Midsummer's Eve 2019

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Looking a little worse for wear the day after, but hey. Still beautiful!

Having been brainwashed by the traditional Midsummer celebrations in Dalarna during my upbringing, this year I kind of missed all that jazz. The decoration of the Maypole, the dancing, the schnappsing (I didn't do this in my youth, just to make it clear), the cabin hanging and the BBQing and most importantly, the new potatoes! The classic Swedish Midsummer celebrations are not quite as unsettling as that new horror movie Midsommar wants to make it out, as the biggest threats to one's person are flying blood-sucking terrors by the hundreds and getting rogue pieces of wood tossed at you by sloshed participants in the classic game of "kubb". Oh, and the Chinese water torture that in this country goes by the epithet "rain" that most Midsummer Eve's have to withstand.

After a short session of getting my plans enabled by my dear partner in crime and household, I invited all the peeps. In the end, around 25 people came and celebrated with us. And, as usual, I ran around doing stuff and trying to be a hostess and then suddenly, the day had turned into night and the last guests left in a taxi. Someday, I'm gonna learn how to plan better so I can hang out more with my friends when having heaps of them over. Someday...

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Kubb, the epitome of “use what we’ve got”, aka throw pieces of wood at other pieces of wood.

But the weather was beautiful and sunny for once, and just windy enough to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. We ate, schnappsed, laughed, talked, threw sticks at each other, played traditional Swedish music. We decorated a wonderful Maypole with scraps from our yard, heaps of daisies and pieces from a thuja we're taking down when we find the energy. You take what you have, ya know? It was a lovely way to celebrate and at least three people have already said “Next year…” as if we’ve started a new tradition. Well, I don’t mind!

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The plundering of the daisy field in our backyard didn’t even cause a dent in it.

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“Pfff, see if we care!”

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Done! Beautiful!

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The inauguration of the pole by “troll dancing” and stomping around. Yeah, I don’t know either, but it was great!

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The thoughtful club

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Mingles

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Ponderings and the obvious signs of a party having taken place. Also, a heap of old wood and trash that we have to cart away to the recycling yard. It’s in half of the pictures. #neverforgetthemess

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The Norwegian folk museum

You know what? I am, for once, choosing to refrain from being long-winded. I just don’t really have any words that can compete with the … yeah. The Norwegian Folk Museum speaks for itself, even though I could write pages and pages about how wonderful it is. Because it is. Visit it, and stare at a thousand years of Norwegian culture, collected and curated to show the finest that people have made throughout the years.

We spent five hours just walking around looking at the stave church, the old houses (one from the 12th century!), art and curious things from everyday life. Now, let's get into things so beautiful, it makes me want to cry.

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Gol stave church, Norway

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Gol stave church crowns a hill on Bygdöy just outside of Oslo, Norway. It was moved into the area that is the Norwegian Folke Museum in 1881, from its original location at Gol, Hallingdal in Norway. The locals in Gol wanted a new, fresher and fancier church and so they built a new one and gave their old one away. I'm... not gonna judge.

Ahem.

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The building has undergone renovations and reconstructions during the years that have passed, but the oldest timbers in the church are dendrochronologically dated to the ample years of 1157 and 1214-1215 and it is believed that the church was built around time due to stylistic conformity. When the church was reassembled at Bydgöy, they looked over the parts and tried to restore it to what they believed was the original 13th-century style.

The paintings in the chancel are originals from 1652 and some other parts have been restored after examples from other stave churches, like Borgund and Hopperstad stave churches.

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I don't know about you, but I love these things. There are 28 stave churches left in Norway and I want to see them all. Every one of them. I've always wanted to visit Norway to cruise around and stare stupidly at nature and old things, and now I've gotten at least a little taste of what our neighbouring country has to offer.

The ambiance in the room when all the other tourists cleared out was stunning. The light seeping in through the narrow doors, accenting the warmth in the wooden interior with its elaborate carvings. The solid walls silencing the outside sound of people moving about. Your gaze is drawn along the pillars and upwards, to find new details and decorations as you let yourself be swept away in their intricacy.

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Enormous power statements like cathedrals and churches, stretching vaults set in stone, golden chandeliers towering above you as you walk silently along the aisles yields a special feeling, but lingering in this space is resonating much more with me.

The worn floor has been trampled by tourists for 140 years, but you can still feel the everyday Christian visitor from eras long lost. Almost nine hundred years ago they built this very church, in a time that blends together with the Viking age, in a time that was so very different from the world we live in today.

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Elder @ Slaktkyrkan, or a 107 minute long mind journey

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When Elder played in Stockholm a little over a year ago, I was somewhere in the country, pouting. The memory flees me, but most likely I attended school some 500 kilometers north of where I live, and 700 kilometers north of where the gig took place. I mean, I’m up for train-related challenges sometimes but the logistics of the whole affair made it far more difficult, if not impossible, to fuse the gig and the mandatory lectures into a successful scheme that would have been worth the money and effort spent. I missed out that time.

So when they announced they were returning to the exact same place (a place often used for alternative music aptly called ”The Slaughter Church”) a year later, I was all over that feeding hand like a hungry, angry chihuahua with no boundaries. Dork, the biggest lover of Elder that I keep in close quarters, and I searched for other participants but failed to find any. We booked two tickets for ourselves and that was that.

When the fair Wednesday came along, Dork picked me up. Both of us tired, beat and sort of not really regretting our decision but already imagining the suffering that would ensue the day after the gig, we set out for Stockholm. When one reaches the sweet age of 30+, one's old-time crazy schedules of doing whatever one wants to do in spite of having to get up early the next day has been exchanged for a softer, more pliable lifestyle that adjusts to how much, or little, energy one has. This said, planning for months to come home at 1.30 AM on a Wednesday night before starting work at 8 AM the next day, is a high baller shot collar-sort of situation. It all lends to the whole ordeal to only take place when it’s absolutely, definitely, assuredly, worth it.

And Elder is absolutely, definitely, assuredly, worth it.

The hipsters though?

Sitting through and low-key enjoying the supporting acts Dun Ringill and Vokonis, something had been nestling itself into my brain. I looked around. Suddenly I saw it so clearly that I didn’t understand how I could have missed it the previous hours. The audience consisted of hipsters. All kinds of them. Being a metalhead, I mostly attend gigs that have a large gathering of black-clothed, Converse-sporting merch-wearing and sometimes patched-vest-adorned dudes with a tendency to use the devil’s horns too often. This time, it was different. Dudes wearing backpacks, folded-up chinos, white T-shirts with vivid print and hats loitered and sipped on beers, pulling their noisily patterned socks up so they would show above the lining of their shoes. I nudged Dork.

”Aren’t there a LOT of hipsters here?”

"I’ve thought about that too.”

Then it hit me.

”… Are metalheads morphing into hipsters as they grow older??”

Dork looked at me.

”Maybe!”

We silently watched the hipsters mingle around under the high, white vaults. Their straw hats lit from above by the skylight, their fashionable wooden wristwatches sparkling as the red stage lights swooped past the crowd. I couldn’t make light of all this because it was almost time for Elder to walk on stage, but I am not done with my inquiries. It’s a mystery for another time.

Sidenote

Before the gig started, I had to use the bathroom. I ended up in line behind a couple, closely resembling the two founding, and only, members of the Gender Equality Society in New Girl, aka a dorky Jessica Day and a dorky dude, both being a lot closer to prom night age than my own crypt keeper stance in life. Also hipsters. I don’t want to judge characters based off of appearances, but I wasn’t surprised later on when they didn’t last the entire gig and retreated to a sitting-really-close-to-each-other-holding-hands-position in the back of the room instead. Ah, young love. At least they didn’t make out right in front of me the entire show like that equally young couple did on the Nightwish gig on Metaltown 2008. #canneverforgetthesoundsofslobberingteens

Another high point apart from the performance of the band that I clearly digress from, was the bouncy dude holding a pint, happily skipping nearer the stage through the crowd while expertly avoiding bumping into anyone like the ex-leper in Life of Brian.

