My Gothenburg Christmas Delight

From what I had heard and read, Sweden is a country of innovation. Just take Ikea for example. A furniture business that not only sells their wares disassembled for convenience, production value and price point but excites people to master the skill of carpentry with little more than a pack of screws and a pictorial graph. A society that cultured such a premise was one well worth visiting in my opinion.

gothenburg-SwedenUsing some frequent flyer miles I had saved up I got a ticket to Gothenburg. Arriving in December after Queensland (Australia) summer temperatures was quite a shock to the system, but my interest in sport spurred me on to face the weather. I love being active and travelling in winter meant I had to take advantage of the chance to ski.

Brudarebacken Ski Slope is Gothenburg’s only downhill ski slope and its length and drop favoured my rudimentary ski skills nicely. Everyone was so friendly that falling onto people in my clumsy state wasn’t so terrible. A nicer way to develop my ski skills was the cross country skiing I did at the OK Landehofs ski resort in Landvetter. The mix of artificial snow and real snow track gave me plenty of time to hone my use of the ski poles as well as learning to balance myself more appropriately on the skis themselves. Sweden has such beautiful countryside that it made for an extraordinary setting for outdoor exercise, compared with the rugged bushland or yellow sandy beaches of Australia that promote water sports above all.

Gothenburg’s Christmas markets were phenomenal. Australia just doesn’t have the same vibe of Christmas compared with what the Northern Hemisphere countries deliver. Liseberg Christmas Markets are the biggest in Scandinavia and they certainly delivered. The stall holders were traditional artisans and local producers who were very passionate about their wares. They were also easy to converse with due to their exceptional English skills (now that I think about it, most people spoke great English). I am not one for shopping but the experience of buying traditional and handmade gifts for my family and friends for Christmas was very enjoyable.

When travelling (and really any other time) I always think you should follow your stomach. One of the best ways to experience a new city, country and culture is to dine on traditional fares. Gothenburg is a wonderful hub of modern eateries, conventional restaurants and hole-in-the-wall delights. Smorgas became one of my favourite lunchtime choices; they were a delicious twist on my standard Aussie Vegemite ‘sanga’. The colourful faces of Prinsesstartas sang out to me from bakery windows and I’m glad I succumbed as the reward was an amazing amalgamation of Victoria sponge cake and custard tart, a truly delightful afternoon treat. I couldn’t possibly visit Gothenburg without procuring the best example of Swedish meatballs I could find. Kock and Vin, a Michelin star restaurant, was a lip-smacking example and I was more than happy to break with convention and lick my plate when I was done. And I’m thankful I’ve read a recommendation for Rokeriet i Stromstad, where I’ve had one of the best meals in my life. Trying foreign cuisine does seem to bring lots of joy to most travelers, and it is certainly the same with me.

Overall Gothenburg has a very open, welcoming and inviting feel to it. The city centre is kept so beautifully and the snow really does create the clichéd but much appreciated winter wonderland experience, especially for someone coming from the Land Down Under known for its heat.

This article was written by Mark Tomich.

From Stockholm to South America

misiones province

We’ll never know if there were any native Swedes among the crews of Vikings that were the first Europeans to set foot in the Americas, but later waves of Swedish migrants arriving in North America aboard the famous liners of the Cunard Line were among the main settlers of the Mid-Western United States, helping make the country what it is today. However, what’s less well-known is the story of those Swedes who chose a slightly more far-flung destination, heading not for the wide open plains of the Dakotas, but the tropical coast of Brazil and the steamy Missiones province of Argentina. Altogether it’s estimated that around 1.3 million Swedes emigrated to the Americas in the century up to 1930, and it’s believed that around 150,000 of them settled in South America.

