Walking along the narrow winding cobblestone lanes in the old town, preferably in the early evening as the scorching sun is just about to retreat and the humidity begins to taper off, is nothing short of a privilege. With all its art galleries, small shops, tapas bars and beautiful courtyards, La Lonja is by far my favorite Palma neighborhood.
Palma Pee Pee & Poo Poo
On the other hand, while my eyes are preoccupied with taking in the immense beauty that is the labyrinth of ancient churches, forts and towering residential buildings, the smell of urine dominates just about every breath I take and step I make.
I want to think it’s the visitors – as opposed to residents – who are the main culprits. Yet even in less touristy areas of Palma, one’s nostrils are permeated with the stench from both freshly exuded as well as more vintage pee pee.
So I am not convinced this isn’t a socially accepted behavior among locals as well. And when I think about how often one sees dog poo on the sidewalks and park lawns, that theory might not be too far-fetched.
Maybe folks here feel strongly about this smelly yet for them important expression of personal freedom. To pee or not to pee. That is the question.
With a helicopter’s perspective, as in the short clip above, where you take in Palma’s amazing beauty as the light shifts from stark to subtle, it’s hard not to look passed and smell beyond the pee pee and poo poo and just enjoy the view.
Currently in Palma de Majorca – where we lived for a winter some 12 years ago. I haven’t been back since about four years and the last time was to shoot for a story about a hotel called Palm Suites that was inaugurated by the always fun-loving Swedish party princess and sister to the Swedish king, Birgitta.
In addition to a write-up about a hotel in Palma’s old town, La Lonja, we’re here to celebrate a good friend’s 50th birthday. Which we did ever-so thoroughly yesterday evening together with a group other pals, some of which had flown in specifically for the occasion, at one of the island’s most popular restaurants, La Perla by Emilio Ingrosso – a Swedish fellow from Stockholm with Italian roots.
After a few tasty starters, I enjoyed a classic yet still excellently sumptuous dish consisting of garlic and wine sautéed scampi on homemade penne pasta bathed in a cream sauce. Despite the full house and it being Saturday night, we received insightful recommendations and both attentive and entertaining service.
When the bill arrived some four hours after we we’re seated, it turned out that La Perla was surprisingly affordable – despite the ten of us doing our outmost best to empty the restaurant’s wine celler.
Just got back from an intense, albeit inspiring three day art focused trip to Germany where I stayed at one serioulsy cheap Berlin hotel. Of all the things I saw during the many hours I spent walking around Berlin, for some odd reason, the hotel Sickinger Hof stands out like a sore thumb. Let me explain…
As much as I enjoy guesting swanky boutique hotels with their thoughtfully decorated rooms and stylish, loungable public spaces, once in a while, I’ll actively choose to stay at a real dump. I do this mostly so I’ll appreciate my humble beginnings – and be reminded of when I spent months on end backpacking around Europe, the US and across Southeast Asia and couldn’t care less about where I slept – as long as the room rate didn’t exceed my frugally planned budget.
If I had to guess, I would wager that I’ve stayed in 350 different hotels, motels, guest houses and B & Bs around the world. I’ve spent a night in a rat infested dorm room in Penang (Malaysia), at a rundown, dustbin of a motel in the middle of Death Valley(Mojave, California) and, rented rooms with paper thin walls and crusty mattresses in one of Khao San Road’s (Bangkok. Thailand) many cheap guesthouses.
On a recent trip to Berlin, my third ever visit to the German capital, I opted to stay at one of the city’s cheapest hotels – a bare bones, bottom of the barrel place called the Sickinger Hof.
Here’s my take.
The Sickinger Hof won’t please most people. The opposite is much more likely. The hotel is located on the corner of a really noisy intersection, just off a highway, a huge bus terminal and a busy train station in one of Berlin’s most boring neighborhoods. Those are some pretty tough environmental issues to counter, I know. But given the circumstances, one would therefore think that a hotel in that location would at least try do something to offset the less-than-pleasant miljeu.
The drab building where the Sickinger Hof is located is so nondescript, that if you didn’t see the hotel sign above the entrance, you would easily think it was a small storage facility, an old laundromat or maybe a 24hr convenience store in a part of town you don’t want to be caught in after nightfall.
The hotel’s interior decor – from the dark, dreary reception and dining area to the stairway’s flimsy carpets, red drapes and robust pinewood furniture, made it clear to me that the owner of the Sickinger Hof either has a complete lack of taste. or, even worse, zero interest in creating anything resembling an atmosphere that is pleasing to look at – let alone be a guest in.
