Friday, September 30, 2011

Sweden to Denmark to England


Last I wrote I was with Whitney and Kris on the island of Gotland, Sweden, heading back to Stockholm. We had some beautiful sunny weather for days, I learned that the red "idiot" light on my van's dash actually meant something, and when the brakes started working again we continued our trip without incident. Eventually I ran out of money and had to say goodbye (I swear that's not true) and headed for the ferry in Esbjerg, Denmark, about 600 miles from Stockholm.

When I was in Denmark I was looking for my ferry e-ticket ticket, so I was searching Evernote for the info. (Yes, you do need Evernote. Everyone needs it.) I came across a document my cousin had sent about the histories of some Adair ancestors. One of them had been born in Soro, Denmark, in 1845. I had just seen Soro on the map, and it was nearby, so I went. What a difference it made to my perception of the place to think that my great-great-grandmother was born there. I thought of what it must have been like 160 years ago, and what it must have been for her to travel to the U.S. Her story just gets more interesting: at the age of 17, and not yet speaking English, she WALKED with one of the Mormon wagon trains from Illinois to Utah. If she hadn't, I wouldn't be here. (Good Buddhist question: when I begin?? When I was born, or when she was born, or...??)

I had a simple and comfortable 18-hour overnight ferry crossing, with a private room. My big drama when I drove off the ferry onto England: driving on the opposite side of the road! "Left side, Dave! Left side!" This is my mantra every time I get in my car. Between that and the serious narrow country lanes here, I'm not finding driving to be relaxing, especially at night. At one point on a narrow lane I pulled way over to let a car pass, and didn't realize for 10 minutes that I'd pull over on the wrong side. Oops. I guess that explains why he was so slow to pass.

Someone has to stop me from taking so many photos, or wanting to share so many. More stories below.


