Curious North : 10 Polar Bear Facts

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Annie Spratt

The Inuit Have Many Different Names For The Polar Bear

The Inuit have many, many names for Nanuq. In this instance, I’ll take examples from The Netsilik Inuit of Canada. (Interestingly, they were among the last of the northern indigenous peoples to be preyed upon by Southern missionaries.) The adult male is anguraq, the adult female without cubs is tattaq, the pregnant female is arnaluk, the newborn is hagliaqtuq and the teenage polar bear who’s almost the same size as his mother is namiaq.

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‘Havets Moder’ by Christian Rosing

In Inuit Mythology, The Polar Bear Is Said To Have Been One Of Sedna’s Finger Joints

In Inuit culture, the origin of the polar bear is somewhat blurred. However, in some stories, the polar bear started life at the same time as all other Arctic marine creatures – when Sedna had her hands hacked off with an axe wielded by her own father. It’s said that the sea goddess’s fingers became seals and fish, whereas the rest of her hands became the whales and polar bears.

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David Shepherd

Nanuq Was Always Honoured By The Inuit After The Hunt

When hunting, the Inuit always maintained the highest level of respect for the great wanderer. And this continued after death. In northwestern Alaska for example, a ritual would be observed called the Polar Bear Dance. It would celebrate both the hunter and the hunted.

It was believed the bear’s spirit would attend the ceremony, so great care was taken to honour the spirit so it would move on its way. The bear’s skull would be placed on a bench so it was able to ‘watch’ the dancing and feasting. This would go on for four or five days, after which the hunter who had killed the bear would then take the skull out onto the sea ice. When the hunter would hear the sea ice make a noise, he would know the spirit had left.

Adam Binder
Adam Binder

The Mother Of All Polar Bears Was Found In Ireland

When I think of all the places the polar bear could have originated from, Ireland isn’t the first destination on the list. However, it appears the mother of all polar bears descended from a brown bear which lived 20,000 – 50,000 years ago in the present-day Emerald Isle. DNA taken from polar bears from Russia, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Alaska showed that each individual bear’s ancestry could be traced back to the Emerald Isle dweller.

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Le Petit Journal

Suicide by Polar Bear Has Happened More Than Once

Remember that tragic event in 2009 when Mandy K, a school teacher from Berlin attempted to commit suicide by entering the polar bear enclosure at Berlin Zoo? Well, I’ve recently discovered that she’s not the only person to have entered a polar bear enclosure with the intention of killing themselves.

Back in 1891, a woman by the name of Karoline Wolfe climbed down a rope into the Frankfurt Zoo’s bear pit with the aim of ‘being eaten alive by a white bear.’ Unlike Mandy K, Karoline didn’t leave the pit alive. In 1903 when the bear who had ‘shredded her flesh’ passed away, a number of Frankfurt businessmen has some postcards printed on which was the bear’s obituary. In the obituary, the bear was described as Wolf’s ‘ravenous lover,’ who was ‘so infatuated with her that he ‘gobbled her up.’

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Photographer unknown

Roald Amundsen Considered Using Polar Bears To Pull His Sledges

Poor Captain Scott has been mocked relentlessly for his idea to use ponies to pull his sleds in Antarctica. But Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen also had a bizarre plan for his North Pole expedition – to use polar bears instead of dogs. Apparently, the thought first crossed his mind when he first saw trained polar bears in a zoological garden in Hamburg.

In an interview, Amundsen said: “These bears, when properly trained, are as tractable as oxen. They are at home in the cold of the Arctic and can be easily cared for and fed with seal meat.” But taming a bear isn’t an easy feat. The idea didn’t take off in the end – Amundsen wasn’t prepared to try and handle his fury convoy on his own – though over a decade after proposing the idea, he was still up for it, despite having been mauled by a bear in the meantime.

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Annie Spratt

Polar Bears Get Hot Extremely Fast

You would think that, on occasion, a polar bear might get a bit cold. But they actually have the opposite problem – they overheat extremely easily. It’s much more likely for a polar bear to die from the heat than it is for them to die from the cold. With their two layers of fur and a solid layer of fat (which can measure up to 4.5 inches thick), their metabolic rate is steady, even in the most frigid of temperatures. While they can sprint up to 30 miles an hour if they need to, they can’t spend much time running as their temperature can rise to dangerous levels if they move too fast.

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Polar Bears Don’t Hibernate

Unlike grizzlies and black bears that spend each winter in hibernation, polar bears don’t need to, and instead spend all winter being active. The reason being that there’s plenty of food available to hunt. The exception though is when a female bear is pregnant. Then, she digs herself a den and is sealed inside, surviving off her fat stores, until her cubs are large enough to brave the outdoors.

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Florian Ledoux

Doors Are Kept Unlocked In Churchill On Halloween

On the shores of the Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, lies the town of Churchill. During Autumn, hundreds of bears pass through on their way to the hunting grounds. During this time, many of the locals don’t lock their doors so that if someone is running from a polar bear, they can duck inside. Halloween happens smack bang in the middle of polar bear season and, unsurprisingly, kids aren’t allowed to wear anything white for the festivities.

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‘ Man Proposes, God Disposes’ by Edwin Henry Landseer

Superstition Surrounds Man Proposes, God Disposes

The painting Man Proposes, God Disposes (1864) by Edwin Henry Landseer, was inspired by the search for Franklin’s Lost Expedition and features two polar bears among the grizzly remains of the expedition wreckage. The painting, which hangs in the study hall of Royal Holloway, University London was, for a long time, covered up with a Union Jack during exams, for it was said students who sat in front of it were doomed to fail. One urban legend claims that in the 1920s a student looked at the painting and stabbed themselves in the eye with a pencil, after writing on their exam paper ‘the bears made me do it.’

Sources

Ice Bear by Michael Engelhard

 

North Of Instagram

Instagram and I have had quite the unstable relationship over the years, so I thought I’d change that around and make it into something special.

The best way I could think to do that was to embrace all the striking northerly content I could find and share it here through a new series called North Of Instagram.

I hope that with this sharing, I’ll be able to introduce you to creative individuals who’ll stoke the northerly obsession that burns in your heart!

