Stockholm- A Culture Capital

Stockholm- A Culture Capital
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Russia: Hot Off the Press

Moscow. 2 weeks down. 42 to go. Not that I want to leave, but a survivalist mentality kicks in when you are in such a massive city. A city of 10 Million where most people conform, are racist to foreigners, and are often closed minded. These people don’t speak the language I do, and nothing is written in the Latin alphabet outside of my computer screen. It sounds bleak and overwhelming, which is exactly how I felt my first night in the city.

However the city starts to open up to you day after day. You begin to understand where you are and are going, words and signs begin to have meaning, and you come to terms with the fact that Russians don’t smile. Oh and when you do, they act like they might catch it. The word crazy comes to mind every time I begin trying to describe Moscow.

You know that friend of yours that can be frustrating at times because they are so hard to control and may do something rash on a whim? Full of ups and downs, but despite this you love them because they are always a good time, and never boring. Moscow is this friend. Huge and diverse with tons to do and see. People always in motion, and at every corner you find an incredible building, a camel riding stand, or 3 guys challenging you to a hammering contest in the middle of the street.

The city is a place of contradictions and is a ‘take it as it is’ kind of place. The fun of exploring here is never knowing what to expect and just going with it. Every time I leave the house with my camera I come home with some great pictures and when I forget I am kicking myself for missing the opportunity.

I have yet to develop a feeling of home in Moscow, but I have a respect and a healthy appetite for what there is to take from the city and I know this year will be thrilling, action packed, and hold twists and turns that I can’t even guess about.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lazy Days and Cirque du Soleils

I went to Orlando to see Harry Potter, but I also went to catch up with some amazing friends I made working in France. Our 2 day segue to Orlando was nothing but constant laughs and good times. Our first day was quite relaxed, and frankly we needed a break from trekking around Manhattan non-stop.

After we landed we got treated to some southern BBQ and headed off to a Natural spring to drift down the river in tubes. The challenge of this was fitting 7 people and 7 tubes into a vehicle with only 2 seats installed. But with various body parts and black O’s sticking out we made it the spring without being pulled over.

After an afternoon in the water Menchies was in order. Menchies is a self serve frozen yogurt, or ‘Fro-Yo’ bar that gives you 12 featured flavors of frozen yogurt and a bar of toppings ranging from chocolate, to cereal, to cheesecake. Once you have taste tested the yogurt, filled your cup with all the goodies you want, and are ready to feast, you weigh in your cup and pay by weight. Everyone sat in silence while eating on the patio, mixed with some moans and cries of ‘so good’

We then retired to Erica’s and played apples to apples until it was time for my 4th Cirque du Soleil show. Matt and I have become addicts and since there is one in Down Town Disney it was a must see. The show La Nouba exceeded my expectations as usual. The shows are so good they are hard to describe. I am attaching a trailer for you to get an idea of the costuming and acrobatic wonder that transports you to a world of make believe for the 90 minutes of bliss the show provides. I was most impressed by the Chinese girls that looked as if they could dance on water as they twittered around with diabolos, and the beauty of the silk strings always amazes me. Cirque always manages to add humor into their shows with some goofy characters that break up the jaw dropping acts. This time it was a pair of clowns that provide slapstick comedy and dynamite pranks that are reminiscent of Road Runner.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Despite the fact that we were in the Greatest City in the World, we wanted to go see a world we will never truly be able to visit—The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studios has given ‘muggles’ a chance to enjoy the wonder of J.K. Rowling’s magical world at their Islands of Adventure them park.

The island includes the high street of Hogsmeade (the village that 3rd year students of Hogwarts and older get to visit) and is host to all the shops and pubs that are mentioned in the books. The most famous being Zonko’s joke shop, Honeydukes, The Three Broomsticks, The Hogs Head, and Olivander’s wand shop. I really splurged at Honeydukes, purchasing rock and cauldron cakes, and my very own chocolate frog. I washed these down with pumpkin juice, and kept my sugar high going all day with the parks famous Butterbeer.

We ran around like first years buying supplies and tried on robes, were chosen by wands, and got into house rivalries along the way. The Hogwarts express is there to greet you in along with a conductor sweating in the Orlando heat while in a jumpsuit.

As for rides on the island there is a hippogryph ride for kids, a set of dueling dragon coasters for adults, and a 3D ride that takes you all over the grounds of Hogwarts on levitating benches that Hermione has been nice enough to charm for the curious. The main attraction is definitely the ride through Hogwarts, even the waiting line is enchanted with foreign plants in the green house, paintings that move and fight amongst themselves, the vials of crystals showing the house points, and our grouchy friend the sorting hat even makes an appearance. I have to be honest that the final ride did not blow my mind and felt I would have rather just been able to explore the castle on my own. However the park will make any Harry Potter die hard weep for joy, and be something that anyone will find magical.

