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Hola fuego fans,

Around New Year’s was yet another festival, whose name escapes me but was probably something like fiesta de la asphalt, and we did a little celebrating too. My favorite part was a somewhat recurring theme from past fiestas of racing through the streets with tubes spewing fire, perhaps to resurrect the family fun of coming out to watch folks burned at the stake. The attached photo was a little tough to interpret, but my best guess was that it was a lesson that showed how playing with matches sure can be fun if you spray the flames at everyone’s head! This exercise, to seek out future candidates for flame thrower training where you get to really handle some firepower, was carried out in the streets for about an hour. For some reason, we didn’t see the appeal of guys just wanting to blow up their friends in a city sponsored event, and chose to watch from the sidelines.

The rest of the week was pretty mild by comparison, with little gunfire or bombs going off like in the rest of the civilized world. We’re pretty cozy in our apartment now, and haven’t even had to deal with the real estate lady, who we now refer to as “Her whose name is not spoken.” We tried in vain to return an unwanted cordless phone to our favorite state run company, Telefonica, but the sales lady, who graduated with honors with a degree in making up excuses to get rid of pesky customers, told her that it was such an old model that they couldn’t take it back. We explained that they had delivered it just a month ago, but Ms “Just say No” responded that Telefonica is so technologically advanced that often they don’t even hook up phone lines because they know that mental telepathy is just around the corner. So we have a new addition to our communications center, and if you think programming a cordless phone is tough, try doing one with instructions in Spanish.

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Hola terror-weary amigos,
Staying one step ahead of the pack in fashion, architecture, and most recently dealing with the threat of terrorists, Barcelona recently introduced legislation requiring all terrorists to paint and clearly mark their cars with the words “Bombers” similar to the one pictured above. While some namby-pamby civil rights groups and their respective legal urchin questioned the move, recent polls show the majority of the voters favor the requirement. Most people consider it an overdue solution to deal with the pesky issue of separating the masses from those that choose a path considered by many to be counterproductive to the vitality of the city. Early results are encouraging, as it has allowed law enforcement agencies to follow the occupants of these vehicles, and apprehend them if there is any sign of suspicious activity. One recent success story involved the timely arrest of a driver and his companion who had just purchased some shady grocery items, such as aluminum foil and baking soda, which any fan of Steven Segal movies knows can be fashioned into a bomb capable of disabling a nuclear destroyer. The well worn alibi given by the couple of “just wanting to do a little baking” fell on deaf ears at their preliminary hearing, and they were whisked away under tight security to an undisclosed dungeon, reputed to be a historic leftover from the Spanish Inquisition. A spokesman for the Central Committee of Human Misanthropes, C-CHUM for short, assured worried relatives that the accused would receive a fair trial immediately following their complimentary cruise and swim in Barcelona’s famous shark-infested harbor.

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Seven hundred and fifty years ago Birger-Jarl, the far-sighted governor credited with founding the city of Stockholm in 1252, was determined to develop the city into an important harbor. This great 750th Anniversary Year is full of celebration with many activities for residents and tourists and a perfect time to visit. You should begin your stay with a city tour. There are several companies offering excellent tours in any language you need. We were fortunate enough to find Hakan Jacobsson for our personal driver.(call 46 0 831 9400). A Stockholm native, Jacobsson is known as one of the best guides in the business, and we certainly agree! He seemed to delight in showing us his beautiful city, telling its interesting history, and pointing out the best sites.
Stockholm encompasses seventeen islands, some of which run together today, having been filled in for more building space. If you are on your own, you will want to purchase the Stockholm Card to gain free entrance to seventy museums and attractions and travel on all Stockholm Transport buses, commuter trains, subways, boat sightseeing tours, free street parking at city parking meters. You can purchase these from Stockholm tourism offices and at the transport stations upon arrival. Be aware that museums are closed on Mondays. On other days the closing hours are early: at three, four, or five P.M., so set your sightseeing to start early. Most are open at 9 AM.
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You’ll find city guides and brochures readily available in many languages, so youcan plan your days to fit your interests, but there are several MUSTS for all visitors. One is the magnificent Storkyrkan Cathedral (Nicolai Kirka) founded as a Catholic Cathedral in the thirteenth century but has, since the Reformation, been Lutheran. You’ll see the official pews of the King and Queen and other royalty and the amazing sculpture of St. George and the Dragon.

