Barcelona & Sweden

Guest Post: Euro-tripping with Soy Sauce and Rice

Hi again Friends, Family and Followers of Soy Sauce on Rice, its your old pal Jake. You might be remember me as the fellow adventurer/blogger from the Andes and passionate hater of Machu Picchu selfie-sticks. I have a real skill for third-wheeling and have decided to kick the dust off the old type writer to update you on some recent travel. 

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Note the three wheels on this bicycle

I had the pleasure of meeting up with our hero and heroine between two legs of a business trip and bringing them along for some fun in Sweden.

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Needless to say, i’m exhausted

I started my journey flying from San Francisco to Tel Aviv for 10 days of meetings and fun at the annual kickoff of my company, Clicktale. This involved some great food, many days of dreaming about the future of digital analytics, and a dire shortage both of sleep and bacon. If you haven’t been to Israel or Tel Aviv in particular, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I then had 5 days to kill until a business meeting in Sweden and decided to drop by Barcelona, where our story begins…

Barcelona

The Land of Perruqueria and Jamón

Our friends Melissa and Dan are living THE LIFE in Barcelona. They found an incredible apartment in a cool neighborhood and are living like locals (more to come below). Since their previous posts did a great job describing many of the cities main attractions, I am going to focus on additional interesting or funny observations. There were two things in Barcelona that I saw with more frequency than anywhere else I have ever been:  Ham and Barbershops. After being in the land of no pork for 10 days, the incredibly juicy, acorn-fed ham was welcome. I can’t speak to the Barbershops.

From Conquered to Conquerors 

In Cuzco, Peru we learned how the Spanish Empire (Pizzaro) took every nice part of the Incan culture and burned it, built a church on top of it, and sent all the gold back to Spain. In Barcelona we get to see what the Spanish bought with said loot and it was quite nice.

The Lifestyle

Its quite the lifestyle for our two friends in Barcelona. Other than the fact that Dan is frustrated that most of the locals speak and read Catalan, leaving him at a language disadvantage for once, its pretty easy living here.

Here is a typical day in Barcelona (and you wonder why there was a Eurozone recession..):

11am: Wake up, take a walk or do something athletic
12:30pm: Make Breakfast, consisting of 0.5 Euro baguette, some ham and some cheese. Read the newspaper (cover to cover)
2:30pm: Take another walk to a cafe, drink coffee
4pm: Eat more
5pm: Take a nap
7pm: Start drinking, eat more
9:30pm: Dinner
11pm onward: Continue drinking, late snack, eventually sleep and repeat

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Also plenty of time to watch soccer. We went to an RCD Espanyol game (red-headed stepchild of Barcelona) because FC Barcelona was out of town

The Olympics 

The Olympics and whether or not they have a positive impact on a city is always a controversial topic (see Sochi 2014).

Lookin’ good, Russia.

However it is clear when you walk through Barcelona that the Olympics had an immensely positive impact, serving to revitalize the city, build up its infrastructure, and leave beautiful long-lasting structures and art.

Sweden – Gothenburg and Stockholm

Gothenburg (pronounced You-Te-Borg)

Gothenburg is the type of city where you can close your eyes and cross even the busiest intersection without a scratch or a car horns honking. Coming from Tel Aviv and Spain, that was nice. The Swedes are an orderly people, the streets are immaculate – again, coming from Tel Aviv and Barcelona that was nice. That along with being the home of the Gothenburg Film Festival and Volvo are about all that I can really say about it. We searched throughout Sweden for actual Swedish food, but no local resident could recommend us anything outside of the hotel buffet meatballs and salted fish…

“Sweden has great foreign food” – Stockholm Resident

After a successful business meeting, we hopped a train and made our way north to Stockholm for some fun

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What a Language…

“Walk down to sjuksköterska and take a left at torktumlare, if you see Blåmärke you’ve gone too far” – Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (not really but you get the point)

Sometimes I wonder what all these vowels and consonants can possibly mean… we learned Tak tak, which means “Thank you” and Skol, which means “Cheers!” That is all.

Stockholm: We’re on a Boat!

The greater Stockholm area is made up of 30,000 archipelagos, and this totally shapes your perception of the city. It is absolutely stunning. While there, we stayed on the AF Chapman, a 19th century steel barracks ship converted into a hostel. A ship, in the water.

The guy at the hostel literally refused to sell me a bottle of water because he wanted to use it as an opportunity to brag about how clean and tasty their tap water is, and he was right.

200+ years of Neutrality can buy you some really nice things

By managing to avoid every war for over two centuries, Stockholm is a perfectly preserved metropolis with many of its pristine buildings and statues dating back to the 1600’s. Its “old town” area is something out of a fairy tale with beautiful shops, cobble stone streets, narrow alley ways, and quaint resturants. In short, it looks like Hogsmeade.

It’s really cold in Sweden

Maybe San Francisco made me lose my New York grit, but it is REALLY cold in Sweden. Though rarely actually below freezing while we were there, it was the kind of cold that chills to the bone and I was not dressed for it having spent most of my limited suitcase space on clothes more appropriate for the Mediterranean climates I was in previously

The Makler Principle AKA the observed correlation between weather and patience

In a highly scientific survey of four cities I noticed a correlation between the cold weather and how willing the local populous was to put up with me and my friends. Lets see if you can see the trend when we plot it on an x/y axis:

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#Science.

Also, have you ever met anyone from New York or Chicago, think about it…

The Vasa: Pride of Sweden?

Ok, I am going to go on a little rant here so I apologize in advance. Everyone we met before getting to Stockholm told us that the thing we absolutely needed to do in Stockholm was go to the Vasa Museum. It is also the #1 rated activity on Trip Advisor.

So what is the Vasa? It is a massive, elaborate, and for its time highly technologically advanced ship that was built in the mid 1600’s to be the pride of a nation and the preeminent military vehicle of its time. Unfortunately it tipped over and sank around 1.5 kilometers into its maiden voyage. Postmortems found that it sank because it was too top heavy – being the first Swedish boat with two levels of cannons and not enough ballast (stones) at the bottom to counterbalance its weight. It was salvaged from the Stockholm bay in the 1960’s and most of its beautiful hull, sculptures and treasures within were found to be preserved. A museum was built around it that eventually became #1 on trip advisor.

The Vasa is incredibly elaborate and beautiful. However, I have a problem with it being described as the “symbol of Swedish naval power” in the the 17th century. Instead I think it should be a cautionary tale of hubris and organizational failure. Specifically, this is the story that I think should be highlighted and taught in Harvard Business School case studies and Organizational Behavior classes throughout the world: One of the peons in the Vasa crew actually raised a flag about the ship being unwieldy in the wind due its top-heaviness weeks before its maiden voyage. They demonstrated this issue by having 30 men run back and forth on the deck and showing that the ship almost tipped over from that. The commanding officer made them stop and squashed any follow-ups because he had been given a strict deadline by the king and he needed to hit that deadline or he would be in trouble. His willingness to sacrifice quality in order to hit a deadline that management had laid out rather than raising a potential concern should be a lesson to us all. Needless to say, I purchased a “Vasa in a bottle” in order to always remind myself of this important lesson.

Wrapping up and Signing Off

Been an amazing couple weeks, with many more adventures to come I hope. Now on the long long trek through multiple city airports back to San Francisco.  This three-wheeled bicycle is already planning our next adventure, more posts to come soon!

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