Malmö Sweden, Day 2

When in Sweden
Go to the Spa…

Riberborgs Kallbadhus (bathhouse) is a spa that is built on a long wooden wharf, extending from the lush green shore of Malmö, overlooking the Nordic North Sea. It’s a popular spot, offering massages, benches for relaxing and there’s a nice cafe’ where you could easily spend the day, taking a break from daily life.

I am no stranger to saunas, appreciating the health benefits of releasing toxins with heat and sealing off pores with cold water or air. I have experienced the purge of Native American sweat lodges, saunas in the north woods of Maine and Northern Italy as well as the Roman baths in Budapest and the ancient healing mineral pools of Turkey. But each culture has its own customs and protocol, so I didn’t know what to expect.

Men and women have segregated areas and a common area as well– although I didn’t observe much mingling there. Perhaps that had to do with the sign stating that clothing is NOT permitted, although strategically placed towels were acceptable but not used much when the temps hovered between 176′ and 194′ F , depending on whether you were in the sauna with one wood fired stove or two. So I peeled off my bathing suit and got with the program, which brought a smile or two.

Each sauna has a large picture window with the seascape and sky to soften your focus. The hotter I got, the more meditative I felt. Clouds became figures dancing above the seductively rhythmical waves. Rivulets of sweat reduced us all to the level of reaching our limits as human beings. It was humbling and no one said a word.

The real deal is to alternate with a dip in that cold salty sea water at 61’F– which I did not do!
It was enough for me to take a break in the cool of the air, waiting until my lobster red skin returned to 98′. But I was shamed by a woman who looked to be an octogenarian who only used the hottest room and took her dips without comment.

Maybe that’s why the Swedes have the reputation of being both hearty and stoic!

Copenhagen, Day 3

Day 3 in Copenhagen

Shallow wooden boats gently glide the time-worn, narrow canals, offering an intimate view of the brightly painted buildings satisfyingly quaint to the tourists’ eye. 17th century Europe is written all over the facade of buildings in the Nyhavn district of downtown Copenhagen.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the Copenhagen Street Food on Papirøen (Paper Island)! Food vendors of all imaginable types are located in a huge warehouse where each tries to out do the other with creative stalls and fabulous food! Organic is everywhere and flavor is not an empty boast.

Even more impressive was the atmosphere. Outdoor fires, beer gardens and boats drifting around us, made it easy to take a load off and sit awhile.

Next: we’re going to Sweden!

Malmö, Sweden

Sweden and Copenhagen’s
Oresund Bridge
Malmo (pronounced, Malme), Sweden, is just over the bridge from Copenhagen– so we thought, “Why not?”
Little did I realize just how significant the Oresund Bridge was and how recently it had been built–only 20 years ago–because the issues seem insurmountable.A little Geography: Denmark and Sweden are separated by the Øresund Strait, one of three Danish Straits that connect the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, making it one of the busiest waterways in the world.The engineering is crazy/amazing, even by my layperson standards and deserves viewing for deeper understanding:

Wonderful Copenhagen–and windy too

Flying into Kastrup, Copenhagen’s International Airport, I was impressed by the svelte line of proud windmills, straight and tall, waving fair welcome to our approach, boasting efficient use of a wind that never seems to stop.

Middelgrunden is an offshore wind farm which seems to sprout from the sea, delivering an estimated 4% of all the power for Copenhagen.

The architecture is eye-catching from the get-go, mixing quaint and modern-esque, futuristic and surreal in its lack of symmetry. It seems to reflect the attitude of the Danes–old enough to have earned the right to express a determined individualism.

The language is strange to my milk-toast ears but not harsh as the over abundance of consonants might imply. In fact, as the stewardess made her announcements, I wondered if she was deliberately trying to be provocative with her soft, whispery Marilyn Monroe delivery. But as I grow used to hearing it, I realize this is their way of speaking what is touted as the most difficult of the Scandinavian languages, with only 5 million people in the world speaking it. Their English is nearly impeccable without a hint of accent; switching between the two seems effortless, reflecting how they become bilingual (at least) from a very early age.

I have yet to hear native music– American oldies drift in the air, making me a more comfortable stranger in a strange land.

