Scandinavia

It's Travel Week(s) at MinneapoLiz!

I just spent my weekend rampaging through Washington DC with Kaitlin – a much needed reunion, as we hadn’t seen each other since Boston 2015. WHAT?! That got me thinking – I’ve been fortunate enough to go on some seriously kickass trips in the last year or so, and I’m terrible about actually chronicling those trips. Since I’m out of town (and will be busy with a national conference for the next several days), I’m officially declaring it MinneapoLiz Travel Week(s)!

Going back through my photos, I never touched on the Norway portion of last summer’s Scandinavia trip, which is egregious (because Norway was my FAVE part of that trip). So that’s getting covered for sure, along with the rest of last winter’s trip to Northern California (before this move was even a thought in my head!! AHHH!)…and this February’s Miami and Puerto Rico trip for Josh and Tash’s wedding. I’m also finally going to post photos from the Schwegfam Cali trip this July…I hate posting on such a lag, but it’s worth waiting for Emily’s pro-quality camera’s gorgeous photos. And finally, of course, DC shenanigans…because with Kaitlin and me, there WERE obviously shenanigans. (And mimosas.)

Can’t wait to show off some of my favorite adventures with my favorite people!

A foodie tour of Stockholm!

Hey, remember when we went to Scandinavia last JUNE?! I'm a shameful delinquent. While I covered our adventures in Iceland pretty thoroughly and shared a peek at Stockholm's Old Town and gorgeous Lake Malaren, one of the highlights of our time in Sweden was taking a locals' food tour. 

We booked this tour through Viator, which is one of our favorite resources for international travel, and adored the small-group experience. There were only a dozen people on our particular tour, and as we comprised five of them, it was nice to feel like we had a bit of a monopoly on the day. 

Our tour started bright and early in the Ostermalm Saluhall, the oldest food hall in Stockholm. It reminded me so much of a Borough Market type deal...sort of a farmer's market on crack. Our "breakfast" for the day consisted of a wide variety of reindeer and elk sausages...eek! We tried cured elk, smoked reindeer and a moose sausage, along with pungent Swedish cheeses (including a "holiday" cheese that had minced crayfish in it!) and a Swedish "breakfast beer" which was super malty. I had to get past the mental block of thinking about Rudolph and Co while enjoying the sausage, but once I did, I really enjoyed it...the smoky flavor was great and the meat was pretty lean.

From Saluhall, we headed further into the Ostermalm neighborhood and stopped at Ingelsta Kalkon, a deli that specialized only in turkey, another big Swedish meat. Apparently many delis do specialize like that...little did we know! We enjoyed Swedish turkey meatballs served the traditional way...with potatoes, pickles, gravy and lingonberry sauce...and they were delicious. 

Of course, being a city comprised of islands, seafood is huge in Stockholm. Our next visit was to the Sture Galleriam in Normalm, the heart of "Parisian Stockholm." The wide boulevards, carefully-tended trees and gorgeous buildings did remind me a bit of the 1e arrondissement in Paris! We headed to the Sturehof, famous for having the best fish dishes in Stockholm.

Seriously, look at all that seafood, We tasted pickled herring, smoked salmon, and a shrimp salad, all with a lot of dill (a staple of Swedish cuisine). While it was all really good and beautifully presented, this is about where I was like "holy crap, I'm really full and it's only like 11am."

From Sturehof, we headed to another food hall to visit P&B Delikatesser for licorice! Apparently licorice is a huge part of Swedish diets. We tried traditional sweet licorice, smoked licorice (which was such a weird flavor that I almost spit it out...eek! Acquired taste!), and white-chocolate covered bitter licorice...another totally bizarre combo. We also chatted about Swedish drinking culture...very beer-heavy, and sales of wine and hard liquor are very highly regulated due to the cultural disapproval of alcoholism and drunkenness. 

After a weird licorice tasting, we headed to Jonathan's favorite stop of the tour... Chokladfabriken, an artisan chocolatier. We tasted dark salted chocolate, milk chocolate, sea salt caramel chocolate, and a licorice-caramel-sea salt chocolate mix. We also sampled chocolate gelato made with 64% Madagascar dark chocolate.

Needless to say, Dad and Jonny found themselves at the counter buying a wide assortment to take home (or just snack on back at the AirBnB!). The photo doesn't do the size of the box justice...I think between the two of them, they picked out close to 2 dozen different pieces, ha!

Our second-to-last stop was in Gamla Stan at Polkagris Kolkeri for traditional Swedish candy. How cute is the shop?! This reminded me of the hard candy sticks we'd get at the apple orchard or General Store if we were well-behaved as kids...so many flavors, and wrapped in the prettiest patterned paper. 

We tasted classic peppermint and a few other flavors before heading to our final stop of the tour, fika at Under Kastanjen! Fika is basically a mandatory Swedish coffee break, taken daily with friends, which I think is the BEST idea. While fika typically includes coffee or tea and a cinnamon-cardamom roll, we did our fika the Schwegman way... 

...duh. 

all in all, by 2pm after doing pretty much nothing but eating for six hours, we were ready to roll home and take a giant nap. What a great way to see a wide variety of neighborhoods in Stockholm and try food I would NEVER have eaten otherwise! 

Schwegs and Swedish Ships

Things Schwegfam Likes: Boats. And we spent a more-than-proportional amount of time on them in Stockholm, a city built over 14 islands! 

During our walking tour with Tours by Locals, we took the Stockholm Ferry over to the Vasa Museum to start our morning. 

