Andra Julen i Sverige

Our second Christmas in Sweden. How time flies! We had more concerts, parties and events this year before new Omicron restrictions kicked in. On Monday I went to a concert at Lunds Domkyrka with traditional music of the season, including Lucia songs, ambient Celtic style vocals performed in the dark, acapella, candle light processional with chanting, and then more traditional music accompanied at times by harp, flute, organ, and other instruments. It was especially enchanting/ spooky in the dark with only the light from 4 advent candles and those carried by the singers. Later in the week we gathered with the group from Minnesota at one of the Malmo locations. The MN meets Sweden theme for drinks and appetizers was very clever and tasty.

The weather certainly has been colder and snowier than last year which made for some pretty snow covered scenery and lighter night skies …and slippery sidewalks. These have been some of the shortest days of the year at only 7 hours (most of which are cloudy) and we are looking forward to more light. But the dark doesn’t stop most people from enjoying the season. Kids play at the park, folks are out shopping, skating etc, in the dark, and the VinterLund programs in the center are still crowded most of the time.

We did our annual X-mas Eve bookstore visit in Lund just before closing, and it was pleasantly empty, with just a few customers and no lines.

Then home for duck confit, sweet potatoes, green beans and mushrooms, with Passionfruit Pavlova for dessert. Santa was very generous and everyone had some nice surprises, including JenJill who enjoyed her new sled. We haven’t found a snowy hill of the correct scale yet but here she is in the courtyard testing out her sled.

the younger one was done

Tonight we journeyed to Malmo to get our pre-flight covid tests. We enjoyed dinner out at a fabulous Lebanese restaurant, Occo, and then finished our packing. Hopefully travel to Rome will be smooth. It might be hard adjusting to full time N95 masks, even outdoors, but at least we are able to go. I feel like there is so much more to document about this week, but now it’s quite late so I must get to bed. Wishing you all a lovely, healthy holiday!

GOD JUL!

Julbord, Jul Dance Show

Last week we enjoyed a hike around the castle grounds followed by a Julbord (christmas buffet) with friends from MN. Check out Melissa’s blog for more about this fun afternoon!

After the Julbord, we drove in search of a Cut Your Own Tree Farm per request of the younger Noiceling. The older one was home recovering from a cough. Unfortunately it was rather difficult to find, and by the time we arrived it was pretty dark. So after looking around a bit we settled on a pre-cut tree. Now we know how to find the farm next year.

The youngest had a Jul NY Dance Show at Lunds Stadsteater. We were all surprised by how big and elaborate the show/venue was, so it was quite impressive that she was able to get past some significant stage fright and lead her small group in their two dances. She didn’t want pictures posted and we weren’t sure about the dance school photography policy, but a Swedish band provided some musical entertainment and made it clear that we should post about their music. So I only have a few pictures of the two hour extravaganza. The band was called PARi and they have some songs on Spotify. Some of the dance school students were their backup dancers. I’m guessing they are Melodifestivalen hopefuls!

We’re so proud that our kid pushed through the fear and supported her team. And the performance was fantastic. She got a big confidence boost out of the whole stressful event and intends to enroll again. I hope she doesn’t choose the pole dancing class. I’m not kidding. Those kids were amazingly strong and graceful, but I’m not ready to be the mom-in-the-audience for that part of the show, lol.

Before the 2 hour Show

Everything Jul except the weather! More photos from our walking and hiking. Open house in the neighborhood allotment colony, and the strand near Bjärred. The cloudy-meets-clear sky made for some interesting views. Lower left is the same apple tree from before.

After a nice hike out to see the swans…the immature mute swans being pushed around by some adults. They would bop them on the behind with their beaks and shove them! …Bry and I stopped for lunch at the former train station (1901-1938) with original floors and beams, beautifully refinished. Very good food. I had cod in mustard sauce, one of those Swedish things that I have grown to love. Also the Christmas rice pudding, which I have at every opportunity. I think Golden Grove Goods citrus marmalade would work well as a short cut to this dessert!

