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February 18, 2010

Wein meets Ål

Wein=wine and Ål=eel. German wine meets Swedish eel. The name of our project we started 5 years ago. This week yet another bus company has launched adds in the local Swedish newspaper, announcing their trip to the Pfalz, which is a result of the work and fun we shared a few years ago. When I first moved to Sweden, summer 2003 (yes, the summer...), I immediately got fascinated by the landscape and the sea. We live here in the north-eastern part of Skåne, the most southern muncipal area of Sweden. Malmö (1,5 hours by car) is located south-west of Skåne, and is via the Öresundsbridge connected to Copenhagen in DK, the entry to the 'continent'.
From us here and south, the coast is referred to as the 'Eel coast'. During late summer and autumn, while on their way to the distant Sargasso Sea, the eel is caught and that is celebrated with special 'eel-fests'. Now, today, things are changing, as the eel is listed as endangered... But here is a photo my husband took, showing the eel traps.
Photos: Lars Larsson

The eel being very fatty is commonly served together with vodka, we are in the Northern hemisphere, the vodka-belt, afterall. The Absolut vodka is, by the way, produced exactly here.

However: The flat landscape with views as long as the eye can see and with the Baltic sea always close by is so totally the contrast to where I come from. While the open sea here gives you the feeling of absolute freedom, the cozy mountain-hills (ca 800 m) from the Pfalz give you the 'feng-shui-kind-of-protection-behind-your-back'-thing. (There is something about solidity, as in 'some things will always remain the same - in times of constant change' for me in those hills.) The vodka versus the wine. The quietness, sometimes melancholic atmosphere versus the year-around-winefest mentality.

I got so excited, I wanted both sides to each see the other. And what the two regions had in common, was that they both were more 'side-regions' of the bigger tourist areas, not widely known, both growing bigger in that aspect, though.

Together with some really fun and engaged people we started this 'tourism-exchange' project, which we called Wein meets Ål. We got the cooks of the Kurpfälzer Landpartie up here. (Still owing them all our gratitude!) They were cooking a Swedish-Pfälzisch dinner with some Swedish colleagues. The menue of the evening can be read here, the wine producers presenting their wines and wineries are found there too. 100 people came to enjoy that wonderful meal and a nice evening of cultural exchange. (Please note: getting 100 people to pay 850 kr for a dinner in small-town Sweden is not usual!)

It was through my friendship with Georg Wiedemann, the owner of the wellknown vinegar house Doktorenhof, that we together could find and mobilize so many people to get involved. We had some journalists coming with the group, which among others resulted in a full page reportage about Skåne in the German FAZ. (Some articles can be found here.) We connected the two local tourist offices, for them to work out a strategy how they could help each other market their areas. Even the political leaders on both sides got involved.

A few months later it was time for the Swedes to go down to the Pfalz and Heidelberg. We got wonderful, wonderful meals and wines everywhere we went to and everybody in the group is still referring to that invitation ever since.

After the two initiations it was a series of smaller events taking over. Some hunting events, where we once had the German Ambassador in Stockholm as a guest with us. We arranged the food for an Asparagus evening with the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm, where Holger Jacobs and his colleagues had taken the fresh asparagus from Pfalz with them in their luggage...

It took a few years, but now a bus is leaving for the Pfalz again. Two other bus trips have already taken place before, where we were not at all involved. And this is only the beginning. I know, people will fall in love and more busses will go south... So, today we can state: we made a difference! We did succeed in intoducing two regions for one another.

From our side, we continued the work up here with a Pfalz-winefest, which I will soon write about...

Skål. Prost. Cheers.

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