On to the frickin’ point

The band got on stage and after a short hello, we were lulled into their psychedelic stoner rock with progressive tendencies. Accompanied by a colourful, psychedelic pulsing background screening that fit the songs perfectly, I, sober, experienced the closest I’ve been to a drug-induced cartoon montage of how it feels to lift off of the ground and be carried into an alternate realm with random stuff like cans of beans or grandma flying past. The mood and lowered speed of their music really resonates with me and creates a calming, healing atmosphere for this always cluttered brain to rest in, guitars luring me to follow their every whim*. With the bright lights, the not so crowded room we were in (meaning no one’s bumping into me) and the music created a 107 minute long therapy session with time flying right by like it was that hint of sunshine on an otherwise rainy day. I got to hear two of my favourite songs from their second last album, the masterpiece called Reflections of a Floating World. I broke out of my spell a little just to sing along to Sanctuary, silently wording ”station wagon” to myself because it's funnier and it sort of sounds like that’s what he’s saying.

Nearing midnight after the gig and the mandatory encore, we strolled out into the comfortable May evening after Dork got some merch and their new record on vinyl, and got in the car for the almost two-hour long drive home.

*I’m not a music reviewer, can you tell?

Cue a scrappy clip that does the band no justice

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Visiting Norwegian Viking ships

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It was a Wednesday morning at the beginning of May, in God's year 2019. Excitement, though a little dampened by tiredness, was in the air as I scrambled to get my shit together, packing, cleaning the kitchen, watering plants and doing all that jazz that you have to see to before going away. At least this time it felt less crucial because we had a housesitter (the jungle demands attention!) meaning we didn't need to worry about forgetting to take out the trash and having to come home to the lovely smell of regret and old rotting vegetables accompanied by a cheerful fleet of fruit flies.

Because I'm a homebody, I felt the usual tinge of not wanting to go abroad for three days, just like I do every time I'm going away. Living the high life, heyo! I know it's silly, especially this time. We weren't just going away, we were going to a very special destination - my first time to visit Oslo, Norway.

And do you know what Oslo has? Viking effing ships!

For years, first as a wee archaeology student that decided that the actual work of an archaeologist isn't really for me (luckily enough perhaps, having to quit that profession some years later because of chronic pain would have killed me) and now as a hobby-old-things-lover, my longest running point on my bucket list has been to see the ships in person.

After driving for seven hours, we arrived in Oslo. We walked and looked around for a few hours before passing out in our hotel room at an unreasonably early hour. We had better be prepared for the coming day of me crying in public because the Oseberg and Gokstad ships, and their accompanying finds, are so so beautiful.

I'll collect my impressions about the trip itself in another post because this one is dedicated to the wonders of Viking age carpentry and archaeological finds. I'm no historian, so I'll leave a couple of links at the end if you want to do some more reading about the wonderful ships and the Viking age burial customs. What I can do though, is post a bunch of pictures to highlight the wonder that is Vikingskipshuset (not to be confused with the Viking Ship Museum, yeah, because Denmark has Viking ships too).

The two more well-preserved ships were made and buried in the 9th century AD, and was unearthed again around the turn of the century 1800-1900. Made of oak and pine, they're lovingly crafted and decorated along with the other finds in the ship burials, ranging from the simple and functional, to the exquisitely elaborate. On the Oseberg ship, two women were buried, and on the Gokstad ship, a man was laid down for his final rest and journey into the afterlife. Joining the individuals were everything they could need on the other side. Fine fabrics, furniture, sleds, carts, horses, food, weapons, religious artfacts, and decorations.

A third ship is presented under the white arches, the Tune ship. This was made, used and buried a little later, during the 10th century AD. Because the material in it's huge burial mound, spanning 80 meters in diameter, had been transported away, it was in worse condition than the other two. It was also excavated early on before the techniques of preservation had been fully understood, and it took a toll on the remains that were either destroyed or damaged. A man was buried in the ship, together with weapons and three horses. The ship itself had been in use for ten or so years when it was buried, a light vehicle for swift travels. This ship was laid in darkness when we visited and made out the background for a movie screening. All ships were covered with burial mounds, and have been plundered of their most valuable possessions during antiquity.

