Tag Archives: November 2011

When ABBA Came to Town

40 years ago today, September 13, 1979, I saw Abba perform in Edmonton – the first stop in what would turn out to be their one and only concert tour of North America.  

I still remember lining up on the escalator at Woodwards in downtown Edmonton, waiting for the ticket office on the 2nd floor to open. I bought two tickets, one for me and the other for my friend Robbin, who was the person who bought me my first ABBA album, ABBA’s Greatest Hits, in 1976 when I was 12.

The tickets sold out in three hours.

Looking back, it seemed like a premature move on the band’s part to put out a greatest hits compilation when they had only been together for four years at that point, but the album was a success, breaking the Canadian music charts top 10 for the first time with Fernando. I wore that album out, which is something that doesn’t happen anymore. Digital downloads don’t show their wear, but pressed in every skip, hiss and pop of that vinyl album is my teenage self. The gate-fold image of the two couples, Benny and Anni-Frid (or Frida) on one side, Agnetha and Björn on the other, is still one of my favourite album covers of all time.

My gateway drug

I’m also pretty sure (but not 100% sure) I saw Björn in the wild, in jogging gear, near what was then the Four Seasons Hotel (now Sutton Place). The band was in Edmonton for several days prior to the concert, so it’s possible. We made eye contact, but I did not say anything. He understood.

Graham Hicks, a music reporter for the Edmonton Journal, wrote several articles before and after the concert.  

“The tour was supposed to start in Vancouver, but Dave Horodezky of Brimstone Productions, the Edmonton promoters, got on the blower to Sweden,” said Hicks in a column dated September 11, 1979, two days before the concert. “He had a good case to make. Collectively, Alberta is a big, big fan of ABBA. Its Greatest Hits album sold more than 100,000 copies in the province. Edmonton also had the Coliseum for ABBA to play in – considered to be one of the best arenas in North America [now decommissioned] for rock concert staging. And the hall was available two days ahead of time, for rehearsals.”

Ola Brunkert, the band’s drummer, said to Hicks: “We’re excited. It’s our first tour in two years. I’m not nervous now, too tired, but wait until Thursday!”

To be honest, I don’t recall much from the concert. My memories are images rather than sound. The icy blues, the sparkles. The anatomically correct satin pantsuits of Benny and Björn. I also distinctly remember Frida donning a Gretzky hockey jersey, marking the first time his name, and the Edmonton Oilers, came into my consciousness.

Graham Hicks joined 120 other international journalists at the post-concert media scrum. “Everything went smoothly,” said Björn Ulvaeus, no longer sporting his satin pantsuit. “We didn’t have too much self-confidence after not playing live for 2 1/2 years, so it was an incredible relief when it worked. If the rest of the audiences are as good as Edmonton, this tour will be great.”

Well, I did my part.

It was not always cool to love ABBA. Some may argue, it still isn’t, but back in the 1970s long before the Mamma Mia revival, it was not cool to love ABBA. Or maybe I’m conflating my own lack of coolness with the musicians that I loved, and the clothes that I wore, and uh, the things that I said. My love of Abba did not endear me to any clique. Not then, not now.  

The first time I saw Erasure’s video for their cover of Take a Chance on Me, I thought they were parodying ABBA – until I saw the original video. It was not parody – it was full on (loving) replication, in drag. ABBA’s music videos are most memorable for their fabulous 70s era clothes, which to this day still have the power to startle. Almost all of their videos, and ABBA: The Movie, were directed by famed Swedish director Lasse Hallström, who would go on to direct My Life as Dog, the Academy Award nominated Chocolat, and one of my favourite films, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

Erasure’s version of Take a Chance on Me

The glorious music of Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida imprinted on my developing brain at such an early age, it forever restructured it to be a receptacle for all things sweet, colourful and preferably, Swedish. I knew their lyrics were far from poetic, and sometimes silly, but I memorized them anyway and found solace and joy in the stories they told. Their melodies and in particular, their voices, were uplifting and for someone who couldn’t carry a tune, easy singalongs. I strongly identified with Frida, a fellow redhead, and learned to differentiate her edgier sound from Agnetha’s mournful voice – admittedly a soft skill, but a skill nonetheless.

