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.

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

Kings Park

Spent the day in Malmö while Bryant took his driving hazards test. He’ll post about that interesting experience sometime!

Cloudy but warm, 53 degrees. A nice day to roam around, but the kids stayed home to clean their rooms

Malmö castle as it used to be…

And how it is today, with restorations

“Diana” sculpture (meant to look magical by moonlight) Some trees remain in Kungsparken from 1872 when it became the first public park in Malmö

Man and Pegasus (there is a copy in Iowa, too!)

Birds have been on the move lately. Saw a flock of about 10 trumpeter swans flying in a V formation. So cool to watch the swans land on ice!

These gray herons seem to have a nest near the windmill and they were staying close by.

And here are the old and new libraries just across from the park.

Dinner and the castle grounds

After a few anxious minutes waiting outside, not quite sure if we were in the right place, we great doors opened and we were treated to warm glögg, live music and a self guided tour of the mansion. It featured a room built to accommodate a very large painting the owners had commissioned, which ended up being too big for their home in Gothenburg.

Then we were seated in the dining room and the traditional julbord buffet was served at our table as a covid precaution. I’m sure we tasted more dishes than we would have in a buffet- I wouldn’t have tried much herring. I liked the creamy horseradish version ok, but the smoked salmon was by far the best of that course!

We liked the lingonberry parfait best, but the the kids were tired and didn’t want us to take the option of a stroll around the grounds before dessert, so we were too full to properly appreciate dessert.

The next day we walked around the estate, which was filled with amazing naturalistic landscaping that felt natural but featured convenient hardscape. Benches, steps, statues and interesting rock formations led us to the best vistas and sheltered nooks. It was windy and muddy in the off season but wildly beautiful.

The bird migration station, where we saw swans and a few herons from a distance.

Tjolöholms Slott

Built by the wife of a British-Swedish aristocrat, who died just after building began, this castle has a relatively short history. The Dickson’s wanted a horse farm close to their Gothenburg home. They hired an architect and began construction in 1894, on a stretch of rugged coast just south of Gothenburg. It was a working port and farm which employed over 100 people. Today the “workers village” accommodates visitors. This is where we stayed in Mor Amanda’s Stuga. Just below the estate’s church, conveniently located to make sure the villagers had no excuse for lack of attendance.

More soon about dinner at the castle and exploring the grounds!

Vinterpromenade

No wind today so we drove to Lomma, just a few miles west, to enjoy a change of scenery. The shallow water with exposed sand bars means easy walking and lots to look at along the shore, with strips of sand that extend out into the water.

Yesterday we explored the outskirts of Lund and found yet another tiny community, knästorps, built around a church yard. The bishops garden has self pick kale still in season. We found a more pleasant route to the Hoje river and a bridge that crosses over the highway behind Tetra Pak which makes for a nicer walk to the å (also the word for river!)

Some gardens still have roses blooming! 40 degrees without wind makes for a very nice nearly vinter promenade.

Måkläppen

Today’s outing was to a nature reserve near Falsterbo, where birds and seals are protected. It’s an island/ peninsula only accesible November through January, so in spite of the 25 mph winds, we headed out.

Starting at the light house, it takes about an hour trekking along the shore line to reach the end of the peninsula.

We enjoyed the fresh air and ocean views but didn’t get to see any seals today. A flock of swans in the tidal pools allowed us to get quite close!We’ll watch the weather and hope for a clear day without so much wind, then try to go earlier in hopes of seeing gray and harbor seals. The area has remains from hunter gatherers, including 8,000 year old stone tools from the Kongemose culture.