A new country where you can eat happy pig

 

One of the most exciting days for this blog occurred when my stupid post about lifehacks got retweeted by celebrated Guardian journalist / ex-Wikileaks crusader / my shambolic drinking buddy James Ball.

 

He’s got nearly 20,000 Twitter followers, so this is what happened to the stats.

 

ViewsAnd while we’re on the topic, I’ve found myself growing increasingly obsessed with these numbers. So here’s the deal – share these windy ramblings with everyone you know, spraying it all over social media, and I’ll give you, let’s say, a 30% discount on any publications that arise from multi-book deal that inevitably follows. And I’ll complain about a topic of your choice. Can’t say fairer than that.

 

Anyway, what was interesting about this temporary glut of new readers was where they came from. Most were British and Americans, but some were much more interesting.

 

Aland Islands

Köszönöm, hogy olvasás to all my Hungarian readers

 

Have you heard of the Åland Islands? I had not. They sounded remote and romantic; a place of icy, seaspray-flecked coasts, sou-westers made of old sealskins and wind-dried fishy snacks. The giveaway cross implied they were part of the Scandinavian family – a family quite often given to fraternal bunfights in a sort of wimpy ‘put down those whitefish or we might just shoot across your bow’ kind of way. The map confirmed this theory.

 

Aland islands

You’ll have to squint a bit.

 

There’s something very exotic and appealing about a tiny, isolated island community. So, here are five facts about a country (alright then, *autonomous region*, smart arse) you had never heard of until today.

 

1.  The Åland Islands are officially neutral

 

The islands became an autonomous state after a series of WWI fights between Sweden, Finland, Russia and Germany. Britain was probably involved in some way, because that’s what we do. Anyway, it was agreed in 1921 that neither Sweden nor Finland could claim the islands, and that the Ålanders would go it alone. The islands have been demilitarised since 1856, and they even made a lovely coin to commemorate 150 years of peace. And unlike uptight fellow neutrals the Swiss, they do not have laws that make it illegal to slam your car door (NB – I have no Swiss readers).

 

2. Breakfast à la Åland may be an acquired taste

 

Aland breakfast selection

Unless you happen to be a big, big fan of communion wafers and curd.

 

3. Åland competes in the Island Games

 

Like Anglesey, Åland takes part in (and has twice hosted) the brilliant Island Games, an international multi-sports event that gives sort-of-not-quite-nearly countries that wouldn’t even be allowed a pity spot at the Olympics a chance to get their hands on some medals. Two things to give you a sense of the event’s scale: Jersey are the team to beat at the top of the medal table, and the smaller islands are awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze certificates for effort. There is nothing not wonderful about this.

 

Island games sack race

Jubilation in the crowd as the competitor from Guernsey approaches the tape in the 10,000m sack race.

 

4. Smakbyn is the place to eat

 

Trip Advisor’s top pick for restaurants on Åland, Smakbyn offers the unbeatable ‘Skummig svampsoppa med ost- & potatiscigarr samt glad gris’, which according to Google Translate is ‘Frothy mushroom soup with cheese & potato cigar and happy pig’.

 

I personally would hand over a lot of krona for a cheese & potato cigar, let alone one accompanied by happy pig.

 

Happy pig

Mmm, delicious happy pig.

 

5. Thanks to a retweet, by % of population, no other country will have seen this video more times

 

 

You can follow Land of Dope and Tories on Twitter: @MrGlazed

 

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