Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter days in Sweden

I am back from my quick trip to Sweden and its wintery glory.  Due to pure weathery luck, I was there when it was cold (mostly minus 15 Celsius), very clear skies (blue in the day, starry at night), and with plenty of snow (white, white and blue at dusk and dawn). The 'blue hour' is so strong here, it is a real phenomenon. Just look at the photos! :) The high humidity led to lots of hoary frost ('rimfrost') on every tree, grass, and  surface. It was simply gorgeous.  This is how it looked like:

winter roads in Sweden
A Swedish winter road.  They put salt on the big roads and highways, but not on the smaller roads.

winter roads in Sweden
A plowed winter road.  Nearly everybody has dubbed tires, unless you live in a city.This is how blue it is, this photo is not photoshopped in any way.  Around 2.30-3 in the afternoon in January.  The sun is still up, but with long, long shadows, and it doesn't reach into the forest.

Swedish winter scenes
Hoary frost (rimfrost) on branches.

Swedish winter
Snow, frost and open water at Ekeby wetlands, the largest artifically made wetlands in northern Europe.  It is a haven for birds and birdwatchers.

sleeping red fox on the ice
Do you see the fox?  He or she was sleeping on the ice, in the morning sun. This is also at Ekeby.

Swedish winter
Ice on ice and water in ditch. You can see the area where the water is freezing on the surface...

Swedish winter
These ice crystals on the ice were about 2-3 cm big (about an inch).

Swedish winter: mallards
The ducks were freezing.

Swedish winter
Frozen rose hips. These are edible and the Swedes make 'nyponsoppa' from them.

frozen Eskilstuna River
The Eskilstuna River was nearly frozen over. And the sun, even if bright, doesn't get very high over the horizon.  This was about 11.30 AM.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Today's news in Sweden

Here are some recent news and reflections on current events in Sweden from my trip here:

There is a new law in Sweden that all businesses have to pay all invoices within 30 days.  No exceptions. Nice.

It has been so cold that soon the whole sea between Sweden and Finland is frozen across the narrowest part where the island Aland is, right north of Stockholm.  That doesn't happen every winter, and I love the thought that the ocean is freezing over.  Instead of boats they then use hover crafts to get out to the villages in the archipelagoes.  They use special ships to break the ice on the route between Sweden and Finland too.

The mistletoe plants, parasitic bundles of green that you can see in the tops of naked trees in the winter, are spreading rapidly in Eskilstuna.  When I grew up there were none here, and now they are abundant.  They have berries that are eaten and spread by the Bohemian waxwings.  Changing biodiversity!

Swedish food stores are strange.  They have lots of ecological and sometimes local food, but then the produce looks substandard or simply isn't there.  Regular cauliflower looks like it went through the laundry dryer.  Leeks are limp.  Potatoes, a staple in this country, are in a giant bin, and you have to pick through them to get the ones that don't have blemishes.  Lettuces are half as big as in the US.  And chicken is a lot more expensive that beef and pork, even the most regular cuts.  Chicken breasts (regular mass produced, nothing special) on sale is $5 a pound, while beef roast on sale is down to $4/lbs.  So maybe it is the red meat that is cheap...   I have to investigate this some more and will try to get some photos to illustrate this. This is very surprising to me.

There is a suggestion that Swedes would have a special meat tax since red meat is worse for the environment and the climate than chicken and vegetarian fare.  The Swedes don't like that at all.

New Jersey snow plow drivers are much better at removing snow than the Swedish ones. This really surprised me. Here they don't plow all the way to the curb.  Or on the left side of a highway, making a 4-lane highway turning into 3 lanes, 2 full ones and then two middle lanes that are only half-plowed.  Dangerous. 

The sun gets up around 8.30-9 and by 4 PM it is dark.

There is a Swedish phenomenon called 'fredagsmys'.  Fredag is Friday, and 'mys' is kind of 'hang out and have a great time, but without alcohol, in a cutesy setting'.  This started after I left Sweden, and it is just a way for the stores to sell more chips, dip, ready-made junk food, soda and candy for Friday nights.  A TV program with funny jokes, music and such on Friday evenings for family get togethers (parents, friends, little kids, etc.) helped too.  But really, it is just a giant marketing thing that has fooled most of the Swedes. Fredagsmys is now a word in the dictionary and every kid knows the word and want it.  Can't families do things together without having to have an imposed fake 'get together' time in front of the TV?  I think this is a great example of an artifical need that has been created by food and candy companies, and the Swedes just went all along....

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Zero degrees or minus twenty

When I landed in Stockholm this morning it was like a freezer.  That is, zero degrees F or minus twenty degrees C.  I guess the country turned the thermostat down for a few days.  It was really, really cold, but the most amazing thing was the hoary frost that covered every branch on every tree.  By noon, the fog that made the frost during the night had disappeared and the sun had came out on a blue sky, but the temperature (and the sun) never made it over fifteen degrees or so (minus Celsius).  Here are some photos from a very wintry Stockholm.

Scenes from wintry Stockholm
View over Lake Malaren.

Scenes from wintry Stockholm: frosty fence
Frosted chainlink fence.

Scenes from wintry Stockholm

Scenes from wintry Stockholm
A local lake that had been frozen over weeks ago had been plowed by the city into a giant loop, and people from all over comes to skate here.  You see hockey skates, white girly skates, and then the footlong long-distance skates too, with all skaters sharing the space.  Along the plowed track is a ski track as well, for people that rather ski. On the lake next to the loop was even a hot dog stand, serving hot dogs to happy skaters.

What a gorgeous day!
Scenes from wintry Stockholm

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On having favorites...

I collect favorite places. Favorite museums, gardens, food dishes, restaurants, views, smells, and on and on and on.  I know that favorite things are supposed to be unique, one of a kind, selected by their specialness to you.  But why?

I think we should be able to have many favorite things - why do they have to compete for your liking and loving?  Why all this ranking - best, most, greatest, amazingest? Lets love many great things and appreciate them all.  Appreciation shouldn't be a competition, it should be enjoyment.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The truth about bacon...

Happy Birthday AREA!!!

light house and pebbles, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
How does it feel?
How does it feel to be nearly 20?
Yippee, you are the best!
Congratulations with a scene from Little Cranberry Island in Maine. Remember this place?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Saguaro's bend

This photo is by our great friend and railroad photographer EW, and is from the state (Arizona) that might, might become the college home of LA next summer. 

Nice saguaro cactus, and, oh wait, there is a train there too!?  Click on link for larger image. And if you missed it, here is another amazing photo by EW.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Stamp of the Day: tulip tree

For those of you that still wonder how an American tulip tree looks like (since all you saw was a brown fruit in my end of 2012 post), here it is on a Swedish (!) stamp.  This tall tree has large, yellow flowers that look a little bit like a tulip, but is related to magnolias.  In Sweden this tree only grows in botanical gardens, and the stamp was issued in honor of the Botanical Garden in Lund in southern Sweden.  We have these trees all around in the forest here around us.  The colonialists in North America used this plant against fevers and malaria.  The first time I saw one was at Kew Gardens in London and I thought then that it was named after the shape of the leaves.  I had yet to see the flowers, which are even more tulip-like. Liriodendron tulipifera, at your service!