UPDATE: Pushed to the top due to new photos and text.


Once again I find myself writing about a vacation in retrospect, which I guess is good because it means I was so busy vacationizing that I didn't have computer time/access. I mean I'm actually too busy at this very moment to be blogging, but I wrote most of this post in the Stockholm airport a few days ago, so I'm just adding photos now. Chronology out of joint, yo.

Retrospectivizing: on the other hand, as I think I've said, writing in retrospect be's difficult because your fresh and vital first impressions are not nearly as fresh and vital ten days later, and so every missed day's post is coming from the same, quickly solidifying post-vacation perspective, etc etc etc.

But yeah, what can we do about that now, nothing, I guess we forge ahead.


The post-vacation me wants to talk about Sweden first. This being my worst-researched vacation ever, I really didn't know what to expect, physically (in terms of the landscape), culturally, etc.

It's nothing like visiting Italy, which you've seen in books and movies and travel shows for so long that when you finally go there you're barely surprised by anything except how much "more so" everything is than what it was depicted as.

And I guess that's why my primary impression of Sweden is one of quiet surprise: it's a completely beautiful country full of seemingly endless forests and lakes and hilly farmland, and very few people. And the light. Light like this makes anything/everything look better.

If there's anything bad to say here, it's that it's kind of monotonously beautiful, although I covered only a tiny portion of the northeastern coast, and you could probably say the same thing about many northeastern coasts around the world. But as I was driving this weekend, I tried to imagine the whole thing covered in a foot or two of snow for six months at a time and, yeah, I can't say that the abnormally high Swedish suicide rate didn't cross my mind.


My quiet surprise completely extended to the food. I ate much, much better here than during my two-week-long wander through France a couple years ago, and nearly as well as we ate in Sardinia last year. I mean, on the page/screen, the food might not radiate excitement, but seriously, everything (with the exception of one cup of gas station coffee and a couple of pastries here and there) was very carefully prepared, perfectly seasoned, and fresh, fresh, fresh.

Admittedly, I was kind of in the palm of their hand: the food here is based on things I like. Fish, game, sausage, and liquor. But to be traveling in a foreign country unresearched and not have a bad meal is definitely noteworthy. Thinking back, some of the credit for this must go to Britt, who made 2 or 3 totally impressive dinners at home, and was constantly (quietly), off-handedly filling the fridge with a stream of preserved fish and fruit.

In kind of an Italian or French way, the quality of the ingredients pushed everything in the direction of absolute goodness. We had herring served a number of ways with potatoes, just herring out of a jar, sounds unpromising, but it's all quite a bit more subtle and complex than the marinated herring we see here in Amsterdam. These dishes were all really simple and unexpectedly delicious, and not nearly as fishy as they sound, especially the ones with caviar, which was mild, cold, refreshing, and difficult to stop eating, my favorite caviar ever.

Below: two of the many herring varieties sold by Abba (not the band); herring in dill cream and herring roe sauce with roasted potatoes; petite herring in a clove, allspice, and sugar marinade (ansjovis means sprat, not the anchovies we know) with red onions, sour cream, and mashed potatoes on knackebrod; bleak roe caviar and butter on knackebrod.


No comments: