What we do in Sweden during the winter

The very kind gentleman I was staying with explained what the Swedes do doing the winter. I thought, that I and everyone else on Earth already knew of Swedish winter pastimes. Dead wrong we were.

What do the Swedes “do” in the winter season to pass time? Invent things. Yes, build stuff. What do they build? Who knows… an upgraded cheese slicer? spiffier bikes?

As he explained some of the little widgets and such he and his friends built to pass time, I couldn’t help but smile. Seriously, smile. He was explaining everything in a cute, innocent manner though all I could think of, “You build things? Sure you are not hiding the truth? You sure that not after building something, you get tanked at the bar and…?”

Or maybe, “building things” is an analogy to what the rest of us believe the Swedes do during the winter.

Maybe I should stay there during the winter and see what these Swedes are really up to…

What I learned in 40 hours in Stockholm, Sweden

I went to Sweden for the first time on September 1st and stayed for a mere 40 hours (why so short? that’s another story). I feel love in though: the people, the country, the city, the progressive ideals, and the T-banan (a functioning metro system) made me feel “home.” Well, everything except feminism gone insane part.

But I did make some interesting observations while in Stockholm:

  • Clocks are everywhere
  • They are punctual…hence the clocks
  • Men push baby strollers on the streets
  • Women have umbrellas for the rain, men don’t
  • It is fashionable to tuck pants/jeans into boots (for women). I would presume with the downpours it makes sense to keep the bottom of the pants dry and therefore tuck them in.
  • Everyone on the T-bana is on the cell phone. And they like to speak loudly (compared to the French at least)
  • It is fashionable to wear tight leggings and short/half jackets
  • No one jaywalks unless they are a tourist
  • Both women and men love scarves
  • Couples do not make out in public. For that matter, I didn’t see many hold hands.
  • When the rain comes down hard, somehow magically, everyone disappears
  • They use radiator heating and it works!
  • There are no bathtubs…what a bummer for wanting a warm, romantic bubble bath
  • Tabacs are present at every street corner (as in France). Grocery stores? Impossible to find
  • The gutters on buildings function properly, for the most part
  • The weather does change every five minutes (as in Iceland). “It’s not the weather that is bad, it is the clothes you are wearing”
  • The metro is spotless
  • Trains arrive every couple minutes. And yes, the Swedes will freak out if it is late by one minute
  • In the winter, they “build things” instead of…
  • People may look reserved but are very friendly. A stranger saw me struggling to open a water bottle, he came up, opened it, and thanked me.
  • The Swedes thank you for anything they do
  • Not all Swedes have blond hair
  • For that matter, not all Swedes have blue eyes
  • Every other Swede is an engineer of some sort. Worst case, a programmer.
  • And yes, the men are beautiful, but so are the women. Damn that competition.

Last Days in Isafjordur

To think by this time next week I will be in the US living the mundane life is depressing. I cannot fathom leaving Iceland and returning to the US.

But first, my adventures of the last 24 hours.

I spent Thursday night at Langi Mangi for the Pop Quiz contest. Langi Mangi is the local internet cafe/bar, basically one of the only happening places in the city. So there I was, the tourist, the only Indian (or Asian/other person), hanging out with the locals, drinking beer and answering ridiculous questions about the Nordic countries. Unfortunately RF and I got there late and only heard the last two questions (of which we corrected answered and understood one). RF eventually left and I stayed with the locals and discussed politics, facebook, puppets, and possibly other ridiculous things. Of course, these people were so tall I was sitting in the land of the giants. And not just tall, but gorgeous; the Icelanders are beautiful people.

On Friday the class went to the local fish restaurant (same place as the one on Tuesday) and we ate and drank and ate some more. Of course, it helped that our administration was smashed as well by the end and was laughing so hard I thought he would fall into the ocean. I also visited my friend (along with LO) at the tourist office and we partook of Brennivin. Truly a wonderful time to be completely smashed and walking around town.

