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Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Tag: sweden (page 1 of 2)

Be careful if you marry a Swede…

A long time ago I heard a story about a married couple trying to get a spouse green card in the US. One of them was from the UK so there was a interview process by the immigration authorities to confirm their marriage was real. They talked about the confusion when they were asked (in separate interviews) what floor their apartment was on. One said the first floor. The other the second floor. Because of course in the US the bottom floor is numbered 1, and in most of Europe that is numbered as 0, and the first floor is the one above.

But not in Sweden. They have their own special way of doing this!

Swedish lift panelIn any given building the lift panel will usually have one button that is marked as the floor where people enter and exit the building. Usually with a green ring around it. But god only knows what number that will be! 

This is the lift panel in the building next to my office (my company uses both). The entrance floor isn’t 0 or 1, but er, number 2.

Swedish lift panelMy office building is even stranger. Apparently the entrance is on floor 4!  Because we are on a hill, and there is a lower down slope entrance we do have a floor 3. But can anyone tell me where floors 1 and 2 have gone to?

With this eccentric approach to floor numbering I would be surprised if many Swedes can pass their US immigration interviews ūüėČ

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The snows comes to Sweden

Last night we had the first proper snow of the season, in Stockholm anyway. 

First snow in Stockholm

Being so close to the sea Stockholm doesn’t get as much snow as the rest of the country. And global warming isn’t helping things either. We usually get some before Christmas, but the serious stuff, that will stay on the ground for days, and the cold that freezes the water for the skaters, really only comes in January and February. 

Away from the balmy south it is a different story though!

 

This was the snow map for the country for yesterday.

Swedish snow 28th November 2019

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Bringing ice to eskimoes

Sweden is the land of white crockery. We were in IKEA yesterday, and I don’t think we saw anything other than plain, brilliant white cups, plates, bowls. and mugs. Which is all nice. But when I saw these beefy, brightly coloured mugs in Dunnes* in Cork I had to have them. 

Mugs from Ireland

They bring a nice bit of cheerful colour to the table. But it does seem a bit funny bringing delph to Sweden.

* Okay I have cheated a little, the jug is from Flying Tiger which I suppose does make it Scandinavian.

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Swedish water sports

One thing I have been doing in 2017 is spending more time on the water. I have been out kayaking a bit and I really want to do a lot more. I like the freedom, the simplicity, and the self sufficient nature of it on the overnight trips.

The girls are a little young for it, but we have a local lake, with a canoe club, and a stock of canadian canoes. So down we went today. The girls acquited themselves well.

The problem now is that they are dangling club membership in front of me. Pay about ‚ā¨50 and never have to pay for rentals again. But I haven’t been a canoe club member before. Thats a line I am not sure I can go over…

 

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Goal updates

I guess if I am back posting here the first thing I need to do is explain how things turned out with my great ambition to ice skate loads from back in January. Well this happened:

wrist

My Outdoors group on Meetup said they were going out at a city rink, and would help beginners get on their feet. I ran out. Bought skates. Turned up. And I was doing okay for the first hour. Then I fell clobbered used my hand to break my fall and that was it.

I was in the cast for a month. It came off just in time to go skiing. I returned from skiing on a Saturday. The following day, I was back on the ice with a wrist brace. I made a few trips out, and in the end I did about 12km of skating, but this is a goal that has evaded me. This year. I am determined I will do it next winter.

I found the skating was a great exercise. I have never been a runner/jogger, but this was something I could get into. The views are better, there is a great vibe to getting into a rythym which you feel you can keep up for kilometres. Of course it needs a totally different set of muscles to the ones I have used before. I found my ankles started to get sore after a few hundred metres and occasional stops were needed.

Still, next winter I will do the entire lake. I want to see other parts of Sweden from the frozen water. And as a bonus, the same bindings are used for the ice skates and for cross country skis. I will learn how to do that as well before the snows melt!

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Goal #1

I don’t really do “New Year’s Resolutions”. I prefer to pick up and pursue challenges as I go along. It’s a while since I have¬†set myself a good one – something that will take a bit of effort to complete. But here it comes. – the first formal personal goal for the coming year.

The lake in (what I call) our back garden is Norvikken. It’s a decent sized freshwater lake north of Stockholm, about 7km long, and about 400-500m wide. It freezes in winter. And when it does it is supposed to be one of the best skating lakes near the city. The kommune even clear the path all around the outside so there is a 17km distance ice skating track.

Norvikken lake

My goal is to skate the full 17k before the winter is out.

To do this I am going to need to:

  • Learn how to ice skate
  • Get the right distance skating gear (including safety equipment) and get proficient at using it.
  • Find a person/group to do this with (never skate alone)
  • Do it.

I also need the lake to freeze again. It has ice at the moment, but a recent thaw has thinned things quite a bit.

I’ll keep you posted on how things go. The first step should be the easiest.¬†Our little housing development has 2 small playing areas – bigger than basketball courts, smaller than a full astro turf pitch. In the winter they flood them and let the water freeze. This gives a safe skating surface for the kids. Once I get some skates I can go and embarrass myself there. I may need wrist guards, knee pads, a helmet and a dignity hiding bag as well though.

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Axel Oxenstierna palace

In Stockholm’s Gamla Stan today I finally managed to track down the Axel Oxenstierna palace. Unless you are a history geek (like me) you wouldn’t know he was “Lord High Chancellor” of Sweden in the 1600s.¬†With ¬†King Gustavus Adolphus he led Sweden into the 30 years war. Without their intervention it probably would only have been the 12 years war.

I have been looking for the house for a while. In amongst the old narrow twisting streets of the old town it was difficult to find, and surprisingly hard to to find the actual address. Some googling last night eventually gave me the address. And as I was in town yesterday I had to get there.

I love finding places like this. Small connections to the past, that are just a little obscure. And it is always more fun to go out specifically to find something with a particular link, than to just read about it on a plaque as you are passing by chance.

 

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Hiking the Sörmlandsleden with a Combat HR Specialist

This week’s Meetup.com hike was a beast. We did 24km, and we did it at a galloping pace covering the distance in about five and a quarters hours, or¬†over 4.5 km an hour. Not bad for sustained walking on rough ground.

routeMy ambition is to start doing some multi-day hikes, and I need to eat healthier,  so I have been experimenting with alternatives to the sandwiches and chocolate I would usually bring. Most people go for sandwiches (Sweden and Ireland). But a few eat hot food. So I thought it was time I brought out my stove for its first use in the wilderness*.

On a previous hike someone showed me their preferred trail recipe – boil water, add a stock cube, stir in a can of tuna. “Yum! No, it’s fine, you can have all of it”.

In the interests of research, and my palate, I went for one of my freeze dried packets. This week it was one I picked up in the US – ¬†Mary Jane’s Farm, Lentils, Rice & Indian Spice. For snacks I had some home made trail mix, and a RawBite bar.

RawBite vs Clif - the one on top is far betterThe RawBite’s are Danish, and made with just nuts and fruit. Compared to Clif Bars, they are cheaper, lighter (50g vs 68), have 15% more¬†calories per gram (213 vs 250 total for each), and most importantly smell and taste much much better! Snack breaks on the walk where half of one, together with a¬†handful of the trailmix washed down with water.¬†Then for lunch out came the JetBoil.

Prepping for lunchI boiled up two¬†cups of water, and one went into the food pouch. ¬†The pouch was paper based (so you can burn it if needed) and had good tear marks. It¬†didn’t have a fill level inside, which is always a plus. And there was no way to seal the bag once the water was in. I folded the top down twice and let is sit for 10 minutes. Then the rest of the water went into a mug to make a cup of tea. Barry’s tea, with real milk. That done, I went back to the Lentils and Rice.

Freeze dried lunchWhen I unrolled the top of the bag I was hit by a wonderful aroma.¬†Lentils and rice are¬†small so don’t suffer from the freeze drying process. Everything had rehydrated nicely, and the texture and taste was good. Very good. Maybe it was¬†my hunger, and the wooded surroundings, but there was no difficulty in eating up every single bite. The spices were just right, giving enough flavour to what could otherwise could have been very bland. But it certainly could not have been called “spicy” (I bring a tiny bottle of tabasco to take care of that if/when needed).

It had cost me $8.66 in REI in Dallas. It was vegan friendly and organic. The stats are:

  • MaryJanes Outpost, freeze dried foodPrice: ‚ā¨7.60
  • Weight: 122g
  • Calories: 435kcal
  • kCal/100g: 356
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Approx shelf life: 24¬†months

If it loses out somewhere it is that the calorie value is a low. Most of these meals I have tried are over 550kCal. For that reason it is probably better as a lunch rather than a dinner option.

