Monday, January 09, 2006

 

Belated travel blogging -- North country

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I spent the week between Xmas and New Year in the upper midwest. Here is a medly post from that trip, not in chronological order.

Silent Snow, Secret Snow

We drove to our lakeside vacation condo in a snowstorm. The tough driving was reward with beautiful snowscapes.

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I would like to say that with our footfalls muffled by the thick white, B and I found ourselves in a contemplative world of snow-softened sound.

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Yeah, right. We happened to be staying in the self-proclaimed "snowmobile capital of the world." The snowmobilers whiz by in random swarms, belching blue smoke. The last snow-mobile engine cuts off around 2 a.m. each night.

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They look like huge mechanical cockroaches. I'd like to squash them.

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Mall World

Is it just us, or should Minnesota's state motto be "the land of 10,000 malls"? I'm a guy who goes to an indoor shopping mall maybe once every six months. In our first two days in the state, we somehow hit two shopping malls. And it wasn't even to shop -- one was for a bathroom break and coffee; the other was for lunch. It just seems that, in suburban Minnesota, that's where you go.

I suppose the same point could be made about suburban anywhere. But as the home of Mall of America, the world's most visited shopping mall, Minnesota is certainly a national leader.

I really liked the twin cities. St. Paul has some beautiful old neighborhoods, and Minneaopolis has a cool downtown: an attractive mix of interesting new architecture and cool early 20th century commercial and industrial buildings. But there is a strange absence of street-level business in the downtown. Where are the coffee shops, the lunch counters, the small retail storefronts?

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Why, they're all on the second floor in the Skyway. To deal with the cold winter months, they moved all that indoors, and blocks and blocks of buildings are connected by second-story skyways crossing the street.

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You can walk for miles through Minneapolis's retail and commercial district without going outside. The overall effect, of course, is a great... indoor shopping mall.

Regional differences

New Years Eve day, at the grocery store. I buy a pecan Danish Kringle for Sunday morning. And for Saturday night -- New Year's Eve -- the shopping list includes pickled herring, a traditional New Year's Eve delicacy in this region. I manage to buy the last jar on the shelf. Where else does an American grocery store run out of pickled herring, ever?

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Comments:
I was describing all of the wonderful things I was making for Christmas dinner and my husband piped in, "and I bought a jar of pickled herring." It's gotta be a Swedish/Finnish kind of thing. I'm bohemian and we do eat pickled meat, but at least we supplement it with the real food like dumplings, kolachke, homemade bread, and mile high cakes. Pickled herring from a jar... I don't get it.
 
Okay, from the Pole amongst us, on behalf of pickled herring: it goes well with ice-cold vodka. And for those of us who don't drink much ice-cold vodka, it still is so ingrained to love it that we do. Along with pickled cukes and pickled kraut. Those cold climate conoutries liked to preserve things in barrels.

And speaking of cold climates, Oscar, that top shot of the snow covered trees and fields in the dappled light of a partly cloudy sky is magnificent.

One last comment (I am on a roll). At first I thought the covered walkways were a great idea given the climate up in the Tiwn Cities. Now I think there is nothing as depressing as walking along an emptying sterile indoor walkway, away from the noise, the traffic, the human drama out there on city streets. I prefer Toronto's underground network, even though there as well it makes me feel like I'm in one big mall. It kills the downtown, it really does.
 
I was going to make this remark to Oscar, but now I'll direct it to Nina. The top photo is actually a snow-covered lake. Oscar took us there over the summer. I recognize the balcony, docks and shoreline.

I'll bet that gas-powered fireplace got some use this time, huh?

And "Linney" will be shocked when she sees the alteration of the landscape, brought on by the change of season.
 
Correction... the SECOND picture is the lake. D'oh!

The top photo IS lovely...
 
I don't know the area, so thanks for taking me along via blog. Enjoyed it.
 
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