Gamla Råby and Our Friend, Loki

sculpture at Råbysjö park

This sculpture behind the church in Old Råby (a village just East of Lund and near the new development, Stora Råby) is actually a perfect circle but is distorted by the pano photo. I’ve posted about the church, bakery, Chokladserenad candy shop and ceramics studio previously, but this time I walked out to Råby to see the birds at the seasonal “reserve” called Smelly Tobacco on the map. I can’t imagine it’s a good place for smoking, so maybe the name refers to scented tobacco plant? Yesterday I saw a few swans, lots of geese, and plenty of those cute little ducks that sound like squeaky rubber duckies.

Black cat watching me on the path to Råby… reminding me of Loki

Last week we had the sad news that our cat, Loki Salem McFurFace, died peacefully and was not alone thanks to our good friends who were caring for her back in Minnesota. Since last summer Loki was being treated for kidney disease and other health issues. We were not sure she could adapt to the move to Sweden, and luckily these friends were willing to give her a home with them. Kirstin, Gabe, and especially, Izzi, gave Loki lots of love, and even made it possible for us to spend time with her last summer.

Loki was quirky, curious, cuddly, more than a little loki, and always entertaining. She leaves us with countless funny stories and memories of her escapades. That Damn Cat, as she was sometimes known, will be missed. She was a world-class lap napper, a superb hunter, and a fabulous, furry friend. We loved her.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”- Ernest Hemingway

Lucia Dag and a lake in Lund

This year was our first (Dec 13) Lucia Day experience with some in-person activities, but most were cancelled again or moved online. Traditionally, at day break there are Lucia concerts, processions and lussekatter aka saffron buns for breakfast or fika. Many schools and offices have Lucia celebrations. IKEA does, and Bryant has stories to tell about that sometime.

Our Katedralskolan choralist missed the performance due to a lingering cough. Her empty place is front left. All of us are sad that she wasn’t able to perform in her fancy Lucialinne by candlelight but maybe next year. Later in the day Lund had a procession and concert in the main square. It was rainy but that probably kept the crowd size down. The last event on my Lucia agenda was the Helsingborg choir performing at the Domkyrka but it was cancelled with no explanation, just a note on the cathedral door!

It’s been unusually cold and rainy/snowy these last few weeks but the sun came out for a bit today and I walked over to Hojeådalen. It is now a small lake! I think it’s part of the water management system in Lund to collect overflow water there by the river. I’ve never seen the water that high, but it didn’t seem to be flooding.

Hojeådalen

Jul Markets, Knitting, Open House

Painted rocks for Space camp fund raiser a few years back

Inspired by the many works of art on display at the Bosjökloster and Kulturen Jul Markets, I dug out supplies for making painted rocks, a tomte house and more knitting projects. Then realized that I don’t really have the time for much crafting right now. I’ve been making time for tea and pepparkakor, gifted to me by another aspiring knitting friend, or rosettes and Klenor (a donut-like fried cookie) as we enjoy our countdown calendars.

I did start to learn brioche knitting this week with a couple of friends who would like to form a knitting club. We got a bit side tracked by delicious soup, contributed by Carole, and my overly enthusiastic side dishes which took too much time to serve, but were well received by cold, hungry guests who braved some of the iciest streets of our time in Sweden to get to our house. Stephanie got me started on a brioche pattern but I don’t quite have it down.

This all took place during the first Open House at Katedralskolan which included music by Hil’s choir. None of the Open House information was adequately communicated, which resulted in knitting club and the open house occurring at exactly the same time. So I went to the Öppet Hus early and was allowed in after having my Vax Pass scanned and explaining that the new times were never given out to the English speaking students or updated in various channels of communication. And thus I gained entry to the Hallowed Halls of Lund Katedralskolan… 45 minutes before opening time! I was graciously invited to eat dinner with the vaccine pass guards and staff and explore the buildings. I attempted to record the choir when they sang as folks were getting settled for the first presentation, but there was too much commotion and I gave it up. Bryant was able to see the final session of the evening and they didn’t have much luck either (to see and hear the choir). At least we all saw inside the buildings and got a better sense of the school.

