Saturday, July 20, 2013

Of Sweden, Water and Elk

Work has continued to follow me around this week, but it seems to have stopped (I’ll say it very quietly), and I have time to do things, including blogging.

We are now in the country, by the lakes, but we spent ten days in England, in the old home town, and before that a few days in Sweden (for no particular reason, we just thought we’d go and see the place).

It’s a beautiful country, green and wet. When you live in the semi-desert of southern Spain that’s the first thing that strikes you about anywhere that has water. You breathe more deeply, your flesh seems to fill with life, you feel a freshness about everything, and as I hadn’t been there before and had no particular expectations, I could see it with fresh eyes as well.

Stockholm is built on somewhere between 1,000 and 30,000 islands, depending on who you ask. The casual visitor only sees a couple of dozen, but you are constantly reminded that it is city built on waterways. Everywhere you go is on sth-holm, and across sth-bron. In the tourist’s part of the city you are nearly always looking out over water, walking beside water, crossing over water, smelling water. You get the idea.

There are, of course, boats everywhere.

At the weekend, at the port at Kungsholm and along by Scheppsholm there was some kind of boating festival going on. It looked like a big one, with people from all over and major sponsors. There were many yachts being prepared for a race around the islands. There was talk of an inshore and an offshore race, and smaller, motorized craft were being prepared too. There was a Red Bull 'build a silly machine and throw yourself into the water' competition, which unfortunately didn't start until the next day, but everything was ready and some of the machines were already there. A bit odd they were, not surprisingly. There were outdoor bars and sponsors’ tents and announcers and the whole weekend looked like a lot of fun.

We saw the hat shop where Greta Garbo used to work, we walked up a steep hill and out over a narrow metal bridge about 150 feet up that didn’t seem to be standing on anything so we could see the whole of the old city below us across the water, set in its context against the waterways and the other nearby islands.

We went on an evening ‘safari’, a looking-at-the-wildlife safari, rather than an is-this-lunch-or-do-I-hang-it-on-the-wall safari. A girl with a minibus drove us around a nature reserve to the west of city, mostly around a lake and through woods, and stopped whenever we saw anything with the right number of legs. The first thing we saw was an elk with a young baby, about 70 yards from where we were standing. This, we were told, is very unusual, (she probably tells everyone that). We saw quite a few more elk, including another young one, some from about 40 yards. They have no predators and hunting is banned in the reserve so they don’t worry about anything much beyond the quality of the grass they are munching. At one point the mother and child walked up just behind a hut we were standing the other side of. We all tried to rush round the side and had to be restrained by the young lady who pointed out that an elk is a big thing to have on the other side of you from its baby.

We also came across a number of wild boar- which there are a lot of where I live, too, though you don’t see them often unless you go out at night or very early in the morning- roe deer, a dancing, nervous creature that never seems to like being where it is, and a couple of badgers. Although the area I grew up in is supposed to be full of them, I don’t think I have ever seen a badger before.

All of this as the sun went down over the lake.

No comments: