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A Canadian expatriate living and exploring first France now Germany, then BACK to FRANCE (!!!) with her family; former fashion designer, turned unexpected UNLIKELY NOMAD, raising two children, writing, photographing, painting, playing piano (who knew!!) and blogging - and now... full time student at ART SCHOOL!! (I MUST be crazy!!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

More rock art

These are some more examples of the rock art we found at various Bronze and Iron age sites on the South West coast of Sweden. Imagine over 3ooo years ago...we were so captivated by them, and found them to be so beautiful.

Several ships...

A deer or elk surrounded by dogs and sleds...

Some scholars suggest that the figure of a boat being carried by a single figure is symbolic of the spiritual journey of the soul to the after life. Riel was fascinated. WE had the site entirely to ourselves and since the art is so prolific, it is not covered and as you can see from the photo very accessible.

This one was a little more confusing and difficult to decipher but still so interesting...the carvings themselves were typically not coloured but have been painted for clarity and ease of viewing. In their original form they may have been coloured though usually are found in a watershed or sheet of runoff, and facing the sun, at the level of the sea at that time.

The round holes called Faery holes or cup holes were filled with fat as offerings early on to the gods and later on, up until early this century to the faeries of the woods...
My personal favorite... 7 children ; 4 boys (if you look closely...) and 3 girls playing ball with a "big"person...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Ship Stones

A viking burial site, we saw it as we drove by and had to stop, it looked so mysterious off in the distance. Upon closer examination, we found a series of rolling hummocks, not unlike Moguls.
We strolled around soaking up the air of the place.

The next day we went to a viking grave, the graves set up in a curious pattern like a ship, they call them Ship Stones...

The granite slabs were immense and we marvelled at their size and shape.
and wondered how many men it would have taken to position them like that...and how many were buried there...


Today we continued to wind our way northward along the east coast of Sweden almost to the Norwegian border to a small seaside community called Tanumshede, famous for it‘s proliferation of prehistoric 3000-5000 year old rock carvings. Even at these northern latitudes we found the weather, though a little wet and volatile, to be astonishingly warm with temperatures in the mid to low 20’s. The landscape and vegetation remind us very much of our own Canadian shield except with more dramatic variations in elevation, and since every one speaks almost flawless English, we are feeling quite at home.

As the GPS guided us expertly around bays, inlets and small fishing villages that characterize this coastal area, we chattered about what more exciting things we might discover on our days journey. We have enjoyed immensely the exploration we have done so far and have been fascinated to learn about Viking history and legend and are very excited to explore further.

Today sure was our lucky day.

The archaeological guide greeted us at the Vitlyke museum in Tanumshede with a blue-bristled long-handled broom and a slim black tube. Our group sped after him in his museum-mobile in a 4 car convoy across farmers fields, down little country lanes and then stopped abruptly in the middle of the brush. We all piled out and followed him on foot around several corners before entering a heavily carpeted evergreen forest, lush with ferns and fragrant with rich decay of centuries of fallen pine needles.

As we forged a path over the carpeted forest floor and through the light underbrush the guide began to explain that the Tanum plain is well known for it’s prolific Viking and bronze age burial sites that dot the country side as well as the 1000’s of bronze age rock carvings. Dial Viking civilization from 500-1500 AD back, around a 1000 years to be more precise, to 300-1800 BC you have early Scandinavian culture of the Bronze Age, where weavers, farmers, shepherds, fishermen and goatherds who lived a remarkably sophisticated lifestyle populated the area. At the time of the Bronze Age, the sea was 50 feet higher than it is today, so any rock carvings lie at least that high above the current sea level…

We began to climb.

We threaded our way along a ridge and began to descend through the forest and by two large mounds, burial mounds we were told, easily distinguished as being distinctly different than the surrounding topography.

We reached an open plateau with large expanses of granite smoothed by migrating glaciers. The guide set down the slim black tube and after locating areas where runoff water greased the rock he began to sweep away the debris from the trees above.

Slowly from underneath the grime of the decaying pine needles figures began to take shape, etched in the stone.

