countryside

Of Birch twigs and feathers

Birch twigs, feathers and eggs

Birch twigs, feathers and eggs

So, it’s Birch bashing time in Sweden!  Bundles of innocent-looking birch twigs, known in Swedish as Påskris, are now on sale in markets ready for the Easter ritual.

Not unsurprisingly, most if not all people nowadays refrain from what was once the tradition of  bashing one another on the legs with Birch twigs; an activity geared to cause pain and act as a reminder of Christ’s suffering on the cross. In fact,  the symbolic, religious significance seems over the centuries to have been completely lost in a bizarre haze of fluffy feathers.

Instead of flagellation, the Swedes now prefer to whack their birch twigs into a jug; which then takes pride of place amongst the Easter decorations.  The Birch, picked just as they have come into bud, are then decorated with garish, brightly coloured feathers.  Packs of these feathers are sold everywhere, and in every possible colour of the rainbow.   Initially only available in hues of egg (cream, white, orange and yellow), the feathers now tend to reflect the latest interior decorating trends; the fashionable among us this year opting, apparently, for a simple palette rather than a riot of colours.

Many Swedes, in fact, don’t stop there and feel the need to adorn their twigs with mini hollow, painted eggs, ribbons, tiny chicks, cockerels and other Easter-related paraphernalia.  Really it’s become a sort of Swedish version of a Christmas tree, but for Easter.

For those of us who live in the country, we have the added options of either:-

a) installing our feathered twigs outside so that the world and his wife can see them

or

b) decorating our bushes with feathers instead.

Somehow, I feel spoilt for choice.

 

Birch twigs, Påskris

Birch twigs, Påskris

Note to Selfie:  Birch trees here I come – it’s PYI (pick-your-own) time in the forest!

 

 

 

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Right of way

So, I was out on a walk in the woods this morning when I found myself unexpectedly confronted with a bit of a thorny dilemma:: should I, or shouldn’t I?

I’d taken my usual route:  downhill towards the lake, then I’d turned off by the edge of the water before lunging back uphill, though this time through the forest.  The intention being to continue to where the forest track reached the road, where I could then veer off and loop back home.

And that’s just where I came unstuck.  In order to get to the road, I had to go through a small property.  It was once upon a time a farm, but is now only rarely used by the owners as a summer retreat.  Every morning, I follow the dirt track as it skirts the side of the house and every morning I peer through the windows; as the light often catches on the ancient tiled wooden stoves.

This morning was different.  As I left the shelter of the forest and approached the house, I could clearly see a plume of smoke coming out of the chimney.  It was cold and the smoke was being sucked up by the  frosty air.  The sight of this smoke, however, completely unnerved me, and I was thrown into some sort of instantaneous fluster-mode.

Should I just stroll on as per normal?  And if I did, what were the chances of the owners just happening to open their door at the exact, precise moment I was passing by?  Admittedly this was pretty unlikely at 7 in the morning, but you never know with the outdoorsy Swedes.

Or shouldn’t I?  Wouldn’t  it just be safer  wimping out, turning around and taking the long route home?

What added confusion to my indecision is that, thanks to a traditional right, almost nowhere in Sweden is off-limits.  The Right of Public Access, or Allemansrätt, allows you to roam freely throughout the Swedish countryside, even on private land – just such as this.  So, basically you’re pretty much free to walk, cycle, horse-ride, ski or jog almost everywhere so long as you don’t disturb the landowner or cause damage.

Obviously, I wasn’t intent on destruction.  I was just keen to get home and have some breakfast.  But, would I be disturbing them?  I couldn’t help feel that, as the track ran so close to the house (I could have reached out and tapped on the windows), I was treading a fine moral line.

After a few moments of reflection; weighing up the situation and putting everything into perspective, I made my move.  I did just what any typically apologetic British girl would do.

I turned tail, ran back down the dirt track hoping and praying no one had seen me, and  disappeared into the forest;  and took the LONG way home.

That was the right way, wasn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strike whilst the iron is hot!

Swedish waffles

Swedish waffles

Bring out the waffle irons and whack out the whisks! It’s National Waffle Day in Sweden.

Yes, the ever-inventive Swedes have yet another infernal ‘celebratory’ day. And today March 25th it’s the turn of the humble waffle. If you close your eyes and listen very carefully, you’ll hear the sizzle of hot butter across the nation as we all get our waffle irons primed and ready for action.

Waffles over here (OH) are typically heart-shaped. Though their great, great ancestors way back in time were much more rectangular. It really wasn’t until the Middle Ages that waffles started to look like, well, waffles. They were also cooked using irons – some of which were decorated with coats of arms which I guess was a nifty way of having a family selfie.

Personally, I think waffles are best eaten when someone else makes them. So, if you ever happen to be driving aimlessly around the Swedish countryside in the summer with nothing better to do, keep your eyes peeled for a ”Våffelstuga” –  a cafe that serves waffles; more often than not, they are family run and just open for the summer season, waiting for people like me just too lazy to make their own.

If you miss today’s waffle deadline, don’t panic! There are always another 364 days in the year.