Saturday, December 31, 2005

Sledging at the beach!

We've just come back from an afternoon sledging on the beach! The sanddunes at Gaddesanda (which looked like this last time we went) were the only place we could find to sledge down which weren't hills in the middle of someones field or garden. Amazingly there was no-one else around so we didn't feel too embarassed flinging ourselves across the snow!!



Happy New Year Everyone!!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Snow update!



I've just popped out to the shops and in about 5 hours approx. 15cm of snow has fallen!! Being English and not used to snow I'm always very excited every time it snows and always make the most of trampling through any unspoilt areas of snow I can find!!

As we left England yesterday the news was reporting that there would be a big snowfall in South England and was advising everyone to stay at home from work for the day! I don't think that excuse would go down too well over here!

Snow storm

We flew back to Sweden last night after a fantastic Christmas at home, filled with lots of food, pressies and silly games!! Our suitcases were 9kg over weight but luckily we managed to get away without paying for any excess baggage!

I had read on the internet that a big snow storm was heading for us in Southern Sweden and looking out of the window at the moment I can barely see anything as there is sooooo much snow blowing past! The weather forecast says we should have about 9cm of new snow by the end of the day so hopefully we can go sledging later!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Brown paper packages tied up with string!

All the presents are bought and wrapped up - I just need to squeeze them into our suitcase before we fly home tonight! Arrghh! Looking forward to seeing all of you at home very soon!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Vintersolstånd

Today is Vintersolstånd or Winter Solstice, which means it is the day of the year with the least amount of daylight as the earth is the furthest away from the sun on this day. In Trollhättan the forecast says sunrise is 9am and sunset is 3pm today, meaning we have 6 hours of daylight, but in the north of Sweden some towns have 24 hours of darkness!

The winter solstice used to be celebrated by the Druids by cutting a piece of mistletoe as it was thought to be magical as it had fruit on it during the winter. They also lit a log and kept it burning for 12 hours to conquer the evil spirits the darkness brought. Both traditions have now made their way into modern Christmas with kissing under the mistletoe and having a Yule Log, or lighting candles on a Christmas tree.

Today the day passes without much celebration other than people knowing that it will gradually start to get lighter now until we reach Midsummer on 25th June where we will have nearly 24 hours of daylight!

Below: Making the most of my 6 hours of daylight with a walk to Kopparklinten before it gets dark!




Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Lucia


Yesterday was Lucia Day, which is one of the most important dates during Swedish advent. It is traditional for the girl of the family to dress as Lucia in a long white dress, red sash and a crown of lingonberry twigs and candles, and bring lussekatter (saffron buns) and coffee to the rest of the family while they are in bed (ooops , forgot to do that!). Many towns and schools elect their own Lucia, who with her followers (tärnorna) leads a procession while singing 'Sankta Lucia' and other Christmas songs. Above is Trollhättans Lucia and below is Lucia from the school where I work. I'll have to try and learn the words to the song and get myself elected next year!

The celebration is a mixture of remembrance of Saint Lucia, who was a Catholic Sicilian martyr, and a pagan tradition of bringing food to those less fortunate during the long dark winter.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Julbord


Last night about 18 of us all met to eat Christmas dinner in a little log cabin in the woods. It is the second year we have done this and I think we'll be doing the same again next year. We ate a traditional Swedish julbord (Christmas dinner) with everyone bringing a different dish . The food included ham, pickled herring, smoked salmon, deer heart (!!), hard boiled eggs with caviar, Janssons frestelse (potato and anchovy pie), spare ribs, boiled potatoes, mini sausages, pate etc. It was all lovely but so different from the English Christmas dinner of roast turkey and vegetables!! To add a bit of English tradition we brought mulled wine, mince pies and Yule log with us.

Nobeldagen

Yesterday was Nobeldagen, which is the day when the Nobel Prizes for literature, chemistry, physics, medicine, economics and peace are given out. The Nobel Prize ceremony began in 1901 after Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel (the inventor of dynamite) left a request in his will for the prize giving to be established. The prizes are awarded at formal ceremonies held annually in the Stockholm Concert Hall and the Oslo City Hall on December 10th, which is date that Alfred Nobel passed away.

The ceremony is shown on Swedish TV and is a fairly big event here, with some shops shutting early to honour the occassion. Apart from tuning in to watch the prize giving, many people watch to rate/slate the dresses worn, especially those worn by the Swedish Royal Family! The papers are full of photos of Princesses Victoria and Madeleine today, and for once they actually approved of what they were wearing!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Feeling Christmassy

I'm feeling very Christmassy now after putting up our Christmas tree last night. It's only the second Christmas tree we've had so it's still very exciting! It's a lot bigger than the tree we had last year, so its looking a bit sparse in terms of decorations! It's decorated with little stars made out of straw which are traditional Swedish decorations, plus some straw goats too. Traditionally it is the Christmas goat who delivers presents rather than Father Christmas in Sweden.

The other thing which made me feel Christmassy was the arrival of our friend David with a Glögg set for me. I've been looking after his flat while he's been working in Germany for the past 6 months, so he bought me a Glögg set as a thank you present. Glögg is a hot, sweet, mulled wine which Swedes drink at Christmas. You add almonds and raisons to it, hence the little spoons and dishes. It's potent stuff so you only need a few cupfuls to warm you up! You can buy it premixed or make it yourself, and its traditionally drunk with pepparkakor (ginger snaps).

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Marstrand

On Friday evening we went to Marstrand for Daniel's work Christmas party. Marstrand is a tiny little island off the coast of Gothenburg, which can only be reached by ferry. We were supposed to have been catching a bus there and back, but as a suprise Daniel had booked for us to stay in one of the rooms in the castle on the island! Carstens Fästning (fortress) was built in the 1600's to protect Sweden from neighbouring Norway and Denmark, and has been used as recently as the Second World War as a military base.

We were given instruction to ring when we arrived at door 23 (which turned out to be a huge wooden portcullis door!) but when we rang we were told we couldn't be let into the castle yet as they were just about to fire the cannon!! We weren't sure if we'd missunderstood the Swedish, but seconds later we heard the cannon! We were eventually met and shown to our room in the 'newer' part of the castle, which was built in 1840 to house the soldiers. (photo below)

After checking for ghosts we got changed and walked round to Societetshuset where the party was taking place. Societetshuset is a beautiful old bath house built in 1886 for the King of Sweden. We did our best to join in with the Swedish Christmas carols but struggled a bit with the impromptu drinking songs!

The following morning we spent a very cold couple of hours walking round the island and exploring the castle. The whole place was nearly desserted and so different from when we visited last summer.