Katedralskolan Gate Entrance

JULMARKNAD We’ve been to a few Jul markets now and found that they vary greatly in scope. I didn’t take photos inside the many buildings at Bosjökloster as my hands were full and I was afraid of bumping things with my backpack etc. It was the largest of the markets I’ve seen and had vendors in every building on the grounds, except for the church and the restaurants, one of which was serving a julbord, and the other a soup lunch. I had the fisksoppa which was very nice. We were in a hurry to get back to Lund for the tree lighting ceremony so we skipped dessert and one more section of the market. We could easily have spent the whole day. I made several fun purchases, most of which I can’t mention yet because they are gifts. One purchase I made for myself was a wonderful handmade willow basket by Ingalill Nilsson and another Nisse. I love the basket handle, which is a section of root which was found by the Nilssons, preserved in a peat bog, so it may be very old. Anyway, I love the shape and character of the wood.

And also this week… we had a couple inches of snow, enough for snow sculptures and icy sidewalks! It only lasted three days but the youngest had a blast making a snowman at school. She did NOT enjoy riding bike on the ice and took a couple of tumbles, none serious. Another great surprise was the installation of our new dryer, a luxury we have been living without for more than a year. It was a welcome addition, and I didn’t even mind having to mop the floor from all the muddy snow that was dragged in only one hour after I’d finished cleaning for my knitting party! It was worth it. It also forced me to clean up the basement a bit, which I had not done in a long while. Having a clothes dryer is so much nicer than having to hang everything, especially for the sheets and towels. No more crunchy towels and the entire basement draped with damp clothing!

Nordic-light Duo/ Elsa Beskow concert

This week marks the start of Jul market season, beginning with Bosjökloster (Cloister by the lake) in the town of Höör.

Carole, Beata and I arrived in time for the musical prelude and were surprised to find ourselves enjoying much more than just a few holiday songs. The concert was based on original (some never published) art work and books by Elsa Beskow, set to music by The Nordic-light Duo, Elsa’s great-grandson, Daniel Beskow, a concert pianist, with vocals by Josefine Andersson. The concert and storytelling alone would’ve made a fun day out but we were only just getting started!

It reminded me of reading Elsa Beskow books to my little girls!

Penitence chapel, where naughty nuns were sent.

One thousand year old oak tree on the Monastery grounds.

Femtioett

Since we recently returned from Athens where we maxed out our children’s travel energy and goodwill, I knew that my 51st birthday wishes should be modest when it came to their involvement.

My own celebrations started early in the week with a trip to Malmo to see Melissa and try out the Chocolate “Tea” menu at Peter Beier Chokolade. By the time I arrived after missing my intended train, it wasn’t really Fika time so we went to lunch instead, at my favorite Vietnamese place. Then we returned to PB where she treated me to chocolates and coffee for my birthday. And we managed a full afternoon of walking and shopping!

The IKEA cabinet that I’ve been wanting for years, is now back in stock! The stars aligned, and Bryant and the kids got it all set up for me to display my future knitting and craft projects. Now my yarn stash is elevated to art, and I can enjoy it without any feelings of guilt (for buying more yarns). What could be better for my birthday! Passionfruit is in season (I love it in yogurt, or salad dressing, or any dessert, but especially with chocolate) and I have been indulging in more ambient lighting with timers. And for the ones that do not have timers, IKEA has a new Smart System that Bryant will install for me to enable lights go on and off automatically and with dimming options!

My birthday weekend continued with a short visit to the history museum and fika with friends, and then dinner out at a nice restaurant in Lund. And Bryant willingly DROVE so that I could wear fancy shoes and not have to walk home in the dark chill of November. That means he couldn’t enjoy more than a few sips of alcohol and had to deal with city parking (we actually discovered a great place to park for cheap on the north side!) so this was a special treat. Then the big finale on Sunday, High Tea at the Grand Hotel! Though my British friends did not recommend it for the tea menu, I was satisfied with the novelty and tradition of the event. True, the scones were not the best, but good company and the Grand Hotel vibe made it a beautiful afternoon. It happened to be Father’s Day as well, so we didn’t get the private tea room I had reserved due to staffing issues, which in the end didn’t make much difference. There was a nice selection of sweet and savory tea goodies, and we had a lovely time.