Spires and boats, Stockholm.
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Someone industrious took this rock outcropping and built an arch and flat stone base to turn it into a little yard.
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I didn't know what this was until a French tourist told me. Lovers come to this tall bridge, put their lock here and then throw the key into the river as a symbol of their love. But if you break up, you have to come back and throw your partner into the river. That part may not be true.
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When I reviewed my photos I had maybe eight photos of this set of buildings. I love the colors.
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Taken from the steps of City Hall.
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"Does this gold paint make my butt look big?" On top of City Hall.
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A florist shop in the colorful Gamla Stan neighborhood.
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A long pedestrian walkway in the center of Stockholm.
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Stately building facades.
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I went in this coffee shop for a cafe latte and a pastry.
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Inside the coffee shop.
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I was riding my bike around town and didn't know where to go, so I started following random people on their bikes. I ended up here: the starting point of the Stockholm Half Marathon, which was happening the next day. There was some kind of talent competition for young people. All the introductions were in Swedish, but of the six songs I heard, one was in Swedish, and five were in English. They were REALLY talented. 
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These kids run a half marathon? Not quite - one lap around the square, which ended in tears for some and Mom's running next to their kids holding their hands. 
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Kris and I walked to meet Whitney at the trendy and chic "Lux" restaurant, which is just down there near to the water.  
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I love good food, but I'm just about as indifferent to what I call "fine food" as is possible. Service was amazing, they could name the farmers and the little old lady who grows the apples. That's lovely. But a meal that costs $175 each sets the bar so high, for me, that no chef in the world can get over it. And "reindeer sashimi?" Spare me. Yes, I might be a caveman. The irony is that my favorite food in the world, regardless of cost, is anything that Whitney cooks, and she's the one that dragged me to this restaurant. 
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"Dress to kill, but tastefully." I took a short ferry from Helsingborg, Sweden to Helsingor, Denmark rather than going on via the bridge I took last time.
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Arriving at Helsingor, Denmark. It's another 200 miles drive to the port of Esbjerg, where I took the 18-hour ferry to Harwich, England.
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Welcome to England, in an uncharacteristically bright spell of good weather. Or "fine" weather as they call it here. I'm trying to fit in, so I talk about the weather constantly, and it's a sure-fire conversation starter. Samuel Johnson famously noted, in 1758: "It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather." Dude, that is, like, so true.
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I guess I could have shown some more beautiful coast photos first. But here it is: under the piers in perhaps Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. Just down the way from Walton-on-Naze, don't ya know. (It's true.)
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A fixture on English beaches: the beach hut. Privately owned, and chock-a-block on most beaches. These have an unusual amount of space between them.
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A wind farm some miles out to sea. There is a big one being built off the Norfolk coast, nine miles out to sea, that will be have 87 turbines (in up to 60 feet of water,) powering 220,000 homes.
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Oh, the history! This is Framlingham Castle, where Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII, was proclaimed the first Queen of England, in 1553. She was as lovely as her dear old Dad! According to Wikipedia, she had 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake.
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This is the interior of the castle, such as it is. There's an amazing amount of history here, primarily about the rich and powerful. Poor people don't really have history, now, do they? "Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story."
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The castle was completed in 1220 A.D. or so. Great intrigue and nastiness in the three powerful families of the area competing for power with the King.
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This is the church in Framlingham. I love the wonky gravestones. "Framingham" Massachusetts (missing the "L" for some reason) was named for here, based on a wealthy emigrant who owned most of the land surrounding the city there.
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The tomb of Henry Howard, the 3rd Earl of Surrey, and good friend of Henry VIII's illegitimate son, whose tomb is just next to this one.,_Earl_of_Surrey
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Pews in the church.,_Framlingham
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Moody light inside the church.
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In Memory of YOU, Who Died TOO SOON, Aged NOT ENOUGH. Broken Record Boy is here to remind you: you don't know when it will happen, only THAT it will happen. And you don't need to prepare for some (hopefully) far off day as much as you need to really dig in and love and immerse yourself into this day that you're having. This one. Right now.
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I went charging up a hill to find a place to photograph this.
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I like the colors here. It's not a brilliant pic, cuz I stopped on a road and put my camera out my window to hastily take it. On the wrong side of the road.
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This looks the distortion from a super wide angle lens. But no - this village has the most wobbly-looking houses I've seen.
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Another medieval house, with bricks between the wood.
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That front window is just as bowed as it looks. There's another proper window on the inside.
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Stained glass in a church.
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Have you heard of the "Green Man?" He's a pre-Christian character that shows up on churches all over England (and the world), and has for about 800 years. "Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring."
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Flowers in a town square.
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Ummm, them are some good worms. Worm sashimi.
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The Norfolk coast, not far from Sheringham, where I walked to along the coast trail.
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I wanted to run after this couple so I could send them this picture, but they'd think I was stalking with them. I guess I would have been, but in a nice way. It's easier to approach people when I'm traveling with someone else, especially with a woman. Some people aren't too sure about a big single guy. But English people have been incredibly friendly and outgoing, which I love.
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(The End)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stockholm and Gotland, Sweden

Hello my people,

I survived, er, enjoyed a week of blissful travel, sight-seeing, and indulging in Stockholm and its environs with my old friends Whitney and Kris. For those who don't know, Whitney and I dated in another life, and spent a year in another VW van driving from San Francisco to Costa Rica and back. In spite of that experience, she invited me to join the two of them in Sweden. It didn't bankrupt me, in spite of a valiant effort, because Kris put me up in her apartment and we only had a few splurges, which I secretly enjoyed. Don't tell them. 

I'm breaking up the photos into two newsletters, since there were so many I'd like to share. I'll send another newsletter in a few days. Stories, some true, are with the photos below...

