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Published: January 6th 2014
Late December in Berlin
Or should I say "Brrrrrrrrlin"
Happy 2014! I hope that the holiday season was a happy and healthy one for all.
2013 wrapped up splendidly here. A colleague and I managed to squeeze in a visit to Berlin for the Christmas markets and taste of a different culture and a big city. The school term ended with an incredible assembly with impressive performances by the students. Then my family arrived for a two-week visit!
My train ride to Copenhagen to meet my family seemed a lot longer than it usually is! Once we had them fed and watered, and heavily caffeinated, we set off down the main pedestrian street in the heart of Copenhagen. We checked out a small Christmas market and its stalls. Thankfully, it was not so small that it didn’t have glögg. Everyone seemed to enjoy the warm mulled wine with almonds and raisons as we continued to check out the sights.
In Denmark and Sweden, Christmas is celebrated on the 24th
. Since we knew this, we were prepared for nearly everything to be closed. So, we set out on a walking tour culminating at the
Little Mermaid sculpture. Walking around the quiet city had a slightly eerie feeling to it, as the usual hum of people and bikes were missing. We did settle in for an afternoon viewing of the traditional Donald Duck and friends show. Evidently, every year at 3 on Christmas Eve, in both Denmark and Sweden, people settle in to watch this cartoon. We were able to appreciate it even though our Danish is not up to snuff!
The major Christmas market at Tivoli seemed a bit overdone to me, but maybe that is because I’ve been so blessed to have visited so many others this year. That said, seeing people bundled up and enjoying themselves in the cold night with all the bright lights proved an evening well spent!
Christmas day took us up to Helsingborg by train. Sharing Sweden and this town with my family helped me to feel settled here. They too appreciated the Christmas lights in the windows, delicious fish stews, Swedish meatballs, and cobblestoned streets. Beyond wandering around the town and cooking at home, we took a ferry trip over to Helsingør, Denmark
to explore the castle where Hamlet was set. That day the sun shone for the first time, which of course triggered the Physics teacher in my papa. This meant a measuring of shadows to determine our latitude. The long slanted sunlight and early dark evenings certainly made an impression on my family. No longer will I be asked why I haven’t been up to much in the evenings… they now understand how thick the dark can be and how cozy home is!
We opted for a train ride up to Stockholm. What a treat! The shock for me came from the weather. The temperature has been so mild and except for the little dusting of snow and ocational rains, there has not been much precipitation. I hoped for some snow in Stockholm, or at least a view of it from the train as we crossed the interior of Sweden, but no such luck! I guess I just need to focus on how fortunate we were that it was mild and not snowing or raining as we were exploring all of
This was my first visit
to Stockholm, and I was bowled over! What a beautiful place! Having read somewhere before arriving that the city is one third water, one third green parks, and one third city, I had a hunch that I would like it; I was not disappointed in the least! The winding streets, ups and downs, bridges and islands, and bustle grabbed me! I could certainly see how hard it would be to learn the city as it has a mazelike nature to it, but our walks to various destinations kept offering a new glimpse of a building or view to relish.
We took in some of the major museums and views. The Nobel Museum tops my list as a place to visit. Our excellent tour guide was why it was so memorable. Between Nobel Day at my school and this visit, I feel much more aware about the importance and history of the award. I even found some information on my college Physics professor… likely the closest I’ll come to a Nobel Award winner! The Vasa Museum also won us over with its many levels and fascinating history of the ship’s creation and of the
preservation of the physical ship. I imagine that the Skansen Museum would be exceptional in the summer, but we still were able to glean new information about Sweden’s history and its animals. I cannot really complain, there were reindeer, after all! Doing anything, such as eating, is challenging to do for a reasonable price here, but we did find some wonderful places to dine. I even ate some tacos!!
After our trip up to Stockholm, we returned to Helsingborg for a few evenings in my apartment before heading to Iceland. One of those happened to be New Year’s Eve. What a surprise we had! Starting at about 11:30, for an hour there were at least 6 firework shows happening around us! None of us had expected it nor experienced anything quite like it! To have a view from my balcony and fireworks erupting into the sky all around left us with our mouths hanging open. It was a great, and memorable, welcome to the new year!
I think it is fair to say that my mom and I were “chomping at the bit” to get back
to Iceland. After our knitting tour there a few years ago, we have often talked about how impressive the landscape and light were. The four of us had a different experience, with very different sun light and colors, that was wonderful! Of course, we stopped in to the Blue Lagoon on our way to Reykjavik for a soak in the healing waters. As Mary Anna had arrived fighting off walking pneumonia and my parents fighing colds, the healing waters had an extra appeal! It was quite an experience to be in the hot waters as a gusty wind whipped along the water’s top!
While Mary Anna and Papa took in the Golden Circle tour and some of the exceptional natural wonders of Iceland, Mama and I spend time scoping out knit shops and selecting yarn for yet more Icelandic sweaters. We are now armed with enough yarn to make it through until another visit! We braved the elements for a sunset view of the water and mountains. That involved sliding over some icy sidewalks and buttoning our hoods tight agains the gusting winds!
As we remarked
on our last visit, that due to the sun staying so close to the horizon, the light is long and raked. Because the peak of the sun is not anywhere near overhead, it is hard to feel like the day is underway. But, the tone of the light has a warm quality to it. The sun rose at 11:30 and set at 3:30. There was a lightening sky before 11:30 and it dusk lasted longer than 3:30, but the days surely felt short! I’ve taken to an afternoon coffee or tea to reenergize, a routine that worked well in Iceland, too! On the Golden Circle Tour, MaryAnna and Papa were told, that at the summer solstice, in northern Iceland, you can count the number of seconds that the sun dips belo the horizon! I think it is bits of information like that which attract me to Iceland.
The Christmas decorations were fantastic. There were trees attached to the sides of buildings. Because of the gusting winds, I had the impression that these trees had blown up there and just stuck! So, as well as stalking people wearing the Icelandic lopi sweaters, I kept
snapping photos of these trees.
We braved the absolutely ferocious winds to enjoy a walk around the Harpa Concert Hall, the Sun Voyager sculpture, and the water front. Having the intense weather and dramatic landscape in the setting of the somewhat quaite Reykjavik is a juxtaposition that makes me smile. When I led the family into a sculpture garden by our guest house, things became a little risky! The amount of ice that we had to skate over became such a hinderance that we decided to call it quits. Thankfully there were no broken bones, and it did give my dad the time to coin the term “Rink-a-vik!”
Parting was of course difficult! It was incredible having a solid dose of family. Now I am looking into the new term and wondering what will come. But, here in the now, things are feeling good, and I am grateful. Love to all.
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