Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lund, Ales Stenar and Kräftor


Sorry for the long time between posts! I have been busy sightseeing around Sweden with my sister-in-law, and time seemed to fly by.

S. and I headed down south last week. It was my first time travelling long-distance on the train here. Of course it was 45 minutes late arriving in Lund but since we had no specific plans it didn't affect us. We arrived in Lund in the early afternoon on Wednesday after 6 hours of train travel. Lund is pretty far south, its about 25km North of Malmö which is the town you take the bridge to Copenhagen (Köpenhamm) from. It is an ancient town and was once of the religious centres of Scandinavia. To attest to this is the nearly 900 year old Cathedral that is at the centre of town. We went on a tour of this cathedral with a very enthusiastic tour guide. She started by talking to us about the astronomical clock that is in the Cathedral. The clock plays music and has dancing figures twice a day, but the other aspect of it is that you can figure out what day anyone was born on, and the period of the moon, as well as all the religious holidays. Apparently, I was born on a Thursday (Thursday's child has far to go they say!) We wandered around Lund for the afternoon, before picking up our snazzy orange and blue rental car with advertisements all over it and heading down to Ystad.

Ystad is the amazingly cute town full of half-timbered houses situated on the Baltic. It has the oldest half-timbered house as well as the only full block of half-timbered houses in all of Scandinavia. Our hostel in Ystad was right on the beach so we were able to take some nice walks along the shore. We set out on Thursday morning towards Ales Stenar, it was incredibly windy there...check out this (sideways) video

After checking out the stones, we headed down to the beach and bought some tasty smoked salmon and herring and tried to avoid the wasps. Next stop was Glimmingehus, a 15th century castle that an unpopular guy built. Since he was so unpopular the castle has numerous death traps, and the word must have got around as there were never any attacks on the castle.

We were on our way to Kivik, when we decided to detour into Stenshuvud National Park. We hiked up to Stenshuvud and had a nice view of the surrounding countryside.

Final stop of the day was Kivik, where we walked around a 3000 year old burial ground and bought some apples from a roadside stand. On our way back to Ystad I got a bit of a start. We had just entered a townsite and I was gradually slowing down when I saw a cop in the tree with his speed camera aimed directly at us...luckily, it was just a dummy dressed up as a cop, as I hadn't quite got down to the slower speed limit yet :p

Our last day we decided to take a quick dip in the Baltic before leaving. And when I say quick, I mean quick. You know the water is cold when its warmer standing on the shore dripping wet with the wind blowing. The trip had been smooth sailing up to that point, but of course, something had to happen. Our train was delayed out of Lund as they couldn't get the two halves of the train to attach. So an hour later the first half arrived. Of course, our car was on the second half so we had to wait another half an hour for that half to arrive. We were a couple hours later than expected but now it just seems somewhat funny.

Sunday, we decided to hold a kräftorfest (crayfish party). There were six of us in total and we managed to eat 3kg of crayfish and a fair bit of snaps. It was somewhat odd having a crayfish party with no Swedes to show us how its done, but Ben has been to a few so he showed us how to get at the meat, and we had no problems coming up with our own songs to sing in between the shots of snaps.

I am now worn out, but we are heading to Gotland this weekend with S. and J. Hopefully it will be a relaxing trip!

For some photos of our adventures check out:


Thursday, August 14, 2008

An interesting way to mow the grass


I guess its been a few days since my last post...but I haven't been partaking in many fascinating activities, and so I do not have many tales to tell. My days have mainly been spent watching the Olympics, of which, we have day-long coverage of (in Swedish of course). I am proud to say, as a pseudo-Swede, that Sweden has now won 3 medals, one of which was returned in protest by a wrestler who won bronze today. I think this is pretty successful as compared to Canada who has yet to win one medal yet has four times the population.

Anyways, the other day I was riding my bike home from my yoga class (which by the way is harder to do in another language than you might think), when I noticed something peculiar going on in the park. I have been riding through this park all summer and was somewhat surprised at the lack of landscaping going on there. The park is mainly trees and grass with a playground in the middle. The surprising part is that they have not cut the grass all summer, so it was about waist high and in my mind, a hotbed of mosquito love. But on this gloomy evening, there was some cutting going on in the park, and not by a ride-on lawnmower, or even a push mower, but by a HORSE AND BUGGY with some sort of lawn cutting apparatus attached to the side of it. Now I am curious why this one park in particular is being cut by a horse and buggy!!!??? The other parks have been cut using electric or gas-powered mowers so why is this park, which happens to be called Engelska parken or The English Park, being mowed in this environmentally friendly manner? Hmmm, I'll have to see if there is some news about it in the local paper!

