It’s pretty hard to make a travel piece about Scandinavia sound real(ly) interesting. There just isn’t that many real(ly) interesting things about the place. In the parlance of our country, it’s just real good.
Good food (hello cheese at every meal and bountiful seafood), Good weather (in the summer), Good people (that are pretty damn good-looking), and Goodliness (they are pretty nice). The only really interesting thing is the expense. To a red-blooded Uh-Murican like me, that Scandinavian-expense could be QUITE SHOCKING!!!!
Yes is it really expensive, it’s just not interesting-expensive like Moscow or Tokyo where you are competing for goods with Oligarchs or people are just happy spending more because they are so infrequently let out of their work//life/shower/eating stall to enjoy consumerism.
No, Scandinavian-expensive is just a balance to provide boring things like healthcare and education, and other un-Uh-murican things that no self-respecting Walmart shopper would dare want if IT WAS GOING TO RAISE MY TAXES OR THE COST OF MY GOODS EVEN FURTHER?!?!! We can build our own damn dams and do our own medical procedures now, thank you very much OBAMA!!!¹
The English Language:
The above is not quite true; there is another interesting thing about Scandinavians – they speak better English than we do. My girlfriend, Fina, is from Denmark and people are always shocked when she tells them — because she has no accent. She speaks and writes perfect English… and her Uh-murican ain’t too shabby, neither. She talks real good in both a professional and relaxed casual environment (aka the boardroom and the bedroom ;). She’s better than me in every way! 😦
She is not an outlier though. Everywhere you go in Scandinavians non-native speakers are making you feel terrible about how much better they are at their second language than you are at your first. I almost strangled this nice guy at 7Eleven selling me a street beer because he was so darn good at English. WHY IS HE MAKING ME FEEL THIS WAY!!?!?????? I assure you it was not because people that work at 7Eleven in Copenhagen make more money then me.
Traveling: by plane
My daughter, AT, refers to herself as The Worldest Traveler, and it’s an appropriate 3rd person nickname. Now, despite my fancy clothes (from Ross) and the 2 rounds of braces I had as a youth, I’m not a rich man. Nor am I one to brag despite my many, many accomplishments, but my daughter has already visited Europe 4 times! That’s crazy and what’s even crazier is the amount of consecutive screen time she’s had on the trips to get there. Letting her watch 7 straight hours is nothing a good parent needs to feel guilty about.
She’s had a couple of plane friendships. Fleeting relationships, but impactful nonetheless. On the depressing return trip home, just as we touched down in JFK for a 5 hour layover, after a mere 8 hours of TV, AT befriended some sisters from Baltimore (even saying I love you in Danish within 2 minutes of their initial conversation). They were really nice kids with a Danish mother and all 3 girls bonded for the last 10 minutes of the flight and 45 minutes waiting for bags and going through customs. Then *poof* like that, they were a little slow to go through re-checking their bags/we desperately needed some Uh-Murican food (nuthin’ more satiating than Buffalo Wildwings at the airport), and the friendship ended.²
Also, the airport security apparatus in Copenhagen is bizarre compared to our system. It’s weird, but the security people greet you with a smile and seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs. After accidentally walking through with a full water bottle the TSA agent told us it was no big deal – then played a game of keep away with AT.
FYI: This is a pretty long post, you can save and read it later using this web service, it’s pretty sweet: https://www.instapaper.com/
Traveling: by train
We took two trains from Copenhagen to Stromstad, Sweden and it was a lovely experience… on the second one. The first train ride was a cattle car. I’m the kind of person that always rents the cheapest car at Hertz thinking that they’ll just upsell me to my cherry red mustang when I get there. This Suze Orman-ish tactic is proven much more economical than renting a higher level (sedan or better) right away — it’ll only cost $5 more per day. So I am truly grateful Fina insisted we buy guaranteed seats from CPH to Gothenburg. If we had not, we would have been standing with our stinky armpits draped over peoples seats (versus vice versa).
Scandinavians love to drink. One thing I really love about Swedish Cuisine is the shots that everyone takes before and during dinner. Taking shots of Snaps (Schnapps) accompanied with a drinking song or poem is a customary practice around the dinner table. Don’t get me wrong, this behavior is not just appropriate as a aperitif or a digestif — but also a duringif.
As referenced above, in Copenhagen you can buy alcohol at a bar or store and walk or ride your bike around with it in public. Alcohol in Denmark is very accessible, and like here, there is definitely abuse problems, but generally people moderate themselves. Perhaps because it is taxed so high, as well. This causes the teenaged behavior of BYOB to dinner parties, but it also helps us all take it easy.
Sauce & Snaps are the ultimate addition to any meal – the aforementioned snaps providing that effervescent attitude and palate adjustment and sauce to dip any dish into a pleasure-zone so intense that only snaps will bring you back down to earth.
Who doesn’t love places where you dip your quadruple cheese and bacon stuffed crust stuffed in fried crust in a mayo-based sauce? What we in Uh-Muciran cuisine refer to lovingly as “dippin’ sauces” or aoli depending on the price association the Swedes call sauce. While in our country this sauce is usually relegated to fancy pizza, french fries or a Guy Fieri restaurant, I’m of the mindset that it really should accompany anything at dinner!
Sauce & Snaps continued at: https://seattlekungfoolery.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/chapter-2-sauce-snaps-scandinavian-travelog/
²Powerful, yet fleeting; like my friendship with a woman I met on a plane right after my divorce that I talked to for an entire flight –desperately trying to get invited to this lingerie Halloween party she kept referencing, that I never saw again.
Tagged: akvavit, aquavit, backpacking, Copenhagen, CPH, danish, denmark, family vacation, gothenberg, norway, oslo, oslo opera house, rosso, scandinavian expense, scandinavian travel, schnapps, snaps and sauce, Social Norms, stromstad, Sweden, swedish sauce, swedish swimming, travel, travelogue, uh-muricans, vacation, vestra rosso