Sunday, February 27, 2011

Apartment Hunting


We have 1 month until we have to move. When we first arrived in Sweden we began casually looking for our next place to live. In the last month I've been spending more and more time trying to find something and all day today Dale and I inquired about apartments. Apartment hunting in Stockholm is not fun. The Swedish government wants everyone to be able to afford to live in the city and so to make this possible they came up with a queue system and parents put their children in the queue as soon as they are born. It often takes 10 or more years to get an apartment in the city. When people do get the apartment they just turn around and rent it for almost triple the government subsidized rate. It is nearly impossible to find a first or direct contract from the actual apartment owner. Most ads we see are either from the tenant in the apartment or from someone who has sublet from the tenant of the apartment. It's a nightmare. Here is one article on the problem if you care to read more about it:

On top of all that chaos we are checking ads every day, sending our interest within hours of the posting and we are still being put on waiting lists just to show our interest in the apartment. Again, it's a nightmare. Not even to mention the scams that are out there. We responded to one ad only to be told we needed to wire over via Western Union an ungodly high security deposit before we could even see the place. Ummm, no. I don't think so. More nightmares. So, all day today Dale and I have been looking for an apartment in the hopes that in a month we will have a roof over our head. We aren't being picky at this point, any roof will do. And the people we meet all say they had to move several times in the last year just because of this problem. One girl said she has moved 7 times in the past 12 months. I hope that isn't what we have to do or I'll be shipping most of my already reduced wardrobe back to the states! Sigh. Send us some good apartment hunting vibes, we need them! This regulated housing system sure has us missing the free market housing of good old Colorado!
Love Always,

Friday, February 25, 2011



On just about every corner in Stockholm you can find a 7eleven or a kebab shop or a hot dog stand. All of these places primarily sell hot dogs, called Korv in Swedish. I hardly eat hot dogs, only when I go to New England to see my Pops every summer (we still have yet to solve the Schonland's vs. Jordan's debate) or at baseball games. I have to say, the korv adds around town don't make me want to eat more hot dogs!
Hungry? Why not eat a hot dog of unknown contents with some questionable pink stuff on top? Yummy! Nope, I haven't been hungry enough to try it yet but I'm sure Dale will try it one of these days.

At one Kebab stand around town I spotted a guide to help figure out what was on these dogs. I snapped a pic to share with you all and so I could remember to google translate it later! :)

Here's what I found out, left to right top to bottom:
Ketchup and Mustard - the classic, nothing mysterious there.
Cucumber-mayonnaise and Ketchup - hmm not too much of a stretch.
Relish and Mustard - If it's dill relish I'd eat it!
Mustard and Mashed Potatoes - Not a combo I had thought of before. Next . . .
Shrimp Salad - so that's what that pink stuff is! I think I just threw up a little in my mouth!
Roasted onions - This one I just might try, I bet it would be good!

The pink sauce mystery has been solved. Phew. Now I'll be able to sleep at night again!
Love Always,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011



I can't believe I've lived in Sweden for over a month and haven't shared with you all the wonderful thing that is Fika! Fika means coffee break and it's an institution here in Sweden. At my work there is a morning fika at 9 and an afternoon fika at 15:00 (they use "military" time here) and it consists of coffee - no pastries at my office- and conversation. It's as much about the coffee as it is about the conversation, the social interaction. At Dale's work though, exists what I believe to be the finest fika in Sweden. They only do the afternoon fika and each week a different person is in charge. This person brings pastries, meats, cheeses, nuts, fruits, etc. He's a lucky guy right?! And Dale doesn't even like sweets! I'm a little jealous of his fika.

We've already grown so accustomed to this daily ritual that when we are out on the weekends we find ourselves stopping for fika at 3 pm, I mean 15:00, I'm still getting used to a 24 hour clock. Here's a picture of our fika this past Sunday.

We love fika! (and I love pastries!) This is a custom that just might stick with us.
Love Always,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Adjusting to Swedish Life (Svenskt Liv) Part 1 of ?