Warriors dancing with spears, children playing ball, multitudes of boats of varying sizes, animals, figures in mating rituals, men in chariots.

We were all completely spellbound.

Then he produced a large sheet of paper from his slim black tube and proceeded to position it over some of the more striking images and after securing it in place with some tape, he began to skim the surface with a sheet of carbon paper wrapped over the flat of his hand.
This is what happened next…

The figures began to appear on the rubbing with amazing clarity as the carbon focused their outlines. They changed from soft grey shapes hiding under the veil of granite to the dancing and menacing figures they were intended to be, performing their 3000 year old ceremonies on the paper right in front of us. The spell deepened, then he invited Riel to continue with the rubbing;

Riel reverently accepted the task.

As he continued the rubbing more figures began to appear and solidify, as if by magic, and the guide began to tell us stories about the figures and to describe to us the scene beside the rocks where we were, life, celebration, worship and death, to fill in the fuzzy details with gently lapping seawater replacing the coniferous forest in the valley in front if us, as far as we could see.

As he fixed the carbon on the rubbing with grass, it all became clear to us, the buzz of the conversations, the chink and sweep of the stone carvers as they worked in the watershed, the ceremonies, the hunts, the games and the mourning…

Life and death 3000 years ago…


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Water color

On Tuesday we traveled north up the west coast through Goteborg and visited a museum with the only surviving Viking ship in Sweden, then continued north along the coast to with the intent of visiting Tanumshade tomorrow, a site with prehistoric rock carvings. In our path along the fjords, islands and seaside lay a village called Skarhaven and it’s resident water color museum. Perfect.

When we were in Barcelona a few months ago my friend Oreneta and I and all of our collective children wandered across an artist supply shop. In it they were selling some very nifty watercolor sets that we were both quite taken with. In a small plastic packet not much larger than a decent billfold could be had a 24 or 48 color palette, a mixing tray and a paint brush. Just enough stuff to produce a bona fide watercolor painting; and something you can pack along in your pocket or purse.


I must admit I was quite smitten, and even though I did not purchase anything at the time I did find one in Dijon before we left. When the kids sit down to do a craft I sometimes pull it out in between loads of laundry and trying to figure out what to cook for dinner and do a little doodling. So far I have produced a couple of decent portraits of them at work…seemed the most obvious and now I am thinking of trying to reproduce some of my favorite photos.
As soon as the kids saw the too cool packaging and had a chance to watch what I was doing they too were keen to give it a go, so I purchased Riel a bona fide set of watercolor paints, portable in a handy tin as well, with it’s own paint mixing tray, and brush. He loves it and has already produced some great paintings. He enjoys the variety of color and quickly becomes immersed in his work. Lily has started with watercolor pencils and enjoys painting the pictures she has already colored in with her pencils.

I have for some time, as some of you may know, been harboring a desire to paint and since the idea of painting in oil seems so intimidating this seemed like the most logical way to get my feet wet. The water color museum provided the perfect segue to explore the medium further both for myself and the kids.

The ultra modern museum building and attached award winning restaurant perched on the edge of a bay was encased in glass, with immense windows on every side exposing a series of elevated walkways which served to anchor the museum to surrounding mounds of weather worn rocks. Clinging to the rock some 100 feet away from the museum were several pods studios, for visiting and studying artists.

We had a fabulous lunch and savored the view and then spent some time clambering around the rocks admiring the sea before exploring the museum.


Sunday, July 1, 2007


We made our way off the Ferry after a very relaxing 5 hours and found a great campsite right on the beach to spend the night. The moon was full and the breeze warm, it was great.
The next day…

Viking Festival….weew hoo!!

The village is called Skanor, with those two funny little dots above the O making it sound like I am not sure what, and then to the Foteviking Village where local enthusiasts have completely reconstructed and ancient Viking settlement.

