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)