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The Gokstad ship with its impressive profile.

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The Oseberg ship.

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Too badly damaged or lost parts have been replaced with replicas, coming together with the original decorations to make up this impressive piece of artistic engineering.

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Elaborate decorations from bow to stern.

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The processional cart that was found on the Oseberg ship. It’s not possible to steer, hinting at a religious or ceremonial function.

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Detail from the cart.

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The gripping beasts, so characteristic for the style that it’s named after the location where the ship was found; the Oseberg style.

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A decoration in the shape of an animal, with it’s ship in the background.

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The “Buddah bucket”

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Along with cooking utensils and pots came a huge trough filled with a wheat based dough, ready for making food in the afterlife.

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If you’ve ever thought about going to see the ships and its friends, I highly recommend it! Especially along with it’s neighbour, the Norwegian Folk Museum. I’ll tell you about that one soon!

Gokstadsskeppet - Wikipedia Swe
The Gokstad Ship - Wikipedia Eng
Osebergsskeppet - Wikipedia Swe
The Oseberg Ship - Wikipedia Eng
Tuneskeppet - Wikipedia Swe
The Tune Ship - Wikipedia Eng
Vikingskipshuset

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Gefle Metal Festival 2018

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Rolling out of bed Thursday morning, I wasn’t at all prepared for the summer that would ensue. Sure, it’s been summer in Sweden for like twelve weeks by now, which isn’t normal I might add, but when you enter an old gasometer for a music gig that revolves mainly around hell on earth, the sensation of actually BEING in hell was at least setting the mood.

When stepping through the entrance to the gasometer, it was like being covered by a blanket of a moist, dense condensation of human flesh and sunsweaty skin, with subtle hints of beer, camping and electronic equipment ready to malfunction at any second in the pressing heat.

The emergency exits stood open at all times, if anyone inside would decide that enough is enough and throw themselves out through the door to meet a slightly different kind of heat, with less hints of skin and more hints of dead grass, melting pavement and old mud tiles slowly wishing they could seize to exist in the setting sun. Fortunately, two stages were outside and merely one in the depths of hell inside.

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Don't let the clouds excite you. They released two drops of rain the entire weekend.

A few days before the festival started, we concluded that the amounts of alcohol consumed would go through the roof with the promised perfect hanging outdoors-weather and that it would turn into one so called Off Our Faces Metal Festival, metal optional if you manage to actually locate the stage where your favourite band plays. But! Instead, I experienced a pretty sober festival, with my theory being that the frying sun took the edge off the usual metalhead stamina, seeing as there was no actual place to hang out in the shade.

I mean, metalheads ARE my peeps, my peoples, but hell, they’re drunk on outings. Very drunk. And I would lie to you guys if I denied waking up Friday morning after the pre-party, experiencing a roller coaster when turning sides in my bed after a night heavily laden with tequila, beer, cider and hey, why not a little vodka to go with that? In my defense, I had only slept two hours the night between Wednesday and Thursday and instead of a nap on Thursday I got dragged out to the fringe parts of town and forced into a stream. Well, by forced I mean “I’m dying from heat exposure and that brown piece of water looks good to me even though it’s upriver from a beach that is too dirty to swim at”.

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Ahem.

Anyways, on Thursday night this year, there was a warm up with the promised last gig of a cult classic band for my generation of metal- and non-metal fans, The Kristet Utseende. Their music is pretty much about genitals and a little bit about religion, drugs, alcohol and other racy subjects in a punk fashion. Yeah, I don’t get it either but whatever.

Then on Friday and Saturday the real festival commenced, lining up band after band of the metal persuasion. This year, I only had three bands I wanted to actually see, and then a couple of others that I could enjoy at a distance while feeding on onion rings or rolling around on the only little patch of dying grass that exists on the area of the festival.

