Öland’s zoo/amusement/water park

The weather here has been amazing for a change – warm and sunny – so we decided it’s time to visit the nearby zoo/amusement/water park. That’s right – Öland’s zoo is all this and it’s just on the other side of the bridge connecting the land to the island.

We got there right when they had opened the zoo and we walked around admiring the animals while we waited for the amusement and the water parks to open (they open 1 h later than the zoo). Despite the crowd of people and families with kids running all over the place, I must say that we made a very good choice to start with the animals. We got to see them fed and calm. So calm and natural that I managed to sneak a great many fun shots. I have been to quite a lot of zoos already, both small and big, so I had already seen quite a few of the animals Öland’s zoo has to offer but I was still pleasantly surprised to discover new ones like the mongoose and the tapir.

There were of course all the usual interesting ones like the lions, who were still sleeping but we got a glimpse of the 2 baby lions, the Siberian tigers who also provided us with a good view, a bear family.

There were also pretty pink flamingos that got even prettier when they opened their wings and showed the bright colors hiding under.

There were also different colorful parrots, the usual very photogenic meercats, some African cattle like creatures, camels, cute little maras, guanacos and many more. A surprise were the storks that I am used to seeing free in the nature back home.

The numerous monkeys provided quite some entertainment with their looks and behaviour. The baboon cage was a picture of family life with couples going around and taking care of each other. There was though one particular monkey that got us laughing – it had somehow acquired a lollipop and kept liking its paws and looking guilty.

After a thorough walk around the zoo we headed for the amusement park part. Most of the rides seemed aimed at kids (not that it stopped me to ride them) but we also got some of the twisting and turnings ones and left us dizzy. I particularly liked one that was turning in a circle and up and down. We also just had to ride the big ferris wheel that provided us with awesome views on the park and the nearby long bridge to the main land.

We finished the day by visiting the water park and sliding down most of the water slides. They had all types from classic winding ones to steep straight or curly ones that shoot you in the pool and a closed one that shoots you out in something like a big funnel where you slide round till you slow down enough to get into the hole in the middle. (Due to the wet nature of our activities we did not get any pictures from that part unfortunately). All in all it was a great day full of fun. :)

Öland celebrates spring

It has been a bit rainy this week and the weather did not look so promising yesterday but we decided to risk it and go to the nearby island Öland where there was a spring fest this weekend. It was under the motto “Garden” and there were a lot of exhibitions and activities along the whole island. We had checked the program and chosen to visit Borgholm (the biggest town in the north part) and the surroundings among which Glömminge where there was going to be a gardening market.

The first thing that one gets to see on the way to Öland is the long bridge with a steep raised part in the middle where ships can pass under. It’s a great view from above there towards the island.

Öland from the bridge

Öland from the bridge

I had been to Öland just once before, in the middle of winter and we just drove to the other side of the bridge. Now I got to really glimpse the island and its nature. It’s relatively flat so we could see the sea and the main land  most of the time. However, there are small hills and we also got to enjoy rolling fields of raps lit up by the sporadic sun in beautiful bright yellow. The other thing that made me a big impression were the old wooden windmills that spotted the landscape every now and then and which fitted perfectly in the rural landscape making Öland idyllic.

An old wooden windmill on the way

An old wooden windmill on the way

Soon we were in Borgholm. We had missed the city tour by 6 minutes so we set off by ourselves to discover this calm sea resort town that was now bustling with people even if it was only just spring. We checked out a few shops, bought local cheese at a factory cheese shop, ate kroppkakor produced by a local company and sold for charity  on the main square, tried the local hand-made ice cream (I had incredibly delicious Nutello and Forest fruits sorbet) while waiting for the rain to stop and stocked up on souvenirs. The big hit was rain boots for me and a modern version of clogs for my boyfriend. Since it kept raining and it was getting close to 16 h we decided to shorten our trip by skipping the castles this time and heading straight for the gardening market in Glömminge which was closing at 16 h.  We got there on time but it was still raining so we ran around the stalls and bought 2 paprika plants on discount for our vegetable garden project since paprika was the only thing we had wanted to plant but never got to. We also checked out the old school which was turned into a tiny museum (1 room) and managed to run into some of my boyfriend’s relatives. I had really hoped to be able to check out some farm animals as well but it kept raining and it was getting late so we just headed back home. Now I look forward to the next time when we’ll head east and explore more of Öland’s beautiful scenery.

