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Archive for the ‘Book musings’ Category

I am still writing my blog, but it is in a new place and with a new look. Check out my new blog home sandracarpenter.net. Here you will find my same observations about living in Sweden and traveling the world, but also some travel tips and some of my other writing. The new look was created by my friend Lisa at Lisa Hazen Design & Editorial. It is a work in progress and I still have to add articles and tips, and there are a few tweaks that need to be done to the design. But it is ready for your perusal. Let me know what you think.

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I went to buy a pumpkin at my local grocery yesterday and found the rack which they had been on just the day before was now laden with Christmas wreaths. And as I went out today to buy vampire teeth for my Halloween party, I was surrounded by Christmas decorations.

Halloween has not even happened yet but it has already been preempted by Christmas. I can’t keep up. Making matters worse, a security guard was managing the line at the Buttericks party store which went out the door and well down the street. As I already spent one hour in line today picking up my China visa, I did not get my teeth.

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Sunset in Stockholm. Photo by Linda Pinkham.

Sunset in Stockholm. It looks like the skater is leaping from rooftop to rooftop. Photo by Linda Pinkham.

While the daylight hours are getting ever shorter here, the light remains spectacular. The low angle of the sun in the sky softens and warms the colors, thus creating the most amazing sunsets.

The view in the photo is from Junibacken on the island of Djurgården.

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Alléviken-Striped-rock

Alléviken: The ancient striped rock (gneiss) on the beach at Utö.

When I moved to Stockholm, a surprising number of people asked if I would be living anywhere near Zurich. They honestly confused Sweden for Switzerland. At the time, I smugly felt superior in my geography knowledge and told them to look on a map. But I also thought it was rather funny that I was moving to a place that so many Americans did not seem to know about. Then after living here for a while, I thought it was rather sad that people did not know how beautiful Stockholm and its archipelago was. But now in a perverse way, I’m also happy as I would prefer that the archipelago stay in the same pristine, non-developed state that it is now.

The forests, beaches and rocks are so lovely that it’s easy to imagine what this island looked like 100 or even 1,000 years ago. As we rode along the quiet forest paths on our bikes, we were pretty much on our own, although we did see a deer and her fawn at one point. And we also had the beach to ourselves even though it was a sunny day in July. But perhaps best of all, we only had to cycle a a few kilometers back into town to be able to hang out by the harbor and have a beer while we listened to live music. I feel so fortunate that I get to experience this magical place.

Utö-Alléviksvägen

Along one of the many forest paths in Utö.

Seglarbaren-Utö

Hanging out at the Seglarbaren on Utö.

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The ferry boat from Årsta bryggan to Uto: one of the many Waxhom boats in the archipelago.

The ferry boat from Årsta bryggan to Uto: one of the many Waxholm boats in the archipelago.

When you live in the city and think of sound, you tend to think of the dull roar of constant traffic and other types of noise pollution. But I am lucky in my location. Instead, there are two primary  sounds that I associate with summer: seagulls and ferry boat horns. The first sound drives me a bit crazy, while I love the other.

The seagulls often start their very loud squawking around 3 am, a sound which does not make them particularly endearing to me. The cacophony from these dinosaur rodents with wings wakes me up. Robert, on the other hand, loves the noise. Go figure.

Meanwhile, the whistle of the steamships is a welcome song of summer to me. From May through September, I hear the steam boats signalling their journey on Lake Mälaren from City Hall to Drottingholm Castle. I love the sound and I love seeing the boats go past my window. They are a fantastic reminder of good trips to come on the archipelago.

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Every year after midsommar (June 21), it starts. The neighborhood streets and stores begin to shut down for a summer holiday. My local cafe has already closed, while the sushi man and the hardware store close next week. Gradually, my fellow Stockholmers have begun leaving town for their 5-6 weeks of holiday. Now my street has less than half the usual amount of cars parked on it. By next week, it will be practically empty. Last week, the park on my street was packed on every sunny day. Now it’s down to just a handful of hangers-on. The same is true of offices. This week, companies are still operating at almost half staff. By next week, there will be maybe 10 people in an office that usually has about 80.

This massive summer exodus always amazes me. The American in me wonders how an entire country can vacation at the same time. How does any international business get done? On the other hand, I have to admire a country where people can and do take off for five and six weeks straight. In the US, I had to be contactable by my office to even take two weeks at a time. It just was not heard of to take such a long holiday. Here, if you don’t take the time you are looked at with pity and a bit of suspicion. This is vacation time, after all. But don’t think that it is transferable. Taking five weeks in February, for instance, is just not done. It’s all very interesting.

As for my neighborhood, I actually like when it gets quiet. The vibe is different and provides such a great contrast to the center of town where the tourists have invaded.

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The view from my balcony at 12.30 in the morning. This is about as dark as the sky gets right now.

The view from my balcony at 12.30 in the morning. This is about as dark as the sky gets right now.

In the week since I’ve been back home, the weather has been magnificent and very un-Sweden like. It’s been sunny and warm and just perfect. It makes me worry. I worry because I don’t know how long it will last. Every day, I am afraid that this one will be the last sunny and warm day of the summer. It’s such a crazy fear. But it’s one that you live with in this part of the world as this weather is definitely the exception and not the warm.And like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the long winter, I do the same with sunlight, soaking up as much of it as I can before winter comes. We all do here.

I grew up in Cincinnati where a long and sunny summer is the norm. It’s not uncommon to have sunny days with temperatures around 25 to 35 (80s and 90s) from April to October. If we are lucky, we get about two weeks with temperatures in the 20s here. I figure that means my two weeks are about done now. So when a thunderstorm and heavy rain came through this morning, I worried that summer might now be over. But the sun has come back out and the temperature is up around 24. So for now at least, summer is still here.

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