Archeology Museum & The Agora

On our second day with Johanna, she guided us through the highlights of the National Museum of Archeology, Downtown Athens, and The Roman Agora, the ancient market place which includes many structures meant for gathering, the covered walkway, temples, churches, library, baths etc.

Parko Thiseio

We explored sections of the original Dromos or Panathenaic Way, the route through Athens that most historical figures of the era would have walked. A new sculpture of Socrates meeting Confucius was unveiled this year “a symbolic meeting of two ancient cultures” celebrating 50 years of Greek-Chinese diplomatic relations.

There were lots of tortoises wandering around (see the one hiding on the path)! We think this is an adult and baby marginated tortoise. Amazing size difference, though. The adult was over a foot wide.

We made it to most of the major sites in Athens, but one we missed was an ancient cemetery and archaeological site, Kerameikos. A small downside of travel in the low season meant that sites were transitioning to winter hours. Even though it should have been open until 6:30, the guy working the gate said it was closed when we arrived near 6:00. We saw some of it from outside the fence, but obviously missed the museum. Too bad, because the ancient grave markers were some of my favorite items in the archeology museum. There are little stories depicted in some gravestones. Like the woman named Myrrhine, escorted by Hermes (winged feet) to the afterworld as her loved ones attempt to hold her back, indicating that she was young at the time of her death, around 420 BC. The middle stone depicts a mother saying goodbye to her baby. Some of these and similar graves were found at Kerameikos.

Another favorite was Hadrian’s library (more like a community center) where some of the original shelving/ niches can be seen in the wall. The library had capacity for around 16,800 papyrus books which could be checked out to reading rooms here. There were also transcription rooms, lecture halls, and even public restrooms. Johanna explained how they worked. Dating from the 2nd century BC, they were free or very inexpensive. It was fascinating and involved a clever system of running water, sea sponges and vinegar. Not bad considering that toilet paper was only invented relatively recently in 1857 and average homes didn’t have indoor plumbing until the 1950s.

And I’ll end with the view of Lycabettus Hill from Areopagus; my early morning adventure on our last morning in Athens. Not sure it was worth missing the breakfast buffet for this, but fomo made me do it! I did stop for my favorite classic greek yogurt with honey, pine and walnuts on the way back.

The Acropolis -The Temple of Olympian Zeus

Bryant added his favorites to my post about Athens. Here are some photos from our tour with Johanna, which he described in the previous post.

Sunrise from Areopagus, meeting place of the aristocratic/ judicial council

One of the most interesting aspects for me was revisiting the connections to mythology in history and science, as with the ancient Greek roots of modern medicine. The healing temples revealed genuine medical artifacts along with records of healing practices that were used. The scene above depicts Asklepios and his daughter Hygieia, goddess of cleanliness and health, receiving gifts from grateful patrons. The “hospital” a series of small rooms where patients had to sleep in contact with the ground in order to be healed by snakes, served as a combination medical and religious treatment center. Today we still use the Star of Life symbol, the Hippocratic oath, the benefits of Hygiene, etc.

Our room overlooked the Temple of Zeus, which is still being restored from damage caused by earthquakes and by barbarian invasion in 267 AD and, currently, pollution. It had been completed by Roman Emperor Hadrian only a century earlier. Just one section of pillars still remained and have been restored. The grass covered platform above right is where the other part of the temple would have stood.

The Acropolis with the Stoa of Attalos (covered walkway)

Athens

Our first European travel since moving to Sweden (other than Copenhagen) finally came together this week as we spent 3 days exploring Athens. The trip was short and sweet, focused on the historic sites of the ancient city. The flight was an easy 3 hour non-stop hop from CPH.

We started strong with a food tour by Julia Pant, a local guide whose grandfather ran a butcher shop in the central market for many years. We tasted our way through the market … olives, fish soup, souvlaki! Then on to Julia’s shop where she showed us how to make tzatziki, and a tomato-feta appetizer with some of the very last fresh tomatoes of the season. We enjoyed local wines and yogurt sour cherry dessert. After a shot of rakia to “warm us up” we headed off again to a fish restaurant where we tried a creamy fava (yellow pea) lemon dip with chickpeas, giant white beans, calamari and fresh fried whole anchovies and fresh local grapes. Julia said the girls were some of her most adventurous eaters and the only American kids who tried everything including the anchovies (which they loved). And we all loved everything, except that we were very over full. Luckily we were able to walk it off through the Plaka neighborhood before bed. It was a fun evening with “Ioulia and Yiorgos” and the couple from the Netherlands who shared our tour.

