Exploring Vienna

Vienna was excellent for a weekend trip. The Noicelings did not enjoy the Viennese Waltz muzak as we boarded our early morning flight. I thought it was a nice touch to set the mood for Austria.

Failing to make our teens appreciate the adventure

We arrived in time for brunch and I wished, not for the first time since moving to Europe, that I had the nerve to order two coffees for myself right away, because it’s so good, and the portion size (one size only, a bit bigger than a shot glass) is so tiny that I always finish that first “cup” immediately. There’s no such thing as a warm-up because it’s not filter coffee. Vienna has it’s own coffee drinks menu, my favorite was the Vienna mix or melange. Delicious! The trick is to make frequent stops for coffee.

These are very small cups for a shot of espresso with room to combine milk, water or cream etc.

The Museum of Natural History is absolutely amazing. I could spend many days there, but since we only had time for a sampling, I tried to stick to the top 100 exhibits with an audio guide and 3D tour also accessible online. Using my phone and the audio guide together I was able to find most of the items and descriptions in English. The space itself is fabulous, and if I had to choose one favorite from the trip I think this would be it. Everyone enjoyed it. But finally my crew gave in to exhaustion so I persevered and finished on my own, emerging after dark into a misty, old-world cityscape.

so many beautiful rocks

It is always fun to see things recognizable from pop-culture, such as a sculpture (Jondalar’s “Mother”) from the Jean Auel books, a rare mounted oarfish, and extremely rare taxidermied specimens like a nearly complete dodo, tasmanian tiger, fantastic fossils etc, stuff so bizarre they seem fake!

center: six meter long oarfish or king herring, very rare

Next up was the Belvedere: 800 years of art history, where we had a timed admission, and it was still pretty crowded in the popular galleries. We probably should have paid for audio guides and we’d have gotten more out of it. It was cool but less interesting. We got hangry before we were finished and the cafeteria was swamped, so we had to settle for the coffee shop cakes. Not bad, but too sweet. The truffled celery soup was very nice, and the kids were sorry they didn’t order it. I shared a little bit just to keep the peace.

After lunch we walked down to the lower palace for this exhibition, GROW-

Art as reflection of the symbiosis between humans and trees: The Lower Belvedere exhibition builds a conceptual bridge from the tree as knowledge of good and evil, to the tree of wisdom, to the tree as the metaphorical axis of the world. The significance of the tree in art is explained by a thematic “branch” that stretches from the spiritual to the rationally perceptible to statements of environmentalism.

The selection of works is drawn from the Belvedere’s collection, supplemented with international contributions. The artistic works cover a period from the 15th century to the present.

The tree exhibit was intriguing. It had a more relaxed feel and no crowds. But we ran out of juice for the last gallery and caught a taxi back to the hotel.

Upper Belvedere Palace

There you have it, three days in Vienna!

New Year’s Eve: Vienna

The kids requested a quiet Holiday break in Lund, which was quite nice for all of us. We had a chance to tackle a few more items on the to-do-list as well as enjoy local festivities. Erin and Ramesh hosted a wonderful Christmas brunch and we had our second annual group Julbord in Malmö. After lots of low-key merrymaking we were up for a long weekend in Austria to celebrate New Year’s Eve Viennese style!

Midnight waltzing on Graben Street

We managed to get ourselves nearly to Stephansplatz, the main square for NYE celebrations. Luckily we made it onto Graben street where revelers waltz under the chandeliers. The Blue Danube waltz fills the air as the bells of Saint Stephans toll. Let the waltzing and cheering commence! It was so charming and manageable as far as big crowds go. People were mostly calm and happy. We caught only a glimpse of the fireworks show, and once the waltzing ended we took a scenic route back to the metro and the hotel, feeling that we had hit most of the highlights and joined in a unique NYE tradition.

