Saturday, January 29, 2011


The real reason to go to Vienna was that an unusually odd mix of people I know happened to be there all in the same weekend, so it was a good chance to see some people I haven't seen in some time.

I really liked Vienna, though I only had a short amount there so it was hard to get a good feel or really see anything substantial. The public transportation was great, including multiple types of train systems, rams, a subway, buses, and a plentiful amount of bicycle lanes. The architecture is some of the most interesting and impressive I have seen and sprawls everywhere, including regular apartment buildings. The detail is amazing. The sprawl and detail do have to do in part to the fact that it was the capital of a very large Austro-Hungarian empire.

I arrived Friday in the evening and stayed at Lautauro's place with his girlfriend and their roomates. They live pretty close to the center in a typical 5 story Viennese apartment, and the amazing thing about the architecture there, is that not only is the building facade impressive, but it continues on the interior of the building and then to the apartments. The buildings were certainly built before running water, so the corridoors have sinks that were used for bathing before bathrooms and then showers were added to the apartments. Even the texture and style of the walls and floors, and the spiral staircase, was impressive. And this was just an average building that was not terribly well maintained. Large ceilings and narrow rectangular rooms were in the apartment. Because the shower was added to the apartment as it's own independent feature after the bathroom, it was placed right next to the kitchen, and practically in the open, with no door to the room, allowing everyone to see if they so choose. Yikes. They're comfortable with it, though. Guess I just went with the flow!

The sink that probably was used for bathing (or at the very least washing clothes) before bathrooms were placed in the individual apartments:

A definite late addition, the elevator with barely enough space for 2 normal sized people.

Friday night we went out and had some Austrian beers. Going from Scottish (and even any beers in South America) to Austrian beer is like hitting a brick wall. It is really bitter and actually has flavor.

Saturday awoke to a mildly sturdy Austrian breakfast of bread with liver paste and apfel kren. Apfel kren is like an apple paste but it has some sort of fermented sour taste to it. I give the meal a 3 out of 5 stars. It was complemented by some Scottish Bovril that Lautauro still had from his trip there in November.


Then we walked and met up with Brian and Catarina. I stayed with Brian for almost 3 weeks in Rio, and it was some sort of amazing timing. He did a year of high school in Austria some years ago and is on his summer break now, so they were just going around Austria and France for a month. We walked around a bit, went to the Belvedere Palace, and then they had to take the train to Graz. So that was really great to meet up, who knows when I'll be in Brazil or he'll be in the US again.

A nice apfel strudel was then had at a cafe, and onto the grocery store for shopping ingredients for dinner. I could not resist picking up a few food souvenirs to bring back to Lund, so I found a massive dried sausage (that I am still working on!).

Lautauro makes the pizza dough:

Delicious and fatty:

Apfel strudel:

Sunday began with an even sturdier Austrian breakfast. Smelly cheese, regular cheese, sausage, apfel kren, liver paste, bread, coffee, and soft pretzels. Then it was time to meet up with Dominik. I hosted Dominik for 4 or 5 days when I was in Chicago, through couchsurfing. Being from Vienna, Dominik was actually able to tell a lot about the history of Vienna, individual buildings, how things work, etc. We had some coffee in a Viennese cafe and walked around for a few hours. Really, the architecture is amazing.

The Rathaus (I think my german spelling is wrong on that haha)


With Dominik in front of the Congress:

2 hooves up, this guy died in battle:

Pinnochio and I:

Dominik and his girlfriend show up some really Austrian hotdog/sausages for lunch:

The famous cake place near the Opera house. Guess we didn't get any, just took a picture haha.

Nice colorful subway:

Daily Newspapers on the honor system. Take a newspaper, drop your money in.

Cold and in the subway:


I'd like to go back though and spend more time and really see some things. Or, go to an Opera! You can go to almost all Opera's for 3 euros (standing room).

Other than that, it seems like a really great city. I'm glad I was able to meet up with Brian and Dominik. Lautauro, well, he's moving to Luxemborg in about 3 months, so, I guess that gives me a new excuse to go there in the spring!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Real Restroom

This is ingenious. They have a room in the engineering building called the restroom. But, it actually really is a room where you rest. You can go get the key from a supervisor between classes and they have a dark room with some beds (or a bed?), and you go in and sleep for a bit. Gonna have to try it out soon. Brings a new definition (and certainly a more literal & accurate one) to the word restroom. Netsanet poses with the nondescript restroom door:

Ahh, the beauty of living in a country full of honest and generally trustworthy people. All the students bring their coffee mugs to the engineering building and then leave them hanging in the main lobby for the whole semester, and nobody steals them:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Body Temperatures

Took a tour of a laboratory on campus today that does some research into various types of clothing and gear for fire fighters, to study, for example, how various materials insulate a fire fighter and their influence on the rate at which body temperatures change, or, how a fire fighter wearing a vest filled with ice absorbs heat and thus helps more effectively cool the body and control breathing and metabolic rates for a longer duration (a good thing when you are in a hot building with 50 lbs of gear on). Well, here's what I looked like on the temperature sensing display. Hot, I know. Zing. Cheesy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bicycles & Cigarettes

I hope you have a good idea what your bicycle looks like! (Downtown Lund)

They don't sugarcoat the messages on cigarette boxes here. Well, I suppose this could be perceived the other way around. Maybe, the tobacco execs in the US have more clout (errr, money) within the government and thus in determining legislation that persuades people from smoking, so we get slogans like: 'The surgeon general advises that there is a small chance of lung cancer, so please, go ahead and donate money to the tobacco industry'

Sunday, January 16, 2011



-It's traditional to eat pea soup on Thursdays. Historically Friday was a fast day, and the pea soup was considered quite hearty, so they ate it on Thursdays. Restaurants and campus joints still serve it only on Thursdays.

-My first class, according to my schedule, starts at 10:00 on Monday morning. However, in fact, it doesn't really start until 10:15. When the University was first created in the 1600s, it would take 15 minutes for people to get to class after the bell was rung. The tradition continues. But if it is at night for example, 6:00 pm, the start time is really 6:30pm. The historical basis is that people had to change into their evening wear and then head out, so half an hour was allotted. If an invitation is written, however, as 10.., then it actually really is 10:00am.

This is a massive sausage-hot-dog. I had to buy one. Falukorv (korv means sausage, falu is a reference to town it originated in)

This is a common recipe that uses Falukorv:

Falukorv Stroganoff

4 portioner

Tillagningstid: 20 min.

* 400 g falukorv
* 2 gula lökar
* 1-2 msk margarin eller smör
* 1 msk vetemjöl
* 2 dl mjölk
* 1 tsk salt
* 1 krm mald svartpeppar
* 2 msk tomatpuré
* 1 dl gräddfil
* 2-3 msk hackad gräslök (eller persilja)

Gör så här

* Skär korven i centimetertjocka strimlor. Skala och hacka löken. Fräs korv och lök i matfettet i stekpanna. Strö över vetemjöl, rör om och blanda i mjölken, lite i taget så att det blir en tjock sås. Tillsätt salt, peppar och tomatpuré. Sjud det hela sakta på svag värme cirka 5 minuter. Rör i gräddfilen och värm - utan att koka - till lagom ättemperatur. Strö gräslök eller persilja över korven i sin sås. Servera med kokt ris, pressad potatis eller pasta (vid äggallergi - välj pasta som passar).

-I feel lost in the grocery store, really. Time to start studying names of things.

-A traditional Norwegian dish is cold canned mackerel on hard, dry, crumbly, bread. Even for breakfast. Gross.

-Quite pleased with the grocery store in comparison to Scotland. Many more fresh vegetables and fruits. You can actually touch them too. Not all covered in plastic. It isn't THAT expensive. Probably more so than Edinburgh.

-The lingonberry is really common.

-All alcohol above 3.5% really is sold in state run stores. There are only 2 in Lund. The systembolagett. Most people go to Denmark or more frequently Germany to buy beer and liquor since it is substantially cheaper (and probably better if they go to Germany anyways). The Norwegians go to Sweden for cheaper booze. Ah, to be a Norwegian, life must be good and easy when you have to go to Sweden for cheap stuff.

-I need a bicycle. I feel left out without one. The residences have garages just for all the bicycles. The rule here is if you lose your bicycle, just take someone else's. I'll buy one or go to the police station, though. And invest in a good lock. Helmets are considered total non-sense. Who would wear one of those ugly plastic looking thingys?

-Skåne is the southernmost province of Sweden. Lund and Malmö are in it. Pronounce the å like an o, a bit similar to how you would say 'Scone'.

-Sweden has an army. Not sure what they do, but one guy in my residence went to Egypt to study Arabic for the army.

-Tuition is covered for all and everyone gets a small living stipend if they ask for it (nothing massive, enough to cover food probably). You can also get a 0% interest loan from the government. One genius in my residence invested his. Guess he'll make a profit.

-My Swedish stinks and I can't understand anyone. I'm studying a bit in my free time, though. I'll wish myself some necessary good luck, I think it will be a reasonably fruitless undertaking without totally immersing and dedicating myself. Plus, theyre English are probably more grametically correct then mine.

That's it for this Sundays factoid session.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Godis (Candy)

Just your average candy section in your average grocery store in Sweden: Godis avsnitt i affaren.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Going to Copenhagen really made me wonder how to formulate an opinion on a place.

Several times, I met people, and they ask the #1 question "What do you think of Copenhagen?", or "Do you like XXX?"

If you really think some city sucks, are you just going to tell them exactly that? Most people probably won't.

So before I got to writing this, I started to think about what places I liked and disliked, and why.

For example, I know I really liked Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. I didn't really like Salvador in Brazil, or Sao Paulo. I have strong opinions on Brasilia and Lima and Dubai, not necessarily positive or negative.

But Copenhagen was just a blah of a place. Well, it was less blah than Edinburgh.

