Friday, May 25, 2007

Northern Sweden-Ångermanland-welcome to the land of MOOSE, REINDEER AND WOLF! by Aisha


We were driving for the last 100 km deeper and deeper into the forests-lakes- rivers wilderness with our great guide and host Sven, who has picked us up in Härnösand - it was midnight already, but the brightness was confusing our sense of time and beautifully iluminating this fairy tale countryside. We are not in the midnightsun period- Sven explained, but it was already enough to impress us! We were looking at the landscapes as if from LORD OF THE RINGS films, no doubts! And it is a last part of our long journey that we have decided to make onland, to see how the landscape changes from Smånd up to Ångermanland:13 long hours of driving!
We have passed Stokholm and carried on northwards. I was having the last ( SYMBOLIC) drops of Arktika vodka, that our wanderful cook from Kalma
r, Edwin, has put in our ' provisions' s bag as a special farewell and it had a magic effect on the landscape: it was getting more and more wild and more and more uninhabited- the wild forests and ÄLVAR ( big rivers) with plenty of islands on them have appeared, the postglacial ondulated landscape was both threatening and breathtaking- a human being is nobody there- this is a land of MOOSE, REINDEER, BEAR , WOLVE and EAGLE!

We were passing many road signs with MOOSE warning, and Sven made us understand the real danger of this encounter.Anyway, we are excited about this possibility! Sven told us about wolves visiting him sometimes in his house in the middle of the forest, and there are neighbours who has seen bears! We are out of so called civilisation, that is for sure, and we are ready for anything. The striking idea is- tango has arrived here and conquered the hearts of this tough people, people of few words... We have heard a lot about them, down in South of Sweden- stories about norther men, ' yu-men', since YU standing for ' yes' - the only answer you might get conversing with them. Yu can be also substituded by a short sound, non sonoric, which could be described as taking a puff of a cigarete inwards, or tryin to whistle inwards, without making a real sound, only air passing through the mouth put in ' U' shape... We were laughing while practicing this sound in Småland, having Edwin & Lene as our phonetics teachers.. And now as we are here- we state that the people still DO talk, but, for our pleasure ( and fun) they DO make this sound, which we call, between us a ' moose sound'.