Jonathan's inner monologue: "God, I haven't had a glass of wine for like twelve hours at this point. This is bullshit." (We did a LOT of cocktailing/wining on that trip...apparently it's a trend for us!)

Stockholm couldn't be lovelier from the water...I really adored the architecture and gorgeous reflections. 

The Vasa Museum holds a ship that was built in the 1600s for a Swedish king as the centerpiece of his fancy navy. Though the shipbuilders knew it wasn't seaworthy, the king insisted on hosting a huge launch of it. Having sailed under 1500 yards, the ship foundered and sank right in the Stockholm canal, where it stayed buried in mud until a crew of scientists and engineers raised it in the 1960s, almost totally intact. 

Photos don't do it justice, and the museum built around the ship's dry-dock was incredibly informative and well-done. We spent a little under two hours there and I'd highly recommend it to anyone visiting Stockholm! 

That evening, we went for a sunset cruise on Lake Malaren! It's sort of the Gold Coast of Stockholm, home to stunning summer escapes and the Royal Family's preferred residences. 

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As mentioned, we drank a fair amount of wine on this trip...including on boats.

We spent several hours on board, taking in the sights...

...and getting out our giggles. 

Eventually we made it to Drottningholm Palace, the actual residence of the Swedish king and queen. Dick's commentary: "Man, this place would be a perfect lake home if it only had some tiki torches." 

We turned and cruised home after spending some time chilling at Drottningholm Pier, taking in the castle views. 

Stockholm, you're beautiful. 

Stay tuned for more Scandinavia! 

Gamla Stan, Stockholm

We left Iceland after several days of perfect weather just as the rain arrived, and chased the sunshine to Stockholm, Sweden. As with Reykjavik, we didn't really have an idea of what to expect when we arrived, short of the excessive Pinterest board Em and I had put together. 

Almost as soon as we started exploring, we headed to Gamla Stan, Stockholm's famous "old town," and immediately fell head over heels for the neighborhood. 

A rainbow of charming houses, gabled roofs, romantic churches, and the narrowest cobbled streets and alleyways...a confluence of charm and history that completely won me over. All under the bluest skies! 

Our first full day in Stockholm was Swedish National Day, Sweden's equivalent of the Fourth of July, and the town was decked out accordingly. In addition, many of the museums and the Royal Palace were open to the public for free!

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We had booked a walking tour of Stockholm with a local guide through Tours By Locals, which was one of the best decisions we made all trip. Our guide, Caroline, was totally my kind of person - super into history, architecture, and the Swedish Royal Family (duh, I loved her). 

After a morning at the Vasa Museum (more to come later), she took us through Gamla Stan, pointing out highlights like Nobel Square and the narrowest street in Stockholm along the way.

Then it was off to the Royal Palace to fight the crowds and check out how it stacked up to Buckingham!

The Swedish Royal Family only lives in the downtown palace part-time - their actual homes are all scattered around Lake Malaren, just outside Stockholm. The main palace is more ceremonial, but it also comes with these babes: 

Sup boo? I like your hat!

We didn't go too camera-crazy inside due to the hordes of tourists also taking advantage of free admission, but the palace was everything I think a royal palace should be: dripping in gold, chandeliers, and paintings of famous dead kings (mostly named Carl and Gustav). I loved it. 

After a full day of exploring, we said goodbye to Caroline and headed to indulge in our favorite Schweg pastime: a mid-afternoon cocktail, this time at Ebenist on Nobel Square! 

Scenery that can't be beat, frizz that can't be tamed. Yours truly was a happy camper. If I came back to Sweden, I'd 100% stay in Gamla Stan - such an enchanting way to start the Swedish part of our Scandinavia trip! 

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More to come soon! 

Exploring Reykjavik

While the bulk of our Icelandic adventures took place outside of Reykjavik proper, we did spend plenty of time in town exploring! 

A few highlights: light on text, heavy on pictures...

Make sure to explore the actual center of town, starting at Austurvollur Square (also known as "Protest Square"). You'll see some of the first buildings in town, established by the Danes as a wool-trading market and later the home of Icelandic Parliament...

...statues of members of Iceland's Independence Movement, including this fox, Jón Sigurðsson...

...rocks that are symbolically split in two by irons of justice and such...the legends go on. We picked most of this up by reading plaques and referencing the numerous guidebooks our AirBnB hostess had left for us, but in hindsight a walking tour might have been fun. 

Our first tastes of old-school Scandinavian architecture! 

And of the locals' sense of humor...gotta love sticking the middle finger on every spike :) 

Reykjavik is covered in street art. From the lowbrow, traditional graffiti...

...and the more amusing...

...to paths underfoot...

...and gorgeous wall art that Emily couldn't resist...it created visual surprises all over the place. 

We ventured down to the harbor to explore on our last night. 

During another stroll, we scoped out the Sun Voyager statue right on the water...it's meant to be a "dream boat," or an ode to the sun, but to me it looks like a lot of little cocktail forks or some kind of weird whale skeleton. Oh, Iceland! 

And on the first afternoon, we explored the Hallgrimskirkja, Iceland's biggest church! Check out Leif Ericson hanging out in front...babe. 

The spartan interior took me aback a little bit - I'm so used to the ornate churches of France, Italy and England! 

The views from the top, however, were flawless. 

If you're spending time in Iceland, make sure to check out Reykjavik instead of leaving the city all day every day! Apparently it's got fantastic nightlife (although we missed that due to early wake-ups), we enjoyed the shopping, and found some great restaurants too (details to follow!). Reykjavik is definitely a charmer!