Leaving the Cathedral, you can enter Old Town off of Slotts Backen, where you’ll find narrow, cobbled streets with many souvenir shops. Nearby is the Royal Palace, Kung Liga Slots built in 1760, where you can walk into the huge courtyard and even talk with the guards! Within the Royal Palace you can find the Treasure Chamber with the regalia of royalty, as well as other wonderful museums.
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As you traverse the streets of Stockholm, you’ll notice one of the most prominent buildings is the City Hall. Built between 1911 and 1923 out of red brick that gives it the look and feeling of antiquity, the building has The Blue Hall, which is nearly as large as a football field. This is where the King hosts the annual banquet for Nobel Prize winners. Go up into the tower for an excellent view of the city.

As you investigate and enjoy the many wonderful places in Stockholm, you’ll want to see the Locks that move small craft from Lake Malaren down to the Baltic Sea. Also venture to the quiet Sodermalm, the Southern district which was Workers’ Island, where many artists work and live now. You’ll find another excellent view of the city and photo opportunity at the point called Fjallgatan.

But the wonderful sites in Stockholm are not all old. You’ll want to include some time to shop in the ultra modern Sergels Torg Glass Mall, which has a large portion underground in a unique inside-outside design, completed by a huge fountain. It is a short walk south of the City Center where you’ll cross the stately bridge to see the impressive Parliament Buildings.
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Djurgarden, a forested island with a lake around it, was once the Royal Hunting grounds. There you’ll want to visit the Zoo. You’ll also enjoy sight-seeing in Deer Park, a MUST for residents and visitors each weekend. There is always something fun going on, and each week attractions are different, always fun, always fascinating. The Island is closed to cars on the weekend and is a great family place to stroll with children or lovers and watch the crowds, eat in wonderful places, and enjoy life.

Nearby you can take a drive through Ostermalm to see the posh neighborhoods of fine houses, apartments, and Embassy Row mansions. Unfortunately, the only ugly one is the American Embassy with its barbed wire and forbidding appearance.
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Also on Djurgarden, you MUST visit the Vasa Ship Museum, Stockholm’s treasure of a museum.The Ship Vasa was built in 1628 by King Gustavus Adolphus II. Not being a ship-builder but an egotistical king, he designed it with too shallow ballast, too tall mast, and too narrow hull. On her virgin voyage, while hundreds of celebrants watched and waved good-bye, she capsized only 300 meters from shore. A few years later, in 1664, the cannons were retrieved, but the ship remained submerged and covered over by sand and silt until the 1950’s, when a Swedish Naval history expert, Anders Fransen, decided to recover it. The tedious and expensive work took nearly a decade and was accomplished in 1961and proved vastly worth the effort, as the ship’s contents had been so perfectly preserved by the sand, mud, and brackish waters, which had been her tomb for 333 years. In 1990 King Karl XVI Gustaf celebrated the opening of the museum, and visitors today can literally walk through the incredible naval history.

Stockholm’s beauty is vast and intriguing and you’ll want to make your stay as long as possible. We certainly want to return again and again!
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Jyvaskyla is about four hours’ drive Northwest of Helsinky, and if you are not on a cruise ship and confined to the coast, it is worth a visit. We were concentrating on the arts and crafts of the area and were hosted by some delightful women who were very knowledgeable of Finnish handicrafts. It was such a great opportunity to be able to spend a day getting to know the local people and their wonderful sense of humor. As one said, “When you live in a country this cold you have to have a sense of humor.”

We were ready for our guided tour of the city and study of the handcrafts of Central Finland. The lovely tourism office representative Katja Kivala
hosted us and interpreted when necessary, but most Fins speak excellent English.

NATIONAL COSTUMES STILL USED

In Jyvaskyla, Finland, The National Costume Center of Finland in conjunction with The Conservation Center has created a room in the Craft Museum of Finland displaying Finnish costumes. These are rare and valuable examples of the traditional costumes from each region. The stitchery and weaving are exquisite. Costumes are still made today and worn on special occasions like marriages, confirmations, and national holidays.

HOME OF ALVAR AALTO, ARCHITECT

Jyvaskyla, Finland, is the home of Alvar Aalto, the world famous architect of modern designs using glass and steel, who was at his zennith of fame in the middle of the twentieth century. His well-known Finlandia building is in Helsinki, but you’ll find many of his works here.

He designed ten buildings at the campus of the University of Jyvaskyla, the last of which is still under construction. The University has about 40,000 students in this town of 80,000 people. You’ll also find a museum bearing Aalto’s name.

He was a professor in the United States when he gained his fame, but spent his latter years designing in Finland in conjunction with his first and second wives, both of whom were architects.

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Webster’s Dictionary defines Discovery as-“Disclosing or bringing to light; revealing or making known; a finding out or bringing to sight or knowledge”. Since I had not been to Lisbon for 10 years, I needed a little “knowledge” and found it at the Portuguese National Tourist Office- 590 Fifth Ave- 4 Floor- NYC 10036- 1-800-Portugal- The “ bringing to light “ was supplied by my TAP-Air Portugal flight from JFK. Just as the sunlight engulfed the plane’s cabin, we landed, a mere 6-½ hour flight. A short 20-minute taxi ride and I was at the centrally located Hotel Lisboa Plaza, just off Avenida da Liberdade, the major shopping and promenading street in town, and only a few blocks from the metro and railroad station. The sights of Lisbon waited.

