January 24, 2009

A Food Travelogue: From Copenhagen to Helsinki

Hej! (That's "hello" in Danish and Swedish!) Last year, when my sister and I made our usual trip back to Bangkok, our wonderful, globe-trotting mother planned a whirlwind trip for us (and our Dad, of course) to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland in 9 days. The weather was relative mild and pleasant across the countries, except for our visit to Nordcapp (or the North Cape) in hope to see the midnight sun. I took about a million pictures from all of our sightseeing, but I will exercise restraint and share a little Scandinavia travelogue through its sights and cuisine.

We arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, and visited various sights such as the Amelienborg Palace and the famous Little Mermaid statute. After some sightseeing, we got on the Scandinavian Sea Way cruise line to make our way to Oslo, Norway. We enjoyed an expansive Scandinavian buffet on the boat, which included a variety of seafood, breads, cured meats, cheeses, desserts, and a whole bunch of other usual buffet items.

The cold seafood spread on the Scandinavian Sea Way.

Once we arrived in Oslo, we visited a Viking museum, which was really neat because they have exhibits of recovered Viking ships and other voyage objects.

The best part of Oslo was probably the Forgner Park, which contained the amazing Vigeland Sculpture Park.

After Oslo, we traveled to Sweden and spent the night in Karlstad. It was this quiet town and we stayed in this really cute boutique hotel that had the best buffet spread. All of their food items were local and/or organic. I had the most delicious local sausage and organic cheeses there!

We left Karlstad and made our way to Stockholm, which was probably one of my favorite cities on this trip. It was a large, urban city that reminded me of San Francisco. The following day, we wandered around Old Town Stockholm, and I attempt to find kringle to no avail. Above: I couldn't resist a little Lakka, or cloudberry, ice cream--yum!

After a whole lot of walking, my sister and I needed a snack, of course. We couldn't help but make a beeline to a street vendor, and got ourselves a "French hot dog." I don't know if the French are aware of this culinary invention, but it's pretty ingenious. It's essentially your choice of a hot dog stuffed inside a French baguette, condiments optional. We may have just been a little famished, but it was pretty tasty.

In Stockholm, we stayed at the coolest hotel called Clarion Hotel Sign. When I first heard Clarion, I was sort of like eh, lame, just another hotel chain, but I was very pleansantly surprised to find a fun and modern, boutique-style hotel ... AND the home of Marcus Samuelsson's Aquavit Grill & Raw Bar. We couldn't afford the time in our schedule (or money, for that matter) to eat there, so I just admired the restaurant and menu from afar. The next morning, my family and I ate breakfast in the hotel, and lo and behold--Marcus Samuelsson sitting there, presumably with his wife, eating breakfast a few tables away from us! He seemed caught off guard that anyone would recognize him. After I profusely apologized for interrupting his breakfast, he kindly obliged for a photo-op. The photo on the left is Pinnerton with Mr. Samuelsson. So cool, huh?! While were were in Stockholm, we also visited the incredible Stockholm City Hall where the Nobel Prize banquets are held.

A display of the table-setting for the Nobel Prize banquet.

After a fantastic time in Stockholm, we took the Silja Line ship to Helsinki, Finland. From there, we immediately flew Ivalo, then rode in a bus for several hours to Honningsvag, Norway, which was a sleepy but the most populated town closest to the North Cape. After dinner at the hotel in Honningsvag, we took yet another bus ride to the North Cape. I was so excited to see the midnight sun to only find out that visitors have about 10% chance of actually witnessing it, but the North Cape was still eeriely lit at midnight. The picture above is the globe at North Cape.

Even though we didn't get to see the midnight sun, we enjoyed a little champagne and caviar to celebrate the journey.

The next day, we traveled back to Ivalo where visited the Sapmi park, which recreated the Sami culture, and we saw a bunch of reindeers! And for dinner, we ate them! Well, not the reindeers that we saw, but we really did enjoy a local delicacy of braised reindeer, served with lingonberry sauce and mashed potatoes. It was surprisingly not too gamey and tasted pretty good because it may have been braised with a good amount of butter. The lingonberry sauce complemented the reindeer meat really well--just like turkey and cranberry sauce! Oh, the Finnish also enjoy bear meat because we saw canned bear meat at the airport. I almost picked one up but wasn't sure how it would make it through customs.

We flew from Ivalo to Helsinki and spent our last day there. We only spent a couple of hours sightseeing, but there really isn't much to see in Helsinki. We did visit the Sibelius monumental park, which was created in honor of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, most famous for Finlandia, Opus 26. Our bus driver played the piece for us since none of us had heard it before. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, "Die Hard 2" ended with Finlandia because the director was Finnish. Interesting factoid, eh?

Before we departed, we also visited the Temppeliaukio Church, which is a truly unique site because it is a church built into a giant rock (and is supposed to have amazing acoustics). Everyone was so exhausted after this trip because our schedule consisted of very long bus rides and just non-stop traveling. And as much as the cuisine of Scandinavia was intriguing, we couldn't wait to get back to Bangkok and the flavors of Thai food!


Little Miss Contrary

Coming next: LMC's culinary adventures in Tokyo and Yokohama!


caninecologne said...

hi lmc!
your trip sounds like a lot of fun! plus, you got to meet marcus samuelsson! the photos are amazing and it makes me want to visit sweden! can't wait to see and read about the rest of your trip.

Little Miss Contrary said...

Thanks, CC! Sweden is a really great country. I would love to live there if it wasn't so cold! Thanks for stopping by!