Monday, July 27, 2009

mr. brightside

A high ceiling. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Tuesday morning, Helsingborg sparkles like a pearl in the sun. We whisk through the waterfront Espresso House to grab a couple of syrup-infused Frapinos to go.

"There's still lots of time," Sarah sympathetically offers in half-smile, between sugary sips of caffeine down by the boardwalk.

"Yup," I agree, even though a part of me somehow can't, given the circumstances. After all, the calendar is no longer working in my favour.

Weeks later, when denial fades and reality sets, I'll remember Sarah's admirable disposition for always trying to see the sunnier side of things ... and appreciate it, lots.

Weeks later, when it looks like recovery may take awhile, I'll at least be thankful that there was something worth recovering in the first place.

Mr. Brightside, indeed.

Dunkers tranquility. Norra Hamnen, Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Green-tinted sunset. Jonna would say "photoshopped". I would say "developed". Semantics, really. :-) Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Central Helsingborg, as glimpsed from the fortress of Kärnan. (2009).

Deck chairs and boardwalks. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Coast guard. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

You can't beat city hall. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Reflections. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Sarah, my favourite Helsingborg-based partner in crime. Tropical Beach, Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Saturday, July 25, 2009

high notes

Mats Nilsson of the band Andra Generationen (Second Generation, in English) plays to the summertime crowd on the steps of the splendid Dunkers Kulturhus. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Initial plans fall through, opening up my Thursday night. I look up. The light seems promising, which is sign enough for me to head north to Helsingborg, perhaps the most photogenic of Skåne's cities.

Ahh, the spontaneous, romantic life of a photographer (or, at least, a pretend photographer). I sling my gear over my shoulder and head for the station.

The evening's still young when I board the Öresundståg at Lund Central, and it'll be some hours yet before I can set up the twilight shots I covet. I fire off a text salvo to Katarina, on the off-chance she's working late and needs a break.

"Coffee?" I ask.

"You're lucky," Katarina replies, just as the train bullets past Dösjebro. "I decided to stay for a free concert at Dunkers ... come join, if you'd like. We're standing at the back." She makes no promises about the quality of the show.

Still, it works for me. Katarina is the culture columnist for the Helsingborgs Dagblad, one of Sweden's oldest dailies, and maybe she needs a photographer. Happy coincidence.

"See you soon," I text back.

The waterfront Dunkers Kulturhus is Helsingborg's inspired centre for the arts, and on a glorious summer evening like this one, I can't think of a better venue to host an open-air concert than the courtyard off its back steps. An additional bonus: no press pass is required for tonight's event so I'm allowed nearly unfettered access to snap away. Excellent.

Andra Generationen - and their brand of Balkan-inspired beats - headline. Not necessarily my type of music but the mood suits. Besides, the eclectic crowd is the ultimate judge and, before too long, they're right into it, complete with enthusiastic handclaps and dancing on the steps. By the time the sun dips over the horizon, they're calling for an encore ... and we might as well be on the Adriatic instead of the Öresund.

Two thumbs up. These Swedish high notes just keep on coming.

The band. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Dancing on the steps of Dunkers. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Rockin' out. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Summertime crowd. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Katarina Höije, the Helsingborgs Dagblad's fearless culture and entertainment columnist. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Sunset over Dunkers Kulturhus - and its parking lot. Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Helsingborg's photogenic Norra Hamnen. (2009).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

dreamlives and legends

Little church in Arild, Sweden. (2009).

I'm on the bouncing yellow bus between Mölle and Höganäs when an SMS from Jonna chimes my mobile awake.

"You should try to visit Arild as well," the text says, "... Arild was the brother of Thora, you know, the girl on the moose."

I shake my head and smile. To me, the message is remarkable for two reasons. First, Jonna's been great about coming up with ideas regarding interesting places to visit during my Scanian summer travels, and this is yet another example. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I think her words are an obvious admission (confession?) that she, too, saw a moose when we were in Torekov!