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#nordvis #home #lapland

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Żadna dotychczasowa moja podróż nie była bardziej wyczekana niż ten pierwszy wyjazd na północ. Czy naprawdę będą tam obrazy tak różne od tych dotychczas widzianych? Jak wygląda to wulkaniczne najmłodsze dziecko Ziemi? Czy skrywa swe piękno przed wścibskim okiem turysty? Pierwsze chwile po wyjściu z samolotu i już wszystko okazało się jasne. Nigdzie nie trzeba szukać tej prawdziwej Islandii. Ona po prostu jest. Nieprzyjazna w swej surowości i oniemiająco piękna. Przerażająca i wzbudzająca szacunek. Przedziwna. I z mieszkańcami o najpiękniejszych grzywach na świecie… #iceland #islandia #północ #podróż #north #konie #melancholia #wdrodze #jesień #throwback #foggy #somewheremagazine #polskieblogi #polskieblogipodroznicze #podroze #koń #tęsknota #roamtheearth #NatGeoTravel #beautifuldestinations #moodygram #visualscollective #theoutdoors #stayandwander #europe #artystycznapodroz #traveldeeper #flyforfreepl #exploretheworld #horses

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🌲 Austefjorden 🌲

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Eyes On The Arctic : Need To Read Things

I’m back with Eyes On The Arctic, a weekly post where I collect all the need-to-read arctic related things that I’ve found over the past several days, and put them here in a handy bundle of links for you to pick, click and read.

12526-snowflakeRussian Scientists Find ‘Most Powerful’ Ever Methane Seep In Arctic Ocean

12526-snowflakeResearchers Freeze Ship Into Arctic Ice For Year-Long Study On Climate Change

12526-snowflakeProtecting Life In The Arctic Seas

12526-snowflakeI Am A Diver Who Documents Climate Change In The Arctic. And I Am Running Out Of Time

12526-snowflakeCanada’s Arctic, Boreal Birds Will Be Big Climate Change Losers

12526-snowflakeThe Woolly Mammoth Made Its Last Stand Marooned on an Isolated Arctic Island

12526-snowflakeIce With That? Critical Need For Sustainable Arctic Travel

Fox Fires – A Short Animated Film

“Well…whoever said you could only become a star?”

– The Moon

I think about the aurora borealis on a daily basis. You only need to say the word ‘aurora…’ and my ears prick up like those of the fox in the beautiful short animation Fox Fires by Keilidh Bradley, a Scottish animator and visual development artist. She created the film as her graduation project from Scotland’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design.

Inspired by the Finnish tale of how the aurora borealis came into being, Fox Fires is an exquisite combination of 3D and 2D animation. It’s accompanied by a gorgeous score that I could easily have on repeat for weeks. In Bradley’s film, the moon comes down from the sky and asks for the help of Earth’s animals to light up the darkness of night-time…

In Finnish, the aurora borealis (or northern lights) are known as Revontulet which translates to Fox Fires. In Finnish culture, it’s believed the mystical lights are created by a fox racing across the land, sweeping the earth’s snow with his tail as he goes and igniting the night sky as his fur scratches the trees. Legend says that if anyone were to catch the fire fox (tulikettu) they would be rich beyond their wildest imaginings.

This little animation enchanted me almost to the point of tears, and it’s enchanted many more folk besides, as it’s now had over one million views on YouTube. It’s also been shared by the Embassy of Finland in the US and the official Twitter account of Sweden. I have to share with you some of the comments from You Tube…they’re too good not to. I wholeheartedly agree with Faniaqua on the ‘too many chills to handle.’

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A Conversation With Anita Arora Of SIGIL

I am so, so thrilled to be bringing this interview to you today.  Anita Arora of the jewellery and leather accessories brand SIGIL has been a friend of mine for several years, and I’ve been watching in awe as she has built her business up. In the circles I move in, it’s rare to encounter someone who hasn’t heard of Anita and the northern magic she creates. So, without further ado, let’s jump in…

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Hello Anita! For MostNorthern’s readers, would you mind talking a little bit about yourself and your Nordic inspired jewellery and accessories line SIGIL?

Hi Katie! Thank you so much for having me on MostNorthern! I am a native Londoner, born and raised by Finnish and Indian-born parents. Our family immigrated to the United States during my childhood, but eventually returned to the UK. I opted to return in my late-twenties first to NYC, then westward to Seattle! I was lured by the mountains, ocean and lush rainforest, which I feel so fortunate to live close to.

The rugged nature is truly my muse, whether it’s in the Pacific Northwest USA or the Nordic regions and the Arctic, both of which have a strong calling and influence on my brand, SIGIL. The stark, rugged regions of the globe have always called to me, and it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I explored this siren song.

When I look back at my journey to now, I feel like all roads lead to SIGIL, in terms of what I’m creating, what my inspiration is, and how I work. For those new to my brand, through SIGIL I create unique leather bags, accessories, and raw mineral jewelry inspired by the windswept landscapes of Iceland and Greenland. My jewelry, even though it has become the primary focus in my product line, is a newer addition to the brand. In line with the journey of growing this brand by taking on new skills, the jewelry fits in very well and is a great accompaniment to my leatherwork.

What I think makes my jewelry style unique is how I focus it. Utilizing raw, natural crystals and minerals that are truly one-of-a-kind, I create one-off pendants that are intended to resemble the wild, rugged coastlines and terrain of many of the remote regions on the globe that have inspired me my entire life. When I decided to incorporate them into the brand, it was in response to the pure engineering I was sometimes experiencing sewing non-stop on my industrial sewing machine. I wanted something more fluid, less rigid than the square edges of bags. Through this need, I created a sculpting technique that I now use as my signature jewelry style.

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I’m enormously intrigued by your brand logo. What was the thought behind its design?

The SIGIL logo was as you may have guessed it, my new personal sigil that I developed at the time I launched my graduate collection and the brand name just stuck. As my final line was intended to reflect outwardly our inner spirit, and to capture our true essence, visually, I thought it would only be right to create the SIGIL brand logo by reflecting my own internal spirit.

