Monday, July 18, 2011


Last week, Kevin, Kevin's dad and I took a short trip to Edinburgh. We saw and did more than I thought we could fit in the trip- a tour of a whiskey distillery, Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, a walk through Alberfoyle, a trip to Blair Castle and Doune Castle and Edinburgh Castle...and so on and so on and so on.

We were astonished by how green and craggy Scotland is, as well as the tempermental weather. But we were even more impressed by the age of the city, and the incredible architechure. And it's quite remarkable how many vegetarian options are available in Scottish bistros and restaurants. Judging from the market penetration of tofu, Quorn, and similar proteins on the menu at virtually every establishment we went to, Edinburgh is giving San Francisco a run for its veggie money.


Hi there, internet! It's me, Melissa. It's been a white since we talked (ok, since I said anything to you, anyway). We've had lots of adventures since the ice melted. Right now, we are in the middle of a marathon vacation before we start our new jobs in August. In fact, we just got back from a trip up to Dalarna ("the valleys"), reportedly the Swedishest area of Sweden, and home of the famous Dala horses:

We spent the weekend eating pastry, drinking coffee and beer, hiking up hillsides and picking and eating wild strawberries and blueberries with our friends.

Interestingly, this area we stayed in is a massive crater formed by some meteor hundreds of thousands of years ago. Steeper-than-expected hills surround lakes and spectacular views were to be had.

Last week we tried to take a trip to Birka, Sweden's first city, which is located on an island in lake Mälaren (west of Stockholm). Unfortunately we found out too late that the ferry doesn't run on Tuesdays after a 2 hour trip on the bus. But all was not lost! We did see some rune stones and burial mounds and the remains of a castle!

Next up: MacPanoramarama!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cribs: Stockholm

After two long months, we finally got an apartment! We are located on an island called Lidingö immediately east of Stockholm. The landlord actually said we could have the apartment a month ago, but it took another month for the rental association to approve us. We are living in what is called a "bostadsrätt", which is a building where people buy membership in the building association to give them the right to live there. Because you are buying a portion of the building, and not a particular apartment, you do not technically own the apartment you live in, which means the building association actually retains the rights to determine who can and can't live there.

To get to work from our new apartment, Kevin takes a small local train that goes around the south side of Lidingö to Stockholm, then takes the subway from there to where he works. There are a few restaurants and a hardware store within walking distance, and we can take the train or a bus to the next little village to go grocery shopping. It seems to be a great apartment in a good area, so it all turned out well in the end.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Melody Festival

A perennial Swedish television event is the Melody Festival (Melodifestivalen). It is a six part live television event where a wide range of individual singers and bands compete to win the title of best song. The contestants play their songs live on the air and are voted on over the phone by the viewers at home, similar to how people vote for American Idol in the US.

The quality of the contestants range from un-listenable to sad to great, and the types of music is on a spectrum from dance pop to singer-songwriter to rock power ballads. The lyrics are mostly in English (because they want to eventually compete on a world stage) but about a quarter of the songs are in Swedish.

The absolute worst song was "Give Me a Spaniard" ("Ge mig en spanjor"):

Since the beginning of the event five weeks ago, we have watched most of the shows at our friends' houses, which makes the bad singers bearable and even funny. At first, we watched it purely as a way to observe a Swedish cultural event, but I have to admit that now I actually am looking forward to the finale next weekend.

Who's going to win? I am rooting for The Moniker, who is completely weird and silly, which is why I like it:

But probably the most typical type of song is this by Danny:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ice Skating Adventure!

Over the weekend, we experienced the aquatic equivalent of cross country skiing: long distance ice skating! Looks like this:

This adventure took place on a frozen bay with paths plowed into the snow (we just got 20-30 cm of snow on Friday and it's not melting in this -5 to -20ºC weather!).

Just as there are street bikes and mountain bikes, so too are there special ice skates for this purpose:

They have longer blades than hockey or figure skates, which makes it easier to pick up speed. They're also completely flat (no up/down curve in the blade) for a smooth ride over the ripply or snowy surface of the ice. It's harder to make a sudden turn but it's not something that comes up that often. (Kevin had a much harder time in his non-long distance ice skates, so it seems to really make a difference!)

Anyway, the view was phenomenal, and it felt really nice to get the blood moving after spending so much time carefully maneuvering snowy and icy pathways.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kevin's Daily Commute

Kevin works in an area of Stockholm called Liljeholmen, and while we are looking for a permanent place to live, we are staying with Melissa's aunt and uncle in Järfälla, a suburb of Stockholm. We have no car, so every day, Kevin must make the commute from Järfälla to Liljeholmen by public transit. Public transit in Sweden is very efficient and widespread, so it is fairly easy to get from anywhere to anywhere else without too much of a hassle. Even so, it takes Kevin about an hour each way to and from work.

Each morning, he gets on a bus near the house we are staying at, which takes him to the nearby commuter rail station. From there, he takes a train to Stockholm's central train station, where he transfers to the subway to get him the rest of the way to work.

This is a map of the area, and the approximate path the train and subway takes (Google maps doesn't display transit directions for Stockholm, so this is a car path):

View Larger Map

However, that is what Kevin does on a normal day. But yesterday, a huge amount of snow fell and blanketed the region, completely overwhelming Stockholm's mass transit system. All the buses were cancelled, so Kevin was planning to walk to the train station, but a good samaritan drove by and offered Kevin a car ride to the station, which he gladly accepted. The trains were also delayed, so by the time he got to work, nearly two hours had passed.

Here's is a medley of scenes from his commute to work yesterday morning:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Skiing in Stockholm

As you might expect, skiing and ice skating are popular winter activities in our neck of the woods, but you might be surprised by how easy it is to go skiing right here in the middle of the city:

We have not gone skiing or ice skating ourselves yet, but Kevin will definitely be doing some skiing in April when his whole company takes a weekend trip to some secret location in Europe.

Our search for an apartment continues without success yet, but despite that we have started to get used to living in Sweden. We have made a number of friends, Kevin's new job is going well, and we get better at Swedish every day. We make a point to speak only Swedish with Melissa's family, and Kevin speaks as much Swedish as possible at work.