May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sweden: rough start, going fine

July 28 didn’t go so well except we missed the most torrential part of the rain because we were so early for the bus to the airport, though my little bag got soaked waiting.  The lady who checked us in was really nice, and discovered that we didn’t know that each bag was to be charged about $75, so she gave us some tape to put them together into one bag.  It was a sad job, and she overlooked that it was then overweight, but we crossed our fingers and let it go.  We were the last ones on the plane because we didn’t recognize that the gate was down some stairs and didn’t understand the announcement.  We made it, but because of the rain, our plane got into Estonia the same time the other plane was to leave for Stockholm.  
They gave us vouchers for a cup of coffee and a candy bar and we waited for the next plane.  I started looking up the Avignon festival info, and it said it was going on for another day instead of the end of August like Les had thought, so we were disappointed that we won’t see any of those art events going on.  Then, we figured out where our Mosebackehostel was and got there very late, but somehow the Hostelbookers reservation never went through.  So there we were ready to sleep on the lobby floor, when we couldn’t find any other hostels for that night.  They gave us a $90 single room the size of two small mattresses, with no window and put an extra foam mattress on the floor.  One disturbing thing was that it had a button to push if there was a fire and you couldn’t get out.  You were supposed to wait for help after pushing the button.  We could hear conversations very clearly through the walls.  …one of those roll-with-the-punches days.  We booked another hostel farther from the center that was our next best price for the next few nights.

July 29

It’s wild waking up in a windowless room, as it could be any time and it would look the same.  Our next hostel was also windowless, but as big as a classroom with 6 bunks in it.  It’s very basic; the kitchen grosses me out a little because someone was cooking with tuna and it still smelled like it.  There’s no stove or heater for a pot; just a microwave, sink and frig.  There are 2 toilets for all the rooms, maybe a dozen like ours?  We bought “Stockholm cards” at the airport, so we have free transportation to just about anywhere, and lots of free entrances to museums and other tourist attractions. We decided to go take a ride on the boat tour, but the one then was sold out so we got tickets to two down the line.  In the meantime, we visited the very center and seed of Stockholm. 

St. George and Dragon
...from the other side
We ate like a tourist, visited an amazing church where they bury most of the royalty, walked to the chapel where there's a life sized sculpture of St. George and the Dragon (Les said he wanted to see what size a life-sized dragon looked like.)    
narrowest street
We saw the narrowest street, and when we returned for the boat tour, we found our watches were an hour off, and we had been early a 1/2 hour!  They generously let us on, and we learned through earphones about the area around King's Island. 
Les soaks sore ankle in ocean

We then went to the photo exhibit as our last thing of the day.  It was a fantastic show with Robert Maplethorp in all his glory, and a fantastic documentary interviewing several of his models and associates.  Other artists were Jacob Fellander, Peter Farago/Ingela Kemetz-Farago (in cooperation with Chanel), Eleanor Coppola, Jacqueline Hellman, and my favorite Liu Bolin with “The Invisible Man” Series. 

He’s from China, and he paints himself into a scene until you can’t see him very well.  It started in protest to the government tearing down a place where artists met and lived.  He thought that though the place disappeared, the artists’ spirits will remain.  Camouflage protects animals from danger.  This is his version. It’s pretty amazing; maybe we should get him to do a series in front of the library/Snell/Dietel areas, or Tangeman Apartments on our campus before they are destroyed.  (By the way, I’ve seen a lot of old ‘50’s flat-roofed buildings that are in great shape in this snowy cold place.)
When we got back to our metro stop, we didn’t recognize it, and it was barren.  We almost went back down in the metro to get our bearings, when we walked up the hill and found it.  We talked with our new young Hungarian friends about theatre and their lives ahead of them until late.

July 30
There are no cafés near us, so we decided to go to the metro stop nearest the old theater at Drottningholm summer castle.  We found no café there, but there was a farmers market and I bought strawberries, nuts and banana. 

We found the proper bus and went on a tour of the grounds and then one of the old 18th C theater (check out ); it shows some of the workings of behind the scenes.  Valerie, you would love this place; the architect was also the director.  That’s the way to make sure your theater functions as you wish!  We had a chance to buy a $100 ticket to see Don Giovani in that theater, but thought it was too steep.  The place is made of quite delicate wood, and has not been renovated, so it is still fully functioning as it was way back when. 

 Thanks to Gustav III’s mother, who came from Prussia to marry the king and thought that Sweden had very little quality culture.  She made this castle to help raise the identity of Sweden, by showing that it cared about the Arts and Sciences.  Since the king had died by the time she built the palace, much of the imagery was feminine.  It was quite striking and fun to imagine little Gustav III playing in the theater and eventually acting himself.  It was apparently shocking that he presented plays in the common people’s language (Swedish) rather than the usual French, but he wanted to unify the people with the court more.  The castle tour contained a wonderful history lesson for me.
After that, we went to see if there was a play we could see in town, but it was dark for the summer month (we were 3 days late for Romeo and Juliet). 
So we went to a park where they have Nordic animals and historic buildings. I was charmed by all the animals, though a couple really did need more space (owl, seals, wolves).  I loved petting the farm animals and elk moose.