I achieved this through channelling the masculine/feminine divine; my deep respect and passion for the great outdoors; both my Nordic and Indian roots; and my love for discovery, growth, and travel. What resulted must have been a direct reflection of my subconscious at work! I have been told the SIGIL logo resembles to many a “compass” which makes me so happy. I’d like to think, that through focusing on the things that we value the most, we “come home” to ourselves and discover our true essence.

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We’ve actually been in contact for several years, and in that time I’ve watched in constant awe as your one-woman-business has grown from strength to strength. Can you please take us back to SIGIL’s humble beginnings and talk us through how you arrived at where you are today – running a business that enables you to explore your deepest passions on a full-time basis?

SIGIL was started back in 2014 when I returned to college to study Apparel Design, here in Seattle. I was designing my final line graduate collection, and really wanted to create something true to my roots and passion – the Arctic and time-honoured, natural fabrics/hides. SIGIL was born as an outward representation of ones’ inner intent though this collection of womens’ outerwear clothing consisting of leather, wool and silk.

Having grown up visiting family in Finland all my life, I infused a dose of Nordic minimalism along with the very avant-garde “hunter” look. After graduation, I worked in the apparel industry for 3 years, while slowly growing and evolving SIGIL in its more familiar and recognizable leather bag & accessories brand.

During college, I had the amazing opportunity to study old world leatherworking techniques with designer Aykut Ozen, who I’m eternally grateful to. This valuable experience allowed me to infuse leatherwork into my bag designs and find my feet, and brand voice. After losing my job quite suddenly in 2017, I decided that was the time to launch SIGIL full-time. During this time, I had toyed with the idea of incorporating jewelry into the brand, and learned a technique that stayed true to the raw, Nordic feel of the entire product line.

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Iceland is one Nordic country that has assisted you enormously in flourishing as a creative, a businesswoman and a human being. It’s been such a joy to observe you reap so much personal happiness and artistic stimulation from the land of fire and ice. Can you tell us about your impressions of Iceland and why it has had such an enormous impact on you and your work?

Iceland, simply put, is a breathtakingly dark, mystical, inspiring land that will change how you see the world, life, and yourself. I say this with the stark awareness that I may only speak for myself, yet the personal impact of nature on this scale is hard to ignore for most. Rarely do we witness such raw beauty to this physical scale in our daily lives. I was unprepared for how deep an impression it would have on me, and how profound a connection I would ultimately forge with its landscape.

After returning from 10 days encircling the island, and witnessing its natural diversity, I knew its impact would stay with me personally, yet also professionally. There was something in the dark, mysterious landscape that spoke to me as a designer. The impression of elemental grandeur immediately left its mark on my imagination, which was – and still is – my largest sourcebook for SIGIL design work. This is where Iceland and SIGIL were instantly connected.

To expand on this a little more, try to imagine this: You’re standing beside a pristine lagoon on the Southeast corner of the island. Past you lazily floats a glowing blue glacier, the size of a building, that has “calved” from Vatnajökull, the island’s largest glacier by volume. That night, after soaking in a natural geothermal pool, you witness the Northern Lights for the first time. You have never seen light play like this, on the blue ice, and in the night sky, and you can only imagine what early settlers would attribute this to.

After I began producing SIGIL jewelry is when I truly found a place for Iceland in my work on a piece-by-piece basis that grew into the brand as a whole. I gravitate toward out-of-the-ordinary minerals, like kyanite and fluorite, and uniquely shaped crystals, as a rule. This, to me, mimics Iceland’s rugged landscape and physical attractions, such as those I’d visited on my now yearly trips. This is really where the lightning struck and the Iceland influence was forged.

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You’re easily one of the most prolific creatives and business owners that I know of, and I’m eager to learn about your working routine! Would you mind talking us through a working day and revealing what aids your productivity when you’re working?

Thank you so much! After I turned SIGIL into my full-time business in 2017, it easily took me an entire year to figure out what routine best worked for me. You have to keep trying new methods, and see what fits best for you and be flexible as your business grows. These days, I wake up around 9:30 a.m. and brew some coffee. My studio is in my home, so it took some time sticking to a schedule! I can’t stress how important this is for productivity.

Once I’m up and caffeinated, I immediately slip into production mode, taking advantage of my best energy levels, despite not being a morning person. Before noon, I generally create new SIGIL jewelry pieces, as the morning light in my studio is perfect at this time. I try to do all my work in natural daylight, and my administrative or computer work in the evenings.

When I’m working with leather hides, I switch to the westernmost part of the studio around 1 p.m., where the stronger afternoon light allows me to best examine the hides, and look for any natural imperfections to work around. Natural light really is my best tool when working on any SIGIL pieces, and knowing when to call it a night. As a business owner, especially working at home, it can be really tough to walk away from work to do anything fun. You can be your own harshest boss! Part of being successful is allowing yourself to have a little fun now and again, and also rest. I try to read a book, and feed my imagination a little every night. It’s so easy to burn out if you don’t, so finding balance is another crucial tool for success.

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I have something of an obsession with the workspaces of creatives and would love to know about yours! Can you describe your working environment and how it has changed since SIGIL began?

It has gone from orderly to chaotic, to ordered chaos. I say this with a grin, as I seem to know exactly where everything is. In an ideal world, I’d have a white room with shelving and storage drawers labelled alphabetically for all of my necessary components. But reality rarely fits our ideal, at least in the SIGIL world. I focus too hard on the final product following my vision, so rarely do I spent time changing my set up, if it works.

The SIGIL studio consists of 4 rooms: storage and sewing/manipulation of leather, the cutting and patternmaking room, the space I reserve for creation of jewelry, and the overflow of crystals and minerals room. This last space is a bit of a grey area, as I sometimes hear gentle reminders from my partner that he lives there too. Fortunately, he too is a creative, and is understanding of my orderly chaotic environment.

Pale Lilac Amethyst PendantMedium Single Point Tessin Habit Quartz Crystal Pendant with Hematite InclusionsSkeletal Amethyst Quartz

Every time you upload a new jewellery piece, I find myself saying, ‘Now this is the most beautiful piece Anita has made…’ You’re forever surprising and wowing me. I’ve always wanted to ask from where you source your crystals, and is there a special process you go through before choosing your materials? For example, are the properties of the crystal important?

