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In a new weekly Friday column, we'll explore street food and other culinary specialties and customs from around the world. Last week, it was smoked-meat sandwiches in Montreal. This week, we head to Sweden for a cup of coffee.
As anyone who has been out of the country understands, coffee is drank differently in other places than it is here in the States. Traditionally, if you asked for a coffee "to go" across the Atlantic, the Europeans would be confused. In America, coffee is a drug that wakes us up and keeps us going. In other countries, it's an experience, a timeout, never to be drank while driving. You "take" a coffee, you don't "drink" it. In Sweden, this concept is taken so seriously that they have an official name for it.
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When it comes down to it, the travel industry breaks down into two types of tourists: "Travelers" and vacationers.
Some people are explorers, and others are pool-side dwellers (and many of us are somewhere in between). Some are comfortable with new horizons and feel enriched by the new experiences, and some only have a week’s worth of time off per year and want to know what they’re going to get for their money; they don’t want any surprises.
While we’ve always understood the appeal of both sides of the coin, a recent rise in what tourism boards refer to as "people-to-people" programs are helping even the most bashful of tourists dig into the local culture. These programs combine the concepts of traveling and vacationing, providing you with an organized, safe way to connect with the local communities.
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Food trucks go where the people go, andshockerpeople go to the airport. We’ve seen trucks set up shop over in San Francisco, and they’ve been involved with an extended layover down in Orlando as well. This time they’re on the moves overseas, as the latest airport food truck is doing a little airport promotion and marketing in Sweden.
Quick: what are the first three things that come to mind when you think of Sweden?
If they're some combination of Stockholm, meatballs, IKEA, and cold weather, then you're not alone. Most North Americans who visit Sweden go to the capital city or head north for the ice hotel and northern lights, but the best kept secret is that the southwest coast of the country is riddled with islands and coastal village towns.
True, summer in Sweden is short, but it can be very sweet. Here are a few musings about the lesser-known coastline to help you get acquainted:
Well, it's been a whole entire year since all of Europe was singing and dancing to the annual song contest, Eurovision. Last time we watched, the insanity went down in Baku, Azerbaijan and Sweden won, so this year they played hosts in the Southern city of Malmö.
The contest as a whole has held the reputation of being quite the show, a mix of both native tongue and English lyrics accompanied by flamboyant costumes and overly produced choreography. This year was no exception. While the Russian grannies from last year didn't make the cut, 2013's winner did come from another Scandinavian country; Denmark.
If you're not up on the rules, this means Eurovision heads to Copenhagen for 2014.
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If you think cruise shops are pretty fancy, then you haven't stepped onboard a Scandinavian ferry. Indeed, ferries aren't what they used to bethey're so much better, as musty waiting room-like spaces are being replaced with comfortable lounges, entertainment spaces and even airport-style shopping.
The latter is the highlight of the crossing between Stockholm, Sweden and Turku, Finland onboard the Viking Line ferry M/S Grace. The boat stops in Marihamn, a port town which sits pretty on the Åland Islands between the two Baltic Sea cities. These islands are one of those weird territories travelers love to visit, as they have their own government, flag, stamps and patriotism, but still come under some jurisdiction of another country (Finland, in this case). The draw for the ferries and their duty-free shops is that these boats are exempt from Europe's VAT tax. It's literally a booze cruisebuying it, not so much consuming it.
If you’re heading to Sweden anytime soon you’ve probably already perused the tourism books over at the local Barnes & Noble, and it’s likely that you’ve also started hitting up your favorite travel blogs for tips. The country’s tourism board wants you to take an additional step when it comes to visiting their native land, as they’re eager to hook you up—not in that way—with your very own Swede.
The new site "Visit a Swede" works exactly how it sounds, as they’ve kind of created their very own social network based solely on hanging out with your very own Swedish best friend. So far there are at least 10,000 residents signed up through the site to host visitors, so you’re free to check out what they have to offer. Want a tour of the sights? They’ve got you covered. They’ll also meet you for some coffee, cook you a meal, head out for a run, or many even offer you up a free place to stay.
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In his novel Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem takes pity on the G train, New York's most maligned subway route. He says that the train's legendary terribleness is because the G, like the runty kid in school, gets picked on for being the only train line that doesn't touch Manhattan.
Like it or loathe it, the G is in major need of a PR boost. So local hopmasters Brooklyn Brewery are sponsoring a contest. They're asking songwriters and musicians to compose original songs about the G train and post them on YouTube. After that, they'll chose a few favorites and ask readers to vote. The winner scores a free trip to Sweden for the Debaser Music Festival in August.
Might we suggest "The Waiting 40 Minutes at 4 AM Blues" as a possible title?
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And now boys and girls, another object lesson on why skepticism is the proper response to advertising strategists and reporters who tell you that social media is magic and that engagement means letting everyone be heard. We have to do these posts every few years because our rants never seem to take hold, least of all with travel journalists and tourism boards.
Let's go back all the way back to four days ago Sunday. The New York Times publishes a puff piece about Sweden's Twitter initiative, done of course at the behest of an advertising agency, to "entrust the country's Twitter account [@Sweden] to a new citizen every seven days." Look how social! Look how effing authentic! To be clear, there was a point during which we actively adored the account, but that was when the guest curator was posting lamb photos every few hours.
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The world's oldest song contest has just completed with a new winner crowned. After being glued to the television for both semi-final rounds and then the grand finals, we just have the desire to hop on a plane to travel.
Here's a little background if you are not privvy to the amazement of Eurovision. It is an annual competition amongst members of the European Broadcasting Union. Each member submits an entrant to sing an original song in the hopes of getting the most points at then end a few elimination rounds. This is kind of like American Idol or The Voice, but way more quirky and unique. The contest began in 1956 and has acquired quite the cult following.
Food Travel / Foreign Grocery Friday / Holiday Travel / Sweden Travel / Christmas Travel / Drinking Travel / Booze Travel / → All Tags
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is to pop into a local grocery store and check out the food products and candies we'd never find anywhere else. So we're trying out this new feature, Foreign Grocery Friday, where each week we'll feature some of our (and your) favorite overseas treats. Got a recommendation? Let us know!
With only so much time left before the holidays, it's now that we get serious about winter treats. Gingerbread houses and candy canes are all well and good, but going farther afield to foreign Christmas traditions yields such yummy drinks as Glögg. This mulled wine is a decidedly Scandinavian tradition, but Iceland and Estonia like to get in on it as well.
Since Glögg is essentially just one version of mulled wine, other country's attempts at the beverage are also totally fine if Glögg isn't available. Germany/Austria/Switzerland's Glühwein is, for instance, an excellent substitute, as is the vin brulé of Northern Italy (especially the ski resort towns). Just be sure to serve it with a bit of gingerbread or a few ginger snap cookies on the side.
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Those Nordic countries better watch out, as Starbucks is about to invade. Residents of Sweden have already started to add Mocha Frappuccinos to the cup holders of their Volvos, and now it looks like Norway and Finland are next on the list. Awesome local coffeeshops need not be too threatened; for now the expansion seems to be limited to just the airports.
It all goes down in 2012, so if you have a plan to visit next summer to take advantage of the warmer temperatures and long, long days you’ll be able to do so with an overpriced latte. Starbucks officials have already announced their plan to add a location at the Gardermoen Airport in Oslo, Norway. Their most recent announcement reveals that they have plans for two locations at the airport in Helsinki, as there will be one place to grab a coffee after security and one welcoming passengers in the arrivals hall.