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I'm always in for a piece of At the Gates, one of the best bands out there! The thumping bass triggered my hangover though, so half the gig I watched from a distance. Hrm...

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Angry Finns, yes! 

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And then of course my peeps in Apocalypse Orchestra with their doomy doomyness and flagellant and everything (not in view)! 

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All in all, it was a lovely festival with lots of people, new and old friends and acquaintances, lots of beer, lots of hangovers (2½ in three days) and lots of loud music and an unflinching torment from the ball of fire in the sky. It was really nice, is what I am trying to say! A couple of years ago it rained so much that I couldn’t even take out my phone to take a commemorative picture of the bands playing, fearing it would drown and die, so I prefer this kind of weather if I have to choose..

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After this entire post about the festival itself being only about weather, I should add that I do realize that there are a lot of places in the world that easily outheat themselves in comparison to Sweden, but sporting temperatures of around 31C/almost 90F for weeks isn’t normal. Us pleb citizens have no means to shelter ourselves at home with fancy stuff like AC. I mean, Swedes spend like 10½ months of every year trying our best to keep the damn heat IN, not OUT. And in my defense, even the tattooer visiting my boss, a native to India, questioned what the fuck is going on with the temperatures here. “I mean, I’m used to it but this doesn’t feel like 31 degrees at all! At least 35-36!”.

Gefle Metal Festival 2018, I almost can’t believe it’s already passed.

My sister's wedding

Last week, I made my ten hour way south to participate in my sister's wedding. They finally decided to get it done after twelve years together. It was an intense weekend and I brought one of my best friends for my plus one because I have a complicated love life, haha. The weather was lovely (you never know with the Swedish summer) and it was such a loving atmosphere. 

The ceremony took place in a castle ruin out in a lake, and then the festivities took place in my sister's and her now husband's garden, complete with a bar and personnel, and a very popular man professionally handling the BBQ. The polaroid camera was sent around and everyone wrote their well-wishes, speeches were held and food was happily eaten. All in all, a very nice experience!

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Before the wedding we went sightseeing a little and crashed another wedding. Maybe you can't see it, but all the men in suits were staring at us when I took the picture.

Kronoberg's castle was the site for the wedding. Having been used and built on since at least the 14th century, it has been in ruin since the 17th century. And of course, like all old places in the southern half of Sweden, the Danish torched it at one time. 

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The guests arrived, with the lovely little café in the background. 

Food and drink! 

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Mingling in the setting sun.

We've always teased my sisters spouse because he's obsessive with the lawn, but dang, it's the most perfect patch of grass I've ever seen! 

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Outdoors dancefloor with lights and a DJ! 

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On the way home we stopped for a bit of air at another ruin, Brahehus, a 17th century dwelling wonderfully placed upon the cliff side, overlooking the lake Vättern. I dropped my phone and got my first dents ever in a mobile screen, but I guess it's fine because it was ON the ruin. If I'm gonna drop my phone on anything, it's a ruin, right? 

All this makes me want to move south because I just love this part of Sweden. 

Midsummer of 2018

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So, I can with great joy proclaim my survival of Midsummer’s Eve in God’s year 2018!

I mean, one guy did almost die but that’s expected when shoving 16 people together in a house in the countryside, having brought twice as many bottles of schnapps than there are people. The weather was as usual too, aka surprisingly cold considering the days before and after Midsummer’s, as if just planning to dance around the pole manages to invoke the rain gods, leaving all the little frog hoppers jump through the drizzle in order to make their children happy with its traditional midsummeryness.

It was a joyful experience, banqueting on great food and schnapps, mingling and talking to old and new acquaintances about everything from the simple things to bigger questions in life well into the night.

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The darkest that the early summer night gets in the center-ish of Sweden. Magic every year.

I’m so grateful to have made a bunch of new friends these last few years since I moved home, it’s such a silver lining in addition to all the things I have to be happy about.