This is a Guest Post From Matilda’s Sambo, Dale!
Disclaimer: When I refer to “America” or “Americans” in these posts I am referring to the United States of America (USA) and corresponding US nationals. I know from past experience, for people from both Central and South America this can sometimes be confusing or offending as they also consider themselves from America and to be Americans. To be clear, I am not refuting this! But alas, I am not sure what else to call myself and I really don’t feel like going by “United Statesman” because than I will get grief from females telling me to make sure I differentiate from Statesmen and Stateswomen. Nor do I want to be referred to as a “United Statesian” or gringo, which I am not even sure are considered actual descriptions. And I am not a Yankee (they are from the northeast), I am not a Southerner or a Midwesterner or a Californian…… I guess I could call myself a Coloradoan, but who will know that internationally? Swedish people do know about Colorado though, can anyone guess why? That's right, Peter Forsberg! They love him just as much as we do, maybe more.... No that is not possible. They also know about Colorado skiing, but this is a rare coincidence and will not change my mind about this.

So, as Americans in Sverige (Sweden) there are some particular adjustments that we have had to make, along with the regular trials that foreigners/aliens experience in countries away from their own.  Who am I kidding? Everyone probably has to go through the same experiences when they move to a different country. We probably have it pretty easy actually considering > 90% of Swedes (Svenskar) speak fluent English! I think it is actually pretty amazing because they would rather speak Swedish (Svenska) to each other, so I always wonder when they practiced to get so good. But from talking with people at work I have found that they have an average of 7-10 years of English in school along with all the other stuff to learn. I think they accomplish this by having some classes in English as well as Swedish. I know that most classes at the University in Stockholm are now held in English (just changed recently). Plus the EU’s official international language is English, so any business between countries as well as major translations will be in English. You still can find older people or immigrants, most commonly from Middle East countries like Iran, that cannot speak English, but I don’t blame them because they moved here and learned the local language first. And learning a new language is very difficult!

(Maps are from
Since the language barrier is not such a problem (it is still an issue), adjusting culturally and geographically are probably the next biggest concerns. Since I am not culturally integrated yet I will have to talk more about that aspect later, plus everyone loves to talk about the weather so we will do that first. I am sure one can imagine that since Stockholm is basically at the same latitude (~59 degrees N) as Anchorage Alaska (~61 degrees N) that it could be pretty cold here. And it is, but I always respond by saying it is not as cold as other cities at this latitude! This defensive response is only half true because they both have similar summer temperatures, which range between 11º and 19º C (52º to 66º F) in Anchorage and 13º and 22º C (55º to 72º F) in Stockholm. But it truly stays warmer in the winter when you compare it to Anchorage. Anchorage’s average winter daytime temperature is -15.5º to -1.1º C (5º to 30º F) where Stockholm’s is only -5º to -1º C (23º to 34º F). Now I have not done an official study of the region, but I have heard that the reason it is warmer in the winter here is the Baltic Sea contributes to the region’s heating more than the sun does at this time of year. And then in the summer the sun does the work. But you wouldn’t know it this week! It has been hanging around -10º C (14º F) and I don’t like it! So all of these stats are just hear say and conjecture. Oh well, we are here and we are from Colorado so it shouldn’t be so bad right?
(Maps are from
Like I said earlier, I will post more about cultural stuff later, but I do want to mention that when I am walking around in Stockholm I fit in quite well. As my boss would say I look Swedish, personally I would revise that to Scandinavian. Since my family has Norwegian blood I guess that is no surprise. But when I told my boss this he said I should be careful with that information and keep it to myself. He was joking of course but they do like to talk crap about each other! Apparently the Swedes refer to the Norwegians as the rich Scandinavians. This is because there is oil in Norway so they have more money, plus there are significantly less people there (~ half). I think the Swedes are somewhat bitter about this. But if you look at history Sweden or Denmark controlled Norway most of the time so I would probably guess that the Norwegians have more reason to be bitter than the Swedes do. I hope I don’t make any enemies posting this, I will let you know later if there is any backlash! 