People often associate ABBA with disco, but out of their seven original albums (along with the single Dancing Queen from their earlier album Arrival), they only put out one identifiable disco collection, Voulez Vous, in 1979 and half the songs on that album were not disco at all. I can’t envision John Travolta bumping and grinding to Chiquitita. In fact, many of ABBA’s pop songs are quite melancholic, especially on the last two albums, Super Trouper and The Visitors. As Benny and Björn’s command of the English language developed and the personal lives of the group got messier, songs like Honey, Honey gave way to The Winner Takes It All as real life loss began to creep inexorably into their lyrics (and voices). Nevertheless, ABBA remains melodic escapism at its absolute best.   

In 2011, I travelled to Sweden to visit my sister and brother-in-law who were living in Gothenburg on a year-long sabbatical. It would be two years before ABBA: The Museum, would open in Stockholm, but I still found the country absolutely beautiful (and their kanelbulles tasty). Visiting Gamla Stan in Stockholm with its soaring architecture was particularly resonate. A poster of the group standing in front of the iconic Gamla Stan buildings was on my wall for many years. I hope I get to make a Holy Pilgrimage to the museum one day, and eat more kanelbulles with pärlsocker.

Gamla Stan in 2011, not a Björn in sight…
ABBA in Gamla Stan

Love and work collided in 2016, when – in my role as a writer for the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts – I thoughtfully assigned myself the job of profiling a new course offered by the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies called Mamma Mia: Queer I Go Again! taught by Swedish scholar (and ABBA fan) John Eason.

Up to that point, I hadn’t realized how deeply embedded ABBA was in the LGBTQ community. It was a dream assignment, and although it ended up being a shorter article than I had hoped, the meeting with John was long, elaborate and delicious. It was the first conversation I’d ever had with a true ABBA fan, or at least one who knew a lot more than I did. I wanted to be his friend.  

“A lot of it goes back to sentimental music and singers who display fewer stereotypically masculine qualities or inhibitions about accepting emotion,” he said at the time. “For sexual minorities, ABBA and pop culture in general is more important, because many other minorities are born into a support system, whereas we’re not. It’s a survival instinct to want to escape from your problems. Whether you’re getting bullied or pushed around, whether your parents are homophobic, pop music has a particularly important role for sexual minorities.”

Although I can’t claim to be part of a sexual minority, I certainly felt like a club of one often enough to know how powerful it is to find validation and escape in music.    

Two years later, seeing Mamma Mia at the Citadel in 2018 with my bestie Barb was one of the most wonderful ABBA-adjacent experiences of my life. I had avoided the movie, not for any philosophical reason per se, other than I didn’t think of myself as a second-wave ABBA fan. I couldn’t claim nostalgia for the music of my youth because ABBA had never left my fictive turntable. Now, it was the music of my middle-age, and boy, did we middle-agers have fun that night! I finally watched the movie a few weeks after seeing the musical but it just didn’t capture the joy of the live production, or the music.

ABBA has always been in my life, and always will be. I say that now proudly and unapologetically. In fact, I suspect I will be singing Gimme, Gimme, Gimme (a urinary incontinence pad) at the old folk’s home.

And I still won’t be cool.

Notes on ABBA:

Favourite Album: Super Trouper. Honourable mention: The Visitors

Top ten favourite songs (in no particular order):

  • Lay All Your Love On Me
  • The Day Before You Came
  • Move On
  • Fernando (including Spanish and Swedish versions)
  • Arrival
  • The Piper
  • The Visitors
  • Cassandra
  • The Winner Takes It All
  • Waterloo

Favourite covers: Erasure’s Abba-esque, Madonna’s Hung Up and Mike Oldfield’s Arrival

Favourite movie featuring Abba’s music: Miriam’s Wedding, with honorable mention to The Martian (and its heart-pounding Waterloo) and the Swedish film Together

Read my posts from Sweden (and Norway) here

Finally, ABBA…thank YOU for the music!

And yes…I realize this is in my walking blog, but I had no where else to place it, and purchasing the ticket AND getting to my seat at the concert did, in fact, involve walking.

