Archive for April, 2009

May marks the start of the Scandinavian festival season

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

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Tomorrow marks the beginning of May and there is a lot to be excited about in Scandinavia. In the office, May means the summer travel blitz is officially underway; we are taking calls, designing itineraries, and sending off our clients on their much anticipated tours. In Scandinavia, May always offers a wealth of art and outdoor activities that allow you maximize your vacation stay. For example, we recommend starting in Stavanger, Norway for Stavanger’s International Jazz Festival that spans May 6 – 10. The Nordic Company has sent many clients to this festival over the years and they can’t say enough about a jazz scene juxtaposed by fjord scenery! Next, make your way to Copenhagen for their annual Architecture and Design Days, May 16-18.

For fascinating art and arguably equally fascinating political climate, catch an Icelandair flight to Reykjavik for the Reykjavik Arts Festival, May 15 – May 31. Iceland is increasingly breaking into the international scene in terms of art and music and this is the perfect chance to see where they get their muse from. Finish back in Denmark to make your trip come full circle by taking a spin at the Aalborg Carnival in late May. The Aalborg Carnival is the largest carnival in Northern Europe and probably the only time you’ll find a whimsical event that rivals the fame of Tivoli!

Songbirds: The New Swedish Export

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

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Frida Hyvonen, Nina Kinert, Lykke Li, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, and The Baboon Show are unlikely to ring a bell to the average traveler, but if you name-drop any of these in the emerging indie rock scene - chances are someone will tell you, “I know, these days, it’s hip to be a Swede!”  Hyvonen, Kinert, Peacedrums, and the Baboon Show are four of the Swedish bands who will be featured in this years 2009 Le Femmes French Indie Festival, but they are also making waves in the U.S. In particular, Lykke Li has been seen all over - even colloborating with Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s own, Bon Iver.

Check out the video here.

So why is this important to the traveler? When frequenting Stockholm and you’re looking for a bite of the music scene, you’ll be in luck to drop these names. People will know where to send you for a great music experience… and who knows, you might just come across the next big thing.

Breaking News: You can now visit “Lego Jesus” in Vasteras, Sweden

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

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I’m not kidding. On Easter, parishioners Onsta Grynta church in Vasteras, Sweden unveiled one of the weirder manifestations of faith that the world has seen - a 6 foot tall statue of Jesus made from 30,000 Lego blocks. Approximately 40 volunteers worked on the project over 18 months and on Easter Sunday, they put their pride and joy on display behind the altar to a crowd of over 400 worshippers.  Their inspiration wasn’t entirely divine, as the statue is a replica of Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Christus” statue that is currently on display in Copenhagen.

This is what I love about Scandinavia - they do silly, yet incredibly endearing things. If you have kids, this would be a great stop-over on making your way up towards Stockholm. Religious or not, who wouldn’t be awed by a 6 ft. tall Lego Jesus? The Nordic Company says, amen!

In Riga, We Drink Beer and Eat Meat

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

In rounding out our latest restaurant features for Scandinavia, the Baltics, and Russia…Latvia comes in last, for lack of a better term. You’d think with over 800 years of foreign domination Latvia would have something to showcase for cosmopolitan cuisine, but as far as we can tell, they kind of missed that window of opportunity. Instead, Latvians stick with what they know: meat, carbs, and beer. This is why the Nordic Company advises a hearty cellar stop after a day of wandering around Riga, Latvia’s capital.

If you’re looking for a finer spread, you can certainly sample one of the many international restaurants that Riga has to offer, but if you’re hard set on the traditional experience - take your time at Alus Arsenals on Pils Laukums 4 or head over to Vermanitis at Elizabetes 65. Both are great watering holes that serve your standard Latvian fare: fried pig’s ears, snouts with sauerkraut, potatoes, potatoes, potatoes, and even meter long sausage if you’re starving.

Alus Arsenals, which literally means “Beer Arsenal” used to be a student drinking spot, but it has since gone a little more upscale. (And with a name like that, how can you resist going there? At the very least, it makes a great photo for your vacation scrapbook.) Vermanitis is still one of the best places in Riga to catch a grand view of the park, Baltic eats, lively Latvian music, and a big meal for a small price. There is a variety of beer choices and even food for the kids which includes fruit packs and pizza. So take your pick and if the food isn’t always what you hoped, remember, you’ll always have the beer.

Moscow Made in Heaven

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

It’s a bit out of range for the average traveler to book a room at the exquisite Golden Apple Boutique Hotel in Moscow, but that certainly shouldn’t stop you from indulging in it’s simply amazing dining experience. The Golden Apple Restaurant and Bar was won the 2008 Fodor’s Choice for Moscow and it continues to be a meeting place for well-known businessmen.

By day, light pours in through the restaurant’s elegant windows and by night, enchantment dazzles you from all sides with glittering lights, soothing greenery, and of course, incredible food. If you’re coming for lunch, you’ll have your choice of European or Japanese cuisine. Dinner offers many more alternatives, seasonally designed by the in-house chef, Alexander Kutepov.

If you’re just passing through to enjoy the architectural ambiance designed by Canadian Raphael Shafir, then at least treat yourself to a drink in the buzzing Apple Bar. It’s open 24 hours and it offers a lobby, DJ bar, hookahs, board games, plasma TVs, and fine music. At least then you can say that you’ve been there and what a place it is because really, the Golden Apple is a place that’s all about being seen.

Set the example with travel

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

A talking point that has already come up at London’s G20 summit is the importance of tourism and travel in combating the economic decline. That’s right, we knew we were in the right business. Consider these words from UNWTO secretary-general adinterim Taleb Rifai: “Tourism and travel mean jobs, infrastructure, trade, and development. These are the issues that world leaders are emphasizing in coordinated recovery actions. What we need is recognition of the value of travel in this mix and most importantly, it’s capacity to generate jobs.”

Furthermore, leisure travel is one of the first signs of the return of consumer confidence. A wide variety of businesses at home and abroad benefit from the travel industry and the consumer can take their mind off the world for awhile. In Europe, many citizens are opting to take extended vacations or reduced hours instead of a total lay-off, which gives them relative job security, but also frees up some of their time - which many have been spending on travel.

Rifai also stressed that the travel and tour industry has the rare opportunity to shift its focus to a much greener pastures and he means that sustainably.  Investment in green infrastructure - modern airports, high speed roads, and ports would all be excellent job creators and extremely beneficial to the economy in the long run.

The Nordic Company has been providing green travel for years, specifically in Iceland. As one of the hardest hit in the financial downturn, Iceland is certainly in need of a pick-me-up these days and it may be the a most curious, yet most adventurous time to travel there. The Nordic Company offers independent and group tours that feature remote Iceland’s rugged landscape and a little time in Reykjavik will certainly give you an earful of their new, rugged politics. The Nordic Company is even offering stimulus travel packages - you can’t go wrong!