France and its magic

It’s been more than a month now since I went to France for a few days to visit a friend there. It feels like so much more time passed on since then with all the changes in my life but now that I look back it’s been barely a month. So the time to tell about my journey has finally come…before I start forgetting too much. :)

The trip was special due to two reasons. First, I see my friend about once a year (if we even manage that) since we both moved abroad and she has been inviting me to visit her in France since forever. Second, the trip was kind of my birthday present from my boyfriend – he knew how much I wanted to visit my friend and was so sweet to buy me the plane tickets.

So we packed and left one morning in the end of March (21st to be exact). The plane trip was short enough not to get us bored and I spent the last 30-40 minutes staring at the Apls beautifully spreading below the plane wing. We were flying from Copenhagen to Geneva with Easyjet and then taking the train to Grenoble where my friend lives. Our train arrived late in the afternoon but we still had time for a quick walk around the town, showed around by one of our hosts, Jean-Marie. I must say Grenoble seems like a charming town with mountains and hills all around even if we did not see so much of it. We spent the evening trying yummy French cheeses and sausage, drinking French wine and catching up with my friend.

The next day was the special one – the visit to Lyon. Our hosts  had been living there until recently and had a lot of interesting places to show us. I must say that was my favourite place of the trip! We got to walk by one of the rivers, eat delicious French burgers, check out the old town, take the funicular up the hill to the prettiest catholic church I’ve ever seen, enjoy Lyon from above, see some more churches, check out the painted-wall house, see the town hall and stumble upon an unexpected manifestation with the special forces guarding (or “Robocop” police as my friend calls them), walk along the narrow Traboules, shop French chocolates, sausages and my first Macaron – a whole day of unforgettable experiences.

We had talked about going higher in the Alps the next day but since the forecast for the day was not looking good (as a matter of fact our whole trip was constantly threatened by bad weather but we were lucky to avoid it), we decided to visit a few local sites at the valleys around.

We started by visiting a picturesque small village by the name of Pont-en-Royans which offered amazing views of its colorful houses towering above the river. We had a walk up and down the many steps and discovered the place both from below and above.

We ate lunch there by the river and then visited an interesting cave. It had a lot of delicate stalactite tubes hanging from the ceiling. The tour was in French but we got a sheet of paper with some of it translated in English and our hosts translated a few more interesting facts. They had different coloured lights around the cave and even light-and-sound show. The views around the entrance of the cave and the walking path to it were simply breathtaking with a lot of waterfalls since it was early spring.

The last thing for the day was a monastery in the area that greeted us with colourful roofs, charmed us in with an enchanted-looking yard and dazzled us with dancing colours around the colourful glass windows inside.

With that our time for France was up. We were flying back to Copenhagen in the morning of 25th and we had decided to spend the afternoon of 24th wandering around Geneva since neither of us had been there. We had booked a room at a hostel (which turned out to be a decent place at a central location) and since it was a Monday we spent the day walking around Geneva – discovering the pretty lake, the flower clock, the old town, a park, and buying Swiss fresh chocolate. We had dinner at a very interesting restaurant with unique decor where we tried meat fondue and then took one final walk to the square with the lit up slates before we put our heads on the pillows ready to go home. Maybe it was the fantastic impression of Lyon that was overpowering our trip but we both did not find Geneva so special. It was beautiful with the lake and the mountains around and the chocolate was superb but it did not dig itself into my heart.