Thank you for your kind words! I’ll give you first a little background on my love for crystals and minerals. I have always been fascinated with the natural world, whether it’s geology, mountains, ocean, or on a smaller scale, as with natural specimens. There seems to me a small world that is very personal to everyone in each and every mineral. I have always been able to, in my mind’s eye, see immense structures in small specimens, whether it’s a basalt rock monolith in Reynisfjara, Iceland while peering at black kyanite, or Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in Southeast Iceland while working with fluorite minerals.

So, first and foremost, my interest in crystals and minerals is physical, although I have found myself really getting into the metaphysical aspects of the pieces, too. There is a lot to learn in this regard, and it really adds to the decision of which minerals to use, when.

As far as sourcing goes, I try to obtain as many as possible at local gem shows, here in the Pacific Northwest. Oftentimes, the vendors are the miners or work directly with the miners, so I have an understanding of where they originate and I learn a little more about the specimens this way. Lately, SIGIL jewelry has dominated my product line, but I still have an endless passion for leather goods and designing SIGIL leather bags and accessories. I will be creating new pieces at the end of the 2019 (more on that later). When sourcing my NZ and American deer hides, I have two shops I exclusively shop from. Both are mom-and-pop type small businesses and I feel good about supporting the local economies in their respective locations.

Rabbit Fur Trimmed Soft Leather Wrap Cuff with Metal Button Stud Closure

Slender Choker - NZ Deer Hide and Rabbit Fur Trim

SIGIL Medicine Bag with Quartz Crystal

You work a lot with fur, leather, and antler to craft your unique and minimalistic medicine bags, clutches, baby booties (the list goes on!) Can you talk about the experience of working with animal materials and the importance of using ethically sourced supplies?

As mentioned above, I am proud to be using the rare brick-and-mortar domestic businesses to source my leather hides, which extends to rabbit pelts. With big companies taking over so many small family-owned stores in the US, it feels really good to know I’m supporting these smaller companies. I also really like being able to telephone them and speak with knowledgeable staff who care about the products and will call you back if they need to find out answers to your questions, which includes where the animals originate from. One of the stores is right here in Seattle, and this allows me to walk in and physically select the hides/pelts and discuss any concerns with the owners. This makes me feel good passing on what I believe is a high-quality product that is sourced mindfully and with care.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Blue KyaniteSnowflake PendantVatnajökull Clear Quartz Crystal Pendant

As someone who is very much aware of the effects of climate change in the north, upcycling makes up an important part of the SIGIL ethos. Can you talk about your experience with upcycling and the importance it has for you and the rest of us in 2019? Do you have any upcycling tips you would like to share?

Climate change is something near to my heart, and we are really seeing the effects with smoke-filled skies here on the west coast USA for several months each summer. I’ve also witnessed it in the ice cap over Greenland when flying from Iceland back to Seattle. I am always looking for ways to reduce my footprint, and upcycling is one way. Particularly with leather, I aim to use all of the hide to eliminate wastage. I literally have strips of leather set aside waiting for an art project, so I don’t need to throw them away! So much energy has gone into each hide, that wasting any of it feels like a disservice to the earth, and the animal it came from. Leather is so versatile, and the raw edges inspired me to create raw edge pouches (they also remind me of the southern coastline and black sand beaches in Iceland) and the baby booties!

Whenever I use wool, such as in my wool/leather pouches, I also save my clippings and have created pieces that are smaller versions of original pieces, just by considering how to use what would otherwise be disposed of. I recommend to anyone starting out on a creative endeavour to consider less wastage and have a little fun conceptualizing how to utilize your “scraps”.

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I’m madly curious about your life as a creative in Seattle! Would you mind telling us what it’s like to live and work there as a creative woman and business owner?

Seattle has always been friendly to creatives, even as the economy has recently changed with the expansion of the tech industry squeezing out so many affordable spaces in the city. The spirit of creativity is not easily extinguished when you live in such a beautiful region of the world. I am fortunate enough to share a personal space with my life partner, and our space doubles as a creative studio for us both. From my west-facing window, I can see the Olympic Mountains and beautiful sunsets over the Puget Sound, which ushers in ferries coming and going to the nearby islands and Alaska.

If you take some time to gaze out during the busy day, it’s easy to re-center your mind and find inspiration in the nature that is visible from countless places around Seattle. Taking a drive to a hiking trail is often only 30 mins away if you need to find solitude in nature. As far as being a business owner in Seattle, I have found some great resources for small business owners and also teamed up with fellow artists at many vending events. I do a lot of networking and bring SIGIL to new audiences at the many vending events that draw in large crowds. Having a solitary work life, it feels good to get out there and experience these fun events.

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One of the reasons I love to follow you on social media is because it enables me to ‘come along’ on your adventures into the wilderness. I especially enjoy it when you post about the hikes you embark on! Can you talk about one of your all-time favourite hikes and what made it so special?

Chain Lakes Loop trail, in the Olympic Peninsula. If you stop by the ranger station, you can pick up a map and I recommend getting there early. The reason I love this trail is that there isn’t a lot of elevation gain but the visual rewards are high. Expect pristine alpine lakes and epic mountain views, particularly of Mt. Skuksan, which is one of WA state’s most photographed peaks. Don’t forget to fully charge your smartphone or camera, as you’ll be taking more pictures than you can imagine.

Nigredo into Albedo Tibetan Black QuartzStraightAlbedo into Rubedo # 1 Phantom Red Clear Quartz

As an experienced hiker, what practical advice would you give to someone heading out into the wilds to ensure they have a safe and unforgettably amazing experience?

Always pack the 10 essentials and plan on bringing more water than you think you’ll need. Stop by or call ahead to the nearest ranger station to learn about current conditions and don’t take risks for that amazing photo. Too many hikers have perished trying to take an amazing Instagram photo, so keep your wits about you. Always heed weather warnings, and let someone know where you are going. Never approach wildlife, and be aware of daylight limitations in the mountains. Where possible, read reviews online as rangers may not be aware of damage that hikers discover on the trail. And finally, always use sound judgement in sticky situations

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For anyone making plans to travel to Iceland, what recommendations would you like to pass on?

