Monday, April 27, 2009

No Place Like 'Holm

If you can guess where in Italy this is, I'll be pretty impressed:

I'll give you a clue. One of the urinals I used was about 5 feet off the ground. I had to pee with a bank shot off the hand dryer. (I figure it'll dry out.)

That's right, I'm just back from Stockholm, Sweden. I'll describe Italy soon.

Right off, let's address some stereotypes:
  • Yes, the Swedes are beautiful giants. Stunning. Maybe a quarter of the women are unreasonably gorgeous. Like, the kind of beautiful that would cause car crashes in New Zealand.
  • Yes, it is expensive. I thought England was the most expensive place in the world. Not even close. I would be lucky to survive 3 days without being bankrupted.
Street scene

On my first evening, I had a strömming burger from a cart. This is a traditional herring burger. It wasn't too bad, although it was full of tiny bones. I picked them out, but that got boring after a while, so I figured that they wouldn't sell fish full of bones unless it was okay to eat them. I spent the next several hours making rasping sounds as I tried to cough the herring bones out of my throat.

I had some people to meet in Stockholm, and a conference to attend. Afterwards, a group of us went on an all-you-can-eat shrimp cruise through the archipelago. All-you-can-eat shrimp: Here's where I get my money back - watch and learn Scandinavia, school is in session. I was still going strong when all the other tables were cleared. After a while, there were only 2 of us still eating, me and a Finish guy named Mika. He challenged me to a contest and I accepted.

Meawhile, the Swedish women got up and danced. Alcohol is super expensive in Sweden, but many of the Swedish men on the boat were getting blotto, all the same. The men drank, ignored the women and talked to their friends. Talk about spoiled. Maybe they were a little daunted by my shrimp eating prowess. I could tell some of the writhing Ulrika's were quietly impressed by the NZ gnome in the corner, packing down a cubic meter of crustacian.

Incidentally, if you want to fit in in Stockholm, besides being 6 foot, blonde and a knockout, you need to be wearing a black t-shirt featuring a retro band. GNR, Motorhead, Metallica, or Led Zep.

A couple of hours in I began to realise, quite urgently, that I didn't want to eat any more shrimp, ever. I had to go out on deck, and Mika won by forfit. He not only finished his bowl of shrimp, but also cleared mine while I was gone. There's no shame in losing to a world-class opponent.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I'm just back from Italy.

It was a great trip, where I lived out my lifelong dream of eating a gelato the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Oh, and I caught up with my parents : It's all a tapestry. It was a 2-scoop icecream, with chocolate fondant and mango. The size made it so unstable that I had to eat it with my head held over the sink. Life doesn't get any better.

However, as with Belgium, the return to England has been a little deflating in comparison. I'm also on a post-gelato-binge diet, which doesn't help my mood any.

I've got quite a stack of photos. I think I'll space them out a bit, as May is likely to be a quiet month for me.

I met up with my parents in Bergamo, and we toured the lake district (Como, Maggiore) followed by a quick stop in Milan and several days in Rome.

So where does Switzerland come into it? The Italian lake district is right at the top by the Swiss border. We crossed into Switzerland for a few hours and visited a camellia garden. It was an odd climate. It's in the Swiss Alps, not far from snow, but camellias grow well and there are even palm trees in the area. I have the photos from Switzerland organised, so I'm going to start with them, even though they belong chronologically in the middle.

Check out the snowy mountains


Flowers in the garden

I think the town over the lake is Lugarno, but I was driving so I was concentrating on not crashing. Actually, I now realise that I don't remember many of the place names. If you're interested in visiting any of the places you see in the photos, they're somewhere in Italy. Or Switzerland. Definitely, southern Europe somewhere.