Tuesday, August 30, 2011

From Lycksele to Tärnaby - Sweden, 2011

The Blue Highway is 1700km (1020 miles) of "sheer adventure" and goes from "the island of Traena on the Atlantic coast in Norway, by way of Umeå, across Kvarken to Vasa in Finland, and eventually to Petrozavodsk in the Russian Republic of Karelia" according to the sign seen at a roadside stop on our day of travel to Tärnaby. This scenic highway passes through urban (represented by Umeå), rural (represented by Lycksele), forest (represented by Vägsele) and alpine (represented by Tärnaby) zones. We stayed for two nights in Lycksele while visiting with Sture and Inger in Vägsele and one night in Umeå en route to Lycksele from the High Coast. We stayed two nights at the "summer home" of cousins Sture and Inger in Tärnaby. So we saw all four zones during our travels on just the Swedish portion of the Blue Highway, or Blå Vägen, as it is called in Swedish. Come along for the ride...

Hotell Duvan in LyckseleBefore leaving Lycksele, I took a photo of the Hotell Duvan where we stayed two nights in Lycksele and several interior views of Lycksele kyrka (across the street and in the collage below).

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Built of wood from 1795-1799, the interior of Lycksele kyrka was painted to resemble marble (lower left) and ceiling paintings were added in the 1950s during a restoration. The fabulous organ was added in 1977 during a more recent renovation. The front altar painting by CG Sjöstrand (lower right) depicts the resurrection of Christ and was added in 1842. The fabulously gilded high pulpit is one of many such high pulpits present in churches all over Sweden. While researching Lycksele kyrka on the internet, I found an interesting Google translation from the Swedish Wikipedia article on Lycksele kyrka: "The church is built of sleeping hours and consists of nave with cows in the east and the west tower." I have NO IDEA what that means but think I'd prefer my church without cows! I can relate to "sleeping hours" in church though… ;-)

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En route to Tärnaby from Lycksele, we were treated to a stop at a roadside picnic area alongside the Umeälven, Ume River, marked by the red dot on the map shown between the two river views. Seated on the left of the picnic table from front to back are myself, my sister Valerie and my brother Lukas; on the right (same order), cousin-in-law Inger, my brother's partner Tom and cousin Sture. As usual, we were treated to a fine snack and freshly brewed coffee! The wooden "box" houses trash cans and keeps the four-legged critters from the garbage. The church is Stensele kyrka... anxious to reach Tärnaby, we did not stop to explore this largest wooden church in Sweden. (we did make a short side trip to visit this church two days later)

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First order of business on arrival... light a fire to dispel the chill from the air... it's cool even in summer in the mountains! As soon as the cars were unpacked we set the table and Inger began preparing food for our afternoon meal... Another lovely meal with appetizers of herring two ways (one in cream sauce with egg and onions and one pickled), more potatoes, some riced to have with the main meal and some whole as an option to have with the herring. The main meal was moose with chanterelles and gravy (absolutely delicious), riced potatoes, rye toast, lingonberry jam and salad followed by a dessert of homemade rhubarb pie warm from the oven served with a vanilla cream sauce.The downstairs rooms have dual purpose "couches" that doubled as sleeping space for Sture and Inger during our stay. They insisted we sleep in the upstairs rooms.

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Upstairs, the smaller of the two bedrooms is colorfully decorated and furnished with two twin beds, the larger of the two (lower right) has two twin beds and a sleep sofa that can be expanded for additional sleeping space. And if that isn't enough, there is a small "cottage" opposite the main house that sleeps more (upper right). Sture and Inger lived in this one-room cottage during the construction of their larger home. They built it themselves using, in part, materials from an old house Sture bought and had transported to their property in Tärnaby in order to take it apart and use the materials in construction of their vacation home. The wedding photo sits on the table (a small part of which is seen in the foreground, lower right) and is of their older son Örjan and his wife Lisa. I rather like the look the glare on the glass gave this photo of a photo.

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What to do after our marvelous meal? Why, walk it off, of course. Through the forest and down to Lake Gäutan where we saw the sunlight on Ryfjället, the lower of the two main peaks seen here, and spotted quite a few alpine flowers along the way (or on a later walk). Ryfjället rises 1130 meters (0.7 miles) above sea level; the taller and more distant peak is Ryivegaise which rises 1412 meters (0.87 miles) above sea level.

