Sofiero Castle in Helsingborg

was a summer royal palace, just across the Öresund from Denmark at the narrowest point. In the top picture below, the little darker grey rectangle is the castle at Helsingør Denmark, better known as Elsinore from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

King Oscar collected rhododendron from around the world and took advantage of the brook and ravine to establish unusual varieties.

While Margareta developed the rest of the grounds with many kinds of gardens, including an enchanted forest which made a nice photo op for Jen Jill.

One lovely, wooded section features “sounds” most naturally provided by birds and wind. The blackbirds cooperated astonishingly well by singing near their sign as if on cue.

A magical, musical soundtrack added another element to the sculpture garden. You can hear the violin music in the clip below, just complementing the rushing water of the creek.

Valborgsmässoafton Walpurgis

Lund is employing multiple strategies to stop large gatherings in local parks tonight. Saint Walpurgis night, originally a pagan, equinox (Beltane) festival turned folk fest, with singing and bonfires has in recent decades become a huge party for students who have just completed their Spring exams. Lund has possibly the largest (unsanctioned) party in the country. Authorities have been preparing for weeks. This letter from ISLK seemed unnecessary for an elementary/ middle school, but the kids say staff has been posted on the grounds in shifts all day to prevent gatherings. Maybe they learned the hard way.When I walked through town this morning, there were already big parties starting on the balconies. There are lots of bike cops out and bars close at 8pm so I imagine they will keep students from leaving private housing. Last year’s chicken poop on the grass didn’t seem to be enough, and this year they’ve added more barricades.

The grown ups are certainly hoping for rain!

Imagine 25,000 visitors in Lund (population 91,000) on the same night. The line for alcohol purchases has been around the block all day for the last 3 days. Maybe that means people plan to stay home. If not, I think the local gardens would be at risk!

The May Day parades and big events for organized labor are cancelled, obviously. Glad I made it to the farmers market today just in case!.

On the mend

Lily and I rode the train to Malmö for her Handkirurgi appointment. The hand specialist said the cast could come off- she can use a velcro wrap for a few weeks until it stops hurting and moves easily.Then we stopped in our old Hyllie neighborhood to have lunch at her favorite place from those weeks we spent near Emporia Mall. They have tightened up covid restrictions since then, so we had to eat at separate tables 10 feet apart!

Hyllie water park is known to have one of the best cherry blossom displays in Skåne. We checked it out, but it’s just started to turn pink. Skåne is about 3 weeks behind its average Spring. This photo was taken through the wind blown waterfall. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to stop by again.

This Good Boy entertained us on the train back to Lund

We enjoyed another stroll on Plommonvägen, still holding its blossoms in spite of wind and hail last night! Here’s Lily at the intersection of Plum and Cherry. Last weekend we went hiking at Cherry Dale but the blossoms hadn’t started.

Körsbärsdalen (Cherry Dale) meadow is supposed to be showy in spring.

The stage coach hotel stop from 1666 now features outdoor brunch in Dalby, on the way to Körsbärsdalen, just a few miles outside Lund. The bike trail from our house should be an easy ride.

And the parks have been really pretty with all the spring color.

And this is the last year EVER for the skunk cabbage! It’s been declared invasive (even though this yellow variety doesn’t seem to be) so it must be removed from the botanic garden. They’re letting it flower for the final time since it was added to the collection in the 1860s.

Greenhouse at City Park

International Citizen’s Hub (just a French lady named Carole) has been hosting a weekly walk around Stadsparken, a little over half a mile from our house. This is where I take most of my pond pictures. I like the view from the top of the rampart walking path.

We’ve had fairly low turn out for the Citizens Hub walks, maybe due to winter-like temps, at least from the point of view of many recent arrivals, who tend to come from warmer places! It’s probably better in small groups anyway, since we can get to know one another and talk more easily.

Our meeting point is the Greenhouse at city park. A couple of times only 2 or 3 people turned up. And it occurred to me that we may have been missing a few potential attendees due to a language issue, since the “greenhouse” is not green or a house. One day I told a friend from Cameroon that I would meet her at the greenhouse and she called me to say she was there, but she wasn’t. Turns out she was here…

Hard to see in the photo but the band shell is green 😁

I wonder if we lost a few walkers for whom English is not a first language!? Or anyone who was looking for a green house, rather than a greenhouse.