I had booked a room with a double bed and was therefore disappointed when I opened my door and saw only two twin beds next to each other.To remedy what I hoped was an honest error, I immediately returned to the reception and asked for the room I had reserved online. Surprisingly, the owner actually went ballistic on me – I mean, clearly visually upset for me bringing this up with him. And when I pointed out the details of my booking, he simply admitted that the hotel didn’t have anything but single beds. To be fair, though, he did offer to come up to my room and push the twin beds together – as of that would of instantly solved my little problem. Realizing there wasn’t much I could do about the situation, I schlepped my bag back up to my room, knowing I would survive and possibly live to write about the ordeal.
Though really small (circa 8 sqm), room 16 was reasonably bright but I’d be generous to claim that the ensuite bathroom was anything but comically tiny. You know those little plastic rectangular soaps packed in clear plastic? Well, at the Sickinger Hof you got two them! It’s probably just me, but each time I opened one the packages with my teeth, I inadvertently bit into a soap.
On a more serious note, what turned out to be an inexcusable issue with my room was the unmistakable stench of old nicotine from the walls, drapes and mattresses. The hotel must of had many years of cigarr and cigarette smoking guests in room 16. Or, maybe the owner just hadn’t bothered to clean the walls properly before painting over them. I didn’t bother to complain about this, though. What would be the point, right?
I stayed at the Sickinger Hof for three balmy days in June (2018) and the only way to keep cool after sunset, was to leave the window ajar all night and just deal with the amount of noise from the passing trains, the exhaust fumes coming from the highway below and the reeking walls inside.
The Sickinger Hof’s signature breakfast is extremely basic, even for German standards; two bread rolls, a thermos of coffee, a tall glass of concentrated. sugary orange juice, a plate with industrial sliced cheese and salami, a cold boiled egg and a bowl filled with small packs of jams, butter and honey. Nothing to write home about there, either. The coffee was pretty good, though.
The staff at this hotel were really friendly and helpful. That said, they seemed tired and not particularly happy with their work. Which is understandable. It’s not like the owners seem to have any ambitions whatsoever of improving their hotel. And the likelihood management would hire an external consultant for an analysis and then make suggestions of how to increase the level of hospitality at the Sickinger Hof is, well, highly unlikely.
Honestly, the only thing Sickinger Hof has going for it is the low room rate. There is just no other reason to stay there. No, I don’t regret my three nights. It was certainly interesting to see what €70/night will get you in a cheap Berlin hotel. Now I know.
Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station in the capital of Germany yesterday afternoon before meeting up with friends Doris and Peter – former Västra Hamnen neighbors. I was able to walk around the giant train station and collect footage undisturbed for about two hours. Didn’t even see a single police or security rep and noone seemed particularily bothered by my filming – which wasn’t too surprising, considering I was shooting with an iPhone 7+ and not a RED Monstro.
Apps used: Instagram’s Hyperlapse, Apple’s Timelapse and Slow Motion and Apple Final Cut Pro.
It’s certainly interesting being a Swedish American and writing about the National Day of Sweden while in Berlin, Germany.
Maybe not so much as a kid growing up in the US, but as an adult, I’ve always felt skeptical about celebrating either of my home countries national day. It’s just so absurdly self-congratulatory, unreflective and fake.
Being proud about being born in Sweden or any other country is just silly and fuels more of the tribalism, nationalism and intolerance that’s sweeping across our planet these days.
Being proud means, at least to me, that you’ve achieved something significant or strived to reach a personal goal and succeeded. Like being a good role model for your children and seeing them grow up to become good people.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel genuinely fortunate to have lived most of my life in Sweden and it’s certainly a beautiful country with many wonderful traditions.
But I’m not proud about being a Swedish citizen. Because, inevitably, patriotism leads to people becoming seduced by the hype of their own superiority and often end up electing bigots and dictators. Look at Hungary, Polen, Turkey, the US and soon maybe even Sweden if the forthcoming election polls are an indication of how well the fascist party SD will actually do.
It’s been about five years since I was last back in Berlin and what has arguably been the world’s quintessential cultural capital since at least the 1920s.
Berlin is certainly a melting pot – a relentless, seemingly untamed urban jungle where much of everything happens all at once. An epic center where the high and the low, the new and the old are intertwined in an incredibly fluid, seemingly frictionless, organic symbiosis.
I walked 15k around the Mitte area yesterday afternoon and evening from my hotel to Potsdamer Platz – mostly through residential neighborhoods, parks and along the beautifully sunlit Spree canal. Somewhere during that trek, I met the fellow above whom happily posed for me – without even the slightest utterance about GDPR compliance.
The heatwave continues…thankfully. Shot this one yesterday with a birdseye view of Scaniabadet, a super-popular tanning and swimming area here in Västra Hamnen. I shot it while hovering at approximately 100 meters above the unsuspecting sun worshipers below.
This is a shot I took earlier tonight from above Ribersborg – a nearby park – and I’m calling the photo, “The Nightfly”, hoping Steely Dan and Donald Fagen fans out there will get the namesake. I waited until the very last light (and for folks to have left the park) to fire up the drone and hope it would find a stable moment or two to capture the view at just the right altitude.
I am in awe of how powerful the little sensor is and how the camera and stabilizer work so well together to provide such usable, clean images. So, how stable is the gimbal, you ask? Well, had I shot this with my Leica at 1/8 of a second and ISO 400, not even with that camera’s built-in stabilizer and full-frame sensor would it have been adequate enough to counter the amount of motion blur those settings would of inevitably incurred. Oh, and did I mention how windy it was at the height the photo was shot? Very windy, indeed.
Just back from a new 24hr weekend excursion. This time we travelled about an hour southeast of Copenhagen along Köge Bay where we stayed at a new rural BnB farmhouse, The Norrmans, owned and run by two Swedes, Anna and Lars Norrman.
Calling their place a Bed & Breakfast turned out to be a bit of a misnomer as we were able to enjoy both a sumptuous picnic sandwich for lunch, tasty plant-based BBQ burgers for dinner and a generous tray full of breads, spreads and treats as well as french press coffee for breakfast in the Norrmans’ lush garden. I suppose the BnB epithet is more of a positioning statement, referring to their very reasonable room and dining rates.
While Lars is at the helm of all culinary experiences (including classic cocktails and other well-chosen adult beverages), his wife and partner Anna Norrman has used her professional talent as a a sought after interior designer to thoughtfully decorate all public spaces and each of the partially refurbished farm’s eight guest rooms.
As we arrived a bit early, I had an opportunity to check out a few of the other rooms where color schemes, furnishings and lighting instantly reminded me of a small Riad I was once hired to photograph deep in the ancient medina of Marrakech. Warm, earthy hues and textures, natural, woven materials and a few fun, quirky design details that added both character and coziness to the atmosphere and comfort.
What was once a small Danish farm made up of several adjacent buildings, has over the past six months been tastefully renovated, refurbished and retrofitted to accommodate the farm’s newborn functionality. A couple of the older structures are patiently waiting to be converted – some as guest rooms, others to be made useful for other activities.
I think the Norrman couple have struck a resonating chord with what some guests are looking for today; originality, personality and comfort all neatly and consciously bundled into one thoughtful experience in a relaxing setting.
Folks, this is about as far away from the mostly numbingly boring, big-chain hotel experience you can possibly get in Scandinavia. As soon as I got out of the car, I started to wind down and was soon reminded of what is was like to just kick back for a spell in a comfy lounge chair, chat with other guests and eat all meals outdoors in a vast, green landscape accompanied by the occasional gentle hoot from a nearby owl or moo from a distant cow.
Though Denmark consists of a slew of small and large islands and is perhaps mostly known for popular destinations like, Copenhagen, Legoland, Louisiana, Skagen and the country’s picturesque coastline, two super talented Swedes smitten with tangible enthusiasm now offer visitors world-class hospitality and culinary experiences – right in the middle of a humbling and luxuriantly green Danish farmland. Highly recommend a stay at The Norrmans. More images from this lovely place can be enjoyed if you click here.
From last night at Scaniaplatsen here in Västra Hamnen where dozens of summer clad Tango dancers swung each other around rhythmically accompanied by another gorgeous sunset. We been enjoying outstanding weather for few weeks now and the forecast for the beginning of June looks promising.
While wading hip deep through a tsunami of emails from companies desperately trying to amend their future judicial liabilities to accommodate new requirements covering storage of customers and clients personal information before GDPR goes live today, I’m actually in the final stages of editing four short videos for a client. And this morning, I actually have a gig for a commercial. Not as a director or DP, though. I’ve been hired as an “actor”. As far as I can remember, I haven’t been in front of the camera since my days as a stand-in and extra on the sets of popular televsion shows, Moonlighting, Cagney & Lacey and Hunter. Yes, I’m a little psyched!