S. is coming to visit on Saturday and I'm hopefully going to be traveling down to Lund and Åles Stenar with her next week - if we can find a place to stay - so I should have some more exciting events to report.

Sorry for the excessive use of the word "which" in this post...must just be my mood!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Arholma Nord och Kallt Krigen


This past weekend, B. and I headed out on an adventure to one of the island's in the Stockholm archipelago. Did you know that Stockholm had an archipelago? It is the largest archipelago in Sweden and one of the biggest in the Baltic sea. It stretches 60 km to the east of Stockholm and is made up of approximately 24,000 islands and islets (which is by the way a small island - I had to look that up). The village of Ytterby situated on Resarö island is one of the most famous villages in the archipelago as it is home to a quarry that contains many rare earth minerals. The village is famous for naming no fewer than 4 chemical elements - erbium, terbium, ytterbium and yttrium (once again, I came across this info on Wikipedia - it wasn't just lying around in my head). But we did not go to Resarö, we went to Arholma, which is situated in the North Archipelago.

To get to Arholma, we took two buses and a ferry from Uppsala, on the way back it wasn't so easy and we had to take a ferry, two buses, the subway and the train from Stockholm to get back (this trip totaled 5 hours vs. our 3 hour trip there). Upon our arrival in Arholma, we actually managed to go to the wrong hostel (who knew there would be two on such a small island) and were surprised to find a) no one in the office, since they didn't mention that it would be unmanned and b) that it was nowhere near the ocean since we had rented kayaks. We dropped off our stuff and proceeded to walk back to "town" to ask for some info only to pass another sign which named the hostel we were looking for, so we walked on to this hostel and then had to walk back 2 km to pick up our stuff and 2 km back to drop it off. We were slightly grouchy at this point.

Our real hostel was on the ocean, it was near the north of the Island. And to our surprise, it was actually on an old army battery (but more about this later). So, on to the kayaking. We walked down to the beach and put the kayaks in the water...later B. told me that he was surprised I even got in the water as the ocean was pretty rough (I asked why he didn't mention this before we left the shore!). We paddled to the southeast and ended up going down the inside of the Island, where it was supposed to be calmer. It was easy going to start as the wind was at our back and we pulled our kayaks up on an island to lie in the sun for awhile. We proceeded to paddle a bit farther and then it was time to turn back. OH MY GOD! I could barely get my kayak to move. It was so windy. B. estimates there were 60km/hr winds. The waves were splashing us but that wasn't really worrisome, the kayaks are pretty stable, it was just so frustrating. Needless to say, I am not the world's strongest paddler and my technique is not great, but I'm not a weakling either. B. offered to tow me but I thought that was a bit wimpy so instead we paddled separately and it took us nearly three times as long to get back to the hostel. I was not a happy camper.

But, things got better, we had a nice evening, and we walked into the "town" for dessert at the one restaurant in "town". On the way back it was getting dark and we came across numerous frogs on the road, and fairly big ones, so that was cool. The next morning it was raining, but since we had arranged to go on a tour of the battery (and it was inside the hill) it didn't bother us much. The tour was in Swedish so it was good practice for us, although we are not that familiar with terms of war in Swedish :) The guide did translate some things for us, but the Swedish version would take 5 minutes while the English version was one sentence. He did however, give us a private tour after the main tour was done and let us go up into the firing mechanism room of the 10.5 cm Bofors that was there (which no one else got to do).

So the short version of the tour is that this battery was constructed in 1965 but was not ready until 1968. It was built to be a last line of defense against a Russian attack during the Cold War. There were several other guns situated on islands along the coast and many of them could be fired from the Arholma base. There were over a hundred men posted at this base, although not all of them slept inside the hill, some slept in tents outside in the woods. The base was disbanded in the 90s and then the residents had to convince the government to keep it intact for use as a museum. It now runs four tours daily and people come from all over to see it...including off sailboats that pull into the bay. One of the funniest things we saw on the tour was a switch box with the words "Krig" -war and "Fred" - peace on it. Apparently, if the lever was on war, then the gun could be aimed back towards Sweden in case the Russians had made it to shore, whereas if the lever was on peace then it could only be fired out towards the sea.

Since the weather wasn't so nice on Saturday we left the island in the early afternoon but it was still a nice getaway. Here are some shots from our quick visit!
Photos from Arholma

The weather has now turned cool but hopefully it will turn back for S. and M.'s visit in a couple weeks...also for me who is stuck at home trying to fill my summer days!