Earlier in the evening we managed another traditional Austrian pub meal, including excellent house beer and another version of my new favorite thing, iced apricot dumpling!

melange coffee, Klimt torte, truffled cream of celery soup, a tiny sausage pretzel, viennese breakfast, iced apricot dumpling

We burned some of those calories walking to the Billrothaus Festsall to hear the Vienna Kaiser Orchestra

which was better than we’d anticipated.

The program was short and highly entertaining (the conductor told stories and set the scenes) with a sampling from Vienna’s historical music scene’s “greatest hits.” The space seemed much too small for dancers but somehow they delivered, and the intimately sized theater made for excellent sound and a nice connection to the performers. The only downside was rude behavior by many in the audience who were distracting with their smart phones and chatter. We had a hard time ignoring some of the drama of audience members attempting to one-up each other with their bad manners. Seriously embarrassing. One alternative would be to book a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, but the seats sell out about 5 years in advance and even the standing room only tickets are expensive. Plus we would need fancy clothes for that while this venue allows casual dress and a smaller time commitment. We even had time for a short nap before hitting the “New Year’s Eve Trail”

Once back at the hotel we tried to get some sleep but the fireworks and partying was still going strong at 3am. We were running on adrenaline the next morning for breakfast at Aida and while the kids were packing, Bry and I headed back to see Stephansplatz since we never made it there the previous night. We enjoyed some of the live broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Day concert and saw quite a bit of the area before we had to get back to fetch the kids for our return trip to Lund. Short and sweet!

Vienna Philharmonic broadcasting live and finally the sun came out!

India, Part 3

The last post of my India trip is really just about the drive back from Kabini to Bengaluru. Of course, on that drive, we stopped in Mysuru (Mysore) to see the amazing palace. We got a tour, and did some sketchy things with a little extra contribution to the local economy. :-/ But it meant that we skipped a giant line, got a great guide, and maybe got blessings from one of the processional elephants of the King of Mysore …

There was so much info dropped by the guide that I am still a bit overwhelmed thinking about it. One fun trivia is that the current (young) king of Mysore went to BU (but graduated in 2017, about 23 years after I did. 8-/

Suffice to say, the art and architecture was amazing. There were 3 architectural styles combined into the building because the king was a very “ecumenical” person who wanted architects from christian, muslim, and hindu faiths to design the building together to make sure that it reflected all the people in the kingdom.

India, Part 2

So, part 1 was all about my “work trip”. Part 2 is about the weekend in the country that I had between Mumbai and Bengaluru. I visited Redearth Lodge in the Kabini reserve with Wim and Parag. Super awesome venue with amazing food, and here are some pics from the resort.

Here is a little video tour I took walking the paths.

Of course, the real reason to visit is the wildlife, we did 3 safaris. There were 2 kinds – jeep and boat. We did 2 jeep safaris (which left at 5:30 in the morning) and one boat safari (that was mid-afternoon). Saturday morning was the first jeep, Saturday afternoon was the boat, and Sunday morning was the second jeep.

Here are some pics from the first jeep safari. And, yes, that is a tiger in the wild. 🙂

Safari 2 was the boat. The elephant was amazing, and the croc on the shore was really interesting. Also, the grey fisher eagle with some kind of fish that was as long as it was!

Safari 3 was back to the jeep on Sunday. We saw a leopard, which was very rare, but it was very obscured in a tree. We learned that the langurs will mess with the tigers – pull their tails and then escape into the trees, but they do not mess with the leopards. Leopards climb trees. Also, mongoose are quite cute.

And that is it for Part 2. Part 3 will be all about the Palace of Mysuru!

Advent season

I hosted fika at our apartment one afternoon and served glögg using the collection of cups that I collected from thrift stores around town.

A clerk at the Grand Deli advised me what to serve for the most traditional glögg party. She recommended lingon knäcke, a kind of flat bread/ cracker, along with ginger cookies and cheese. I bought the first two items (lingonknäcke älg, and some fancy ginger bread) at the Deli and proceeded to the grocery store for the cheese. I asked more people for help finding the correct cheese and several of them had strong opinions about the “best” ost… so I ended up with two types of blue cheese. To my surprise it is served on the ginger cookies, not the knäcke! The lingonberry flat bread is delicious (and so adorable) but not meant to go with cheese for some reason.

