Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Russia Sampler

I'm currently in Russia and without a computer, but here's a sample of some of the places I've been so far. When I get back, I will write up much more detailed posts. Tonight, though I have to catch a 52 hour long train trip to Siberia.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Food Fridays: Greek Cuisine Sampler

From my recent trip to Greece, a couple bites from Athens, Milos, and Santorini!

First stop: Athens for some Loukoumades! These are basically Greek donuts with honey and a little bit of cinnamon. There are a couple different styles, ranging from these (the best we had) which are a little more crunchy to ones that are more like regular donuts to loukoumades that may as well be called frybread with honey. Doris was well worth the visit.
Loukoumades in Athens
Doris: Delicious! 
 More after the break...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Back to Turkey: 15 shots from Topkapi Palace, Chora Church, and Istanbul

I'm back from Istanbul and Greece, but getting ready for yet another trip next week. Unfortunately, that means that I can't write up a good true report at the moment, but I will post some pictures as a preview of what I will be writing about when I get back.

Topkapi Palace: 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stockholm Sunset

Flight Report: The Stockholm-Istanbul-Athens-Stockholm Loop

A week and a half ago, I headed back to Istanbul for a couple days before heading on to Greece for the first time. Of course, with that comes some flights and here's a quick photo set from the five flights. More flights on Lufthansa, although mysteriously I received flight credit for these flights, despite the fact that they were booked in the L and E fare buckets which aren't supposed to give any. I won't be looking that gift horse in the mouth..

Stockholm - Istanbul via Munich
Stockholm to Munich (Lufthansa):
The first flight and very good weather. The view of Stockholm is always nice and now the ground is bright green, from all the plants (which are also blooming for allergy sufferers). A standard flight, with a sub par meal: It felt like they rushed it out so they didn't have time to cook. The result was what can be seen after the break....
Arlanda, Stockholm's Airport
 Four and a half more flights after the break, along with inflight meals...

Friday, June 03, 2011

Food Friday: Sushi in Stockholm

Even though Stockholm has a very strong connection to the sea, sushi is a relative newcomer in the cuisine of Sweden. Sushi is very common now, but good sushi is pretty rare and being from Seattle has left me a little bit of a sushi snob. We like our sushi and we have some of the best ingredients around. Combine that with a healthy Japanese community and you've got everything you need to turn someone from apathetic to having "discerning tastes" in no time. White salmon at Maneki's, for example, is nearly a religious experience.

But what's a person supposed to do in Stockholm where sushi is largely limited to "both kinds" (salmon and shrimp)? For that, there's Akki Sushi, which is quite possibly the best sushi in Stockholm and pictured somewhere below.

Have you found it yet? Akki Sushi is the place with the blue awning. There are four places to sit, and barely any room to stand. Most of the restaurant is the kitchen, staffed by three insanely busy reggea listening chefs who make the sushi right there in front of you. Business is brisk, with most of it being take out. On sunny days like this, there's no need to have a indoor restaurant, but in the winter seating can be a challenge.

9 pieces will set you back 95 or 105 sek (I forgot which), which is still quite a lot when you crunch the numbers. Even then it's only marginally more expensive than other places which focus on mass producing salmon and shrimp. The 9 piece includes 6 nigiri sushi and 3 pieces from a sushi roll, but unlike most places in Stockholm, here you get a true variety of good fish. There will be at least one piece of salmon, but tuna, albacore, mackerel, octopus, squid, snapper and a couple other types of fish also are liable to come out. If there's one that you really don't want, you can tell them (for example, I'm not a huge fan of amaebi) but otherwise you won't really know what you're getting until you get it.

If you're in Stockholm and need a fix of sushi, this is your place.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How to: So, you want to plan a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad... [Part 1: Visas]

Thousands of miles of railroad? Check. Russia? Check. Your mind? You might have lost it somewhere on the way, but this series of posts will help you through the planning process of your own Trans-Siberian journey.

The Trans-Siberian Railroad runs from Moscow to Vladivostok and is over 5,700 miles long. To put that in terms that make sense for people living in the US, that's a little shy of driving from New York to Chicago via San Francisco and Seattle. In European terms, it's like driving from Stockholm to Syria via Lisbon and Valencia. It's a long ways and a lot of time to cover, plus you'll be dealing with Russia and parts of the bureaucracy is still trying to shake off the Soviet era. 

Here's what you need to travel to make your dream a reality. It is deceptively easy: A Russian visa, train tickets, and places to stay along the way. Getting those in order will be your big challenge and this is a guide of how I made my arrangements for the trip and how to save time by learning from my experiences. This is a step-by-step guide to getting your visas and tickets in order.

After the break, we'll get started with the basics of where the railway runs and the visa situation for the three countries you're likely to visit...

How to: So, you want to plan a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad... [Part 2: Buying Train Tickets in Russian on]

This is the second part of my Trans-Siberian Primer. In order to plan a trip across Russia, it's vital that you understand how the trains work and how to buy tickets. In this post you'll learn how to purchase tickets directly from RZD (The Russian Railways) without having to pay a premium for going through a travel agency. As it is today, the website is almost as easy to use as Expedia or any other travel website, except that it's all in Russian and presumes you know a thing or two about the trains already.

After the jump, we'll go step by step from start to end of purchasing a ticket on RZD, complete with pictures at every step.