I marvel at the lack of traffic even during rush hour. In Copenhagen 50% of all citizens commute by bike every day and there are more bikes than inhabitants! Unlike some countries, bike riders follow traffic rules and they expect pedestrians to do the same. Motorcycles are curiously lacking and traffic flow is remarkably quiet without noxious emission smells–never marring the delightful ambiance and flavor of my street side cappuccino.

Copenhagen

It’s old. It’s new. It’s fascinating.

People are tall! Bikes everywhere, no traffic jams in sight.

It feels clean and efficient with wind-mills turning in greeting to the airplanes gliding towards Copenhagen.

English is spoken flawlessly. Their manner is breezy and matter-of-fact, soothing to my straight-talking Virgo soul. It feels organizationally sound somehow.

I found the metro easy to use and the food was tasty–coriander is the spice that we brought home. (We like to look for signature flavors from each country or area that we visit.) Did you know that coriander comes from Cilantro? Coriander is the plant and cilantro refers to the stems and leaves. When we use coriander, we are using the plant’s seeds.

We were told that we must see Christiania–so I sought it out, hopping the metro to Christianshavn St, I asked until I found Pusher Street. Everyone knows. Christiania is an evolved community stemming from counterculture values expressed in the 70’s when squatters took over government buildings that had been abandoned. It is an indication of the liberal attitudes of the country and is tolerated if not accepted. It has its own flag, schools, cafe`s, shopping kiosks and eateries. There is a “no-tell” feeling of keeping Christiania discreet. I felt like I must be flashing back to Haight-Ashbury in the 60’s.

Definitely take a boat tour of the canals–it’s an amazing view offering the feel of transportation old-style, more convenient than winding through streets and traffic.

And the icing on my Danish (pardon my metaphor) was the Street Food Court! What a hoot. People gathered around a fire pit on the dock, watching water traffic and birds sailing in and out. Beer stations are sprinkled throughout and kiosks of food crowd a warehouse of hungry patrons. If you aren’t hungry when you get there, the smells of delicious offerings will rapidly whet your appetite for more.

Top 20 Travel List


Packing is never easy so we came up with a list to guide us. Most things are common sense–but others require some forethought.

Top 20 Checklist:

1. Call your credit card companies so they don’t thwart your spending.

2. Currency of the country you are visiting– and some back up cash, just in case you need extra. (tip: some countries–such as Turkey and Germany don’t cater to credit cards–plus, you’ll want cash for those great markets, wherever you go)

3. Identification: International travel requires a passport– make sure to take photocopy and keep it in a separate place, “just I case”.  If you are traveling with someone, it’s good idea to give them a photocopy too.

4. Jacket or wrap for the airport and plane– (why are they so cold?!) I even stuff a pair of sox in my purse for the ride.

5. Neck pillow for long or red eye flights

6. Water bottle so you can fill it on the other side of security

7. Recharge cords and plug adapters (Don’t forget–foreign countries use different voltage than we do.  It’s possible to find combination-plugs.)

8. Snacks– you know how skimpy the food is and pricey!

9. Tennis ball or hand-ball to avoid sciatic leg pain — placing it on your seat so you can relieve gluteal compression can offer relief when you really need it.  Even better is a 5″ solid ball that you can cut in half and sit on squarely, helping your gluteals and S.I. joints align properly.

10. Make-up and small mirror for touch-ups– after a long flight, this perks me up like nothing else.

11. IPad, phone and or laptop and cords–how did we manage without them?

12. Sinus meds– especially if you are susceptible to your ears not clearing. Trying to pop your ears when cruising at lower altitudes is awful. Once both of my ears stayed closed for 3 hours and I was miserable.

13. Vitamins– especially C and zinc to protect you from everyone else’s germs

14. Aspirin

15. Toothbrush, floss and paste

16. Rain hat or umbrella

17. Optional: Hair care preferences (I often like what hotels provide)

18. Hand-held Luggage scales: Not all airlines have the same allowances, so you may have to transfer your cargo between suitcases when switching carriers. *Check in advance to avoid confusion and panic situations.

19. Purse within a purse: I carry a large purse for all the above accoutrements and have a smaller, easier to handle bag for my money, credit card, I.D. and boarding passes –for easy access.