I didn’t take photos during the party so these were done after the fact and the cheese is long gone. The cookie cheese combo was not a hit. One person said it was OK and several enjoyed the cheese with the crackers rather than the cookies. No Swedes were present so we could be blunt!

After sampling the traditional foods and enjoying lots of Christmas cookies saffron buns and candies provided by the guests, we made Scandinavian woven hearts. Carole gifted me the Christmas plate from 1970. We’ve had fun searching thrift stores for 1966 because she wants that year for another friend. It was a nice way to welcome December.

Soon nearly all the International ladies will leave Sweden for the Holidays. I could use more downtime here to get settled in the apartment. There have been so many projects to do. Bryant finished the kitchen island and spice rack installation! Both turned out really well and the kitchen is feeling more organized.

After the party I started feeling tired and run down. Sure enough I woke up with cold symptoms and had to cancel my plans for nearly a week. I missed cooking club, several concerts, coffee club, sewing club and other social events. I was able to continue my daily walk since the cold air helped clear my sinuses. I think it was just a cold…I had almost recovered by the time Bryant returned from India.

We’ve been getting lots of frost and even a bit of snow. Bry and L were happy to get out for a winter hike. We also started digging out the holiday decorations. We found most of the items we wanted except for Bry’s winter coat!!! He is making do with layers.

India, Part 1

I had a trip to India for work. There were 2 work parts – a work part and a personal part, so I will make this in 2 posts, spanning Mumbai, Mysuru, and Bengaluru. Part 1 is more my observations from the cities.

My company has a growing footprint in India, both for manufacturing and retail, and it was the latter that I was there for. The leadership team was doing a bit of leadership development, and a bit of market exploration at the same time. So, a few of us flew to Mumbai, had some meetings, and did some home visits. I did not take so many pictures of the home visits, as others were more focused on that.

There were security and bag checks everywhere. My bags were scanned multiple times at the airport, every time going into a hotel, and going into any kind of special place (like a temple or a palace).

When I arrived in Mumbai, it was 2am. There was more traffic at 2am from the airport to my hotel than there is at rush hour in Copenhagen. It was crazy! And I was in a weird headspace being as tired as I was! Speaking of traffic, I and some colleagues left Bengaluru for an excursion. We left on a Friday afternoon, and returned on a Sunday afternoon/evening. So, basically the same window as all the rest of the people going to get out of the city or visit friends and family. And for the record, Begaluru is a city of 13 million people. So, the weekend traffic was AMAZING(ly bad). One friend slept the whole way back to the hotel from our outing, lucky devil! It was about 150km, but it took 5,5 hours. Oof.

Of course, I ate a lot of Indian food. I have to say, it was overall amazing! I was a little over it by the end of my 9 days, but I loved most every thing I ate! From lavish dinners to roadside snacks and everything in between, I dove into the food! But I did not take a lot of pictures – was too busy eating!

The first thing I noticed is that my flight there avoided Iran airspace …

Another thing is that basically everyplace is under construction. It is amazing, regardless of the scale, there are building projects everywhere!

A lot of the buildings have an exterior stain that I think is a mix of smog and monsoon. And there is an overwhelming sense of layers – colour, buildings, ages, etc.

I took a lot of pictures of traffic, and a video of the flow of scooters and motos all honking. Honking all the time. And mostly, people just getting on with living the best they can.

Also, there were some funny random things! Spices, signs, monumental statues, and an Indian Bidet!

Overall, it was an amazing work trip to visit offices in both Mumbai and Bengaluru! But it was part 2 that was the most fun!

Birthday week, part 2

…birthday week has turned into birthday month and it’s nearly December! At this point I will just try to choose a few moments to highlight and summarize the month of November.