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Another look at Ryfjället and Lake Gäutan, Sture, Inger and Frosse (phonetic spelling) on the lake shore, the colorful door to their home with its lovely hardware and the moose antlers seen on a neighbor's garage. One note about hiking down to Lake Gäutan... if you ever find yourself in Sweden hiking around this lake, make sure you have used a good insect repellant! The mosquitoes were pretty hungry.

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This is a bit out of order since this image is from Vägsele but I wanted to include it anyway. The home seen here belonged to Sture's parents. The small extension on the right of the main house was used as a post office until 1960; during that time, Sture's mother was postmistress for the town of Vägsele. The main house dates from the 1930s but both the post office extension and the porch on the left were added at later dates.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Out and about in Vägsele, Ytterfors and Lycksele in Northern Sweden

We learned rather quickly that any visit with cousin Sture and his wife Inger meant hiking, eating REALLY GOOD food and learning about how things were in the "old days" as evidenced by relics left in the old houses where various relatives were born and/or lived at some time in the past. Our second day visiting with them was filled with so much activity that it was very hard to choose representative images... hope you enjoy your visit here. We certainly enjoyed our visit there!

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Images seen here in the top left and bottom right are from the garden as is the flower image (cannot recall the species). Others are from our before lunch hike on the property where Sture and Inger live and include a rear view of my brother and his partner heading into the woods, my brother getting up close to a flower, a view through the trees to a distant farm, my brother-in-law with Inger and my sister trailing behind Inger as we return to their house at the end of our walk.

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The images across the top half of the collage include views of the Johansson family property showing Sture and Inger's home and barn as well as land across the street that used to be part of the property; the two smaller images are actually the left and right halves of a landscape image take from high up the hill above their home looking across to distant mountains. The bottom half of the collage shows the home of one our great-grandfather's brothers next to the windmill that is a lawn decoration at this home, another view of distant mountains as seen from the Johansson property and the barn with wood bins FILLED to overflowing with wood chopped by cousin Sture. Inger told us the home that belonged to our ancestor has been added on to since it was originally built in our great-grandfather's time and is now quite modern.

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A short drive away from the home of our cousin found us at a lovely picnic spot, complete with shelter in case of inclement weather, a fireplace for warmth and/or cooking and beautiful scenery just across the road from the picnic table. Sture carried the coffee pot and fixings for coffee with him whenever food was involved in our outings... including carrying it in a knapsack when we went hiking! By the time we had lunch spread out on the picnic table and had taken a few photographs of the lovely scenery, Sture had coffee ready for us. The tiny people in the image in the lower left are my brother and his partner.

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In addition to lovely scenery, wildflowers were abundant at our picnic spot. Caught my sister taking a photo of our spectacular views... we never did figure out if the white flower is Queen Anne's Lace or some other look-alike flower... and the pink cluster of tiny buds is still unidentified. The others are either Common or Small Cow-wheat (hard to know which the tiny yellow, twin blossoms are), Buttercup and Wild Geranium, completely with a tiny fly that MAY be a hoverfly. (There is not enough detail to be absolutely certain of the ID and it is not a hoverfly with which I'm familiar if it is, indeed, a hoverfly.)

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After lunch, we headed off on our next adventure. A short distance away we visited property that used to belong to my grandmother's family and saw the house in which she was born, the top left and bottom right images are of that house which is no longer livable. The woman in the lower right image, Brigitta, lives in the new house (built in 1960) on the property and had much to tell us about the old house and the old days. She is standing on the back corner of the old house and told us that it used to be bigger but part of it was demolished to provide building materials that were used in building the new house. The top right image is of the old barn on the property; Sture and Inger are standing in front of the old playhouse on the property and the dishes and tea service (use your imagination) are inside the playhouse. Although there is a new playhouse, Brigitta says the children prefer to play in the old one. She also told us she played in this house when she was young and learned everything she needed to know about life here. The other images on the bottom left are of some of our party going into the woods (you will see why in the next collage), a vole hiding in the grass and a detail of the old, cast iron stove in the old house.

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More images of the old house including a closer view of the rear corner where Brigitta stood and told us about the house, another view of the playhouse, the other side of the rear of the old house and a building used by our great-grandfather as a smithy. The part of the old house, now gone, that was on the rear half of the house seen in the lower left was lodging for the schoolteacher who came for three months of the year to teach the school age children. It would have also served as the schoolroom.

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The top left image is one last view of the barn on the Ytterfors property... beautiful to me in the setting of all the green hues and wildflowers. The rest of the images in this collage are from the inside of the old house on the Johansson property and include old wallpaper, old linoleum flooring (watch your step), lasts used in making their own shoes, one door of a wardrobe used until fairly recently by one of our grandfather's brothers (we think), two views (front and rear) of an old knapsack that would have been used for berry picking and an anvil that our great-grandfather used in the old days. Sometimes I think we have NO IDEA how easy our lives are compared to our ancestors.

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An old sundial, another lovely view from the Johansson property, our cousins' pet playing with his chew toy, another marvelous meal prepared by Inger and Sture and roadside views taken around 9:30 PM on our way back to Lycksele. The late evening light was just amazing!

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The sunset images flanking the church are not exactly as they were seen. I was experimenting with color adjustments on images taken at the same time as those seen in the previous collage... clearly one can change the look/feel of an image quite dramatically! The church in Lycksele was right across the street from our hotel; the picture was taken at about 10:30 PM as we were heading out to walk along the water before bedtime.

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Images from our wandering around town and along the Ume River in Lycksele... a lovely building whose purpose I cannot recall, a house in town (do you see the face?), one of the only modern churches we saw during our stay in Sweden, sunset along the river with an abandoned boat, two fishermen coming in to shore, a statue of a fisherman and the front of our hotel. As for the "WICTORIA" poster, it is advertising a Circus and was sometimes spelled WICTORIA and sometimes Victoria. Either way, I had to take a picture of it!

Last, but not least, you may like to view a slide show of the images included in this post. If you made it this far, thanks so much for coming along for the journey!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Travels continue... from Umeå to Lycksele and Vägsele - Sweden, 2011

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An unexpected discovery in my hotel room in Umeå... two sets of barbells along with a DVD of suggestions for workouts. Fortunately, they were not at the head end of the bed! And they did NOT get used by me but they were an artistic addition to the decor. :-)

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Before leaving Umeå, we went to Gammlia, a part of town where there is an open air museum with buildings representing diverse cultures and various historic times. We happened to be there just as people were coming to church in the old Gammlia Kyrka. The church is not very large but it is quite pretty... the service was outdoors on this nice Saturday morning during Midsummer celebrations and the pastor was happy to tell us a bit about the church. We were invited to stay for the service but needed to be on the road to Lycksele and Vägsele to meet up with our cousins.

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More from the Gammlia Kyrka... close up of the bell tower and interior shots showing the painted walls (commonly done to make them look like stone) and some of the interior decorations as well as the high pulpit (dark because I chose to show it as it was with natural light).

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The schoolteacher docent in Gammlia standing outside the schoolhouse which was also used as a bakery. Interior shots show some of the school supplies (slates the student used, chalk (in baskets in drawer) and erasers (rolled up rags)), the room where the teacher would have stayed while teaching students for the 3 month period s/he was at this school and the chamberpot (used during the night if needed and emptied the next day).

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Schoolteacher explaining that the "sticks" of letters, numbers and symbols behind her were used to teach arithmetic, the alphabet and spelling, a water mill building near the school, oil lamp used for light during long, dark winter nights and the school garden which also would have been used in teaching the students as well as providing produce for the teacher.

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Entering the Sami village we saw smoke coming from this "cot" and were invited in by the young Sami who was the docent on duty. He told us that he and his father built this cot, first finding the curved trees that are used for the main support of the structure and then finding and cutting all the logs. Construction was done entirely without the use of nails which were very scarce and hard to come by in northern Sweden in the old days. In the cot, the family sits to the right of the fire with the most important members seated furthest from the door in order of importance to the family (the mother is the most important); guests would have been seated on the left. I commented that his clothing didn't look very authentic Sami to me... his comment in return was that he is Sami and the clothes felt like clothing to him so they must be authentic Sami clothing. :-)

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Images from the Västerbottens museum in Gammlia, Umeå, Sweden. Museums of this sort were established to display buildings and lifestyles that seemed to be vanishing with the onset of the industrial revolution. Of course I had to include a macro of a hoverfly... the images surrounding it from top right to lower bottom left are of a summer barn, a rail fence with a drying rack in the background (both built without using nails), a threshing barn, windows of the "cot" seen in the adjacent image, two sheep stripping a young pine of its bark and lower needles, a lovely scene of an old wooden structure next to the forest.