But our Sven is a very eloquent man- he is a wise man from the Northern Sweden, with lots of knowledge- life wisdom- of somebody who has lived alone in the middle of the nature and therefore appreciates human company-he speaks slowly weighing each word. We are happy that he is going to be our guide to explore the land and culture of this region. We are bombarding him with so many questions from the first moment we saw him- his handsome face adorned with Salvador Dali-like moustache definitely awakes confidence and builds a bridge between him and new visitors. Sven is patiently answering all of our questions and we are slowing down: EVEN I feel I am beginning to speak and react in a slow motion!
Sven must have some special contacts with Vikings Gods, because he had arranged a perfect weather for us- all the time of our stay in his wooden house in the woods. It was a pleasure to have my yoga sessions in his terrace outside, the woods coming into the gardens.
It is thanks to SVEN that we have alrea
dy started our gastronomical journey in this land:
TUNNBRÖD is something we are tasting for the very first time and both of us developed a strong preference for it,it comes in two versions: soft one, like paper,that you can fold and crispy one , which has to be broken .
Therefore we are going to have TUNNBRÖDSRULLE whenever we want to have a snack ( tunnbröd filled with mashed potatoes, sousage and pickled cucambers)
We were welcomed with special yogurt of the region, YOGHURT of HJORTRON, a special berry of this region, whose name we have not found neither in English nor in Spanish. Anyway, we just LOVE IT!There is, course, a liquor made of this berry as well!
We had Johnsons' temptation, which simplicit
y matches the taste: sliced potatoes, onions, cream and fish- baked in the oven. Thank you Lena!
Sven has prepared a wanderful Malins Kyckl
inglåda,for a dinner in our honour- it made Victor forget argentinean meat for a while. And Rabarberpaj,with vanilla cream is a real danger for any human being- thanks god we are dancers and burn it quickly...
And of course, the QUEEN of the dishes is the MOOSE MEAT, which we enjoyed slice by slice, accompanied by the story of its unusual origins: a housewife was surprised with unexpected visit. She took a deep frozen moose and in her desperation
put in the oven with 75 degrees. She forgot about it, and next morning she managed to rescue it putting it in the saulty water. This was this magic touch which gives the moose meat its fine savor. Guna was kind to offer us this delicacy.
BUT WITHOUT A DOUBT OUR GASTRONOMICAL BAPTISM OF THE NORTHERN SWEDEN IS FERMENTED HERRING-SURSTRÖMMING. We have been listening about it from the very beginning, maybe even before we get here- mostly jokes about our eating it. As we were driving to Guna and Uno's house, now, of course, in the middle of the woods ( half an hourse driving un unpaved road deep to the forest) by the picturesque lake to attend an invitation to a FERMENTED HERRING PARTY, we got the message very clear: WE ARE GOING TO EAT A HERRING COUGHT LAST YEAR- Sven explained, that is: we are going to have an animal which has died a year ago! All our south swedish friends are waiting for that moment as they themselves, would never dare to confront EVEN THE SMELL OF IT. And yes, it is the SMELL of this dead fish witch could put off any, even the most insensitive nose. BUT WE ACCEPT THE CHALLAGE, we want to be a part of this culture, we want to go through this ritual! And it had happed! Of course, we were explained the story of its origines: in the 16th century herring was a means of paying taxes to the king. It took so many months to get to the king, that submerged in a salty water ( not enough salt- IT WAS EXPENSIVE BACK THEN!) it started to go off! And apparenty the hunger of some Swedish at that time was such, that disconsidering a smell they ate it... and it was GOOD! Since then it became a tradition. And it is said to be healthy- good for digestion!
I cannot say I enjoyed the moment when the herring dish entered the room! SOMETHING's ROTTEN IN THE KINGDOM OF DENEMARK- I thought. The rotten smell of fish- what a challange! We have not put a cloth cog on our nose, as advised by our super agent Inger, and we ate it as heroes do- the whole ceremony recorded by 2 cameras and plenty of photographs. There are no doubts that we went through the ceremony of smelly fish baptism! AND WE HAVE SURVIVED! Now we deserve to stay a couple of days more to enjoy the land and culture. Tomorrow is another party- our FAREWELL PARTY and we are not supposed to know what another gastronomical delicasy will be served. We are prepared for anything!
And where is herring party, there are SNAPSLIEDER! We were getting ready also for this very Swedish ritu
al. You are not allow to drink without singing a drinking song. A different one before each glass of schnaps! So there is a Schnaps' song nr 1,"Helan Går",2 "Helan gick i ena foten" 3 " and so on, 4... 10.. and 100! Yes, Sven made us listen to a CD of 100 Snapslieder! But we learnt only one, which we practiced the previous days ( before drinking our absolut or RENAT). It goes like that:

Helan går, sjung hopp faderallan, allan lej,
Helan går, sjung hopp fader allan lej,
Och den som inte helan tar han heller inte halvan får!
Helan gå
r, ( and here a pause for drinking your glass)
Sjung hopp fader allan lej!

meaning: here comes the first glass of schaps, let's sing the first schaps song!
I do not remember how many we must have sung there, in the magic house by the lake, but Sven is definitely an expert, and soon we have heard another song ( telling if you do not sing a nr 2 schaps song you will not have a second drink!), and another one and Uno was a good master of the ceremony too- answering with still another song. All of them were translated to us. We were told that each ear a competition of the Schapslieder is held and there are two countries participating: Finnland and Sweden. Usually Finish win- they outsmart Swedish with their wit. There is a known joke about Swedish and Finn drinking and when Swed sung his first Schaps song, the Finn replied: ' are we singing or are we drinking?!'
It got very merry in the lake house, and we
were totally overtaken by the spirit fo Northern People.We had our special students around:Sven, Erik, Dorte, Gun & Uno, Anders , Evarut, Jätte...We could haver get this experience in NO TOURIST AGENCY, in no special package! We were not tourists anymore, but enjoying the real food and drink in a real company of our friends, which we felt as knowing for ages, even though we have met a couple of days ago in a tango class! Not even a five star hotel could charm us more that this little house by the lake and as Victor was streched on the lake bridge, taking gentle spring sun on his face he said his usual joke' LA DURA VIDA DEL TANGUERO' - what a hard life of a tango dancer!( the red spot on the picture is Victor- in his favorite horizontal position)

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