Truth be told, I have little prior knowledge of Arild and am not quite sure what I expect to find there except, possibly, another moose. (One can only hope!) In any event, I have faith in my local guides, and when I get to Höganäs, I don't think twice about transferring onto an Arild-bound express. A half-an-hour later, I'm there.

Off the bus, my eyes widen to discover a dreamy artisan village seemingly tucked away in splendid isolation from the rest of the world. Between the green elevations of the Kullaberg and the craggy coastline of the aptly-named Skälderviken (that's Poet's Bay, in English), cheerful birds sing on scented, flowering trees in front of freshly painted, thatched-roof houses. It's sleepy here for sure, but this is incredible: Arild is straight out of a fairy tale.

Later, over ice cream (of course) down by the tiny harbour, I think to myself for just a second that maybe fantasy dreamlives and legends actually do exist, and here I am, living it for real.

Vintage Arild: thatched-roof house with flowers in front. (2009).

A view of Arild, Sweden. (2009).

Yellow bus stop. Arild, Sweden. (2009).

Sea, sky, rock ... sea, sky, rock ... sea, sky, rock. This photo is dedicated to a certain someone who has a keen eye for sea-sky-rock pictures. Östra Kullabergs Naturreservat, Sweden. (2009).

No line on the horizon behind the Kullen Lighthouse, the brightest lighthouse in Scandinavia. Kullaberg Peninsula, Sweden. (2009).

A manicured Kullaberg landscape (courtesy of the Mölle Golfklubb). Kullaberg Peninsula, Sweden. (2009).

Tiny Arild Harbour. (2009).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

free float

Customary postcard shot of the Grand Hotel overlooking the striking little town of Mölle, Sweden. (2009).

Wake up, point to a spot on the map, and just go ... this is travel the starfish and waffles way in Summer 2009. On tap for today: Kullahalvön, or the Kulla Peninsula, in English.

"Why?" you ask.

Because I pointed to it on the map. See? I wasn't making it up. This is really how I'm doing things, and I make no apologies.

Years later, when I go bald, drive a convertible, and date a 21-year old because of my mid-life crisis, I will probably wax poetic about these unencumbered, free-floating days of my quarter-life crisis in Sweden.

Haha, bet you can't wait to hear about the stories then.

Similar Grand Hotel shot, but this time with a beagle (who I named Snoopy) and sans a circular polarizer in front of my camera. Mölle, Sweden. (2009).

And another(!) Grand Hotel snap, with lighthouse and skylight filter. Mölle, Sweden. (2009).

Kind of like San Francisco except, you know, more Swedish. Mölle, Sweden. (2009).

Houses by the sea. Mölle, Sweden. (2009).

Seawall tile mosaic. Höganäs, Sweden. (2009).

Here and There, by British sculptor Antony Gormley, on Kyrkplatsen in Höganäs, Sweden. (2009).

Look up. Höganäs, Sweden. (2009).

Apparently, a funny-looking, sunburnt penguin of some sort in the water. Höganäs, Sweden. (2009).

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Quirks and quarks at the Botanical Gardens. Lund, Sweden. (2009).

Consciously or not, the switch flips and the lights go on. And poof! so many hours vanish into thin air just like that, lost to vivid daydreams of another time, another place.

I've never been sure whether possessing a good memory is a blessing or a curse. After all, there's an inherent loneliness in always being the last to hold onto shared memories, happy as they may be.

Will you remember this?

Last one to leave, don't forget to turn off the lights.

A sky to remember. Lomma, Sweden. (2009).

Tilting at windmills. Häljarp, Sweden. (2009).

Picture postcard sensibilities. Lund, Sweden. (2009).

(Day)dreaming of the midnight sun. Lomma, Sweden. (2009). One of my favourite photos.

Friday, July 17, 2009

red short summer

Summertime bears love summertime watermelon in summertime Sweden. Lund, Sweden. (2009).

For whatever reason, seeking the sights in one's own backyard always seems to take a backseat to (what's perceived to be) more exotic travel locations further away from home. Well, me and the editor have been living in Sweden for almost two years now and we're determined not to let this happen to us as well. That's just the way we roll here at starfish and waffles, see.