Thanks to the popularity of Iceland as a travel destination in recent years, there are a lot of resources online for learning about where to go, what to do, and what to know before you go. I recommend booking your flight and accommodation 4-6 months in advance. Icelandair is the primary carrier, and with the demise of WOW air, their second airline company, seats are in higher demand, so book early when possible.

I recommend getting out of Reykjavik if you can rent a car, and driving east along the “Ring Road” (the main highway) and adding 1 or 2 hours extra each day for stopping to take photos. Always follow road signs and rules, not only to be a safe driver to others, but because Iceland driving is likely going to be like nowhere you have driven before. The country is the third windiest place on earth, and you learn this very quickly, especially in the Winter, Spring, and Autumn months.

If you don’t plan on driving, take the FlyBus from Keflavik airport and plan to explore the city on foot, but do allow yourself at least one tour bus trip to the Golden Circle. This is very doable even if you only do a quick stopover trip and have 24-48 hours in the country.

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With your roots being in Finland, I’m ever so curious to learn about what aspects of Finnish culture you hold dearest to your heart, and how important is it for you to return home.

Finland is so much a part of who I am, that I am not sure where to start. It really is the one place I can call home, and I am close to my family over there. I was born in London, UK to a Finnish mom and Indian father, yet I grew up immersed in largely Finnish culture for much of the time, while visiting my grandparents for 2 months every year (1 month in summer and in winter).

Like Icelanders, Finns are a hardy people, who have had to work hard to gain their independence (only 101 years ago!) The aspects of Finnish culture that truly mean the most to me include how much the Finns value their connection to nature. Wherever they are, even in the capital city of Helsinki, nature is everywhere, and city planning respects this. Secondly, Finland’s education system is rated the highest in the world. Finns are flexible and believe in placing value in their people, and future generations.

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Do you have any favourite influencers also inspired by the north that you would like to tell us about?

Yes! One of my fellow Pacific Northwest-based artists, Ravnvolk. Justin makes amazing wall sconces and one-of-a-kind candle holders inspired by the north. It’s immediately clear how much work he puts into each and every piece, embodying the spirit of old-world craftsmanship. Check out his work at: etsy.com/shop/Ravnvolk

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What does the rest of 2019 have in store SIGIL?

This is a very exciting year for SIGIL! I am currently in the planning stages for my first ever Iceland-based photoshoot in Fall 2019! I will be creating more elaborate jewelry pieces in a much larger, statement size and more that are currently in the works – please keep tuned over the next few months!

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In your opinion, what do you believe draws people to the north?

There has always seemed to be an intrinsic mystique that draws people to the north, whether it’s remote regions of the globe, such as Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, or any of the 5 Nordic countries. There is a yearning for “getting away” and seeing natural beauty that is largely untouched and breathing clean, glacial air and experience the solitude of a dark, Scandinavian forest. There is a closeness to nature that people of the north innately have, that I think draws many of us, too.

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Finally, in three words, what does ‘North’ mean for you?

Formidable, dark, mystical.

 

All images courtesy of Anita Arora.

 

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Fäviken – The End Of A Nordic Dream

In 2017 I found myself hooked on the Netflix show Chef’s Table. Each beautifully shot episode focuses on one of the world’s top chefs and their (often tumultuous) rise to success. I don’t watch TV as a habit, and when I do tune in, the show has to be something that’s going to enrich my life. Chef’s Table did exactly that. Though one episode more so than others – the episode about Swedish chef, forager, hunter, and gardener Magnus Nilsson and Fäviken – one of the world’s best and most isolated restaurants.

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Photo : Per-Anders Jörgensen

After just ten minutes, my heart rate was quickening with excitement, and I scribbled ‘eat at Fäviken’ on my list of ‘Things To Do In The Nordics Before I Die.’ Being who I am, a woman with a northern fever, I developed something of an obsession with this little place deep in the forests of Jämtland, and the food grown (more than half of the food diners eat at Fäviken has been grown, found or hunted in the 20,000 acres of grounds), prepared and served there. 

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Photo: Erik Olsson

Following seasonal variations is at the heart of what Nilsson does at the 16 seat restaurant, as is keeping things rustic – the dining room is located in an old barn and is decorated with a full-length fur coat on the wall and aged cuts of meat hung from the ceiling.

Whatever is available on the day – be it carrots harvested several months ago or fish that was pulled from the river that morning – is served up as a theatrical 32-course extravaganza.

The methods Nilsson uses to prepare his menu include vegetables smoked using decomposing leaves, warm marrowbone extracted from a cow’s shinbone using a two-man saw and ice cream churned in a creaky wooden ice cream maker from the 1920s. Nilsson purposefully doesn’t take great care of the machine, as the noise it makes enhances the Fäviken experience.

We do things as they have always been done at Jämtland mountain farms; we follow seasonal variations and our existing traditions. We live alongside the community.

During the summer and autumn, we harvest what grows on our land as it reaches the peak of ripeness, and prepare it using methods we have rediscovered from rich traditions, or that we have created through our own research to maintain the highest quality of the end product.

We build up our stores ahead of the dark winter months. We dry, salt, jelly, pickle and bottle. The hunting season starts after the harvest and is an important time, when we take advantage of the exceptional bounty with which the mountains provide us. By the time spring and summer return to Jämtland, the cupboard is bare and the cycle begins again.

– Magnus Nilsson

I can remember the day after I watched Chef’s Table. I went to my Swedish class and, instead of doing online study with a Swedish language app, I sneakily waded through all of the interviews and reviews of Fäviken that I could find. I wanted to know everything. When I discovered that Nilsson had written a Fäviken cookbook, it took all of my will power not to skip class and power to the library.

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An image from the cookbook.

When school was over, I practically flew to the library and went immediately to the food section, panicking that someone else would have been as enchanted about Fäviken as I had been and would have got there first. But they hadn’t. And when I found it I nearly cried. I opened it up at random and landed on a page where one of his signature dishes shone back at me – a single scallop that’s been poached in its own juices and served in a huge shell on top of a bed of moss and smouldering juniper branches. I hugged the book to my chest and hurried home to read.

