28 October 2009


After wondering for while about the fact that we hadn't seen a single butcher shop in Stockholm we were told that butchers are to be found in the three large market halls (so-called Saluhalls) of Stockholm: Hötorgshallen on Hötorget (literally The Hay Market), Östermalmshallen on Östermalmstorg (Östermalm being a part of Stockholm located east of downtown), and Söderhallarne on Medborgarplatsen (literally The Community Square).

Tue went to 'saluhall' to look for cuts of meat not available in the supermarkets. This he found - he returned with a beef tongue and a beef heart, each approximately 6 lbs. It should be noted that this is by far the largest tongue we have bought so far - normally they are about half the size. The heart was halved but other than that not prepared. When the fat, sinews and veins had been trimmed there was some 3 lbs left.

Curiously, both were served during the mid-October weekend that Signe was visiting us. Thursday we had the heart as the Peruvian speciality anticuchos de corazon and Saturday we had the tongue as the Mexican speciality taco de lengua (Tue stayed home to cook while Lisbeth and Signe went to for a café+shopping). We forgot to take any pictures of Signe as well as of our trip to the East Asian Museum, so you will have to settle for pictures of the food we served her..

24 October 2009


On the island Kungsholmen in central Stockholm one finds Stadshuset (Stockholm's city hall). Constructed in the years immediately after the inauguration of the city hall in Copenhagen, it is hardly coincidental that the tower of Stadshuset is one meter taller than the tower of the city hall in Copenhagen.

Stadshuset as seen from lake Mälaren (in June)

Stadshuset is perhaps most famously known for hosting the annual Nobel Prize banquet on December 10th, but also hosts a number of other receptions. In the beginning of October there was a welcoming reception for international students and scholars at universities in Stockholm. Tue was not one to decline the offer of a lunch from the city.

Stadshuset's blue hall

While the blue hall is not particularly blue (the story goes that it was originally intended to paint it blue, but once the architect saw the hall built in red bricks he decided to let it be as it was - without bothering to change the name) the golden hall does deliver what the name suggests: the walls are covered in mosaics with motives from important moments in the history of Stockholm and the background colour is indeed golden.

Stadshuset's golden hall

15 October 2009


Yesterday morning we woke up to snowy weather!

And this is only October - WAY too early for us and the Stockholmians. It didn't stay on the ground for long but certain patches were slippery and the bike ride was cold and wet of course. Maybe we now know what to expect later on?!

Later in the day it did seem as if the weather remembered that it's still autumn, so perhaps we can enjoy that season a little longer...

11 October 2009


Last weekend, Lisbeth's mother came for a visit and beside showing our apartment, Solna and Stockholm, we also went to 'Skansen'. Skansen is an open-air museum with old houses from all over Sweden where costume dressed guides gladly explain about the 'olden days'. It is located on a wind-swept hill top on Djurgården, and since winter has come to Stockholm, it became a rather cold adventure after a few hours - but luckily we could then enjoy 'Bellmans Pyt' (a traditional hodgepodge dish) in one of the inns.

For us the most interesting part of Skansen was however the zoo section - again primarily with Nordic animals.

Relaxing seemed to be the chore of the day:

Eventually this last guy did find enough energy to raise his head so we finally got to see a 'real' moose, i.e. one with antlers!

06 October 2009


In addition to crayfish parties the autumn is also the season for another, more controversial Swedish speciality from the ocean: surströmming. A quick poll at Tue's department indicated that only a minority amongst contemporary young Swedes enjoy this dish - most apparently have never tried it, but all believe to know that it smells and tastes horrible. Knowing this, it is perhaps not too surprising that it was one of the Polish colleagues that invited Tue over to taste surströmming.

But what is surströmming? Strömming is actually herring - and here some might object that herring is called sill in Swedish, which is correct, but according to a royal directive from the 16th century herrings caught in the Baltic Sea are to be traded as strömming.

The prefix sur- (sour) stems from the fact that surströmming is made by letting rinsed and salted fish ferment is open barrels and later canning them. The fermentation continues in the can, building up some pressure. Therefore carefulness is adviced when opening the cans and most airlines have banned cans of surströmming in the luggage.

Our host had tried this a few times before and looked quite the pro as he showed how the can can be opened under water, as an alternative to stepping out into the cool autumn night and opening the can outside as is otherwise advocated. Subsequently he rinsed the contents of the tin a few times under running cold water, and then they were ready.

But why all the fuss? For the simple reason that the contents of the can have a quite peculiar and piercing smell: A pungent mix of fish and rancid fat with a hint of rotten eggs and something sourish. Our host implored us to be extra careful not to drop anything on his furniture. Meanwhile, the French participant this evening was not impressed, quote: "Where I come from we have cheeses that are more pungent..."

Regarding the taste, the most remarkable feature is how strongly salty the fillets are. Traditionally they are cut in small pieces and are eaten in a sandwich made from Swedish 'thin bread', slices of boiled potato, raw onions, chives and preferably sour cream. Tue found them to be edible when surrounded by sufficient amounts of bread, potato and onion - but he still prefers a good old-fashioned pickled herring. Supposedly, there is a different version also, made from whole fish - it is said to taste differently, but on the other hand one then has to gut the fermented fish at the table...

04 October 2009

Sailor Mail

One day as we were biking around a harbour area in Stockholm we noticed another variation of a theme that is well-known by now: Multiple mailboxes in a cluster in a convenient location to solve the problem that the mail man does not necessarily have an easy time getting to the "house" itself to deliver the mail.