Last Days of Helsinki: Porvoo and Museums

July 26-27

Pulpit with hour glasses
Tuesday was a museum day.  We spent some time at the contemporary museum of art that had a large African exhibit.  The one bit of dance I saw was a film by a Ugandan with voices of 3 presidents promising more freedom and opportunity for the people that never came.  He was dancing in rubble: a large tube, mine-shaft opening, and dusty old construction site.  Another artist that I liked documented sculpted hairstyles of women.  There were braids drawn up into crowns, big bouffant hair, scarves in all sculptural forms, etc.   Then we went to the historical museum that was like a maze in form; we thought we’d never get out.  We started with pre-history (stones, graves, tools, lashings, etc.) to the stone-age, iron age, beautiful and basic other metal gear and ornament, the costumes, the furnishings, the weapons, the books, the rooms, the treasures, the harness’s and rakes that fiancées gave their wives to be, and finally doll houses big and small, stuffed and clean, horizontal and vertical.
Wednesday, we went to a quaint town named Porvoo that was about a 40-minute bus ride.  We walked in the sun across the bridges, through the cemetery, around the historic church where there was a wedding and then later inside, between the cute colorful homes with communal garden areas, and had some coffee next to the red ochre painted river homes in a café that’s partially on a boat.  After our walk-about, we got tickets on the passenger ferry back to Helsinki.  It was a lovely four-hour ride, with the warm sun low in the sky, cool breeze, lots of birds and interesting buildings to spy with my binoculars, and a spot inside where Les could lie down and work out his cold. 
Les wakes!
Guess what movie is out!
Jack at Church
A cold glass of wine sealed the blissful trip.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Around Helsink, Sauna, History, Music, still no dance.

after the sauna
July 24-25
Jack and joking men
We went riding around town.  The architecture is quite stunning.  There are some stone men holding lanterns in front of the train station that we like to imagine are telling jokes to one another, but they can't smile.  We heard they are quite iconic.
We went to a real old sauna.  For 10 Euro we got a towel and went in to a big room that you could throw water into the hole and make it really hot.  I took a couple of turns in between showering off and went out in the courtyard to cool off.   It was really lovely.  The women softly spoke so it sounded like they were just whispering consonants to each other.  I did feel so invigorated and light from the process.  I’m glad they were open.   

The evening brought us into the amusement park area.  When we got off the bus, we heard strange Klezmer Circus music with growling, so we followed the sound to an amphitheater full of people and a band with 2 cellists (one synthesized) a keyboard player, a sax player (soprano and bass mostly) a drummer and a very tall, long-haired trombone player who played like he was a rock star—shooting his slide into the audience and high into the air while giving sudden dramatic mysterious stares into the air to support his band mates. 

 Check them out: Alamaailman Vasarat!  ( There were Indians who were taking all the empty bottles from folks, and Asians selling curry and noodles.  A tight group by the stage flung their hair and bounced around a lot.  Dogs were a welcome sight.  (I’ve seen dogs inside businesses, on ferries, and around everywhere!  Yeah!)  After the band finished, we walked through the rides section of the park.  It seemed normal, except it suddenly occurred to me that there was not a lot of noise!  No raucous tunes emanating from the twirling seats, no barkers with mics -- just screams of thrilled people.  We asked how much to ride the Ferris wheel: 6 Euro each.  We decided to see the city from the ground.

Les has the cold now.  We ate the breakfast offered by the hostel (eggs, ham, cheese, tomato/cucumber, yogurt, juices, coffee) and puttered around until noon.   

We ended up in search of an old ritualistic greeting at the open-air historical site where the staff wears the clothing of the times.  There we saw all kinds of wooden structures with birch bark as tar paper under shingles made of small branches or U-shaped logs alternated over each other like Mexican tile.  Boards with holes and pegs held the last part of the roof on.  We saw HUGE oared boats that would carry 100 people to church, and the beautiful wooden church was impressive in its height and décor.  There were three mills: one windmill like you see pictures of in Holland (small); one stout water mill that was their saw mill; and one water mill that is directly under the middle of the building that runs sideways.  Good idea. 
After a traditional pastry filled with porridge, we went to the small beach and lay in the sun. 
Some lay on the sand, but most were on the smooth granite rocks.  Then I went in search of a dance studio where there was to be a jam at 6PM.  The old cable factory is a gorgeous, square, U-shaped, huge, 4-story building with artists in it.  I loved the feel look and smell of it, and hung around alone for a while before deciding they weren’t dancing tonight.
bird feeder!
Argentinian Journalists covering the Metal Bands

