Sweden is Chrisma-rrific

Lucia Festival - "Lucia" and her procession of maidens and "star boys".

Lucia Festival - "Lucia" and her procession of maidens and "star boys".

I’m not quite sure any other culture is as fanatical about Christmas as the Swedes. The celebrations start at the beginning of the first Sunday of advent  and don’t end until after the new year.  This year advent was Nov. 29th, and the Swedes started things off in a delicious fashion with a traditional glöggfest – a gathering to imbibe hot, spiced, mulled wine (glögg) accompanied by blanched almonds and raisins, with saffron buns and ginger biscuits. Who doesn’t want hot glögg on a brisk, snow-filled Gothenburg evening?

Liseberg Christmas MarketAfter the glögg, the cities of Sweden are decked out to the nines, with lights, decorations and more Christmas markets than you can imagine. Gothenburg has not only seven distinct Xmas markets but also the largest one in the country: Liseberg has dozens upon dozens of stalls selling gifts for all, shows, ice skating, holiday delicacies (including of course more glögg) and what holiday market would be complete without St. Nicholas sitting in his workshop to listen to the wish lists of excited children. As if that weren’t enough, the market is bedecked in over 5 million (!!!) Xmas lights to celebrate the seasons.

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Illuminating Geniuses of the Renaissance


Michelangelo, da Vinci and Raphael together in Gothenburg

Leonardo. Raphael. Michelangelo.

No, not the Ninja Turtles, but the Renaissance artists for whom they were named, were not, as their reptilian counterparts, the best of friends. In fact, most would describe their relationship with something akin to rivalry. These three great minds of the turn of the 16th century competed to create works of genius to inspire commissions and of course fame.

Now, for the first time, the trio will spend the next 8 years traveling the world in a new exhibition starting out in Gothenburg Sweden in March of 2010. And There Was Light is a unique and intriguing exhibit put together by artistic director Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo da Vinci museum in Tuscany and scientific director Francesco Buranelli, the scientific director. It unveils the intricacies of their relationships with each other, the competition, the rivalry, and the brilliant works that it fueled.

Traveling with the expedition, will be da Vinci’s ‘La Bella Principessa’ (1490), Michelangelo’s ‘Plan for the bastions at Porta al Prato’ (1529) and Rafael’s ‘Study of a possessed boy with father to the right from Transfiguration’ (1519). ‘La Bella Principessa’ has been the victim of overnight fame, when it was discovered that a piece bought at auction for a mere $19,000 by a Canadian collector, was proven to be an original da Vinci worth over $165 million (or approximately 8,684.2 times what it realized at auction).

Eriksbergshallen in Gothenburg, West Sweden, will host the exhibition (20 March-15 August 2010) prior to its world tour. Admission is SEK 200 pp (£17).

It is surely a once in a lifetime opportunity to see not only such inspiring works by the three Masters of the Renaissance all in once place, but also to discover how they worked, how they lived, and how they competed with each other to be the best of the best.

Boxed Vacations, now ordered to go!

The newest way to travel in Sweden is in a box…sorta.

The Swedish Tourism board has created a very amusing video to promote Swedish City Breaks – easily assimilated boxed packages of fun for visiting Sweden. It’s a great tool that has some really cool “breaks” like getting Soundtracked in Gothenburg – where you get your own personalized soundtrack played by an instrument-imitating mouth orchestra during your entire stay in Gothenburg.

On the less quirky side, the relaxing Feel Good Trip, is basically a relaxing spa package with all the details worked out for you so you don’t even have to stress making your vacation plans. These boxed City Breaks are really a unique way to see what Sweden has to offer without having to spend forever researching and booking everything separately.

Of course with the holidays coming up the Christmas Spectacular in Gothenburg, with 5 million fairy lights strung throughout the worlds largest Holiday Market also makes for a tempting to go box…Don’t forget to bring me back some roasted chestnuts please!

Capturing Castle life in West Sweden

The Fairytale-esque Lacklo Castle

The Fairytale-esque Lacko Castle

Castles abound in Gothenburg and its surroundings. It’s a throwback to days gone by and an homage to a simpler way of life that is utterly foreign to modern existence. In West Sweden there are a myriad of castles and manor houses that are open for tours, dining and even some overnight stays.

You can explore the Bohus Fortress guided through its historic halls by guides garbed in medieval costume. Take a guided tour of Carlsten Fort and climb up to the roof of the tower and be rewarded by a magnificent view of the whole Marstrand archipelago! Dinners, historical meals, conferences, and historical reenactments are also arranged at the fort. Explore the variety of accommodation options Here.

Check out this short video on the Castles and Manors of West Sweden.

Rocking the Gothenburg Harbor

Kristoffer Ragnstam

Kristoffer Ragnstam

Next on the list of interviewees is Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist/All-around Musical Genius, Kristoffer Ragnstam, a native of Gothenburg but a rocker of the world. “Ragnstam specializes in an exuberant type of rock, with strains of everything he’s ever heard – musical and otherwise — found like footnotes in his songs…” declaims his website, and come to think of it, declaims his music as well. The eclecticism and yet simple appeal of his music draws listeners like moths to the flame – which of course is a perfect segue into the topic of the interview: his new music video for Who Set the City on Fire.

Explore West Sweden: Your newest music video, Who Set the City on Fire, was a single continuous shot. What was it like filming for it? Were there any nerves about not making any mistakes? Or did you just shoot and go with it?

Kristoffer Ragnstam: The whole idea behind my new EP is: one take, be proud of who you are, and have fun with it. That idea left us pretty open to options how to make the video. But the Director “Markus KoKoKaKa” had an idea of trying to get the live vibe out of the song and with a homemade touch of it. He nailed it!