In the end, I passed out on the children’s bean bag. There is proof somewhere on Facebook of that…

Tjoruhusid: Isafjordur’s Amazing Fish Restaurant

We finally visited the local Icelandic fish restaurant, Tjöruhúsið. Local meaning, a log cabin, a tiny kitchen, and the husband cooking fish on a moving stove. There were three choices: fish soup, catfish, and a type of cod. We choose all of them and then waited.
Menu at Tjoruhusid

We waited and waited; as the air filled with fish, the time passed slower and slower. Eventually, we received some fresh bread and a stick of butter (literally a square block) to hold us down from clamoring like cats. 30 minutes later and a massive porcelain bowl appeared at the table. It was fish soup. The soup was creamy but not too think and held morsels of white fish that melts in the mouth.
Delicious Fish

Another 30 minutes later, our professor plops down at the table and we partake of more beer while waiting for the main plats. They show up… in large ironclad pans. One pan is filled with cod cooked in a creamy, bechemal type sauce. Adorned with grapes, salad greens (the only time I will be able to forage in Iceland), sliced tomatoes, and lemons, the dish is fit for the aristocracy. Or maybe, just the local fisher families of the WestFjords.

Viking Poison Strikes: Icelandic Brennivin

It started with innocuous questions about the cuisine. Two minutes later, the rather good looking Icelander came back from the kitchen with a small frozen jar filled with white chunks. He then searches the closet and pulls an empty bottle of schnapps, then finds a unopened one stashed in a brown paper bag. What do these employees do to warrant a few bottles of liquor in the closet?

Doesn’t matter…the fun was about to start.

Three small shot glasses were laid out and filled with the schnapps. My friend, the Icelander, and I took the toothpicks and each picked the smallest white block of meat from the jar.

And then we ate. The putrid, slimy, chewy piece fought hard to no be dissolved in my mouth. I turned it to pulp after vigorous chewing and chased it with the schnapps. Nauseated, dizzy, and wholly disgusted, it was over in a couple minutes yet the aftertaste super glued itself to my teeth, gums, tongue, and even my lips.

That was Brennivín, Icelandic schnapps – known as svarti dauði (“black death”)…and hakarlputrified shark meat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenniv%C3%ADn

Isafjordur: A buccolic city in the West Fjords

Icelandic Flag

Isafjordur, Iceland…a tiny tiny town.

4000 people, one post office, two gas stations, two bakeries. Yet, amazing to live in the fjords. Tall, unwavering, impressive mountains carved in zig-zags. Located near the Arctic circle (66.1N instead of 66.5N), it is good enough to be the Arctic.

If you are visiting Iceland or thinking about visiting Iceland, then check out the Iceland: A Trip Around the Ring Road Guide. Already going to Isafjordur? This is your guide then. =)

History of Isafjordur
Written in Icelandic as Ísafjörður, with some very cool nordic characters not seen in the Latin language system.
Ísafjörður is the largest town in the Westfjards (Vestfirðir) region. It was formed in the 9th century and became a major port city by the 16th century.

In 1786, the King of Denmark (Iceland was a Danish colony) granted Isafjordur municipal status. He also abolished the Danish trade monopoly.

From the mid 1800s to late 1900s, Isafjordur exploded in population and became the center of the fishing industry. It was the city’s golden era of prosperity. Iceland’s largest saltfish exporter, Ásgeirsverslun, hailed from the city. Motorized boats for fishing and freights enabled the town to expand into shrimp. Post World War II, the invention of quick-freezing created another golden era for Isafjordur. Hundreds of packing plants sprouted up in the city and every local was connected to the industry.

But Isafjordur’s fishing success would not last forever. A worldwide economic recession in the 1980s paralyzed the industry. But the Icelandic strength and will power would not allow the industry to perish, and it became leaner, smaller, and still competitive. The fishing industry changed its focus to a fleet of small boats rather than the big trawlers of the 1970s and early 1980s. High-tech industries and research, based on the knowledge and tradition of the fisheries developed, creating more opportunity for the town’s citizens.
Iceland's Independence from Denmark
And of course, the town is on the map with numerous tourist opportunities. Isafjordur also hosts a small university that has its strengths in the Icelandic Summer Course program and graduate studies programs. As I’m here studying there, I’ll give a review of the program soon. Check out beautiful photos of Isafjordur; they should convince anyone to visit.

Food
Let’s face it, there are not many options in the city but there are still great spots.

Langi Mangi
Café, bar/pub in central Ísafjörður. Lunch menu, soup of the day, sandwiches, burgers, pitas. Wireless connection, live music. Licensed.
Open Mon-Wed: 11:00-23:00, Thur: 11:00-01:00, Fri: 11:00-03:00, Sat: 12:00-03:00, Sun: 13:00-23:00.
Web site: http://www.langimangi.is/ – e-mail: langimangi@langimangi.is
Address: Adalstraeti 22, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 3022.