Erin and Melissa took me out for birthday lunch at Marvin, featuring “classic English suet pies” and wonderful crispy Mac and Cheese bites. We tried 3 versions of the pie: traditional beef, curried chicken, and goat cheese w/ beets. We all thought they were fantastic! That’s where to go for comfort food.

Marvin in Malmö

Carole hosted Lussekatter saffron buns fika at her house especially for Spanish speakers, so I met a couple of newcomers to the International Club and brushed up on my Spanish a bit. Carole is perfecting this recipe, and I’m happy to help. This batch turned out great! And we made chokladbollar as well, a no-bake recipe that will be really easy with the Thermomix.

Yummy saffran buns

One weekend I joined Carole and another American, Andrea, for a tour of Malmö offered by one of her colleagues who works for the City of Malmö. She told us many interesting stories about her neighborhood, Rörsjöstaden. Unfortunately I forgot most of the details and cannot find the notes I made, so I’ve linked to another blog post which describes a similar tour. But you can see in one photo I marked the apartment where we once had dinner with MN friends who live there! Apparently it is a notorious building due to the rust finish which made it the “ugliest building in Sweden”. I quite like it and don’t think it sticks out in a bad way. I can say that the space inside is really nice. It’s a small world, considering that 350,000 people live in Malmö and we’ve been in that building! It was great having an actual Swedish person show us around. She had even booked brunch for us afterward so we could chat and warm up.

The Architecture Tour
The Jewish cemetery and Holocaust memorial
More from the tour of

Last weekend we visited Malmö’s transportation/ shipping museum (with Bry and Noicelings!) which was better than I expected and had a bit of everything. I enjoyed the stuff about Lund and the natural history exhibits in particular. Also the bit about ferries, which included Bornholm!

The Lighting of the Tree Ceremony in Lund was on Friday afternoon, with a couple of different choirs providing music. Then, after a super long speech, the lights went on with no countdown! It’s such a crowded event that we didn’t stay long and instead made our way to our first Jul market of the season at Kulturen. We were lucky to have a relatively warm evening.

Kulturen jul market

November was so busy this post doesn’t cover it, but now we’re on to the next month. Bryant will soon be posting about his work trip to India and I’ll share about hosting fika with our new kitchen island complete!

More excursions

I keep expecting life to slow down as we settle in on Spolegatan, but it never really does. Lund, like most Swedish cities, is putting up winter lights, replacing water in the fountains with greenery, and adding seasonal decoration. I joined two international organizations for tours in Helsingborg and Malmö this week.

In Malmö we saw a few of the oldest buildings which were near the harbor when they were first built. As the city grew, more town squares/ marketplaces were built to facilitate trade. A few interesting details… about the millstone embedded in stortorget, the big square and the name Malmö, probably just a story since the name Malmö had been used since at least 1170 and the millstone was added much later.

Digging a well in stortorget would have resulted only in sea water, of course, so they piped in fresh water from a lake 3 km away using oak pipes., The well remained in use from the 1520s until the 1850s, when a cholera outbreak was linked to the wooden pipes.

The well in Stortorget, the main square (not the original torg!)
Back in August we celebrated Bryant’s Birthday at Ă…rstiderna (The Seasons restaurant) in the lower level of the Kocksa House, built in 1522

A curious recent addition is this plaque calling out Gustav Vasa for his bad behavior during the peace talks of 1524, when he drew a knife against one of the participants after failing to get his way… an odd detail that we step right over when entering the Espresso House for a post-orthodontist treat!

Raven carefully cleaned up a pool of water to drink from

The Logic Pit

Lily’s ultimate year of Twin Cities Theatre Camp was this past summer. The show was the world premier of an original work by Tim Kraack (who is also the music director of TCTC). I saw every showing and it hit me hard every time. Lily is the character “Charlie”, who leads the engineering team at a tech company. Check out the song “Work” starting around 17:40. Ooof! Here is the show in its entirety, available here as Tim approved it. And “Charlie” is intense!

World premier of The Logic Pit

We are so impressed and proud of Lily, the TCTC team, and the whole cast!