Although Harry stole the show, the other islands of the park are still a lot of fun, my favorite being the marvel island with a cool 3D Spiderman ride, and the monster-speed Hulk Coaster. This has always been one of my favorite theme parks and Harry has iced the cake.

Long live 'The Boy Who Lived'

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why People Love the Big Apple

New York is often called the greatest city in the world, and New Yorkers definitely believe that it is. I have never been somewhere that the people are so proud of their home. Every New Yorker, born there or not, is seething with pride. Not that you can blame them with hundreds of world famous landmarks in their back yard. Not to mention more world-class restaurants than you could ever hope to visit. I couldn’t help but notice that the pride ran deeper than just having a whole lot of famous landmarks around.

I did my very best to find out the source, exploring as much of the city as I could in 2 weeks, and even I began to get infected with the fervor of NYC pride. The key is that each area of New York, especially Manhattan has it own identity. We hear the slang in the movies about ‘the village’, SOHO, Wall Street, and so on. Each of these chunks of the city is notorious for something, whether it is where hipsters are, host of shopping boutiques, unique restaurants, or feeling like you are on the streets of China. There is something to offer in each area and like people congregate and rejoice in their district of choice. This creates the effect of high school cliques all across the city, but rather than the petty hatred and rivalries each area adds to the canvas of what New York has to offer.

The interesting thing about New York is that unlike the rest of America it was founded by the Dutch East India Company and was based on commerce rather than religion. Even when the British took over they left most of the Dutch systems of commerce and government in place because it was so successful. Often Americans say that New York isn’t really part of America, and because almost 50 percent of New Yorkers are immigrants they may have a point. This however is the wonder of the city, it isn’t like the rest of America but it exemplifies what America has always been said to be—a land of opportunity.

I was lucky enough to have the time and energy to see the famous sites from the ground, the water, and atop the Empire State Building. The buildings we see in the movies are amazing, but it is the hidden gems that always make the visit worth it. Piles of Graffiti art, chess masters waiting for you to oppose them in Union Square 7 nights a week, walking along a park that has been built atop an old rail road, and seeing live performances underground as you rush through the subways. In such a large and diverse city you are always bound to run into something new and interesting. The never ending fun and opportunity that comes from a truly global community is what makes New York so great and draws in visitors from all around the world year after year. This will definitely not be my last trip to New York.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New York-Famous Fat Dave

To help get ourselves acquainted with one of the world’s most famous cities we decided that instead of hopping on the Metro, or a bus tour that we would call Famous Fat Dave and eat our way around the boroughs. Famous Fat Dave ( provides custom food tours in an old checkered taxicab that pulls the eyes of Nostalgic old New Yorkers, kids, and tourists alike. Dave will take any food request you have and hand you the best of what New York has to offer. He gives you a commentary of the boroughs and hundreds of famous buildings and districts that you pass to get to your next edible landmark.

Fat Dave picked up our trio of Canadians in uptown Manhattan and tossed a Max Brenner chocolate chunk cookie our way as part of our introduction. He told us a little bit about his car as we told him some of the foods we wanted to try and had us rolling toward a coal burning pizza oven before we knew it. New York style pizza has a very thin crust, and when you use a coal oven you get to taste pizza the way it tasted a hundred years ago in NYC. It is no longer legal to use coal ovens but about 60 restaurants in New York have managed to keep theirs running, allowing us to enjoy our first of many New York City pies.

From the Pizza we continued on the Italian theme to have Roman Broccoli fried with Italian Sausage and served with garlic knots and Had a Hero sub from Delfonte’s Sandwich Shop, where the Sopranos like to eat. They served up Italian ham with fried potatoes and egg on a sub with house brewed sweet Tea.

By this point we would have been full, but Dave taught us to pace ourselves from the beginning and had about 20 minutes between each delicacy to digest and feast our eyes on the city. With stomach room to spare we had Vietnamese sandwiches, with lychee and avocado shakes, then stopped for some fresh beef jerky in China town. It was the softest and tastiest Jerky I have had in my life. We managed to keep eating, having key lime pie, and chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick, but the boundaries were about to be pushed.

Finally we went Jewish, a must in New York, eating blueberry blintzes, and had a visit to the pickle bar, new pickles, aged pickles, pickled okra and green beans. However by the time we got to the pickle bar we were nearly incapable of masticating, swallowing, and ever peristalsis was threatening to come to a halt. Resultantly we left the cab with a bag of pickled goods, peach, blueberry, and vanilla doughnuts, and some left over jerky.
We were so full that we self subscribed ourselves a day of walking off our 3.5 hour marathon to shop through SOHO and have only fluids until a late night doughnut and coffee binge. Famous Dave is a 5-star way to see New York with your eyes and your stomach.