With official encouragement from the Emperor Dom Pedro II, many of the migrants headed for Brazil, settling in towns like Joinville and Itui in the south of the country, which also attracted a large number of other European settlers, especially from Germany. In fact, you can even visit the Swedish Cultural Centre in Ijui, although it has to be said that the city isn’t exactly on the tourist trail, located well in-land from the Brazil holiday hotspots of Rio de Janeiro and Paraty. On a suitably Swedish note, however, it is known throughout Brazil for the excellence of its healthcare!

johnson line

However, it seems that the promises made by the recruitment agencies that had brought the Swedes to Brazil weren’t fulfilled and many of the migrants moved on after a few years, heading down the Atlantic coast of South America to Buenos Aires and the Misiones province of Argentina. The big draw for them was the free land being offered by the Argentinian government there to grow yerba mate – a tea-like herb which is consumed in colossal amounts in South America. In Argentina the new arrivals settled and prospered, building and improving the land, much as their relatives had further north in the United States.

Their success attracted more migrants, and by the turn of the 20th century, the Swedish-owned Johnson Line was sailing regularly from Stockholm & Gothenburg across the Atlantic to Rio, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. In fact, in a little-known slice of history, they are indirectly responsible for the colors worn by South America’s most famous soccer team! The team is Boca Juniors, who hail from the historic dockside district of La Boca in Buenos Aires, and the story goes that when they were choosing the colors for their new uniforms, they agreed that they would base it on the flag of the next ship to pull into port. That ship was the Drotting Sophia of the Johnson Line and so ever since then Boca Juniors have worn the blue and gold of the Swedish flag! In fact, to mark their centenary in 2010, they played in a uniform which basically was the Swedish flag!

boca jersey

The Swedish contribution to life in Argentina can be seen today in place and road names like Villa Svea and Picada Sueca in Misiones Province, but also in the capital, Buenos Aires, where many later Swedish migrants made their homes. Many worked as engineers and doctors and they were able to socialise and enjoy a taste of home in the elegant Swedish Club on Avenida Tacuari. You can visit the Club today and its excellent Swedish restaurant is open to all. Detailed records of Swedish emigration are frustratingly hard to find, but if you think you may have had Swedish ancestors who sailed to Buenos Aires, you can check the Norwegian National Archives which have microfilmed church records from the late 19th century which include places of birth – because there wasn’t a dedicated Swedish church in Buenos Aires, many Swedes attended the Norwegian church instead.

Of course, the 21st century has seen a whole new wave of Swedes looking to start a new life in South America, but it’s not the good agricultural land that’s the attraction so much as the great weather and fantastic beaches that Brazil and Argentina have to offer. So if you’re ever on holiday in South America then don’t be surprised to hear a little Swedish on the streets, even though there isn’t an IKEA in sight…

This post is by Dan Clarke, who works for www.realworldholidays.co.uk, a tour operator dedicated to bespoke travel in South America. As a proud Welshman, he found out about the Swedish migration to South America whilst reading about the similar Welsh journey to Argentina, and thought it would be good to share!

 

How to get traditional Swedish style in your home

(without visiting Ikea!)Traditional Swedish Style

Unfortunately for a lot of us the instant connection made when we think of Swedish design is world-wide home interiors giant Ikea, but there is so much more to beautiful traditional Swedish interior design than this.

Natural materials, light-reflecting mirrors, fireplaces, stylish functional furniture and cosy textiles all combine to create an elegant yet homely place to live; a look that could work just as well for your home as it does in Sweden.

For inspiration take a look at the work of architect and furniture designer Carl-Axel Acking, who created simple Swedish furniture in smooth, strong shapes, and Lars Bolander, who made the sort of practical open shelving that Swedish homes favour.

Here are the main points to consider if you want to get Swedish style in your home:

Bringing in the Light

Because it’s so dark for a large portion of the year in Sweden, people make the most of what light there is with a lot of mirrors in their home. Whilst you might not have the same problem, mirrors still make the most of your space and help a room appear larger.

Fireplaces, table lamps, candles and chandeliers are also popular; lots of glass and silver items are essential to make the home appear brighter. Any way of bringing in light and warmth and reflecting it around the room is a necessity in Sweden, but can also work beautifully for other areas of the world in dark winter months.

Stoves set into a decorative fireplace are hugely popular in Swedish homes. To get this style check antique shops for a freestanding cast-iron stove.