Parks are amazing in Sweden. I read somewhere that it is considered a basic human right that everyone have green space and outdoor activities within easy access. Playgrounds are everywhere and most of them have at least one wooded area for nature play. We live within three blocks of several lovely parks. The newest is an “Out-gym” a quarter mile from us, behind the CherryBerry (körsbär) preschool. I try to stop by for a few exercises every day.The out-gym is on the back side of the trees. Preschoolers spend much of the day out here. They even have a vegetable garden that they “tend” They often call out and wave to me and other neighbors who pass by. The area is usually quite busy but these photos were taken early on a Sunday morning.

Arctic Spring – Night Snowmobiling

There was an outing that was on the itinerary that escaped Jen’s attention to detail – a snowmobiling outing after dark with dinner (link). Snowmobiles? Driving them? Not for some of us. Lily and Bryant, however, thought the idea was pretty cool. So, Jen and Hil skipped it, while Bry and Lily revved it.

We started out getting picked up from the hotel, then a stop at the guide’s office for winter clothes, then a stop at the Ice Hotel for the other 2 customers (a doctor couple from Stockholm – she was a psychiatrist and he was an ER doc), and then finally to the garage to get the machines. Here is a pic of the garage, and Lily getting all suited up for the adventure!

After the obligatory safety demonstration, we were off. Bryant and Lily on one, the Stockhomers on another, and the guide out front on their own machine leading the way. These were pretty simple machines to operate, save the weird thumb-throttle that was a lot more like an ATV throttle than a motorcycle (which I am more used to).

The route was a mix of trails thru forest and across the frozen Torne River and Sautusjärvi lake. The ride out was still light, and it was pretty easy to follow the track of the guide in front. The main thing was to stay on the track. The show was very deep and soft on either side of the track, and the risk of the big touring machines nose-diving and being stuck was a big one. So, stay on the track!

We arrived at a low, octagonal wooden hut with benches around the inside walls and a fire pit in the middle. The guide made a fire and set to cooking dinner, which was a delicious reindeer stew made from smoked, salted and sliced meat called suovas in Saami. Here is the outside and inside of the hut.

After dinner, we rode back. It was a lot harder to follow the guide’s track in the dark, but we managed. Along the way, we stopped to look for auroras and to hear the Saami constellations story. Basically, the Big Dipper is the bow of a hunter, and the “w” of Cassiopeia is the horns of a great moose (and other stars make up the body). As long as the hunter shoots over the North Star, then all is well. If the hunter hit the North Star, then the heavens would fall down and things would be bad. Luckily, the North Star has not fallen down … Another stop along the way was for the guide to explain the giant crack in the river ice and the differences in the levels of the ice due to the levels of water under it.

Of course, all the pick-up logistics had to be reversed, and Lily and Bry were finally back at the room by about 12:30.

Kiruna, Background Info

We decided to spend our Easter holiday doing something. In Sweden, Easter (or Påsk, pronounced “poask”) is a very secular holiday, and Holy Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays (so, no work!), and the schools are out for Easter week. So, we took a trip to Kiruna, Sweden.

Kiruna is a city of 30k people in Swedish Lapland, and lies north of the arctic circle. The arctic circle is the latitude (66.3 deg north) at which there are days of 24 hour sun in the summer, and 24 hour dark in the winter. Kiruna is far enough north that there is almost 100 days of full sun in the summer. Here is a little map of where we were (in context of the rest of Sweden)

Kiruna is at 67.8 deg north. Fairbanks AK is 64.8 deg north. The Twin Cities are about 45 deg north, and International Falls MN is 48.6 deg north. So, Kiruna is NORTH, and sits in the heart of the Swedish part of Fennoscandia – that horseshoe-shaped region that wraps around from Finland over to Norway. Kiruna is also the centre of what the Saami people call Sapmi – their lands. The word Kiruna comes from the Saami giron, which is the ptarmigan.