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What a Wonderful World

Luis Jacob's Without Person (1999-2008) Installation view Courtesy: Luis Jacob

Luis Jacob's Without Person (1999-2008) Installation view Courtesy: Luis Jacob

Gothenburg’s art scene is currently in the midst of an exciting collaboration that showcases artists from around the world – the Göteborg Biennial for Contemporary Art. What a Wonderful World is the fifth such contemporary art exhibit and brings 26 international artists to 7 different venues including museums, a library and a cinema.

For ten weeks this year, from September 5th to November 15th, you can go from museum to museum in Gothenburg to see contemporary works all celebrating and commenting on the theme What a Wonderful World, curated by Celia Prado and Johan Pousette. “This biennial presents reflections on the conception of the political by elucidating various aspects of individual versus collective choices, democratic participation, and the power of art to depict, interpret and convey observations and movements in society.” They further describe the idea behind this exhibition and the theme in a curatorial statement here.

This biennial is a reminder of the power of art to inspire and as a means to not only represent the world we live in but to help shape it. In typical Swedish fashion it does not suffice to express such a theme in a simple exhibit, instead it must be a large collaborative exhibition, over a year in the working that spreads throughout the entire city of Gothenburg and involves a variety of media originating from the world over. Typical!

Candice Breitz's Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon) (2006) Installation view: Bawag Foundation, Vienna, 2006 Photograph: Alex Fahl Courtesy: Candice Breitz & Jay Jopling / White Cube

Candice Breitz's Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon) (2006) Installation view: Bawag Foundation, Vienna, 2006 Photograph: Alex Fahl Courtesy: Candice Breitz & Jay Jopling / White Cube

Amit Goren's Kafa, 2009 Video still Courtesy: Amit Goren

Amit Goren's Kafa, 2009 Video still Courtesy: Amit Goren

A Permanent Vacation in Gothenburg

Permanent Vacation Fashion
Permanent Vacation Fashion

Fashion forward and fashion retro, Permanent Vacation is a creative group of West Swedenites whose designs draw the young and hip and embody the spirit of Gothenburg. In addition to phenomenal fashion items, PV dabbles in photography, design, styling and writing when the creative inspiration hits, another trait they share with Gothenburg-eans: the drive to express themselves in a myriad of creative outlets.

Sharing her views of Gothenburg and how connected it is to her fashion designs, Amanda Lindell, founder and designer for PV talks about the company, her inspiration and the best places to go in Gothenburg.

Explore West Sweden: How has being a fashion designer changed your life?
Amanda Lindell: It made it better and worse in equal parts.
EWS: What aspect of design fascinates you most?
AL: Making new stuff. Inventions.
EWS: Who has inspired you most in your fashion design?
AL: Michael Jackson & R. Kelly
EWS: What does Permanent Vacation mean to you?
AL: ell oh vee ee (L-O-V-E)
EWS: How has West Swedish culture and living in Gothenburg influenced your design?
AL: We couldn’t have done what we do anywhere else. We have the time and possibility to start up the business here. And more concrete, the clothes we make are definitly made for a west coast climate and life; waxed cotton jackets & flanell dresses for fall and durable dresses for summer. The atmosphere here is the atmosphere of PV.
EWS: What or who do you think are the most important cultural and fashion icons of West Sweden?
AL: Besides P.V. it must be sea, wind and shrimps.
EWS: What do you like to do for fun when you’re not busy designing hip and fashion forward clothing?
AL: Get drunk at the desk
EWS: If you could chose one quality that typifies Gothenburg-eans, what would it be?
AL: Calm
EWS: What is your favorite Swedish food?
AL: Summer potatoes
EWS: What is your favorite Gothenburg hot-spot?
AL: Alvar&Ivars bakery and Haga Bion cinema

Permanent Vacation‘s office is on Tredje Långgatan in Gothenburg, but even better, for your own slice of Gothenubrg you can shop online here – they ship worldwide for only 5 euros.

Fashion and Fast Cars - always a recipe for fun
Fashion and Fast Cars – always a recipe for fun
Wrestling in the grass - a great way to spend my Permanent Vacation
Wrestling in the grass – a great way to spend my Permanent Vacation

For more photos visit this season’s fashion line, as well as past seasons’ lines check out their collections online.

Way Out West – that’s a wrap

A rainy but music filled last day

A rainy but music filled last day

The third and last day of the beloved Way Out West Festival has come to an end. The sun took a vacation and left us with downpours and muddy shoes, but that however was no cause for concern. At least not if you ask the rock veteran Olle Ljungström. Luckily for both artist and fans, he performed under a tented stage, and we were able to enjoy the concert in shelter from the rain. Olle is quite a legend in Sweden, famous for subtly balancing misery and joy and his performance today took us back to the time when it was still okay to live on the punk side of life.

Nas also put on a great concert despite the rainy weather – with thousands of arms waving to his rapped beats and feeding his already substantial ego the attention and energy he thrives on.

Nas and the thousand-arm wave

Nas and the thousand-arm wave

Another cocky performer who put on a fantastic show, was our incredibly popular lady from London: Lily Allen. She was one of the strongest attractions at this year’s festival, drawing huge crowds and a devoted audience. For having only had a relatively short career, it is impressive how faithful her fans are – Slottskogen was dancing, sweating, singing and swearing right along. Fuck You is probably the best way to start a party.

The evening continued, of course, at the club scenes. The choices were many and varied. Harmonic folk/acoustic at the Annedal church, hard rock at Sticky Fingers or dark, decadent country at Pustervik. Way Out West certainly has something for every musical taste and provided a great showing of local and international superstars to satisfy even the most discerning audience!

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