Sweden – Hunky Dory

Home Furnishings

Recent ads for IKEA used the slogan “Home is the most important place in the world.” Mrs. Sip and I, however, maintain that the company’s motto should really be “Ruining relationships since… like, forever!” Yes, if you’ve ever survived building any IKEA item with your loved one, then you are, in fact, a special couple, with the strength to overcome any and all adversity. Around the world, IKEA is one of the most recognized Swedish imports, but what do we really know about this furniture and accessory outlet? Let’s dig a little deeper:

Ikea Slogan

IKEA was founded by Ingvar Kamprad, with the name coming from his initials (I.K.), along with the farm in which he grew up on (Elmtaryd) and its nearby village (Agunnaryd). The company was incorporated in 1943 and marketed its first piece of build-it-yourself furniture in 1956, with the LOVET, a leaf-shaped side table. There are now 349 stores located throughout 43 countries.

More copies of the IKEA catalogue are printed each year than the Bible. In fact, 212 million copies of the catalogue, more than double the 100 million Bibles, are manufactured. The register comes in 29 different languages and has gained a cult following of sorts, with people able to pick out interesting hidden items within its pages. Some concealed images include odd books making up the shelving units on display, references to Mickey Mouse, and pictures of cats.

IKEA’s 2013 revenue was disclosed as being $37.9 billion (US) and since the company is actually owned by charities established by Kamprad, much of that money isn’t lost to the greedy government via taxes. The INGKA Foundation, which oversees the IKEA brand, is thought to be the world’s largest charitable organization, promoting “innovations in architecture and interior design”. While some decry that this is all a tax evasion strategy, it should be pointed out that the INGKA Foundation gives away millions of dollars each year to various causes and efforts. Granted, that pales in comparison to other efforts, particularly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which donations measure into the billions.

returning-ikea

The company employs 150,000 people worldwide. While Disney has its ‘Cast Members,’ IKEA has ‘Co-Workers,’ which really doesn’t sound all that special. It would be much more awesome if employees were collectively known as ‘Swedish Meatballs!’

IKEA’s most popular product today is the Billy Bookcase, which it sells hundreds of thousands of each year. It’s estimated that one of these bookcases is sold every 10 seconds.

Products are named under specific guidelines including Swedish places for upholstered furniture; Swedish men’s names for chairs; Swedish women’s names for fabrics and curtains; Swedish islands for garden furniture; Finnish places for dining tables and chairs; Norwegian places for beds, wardrobes and hall furniture; and mammals and birds for children’s items. Approximately 85% of the items you find in your own IKEA could be located at any IKEA around the world, while the IKEA website contains 12,000 products and is the most comprehensive source for available pieces.

stool_samples

The way IKEA names products has resulted in some unintentional humour when the product arrives in other countries and is translated into the native language. There was the ‘Jerker’ computer desk, which went hand in hand (literally!) with the internet’s primary use; the ‘Fukta’ plant spray; the ‘Fartfull’ workbench (frankfully you should be able to do whatever you want in your own workshop!); and the Askholmen outdoor suite.

IKEA is nearly as famous for its cheap concession food as it is for furniture. Kamprad opened his first restaurant inside a store in 1960, after realizing people left the store without buying anything because they were hungry. Since then, IKEA has sold an untold number of hotdogs, meatballs, and breakfast meals.

While IKEA seems to be a decent company, they’ve also experienced their fair share of controversies. A teenage Kamprad was once involved with a pro-Nazi movement in Sweden, although the IKEA founder calls it the “greatest mistake of my life”. Three people were trampled to death at a store opening in Saudi Arabia over $150 vouchers being handed out (and I thought the Saudi’s were all wealthy princes). In Atlanta, Georgia, historic building were demolished to make way for a IKEA store and in similar fashion, ancient tombs in Nanjing, China were destroyed for another store opening.

ikea fight

It’s estimated that 10% of all Europeans were conceived on an IKEA bed. I know I’ve slept in one, sans conception (not for my lack of trying, of course), and given their popularity among college and university students, you can bet that number will drastically rise over the years.

IKEA was the first company to feature a homosexual couple in one of their ads (targeting the community much more frequently since) and has also compiled commercial material depicting a transgendered person.

If you’re a fan of The Sims video game series, you can actually purchase IKEA furnishings for your virtual family. Lucky for them, they don’t have to put the furniture together, although it would be hilarious to watch your simulated humans get as frustrated as you’ve been. It’s always better when it’s someone else’s misery!

Sweden: Hunky Dory

Hunky Dory Cocktail

  • 1 oz Absolut Vodka
  • 1 oz Galliano
  • Top with Sprite
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with a Lime Wheel

While IKEA served a purpose for Mrs. Sip and myself as we went through our schooling and settled into our first home together, I’m happy to say that the cursed furniture won’t be making any more appearances around the Sip Advisor offices for the foreseeable future. Perhaps when we have to furnish the place for our own little sippers, then we may go that route, but for now, we’re both happy to not be dealing with the make-your-own products.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This drink wasn’t bad, but Mrs. Sip had a better version of it at a nearby restaurant, Subeez Cafe, and their recipe didn’t outline exactly all the ingredients needed to make the full cocktail. I did my best, but admittedly, the eatery had me beat.

Austria – Green Tear

Not Just a Band

When Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated on June 28, 1914, he had absolutely no clue what his murder would instigate. Despite being the major catalyst for the first World War, this Austrian ruler is a largely forgotten footnote in history. Thankfully, the Sip Advisor is here to teach and while sipping a glass of the country’s fine schnaps, here is a little information on ol’ ‘Double F’ and the tragedy that would change the world!