We flew from the Malmö airport to Stockholm, and thence to Kiruna. Malmö’s airport has one terminal, and about 10 gates (we usually fly out of Copenhagen for international stuff). Kiruna’s airport has one “gate” and you get to the plane via mobile stairs. And it has one runway, so when you land, the plane overshoots the gate, goes to the end of the runway, and then turns around and taxis back to the gate. No worry of traffic, however, as there is only one flight in and out per day. There is a lot of tourism, however, so the plane was an A320 a mid-sized regional jet. Flights from Malmö to Stockholm were a little under an hour, and the flight from Stockholm to Kiruna was about 90 min.

The weather in Kiruna was a lot more like northern Minnesota than the Pacific Northwest-iness of Skåne. At the beginning of April, daytime highs were around freezing and overnight lows were around 18-20 deg F (-7 or -8C). We had some cloudy days and nights, and also some brilliantly clear days.

Along with tourism, Kiruna’s big industry is iron mining. Most of it is freighted out as pellets on rail to Narvik Norway, where it is shipped off. A bunch is also freighted around the Nordics and Baltics. A fun fact about Kiruna is that the mine is so productive that they are following veins under the town. So, they are moving the town to make way for the mine. There is a nice new city centre that is being built right now, and people are figuring out if they want to move their houses, or take a buy-out. The mine is footing most of the bill, so it is clearly making a LOT of money!

Jen and I will cover a bunch more on the trip itself in different posts on the particular events, but this will set the stage for a wintery, colder, arctic setting for the adventures.

Arctic Spring

We decided the risk of traveling within Sweden was minor and booked a trip to Kiruna, the northern most city in Swedish Lapland. It’s north of the Arctic Circle in Sàpmi (Sami cultural region) taiga forestland with long winters.

Traditional Sami foods, cooked over the fire in a làvvu reindeer, moose, lingon and cloudberries prepared in different ways, as well as many gourmet dishes awaited us at the resort hotel, which caters to foodies. So we enjoyed lots of caviar, smoked fish, meats (and even eggs) artichoke whiskey soup with cauliflower chips and freeze dried beets, pickled squash and shiitake risotto, and wonderful desserts and breads. Birch burl “kuksa” of coffee or lingonberry juice were a nice authentic touch.

Reindeer stew!

The weather was good, melting a bit during the day and freezing when not in direct sun, making for very slick surfaces. I couldn’t do much walking, but it made for some fast moving dog and reindeer sleds! This guy’s name means Power and he was running so fast that I missed a shot of him pulling Lily and Bry on the sport sled.

The sled dogs were extremely fast and on icy spring snow pack; they had to use a smaller team of dogs to prevent them from going too fast.

For me this trip was a lot of Type 2 fun, appreciated more after it’s over than while it is happening. I tried to embrace the opportunity to try some new things, including the outdoor spa, which I genuinely enjoyed and would do again! Usually hot tubs and saunas are too warm for me but the outdoor versions kept me from over heating.

Lily discovered an interest in snow mobiles and Hilary took to nighttime photography, more on those adventures later.

Bornholm

A Danish island in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Sweden, Bornholm is still closed to tourism.

It used to be a fishing community, but in recent times it is known for biking, hiking and culinary culture.

My great-grandfather, Fred, was born there in 1880 Fred’s mother’s family lived there for generations. His father, Per, was an immigrant from Sweden who earned his living fishing until the decision was made (with his Bornholmska wife and other family members) to leave Bornholm and try farming in the American Midwest.

The island has since become famous as a foodie destination and for its artisanal products, which always catch my eye in the food markets around Lund. I wonder what Fred would think of this development!

Per fled Sweden due to famine and a few years later immigrated again, taking his young family including Baby Sigfred across the ocean to farm. Now his great-grand daughter buys gourmet farm products from Bornholm…the latest being this basil pasta made from bornholmsk wheat and beer. We prepared it with Norwegian shrimp from our Fiskbil delivery- amazing!

We look forward to more gastronomical adventures when we can finally travel to Bornholm.

Face Mask Machinations

There is one issue in Sweden that has annoyed me from day 1. Sverige seems like a country that would put the public good ahead of individual freedoms. The leaders claimed they were following the science on all issues related to covid 19 so why are they ignoring the data on mask effectiveness?