Screaming in Oslo

Vigeland sculpture park in Oslo

Well, that one’s off my list. I’ve always wanted to visit Norway. As a connoisseur of Expressionism, one must pay homage to the painter who brought the angst to the canvas-Edvard Munch. This is a man who has had a lot of influence in my painterly life, and in some ways, my writerly one as well. I’m working on a short story about the theft of The Scream and when I workshopped it, the main criticism was locational. Now that I’ve been to the Munch Museum, which by the way DID NOT have The Scream, or any other finished Munch paintings, I have no excuse for sloppy setting details. More Munch later…

A screaming torte

We took the four hour bus ride to Oslo on Wednesday morning. Pretty awesome bus, by the way. Nicer than the train. When we arrived, we exited the station in the wrong direction. Cranes and what appeared to be an interchange under construction. Walked half way over a really cool bridge, and then turned back, and I have to say, my first impression of Oslo was not good. The station appeared to be located in a slum. Lots of graffiti, run-down, boarded up buildings, and very few people, which is extremely unusual for the Scandinavian cities I’ve visited thus far. Of those who were out and about, most were young men, and a few women, most of whom wore veils and scarves. Food signs advertising kebabs. A mosque. This is Oslo? Felt like we had walked into a ‘situation.’ The lack of people around was quite eerie, and the grey skies and light rain didn’t help. Couldn’t check into our hotel for several hours, so we made our way through the streets to the Munch Museum. The museum is located beside a big park, and is quite modern, not like the crumbly old buildings housing most of the other art collections I’ve seen in Gothenburg and Stockholm. Tons of security. Had to take off our purses, and remove all metal objects. Once again, my leather shoes set off the machine. I was kind of surprised by all the to-do and then I remembered, oh yeah, they’ve been robbed multiple times.

Anyway, the first gallery had Munch’s sketches and preliminary paintings for the ‘Munch Laboratorium: The Path to the Aula.” This was a competition for the centennial celebration of Oslo University (Aula) in 1915, which included a festival hall with monumental decorations and paintings. They were interesting, and even in his sketches, Munch was Munch, with the curvy lines and crazed expressions. However, when we asked about another floor, or gallery, we discovered that this was essentially it, and that The Scream and many of his ‘famous’ paintings were in the National Museum, our next stop. Fine. We bought a shitload of stuff from the shop, or I did, and had a bit of cake at the cafe. The cake had The Scream on the icing. Heh.

The streets leading toward the National Gallery got a bit nicer. A few more people, but still strangely deserted. The flags on the old gallery were advertising a show of Giacometti, Hodler, and Klee. Whaaattt? Could this get any better? Huge fan of Hodler, and the other two. We saw this show first. Much to my delight, I was treated to a couple of huge canvases by Arnold Bocklin, another painter I love, and then up the marble staircase to the 19th Century.

Harald Sohlberg-Winter Night in the Mountains

As I’ve come to expect, there were many little galleries, the ubiquitous mass of school children being lectured by a tour guide, and that weird sort of anxiousness I feel in galleries like this…afraid I might miss something, and yet overwhelmed by all the beauty. Found my beloved Caspar David Friedrich in a room dedicated to the Romanticist landscapes. Just a few canvases; they seem to prefer Dahl. Harald Sohlberg’s paintings were achingly gorgeous. I was very impressed with his blues. And then Munch. A room of bloody reds, haunted faces, and predatory moons. Just like home. Unbelievable. Am I really here?

Of all the galleries and museums I’ve seen, the National Museum of Art in Oslo was my favourite. I’m such a huge fan of 19th century art, especially of the northern, Romanticist variety, and this gallery was full of things to love. There were other artists, but by the time I finished with Munch, I was almost overwhelmed, and could barely see the other paintings. Blinded by beauty, I guess.

After this, we found our hotel and chilled for an hour or two. In the evening, walking around the area, we found the people. Seems they were hiding, and the next day, the sun came out and we discovered Oslo anew. It is a beautiful city after all, with that same sort of Gamla Stan architecture, although smaller, and more subdued, like Gothenburg.

Before the bus

Took a bus to Bygdøy (pronounced Big Day) and visited the Fram Museum, the ship that sailed to both the north and south poles. Read some interesting stuff about Nansen, who is a national hero in Norway, but I confess I’ve never heard of him. We went to this museum because a friend of Sharon’s is a distant relation to Admundsen, the arctic explorer also featured in the museum. We then walked up to the Viking Ship Museum, which has two full ships and a frame of a third. Very graceful, beautiful designs, and the artifacts found with the ships were incredible, some of which I’ve seen on the covers of books about Vikings.