First World War Problems

Growing Up

Ferdinand and his family lived by the motto: “Good Habsburgs (his family lineage), Good Catholics, and Good Austrians”… that just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “A Lannister always pays their debts.”

At the age of 11, Ferdinand found himself one of the wealthiest men in Austria, after his cousin Duke Francis V died and named Franz his heir on the condition that he add the name Este to his own. Hell, to become one of the wealthiest men in Austria, I’d tattoo the name Este on my member! Rumour has it Ferdinand also had to spend one night in a haunted house, but many are skeptical of this account.

Ferdinand may have never found himself the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne had it not been for his cousin Prince Rudolf (aged 30) committing suicide with his 17-year-old mistress in 1889. Karl Ludwig, Ferdinand’s father, became second in line behind Franz Josef, but quickly renounced the position and passed the rights down to his son.

Throne of Games

As a youngster, Ferdinand spent very little time in Austria, often travelling the world searching for cures to his never-ending stream of illnesses.

Ferdinand’s relationship with the citizens of Austria was always strained due to his lack of time spent within the country’s borders and the feeling that he was an outsider. And not one of those cool greaser outsiders like Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, or Matt Dillon. He still managed to somehow stay gold, though.

An avid hunter, Ferdinand always made sure to schedule at least one hunting trip as part of any official travel for the Empire. He kept a running tab of his hunting exploits and stories state that he killed 2140 birds in one day. My belief is that he wanted to assemble an army of undead animals to do his bidding.

Ferdinand was passionate about landscaping outdoors and interior design inside and was constantly on the lookout for a property in need of fixing up. He could be considered one of the world’s first home flippers. Ferdinand’s eclectic tastes also helped him build a great antique collection, which included 3750 pieces of St. George and the Dragon. Clearly, he had a thing for slaying mythical beasts.

slain da dragon

Finding Love

Women always have a way of muddling things up and that was no different for Ferdinand. His wife Sophie was from a lower social class and even though Franz Josef stated he would not consent to Franz and Sophie’s marriage, the two wed on June 28, 1900. The catch was that Sophie could never receive an official royal title and their children could not succeed Ferdinand as ruler. As a result, Sophie rarely appeared in public beside her husband.

Franz and Sophie had three children: Sophie (I guess you’d call her junior), Maximilian (a name which I hope to bring back to present day popularity), and Ernst (a name which I have no joke to deploy upon).

Sophie was finally allowed to accompany Franz on official business for the empire for his trip to Bosnia in June 1914. The end of the visit would also mark their 14th wedding anniversary. The couple arrived in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, which is also St. Vitus Day, commemorating the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

cat-battle

Surprise Attack

The Battle of Kosovo made a martyr out of Milos Obilic, who snuck into the Ottoman Sultan’s tent and killed him before receiving the same fate himself.

Serbians viewed the Austria-Hungary Empire as their new oppressors and there had been other attempted attacks on high-ranking Austria-Hungary members before Ferdinand’s death.

The Black Hand (must have caught a case of gangrene), which carried out the assassination of Franz and Sophie were also responsible for the murders of King Alexander and Queen Draga of Serbia. This act of treachery was committed while the two were together in bed… what a way to go!

Death Sting

First, a grenade was hurled at Ferdinand’s procession by Nedlejko Cabrinovic, but it detonated behind his vehicle and he was not harmed. While any normal person would halt their little parade there, Ferdinand was urged to continue by General Oskar Potiorek who asked, “What, do you think my city is full of assassins?”

Ferdinand insisted that if the trip continued, only major routes should be used and no side streets… unfortunately his own driver was never delivered this message. When the driver took the first schedule turn, there was assassin Gavrilo Princip, waiting for him. Princip had earlier tried to get a shot in at Ferdinand and when he couldn’t retreated to the side street in dejection.

Princip fired only two shots, one into Franz’s neck, the other into Sophie’s stomach. Both proved to be fatal. Ferdinand’s final words to his wife were “’Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!”

Assassination

The Aftermath

Princip and his fellow assassins were rounded up and put on trial. Because he was under the age of 20, Princip did not receive the death penalty and was instead sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. Princip died in his jail cell on April 28, 1918 from tuberculosis. His illness was so bad that his right arm was amputated before his death.

Upon Franz’s assassination, the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, etc.) declared war on Serbia, drawing Serbia’s allies (the UK, Russia, France, etc.) into the fray and creating the first World War.

The 1911 Gräf & Stift Double Phaeton automobile, which carried Franz and Sophie during their fateful procession, is now displayed at the Museum of Military History in Vienna. It’s no Batmobile, but it has its own place in history. The pistol used by Princip, as well as the clothing Ferdinand died in are also displayed at the museum.

Future Museums

The bullet that killed Ferdinand, sometimes referred to as “the bullet that started World War I” is part of an exhibit at Konopiště Castle in the Czech Republic.

Franz and Sophie are buried at Arstetten Castle in Austria. In memoriam, Austria-Hungary released a commemorative stamp featuring the couple. One day there will be a Sip Advisor stamp tribute that will taste like schnaps with each lick!

Austria: Green Tear

Green Tear Cocktail

  • 1 oz Mata Hari Absinthe
  • Top with Cranberry Juice
  • Splash of Tonic Water
  • Garnish with a Lemon Slice

Well, that wraps up our stay here in Austria. It should be noted that the country can also claim to be home to famous world citizens like Sigmund Freud, Adolf Hitler, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. That would be an interesting table to sit at for a dinner party!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
Well, as you can see, the drink is certainly not green. On the plus side, this was a really decent Absinthe cocktail. I think the combo of Cranberry Juice and Tonic Water is perfect to go along with the very bitter Absinthe. If you’re weary of the hallucinogenic spirit, give this recipe a try and your mind may be changed for the long run!