When I had¬†finished it¬†I was able to drink my tea¬†like a proper gentleman.¬†Prep, cooking, eating, and pack up took about 25 minutes. And it was great to have a hot lunch on a day when the temperature was about 6¬įC.

One of the nice things about these hikes is the people you meet. Two weeks ago I talked to a digital artist for DICE, who designs foliage for the Battlefield series of games. He spent much of the walk taking research photos. This week there was a release manager for Spotify, and a guy who had just left the British Army where he had worked as a “Combat HR Specialist” in Afghanistan. I bet you didn’t meet anyone as interesting as that today ūüôā

* I have used it in parks and campsites before.

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Hiking in Sweden РSörmlandsleden stages 3 and 4.

Yesterday’s Meetup.com Sthlm Outdoor hike was on¬†the¬†S√∂rmlandsleden, the major hiking route that runs south of Stockholm for¬†about 1000km. We just did stages 4 and 3.¬†Which made 22km of walking. We even managed 300m of ascent.¬†Runkeeper says I burned 2100 calories and I can feel it today.¬†

S√∂rmlandsleden 4,5The terrain was different to¬†what we had on the previous hikes. It was rougher, and far more uneven with hillocks the¬†sometimes rose to 70m!¬†On those occasions when we were going up steep ground I could feel totally different muscles working in my legs. And today while I feel tired there isn’t the satisfying soreness that comes from having done 1500m of climbing.

Rougher ground on the S√∂rmlandsledenThe weather was different too – overcast, about +4 to 0¬įC with¬†occasional fine snow or rain. The warmer weather meant the ground could occasionally be mucky. For stretches, particularly along roads, there was a lot of compacted re-frozen snow which was like sheet ice. Apart from a few minor foot slips it didn’t bother me too much – I was asked whether being¬†from¬†Ireland was why I was why I was so sure footed on the ice.¬†Years of experience has taught me the trick is to¬†take small steps, and keep your feet as flat as possible (no toes or heels).¬†With practice you can end up walking almost as fast as on “normal” ground.

Swedish winterDuring the week I had offered my help to the hike leaders, so I ended up as the back marker.¬†It is a fiddly job, especially for someone like me who prefers¬†to set their own pace out at the front. Instead you¬†keep the pace of the slowest person. Making sure those that are struggling, or have stopped to go to the toilet in the trees don’t get left behind or lost.¬†But it’s an important job and someone (with decent skills, experience, and fitness) has to do it.

We had the usual mixed group – about 1/3 Swedes and the rest expats – some very experienced walkers, and others who struggled with the pace and conditions. Maybe it’s me getting old, but I think hikes are no place for headphones. At least that person kept their spoiling of the outdoor experience to themselves. One person took a very loud phone call for several minutes. When they finished they¬†kept working on their phone. They looked up to see me standing politely a few metres away waiting calmly.

“Am I the last? Sorry I didn’t realise.”

“Yes, because you were looking at your fucking phone” was what I thought but did not say.

Lunch at shelter by frozen lakeOne person chose to finish half way and get a bus home. One hardy¬†individual letf us¬†to stay the night in the shelter where we had lunch. If I had a decent winter rated sleeping bag I might consider it. But I’d like to arrive to my sleeping place¬†at 5pm when it’s getting dark and not lunch time!

It wasn’t as much fun as the 2 previous walks I had been on. But not by much. Assuming I am in the country again next weekend I will be out for the next¬†walk, a more sedate¬†S√∂rmlandsleden stage 5, (15 km).

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Anyone for a 20km walk in the Swedish woods?

Map and Compass

Map and Compass

Here comes the weekend, and I am in Stockholm on my own Рso I guess I will go walking. I have so impressed the organisers with my background, skill and enthusiasm I have now been bumped up to walk leader. That or they had so many turning up, they decided to run a second walk, and yours truly was one of the two volunteers to lead it.

This is going to be fun anyway. I don’t think¬†I have to haul wood and hot dog¬†for a mid walk hot meal. But in the interests of cultivating an air of Irish eccentricity, and because I fancy a cuppa, I will bring my¬†stove, tea and milk.

It won’t be the only Irish flavour to the walk. The temperature¬†has gone a little above freezing, and it has turned misty and damp.¬†While the demand might be there for Irish coffees and hot whiskey, I am not sure¬†Swedish hikers are quite ready for that just yet. Maybe next walk.

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