The last excursion of the day was to Vigeland Park, the biggest park in in the world devoted to the sculptures of one artist. Unfuckingbelievable. So gorgeous. As far as sculptures are concerned, I prefer a Giacometti over a Vigeland, but it was really something to see so many monumental sculptures of human figures in one place, often atop one another. So many naked bums, so many schlongs. Many different kinds of groupings, ages, poses, most sculpted in granite, I think. The main sculpture is an obelisk, a kind of human totem pole, or a big

Son, have you seen my pants?

orgy, depending on your perspective. It’s in the centre of the park, on a giant platform surrounded by many other groupings of humans. It would be very interesting to see these sculptures change in different light, different weather. The park itself is massive and stunning. Waterfalls, a beautiful bridge with even more sculptures, broad pathways with gardens and long groves of trees. The grass was still deeply green. Just amazing. Simply amazing. I’d love to see this park, and all of Oslo, in the summer. However, on a sunny day in late November, it was still beautiful.

on the way to central station

We were both dog-tired by this time, so we headed over to Central Station to wait for the bus. The walk down to the station was gorgeous. Lots of embassies and lovely, old mansions. Found another Christmas market in the square. Spent a few hours drinking a variety of caffeinated beverages at the station and then headed home in the dark. Must say, it gets dark early here, and in Gothenburg. I guess that’s to be expected.

When we arrived around 10:00 in the evening, it was heavily misting outside. My last big adventure in Scandinavia. This morning, we went to the market to buy some more swaddled bread, and my last Kanelbullar. Tomorrow, planes, trains and automobiles. By the way, it’s raining sideways today, and yet the Swedes still look beautiful. What the fuck?

12:46PM/8C

 


I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do…I Do

Gamla Stan, with Christmas stalls

I love Stockholm.

150 years ago…

In spite of the lack of anything Abba-related, other than a few CD’s I’d never seen, and didn’t care to add to my collection. However, we did make a point of walking through Gamla Stan, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, which is also the backdrop to an Abba poster I had on my wall for years. The central square is called Stortorget, and it is the centre of the oldest part of Stockholm, dating back to the 13th century. The buildings are unbelievable. Very tall, very colourful, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. In fact, all of Stockholm is nothing like I pictured. Not sure what I pictured, but a city on the water was not it. So many of the old buildings ring the waterway, which is full of boats and ships. Every direction is a beautiful view.

When we arrived by train on Saturday, the sun was shining, and the city was gleaming with colour. The other thing I wasn’t really prepared for is the number of Scandihoovians. Stockholm is a BIG CITY, and it was hopping, especially on the main streets and avenues. Not crazy about hordes of people, even if they are Swedes, but it was interesting to see the contrast with Gothenburg. The people in Stockholm are much more multi-cultural, in the visual sense. The Gothenburgians are homogeneously Swedish. Not entirely, of course, but there is a noticeable difference between the two cities.

One of the many decorations in downtown Stockholm

What is common to both, other than a love of skinny red jeans, is the embrace of decorative Christmas lighting. Stockholm, in particular, puts on a beautiful show. There are lights everywhere, and they are all unique and huge. Kinda makes the lights in Edmonton seem hardly worth the effort (but I’m appreciative nonetheless.) In one of the central areas, there is a display of reindeer and Christmas trees. In another, a giant snowglobe. In the windows of the Swedish mall chain NK (like Holt Renfrew), the windows have the old-timey moving Christmas displays. They’re hilarious. Fat elves, and a cross-dressing Santa are among the characters. Santa also shows up as an octopus. Awesome. There is no snow yet, and I can only imagine how beautiful it would be covered in white flakes, but for visiting purposes, I’ll take the rain.

Gothenburg, by contrast, is understated. The architecture is spectacular, but more subdued. There is something robust, and…regal, about Stockholm. And in fact, when we went to City Hall, which looks like a giant Romanesque building, the Queen was making a visit, or about to make a visit. Some sort of public apology for government policies with regard to childcare in the past, not unlike the issues plaguing Canadian residential schools. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there. Upshot, we couldn’t take a tour through City Hall, which apparently is quite nice.