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Helsinki Finland: the land of blond, long-legged, fit and beautiful people

July 19-20
Traveling day starting at 5AM with a crazy ride to the airport. Arrival in Helsinki was pretty easy and we took the local bus for 4 Euro instead of the Finair bus for more.  We got a quick lesson on local transport with a transfer to our area and a map from the driver.  
 Our hostel is what used to be the dormitories for the Olympic athletes of ’52.  They are in fabulous shape with all the use it must get: solid tile, thick linoleum floor, huge windows, pine bunks.  Recycling is easy and clear.  
 I’m in a girls room of 9 that is slightly wedge shaped, looking out on the soccer fields below.  After eating a Hessburger, we strolled down the street and looked at the unusual architecture of the opera house and music hall.  Soon it had been 24 hours since our last sleep and we were ready to crash.  I woke about 11 feeling sick, then again like I should get to the trash can, but woke to another girl saying, “hey, hey.  Are you OK?”  I had fainted (my typical response to getting sick) by the door.  Finally got sick at 1:15, as the dawn was breaking, and felt much better.  Only a few hours of darkness!  So I spent most of the next day dozing until it was time to visit the contact jam in the park.  The contact improvisers have a meeting time and place in this small part of the park.  Les and I walked in circles and saw Tai Chi and martial artists, a juggler, tap dancers, this crazy form that looked like a salsa/swing/circle/contra dance, one guy asking for money for beer, a group of long-legged blond women (who isn’t around here?) doing strength training, a trio of guys playing instruments (guitar, saxophone and percussion) and singing, people playing a game where you throw something that looks more substantial than a rolled up newspaper at several more of the same standing upright on the ground, a young mothers group, and tons of people relaxing in the late sun, jogging or biking.  …but we did not see the dancers of contact.
wait for the walk signal
 It’s wild to see so many blonde, people; in general they use low frequency voices when they speak; and the most different than I’m used to is that even when the street is clear for a mile, they wait at the crosswalk for the green signal for pedestrians.  Are they super obedient?  Not in a hurry?  Will suffer great consequences for j walking?  ‘Tis a mystery.  Watching the big soccer game, eating an avocado and bananas was the topper to the night.  From outside the stadium we watched the Finnish national team squash someone else and listened to the constant chanting, singing and cheering of mostly men at the end of the arena.  The fans continually sang for their team.  Great spirit!

July 21-22-23,
Feeling better, we got our seven-day passes for mass transit (excellent system!) and went to the market.   
The berries were beautiful and I bought a liter of strawberries that tasted sweeter than I remember any tasting.  Les got coffee and a meat pie.  I read that this is one of the best markets in the world!  I think Troy’s would give them good competition.  We went to the downtown area looking for a guidebook and a buckle to replace the one that is breaking on my purse.  We scored on both accounts; I had intense espresso and we walked around until we took the ferry to the fortress just south of town.   
Measurement degrees for cannon
The 15-minute ride was lovely in the heat and wind, and we relaxed by the place where the two islands meet. 

 I could feel a cold coming on.  On the walk around the far island, we climbed inside ramparts, stood behind (and in front of) cannons, and saw the buildings and tomb that were part of this historic site.  On the way home, we stopped to get some roots to boil (something simple, bland, not greasy, yeah), yogurt from a carton you can drink and a couple of bananas.

Yes, the cold did arrive and apparently pseudoephedrine is a prescription drug here.  I have three with me and I bought some nose spray that is supposed to dry things out.  Les and I went on a trolley around town, returned to the market where there was an accordion player who joined the violinist and bass player in some tangos, came back for a nap and went out exploring again—ending up watching a soccer match until 10PM.   
"Flopper" getting up
All the players were black and a local said they were probably the immigrant league playing.  Funny, near the end of the game, folks from the red team kept flopping on the ground.  Maybe a way to get a breather for their teammates?  There are a couple of Argentinians in the new room with us.  One had taken my (lower) bunk, so I asked her if she would switch back, as I was feeling under the weather.  She was great with that, and continued to get ready for the late-night partying.  There’s a heavy metal festival for the next few days here.  There are so many kids (yes children) running around with studs, crazy hair and make-up and lots of layers of black clothing.  It looks like Halloween.  I tried to get on the Internet and it took about 15 minutes to try to email one person.  It never went through.  Maybe tomorrow.
We took trolley 3 around town and enjoyed a huge lunch of squash soup, a pastry with goat cheese and spinach, and coffee.  I lay low, trying to get rid of the cold.  I love listening to the Argentinian women talk in the room.  They are here as journalists to cover the heavy metal bands for their magazine in Buenos Aires.  Also in our room is a couple who met each other going to school at Utah State, where I still have a home in Logan.  Small world!