Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Time zips by!

And I find I don't have time to post either pictures or entries as often as I'd expected. But I guess that means I've been busy doing other things, which is probably a good sign when on vacation. :o)

I'll try to cover at least the bare bones of the trip, though, starting now:

Thursday, Aug. 23rd
  • The ride from Gothenburg to Säffle was interesting. It's the same route we drove from the airport on our last trip. Lots of stone "walls"-- roads carved into the sides of small mountains/foothills, really, I guess. This time, I noticed a heatherlike plant growing in the crevices of these stones. When I asked Donald what the plants that looked like heather were, he replied that they were heater. ;o) (There are photos of these plants and other things I'll mention here, over at my flickr photos.) Despite being interested in taking in the views, I eventually started dozing off. That trip takes a lot out of you!
  • When we reached Sandmon, we had supper outdoors with Donald's family (plus Jocke), saw Lukas (the family dog), ate Swedish meatballs, korv (sausage), mashed potatoes, Värmlandskorv (a special, "local" sausage), etc., drank flädersaft (elderberry lemonade, which is purported to have a sedative effect, which would have come in handy several hours earlier ), and so on.
  • After we settled in (about 9:30 or so) at Ingela's apartment in Säffle (where we're staying nights), I started making a list of things we wanted to do while here. One of the items-- "eat Swedish pizza"-- was of such urgent importance that Donald decided we ought to start right away, and seeing as we hadn't yet adjusted to the new time zone, we were able to split a Swedish "Vesuvia" pizza (tomato sauce, cheese, and ham) at around 10 p.m. at night.
Friday, Aug. 24th
  • We slept in a bit-- understandable, under the circumstances, even though it does seem rather wasteful, when we're here for such a short space of time.
  • Did a little shopping. Found a few necessary food items (and a few less necessary), and went in search of a couple of washcloths for me. I had intended to pack a few, but had forgotten. (Incidentally, I am very curious as to why washcloths are so notably absent in Europe. Did they get phased out? Were they never here to begin with? If so, are they an American invention? ) I felt silly to go looking for something similar here-- like a baby who can't get along without her stuffed animal or "blanky" for a few weeks. But the fact is that these little things go a long way towards making you feel "at home". In any case, the closest thing we could find were hand towels, which are really too big, and I preferred to have at least two-- one the face and one for "the rest", because I'm a bit picky about spreading germs and dirt around unnecessarily ;o) Fortunately, Donald spotted some handy reusable/disposable sponge sheets that suit the purpose very well. I've never seen anything like them before, in the US. There were about fifty of them in the package for the same price as one hand towel would've been, too. Of course, it is a bit embarrassing to use something from a package decorated with photos of babies. . . and the name, "skum" doesn't sound like something related to hygiene. . . but they work!
  • Ate a "bun-less burger" for lunch. (See flickr for photo. Because it's very exciting. )
  • Went out into the forests around Sandmon looking for mushrooms. We hear that this has been a very good year for chanterelles, and in fact, we were able to find and pick some. For future reference-- the mosquito repellent is a necessity. Even with it, there are some insects that persist in pestering.
  • Had supper with Donald's family, with venison on the menu.
  • Donald visited with his maternal grandmother (mormor), and I had a walk down to Lake Vänern, which was looking very dramatic in the falling dusk.
Saturday, Aug. 25th
  • Went with Ingela and Jocke to "market day" in Nysäter, which I understand to be a community within the "district" (or whatever you'd call it) of Säffle Kommun. The "market" is basically rows of stalls with vendors selling anything from handcrafted items and food to regular goods such as you'd find at retail stores (only at what I assume are special prices). There was also a small area of children's carnival rides and games, a Salvation Army band playing hymns, a Clydesdale-esque horse pulling a wagon, and more.
    • Very busy and crowded!
    • Quite a few people walking their dogs. Saw a Sheltie and a few unfamiliar breeds.
    • Had a reindeer variety of "summer sausage" as part of lunch on board a boat belonging to Jocke and Ingela's acquaintances. (The market was very near Byälven, the river that also runs through the city of Säffle.)
    • Saw a Viking ship replica (built in the 1990s, based on a real one found in the 1960s) named "Glad av Gillberga". It was missing its "dragon head", but you can see it with the head here (and without, on our flickr page, whenever I get around to uploading the photos we took of it...)
    • Driving to Nysäter, we saw more mountainous land than is directly around Säffle. Apparently, the land north of Säffle is hillier.
  • Back at Sandmon, we walked to the lake again and found it quite windy.
  • Supper party at Sandmon with Donald's cousins from his father's side of the family (and various wives, girlfriends, and kids, including the two youngest on that side, Liam and Ludvig). Supper was outside, and a shift in the weather was obvious, with the wind making things chilly enough that I wasn't the only one reaching for a jacket by the end of the evening. ;o) (The weather's been rather chilly ever since. It started out warmer than usual, at the beginning of our visit, but now it's a bit cooler than normal. I'm glad I packed plenty of long pants and a few different jackets!)
Sunday, Aug. 26th
  • The two of us drove to a nature reserve in the northern reaches of Säffle Kommun-- Glaskogen. We spent the afternoon driving around the area, hiking, and taking in the sights. We made three notable stops.
    • We hiked to Råtakahöjden-- the highest point in the nature reserve with a height of 307 meters (just over 1000 feet).
    • Another hike to Sitjärn, a small lake with a windbreak and fire pit nearby. Just after we arrived, a light mist of rain began to fall, but we were able to get a fire going and roast some hot dogs for a late lunch/early supper. (It was a lovely spot. I'll try to upload some photos soon, though I don't think they turned out quite as well as I'd hoped.)
    • Yet another hike to Halvardsnäs, which affords some of the best views of the reserve, according to the information desk. The view was much more impressive than that at the "high point", partly because of its situation, partly because the trees at the other place had grown up so that they blocked much of the view.
  • Back in Säffle, we ate another Swedish pizza and viewed a movie on the laptop-- MST3K: The Sword and the Dragon, which turned out to be the perfect choice, what with its pseudo-Scandinavian elements.
Monday, Aug. 27th
  • Picked lingonberries in the forests around Sandmon. Before heading out, we ran into Donald's mormor, who told him that one of his aunts had been our picking lingonberries (elsewhere) when she came upon a moose with her calves. The angry animal had chased the aunt and her companion, who'd had to run and use a building as a barrier. (I might add that Donald didn't tell me this until we were out in the forest. ) We didn't come across any moose, though we did see some old moose droppings. We also saw a person (a neighbor?), in the distance, something that Donald says is rare enough that it's never happened to him before.
  • I'd never picked any berries but blackberries, so this was a new experience. To pick lingonberries, which are pretty small and grow very close to the ground on short bushes, you generally use a berry-picking tool I'd never seen before. I'll have to see if I can take a photo of them next time we're at Sandmon. For now, here's a link to one type of berry-picker. (This is the type Donald used. The one I had was a newer design and hadn't been used for picking lingonberries before-- by Donald's family, that is.) You hold onto the handle and scoop the tool through the bushes where you see the berries. The berries are pulled off the bushes and end up in the bottom of the scoop, but (most of) the leaves and twigs are left behind, unharmed and unmixed-in with your berries. Clever design.
  • Later on, we rowed on Lake Vänern. The lake was calm at first, with little wind, but rain on the distant horizon. We rowed out to the peninsula on the right (looking out from land). It's a rocky, wild place. No wilder than the rest of the surrounding forests, I suppose, but seeming so, be merit of relative seclusion. We noticed several small stacks of stones at regular intervals. Probably markers of property lines, Donald thought. We left them alone, in any case, and I was glad to leave them behind. Who knows what sort of weird pagan ritual they may be part of! ;o) Meanwhile, the wind had suddenly whipped up quite a bit, the clouds had thickened, and we decided to head back to the boat. Just as we reached it, the rain began, and by the time we pulled back in at Sandmon, we were pretty wet and chilled from the cold rain and stiff wind. The thermometer at Donald's parents' place read 54 when we had walked back to the house. Brr! Of course, after that, we had to go back into town for a change of clothes.
  • The rain was very short-lived, but it was windy much of the afternoon. (That's when I took the photos of the strange-looking windy-day clouds from the apartment window.) Later on, the weather had improved enough that we took a long walk around Säffle, by the river that runs through town (Byälven).