An early picture book

Spent Sunday in the museums. Beautiful, gorgeous museums. Started out at the National Museum. Galleries aside, it’s an amazing, dauntingly large building, with vaulted ceilings and a grand, marble staircase. There was a 19th Century Russian Realism show, which was truly spectacular. Lots of dead cossacks lying in snow. Very political stuff. Next, The Four Seasons, by Swedish and other Scandinavian artists. Saw some of my favourite northern painters, including the magnificent Bruno Liljefors, and a brooding Prince Eugen. It’s very, very cool to see these paintings for real. Wish that my art books weren’t packed away, so that I could revisit the experience when I get home. The museum houses non-Scandinavian art as well, and we had a great time going through the different artistic movements, although there is really nothing redeeming about the Baroque era. I was particularly taken with a small portrait by Rembrandt, and some of the later Swedish Modern Design exhibits, but mostly I was there for the 19th and early 20th century Scandinavian painters. Had a coffee and the best kanelbulle, thus far, at the museum cafe, which was also very beautiful. Kanelbulle’s are ubiquitous in Sweden. They are a kind of cinnamon bun with pearl sugar and cardamom. I may have mentioned them already. Can’t help myself, I’ve had one almost everyday I’ve been here. Good thing we’re walking everywhere.

Next stop, the National History Museum. Vikings, and plenty of them. Unbelievable and incredibly vast collection of early Scandinavian and Viking artifacts. So gorgeous. Such impossibly intricate work. Love the runes. Love the giant, carved stones. There is even a gold room, with huge quantities of gold jewelry. I can’t imagine that there are any artifacts left in Scandinavia for other museums. The last exhibit was a History of Sweden, a feat of organization and design. I’m crazy for that early Medieval stuff, with the freakily elongated fingers and faces of the religious figures, especially when carved in wood, and the Venerable Bede/Bayeux Tapestry typeface (I know what I mean, even if others don’t) that shows up during this era. Once we reached the 20th century, I expected some sort of reference to Abba and I wasn’t disappointed, but one album cover hardly touches their significance. Viking Schmiking.

Back in Gamla Stan, we headed over to the Nobel Museum. Vic was taught by the most recent Economics recipient and wanted to see the display, so we all ventured within the walls of higher learning. It was very fascinating. Each year, the recipients receive a hand-painted certificate, which are all unique and quite stunning. Also stunning, the entire collection of hand-made book covers for the 2010 Literature recipient, Mario Vargas Llosa. In the back of the museum, they had a show about Marie Curie, the discoverer of Radium and the first female recipient of the Nobel. Watched a movie about her a few months ago, so it was cool to see some of her actual implements on display.

Hunting for caffeine in Gamla Stan

However, in spite of the grandeur, the Nobel Museum will go down in my memory not as a fascinating celebration of the work of the greatest minds and artists of the last 110 years, but as the source of my latest, and perhaps greatest, or most public, shame. About a half hour in, I decided I had to use the washroom, or toaletten, as they say in the vernacular. I rarely use public facilities. I have no idea what combination of neuroses prevents me from eliminating outside of my own home, but suffice to say, I make the occasional exception, especially when I am about 400 cobble-stoned blocks away from ‘home.’ The only bathroom available was the disabled stall, and as one would expect, it was a very large room. I went in, locked the door, pushed on the door just to be sure, and then dropped trou. About two minutes later, a woman opened the door, wide, or wide enough to see that there was a lineup of people behind her. I was too far away from the door to slam it shut, and I had no idea how to say shut the $#@! door in Swedish. We kind of stared at each other in shock, I think, for what was probably a few seconds but what felt like two hours. As happens in times of crisis, the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief descended on me like a ton of bricks, but this time I was unable to move from the first stage: disbelief. I was stuck in THIS IS NOT HAPPENING…athenobelbmuseuminstockholm. Eventually, she shut the door, and I pulled up my jeans, but not before someone else opened the door. By this time, I was a veteran at public shows of…my underwear, and I just casually shut the door, proceeded over to the sink, washed my hands, opened the door, and walked straight through the crowd as if none of the previous five minutes had happened. I continued all the way into the gift shop, and I would have continued right through the wall if the laws of physics, which I had just read about, prevented me from doing so. I went full-bore autistic for the rest of the visit and did not make eye contact with humans again until we left the premises. Well, at least it’s a foreign city, in a foreign country. On the way back to the hotel, we passed a bathroom design store, with toilets in the windows. Sharon and Vic asked if I needed to use the washroom.