At the airport we were sent off by an image I’ll always associate with Switzerland – the Rolex watch.

At the airport

At the airport

Blog chain: the best childhood memory

I got asked from a friend at http://www.ninakova.eu/ to write on a topic that’s been circling the net with the mission to raise awareness for a good cause so here I am doing it with pleasure.

Before I share what my best childhood memory is I would like to shortly mention what the cause is. The immediate reason for this blog chain is a great initiative – the SOS Balkan bicycle tour 2014 carried out by two young people – emissaries of the SOS Children’s villages Bulgaria that are touring on their bikes all the Balkan SOS homes showing that dreams do come true and bringing hope to all the children at the villages. For those who don’t know, the SOS Children’s villages take care of orphans and kids whose parents can’t take care of them. I really like the idea of the initiative and admire the two young people’s courage and will to be creators of positive change. Moreover, I am myself rediscovering bicycling right now so this was right on the spot of what I am interested in. I am afraid the link to the event is only in Bulgarian but you can read more about the organization SOS Children’s villages here and find out how you could help if you are interested in what they do.

Now, to get to the request of the blog chain - my best childhood memory. I can’t separate a single moment that I can say is the one but a sequence of happy times at a particular place. Every summer when I was little I used to spend a month or so at my grandparents’ (my mom’s parents’) house in the countryside. It was a month or so of long sunny days filled with adventures, new discoveries, freedom and unforgettable memories. I was almost all the time together with my younger brother and our distant relatives, exploring every corner and interesting place in the village, trying out any new games and activities we could think of, from fishing and building houses from branches and leaves to racing down the hill with our own hand-made carts or starting epic plum fights. We were often out in the village all day with just a short stop at somebody’s house to eat a quick lunch before we continued our play. I remember fondly the countless sunsets we saw from the field on the top of the hill where we used to sit on big tree trunks tired in the evenings, the exciting trips and sleepovers at my relatives’ other grandparents that lived in the far end of the village and always had something interesting for us, my own grandparents’ house and garden that revealed surprises and treasures to us every day. If I could choose a time that I could go back to in the past it would certainly be those summer times I felt so happy.

Now that I have thought on the topic of childhood memories, I realize how important they are for a person and how much a happy childhood memory can tell about someone. I feel so sad for people who have very few of those and I wish it was possible for everyone to have a carefree and exciting early years. The world would surely be a much better place then.

Now I go and ask my friends about their happy childhood memories. :) Feel free to share or continue the blog chain. It’s for a good cause! :)

 

100 first days

It’s been a few very eventful weeks for me this past month. Not only did I have a birthday, but I also visited a friend in France that I have been wanting to go see for a while, I finished my work, moved to another town and, what was a big step for me, moved in with my boyfriend. So it’s been all about unpacking and fixing our new home these last few days. Since it can be a little overwhelming and not always so smooth to start a life together with someone, I thought I should start a small tradition, a photo album of sorts that will commemorate the happy and exiting moments of our first months. In that way I would be much more focused on the positive things and have them saved for life. I liked the idea of the #100happydays challenge that invites people to post a photo per day of their happy moments on a social network of their choice. That’s why I decided to modify the idea a little and start my own #100firstdays adventure. You can follow it on my Instagram for a glimpse of a 100 happy memories like this first post of our new home.

A dose of culture and history

I had been so long since I was last in Copenhagen and it’s so close that I thought it’s high time I went there again.

I had been dreaming about visiting Glyptoteket ever since I heard about it – an art museum stuffed with sculptures and paintings. It was founded by Carl Jacobsen, a brewing magnate and even the name – Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek shows its affiliation to the brewery industry. After a check of its website it turned out it’s free entry on Sundays so I headed there on a nice sunny Sunday together with my boyfriend.

The first view that greets the visitor is a lucious winter garden that tempts with its green palm trees under a magnificent glass roof. It’s exotic and luxirious and a great rest from the busy city life outside.