Love to YOU,

This is just a day or so before I met up with the girls, and the weather was unpredictable. It makes a huge difference for photography when the sun is out - especially here where the low Sweden's low sun makes for beautiful light.
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This was taken at a lakeside "bathklubb" - not sure I've got the spelling right. It's surprisingly warm in Sweden, but fall was in the air, and no one was swimming in September.
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This is the famous copper mine in Falun, which had mining operations for an amazing 1,000 years. It only closed in 1992. It wasn't a giant pit mine until a massive collapse in 1687 left a huge crater. The traditional red color on Swedish cottages is still referred to as "Falu Red," with origins from a by-product of the mining here. The mine also fueled much of Sweden's military might and revenues for centuries.
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Lost normally in the "strategically important" and "military might" conversation is that mine workers included 10 year-olds who sorted the crushed rock and 8 year-olds who sorted the debris. This was the typical entry point to be a full-fledged miner working in the mine shafts.
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A church tower at sunset.
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This is my old friend Lotta, who I met in India 10 years ago, where I've seen her on multiple trips, as well as on yatras in France. (My nickname for her is "One Whole Lotta Love." But that's kind of long, so sometimes I shorten it to "Lotta.") Anyway - she lives a 5-minute walk from where Kris lives, in this cottage that dates back to 1750.
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Lotta's beautiful daughter Alice, which explains why I haven't seen Lotta for a while. Alice turned three the day after this photo was taken.
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Stockholm's skyline on a beautiful clear day.
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Whitney and Kris on our first walk around town, with Kris's dog Casey.
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The ship below, the "Vasa" had a spectacular and short life. It sunk 30 minutes after it's first launch, in 1628, and was so massive it couldn't be raised. It rested in the mud and fresh water for 350 years before it was finally relocated, brought to the surface in 1961 and renovated. It's incredible to see. It's 69 meters, or 226 feet long. Fascinating details here:
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This is a model of the ship, showing the original colors and detailed carvings.
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There were around 1,000 carvings on the ship, many of which were salvaged.
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This is the rear end of the ship. That's the nautical term, I believe. Or is it ass-end? I forget.
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Imagine the resources that went into this monstrosity, only to have it sink almost immediately. It was intended for the ongoing war with Poland.
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Some of the carvings on the bow were all of the Greek emperors. (I think the King might have been a bit of a dick.)
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I asked if I could take his photo, cuz that knife looks sharp.
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Whitney tells me that there is a ton of design happening in Stockholm. She has to tell me, since I wouldn't know it if I saw it. I like the colors of this window display.
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These look to be old restored cottages, like the one Lotta lives in. The government owns Lotta's and rents it out.
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We stayed at this hotel for a night, and watched the sun set on one side while the full moon rise from the other.
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This is the renovated farmhouse hotel, with the restaurant fully lit.
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It's a three-hour ferry ride to the island of Gotland, which is halfway between mainland Sweden and Latvia. We're arriving here in the old walled town of Visby.
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There were 14 churches in and near Visby, for some reason. Somebody had too much money in my opinion. Some of the churches were just blocks from each other.
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This is inside the ruins of another church on Visby.
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The profile of yet another Visby church at sundown.
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This is part of the wall, which still encircles the old town. This gate dates back to 1280 or something.
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The main square in old town Visby, taken from the steps of the restaurant where we ate.
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Gotland's most famous residents: sheep. They do have a beautiful curly coat, which I only managed to see up close on the skins for sale in shops.
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I'm fascinated, some would say obsessed, by rock walls. I don't believe I've ever seen this style of layering single round stones between flat stones.
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We had a couple of great drives on Gotland in my van. It's a rugged coastline, and there was a howling wind.
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This looked to be an old military installation.
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This is a "boat-shaped grave" that dates back to the Late Bronze Age, 1100 to 400 BC. Wow. The dead were cremated and put in an urn, and buried either in or near the boat-shaped grave. There are 350 of these graves they've found on Gotland, ranging from 6 meters to 46 meters in length. This one is 29 meters, about 95 feet..
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Cormorants, I think. Whitney told me more than once, but you have to care to remember things, I've noticed.
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Portable party sauna? It was in a relatively remote part of the coast, but had a phone number to call and reserve it.
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I love dramatic black clouds behind a sunlit foreground.
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Old town Visby.
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Next newsletter, soon, back to Stockholm, and on towards England...

(The End)