The first stop in the search for discovery should be the Lisboa Welcome Center at Praca do Comercio, near the port and Tagus River. This very large space contains tourism information for the city, accommodations, show tickets, guide books to museums, shopping and restaurants. You can purchase the three special Lisboa cards there. 1- Lisboa Card for free access to public transportation and free or discounted admission to over 50 museums and sites. The cost is about $11.25 per adult for 24 hours and $4.50 per child. 2- Lisboa restaurant Card gives you discounts at more than 40 restaurants for a 72-hour period. The cost is $6 per person, or $10.50 for a family with 2 children. 3- Lisboa Shopping Card gives you up to a 20% discount at over 200 shops. The cost is $3 for 24 hours. The Welcome Center also has an exhibition of traditional Portuguese handicraft and art, plus an auditorium, café, grocery store and a fashion and design shop with clothes and decorative objects for sale. One of Lisbon’s top restaurants Terreiro do Paco is located here.
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The Lisboa Card allowed me to see the entire city in less than a day. Lisbon is built on 7 hills, so up I rode to St. George’s Church for a panoramic view of the city. Alfama is the oldest part of the city with small houses, tiled panels and fountains and is perfect for walking. The center of the city is Rossio Square where the train station is located. Marques de Pombal Square is another large meeting place with cafes and small shops.
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It was back into the Metro system to the Belem area and the Belem Cultural Center whose conference center is also used for exhibits and performing arts. Everything in this area is reachable by walking starting with the Tower of Belem, a 16th Century guardian of the river and a UNESCO World Heritage Building. The Belem Palace is the official residence of the President of the Republic. The nearby Jeronimos Monastery was built in the beginning of the 16th century and is the burial site for Vasco da Gama; the monastery is another UNESCO World Heritage Building. Across the road and right beside the Tagus River is the Monument to the Discoveries built in 1960 to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of Henry The Navigator’s explorations. During the 15th & 16th Centuries Portugal had a huge overseas empire. Next to the monument is a map of the world with all their former colonies noted. In the same Belem area is the Coach Museum with uniforms and coaches of the royal family in an 18th Century riding ring.
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Having spent much of the early afternoon in the Belem area, I did not get to the following three museums, but my guide highly recommended them. The National Art Museum has the finest collection of Portuguese art from the Middle Ages to the 19th Century. The National Tile Museum shows the art of the tile over the past five centuries and is housed in the cloisters of a 16th Century convent. The Fado House & Portuguese Guitar Museum is self- explanatory and during my last night in Lisbon, I had an opportunity to listen to Fado at a local club.
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It was late in the day when I arrived at the other side of town at National Park, the site of the 1998 Expo and World’s Fair. The area is being converted to housing, but most of the buildings have been retained and upgraded. Vasco da Gama Tower is the observation platform overlooking the whole park. There is a chair lift that transcends the entire park. The Oceanarium is Europe’s largest aquarium. The Atlantic Pavilion can hold up to 16,000 people for sporting events or concerts. There is a live interactive Science Center and the country’s biggest bowling center. I decided to take the Lisbon by Water route on the River Tagus that runs between the National Park and the Belem area. Again, my Lisboa Card was used, as well as the Metro return to my hotel. I had spent 12 hours touring and rested for my trip the next day.
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As I mentioned, my hotel was within walking distance of the railroad station. In less than an hour I was in Sintra, again using my Lisboa Card. The whole area is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My first stop was the Pena National Palace on top of a mountain. The brave ones walked up; I choose the bus. This 19th Century romantic palace was built in the revivalist style with artwork and souvenirs of royalty abounding. The Sintra National Palace is the former royal palace with Moorish, Gothic and Manueline architecture style. The conical chimneys visible on the outside of the building are the most photographed sights of Sintra. They are still part of the kitchen, which is used, even today, for banquets. The Queluz National Palace is an 18th Century palace with spacious gardens filled with Baroque statues and is very much like a small version of Versailles. Quinta da Regaleira was built in the early 20th Century and houses the works of sculptress Dorita Castelo Branco. There is a luxuriant park with lakes, a palace, chapels and caves. While I visited they were setting up for an outdoor opera performance that evening. The Capuchos Convent was built in 1560 and is famous for its austerity and reflects the actual living conditions of the Capuchos order. I had lunch at Tacho Real, probably the best restaurant in town. Many of the visitors do what I did, return to Lisbon at nightfall.
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I accomplished all the above in 2 ½ days. I do not recommend my frenetic pace. You need at least an extra day to see all that Lisbon & Sintra have to offer. And remember, I did not get to Estoril. But that is for my next trip.

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Pest: The Other Side of the Danube River

Leaving the hills of Buda to return to the Pest side of the Danube you can hop on the green bus, which will take you down the hill, or you can return by funicular, subway, or walk across the bridge. Any way you descend the hill, watch for the “movie set” architecture from the 1700’s. These picturesque buildings are now apartments and small businesses, required by law to be kept historically authentic.
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In Budapest you’ll find it easy to get almost anywhere by the very good public transport systems. The subways are marked with “M”, and the top word is the station where you are standing. The bottom word is the end of that particular line. The maps are on the wall of the beautifully clean underground stations and on display inside the cars as well. The Budapest Card, which you really should have, will take you on any public transportation free. The yellow line of the subways is the oldest on the Continent, a fact of which Hungarians are very proud. Visit the Transportation Museum to see the old cars. The city tram system is not quite so fast or so long but will give you a good view as you move along beside the Danube.
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Note the wonderful architecture as you pass. Ardivassy Street’s seventeenth century architecture is so notable it has recently been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll want to walk along to reach the millennium park, built for Hungary’s 1,000th anniversary. The marvelous bronzes of the kings and Dukes have their most important achievements noted in relief sculpture below each figure. It is a truly incredible historic monument for any city.
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You’ll want a guide to explain the wonders of Budapest to you. One of the best you could find is Peter Koltai, who can be contacted here. His family is in its second generation as guide service, and he is well trained with degrees in tourism and history. His family also owns a horse farm just outside the city and can arrange any kind of riding or horse program you’d like at their private stables, where the finest Hungarian horses of the large,famed stock are raised.
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Just beyond this monument you’ll find the most important park on the Pest side: City Park with year round outdoor activities for the whole family. In summer you can boat on the shallow lake, and in winter it is festive with ice skaters, who enjoy the picturesque setting beneath a most unique castle. The castle is the feature of Vajdahunyad Castle, which is an amalgam of all the famous castles and palaces (Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque) in Hungary. It was made first of paper and wood for an exhibition at the end of the 19th century. The exhibit was so successful; it was later done in stone. In the same area, just west of Hero Square, you’ll find The Szechenyi Baths, the largest in Europe, built on the site of the ancient Roman Baths. You’ll also find the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, and Museums.
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Of note at the castle is the rather scary imposing statue of a hooded, seated mysterious person with a book and writing instrument in his hand. He is symbolic of the unknown person who first wrote down the tales of Hungarian history. The book was discovered and no one yet knows who wrote it. It is a priceless treasure, studied by all school children, and students rub the pen on the statue for good luck in their final exams.

A little past this castle you’ll be surprised to find a statue of George Washington, the first American President. Hungary has a population of 10 million, one-fifth of which live in Budapest. But because of the turbulent history Thousands of Hungarians have had to refugee to other countries in the past. After World War I Hungary lost two-thirds of its land. Today there are 50,000 Hungarian citizens living outside of their country. The ones from the Indiana in the United States of America gave this statue to their beloved homeland.
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Along the beautiful Danube River, you MUST take a ride on one of the many water tours offered and see the city from the water. Perhaps you arrived in Budapest on a cruise and have already seen her majesty illuminated at night. If not, there are many opportunities. We chose to have dinner on one of the showboats docked at Pier #2.
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Kossuth Museumhajo (Etterem Restaurant) is a real steamship built in 1913. We dined in Venhajo Restaurant on board. Phone 36-1-267-03-03. This was an excellent choice because we got to sample many, many authentic Hungarian dishes at their enormous and delicious buffet! Hungary is an agricultural nation, so the food is fresh from the farms and excellent as Mother’s home cooking, and the portions are enormous everywhere. Prices are very reasonable. We listened to the beautiful Salon Music Orchestra and most famous Gypsy Band. Budapest is known for its music academy and has one of the world’s greatest concert halls, second only to Venice’s Scala. After dining at about 7 pm, we had just the right amount o f time to walk to Pier #6 just before the green bridge, where we chose the Legend boat tour. Our champaigne cruise began at 2100 hours (9pm), just as dark was falling and the lights were coming on. We listened to soft classical music as we cruised the gentle waters of the Danube gazing at the illumined monuments for a romantic hour that was a highlight of our trip. If we spent a month in Budapest I’d want to take this cruise every night! Don’t miss it!
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You can also select daylight times for this and other cruises. Or you may want to enjoy an entire day by taking the high speed Hydrofoil from the International Harbor to Vienna, which takes five hours. There you can spend several hours sight-seeing and eating and then return on the four hour trip (with the current). Anyway you do it, you’ll fall in love with the Danube, the lifeline of theBudapest.
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Seven bridges connect Buda and Pest, which were first united as one when the pontoon bridge was built in the early 1800’s. The oldest and most beautirul, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge, was the first permanent one: built in 1848. However, all the bridges were destroyed in World War II and have been replaced by beautiful structures since then. The Margaret Bridge has the entrance to the lovely Island Park Nature Refuge. In the thirteenth century, King Buda had lost two daughters to the Tartars, who plundered, raped, and killed savagely. Buda and his queen fled the city and prayed fervently that their people be spared, promising God that they would offer their next daughter to be born into holy service and build a monastery to God’s glory. The Tartars did flee, and the Queen did conceive, and the princess Margaret was trained from the earliest period of her life to be God’s handmaiden. She lived her chaste life on this island.
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When you return to Peste from the Margaret Bridge, board the tram #2 and go past all the bridges to one of the largest, oldest, and most beautiful Market Halls in Europe. Save this for your last day and plan to spend half day and all the rest of your money here! A wonderful discovery is that the food in the restaurant here is so fresh, delicious, and very inexpensive, so have lunch here. You’ll see locals buying all their fresh produce and meats for their families, and The colorful displays of fruits, vegetables, fish, sausages, and the famous Hungarian paprika take up the entire first floor. A normal grocery store and bank are in the basement.

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The upper level has restaurants, etterems, bars, fast foods, and Hungarian handcrafts of every type. Here you’ll find the cheapest prices of any in Budapest, (although the markets in the small villages are a little cheaper). If you have Hungarian cash forents to spend you’ll get a 10 per cent discount in most places, and perhaps a little more if you are a good bargainer. Remember the embroideries, leather, wood, ceramic, porcelain, and glassware are of superb quality and excellent prices. You’ll want to bring lots home with you, so do as we did: Pack in the bottom of your suitcases before you come, or purchase at the market or airport some soft, sack-type suitcases, or backpacks to fill with your Hungarian treasures. You’ll be glad you did!
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The Hills of Buda

When we arrived in Budapest Ferihegy Airport a very helpful teen signaled a taxi for us and gave a certificate saying our price is fixed at 3,500 ft (about $14 US or EU), and a young girl handed us a most helpful Budapest Pocket Guide in English, which proved to be excellent. It all happened so fast we didn’t know what had hit us, and we were suddenly in the taxi and on our way. We were lucky that the price was very fair because we had not researched it ahead of time. To save any problem get an official airport taxi, or from anywhere in Budapest you can call a taxi from a public phone without any coins. They will send a taxi to whatever place you say immediately. This is a reliable association of the three secure and best companies. The way to ascertain where you are so they can locate you is to look on the cornerstone of the buildings at any corner to learn the street names of the intersections. It’s OK to tell your driver, “slow and careful.”
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The distinguished city of Budapest was once three towns, Old Buda, Buda, and Peste, on two sides of the Danube River. The hills of the Budas were claimed by the original Magyars, the seven horsemen tribes who dominated central Europe in the ninth century. These hills have natural cave systems and underground mineral springs, which delighted the Romans who later settled here. In 1,000 AD when Stephen was crowned King and head of the church, this was not the capital city as it is today. In the first millennium Esztergom, about 60 km north, was the center of government.
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In the twelfth century the present fortress was built overlooking the Danube waterway, which in those days served as a major “road” for commerce through Europe. It was in that period that the St. Stephen Cathedral was built, but not over the bones of the kings. In fact, Hungary’s royal cemetery was desecrated during the wars, and the country has only one royal grave, that of Buda III, which is seen in the cathedral today. Take the funicular scenic ride to the top of the hill. In the Buda hill part of the city, the Royal Cathedral has high mass every Sunday to which many visitors come for the service and the wondrous music in the majestic surroundings. You’ll definitely want to see this, one of the finest cathedrals in Europe with exquisite holy interior. It is the site of royal coronations and ceremonies.
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Be sure to note the statue of the Holy Virgin in an alcove to the left as you enter. To preserve her from being desecrated by the Turks who took over the Cathedral in the fifteenth century, the Hungarians made a solid wall to hide her. The Turks turned the cathedral into a mosque, with virtually no decoration inside. The Hungarians had prayed fervently to be freed from the Turk invaders, and during one of the battles a small earthquake occurred which knocked down the wall that hid the Virgin. The Turks fled in terror of the miraculous appearance of the Virgin.
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The Cathedral area has suffered much through many wars. During the most recent restorations in the late 1800’s the marvelous stained glass and the amazing porcelain roofs of the Cathedral and other buildings were added. These roof porcelains were made in the famous Zsolnay factories.
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Just behind the Cathedral you’ll find the sign “wine cellar” in English. If you wish to purchase wine, this is the place to do so. You can sample in their fine cellar, which has over 600 varieties of wines from 22 vintners. This is a great rest stop at the end of your long day.
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While you’re in the hills of Buda you’ll want to see the Palace, which was bombed during World War II and is today used as offices. The building also houses a great library and the Hungarian National Art Museum. Ask a guide in your language to explain the marvelous paintings, which depict the turbulent and painful history of this brave nation. From the Palace turrets you’ll find some of the best places to photograph or view of the flatter
area of Peste. The turrets were constructed by the fishermen who, in times past, were required to patrol this area of the city.
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An evening meal in Buda is a MUST at the Marvany-Menyasszony Restaurant in Krisztina Town with a history back to the turn of the 17th century. There you’ll feast on delicious, typical Hungarian food while being entertained by Gypsies performing traditional dances in Hungarian folklore costumes. The musicians are excellent. After you return home, you’ll re-live the spirit of joy, and the color and fun of the evening many times in your memory.
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Ostersund, Sweden’s airport is in the suburb Froson, a large island, named for Forja, a German fertility goddess. This island was an important assembly site and place of sacrifice during the Pre-Bronze Age, over 2,000 years ago. This island was Christianized about one thousand years ago. You can follow a trail that leads to an Iron Age Viking burial ground and another to a fourteenth century farmhouse, which the same family has occupied for all those centuries!
Your first stop should be at the Frostornet Tower. On a clear day you can see all the way to Norway. Enjoy some delicious Swedish coffee or lunch in the lovely snack bar there. If you ascend by elevator and rue the fact that the glass enclosure keeps you warm but interfere with your photos, use the stairs to descend, and you’ll get some marvelous photo shots.

 

See Froson Kyrke

In the middle and highest point of the island was a historic tree, which was at one time the place of sacrifice for ancient religious rites. Historians deduce that nine of many kinds of animals, including humans, were sacrificed here every nine years in the pre-Christian era. In the twelfth century, when Sweden had become a Christian kingdom, Froson Kyrke was built to sanctify the effects of pagan fertility rites. The church is still there, reconstructed several times after fires. An intricate, wooden bell tower is from the 1700’s. Of note is a thirteenth century burial stone carved with a Viking man and ancient inscription.

 

Sommarhagen, Home of Composer

Visit the lovely Sommarhagen, home of composer and music critic, WilhelmPeterson-Bergen. A bachelor, he found it necessary to be married to his music. His harsh critiques made him unpopular at first in Stockholm, but with his beautiful compositions he gained fame and popularity through the first quarter of the twentieth century and was highly acclaimed before his death. His mother was his first music teacher and funded his education and early career. She left the money for this summer home, which he built in her memory. A beautiful diamond-shaped red window in the living room captures the setting sunlight in a way that creates a warm glow on the hearth, which Wilhelm said is “Mother’s eye.” The house was designed and decorated under Wilhelm’s careful instructions and poetic, artistic insights. The windows frame the natural landscapes, which he considered his paintings and his inspiration. His most famous compositions are his collection of lyrical piano pieces and his five operas, one of which is performed by local people every summer at Froson Church where he is buried.
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Northern Sweden’s only rune stone is next to the bridge to Ostersund at Hornsberg Church. As you cross the lake search for Storjo, the monster of the lake, famed from many sitings since 1635. In winter you can cross the frozen lake to Ostersund by skis, skates, or driving on the ice, more than three meters (yards) thick! Of course there is the bridges for cars and also a separate bicycle/walking bridge.

 

Near Sweden’s Largest Ski Area

From Froson/Ostersund you are an easy drive to the town of Are, named for its “wonderful, healthy air,” when it was discovered by enthusiastic, health-conscious tourists in the early twentieth century. With Sweden’s largest ski area, it is a popular site for winter sports, and of course, lighted slopes since it is dark here for three months. However, between seasons you will hardly even be able to buy a cup of coffee because everyone leaves for a warmer holiday.