20. Optional: my favorite walking stick or cane– you never know when you might need it when the going gets tough.

And so, I am at the Dayton, Ohio International Airport, making ready for the next adventure. From here to D.C. to London to Copenhagen… Oh my! I hear the shopping is terrific.
Someone’s got to do it– and I am happy to oblige!

Wish me luck!

Blogging in Colombia: Manna for the Senses

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I See…

Medellin, a city of 3 million filling a valley and sprawling up the encircling foothills of the Andes Mountains. During the day, the colors are warm orange, foliage green and light baby blue. On the eighth floor, our room is level with the distant mountains, offering a birds’ eye view of the lush growth filling all the available space between and above the teeming array of terra cotta apartments, tenements and shacks. Thus far I have not seen 1 solitary home.  They are tucked away somewhere, out of view.  

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A Taste of Colombia

Day 5

Taste

I love the coffee, I love the I love the coffee.
You know how coffee gets bitter ? Not Colombian.
It’s rich and aromatic– never a disappointment and I am going to miss it.

Not being a meat eater, I may have missed much of what Colombia is famous for but the day I went venturing alone, I happened upon a Colombian treasure–the Arepa.

Wandering into an outdoor cafe, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for having successfully taken the Metro to the end of the line in northern Medellin to shop at one of their big (3-story) malls for SnaZZy finds. Looking at the menu, I realized the items were completely unfamiliar me– even the English version! So I ordered the only familiar food I saw– something with cornbread and cheese sounded like a good red-wine companion. And I was delighted! The waiter nodded his approval, saying, “Ah, Arepa”. It seems that I had chosen one of the signature Colombian foods.

Recipe: www.epicurious.com

INGREDIENTS

1 cup arepa flour (precooked cornmeal)
1 cup crumbled ricotta salata or grated mozzarella (1/4 pound)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Toss together arepa flour, cheese, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then stir in water until incorporated. Let stand until enough water is absorbed for a soft dough to form, 1 to 2 minutes (dough will continue to stiffen).

Form 3 level tablespoons dough into 1 ball and flatten between your palms, gently pressing to form a 1/4-inch-thick patty (2 1/2 to 2 3/4 inches wide), then gently press around side to eliminate cracks. Transfer to a wax-paper-lined surface. Form more disks with remaining dough in same manner, transferring to wax-paper-lined surface.
Heat oil in a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then fry arepas in 2 batches, turning over once, until deep golden in patches, 8 to 10 minutes total per batch. Drain on paper towels.

El YUM!

If you get to Medellin, you must get Pablado in the evening, a magical place to hang out. Venturing down side streets lined with banyan trees where there are outdoor cafes aplenty. Beckoning party lights strewn through the trees pull you towards tantalizing restaurants and enough night life to keep you entertained until the wee hours.

We found several vegan and organic restaurants in Medellin– and they were fabulous. Quinoa has reclaimed its rightful place as a nutritional grain–a complete protein it was a staple of the Incas for 3-4,000 years. The Spanish introduced European grains and it has taken several hundred years for it to regain is popularity.

On the coast of Cartagena, seafood was a good option. The shrimp were both tender and firm, delicious with ginger, garlic and lime.

Within the Walled City, we found an organic salad/wrap shop and loved the taste of spearmint in our green salad– something I had never tried before.

Papayas are everywhere–as sweet as they are tender.
And the avocados are huge, tasting buttery while adding B12 and the good kind of fat.

Colombian food was plenty flavorful but not hot like Mexican food. In fact, we often asked for extra picante to add a little heat and spice.

I will try my hand at making Arepas for the next SnaZZy Threads Open House so come get a taste of Colombia for yourself!

A TOUCH of Colombia


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Day 4

Colombia seems to be a touchy-feely kind of place.
I have a theory that warmer climes breed more extroverts.

Several women literally reached out to give me a hand. They were quick to offer their seat on the Metro and gave my shoulder a companionable squeeze as we struggled to communicate with no common language between us. Is it a coincidence that they seem around my age?

Using a walking stick is an alert to my special needs such as climbing stairs. And I have had enough falls to make me more careful. So, If that’s what it takes to keep on trekkin’, so be it. I am becoming more comfortable traveling with my shiny green, walking stick or my sexy laminated wooden cane. Just one more way to accessorize–a statement of style!