Then there are the numerous exhibitions – antiquities from ancient Greece, Rome, the Mediterranean, Egypt. I found those a little overwhelming, especially the many heads (often missing noses, as usual) crowded together but they were in such pretty rooms with marvelous ceilings and floors that it was totally worth it strolling around to check out every place. My favourite was the Egyptian part. Maybe because it’s more exotic to me than the rest, or maybe because they had such cool things as Anubis and real mummies and sarcophagi instead of endless variations of faces. I particularly enjoyed the small cat sculptures (the cat was a sacred animal in ancient Egypt). There were also a lot of cute objects and little figures from different historical periods.

Next was the impressive French art collection. There were paintings from Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Cézanne, Pissaro, Renoir, a few of Degas’s ballerinas and some sculptures, and an impressive number of Gauguin’s works (I somehow missed Rodin’s sculpture unfortunately). There was even one Picasso painting from his more moderate period.

Having admired those, we climbed a staircase under magical painted glass windows and moved on to the Danish art. I must say I really liked quite a few of the paintings. It was great to be able to glimpse into the Danish world some hundred years ago and see some typical things like those faces of Danish men that seemed so characteristic to me for some reason.

And then suddenly it was over. We had seen everything or as much as a person can see for a couple of hours in a museum full of treasures. If only I lived in Copenhagen and had the possibility to visit the place every Sunday…

But since it was a nice sunny day it was time to go out and walk around the city a little. First we looked for a place to have lunch and had some yummy sandwiches. Then we walked around the main streets to Nyhavn and we had coffee (and tea for me) at a small hidden cafe.

NyhavnWe had also decided to visit the National museum of Denmark so we headed that way after the coffee break. It is a great place full of history! There were my favourite treasures, jewellery, typical clothing, swords from Denmark’s past, but it also had a lot of things from the near past, artifacts from around the world and even a toy museum. We were a bit tired already so we saw everything quickly with tiny foot breaks in between. The collections were so formidably well stocked that we absorbed what we could and finally gave up and stopped torturing our feet.

After a short pause on a bench near the Copenhagen lakes where it was unfortunately a bit windy and not so sunny anymore (it was getting late after all) it was time to head back to Sweden. We walked back to the train station and took the train to home sweet home.

The Copenhagen train stationCopenhagen was as charming as always and this trip only made me love the city a little bit more.

 

 

Swedishness

I have heard and read a lot on what Swedes are like during my 2.5 years here. Talking about Swedishness at school for the past two weeks made me think extra much on what does that mean.

The usual stereotypical image of a liberated (in a lot of aspects) country full of pretty happy blond people comes up over and over again. Swedes are also often described as distanced and uncommunicative. The image of Swedes waiting for the bus far away from each other has been a big hit on the Internet:

Swedes waiting for the bus at a bus stop

Source: imgur.com

There are often also funny accompanying descriptions of foreigners’ dismay at this Swedish peculiarity.

Furthermore, Swedes reportedly don’t talk to unfamiliar people on the bus/train/bus stop/queue or at any other public places. It is considered a big no no to intrude into the other person’s space in such a way. All in all, Swedes are quiet people that can’t be seen talking loud/shouting/screaming or making other loud noises.

Well, I must say that although some of the above mentioned things do seem to be true, quite a few don’t really match my humble experience.

First of all, the myth about the blond… I have met Swedes that come in all shapes and colors. I still remember one of my first days when I asked an Asian-looking girl where she was from assuming that she came from somewhere else and she looked at me and answered: “From Sweden”. After that I have tried to keep my mind open and it has helped me avoid other embarrassing situations. And it might just be the case that there are indeed a lot of blond people around but quite a lot of them actually dye their hair blond/blonder, as I have discovered.

I must however admit that the myth about the bus stop waiting is somehow true – people try to avoid crowding at the same place and usually keep a distance while waiting that even the cold doesn’t erase (but the rain might – then I’ve seen people huddled together under the bus stop roof and luckily it rains enough in Sweden to make the people seem less distanced). One thing I don’t completely agree is that Swedes don’t talk with complete strangers – I have been talked to at bus stops, the train, queues, even in the elevator. I also often exchange “Hello” with strangers at my neighbourhood or when walking in the nearby forest/field. However, I have never engaged in a conversation on the city bus – that seems to be the only place so far where socializing is really frowned upon.

One possible explanation to why my experience differs from the general description of the Swede might actually be the fact that I have been living only in southern Sweden where the people are reportedly more friendly and communicative. When talking to a few representatives of more northern regions of the country they admitted that where they come from it is not so common to greet and talk to strangers. Maybe it is the same as the division Northern – Southern Europe where the north is calm and quiet and the south is more easily excited and louder.

However, there is one occasion on which I always see Swedes become agitated and loud. It’s sports competitions. Try watching a football or a hockey game with a Swede and you’ll see what I mean pretty fast. It is like a magical transformation and the distance and coldness disappear to make room for intense cheering. I was pretty amazed to discover that on my first (and so far only) live hockey game. Even the small kids were very involved in the game and it felt like a completely different place with everyone shouting and jumping at their seats.

Last but not least, I feel like I need to bring up one more peculiarity – dating in Sweden. Or the lack of it as this post suggests. When I read through the text it felt as if the author had opened my brain and taken all my experience to put it down on his blog. It’s not like Swedes can’t be romantic – I’ve had the occasional picnic,rose bouquet and candle-lit room. But girls, don’t expect a Swede to carry your bags, open the door for you or pay your bill (some major differences I experienced as a spoiled Eastern European). We are all equal here. ;) So more often than not you will be the one doing the above mentioned things. Except for the bill thing – here it’s a big deal that everyone splits it in one way or another.

If that hasn’t scared you, I can assure you that Sweden is a wonderful country with great people once you get to know them. Just start from the south. ;)

Filling in the blanks

I have lived in Helsingborg for more than 1 year now but there are still places I haven’t visited and things I didn’t know.

For example, I ride with the bus every day past a building quite close to the neighbourhood where I live. All this time I kept thinking it was a small castle – it has something like a crown on top, a park around and a suitable name on the map. When I finally went to explore it a couple of weeks ago, imagine my surprise, I discovered that it is actually a crematorium. It is surrounded by water and offers some beautiful views but it is just a little creepy to walk around it knowing what it is. And the park around it turned out to be a cemetery with flocks of crows flying above it like in a Hitchcock movie. There went the romantic walk I had dragged my boyfriend to. :D However, there was a corner with a door and a lot of creeping plants that looked just like taken out of the Sleeping beauty story. Really magical!

The second place I finally explored was less creepy and more sightseeing-delighting. It is the Ramlösa park where the famous bubble water comes from. Okay, not exactly in the park but under it and then it is transported underground to a factory some kilometers away. It is a really nice little park to walk along even in a cold day as we did. There is a stream that goes through winding along the trees and a couple of paths offering different views. The first thing that greeted us when we entered the park from the northern entrance was a big flock of ducks crowded around the feeding place. Then we walked around the park and got to see where the spring lies under the ground, another spring and some preserved old buildings above the park that used to be a hotel, a bath and some more other things connected to bathing resorts, but are now used as residential places.

Now I can rest assured that I have seen almost everything worth visiting in town. It has taken me quite some time but I am finally happy with my exploring pursuits. Or did I miss something again? :)

A tiny tropical escape in Sweden

It’s been cold and snowing a lot the past week here in Sweden. So when I got the suggestion to go visit Tropikariet I jumped enthusiastically.

Tropikariet is this unique place that combines a big aquarium with tropical fish and sharks; terrariums with tropical bugs, spiders, snakes and lizards; different monkeys and birds. It consists not only of the usual tanks or glass containers but in fact a few of the animals roam freely around the place. One can suddenly get a monkey on the shoulder or a tropical bird flying right by the ear. Unfortunately for me there was a strict rule against petting anything.

We started the walk by entering the night rain forest. There were little monkeys, bats, a few spiders, and the cutest slow loris moving in slow motion. The monkeys were jumping freely around but I was a little unhappy to discover that a few of the bats were also flying freely – one went right past us, I could feel the wind from its flight on my hair. Unfortunately the light was pretty bad for pictures (and of course flashes are not allowed for the animals’ sake) so I managed to succeed only with a picture of these very interesting beetles.

The beetles

Next was a big room that went around with different tropical animals. The first thing we saw was a big terrarium with a lot of colorful frogs (that we spent a lot of time looking for in the vegetation) and forest snakes.

There were also a few of the big flat fish, a huuuuge anaconda, some more snakes and spiders and a number of monkeys and birds roaming freely around. We were greeted by one of them – a pretty small thing with a big colorful beak. Luckily the curious monkey decided to jump on another person so we got to laugh a little without having it stubbornly standing on our backs. The cutest was a pygmy marmoset that was unfortunately a little shy so it didn’t show itself as much as I wanted. There were also glass tubes with ants going back and forth all over the place. I managed to catch great pictures of one of the big lizards resting peacefully while a monkey jumps on its back and then settles comfortably there.

The next place was the Madagascar exhibit. It did not have so many things (a species of birds, a chameleon, a gecko, a snake) but there were the lemurs which totally made up for the scarcity. They were so fluffy! And a girl from the staff made them get on people’s shoulders and pose for pictures. So cute!

Then it was time for the aquarium. There were a few smaller tanks with piranhas, sea horses, grass-looking fish, glowing in the dark jellyfish and some flora and then the big thing full with pretty swimming colorful tropical fish and a few small sharks. One could sit and watch them under calming music if it wasn’t for the many screaming kids (the downsides of visiting such a place on a Sunday). The sharks were constantly swimming around the glass so we were always getting surprised by a close-up of a shark suddenly passing by the window while we were admiring the fish.

As if that was not enough, there was a place where we could actually put our hands in the tanks and touch the creatures. I got to pet a sea star, a cute little shrimp with red lines on the back and big white antennae, and give my hands a real treat by dipping them in a tank with doctor fish (the ones doing the infamous spa treatments). For some reason the little fish loved my hands and were always crowding on me, ditching the others so I got a unique experience of over 20 fish crowding on me, something my friend successfully compared with slight electrical vibrating.

The doctor fish working on my handLast, we passed by the cafe and museum shop where there was a confinement with meerkats watching over the dining people. The cute little things were charming and entertaining as always. There were also a couple of big turtles living with them and the meerkats were often on top of the turtles, when they were not on top of the highest rocks.

And then it was time to go. We picked our coats and stepped into the cold February air again. It had been a great escape to a tropical, warmer place for an afternoon.

The coolest toy ever!

I was at Ikea the other day and I came across the most awesome stuffed toy I have ever seen!

First I saw a big wolf smiling wide and showing quite a few teeth and thought  - oh cute, they are finally doing something different from the stereotypical cute fluffy things. And then a few minutes later I saw a whole cart full of them and there was a little doll of an old woman sticking halfway out of the wolf’s mouth (I don’t know how I missed the little granny doll attached to it, or maybe it was IN it?). It turned out it was a toy from Red riding hood that enables kids to reenact the big bad wolf eating up the granny. I must say it’s very plausible with the wolf doll being three times as big as the granny and a great way to connect the story to the kid’s everyday life. I totally fell for the whole thing and am seriously considering buying it (unfortunately could not come up with a kid at the right age to give it to) – it’s just too good to pass on it.

Later, when I was checking the toy online I found out that the granny can actually come out from the tummy of the wolf! Now if that’s not the coolest toy you’ve seen, I don’t know what would be :)