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Photo : Erik Olsson

I dove into the Fäviken cookbook with an enthusiasm that I’ve never before felt for any book about food. And it didn’t disappoint.  The sumptuous narrative about one of Sweden’s most special places kept giving and giving and giving. As well as being a chef with the world in the palm of his hand, Magnus Nilsson can also write extraordinarily well. This isn’t just a cookbook with recipes – but oh friends, what recipes they are! – it’s a beautiful tale about a wondrous restaurant and the people and wild things that make it what it is.

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Photo : Erik Olsson

Time has passed since I first heard about Fäviken and relished the cookbook (Nilsson has also written The Nordic Cookbook, a humongous tome that records the past several hundred years of Nordic cooking and contains a whopping 730 recipes), but I’ve missed my chance to eat there. I will die without having eaten at Fäviken.

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Photo : Erik Olsson

You see, Fäviken shall, by the end of this year, be no more. The other day on Instagram, a post popped up from Nilsson about how this year the restaurant will close and it will never open again. He waited until the restaurant was fully booked for the year before announcing the closure. Nilsson has given one interview about the closure – to the LA Times – and that’s it.

Now, while it might seem a tad dramatic, I do feel this real sense of loss. I never doubted that I would, one day, be eating 32 courses at a barn in the far north of Sweden. But I don’t intend for my dream to die entirely…I’ll be going back to the cookbook with the goal of making every damn recipe in it.

 

MostNorthern Christmas Book List (Or Books For Jólabókaflóð)

Iceland’s relationship with books is one that, as a writer and bibliophile, has me in tears. I could move to the the land of ice and fire quite happily based solely on how passionate everyone is about literature.

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 Icelanders will write a book in their lifetime and the small, Nordic country has more writers, more books published and more books read than anywhere else in the world.

It came as no surprise to  learn Iceland has a special celebration for books, one which practically the whole country participates in. It’s called jólabókaflóð which translates to the ‘Christmas Book Flood.’

The celebration actually begins in September, when the Icelandic Book Association posts a book catalogue to every home in Iceland. (The catalogue is called Bókatíðindi and you can browse this year’s edition here if you would like.)

So, from September onward there’s a book buying hysteria in Iceland, which culminates on Christmas Eve when people gift each other the books they’ve been frantically buying. The rest of the evening is then spent reading. I can’t think of anything more perfect than that.

I believe so strongly that we need to be more Icelandic when it comes to our relationship with books, that I’ve put together a list of northerly reads to inspire your own jólabókaflóð.

Icelanders give paperback books on Christmas Eve, but the ones I’ve listed here are all available on Amazon Kindle, so you can have them pretty much instantly to read. If you don’t have a Kindle, (I don’t) no stress, you can download the FREE Kindle app here for IOS, Android, Mac and PC.

Happy reading!

Ice Bear By Michael Engelhard

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I’ve been wanting to read Ice Bear ever since it popped up on Amazon as a recommended read a month or so ago.

While it’s the priciest book on this list, with the Kindle Edition coming in at a hefty £15.21 if you’re invested in deepening your knowledge of this most important and beautiful species, it’s entirely worth it.

“From Inuit shamans to Jean Harlow lounging on a bearskin rug, from the cubs trained to pull sleds toward the North Pole to “cuddly” superstar Knut, it all comes to life in these pages.

With meticulous research and more than 160 illustrations, the author brings into focus this powerful and elusive animal. Doing so, he delves into the stories we tell about Nature–and about ourselves–hoping for a future in which such tales still matter.” – Amazon.

Buy it here.

Dark Matter By Michelle Paver

Dark Matter is one of my all-time favourite books, and I featured it in my Top Ten Ten Books About The North list  back in February. It’s a gloriously creepy ghost story set in 51HeHhcACUL._SY346_the High Arctic and it leaves no nerve unturned.

For years I longed for a book like Dark Matter and when it came along, it was everything I wanted and more. There’s a really good reason this book has nearly 400 reviews on Amazon and almost a full 5 stars. If you choose Dark Matter, you’ll be up all night reading, I promise.

‘January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he’s offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken.

But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return – when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible.

And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark…’ – Amazon

Buy it here.

The Nordic Theory Of Everything By Anu Partanen

The Nordic Theory Of Everything is another book I’ve been longing to read, and now that it’s available on Kindle for 99p I’ll be delving into it this Christmas eve. Since living in Sweden, it’s come to my attention that, actually, not everything is as rosy as the majority of literature out there would lead you to believe…so it’ll be really interesting to read, reflect and no doubt debate the theories within its 432 pages, even if I’m outnumbered 10 to 1 this Christmas time.

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‘From childcare to healthcare provision for the elderly and tackling issues of homelessness, the Nordic countries are world leaders in organising society – no wonder Finland has been ranked among the happiest places in the world.

But when Finnish journalist Anu Partanen moved to America, she quickly realised that navigating the basics of everyday life was overly complicated compared to how society was organised in her homeland. From the complications of buying a mobile, to the arduous task of filing taxes, she knew there was a better way and as she got to know her new neighbours she discovered that they too shared her deep apprehensions.

The Nordic Theory of Everything details Partanen’s mission to understand why America (and much of the Western world) suffers from so much inequality and struggling social services. Filled with fascinating insights, advice and practical solutions, she makes a convincing argument that we can rebuild society, rekindle optimism and become more autonomous people by following in the footsteps of our neighbours to the North.’ – Amazon

Buy it here.

Reindeer An Arctic Life By Tilly Smith

I saw the cover of this book and thought to myself, ‘if I don’t enjoy this, I’m going to be really disappointed.’ I needn’t have worried though, as I took advantage of the ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon, had a read of a few pages and knew it was going to be a beautiful, captivating and enlightenment little read, from which I’d come away from a more learned and inspired reindeer obsessive.

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‘In this enchanting book, Tilly Smith leads the reader through the cold and extraordinary natural history of the reindeer.