Tjoruhusid

Located next to the Isafjordur Maritime Museum at the waterfront. The restaurant is owned by a quirky couple but they server amazing Icelandic fish dishes. The building is also one of the oldest in the city. Specialize in fresh catches of fish and fish soups.
Open daily during the summer 11:00 – 22:00.
Address: Nedstikaupstadur, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 4419.

Thai Koon
A Thai-restaurant next to the grocery store in the little mini-mall. Great price for a lot of food.
Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:30-21:00, Sun: 17:00-21:00
Address: Hafnarstraeti 9-13, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 0123


Fernando’s

Restaurant in central Isafjordur Ísafjörður with American and Italian menu. Lunch buffet at 11:30-13:30
Open: Sun-Wed: 11:30-22:00, Thur-Sat: 11:30-00:00
Web site: http://www.fernandos.is
Address: Austurvegur 1, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 5001.

Bakarinn
Has tasty cakes, pastries, pizzas, and soups.
Hours: weekdays 07:30-18:00. Closed Saturdays. Sundays 09:00-17:30.
Address: Hafnarstraeti 14, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 4770, (+354) 456 4771, fax: (+354) 456 5065

Gamla bakarid
One of Iceland’s most famous bakeries with tons of breads and pastries. You can even find bagels there.
Hours: weekdays 07:00-18:00, Saturdays 07:00-16:00.
Tel: (+354) 456 3226, Fax: (+354) 456 5026
Address: Adalstraeti 24, Isafjordur

Hamraborg

A very “American fast food” kind of place. Pizzas, hamburgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, etc. Some groceries (ie. milk and bread) and DVD rentals are available. Oh, they also have plenty of candy (godis).
Hours: Everyday 09:00-23:30
Tel: (+354) 456 3166
Address: Hafnarstraeti 7, Isafjordur

Kaffi Edinborg

Brand new café and restaurant in the Edinborg culture house, where the Tourist Information centre is also located. Light meals all day every day, brunch on weekends.
Open: weekdays 11:00-01:00, weekends 11:00-03:00.
e-mail: kaffiedinborg@simnet.is.
Address: Adalstraeti 7, Isafjordur. Tel: (+354) 456 4400.

N1
Petrol station, fast food, groceries.
Open: work days: 07.30-23.30, weekends: 08.30-23.30.
Address: Hafnarstraeti 21, Isafjordur. Tel.: (+354) 456 3574

Isafjordur Hotels and Hostels

Sightseeing in Isafjordur

First Days in Isafjordur

What I find ironic is that to enter Iceland via Keflavik airport, one must go through security. To travel domestically, via the Reykjavik airport, the security screens are not present.  No checks, no nothing.  Brings us back to the good old days. :)

The sun completely sets (or I will say the sky goes black) at 00h50 and rises 04h30.  Great no?!  For all the strangeness, I do love this country.

Monday, 20th August.

First day of class. Went very well and I will definitely learn a lot or hopefully enough of the language to travel and converse with people.

Komdu Saell, Hello in Icelandic!

Bonjour!
…wait, wrong language… Ni hao!
damn, still wrong…

Komdu saell!
let’s hope this is right ;)

I have finally arrived to Isafjordur…a town that literally can be tucked away in Memorial Stadium and the parking lot. ;) It is beautiful here: the massive fjords, dangling remnants of snow, the Arctic Ocean (maybe North Atlantic) and the colorful houses littering the landscape.

I have plenty to post so do check out the blog and flickr for tales, sagas, and of course, photos.

http://flickr.com/photos/blacksapphire/

It’s been 32 hours of traveling, 6 airports, 1 bus station, and 3 taxis. time for bed (i know at noon).

Smoke Screen

We make things in life more complicated then they need to be. Why? Because we are human and tend to believe if it is simple, it is a child’s problem. No, most things in life are simple. We choose to add a smoke screen to create a situation and hence, require a well planned out solution. In reality it is also about following Occam’s Razon- that a hypothesis tends to have a simple explanation.

I heard this on Sex on the City, it made me laugh so hard because,  simple solutions do exist- don’t care and move on.

“It’s like that great 2nd date but then you never hear from the guy again. I just pretend they are dead.” – Miranda

The Sagittarian ?

This is my zodiac sign…maybe it is me?

SAGITTARIUS – The Promiscuous One
Spontaneous. High appeal. Rare to find. Great when found. Loves being in long relationships. So much love to give. Not one to mess with. Very pretty. Very romantic. Nice to everyone they meet. Their Love is one of a kind. Silly, fun and sweet. Have own unique appeal. Amazing in the bedroom..!!! Not the kind of person you want to mess with- you might end up crying.