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In Essays/ Europe/ Food

Kukkolaforsen: Exploring Swedish Fishing Culture


It’s the first sunny morning of my trip to Swedish Lapland. This time I’m with Inger, who’s driving me back to the Tornio River that etches out the border between Sweden and Finland. Her English is so-so, the kind where sometimes I ask “either or” type questions and she responds, “Yes, mhmm” without elaborating. Having struggled with languages myself, I know that move.

But she’s sweet, pulling over on the highway at one point to show me Instagram photos taken by, I want to say, a local photographer. As we near the Finnish border, she asks me if I’ve ever been to Finland. When I say that I have not, she makes the executive decision to drive me over the border and back around the next roundabout where you can see IKEA welcoming travelers into Sweden.

“Now you’ve been to Finland,” she smiles.

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In Essays/ Europe

The Huuva Hideaway Sauna

Originally published in the Next Stop newsletter. Subscribe!

By all accounts in Liehittäjä, Sweden, sauna is as Finnish as it gets. But we were just 12 kilometers from the Tornio river border between Sweden and Finland––a border that’s relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Plus my sauna boss, Henry Huuva, grew up with a Finnish mother, though he more outwardly seems to embrace his Sámi heritage through his father. Sámi, too, have a sauna cultural tradition.

Perhaps that explains why Henry loves him some sauna––it’s embedded in him from two cultural touch points.

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In Essays/ Food

Not Actually An Experience: A Restaurant in Gdansk

I’m generally skeptical of all things Airbnb. It’s not just the questionable things they do to cities i.e. one person buying up multiple properties in a neighborhood and renting them out exclusively to travelers. I just generally feel awkward running up and down the staircase of an apartment building, sticking out as the obvious tourist. I’d much rather be in a hotel, lumped together with my fellow ignorant travelers. To me, a city hotel is a safe space to make mistakes. Nobody expects you to know the cultural cues of a destination when you’re walking in and out of a hotel.

That said, I do from time to time pop on over to Airbnb Experiences when I’m traveling and even when I’m not. When I first moved to Berlin, I found it could be a great source for locating neighborhood interesting tours, cooking classes, and other culinary experiences. So that’s precisely what I looked for when Melanie and I planned our trip to Gdansk to celebrate our anniversary.

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In There Must Be Order

Taking a Language Test in Germany

taking a language test in germany
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

Do not enter. Do not take a seat. Follow instructions or go directly to jail!

Okay, the jail bit is hyperbole, but it’s not as far off as you’d think. There were plenty of warnings throughout my recent language exam insisting that we’d be fully prosecuted if we broke the rules.


There are few things that German society loves more than rules. You know those videos of military members of coming home and surprising their spouse or kids? Think of the expression of whoever is being surprised––the unbridled joy, the euphoria. That’s how much German society loves rules.

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In There Must Be Order


The following is a chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

One of the most memorable events in 20th-century Europe is D-Day, when Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France and started the process of dismantling Nazi power on the continent. But for me, one of my most memorable days in 21st-century Europe was T-Day––the morning (European Central Time) that Donald J. Trump declared victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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In There Must Be Order

The Call

berlin train - soroush-karimi-crjPrExvShc-unsplash
Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

The following is the first chapter from an upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany. Read more here.

I was on the U-Bahn when the call came, somewhere between work at a refurbished factory space on the Spree and a gym in Mitte near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. I knew this call would be coming any day now over the past couple of weeks––any hour, really––and the stress was building up. A colleague of mine was teaching a spinning class and it sounded like a healthier remedy for blasting some of the stress out of my body than slurping down a few drams of whiskey. I could hide in the dark corner with my bike, put a pause on the outside world, and sweat out a healthy supply of anxiety for a brief reprieve before those inevitable reserves replenished with a fresh batch.

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In Essays/ Europe

Finding My Jewish Roots in Bardejov, Slovakia

Bardejov UNESCO City Center
Bardejov’s UNESCO City Center

Sit tight, folks. You’re in for a long one. This is a sample chapter I’ve put together on my self-made Jewish heritage trip to Slovakia for a book I’ll hopefully get to write.

Northeastern Slovakia. It’s a place I never gave much thought of visiting. But that changed when I learned of the village, or the shtetl, that my great-grandfather came from outside of Bardejov. I had to go.

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