Happy coincidence, the good people at Skånetrafiken, operators of all trains and buses in the south of Sweden, offer a summer pass which allows holders to make 50 trips within the region for only 485 Swedish kronor (that's about US$62 or C$70 for our North American readers). Sounds like a deal to us. Time to hit the road.

Note the white, IKEA Klippan couch - centrepiece of my palatial living room at the Vildanden W - in the picture above. Lund, Sweden. (2009).

Today's scheduled destination: Klippan, Sweden. (Population: 7,778)

Why: As fans of IKEA are well-aware, many pieces of everyone's favourite prefab furniture are named after different places throughout Scandinavia, and my couch just happens to be named after the town of Klippan. What inspired IKEA to name my couch after Klippan? I want to find out, damnit!

In the field: There's a festival of some sort going on in Klippan, and "downtown" is shut down for rides, food stands, and pedestrian traffic. I see lots of kids, teen mothers and old people. Country music is playing everywhere.

First thought: Hey, it's kind of like Alberta here!

Second thought: Enough of this, time to go somewhere else.

The verdict: I have no idea why IKEA decided to name my couch after Klippan.

De-brief: The same day, over coffee in Helsingborg, Sarah laughs at me. Klippan?! Why? I tell her about my IKEA couch. She laughs at me again. Later, I get a similar reaction from Jonna. She also adds an interesting tidbit: Klippan has something of a bad reputation for being one of the most racist towns in Sweden. Oops. Didn't know that.

Note to self: No more spontaneous travel according to the names of IKEA furniture. Let that be a lesson for everyone.

A sign? "Wrong way" in Klippan, Sweden. (2009).

Picturesque Norra Hamnen in Helsingborg, Sweden. (2009).

Going for a walk in downtown Lund, Sweden. (2009).

Sundown in Bjärred, Sweden. (2009).

Monday, July 13, 2009

ísland divides

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Talk about an out-of-sequence mess. While posts of starfish and waffles' last weeks of Swedish summer are still in the pipeline, today, the present takes precedence. Chalk it up to a continuation of a recurrent theme. Chalk it up to the editor's executive decision.

felix's daily starfish and waffles on location at the Icelandair Saga Lounge in Keflavík, Iceland. (2009).

I leave Sweden today.

5:30am, wide awake. No sense in forcing it. Get up, a voice says. And I do.

Breakfast, shower, brushing my teeth. It's instinctive. I don't need to think. It's just as well, because my mind is frozen numb. Synapses tingle, but not in a good way.

Moving last remnants of what's left of my apartment, saying goodbye to Jonna at the train station, dropping off my keys. Everything's a blur. Everything.

Sarah, big heart and all, helps me with my luggage onto the train and all the way to the airport at Kastrup. The train is delayed, however, and sits on the tracks.

"They don't want you to leave," Sarah smiles.

Eventually, we get to Kastrup. After check-in, we sit down for one last coffee at Starbucks. Sarah orders an iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso; I opt for an Innocent strawberry and banana smoothie. Typisk! as the Swedes would say. Maybe so, but on a day where life exits the comfort of the Lund bubble, one last blast of familiarity is nice.

I go through security ... reality starts to sink in. I sit down at the gate ... I begin to feel sad. I walk the bridge ... and though I want to, I don't turn back.

Through inadvertence, coincidence or mistake, I've been upped to business class on my flight to Keflavík in Iceland, the first stop of my 40-hour trip back to Canada. Big, comfortable, window seat. The promise of real food, bottomless drinks, and better service.

But I don't care.

I'm worn. I physically hurt. Whether it's attributable to accrued sleep deprivation, the stress of the move, or something else, I don't know.

Even before the plane backs away from the terminal building, I close my eyes and drift away. Simplify and shutter the senses. Try not to think about what's going on.

I'm half asleep when I feel the plane lift off the runway. I don't open my eyes. I don't look out the window.

I left Sweden today.