A family enjoying the June sunshine…

A person can join this community of Vikings and come to live in the village for a week and learn all about the ways and lives of the Vikings. This last week was a Viking convention of sorts gathering Vikings enthusiasts from all over the Baltic area. Their festivities extended into the weekend with a Viking market attended by all sorts of very colorful, bearded, tressed and decorated folk. There was no shortage of interesting things to look at.

We even saw kid Vikings…

The market took place in the village, in amongst the huts of the settlement looking southward towards the sea off a cliff and the distant coast of Germany, with the villagers and visitors mingling together gossiping and bartering over their wares, very much I would imagine, the way it would have been a millennia ago. The market folk were all dressed in authentic costume made of homespun naturally dyed cloth with felted pointed hats, hand woven brightly colored woolen trim and dirty bare feet or laced up thongs. We saw metal workers who had forged intricate replicas of cloak pins in silver and bronze, chain mail, helmets, swords and daggers of every description, seamstresses, potters and wood workers hawking their wares.

An armorer repairing his suit of armor before donning it and inviting archers to shower him with arrows at virtually point blank range…

A sword fighting demonstration at which very real and seemingly dangerous blows were exchanged…

(*Authors note; The big guy in the white probably stood twice the size of the young lady in the red and yellow, but she whupped him by being lighter and smarter on her feet…l!!!)

Then we wandered over to a battle re-enactment and were most impressed with the warriors preparing for battle…
TBG-“Gee I think I have “Viking-envy“!!

Amidst much carnal bellowing and thumping of swords on shields they did charge, much to the consternation of the children who just were not quite sure what EXACTLY was happening…
What a fun day!!!

The first leg...

All of last week I spent getting organized to go. We needed to sort out and organize all of our paperwork for the car, register it in the new town in which we live, get new license plates, get the caravan certified, licensed and insured…all in German.

No matter where one goes red tape is a pain at best and Germany is no exception. It took me an entire week of running around to accomplish all of this and I kept having to remind myself that it is JUST as difficult in our own country. By and large we have found the locals to be more than kind, more than helpful and everything is done with a smile and more than a little good humor.

So VERY nice.

Bathing suits…check
Art pads…check
Viking books…check
Guide books and maps…check…
Ferry tickets check…
Passports check…
Off we go!!!

The first leg of our journey took us 3 hours overland north from Hannover towards the sea and a little town called Rostock, indicated by the orange arrow at the BOTTOM the map. At Rostock we planned to catch a ferry which would carry us across the sea to the south coast of Sweden and a port town called Trellebourg, the orange arrow at the TOP of the map, where we would begin our journey through Sweden.

We spun along the autobahn passing rolling hills, rows of large red tipped windmills marching along and the occasional immense half timbered farmhouses while Porches and Audis zoomed past us at unnerving speeds. With the aid of our maps, the GPS system and by staying tucked tightly in the right lane we reached the Scandlines ferry terminal without incident.

We arrived early in time to line up and then have lunch in the caravan where the kids could do some activities and play a bit. Suddenly we realized that we needed to board the ferry shortly and scrambled to pack ourselves up, as the ferry had already docked and was ready to receive passengers.

We initially mistook the ferry for a building it was so gi-normous!!!

Into the belly we go…whoa!!!

For a 125E ticket for the entire family, car and living room on wheels included, we found the ferry to be quite posh with a decent restaurant, a casino, and a play place. With a deep rumble and a shudder that startled all of us, we were off, winding our way slowly out of the harbor pushing a wave of hungry seagulls in front.

As we passed through the harbor the ferry made the cars sitting on the wharf next to us look like dinky toys, it was so large and we were so high up. We had fun watching all the interesting industrial stuff that shipyards are made of pass by; loading cranes like salivating praying mantii poised to disembowel fully loaded logging barges, chew into gigantic windmill bits lying immobile side by side, and a digest a crowd of brightly colored marker buoys awaiting placement in the water like a bunch of frightened dwarfs.

During the crossing we had some stormy weather which afforded this photograph of the sky over the Dover-like coast of Denmark.

The kids enjoyed some popsicles, and we settled in to enjoy the first leg of our journey!!

What we have been up to...