A creature that is often used to adorn the winter season, the reindeer has been domesticated in Eurasia for longer than the horse while in North America it exists side by side with the humans, never tamed yet vital to the native settlements.

Despite the popularity of the image of the reindeer, they are rarely seen in real life.

This beautiful, comforting little book, peppered with anecdotes about the author’s own herd, is sure to kindle affection for one of nature’s most adaptable mammals, from fur-covered hooves to downy antlers.’ – The History Press

Buy it here.

 

Tales Of Iceland Or Running With The Huldefolk In The Permanent Daylight By Stephen Markley

While I’ve read (very) mixed reviews about this ‘fast, fun, educational and true story’ written by a journalist from Chicago who went to Iceland with his two friends, one of whom, Matthew Trinetti, is the main character in the book, it intrigued the hell out of me. And, seen as though I can get it free on Kindle Unlimited (if you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, get it. Seriously. It’s brilliant.) I thought why not.

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‘When American author Stephen Markley was a fresh-faced, impressionable university student in Ohio, he saw Quentin Tarantino describe a trip he’d taken to Iceland.

“Supermodels working at McDonald’s,” said Tarantino of the Icelandic. Markley never forgot those words.

Seven years later, Markley set out with two friends for Iceland, and adventure would ensue. The three young men found a country straddling Europe and North America, recovering from its 2008 economic crisis, struggling to regain its national identity, influenced by the entire globe yet trafficking in its singular Icelandic sagas and legends.

With Tales of Iceland, Markley delivers the fastest, funniest memoir and travelogue of an American experience in Iceland.

Beware: You will NOT learn how to say “Which way to the potato farm” in the Icelandic language. Nor will you learn how to locate the finest dining options in Reykjavik, or the best opera house. This is not that kind of travel book. Markley and his two irrepressible twenty-something American pals do not like opera, had no money to eat much besides eggs and skyr, and learned only how to say “Skál!” “Takk,” and “Skyr.” – Amazon

Buy it here.

Icebreaker By Horatio Clare

I only found out about this book and it’s author Horatio Clare today, but this book is on my ‘must read before the end of 2018 list.’

‘We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker?’

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A message from the Finnish embassy launches Horatio Clare on a voyage around an extraordinary country and an unearthly place, the frozen Bay of Bothnia, just short of the Arctic circle. Travelling with the crew of Icebreaker Otso, Horatio, whose last adventure saw him embedded on Maersk container vessels for the bestseller Down to the Sea in Ships, discovers stories of Finland, of her mariners and of ice.

Finland is an enigmatic place, famous for its educational miracle, healthcare and gender equality – as well as Nokia, Angry Birds, saunas, questionable cuisine and deep taciturnity. Aboard Otso Horatio gets to know the men who make up her crew, and explores Finland’s history and character. Surrounded by the extraordinary colours and conditions of a frozen sea, he also comes to understand something of the complexity and fragile beauty of ice, a near-miraculous substance which cools the planet, gives the stars their twinkle and which may hold all our futures in its crystals.’ – Amazon

Buy it here.

Other Titles To Check Out

ScandiKitchen: Fika & Hygge By Bronte Aurell

Wild Guide: Scandinavia By Ben Love

Scandinavian Christmas By Trine Hahnemann

Finding Sisu: In Search Of Courage, Strength And Happiness The Finnish Way By Katja Pantzar

Folklore: The Northlore Series Edited By MJ Kobernus

 

 

 

An Expat’s Life In Sweden : Winter’s Light & Details

The temperature has been rising again, so today was very slushy and I was very miserable, so I’m going to share some shots from a few weeks ago when the air was cold enough to catch in my throat and the light was glorious.

The light of spring and summer doesn’t get to me the way winter’s light does. Winter’s softer light gives me an energy that I’m unable to find in any other season. In spring and summer, more often than not I find myself saying ‘oh, piss off already, sun,’ and I can find myself slipping into many a depression during the warm months, because there’s too much light and not the sort of light that feeds my spirit.

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The details of winter – iced streams, frozen spider webs – can hold me captivated for hours. Literally. I nearly always loose track of time when I’m walking in the forest in winter, and more often than not, find myself making my way home in the dark.

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I would love to know which seasons help your spirit thrive.

An Expat’s Life In Sweden : My Relationship With Winter

I think about winter all. the. time. There’s never a time when the cold isn’t on my mind. As soon as the year ticks over into November, I turn my face to the sky for that first snowfall.

But snow has been scarce this year. Extremely scarce. Scarily scarce. I want to move further north, where it’s colder, and darker and the snow has been falling steadily for weeks. I dream of having a house where the forests meet the mountains and people are few and far between.

I’m grateful for the ice that we have though, even if the temperatures are fluctuating wildly, leaving it to weep then crackle and freeze…weep then crackles and freeze.

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There’s a wall of rock near home, one that has captivated ever since I moved to Sweden. I pass it almost everyday, but it’s in winter time when I can’t stay away from it, for those months when it grows ice.

These photos were taken today, at around 2.30. I’d just come back from the store and ran inside to grab my camera. The rock wall with become covered with more ice over the coming months, and while today, many of the icicles were breakable, they will become thicker and more steadfast, glistening and shimmering in the short hours of daylight, and gathering strength in the cold hours of night.

 

 

An Expat’s Life In Sweden : Lördagsgodis

Before moving to Sweden, I was blissfully unaware of the country’s obsession with godis (candy), or more specifically Lördagsgodis (Saturday candy). And now, three years on, I can still find it overwhelming when hordes of people, predominately adults, swarm the Pick ‘n’ Mix wall in our local ICA on a Saturday to bag up kilos (this isn’t an exaggeration) of the stuff.

I’ve tried to blend in, to become ‘one of the Swedes.’ But, after gorging on one too many bags, I’ve lost the will to have Lördagsgodis every single week. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that, in some kind of creepy trance, I’ve picked up a paper bag and a little plastic shovel and have half filled my bag, before shaking my head and abandoning my loot like it was on fire. In my opinion, less is more, and a binge every other month or so does me just fine.