Nature

Nature is celebrated in Swedish homes, and as soon the sun comes out people enjoy it as much as they can. Stencilled wall patterns are inspired by nature, fresh flowers are always on show, and wood, leather and glass are popular material choices. Avoid metals and plastics if you want your home to have a Swedish vibe.

Colour

The ‘Gustavian’ colours of grey, pale green and pale blue are key to Swedish decor, alongside white, cream and light yellow. Chalky, pastel colours are more popular than brights.

To create some accents deeper colours like gold, red, and ochre are used; keeping the colours natural and earthy is key. If you want to keep to a Swedish colour palette in your home avoid anything too vivid or stark; neon orange is a definite no!

Pattern

To add some decorative elements to a room against the simplicity of its furniture, fabrics often feature stripe, check or floral patterns. Walls are stencilled with patterns of intricate wreaths, ribbon, diamond, circle or heart motifs. To get this style in your own home you could try stencilling a wall of one room in earthy colours; whilst quite time consuming it is certainly effective.

Materials

The Swedish love light blonde wood, such as birch, alder, beech and white pine for their furniture and floorboards. It is left its natural colour and simply treated or white washed.

Cosy blankets and rag rugs are popular to keep rooms cosy and floor insulated. Made from cotton, wool, linen and other such natural materials, these add a splash of colour and pattern to a room whilst keeping everybody warm. Drape a mix of woollen rugs in muted tones and stripy patterns over your armchairs and sofas to get your home cosy for winter – Swedish style!

Functional Furniture

Whilst Swedish furniture is elegant and attractive in its simplicity, functionality is a key factor to. The Swedish ‘slagboard’ table is an essential; a drop leaf table that is large enough for dinner yet can be folded down to under a foot’s width. The versatility of this style table makes it ideal if you have a small home.

Furniture is made up of straight lines with the occasional curved accent, whilst complicated carved styles are avoided. Wooden sofas are very popular, which combine seating with storage when the top is lifted. Multi-purpose furniture is particularly popular in Sweden, making the most of space and avoiding clutter.

 

Emily Bradbury is writing on behalf of Antiques to Vintage, an innovative new site that connects antique buyers and sellers from around the world together in one place.

 

 

A Fika in Phoenix

There are some pros to living in a big city. Bozeman, Montana, where I first ended up, only had 30,000 people in the area. While many of them had Swedish heritage, there was not much Swedish culture.

Phoenix is a whole different story though. I run into a lot of Swedes! Many have lived here for years and years, but all still speak Swedish, and still love Sweden.

When I first came to Phoenix I searched “Swedish restaurants” on Google. Beaver’s Choice came up.

Beavers Choice

Now this is an odd name for a Swedish restaurant, and when I came across it, it was actually closed! So I had to wait a few months for their remodeling to be finished before I could go and have some Swedish food.

Inside Beaver's ChoiceWhen their doors did finally open, it was well worth the wait! While this restaurant claims to be Scandinavian, Polish, and Canadian, I found it to be Swedish enough for my liking! Hey, I mean, the sign has Swedish in it :)

While the restaurant was a bit empty, the inside was beautiful. Not only was it clean, but it had pictures of Europe all over the walls. Sold!

The menu was great, as I saw Swedish words everywhere. Including köttbullar. pytt i panna, smörgåsbord and the like. I opted for the “Shrimp Salad Sandwich”, which was so good! The bread tasted exactly like the one I would get at Frostkåge kösken in Sweden.

shrimpsandwich

I asked the waitress if the owner was around so I could a) ask permission to take pictures of her restaurant and b) tell her how great her restaurant was! When I spoke to her, I started in Swedish, and she spoke English right back at me. I’m used to that.

However, it was interesting when my SWEA friend Mia came along and we started talking in Swedish. The owner noticed and started talking with us. She was so surprised I spoke Swedish. I pointed out that I spoke Swedish with her when I first came in. She laughed, because it didn’t even register with her that I was speaking a language besides English!

Turns out, that great bread she gets from a bakery in Scottsdale (northern Phoenix), who doesn’t sell to the public. Boo! That bread was delicious! Well, I guess I’ll just have to go back to Beaver’s Choice for my Swedish food fix!