The Real Santa Claus

Public humiliation aside, our visit to Stockholm was very enjoyable. The city is incredibly impressive, and quite different from anything else I’ve seen in Europe. Nevertheless, I was happy to return to the smaller-scaled Gothenburg. For the entire time I’ve been here, I have been discombobulated. Not sure what the time is, or where I am in any given location, and the currency is a little challenging. Seeing the tower of Skansen lit up on the hill next to our apartment was a familiar, and welcome sight.

Today, Sharon and I will be doing a little souvenir shopping, and tomorrow-Oslo. Top of the list of cities I’ve always wanted to visit. Makes me want to Scream just thinking about it…

11:00AM/6c

Call me Ishmael

It's real, and it's spectacular (ly sticky)

I touched the mighty, wet whale today. In the Goteborg Naturhistorika Museum. Sharon had mentioned this earlier during one of her skype calls. On a previous visit to the museum, she had seen the Malm Whale, the only stuffed blue whale in the world…and touched it, as one would. The skin of the whale was sticky, and fragrant (not in a good way), onacounta being a 100 year old giant, stuffed tuna. It was really rather impressive. No other way to truly understand the size of a whale than to see a stuffed one, or perhaps swim with one, which I’m not about to do, as most things in the ocean disgust me. The bones of the whale are hung above the not so plush version below. Not crazy about taxidermy, but it was fascinating to see the ‘Gothenburg Leviathan.’ I touched it too (couldn’t resist) but not the slimy parts. Lots of rivets in that thing. Apparently the jaw unhinges and people can go inside on ‘special occasions’ like Christmas and, every four years, Election Day, also known as Valdagen, or Whale Day. It used to be open all the time until the turn of the last century, when a couple was caught in a ‘compromising position’ inside the whale. The ‘mouth of sin’ was closed until 1939, when it was reopened for as a fundraiser. I shit you not.

Insert whale here

The rest of the museum was kind of haphazard. Dioramas with unlikely parings of animals, including a reindeer and a camel. I had to ask my sister, “Is a camel a deer?” Nope. Not sure why they were keeping company. There were a few of those Victorian naturalist cabinets, which are always fascinating in a creepy/beautiful sort of way. Also, a two-headed baby in a jar. Full-term. Again, I shit you not. We actually doubled back so that Sharon could take a photo. “The kids will like this,” she said.

Kind of a quiet day. Ventured into an English bookstore and bought a few things. Also, yet another Swedish bookstore (there are lots) and found “Sagan Om Den Lilla Farbrorn” or the Tale of the Little Uncle. (Better than Tale of the Funny Uncle….an entirely different genre.) Very sweet. The illustrations are beautiful, no translation required.

Friday, all three of us are going to Liseberg, an amusement park that has been pimped up for Christmas. It’s a huge event, and a famous Christmas market, apparently. Can’t wait. And then Stockholm on the weekend.

4:44PM/6C (overcast today)

 

Petting sheep on the archipelago

Branno Island, where we stopped for cheese

I could talk about food again, but I won’t…

Today, we went island hopping on the southern archipelago, starting at Saltholmen. Interesting 20 minute tram ride to the port. First time seeing detached housing. Quite pretty. Many of the houses are situated on hills. The same ticket that gets you on the bus, also gets you on the tram (LRT), which gets you on the ferry. Very convenient, and cheap, and it’s a ride re-fillable card that you swipe on the bus, or tram, or ferry. No tickets. At the port, we took a ferry to Branno, one of the many islands in the area. Not crazy about boats, but we stood outside watching the waves, so that helped a bit. Saw some cormorants, geese, seagulls, and swans. Not the first swans I’ve seen. Seems an unlikely bird for these parts, but everything I know about swans I learned from children’s books, so I’m guessing I know very little. I prefer cormorants anyway.

Branno is extremely beautiful, in a rocky, quaint sort of way. Extra wet here so the grass is deep green, making the yellow, blue and red houses shimmer in the sunlight. It was a gorgeous day. No wind. We walked to one end of the island on the way to Galtero, another small island. Didn’t make it. The last part of the trail was very marshy, and I had a soaker (my left foot) so we sat on one of the many giant, flat rocks and had lunch. I said  I wouldn’t talk about food again, but at that very same bread place yesterday, we bought these circles of crispy bread. They have all kinds, and we picked one with caraway seeds. Delicious with slices of cheese. The bread has the consistency of…I don’t know…crackers, for lack of an equivalent textural experience. During lunch, we watched cargo ships in the bay. It was so quiet, we barely heard them.