The tradition of Lördagsgodis stems back from the 50’s when the Swedish Medical board advised parents to limit their children’s sweet eating to one day a week. But even though most Swedes do eat their candy on a Saturday, they still manage to beat every other country in the world in terms of consumption.

Down below you’ll find some godis I picked up the other day (once I’d managed to shoulder my way through the gaggle of grownups desperate for their Saturday candy fix). It’s mostly chocolate A: because I’m a chocolate fiend and B: I was in a rush as I was verging on having a full-blown panic attack.

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1. Plopp

While it has one of the most unfortunate names for a chocolate bar, Plopp is a huge hit in Sweden. Why? I’m not sure. Even though it’s made up of a perfect combo – milk chocolate and soft caramel – it’s mediocre. Try it though, just to say you have.

2. Gräddkola

This Swedish toffee is uber rich, and, while it’s delicious, it’s also a bit weird tasting. (You’ll find ‘weird’ is a word that often comes up when people are describing Swedish food stuffs.)  A must try.

3. Gräddkola Choklad

Same as the above but chocolate flavoured. Decent, not as good as the original. They do it in licorice flavour too, surprise, surprise.

4. Delizie

Probably one of the most substantial praline chocolates you’ll find in Pick ‘n’ Mix. More than one and you’ll feel queasy.

5. Marabou Mjölk Choklad

The most famous chocolate in Sweden. We always have a bar of this in the house, and if we don’t, there’s mass hysteria. You’ll see stacks of the stuff is every supermarket. It comes in a mind-boggling amount of varieties  including licorice, strawberry and Oreo, though my favourite is the regular you see here, or the dark variety.

6. Geisha

This is actually a Finnish creation, but it’s a Swedish favourite. Milk chocolate with a crunchy hazelnut filling. Nothing mind-blowing but worth a gobble.

7. Werther’s Original

These German caramel candies are exceptionally popular in Sweden (as they are in England and pretty much everywhere else in Europe.) They’re always at the Pick ‘n’ Mix wall. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that they’re a good, solid, decent candy.

8. Hem-Kola

This is another toffee, albeit with hazelnuts. Really tasty. Don’t expect to be doing much talking for a while after eating it – you’ll be picking your teeth for a good half hour.

9. Sweet Drop

You could easily miss this itty bitty candy while scouring the vast Pick ‘n’ Mix wall, but it’s one of my favourites. With a crunchy shell and a milky filling it tastes like childhood.

10. Juleskum

This marshmellowy Tomte (Santa) is eaten by everyone in Sweden at Christmas. Vanilla or strawberry flavoured (or a mix of both) they’re dangerously moreish.

11. Sockerbitar

These might look boring, but they’re one of the best things about Swedish Pick ‘n’ Mix. They’re like marshmallows, but are much denser and not quite as sweet as their cousins from the US.

12. BUBS Banana And Caramel

Nothing worth writing home about.

13. Polkargris

Basically a hard boiled sweet with a peppermint flavour. Great to take on car journeys or suck on after a meal. Not really what you want to be filling your Pick ‘n’ Mix bag with, though.

14. Can’t Remember

Tastes like Messmör, a sweet/salty/caramely whey spread that reminds me of Norwegian brown cheese. Like with Messmör, I’m not entirely sure if I enjoy it or not.

15. PimPim

Kinda fruity and…tough? Gets stuck in your teeth. No idea why it’s so popular.

16. Smultronmatta

Tastes of the little wild strawberries you find in the Swedish forest in the summer time, which have something of a purfumey taste and taste nothing like actual strawberries. Claggy and a bit weird.

17. ZOO

These little monkeys are not good for eating. Everyone loves them for reasons I can’t understand.

18. Lakris Twist

I guess these are a universal thing. I’m not a big fan of licorice, but I can handle one of these.

19. Lakris Salt

AVOID. Unless salty licorice makes you happy, in which case, get loads.

20. Punschpraline

These little things have quite the kick to them. They taste like Damsugare, a little Swedish cake treat that’s covered in marzipan, dipped in chocolate and flavoured with punsch liqueur.

21. Center

A firm favourite with Pick ‘n’ Mix regulars, you’ll often find these are one of the candies constantly running low. Milk chocolate with a caramel interior. They’re delicious enough.

22. Can’t Remember

Sadly I can’t remember the name for this, but it’s impossible to miss. Whatever-this-is-called is like the holy grail of the chocolate section (the Swedes section up their Pick ‘n’ Mix). Once you’re passed the chocolate layer, you’ll find marshmallow and caramel and something almost biscuity. A must pick.

23. Can’t Remember

While I can’t remember the name, I DO remember that this tastes exactly like the Swedish Fika treat chokladboll, which main ingredients are oats, coffee and cocoa. A must try.

24. BUBS LAKRIS

This is a salty, horrible beast. I didn’t get past one bite, and even that I spat out. Only get this if you adore salty liquorice and/or want the FULL Swedish Pick ‘n’ Mix experience.

25. PimPim Lakris

This is the gets-stuck-in-your-teeth one, just flavoured with salty licorice. NOT GOOD.

26-27 Can’t Remember

Milk chocolate buttons that I can just eat and eat and eat. Everyone puts some of these in their bag.

 

Some Tips To Make The Most Of Swedish Pick ‘n’ Mix

If you’re visiting Sweden, or are new here and are wanting to have a great Pick ‘n’ Mix experience, here are some tips to make the most of your sugar trip.

  • ICA City has one of the best Pick ‘n’ Mix selections that you’ll find, and for a not too bad price either. If I remember right it’s about 59kr per kilo.
  • Unless you’re fine with crowds and don’t mind scraping the barrels for the best candies, I recommend going for Pick ‘n’ Mix on any day BUT Saturday.
  • For the full Swedish experience, bypass the Skittles and Mini Lion Bars and opt for the candy that looks unfamiliar.
  • The chocolates tend to be the heaviest of the candies, so if you’re looking to save some krona, go light on the chocolate and heavier on the gummy and skum candies.

 

If you can help me out with the names I can’t remember, I’d really appreciate it! Please do let me know if you’ve enjoyed this post, and if there’s anything else you’d like to learn about my life in Sweden.