Sleep, however, was hard due to the traffic outside our hotel. Cars and scooters/motorcycles ran basically all night out the window. Next time we’ll check on the room details because I’m sure the ones on the opposite side were much quieter. But the location was perfect for access to the places we wanted to see. We used earplugs and white noise and slept fairly well since we were pretty tired!

I remembered JenJill! Here she is at one of many churches dedicated to Saint Sophia/ goddess of wisdom. Here we discovered that we are not allowed to take photos of JenJill because it would violate the rules around commercial photography and she might be confiscated by guards. Horrors! So we were very careful during the rest of our visit, taking covert shots, even though it’s not fair to poor JenJill. We guess “influencers” have ruined our fun by abusing famous sites for product placement. At least JenJill was able to pose uninhibitedly and wave to her very own wise Sophia before we were informed of this rule.

The second day was a customised walking tour with Ioanna (who was awesome and we fully recommend). We told her how long we had and what we would like to see, and she took care of the rest.

We started with the Acropolis and the Parthenon (along with the rest of the temples on the hill). It was amazing to learn all the history and it really struck Bryant how complicated the histories of things can be. For example, the Parthenon housed a christian church and a mosque at different times, as well has having been the subject of canon fire from a Venetian invasion! Here are our favourite shots from the Acropolis.

After a delicious lunch, the afternoon was all about the Acropolis Museum. Most of the amazing sculpture is not kept on the site of the temple, but rather in a very modern and nice museum next to it. You can see it as the modern black/glass rectangle in the picture of the Theater of Dionysus above. While there is a lot of the sculpture and art in Athens to look at, much of it was “taken” (however you choose to interpret that) by Earl Elgin and sits in the British Museum (where we have seen them as well). Read more here. The art and guiding by Ioanna was amazing, and the process of walking through the long history of the place was awesome, and exhausting. But, we got a couple of snaps of the art in the museum.

After the Acropolis Museum, we made our final stop for the day at the Temple of Zeus and Hadrian’s Gate. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Culture started a restoration project on it this year, so there is a bunch of scaffolding blocking it. Most of it is (obviously) collapsed, although it was huge when it was originally built. Hadrian’s arch is interesting as it was a gift from Athens to the Roman emperor Hadrian, as they were co-existing with the Roman occupation pretty well, and (ever diplomatic) they decided to show their appreciation for him not destroying the city. On the side facing the Roman area it reads “the city of Hadrian” and the other side (facing the Athenian area) reads “the city of Theseus”. The marble roof portion was interesting to Bryant. Because they started with wood in their building, they used big nails to hold it together. The rectangular decoration on the roof was simply that they were keeping the look of the nail heads, even after they had moved on to marble as the material.

Finally, we let Ioanna go, and we had dinner at a super-cool patio in the Plaka.

The next day we started at the main Athens Museum of Archeology. LOTS to see in this collection, and Ioanna led us thru the history, connecting it to the stories of Homer and the actual archeological artefacts that connect to it. Interestingly, there were many bronze statues made, but few survive as the Roman’s melted them down for the material.

We rounded out the day with Ioanna at the Roman Agora, the Temple of Haifestus, and Hadrian’s Library. There is too much to talk about so, here are some interesting snaps from the day.

Dinner ended up being a little light, and we were all really wiped out!

The next day was the last day, but we still squeezed in the original Olympic stadium (all solid marble!) with some fun geometric pictures and a hall with the torches! And then the Lyceum of Aristotle. Nothing like walking around the first western university! Finally, we walked back to the hotel thru the city gardens, and passed some more excavations. This city is amazing for how the ancient and the modern are right on top of each other!

And then it was time to head home. A jam-packed trip, but we did our best to see Athens. Next up, Rome!