So, my response to these people was something as such:

"I think it is a nice city (Note: That sounds really lame doesn't it?!). There seem to be a lot of rules, people seem to follow them, and I've met people who were unusually nice"

And I based that pretty much on 3 things.

1) Within about 30 minutes of arriving in Copenhagen, I was on the metro taking it to my host's house. At the metro, you don't have to put your ticket in a machine to gain access to the platform. So anyone can just board the train, even if the don't have a ticket. Something about trust (I don't actually think that's what its about...more later). Anyways, I was pretty close to my stop, and the guy comes walking around checking tickets. Of course, I bought a ticket. I couldn't exactly figure out the fare pricing correctly. It was based on zones, so I chose 2. Well, wrong guess. The guy told me I needed 3, and at the next stop, which coincidentally was mine, he pulled me off and we chatted. I was laughing to myself at how ridiculous this was. Don't they have anything better to worry about? He started writing me a fine, and I thought it would be reasonable and nothing to worry about. Wrong. 600 Kronor, which is over $100 USD!!. I explained I just arrived for the first time, he saw all my luggage, looked at my passport, and still, ticket issued! So, I was pretty mad and instantly had a bad opinion about the city.

2)I walked up the stairs from the metro to the city level, still wondering in disbelief about the fine. I had all my luggage on me and was struggling a bit with the stairs. A really nice girl was walking up the stairs and asked me if I needed help. Of course I said yes! I didn't know specifically how to get there, although I had my map, so she offered to make sure I found exactly where I was going! It was about 10 minutes out of her way. So, anyways, she was really nice and friendly and talkative (with perfect English), and that changed my opinion again. That could have been anyone, anywhere, but since I've never had that happen before, and it happened to be in Copenhagen, I made the broad conclusion that the Danes are are overly nice.

With Dana (the nice girl who helped me with my luggage and find where I was going!)

3)Just a general observation was that almost everyone waited for the little red man to turn into a little green man before they cross the street. Even when there were no cars, in any direction. That seemed odd. Must be because they expect a massive fine otherwise.

The last little bit I liked alot about Copenhagen was that almost every street had bicycle lanes. And it seems pretty much everyone owns a bicycle. When crossing the street, first look left and right, cross the bicycle lane, then look left and right, cross the street. They even seem to have bicycle traffic jams. And, there are bicycles of all new kinds and types. Many people commute to work by bicycle. It's a very flat city, so it's not so difficult to do. I call this one the Adult Tricycle Grocery Getter:

It's pretty unbelievable the amount of ways carrying devices (including baby carrying devices) can be mounted to bicycles. Aside from the bicycle, they did have a really good transportation system. The 'metro' was 2 lines (24 hour/day). They have another thing called the S-Train, which has about 5 or 6 lines, that goes throughout the city and to the suburbs, another kind of subway. Then, there are tons of buses. Also, the regular trains, which took me across the water to Sweden. That for just over 1 million people. So who needs a car? One person told me if you bought a car for 50,000 Danish Kronor, after taxes, it would cost almost 150,000 Kronor.

Other than that, my host was really nice. We cooked lots of dinners. He had a few really nice roomates (all with perfect English), and I met some of his friends a few times which I enjoyed. Walked around a bit in the freezing cold, learned a bit about the wars between the Swedes and Danes, ate some herring in a jar with some pink Russian sandwich paste made from beets and cabbage, admired some nice architecture, and relaxed.

But overall, I guess I really did like Copenhagen. More so than Edinburgh. It has a lot of redeemable qualities if you follow the law to the 't' and pay your fines.

The popular herring in a jar:

Herring sandwich:

Ice Skating (my first time using speed skates...because the regular skates weren't free haha...)

An ingenious idea. Just cut a hole in the middle of the bun instead of splitting it. Then it won't break.

Made some Paraguayan Tortillas:

Home of Carlsberg (remember, it is PROBABLY the best beer).

Bike frozen in one of the many rivers:

With Nilin (hosted me):

A laugher of a photo:

Sunday, January 9, 2011


My 4 hours in Reykjavik city was hardly anything, but better than nothing.

I was only in the city from about 7am-11am.

It was cold.

There was not much light until about 10am. Still, when light came, I never saw even a silouette of the sun itself.

The thing that surprised me the most was the Christmas lights. Not just in the downtown. In residential neighborhoods and apartment buildings as well. Lights in everyones houses. On their bushes. In their windows and roofs. On the street lamps. Lots and lots of menorahs (I think they were menorahs....but wikipedia tells me there aren't many Jewish people in Iceland..) Lots of wreaths. Lots of candles. Very pretty and colorful.

They speak Icelandic. It is supposedly one of the most related languages to that that the vikings spoke.

The landscape was pretty volcanic and rocky looking outside the city. Maybe because it was the middle of winter. There are mountains in the distance in most directions inland.

Icelandic street name:

A main street downtown in the morning:

Main Cathedral in the center:

Still not sure if these 7 pronged lights are menorahs, but they were everywhere:

The sun taking quite some time to rise: