Sweden

Snow sprinkles

This is a winter’s tail

(Excuse the pun!) 

Winter's tail

A tale of how snow decorates

And transforms.

Collage

How the bare bones of winter

Have their own stark beauty.

Branches

The woods have a deep magic –

Although it helps to have a sweet Rottweiler puppy in the picture too!

Puppy in snow copy

And here, a lone wooden cottage

Seems to be bathing in snow kisses.

Little house copy

There’s more s-now business like snow business over at: Our World Tuesday.


The light in the dark

Last Friday, December 13th, was a special day – the festival of Lucia.

Every year around Sweden, churches are full of music and light.

Church

It’s a very special feeling when the lights are turned off

And the Lucia procession enters the church.

lucia

The children sing their heavenly songs,

Faces lit by candlelight only –

Spots of dancing hope in the mid-winter darkness.

Lucia tåg

As they leave the church, the sun has managed to rise

Casting its golden glow on people and building alike.

It’s a wonderful and metaphorical festival

Reminding us that no matter how vast the darkness,

We must shine our own light.

Johannes Church

For more festive stories, please visit: Our World Tuesday.


Chandeliers in the sky

Endless blue skies,

Beautiful snow,

A sunbathing dog  –

Blue sky and Oscar

And crystal chandeliers

Glittering in the sun.

My paradise!

Blue sky tree

For more sparkling skies, please visit: Skywatch.

And swing by Camera Critters too!


Pushing the limits

Yesterday the temperature dropped down to minus 25 C

In the frosted early morning.

I went out on the ice – but stayed out way too long -

One and a half hours… With no breakfast.

Bright view copy

Came back with a frost damaged face

And spent the rest of the day in bed sick.

Just goes to show that you shouldn’t

Be bound by your limits –

But you should know what your limits are!

Thank you in advance for your kind comments – I won’t be replying to them today

As I need to recover.

Frozen

For more unlimited posts, please visit: Camera Critters.


Frosted times

Let me take you back to the end of October last year,

To a cold day of frosted eyelashes on leaves.

Eyelashes copy

It was a stunning bright day

Perfect for a drive out to the horse ranch

Sporting its old Grand Central clock on the side of the barn.

Grand central

The brilliance of the sun

Turned the wires into art

Frosted wire

And behind the frosted thistles

I discovered a secret world of rainbow bubbles.

Frosted bokeh copy

On the way home, I stopped to admire

The endurance of this ancient rune stone

(And to wonder if the Simpsons was based on the pattern on the stone…

Look at those eyes!)

Old rune stone

For more good times, please visit: Our World.


Poem to heaven

The first time I saw this white wooden church

I gasped in amazement at its beauty.

Ljusterö sky copy

It started out as a simple chapel built in the 1700s –

And then in the mid-1800s, it was expanded

And the old clock tower replaced with a new one.

LJusterö front

The white wooden planking,

The delicate leaded windows –

Such simple and exquisite beauty

Iced with snow and love.

The lovely and talented RED has interviewed me. So, if you want to know more about me or my photography tips, then please do visit her and say hi. You can find her at Amazing Australian Adventures.

Ljusterö copy

For more wonders, please visit: Our World.


Building bridges

This photo was taken during the deliciously cold winter of 2010.

I like the symbolism of the bridge connecting two small islands of land:

It reminds me that we are all connected

And that it’s never too late to reach out

And mend bridges.

Stop being who you were, and change into who you are. — Paulo Coelho
Cold bridge

For more connectedness, please visit: Our World.


Of waffles and spring

Every year, just after the Spring Equinox, the Swedes celebrate spring by eating waffles.

The sun was up early – casting a cozy golden glow on the day.

In the woods, I looked for signs of spring:

Glowing green cups of sunshine;

Melted ice puddles

Creating artistic reflections;

And the golden thread of a cobweb

Slung across a 1,000-year-old Viking rune stone.

The most delicious delicious sign of spring was found at home:

Golden heart-shaped waffles topped with fresh fruit.

The Swedes have been eating waffles to celebrate spring since the 1600s –

So it would be rude not to join in.

Do you suppose we could call them eggy-maniacs?

For more waffle, please visit: Our World.


Of gingerbread and snow

The little wooden houses of Sweden remind me of fairy tales.

In summer, the wood glows like red rubies -

But in the winter, those red timbers really come into their own.

Topped with an icing of snow,

They resemble gingerbread houses.

So delicious, I feel I could reach out and eat one.

Even autumn leaves hanging onto the winter branches

Look like delicious gingerbread –

Or perhaps a brown coat fluttering in the wind,

Left there by someone eager for new adventures.

For more deliciousness, please visit: Our World.


A day in the life of a Viking

Last month, I accompanied Anklebiter 1 on her class outing to Gunnes Gård, a reconstruction of a Viking farm.

We travelled a thousand years back in time by donning the clothes Vikings wore back then

And following an age-old path through the woods.

Suddenly, the air was split with the sound of a horn and a woman appeared before the old Viking gods blowing a horn.

It was a magnificent moment.

After leaving some small offerings to the gods and learning more about them, we were all given new Viking names for the day.

Living the life they lived a thousand years ago meant no electricity or phones, a lot of hard work around the farm and gardens,

Making bread over an open fire

And eating the most delicious lunch in a dim smoky old farmhouse.

When it was time to go home, the entire class groaned in disappointment.

Sometimes living life in another person’s shoes and shedding your own can be most enjoyable.

And there’s nothing like living history to really understand it.

For more new perspectives, please visit: My World.


Smoke gets in your eyes

In ancient times, the last day of April marked the beginning of spring and was celebrated by letting out the cattle to graze once again

And the burning of bonfires to keep the evil spirits away. This pagan tradition is called Valborg (or Walpurgis Eve).

Here they come with burning torches in a procession just as the sun is setting.

The dry twigs catch fire and the flames roar like a dragon.

We all sing songs to welcome in the spring as the fire mesmerizes us with its primeval power.

It’s cold – oh so cold – as the sun goes down and soon it’s time to return to our cozy homes.

But don’t forget to turn around and gasp in amazement

As the heat from the bonfire turns the sky to molten glass.

For more stories, please visit: My World.


The disappearing act

Going from solid to liquid.

Going…

Going…

Gone!

The transformation from one state to another reminds me that change can be beautiful.

For more skies, please visit: Skywatch!


Sipping from the cup of sunlight

At last!

The spring sun made the buds shine like pearls

In the pure blue of the sky

And turned the tulips into bowls of sunshine.

 

“The sun admitted…

I wish I could show you,
When you are lonely or in darkness,

The astonishing Light

Of your own Being!” — Hafiz

For more sunlight, please visit: Skywatch.


Deep purple

There might not have been any smoke on the water –

We had to make do with snow and ice and lively dog.

But there was certainly some fire in the sky

In lovely shades of purple and rose.

I spied a plane flying off into the delights of a vibrant silken cloud

Made up of pink and purple and magic.

The hooded clouds, like friars,
Tell their beads in drops of rain.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For more skies, please visit: Skywatch.


The epitome of Swedishness

Every summer, many Swedes take a month’s holiday to relax and get back in touch with nature – and themselves.

They enjoy long light evenings in summer cottages with outdoor plumbing (and sometimes no electricity)  in the middle of the woods.

You may remember that we did this very thing two years ago when we hired some little red cottages out in the countryside.

We are repeating the experience this year – but in a little timbered cottage with an actual toilet (a dry closet) inside!

We got the keys to the house at the weekend. It was like visiting a fairytale cottage.

A few snowdrops waved in greeting while they enjoyed the spring sunshine.

A short walk away, there is a beach on the shores of a sea inlet.

Right now, it’s covered in snow and ice, but I can just imagine the sand and the sea, can’t you?

Oscar is guarding the wooden playhouse. The bigger house with the veranda (see photo below) is the guest cottage with room for four people.

The brown wooden building between the two is the guest toilet.

After all, even if you have indoor plumbing, there are some traditions you just shouldn’t change!

For more culture, please visit: My World.


Winter barns

What is it about barns that tugs the heartstrings

And makes me think of strength and beauty?

Maybe it’s the way a red jewel wears winter curled on its roof

Or how the old timbers speak of age and grace.

Some barns are run down, bare bones

Waiting patiently for a loving coat of paint.

A broken window does not speak of a broken spirit however.

Faded and aging, but still standing –

Just like us.

For more loveliness, please visit: My World!


Simplicity, enhanced

A couple of weekends ago, I fell in love. Head over heels.

With this enchanting church in Ljusterö. (Try getting your tongue around that!)

Yes – this is the same church featured in my previous post…


Magical skies are the only decoration this simple wooden building needs.

The tower is framed with bare branches,

The setting sun lights up the snow,

A feeling of serenity falls.

The world is breathing in harmony.

There is no need to try to create a perfect world.

Just celebrate the one we already have.

For more magic, please visit: Skywatch.


Simplicity

Sometimes the simplest of things can be the most beautiful.

Unadorned they are poems to heaven.

Like this simple white wooden church.

White timbers from the 1700s;

A simple stained glass window

And the beauty of planks fading in the snow.

Hiding there, waiting to be seen,

Awaits the gorgeous beauty of imperfect simplicity.

For more perfection, please visit: My World!


Burn baby burn!

Imagine this: the cold grip of winter is finally letting go at the end of April. The days are longer and warmer and cattle finally come outside to graze. The dead wood of winter is piled high in enormous bonfires, which blaze in order to keep the evil spirits away. For as everyone knows, the curtain between the living and the dead is a thin one. Winter is being kicked out – and spring is being warmly embraced.