The magic of Midsummer's Eve

This coming Friday, it is Midsummer’s Eve. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept of a Swedish Midsummer’s Eve, I can tell you that it’s the national day for getting eaten alive by mosquitos, “involuntarily” drinking schnapps flavored with elderflowers (even though our fathers does not smell of the berries), BBQing whatever we can get our hands on from the trashed half empty shelves of anything BBQable in the stores and being outside in dresses and shorts even though it’s just a few degrees above freezing come sunset.

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Imagine a country full of self-controlled people that lives in the darkness and cold of the north for eight months every year. Then imagine there being quite a lot of the heathen ways left, in spite of Christianity’s tries to subdue them. Most of our holidays are Christian (somewhat) in origin and we, as a pure and godly collection of folks, of course use the days off of work to get pissed in public. But Midsummer’s is a little bit different.

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Firstly, it’s our only holiday of any weight during the summer months. So not only do we get off of our faces in public, we also get to accept our heathen spirits that still roam these lands and give ourselves the opportunity to flee out into the countryside and have sex outside because it’s tradition to do so (some people are denying this, I don’t know why?). All the while freezing to death and being eaten alive by mosquitos, of course. That act of survival is a vital ingredient in any early-to-late night outdoor activity in Sweden. Why one should have sex outside on the night that the sun nearly doesn’t set at all and gives you the absolute minimum of darkness to protect your privacy I don’t know, but hey, it’s tradition after all!

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As dark as the night gets. It's kind of magic really.

As you can tell, it’s obviously the finest holiday of them all and of course, everything I’m telling you is true (except for the sex part, but one can wish, right!). Also, everything you've heard about people jumping around a pole like little frogs are true. Only parents though, and their kids. The rest of us stands around in the background, happy that we don't have to.

Now, I don’t have a set tradition apart from the aforementioned BBQ and schnapps, I just jump on whatever location being offered that the drinking and BBQing (how about some halloumi rolled in chili flakes, ugh so good!) can take place with nice folks. This year I’m shipping myself off to a country side dwelling about an hour away from town with a bunch of people ranging from friends to strangers, to eat and drink a lot during 26 hours.

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What could possibly go wrong?

A little trip to Dalarna

Home again; I’m sitting by the computer in my little apartment. I’ve just returned from a six day trip with my two best friends. We got the chance to rent a cabin in the lovely Dalarna, close by where we as teens had a cabin through an association at school. Packing a week’s stuff worth of stuff, we ventured inlands to the hills and valleys and the accompanying wonderful views. It’s all been calm and quiet, and so, so great. We’ve talked about life, gone thrift shopping, cozied up in front of the fire, gone to a knife outlet (Mora, hähä) stared at the wonderful nature, laughed, cooked, watched Brits compete in baking and interior design and gone to bed early.

Not at all like when we used to visit this place when we were in high school, that is. Back then it was more like anything microwaveable, using the floor as a refrigerator for our beer because it was so cold, collecting water in the public water/toilet house because there was no running water in the cabin and having a hot cup of coffee on the front porch with its glorious views, trying to fight off the hangovers.

Fifteen years later it was lovely to get to see the same views again, with my two best ones in life. It all has meant and does mean so much to me; having the history and that we’ve gotten the opportunity to do these kinds of things together. Invaluable.

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How it looked during our time. My love.

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The cottage has changed a lot, and I'm guessing that there's not much left of the original. But everything changes. 

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Dalarna is one of Sweden's most beautiful regions, that's for sure.

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It's like time froze 120 years ago, and I LOVE IT.

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Eheh.. Funny.

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Storstupet, "The big fall". A little canyon with it's train bridge built in 1902 and a logger's chute in order for the logs to get down stream unharmed.. Not far from here is a place called Helvetesfallen, "The Hell Falls", that is wonderful also, but walking through 2 kilometers of knee deep snow didn't really tickle our fancy, so we missed out on that one. Next time! 

It's been truly lovely, and I'm ever so greatful to have these people and memories in my life. I'm one lucky gal, after all.