Saturday, June 28, 2008

Birka – The Old Viking Capital

When we were in Stockholm some weeks ago we also took the opportunity to visit the island of Björkö, where once the main Viking settlement Birka was situated in what was to become Sweden. We went on a sightseeing boat from the Town Hall with running commentary from an archaeologist as we made our way westward on Lake Mälaren. It was a very pleasant two hours in glorious sunshine.

When we got there we were also guided around by the same archaeologist, dressed in Viking style. He showed us some of the many funeral mounds, what remained of the walls and many other interesting features. This was all in English since his audience represented many nationalities.

On the island there is also a small museum which displays, among other things, a model of a Viking village. A restaurant provides those without picnic baskets a decent meal at quite a price, as usual. But on the whole it was a wonderful experience, and I would certainly recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the past, and of course a lovely day out!

Here is a Smilebox with some photos for you to enjoy.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Elephant Hawk Moth

The other night a big moth flew in through the open patio doors, presumably attracted by the light. I tried to chase it out before I closed the doors, but it disappeared, and I thought, Oh well I'll find it dead in the morning somewhere. When I put out the breakfast bowls in the kitchen before bedtime, I spotted the moth on the floor. Quickly I got a glass out and intended to catch it in order to set it free outside. It did not move much, only enough to attach itself to the outside of the glass.

It was then that I discovered how beautiful it was. Wow! The moth seemed content to just sit there, making no attempt to fly off. So I got the camera out and got some stunning pictures. I later researched it on the net and found that it was an Elephant Hawk Moth, quite common in both the UK and on the European continent. Did you know there are such colourful moths out there? I thought they were all grey or pale brown, but this!?

Elephant Hawk Moth 3

Elephant Hawk Moth 2

Elephant Hawk Moth 1

On a sadder note, I discovered that our garden had turned into some nasty killing fields. As you might remember I feed the birds all year, and at this particular time there are a great number of them, in particular since they all have had little ones. But next to the feeding place there is a shrub, that until yesterday had like a skirt of branches hanging down, a perfect hiding place for cats. You can guess the rest. I found a total of fifteen (15!) Great Tits, mostly young ones, in various states of decay under that shrub. There are still loads of them, but sometimes I can't help but think that Mother Nature is very cruel. I had seen birds getting caught on a couple of occasions, but it wasn't until I lifted up the low branches that I discovered the whole gruesome truth. The most annoying thing about it is that the cats don't eat them, they just kill them. I know it is instinct rather than malice, but anyway. Consequently I trimmed the shrub so there is now nowhere to hide. It looks rather like a big fat lollipop, round on top and held up by a cluster of wooden stems.

great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723 great_tit_tcm9-39723

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Back!

You thought I had vanished into the outer blogosphere, didn't you? Since I got back from Sweden I have been busy with the real world, real life and I have also had some more techie problems with my PC. What's new? Well, I had a fab time, a fantastic time in my old country. There were two main events, two main reasons for going, my nephew's wedding and a niece's school graduation party.


The wedding took place in a small village church in a beautiful part of Sweden. After the wedding ceremony everybody walked down to an old country mansion behind two musicians playing the "nyckelharpa". We were taken by two "Pied Fiddlers" to a wonderful evening.

This way!

We were treated to champagne, canapés and other nibblies in an octagonal (?) folly on top of a grassy knoll overlooking a sunlit lake ...


... where the bride's father first said a few words ...

A few words

... and then the two toastmasters laid down the law for the evening.


As you can see for yourselves it was formal dress code, white tie for the gents and long dresses for the ladies. Here is yours truly with son and brother.

White tie trio

After an absolutely delicious dinner, with twenty-five (25!) speeches, we finally got round to some dancing, old and young alike.

Dance floor

The band played music from the 60's to contemporary music. They were all professional musicians and knew their stuff, playing their socks off. How's this for an action shot?

Lead guitar

Some party that was! We all got to bed very, very late, but happy. It certainly was a night to remember.


Another happy night to remember was my niece's graduation the following week. Tradition has it that you come out on the school steps, one group at a time, with a special graduation hat on. You are met outside by family and friends, holding a sign with (often) a childhood photo and your name on it. You are then treated to lots of hugs, kisses and flowers.

School steps Sign

Next you are transported home in style and greeted, yet again, by family and friends.


After that you party all night long. And even us oldies wear our old "studentmössa", a little discoloured, but otherwise intact after 41 years.

In a later post I will take you on a boat trip from Stockholm to (what remains of) Birka, the old Viking Capital, in Lake Mälaren.