I have found the history of the monarchies of Scandinavia (which are still technically around like England’s) interesting. The individual countries always had their own kings, or thrones. It just so happened that one person might occupy two or all three at once thus uniting the countries for which thrones he controlled. You will see the Coat of Arms of the Realm of Sweden in Stockholm sometimes on flags or shields or whatever with the Scandinavian flag and three crowns, which represent the monarchies of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The origin of this is debated but this explanation seems to make sense. And it is pretty funny because you might read something that says Stockholm is the capital of Scandinavia and then you will see something else that says Oslo is the capital of Scandinavia. And I am sure someplace it says Copenhagen is also the capital of Scandinavia too. Finland was also included in Scandinavian politics as well so Helsinki might also have some claim. But Finland was also part of Sweden for most of history before Russia occupied them, which sparked their independence later. I think I am getting ahead of myself here and I am also starting to talk about stuff that I really don’t know all that well yet.
All right, I will end my first guest post since it is already fairly long. Originally I was going to take the “You Know What Grinds My Gears?” approach to these posts, but decided to just blab this time. Maybe next time I will go off on some things that have annoyed me here in the first month, but if I do I will try and stay positive! Also, I have put these maps up so people can visualize where we are. Many people have mistaken our new home for Switzerland instead of Sweden. Apparently the locals say this is common and that Americans as well as Europeans that have never been here do it all the time. Some Swedes seem annoyed by it, others seem indifferent…..
Until next time,

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Paris - Day 3


Today started just like day 2 - with espresso and pain au chocolat,  then we hopped the metro to the Orsay Museum. You can't really tell from the picture but this metro line has double decker trains which I thought was pretty cool!

We were all excited to see the collection of impressionism and realism at Orsay and it did not disappoint. Photography inside the museum is not allowed and I was admiring the work too much to try to break the rules so I don't have any pictures. I did take a picture of the building though.
The museum is in an old metro station so the architecture was pretty cool too. If you are an art lover you must go to Orsay. Now. It was amazing. Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir,  Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gough. Oh the Van Gough. Just phenomenal. We were only planning on spending the morning here but ended up staying almost 7 hours, we couldn't peel ourselves way!

We finally headed over to the Eiffel Tower. At night, every hour at the top of the hour the eiffel tower has a "light show" in which the main lights turn down and smaller lights all over the tower sparkle on and off randomly for a couple minutes. I had a lot of fun trying to capture this in a picture and I think I did a pretty decent job. I took way too many pictures of the Eiffel Tower, maybe I was compensating for not being able to capture Orsay? No matter what, here are some of my favorites. 

You can't see Dale and I that good, but I promise we are there!

Sick of the Eiffel Tower yet? Ok, I'll stop. I'm pretty sure everyone knows what it looks like anyway. Gabi and her cousin, Christian, wanted to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower but Dale and I weren't that interested so while they traveled upwards, Dale and I walked around the neighborhood. We saw the Parc du Champs de Mars and Palais de Chaillot which are parks with gardens and statues. Then we stopped to warm up and got a crepe - we had to, we were in France after all! We opted for the traditional chocolate but got a little fancy with whipped creme and almonds on top. Yummy!
I also got a macaron at a bakery to save for later. And now I'm officially obsessed with macarons. They are devine. Try one! So good! Mine got smashed on the journey home so I don't have a picture of it but here's a recipe if you are up to trying to make them (seems hard to me though!) Then we met up with Gabi and Christian for dinner and I finally remembered to take a group picture.
Christian is from Barcelona, Spain and doesn't speak English so I had to try my best to remember Spanish, while speaking English to Gabi and Dale, in France where they speak French, and I've been practicing Swedish. My brain was mush from all the languages! But Christian was very nice and tried to communicate with me even though my Spanish is terrible.

After dinner we went to bed because Dale and I had to get up early to catch our flight back :( But everything went smoothly and before we knew it we were back in cold, but beautiful Sweden. 
Maybe it's not so sad to be back! 

So, that concludes trip 1 within Europe (which we don't get stamps in our passports for by the way, ba-hum-bug!) We both really liked Paris and although our days were packed, and there is certainly more to see, I have to say, I think we hit all the "must see" places and there is nothing I feel like I have to return to see. My personal favorite was Orsay, but I bet you could already tell that. If you've been what's your favorite? If you've never been, what would you want to see most?

Love Always,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Paris - Day 2


Warning, this is a long one! We did a lot on Day 2!

Our hostel-hotel wasn't much to boast about (we stayed at the Garden Hotel), but Dale and I were lucky enough to get a room in the top floor so we got to wake up on Day 2 in Paris to this nice sunrise:
This was our walking day. Our friend Gabi, who was on a vacation in Paris with her cousin and invited us to join in on the fun, had made an itinerary so we knew where everything was, when it was open, and had a rough idea what we were doing the whole time. In the morning we met up for a quick cup of espresso and pain au chocolat (which are so deliciously addictive. Here's a fake it recipe if you want to try one). Then it was off to see the July Column
This is where the Bastille Prison was until the storming of the bastille in 1789 and this tower was resurrected to commemorate that event as well as the beginning of the July Monarchy. You didn't know you you'd be getting history lessons following my blog did you? ;)

Next, we walked over to Norte Dame. As you can tell it was a cold, cloudy, drizzly day in Paris. But that was perfect for all the sites we were visiting between walking. We approached Norte Dame from the back, walking along the Seine, so this picture is looking at the newest part of the building.
Norte Dame was so much more impressive then I had imagined. There is so much detail in every aspect of this building and I loved all the gargoyles!
We forked over the 8 euros and climbed the 422 stairs to see the gargoyles up close and admire the city from the top of the towers - and it was worth it!

See what I mean? Pretty cool right?! We even got to see the bells in the tower, although we couldn't find Quasimoto :)
Here's what the inside of the church looks like:
Once last picture of Norte Dame, this time from the front of the original 2 towers of the building and with Dale and me in the picture.
Then we stopped for lunch at a little bistro in the Latin Quarter. The French, or at least in Paris, have "menus" where for a fixed amount you get a starter, entrée, and dessert and there are a couple options for each. We opted for the menus since the individual items were more pricey. Then it was off to the Pantheon, Dale and I had visited the Pantheon in Rome several years ago and this Pantheon was pretty similar. I thought Pantheon was the building in Rome's name but it turns out this is the name of secular mausoleums. Here's the outside.
The inside is pretty cool too.
Dale's a bit of a nerd and was excited that this is where Foucault proved the rotation of the earth and they had a Foucault pendulum set up to watch.
Underneath the Pantheon you can go into the crypts to see the burial place of many historically important people who were either French or died in France (Voltaire, Alexander Dumas, Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Louis Braille, etc.)

By now we were getting tired of walking and it was getting late so we stopped for a coffee and then hopped on the metro over to the Arc De Triomphe. The Arc De Triomphe was built to honor those who died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, and below the center of the arch lies the French Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War 1.
We paid to climb up the stairs here as well and got to see the city at night from above. It was pretty spectacular.

And finally we walked home along Champs-Élysées and did some window shopping - we may have been in Paris but we still couldn't afford this stuff! Here's one last picture for today and it's of Gabi and me at the Swarovski store. They have a staircase made of crystals but it was much more shiny in person then this picture suggests.
Did you make it this far? Thanks for reading! As you can tell, it was a long day and we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow!
Love Always,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paris - Day 1


For day 1 in Paris we had to wake up very very very early Friday morning to catch our bus to our shuttle to our flight to go to Paris. Not having a car makes transportation a little more complicated! When we got up we noticed it was snowing and had already accumulated almost a foot but we didn't give up. After some delays and creative route changes we were finally in Paris!
View of (part of) the Louvre from the Metro stop
We immediately headed to the Louvre to meet up with Gabi and her cousin and spend the rest of the day there. The Louvre is huge. Overwhelmingly large. Our plan of attack here was to see the 3 famous ladies - Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and Nike of Samothrace - first and then explore whatever else we had time to see. But we immediately got turned around and found ourselves in Napoleon's Apartment. Napoleon was a very very wealthy man.