After lunch, we trekked back to ‘town’ and made our way through narrow streets and still flowering gardens to a lookout point. I’ve never walked up so many hills, here and in Gothenburg. Spectacular view. Back to the port, but we miscalculated the timing, and so had an extra hour to kill. Walked to the opposite end of the island and spotted three deer scrambling on the rocks. Deer? On an island? They must be retarded. Very shallow gene pool. Found a graveyard. The oldest graves were from the late 1800’s. No Vikings, but I think they set their corpses on fire and sailed them out on the water in barges, or something like that. Not sure if this is an island or a Swedish tradition, but all the graves had beautiful pine wreathes with moss tucked in the needles at regular intervals, topped with three pine cones. Very striking. Think I’ll attempt to copy the look at Christmas. For the door.

On the way back, we came across some sheep feeding at a hay thingy. I have a lot of time for sheep. I love everything about them, except maybe their freaky, horizontal pupils. Sharon and I were able to pet a sheep that casually wandered over to us. It was awesome. The petting. Really dug our fingers in, and the sheep liked it, I could tell. It was just like petting Maggie, without the hair and the licking. Gave her a good scratch behind both ears, and then Sharon pulled Timothy hay out the sheep’s wool and fed it to said sheep by hand. The other sheep were just not that interested in being fondled by a couple of dog-starved Canadians. The archipelago was gorgeous, but petting sheep?  That was cool, man.

Thanks for the fondle, sheep

The ride and short walk home was incredibly cold. Too cold to even stop at a bakery for a confection. I think the wet finally got to us, because it was not particularly chilly outside, and by the time we got home, I just wanted to stuff my entire body into my mug of coffee. No bath here, just a shower, so I put my jammies on over my clothes and tried to warm up. I was successful, a few hours later. I need to find myself a tall, warm Swede to wrap myself around.

Tomorrow, an English bookstore, the Fish Church, and a giant, smelly whale.

9:18PM/5C

 

Of Bread and Museums…

...wrapped in swaddling clothes

There are few things in life I love more than bread. Walking through the main market (Saluhallen at Kungstorget ) today, which is reminiscent of Granville Island, we came across a bakery stand, with the most amazing assortment of breads. The one I bought came swaddled in paper, wrapped in twine. It was a beautiful thing, and the seedy, dark bread was incredibly tasty. Especially when slathered in butter, which we think has some magic ingredient because although it tastes like butter, it’s also deliciously sweet. Yum.

The Forest...up close and personal

Walked to the Goteborg Konstmuseum (Gothenburg Art Museum) today and saw some lovely paintings. The sixth floor has the 19th century stuff, so the bulk of my sucking wind happened on that floor. And I did suck wind. Awesome painting by Prince Eugen entitled The Forest, which I’ve seen in books but have now seen in person. It’s extraordinary. Also lots of Carl Larsson and other Scandinavian artists. The lower floors had some interesting paintings, but nothing as cool as The Forest.

After some hot soup, off to the Goteborg Stadsmuseum  (Gothenburg City Museum) to look at some Viking artifacts. I guess I’ve forgiven them for invading England. After all, if it wasn’t for the Vikings, we wouldn’t have the word thing, and thing is one of my favourite words. They have the remnants of an old Viking ship in the main hall, but mostly just planks. The rusted swords and bits of jewelery were more interesting. Also enjoyed the 1000AD era, with the the wooden religious icons. All elongated faces, along the lines of the Bayeux Tapestry. Cool.

Kungsgatan (Kingsway) with Christmas lights

After that, a walk to the harbour and then home. Later in the evening, we walked through downtown to a Hemkop, which is like a small Safeway, for some victuals. The streets are lit for Christmas, and the lights are quite unsual. I imagine this city is very pretty in the snow, but I am happy to avoid it for as long as possible. Looks like there’s plenty back home…

Tomorrow, some kind of ferry, archipelago action…

9:45PM/3C (and sunny, or at least it was…first day without fog)