Tuesday, Aug. 28th
  • We spent most of the day driving around the Säffle area and seeing some of the local sights. We saw several old churches. (It seems that most of the churches around here are old. ) There were rock carvings from the Bronze Age-- carvings of ships and "dots" (called "cup marks", I think)-- all barely visible. Hard to believe they're that old (from a period of 1800 to 500BC). There were also Iron Age burial mounds on a hill within easy walking of a very old Swedish church (which has been the location of a church since medieval times, if I remember correctly). . . sheep (actual sheep ) in fields (something we don't have much of at home, probably because the weather's too hot?). . . a collection of all-white cows. . . picturesque homesteads, farms, and countryside, and the southernmost tip of Värmlandsnäs, the peninsula on which Donald's family lives (and quite a few other people, too, as it's not a teensy peninsula). We also drove on the Dollarvägen ("the Dollar Road"), thus named because the money to build it was donated by a Swede from that area who had moved to the US, become wealthy, and wanted to give something back to the place where he grew up.
  • Went back to Sandmon, where we had another tasty supper, looked at photos old and new (including some from Ingela's recent trip to Chicago and Thorbjörn's to London), heard about Thorbjörn's accident the evening before (while he was watching some trees being harvested at Sandmon, a small piece of metal somehow was launched into his leg and had to be removed at the hospital), talked about the expected lows that night -- down to freezing?!--, etc.
Wednesday, Aug. 29th
  • Presently spending the day taking it easy. Reading, t.v., etc. :o) And maybe I'll have a chance to upload some more of the photos we've been taking, later on. (It's turned out to be a bit messier than I expected, but should still be do-able.)
Hope everyone at home is doing well. (Belated "happy birthday" to Grandpa L.!) Wish I could send you all some cooler weather, but at least it looks like the really hot spell has broken.

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