We’ve been wearing masks in public indoor spaces and outdoors if there are space issues. There are lots of internationals here in Lund so it’s not uncommon, but the vast majority of people do not wear masks. It seems to me that people are choosing to misinterpret the lack of mask recommendation by the Swedish Health authority to mean that the “risks” outweigh the benefits. It’s not really clear what they think the risks are!

The story below cites a hindrance to communication as a reason for not allowing the student to wear one in school. I’m occasionally asked to remove my mask for identification purposes in situations where it seems completely unnecessary, but most of the time no one says anything. Once a person seemed to cough deliberately in my direction. Some kids at the mall made rude comments in English, and once a man in the grocery store talked to me animatedly in Swedish while gesturing to the distance markers on the floor. I assume he was trying to tell me that keeping distance is enough and that I shouldn’t be wearing a mask, but I don’t really know.

Our kids were questioned repeatedly by classmates and teachers about mask wearing at school, in a manner that made them feel they needed to defend the science and our choice, but no one asked them to remove the masks. A few teachers and kids now wear them regularly. And although Sweden denied any strategy of herd immunity, we do believe that a large number of teachers and staff at ISLK have already had Coronavirus, so the atmosphere is now more relaxed.

It does seem like they meant to “allow” healthy young people to get sick, making personal responsibility the main strategy for protecting the vulnerable. I think that message runs counter to Sweden’s stated prioritization of responsibility to society and raising good citizens.

This story got me “hotted up” to borrow a local expression (I think it’s British)

https://feeds.thelocal.com/app/ios/article.php?id=stockholm-school-sends-pupil-home-for-wearing-face-mask

And below is an update to that story…

No, Swedish schools can’t send students home just for wearing face masks

Sweden’s public broadcaster SVT has spoken with Sweden’s Education Agency (Skolverket) after The Local last week interviewed a motherwhose 13-year-old son was sent home from school after he refused to remove his face mask. The school said it was following Stockholm’s coronavirus recommendations on face masks, but the infectious disease unit in Stockholm said it had issued no recommendations on masks in schools.

Skolverket told SVT that Sweden’s Education Act does not give schools the power to send students home for wearing or not wearing a face mask. “The only situation really where you can send a student home is if the principal decides on suspension, if that option is needed to secure other students’ safety and studies,” said a spokesperson.

Swedish vocabulary: suspension – 
avstängning

I’m pretty sure the Health Authority determined that the potential divisions that would arise from any kind of mask mandate would outweigh the benefits. Instead, it seems like we have the divisions without the benefits. I also wonder if they decided to avoid any decision about face coverings in order to steer clear of the controversies surrounding religious face and head coverings. I guess I can understand that goal, but it’s so frustrating that a simple, common sense strategy to help people stay healthy is in any way controversial. People are stupid.

Påskkäring, Easter Witch

My friend, Brandie, suggested we get out of town for a bit since her husband and daughters are working from home this week due to Swedish guidelines regarding the new covid variant.

We drove to the southern most point, Smyghuk but it was under construction so we went to Vellinge Blommar, a huge garden center with gift shops, cafe and displays, like Bachman’s. They do a big haunted house in the Fall and are currently going all out for Spring!

I learned about the Easter Witch, an odd blend of pagan and Christian traditions with elements of Halloween, May Day, Easter etc.

In ye olde days, folks would scare away and/ or hide from witches who might be on the prowl during their meetup with The Devil. In modern times, kids dress up as witches and carry baskets of homemade cards or spring branches to give out as they go door to door in search of treats. And now witches are a big part of Easter decorating!https://www.minnesotanoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/img_6833-2.mov

https://sweden.se/culture-traditions/easter/

The video clip doesn’t have sound for some reason. The witch was talking about getting all of the eggs painted in time for Easter.

This week I plan to clear out the winter decor and bring in a bit of Spring. Hilary is doing remote lessons until March 9, while Lily is in-person. The ice skating rink and ski track are no more, but the patios are reopening and international citizen’s hub has resumed a few outdoor events