Then we found Venus de Milo, she's a thing of beauty.

Just around the corner is Nike of Samothrace, she's probably my favorite of the three.

So now it was off to find Mona Lisa. She's at the back of a hall full of Renaissance paintings which quickly all begin to look the same to me. I know, I'm terrible. Mona Lisa is often called the most famous painting in the world, or so we read. But honestly, we all thought it was a bit of a disappointment and it's surprisingly small. A beautiful painting for sure, but not our favorite.

Below are some more pictures from and of the Lourve. Anyone else out there been to the Louvre? What did you love or not love? If you haven't been, what would you want to see there?

Love Always,

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss - one of my favorites at the Louvre!
The Code of Hammurabi - Babylonian Law Code from 1700 BC
Gabi having fun with the Pyramids
The Louvre its self is beautiful!

Sunday, February 13, 2011



Dale and I went to Paris this weekend to meet up with our good friend Gabi who lives in Argentina. We hadn't seen her in 5 years so there was lots of catching up but we had never been to Paris before either so we did lots of sightseeing to do too. You know I'll tell you all about it! In the mean time, here's some music to pretend you're in Paris too!

Love Always,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Södermalm Millennium Style


This past Sunday I dragged Dale to the Stockholm Stadsmuseum. It's free and has lots of information on the history of Sweden and more specifically the city of Stockholm. It was nice to walk through but admittedly I don't think I'll return and if you only have a day or two in Stockholm I would say skip it. But the main reason I dragged Dale there was so I could buy a Millennium map to do the walking tour on our own. For about $5 we got this map:
Dale didn't read the books but he did watch the movies with me. Even though Dale didn't really see the point in visiting actual places a fiction series is based on, it was still nice to walk around the island and get to know the uber hip part of Stockholm. And the tour included a really cool walkway on the northern part of Söder which had great views of Gamla Stan. At the bottom of the post are some pictures I took with my fancy camera. The sun doesn't get very high in the sky this time of year, like not even high enough to get daylight down to the streets from the high buildings. So even though I took these pictures about 1 pm the lighting is terrible. I'd like to go back in a couple months and retake some of these when there is more light.

We kept the map so if you come visit and like the Millennium series, or just like walking, you can do the walk too! 

Love Always,
1/125s, f/7.1, ISO:100
Self Portraits are hard with the fancy camera!
1/200s, f/18, ISO:400
Look at all that ice!
1/200s, f/20, ISO:800

1/500s, f/20, ISO:800
1/100s, f/6.3, ISO:100
This is Mikael's Apartment, in real life this is probably the most expensive apartment on Söder
1/20s, f/20, ISO:800
I'm a sucker for a pretty doorway

Wednesday, February 9, 2011



Here are some pictures of the KTH campus that I took after a meeting with the people I will start working with next week. Everyone is very nice and the work will be interesting and of a good variety so I think I'll be very happy there. Also, all my co-workers are native Swedes so I'm hoping I'll be able to learn a good amount of Swedish from working with them.

The picture below is the left half of the building I'll be working in (but my office is in the right half on the 2nd floor) and this building is the main building for KTH.
Outside "my" building is a courtyard and as I was leaving my meeting it just happened to be about dusk and I liked the lighting so I snapped this picture.
I walked from the meeting to Dale's office to meet up with him to go get our ID cards, our last administrative task in moving here. There was a nice viewing looking over Östermalm from the KTH campus.
I didn't feel like dragging my fancy camera to the meeting so these are all from my point and shoot.

Love Always,