This description sums up an ancient pagan tradition in Scandinavia and Northern Europe that still goes on today. (It’s called Valborg in Sweden; otherwise known as Walpurgis Eve.)

Lighting the fire

Go forward a thousand years or so to the 8th century… a British nun called Walpurga goes to Germany, where she runs a convent that was very important at that time. The Germans also celebrate April 30 – known there as ‘the witches’ Sabbath’ – as it is the time when witches were supposed to celebrate with their gods and await the arrival of Spring.

Singing in the spring

Walpurga becomes a saint and her holy day just happens to fall on the same day as the old pagan ritual. Put them together: bonfires, singing songs to usher in the spring and St. Walpurga’s feast day – and you have Walpurgis Eve in Sweden, still celebrated in much the same way as it was thousands of years ago.

Amazing how much change the world has seen, and yet, how traditions stay so deeply rooted and unchanging.

Oh, and I met a wizard with a silver-topped cane by the fire… Come back tomorrow to find out what magic he weaved….

The bonfire

For more traditions, please visit: That’s My World!


Pub crawling – on ice

Every year – if the ice is thick enough – there is a skating race that starts right on our lake and finishes 30 km further south at Stockholm. The race track follows ancient winter trading routes that the Vikings used to take when going from Stockholm and back hundreds of years ago.

Here’s Oscar waiting for the first group of skaters… (You can always click the pictures to see a bigger version.)


The race is called The Pub Race because when the Vikings followed this winter trading route, there used to be lots of inns where they could stop and warm themselves up or spend the night.

And here they come!


Nowadays, the 30 km race takes place without a pause… although at  one point, the skaters have to take off their skates, cross a road and then run down a field in order to get to the next body of water.

Some people take it very seriously…


…While others are in it for the sheer fun of skating.

To enjoy other parts of the world, please visit: My World!


Sky-less

Help! The sky has disappeared!

Can you see it?

Nope – no sign of the sky around here.

Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to enjoy the scenery instead.

For some more visible skies, check out: Skywatch!


Working on ice

The ice started rumbling and shaking…

What was going on?

Even the dogs had a quick peek in mid-gallop.

It was the man with one of the best jobs you can have when it’s winter:

Driving a motorbike all day long and getting paid for it.

Yes – it’s the snow plough making the ice smooth for all the skaters!

And my, just look at the glorious view he has from his seat of work.

No wonder he’s out on the lake every day polishing the ice.

For more great views, please visit: My World!


Rising fog

Winter took us by surprise, marooning jetties and boats in its icy embrace.

It swept the world in its freezing cloak of fog.

Fog that tried to escape the weight of snow, the burden of ice and instead tried to dance

To where the new dawn was spreading out fingers of warm colour.

It seemed as if the ice itself was soaring upwards

To hear the heavens sing.

For more great shots, please visit: Skywatch.


Of saffron buns and bringers of light

On 13 December, Swedes get up at the crack of dawn to celebrate the festival of  Santa Lucia: schools, shopping centres, the streets — all are full of young girls with fire in their hair, who go round singing beautiful Lucia songs together with an entourage of handmaidens and Santa’s helpers.

The girl who is Lucia has real burning candles in her hair as she leads a procession of young women (and even boys these days, of course) bearing candles. They sing Lucia songs in Swedish – but they originate from the Neapolitan song of Sankta Lucia, which the Scandinavian tradition is based on.

There are several different legends about Lucia. Everyone agrees that she was a young girl living in Sicily in about 300 AD. Some say that she hid persecuted Christians and was burned at the stake for helping them. However, the fire refused to burn her and she ended up having her throat slit. Yes – these legends are a bit gory!

Other stories say that she fell in love with a young man who spurned her. So, in a foolish act of unrequited love, she is said to have cut out her own eyes and sent them to the man she loved. A rather strange way of declaring undying love! But as they say, love is blind…

A more likely story is that in the Julian calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year and people in the olden days believed that evil spirits were abroad then, so they burned lots of fires to keep the spirits at bay.

Whatever the origins, this Italian saint is now the Scandinavian symbolic figure: the bringer of light. It’s all about bringing light to the darkness of winter, of bringing warmth into the cold.

Saffron buns (but not made by me!)

And, of course, it’s all about food and drink! This is the time when Swedes go mad in the kitchen and bake up storms of gingerbread and Lucia buns – more commonly called, Lucia cats (lussekatter in Swedish). These are saffron-flavoured sweet buns shaped like curled up cats with raisins for eyes. You eat these  morning, noon and night – washed down with coffee or glögg. Glögg is like mulled wine spiced with cinammon sticks and cloves. You put raisins and almonds in a small cup and then fill up with glögg – and drink. You then use dainty little teaspoons to eat up the wine-soaked raisins and almonds…

And, now – if you’ll excuse me. I can hear a Lucia cat meowing to me from the kitchen!

For more glimpses into other parts of the world, please visit: My World!


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