based on the fact it was easier to get money charging tariffs at the port and to cross bridges than to go pillaging.  My opinion of Vikings dropped a bit that night.

The spread of the “culture” (for lack of a better term) of the United States was depressing.
In one large square there was a statue of a mythological Swedish king, a palace formerly used by the reigning Swedish king…and a Burger King.

We peeked in a lot of the windows of the closed shops. The rest of the group was fascinated by the naval paraphernalia and models in one store, because it was well crafted and historically significant.

I was fascinated by the name of the shop being Fartygsmagasinet, because I have the functional sense of humor of a seven year old.

It's an internationally famous store. How about that?  
Once again, my cultural sensitivity knows no bounds.

Lars explained the symbolism in many of the statues, and listed historic events that occurred. In most cases for both of them, it involved protecting Sweden from Denmark.  I guess the southernmost Scandinavian country is a lot fiercer than Hans Christian Anderson would lead one to believe.  Then again, everyone dies in his Fairy Tales.

We also got to see palace guards, the Nobel Prize Committee building, and a narrow block that Lars built up with a grand flourish…because he lived there as a student.  

We're a fun bunch,

Cars are conditionally allowed on the tiny streets, which made me happy they were deserted as we walked on them since I had problems fitting my shoulders on some of the roadways.

At one point we passed a statue of composer Evert Taube.  Actually, we passed a statue and Lars said it was a Swedish composer.  I couldn’t find a plaque, but when I explained this to my daughter, she took advantage of having a better understanding of living in the future than I do and found his name with a google search using the location of the photo I took.  This is also how I learned the real name of “Old Town” is “Gamla Stan.” 

(This of course translates to “The Old Town.”)

I’m sure we saw a lot of other cool stuff, including the juxtaposition of modern technological Stockholm on the border of the Old Town.  Sadly, I have spoiled myself taking notes on most family vacations, and my memory isn’t what it used to be. 
I do remember the cool ancient corner stone on one building of Viking origin. To protect it from horse and carriages taking the bend at high speed, cannons were stuck into the ground like bumpers to protect it.  

My country is embarrassingly young.

Lars guided us to an amazing restaurant owned by the Ardbeg Whisky people.  Needless to say, they had extensive whisky and draft beer lists.   I'm not sure if all the food in Sweden is of stellar quality (discounting Burger King), or if we ate in high end restaurants.  This is a problem with having no idea how the currency works and being on the team leader’s expense account.

I do know the place had the funniest bathroom signs I’ve ever seen.  Most places have gender neutral choices as each “stall” is their own little room.  This place had one for everyone marked with a straight and a dress wearing stick figure that had crossed knees surrounded by shaking movement lines.  The other one had the straight stick figure only, side view, with a “dotted” path from its midpoint into a trough.

I'd have a picture but it didn’t come out.  Not because of the dark and soggy this time, though. At the last minute I realized someone was in one of the rooms and was about to come out.

Jeff McGinley- Seasoned and Culturally Sensitive World Traveler.

Dinner was outstandingly insane even compared to the rest of the outstandingly insane food we had.  We all decided to start with a soup that had the same anise flavor that was in the ice cream at lunch.  Sweden is big on licorice I guess.  To use wording I’ve heard through my daughter’s Food Network addiction, the flavor was “complex.” There was a lot of stuff going on in that bowl, besides the licorice, and it was all fantastic. 

The main courses, including the interesting sides that came with everything, were equally delicious.  Jim went with fish again, featuring a prawn large enough to rival Ebirah.  Lars’s lamb vanished quickly as a testament to its yumminess.

Both women ordered the moose, which came out like an excellent pot roast.  Kerry, being from Colorado, was reticent at first, since they’re protected in her home state, and such beautiful creatures.

I had a fabulously rare and phenomenal reindeer steak. I was less reticent in my ordering, featuring the attitude of “Bring on roasted Rudolph!”

I took pictures of the food, but they didn’t come out either.  No reason other than my crappy photography skills this time.

As for beverages, I had an excellent local draft which I have no idea what it was. I told the waitress, whose English was better than mine overall, if she could recommend something local and dark. She asked if I preferred an ale or stout, and I said either, so she followed up with asking if I’d prefer bitter or fruity.  I answered bitter and received a frothy glass much lighter than I expected.  It did have some fruity overtones, but was extremely tasty.

I asked the server guy what it was and he said, “oonder-schmooder-doo, bork bork bork.”

I said, “Excuse me?” And he replied, “oonder-schmooder-doo, bork bork bork.”

When the waitress came back I asked her what it was and she stated, “oonder-schmooder-doo, bork bork bork.”

I’m paraphrasing. 

It’s fine though. Kerry asked if people there were offended by the Swedish Chef and Lars said no.

The point is, it didn't sound like anything printed on the menu looked, but was very enjoyable. Sadly, I won’t be able to look for it anywhere else.

After dinner Jim and Karin tried a bit of different whiskeys.  Then they got into a discussion about which was better that there was no way I was getting in the middle of.  I think it came down to Jim’s being smoother but stronger, and Karin’s having a flavor and warmth stemming from a tempting element of pure heated Stygian darkness brewed into it.  The waitress gave a diplomatic answer about which was viewed as better. (Jim’s was more popular, she preferred Karin’s, which was made by the owners of the place.)

We settled up, which required multiple little checks for the alcohol. (In case someone from expense reporting reads this.) Needing more walking after that feast, we went back to see a bit more of Old Town. Karin and I usually ended up in the back of the pack, being easily distracted by cool things. Falling behind with a native to the continent allayed my fears of being lost in Europe for the rest of my natural life somewhat.

We found a model roller coaster in one window made entirely out of candy. COOL!

It was time to return to the Grow Hotel (for that was its name.) Lars took a train home, and got the rest of us a cab using the same local resident taxi spider-sense that my wife used in Peru to find us a proper ride.

Back in my tiny, but at least illuminated, room, I talked to my family a bit before entering my on/ off cycle for the night.

Hmm...A lot of history, but still fairly low key for a Thousandth post.  
I'll have to celebrate with a more "me" theme for 1001 on Thursday.  

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MOM said...

1000 BLOGS! Boy, I've done a lot of reading. All of if it was excellent. I can say that - I'm your Mother.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for making sure I always know someone reads them!