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The two wooden structures high off the ground and supported by raised platforms with tree trunks as the base are typical of Sami food storage buildings, designed to keep food away from four-legged predators. The tree trunks are still rooted in the ground. The middle structure is a portable cot (Sami home) that is used in summer while moving the reindeer herd from one grazing ground to the next.

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This reindeer carving was in the Sami village in the open air museum in Gammlia, Umeå, Sweden. Reindeer are very important to the Sami who domesticated reindeer in the 16th and 17th centuries.

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By now we were LATE for lunch for sure and anxious to join our cousins for a meal and to get acquainted/reacquainted. So off we raced to Lycksele where we checked into our hotel and then continued on to Vägsele. Cousin Sture and Inger live in the "new" house on the family property which has been in the Johansson family since the 1600s, seen here with our rental car and their car parked in front shortly after our arrival. Sweden's colors of blue and yellow were in the wildflower bouquet and the maypole (significant to Midsummer celebrations) on the dining table, the wood stove is the second of two stoves in Inger's kitchen and serves dual duty in winter as an extra cooking stove and a heat source. Our first meal included two types of herring (pickled and in cream sauce), moose (killed by Sture during the winter hunt and deliciously prepared by Inger), cloudberry quiche (delicious!) and other wonderful food. The old red barn seen on our after dinner hike, the table set for dinner, our cousins' pet peeking out from under the rug where he hid for awhile and lingonberry blossoms finish out this collage.

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After dinner, we went off on an "easy hike" as described by Inger who is five years older than I am... if this was an easy hike, a difficult one might be too much for me! It wasn't that difficult but it did go through rocky ground and was an uphill climb. The red building is one of many old buildings we saw in the countryside in northern Sweden; ruins of old farm equipment dot the landscape; Sture's wife Inger with their pet following close behind (must get the correct spelling of the dog's name but think it might be Frässe); Sture carrying umbrellas in case of rain (it did not); and images of distant landscape as seen from high up the mountain.

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The top left and bottom right corner images are the new and old houses respectively on the Johansson property. Sture and Inger have lived in the new house since 2004; the old house, built in 1792 and no longer livable, is where our grandfather was born and where he and our grandmother lived after they were first married. Their oldest two children, born before they emigrated to the US in the early 1900s, were also born here. Other images include a lovely old stone building in disrepair, a small portion of the wood chopped by cousin Sture (no wonder he is in such great shape) for their use in heating their home, a late evening scene of the beautiful countryside in Vägsele, the old laundry house, used by our ancestors as a communal clothes washing place, and more old farm equipment rusting in the fields.

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I'll leave you with two more late evening sunset scenes... a beautiful end to our first day spent with cousins Sture and his wife Inger. All images in this post are available for viewing as a slide show if you'd like to see them in their original format.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

From Härnösand to Umeå... a day of travel in Sweden - 2011

As we continued our journey north toward Umeå, we passed many small villages and farms and saw fewer and fewer cars on the road. If you ever find yourself anywhere near the High Coast region of Sweden, on the world heritage list, it is well worth spending a day or more exploring the area. Once again, editing the many images down to a few to share has been a daunting task. Hope you enjoy the ride! (remember, click any image to view the large size... or if you prefer, have a look at all the images in a slide show)

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From Wikipedia The High Coast Bridge (in Swedish Högakustenbron or Vedabron) is a suspension bridge crossing the mouth of the Ångermanälven river near Veda, on the border between the Härnösand and Kramfors municipalities in the province of Ångermanland in northern Sweden… length is 1,867 metres (6,125 ft)… constructed between 1993 and 1997 and was officially opened on 1 December 1997.
The fog lends an air of mystery to these images taken under the bridge after we crossed it leaving Härnösand en route to Umeå.

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A few things that caught my eye as we explored the High Coast area... quiet fishing villages, roadside lupine, novelty advertising and red buildings in fields bordered by typical Sami style wooden fences, constructed without using any nails.

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Buzzing bees, wildflowers, beautiful scenery... we never lacked for something lovely to view.

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Nordingrå Kyrka (kyrka is Swedish for church) is a beautiful church on the High Coast, constructed from 1825-1825 and restored in 1962, it sits on the same site as a church built in the 12th century. The row of red cabins in the lower left are part of the Nordingrå church village... church villages in Sweden are charactered by a such collections of small cabins and were built up around the churches to provide lodging for parishioners who traveled long distances to church. Prior to the 1860's, it was a crime in Sweden to not go to church. And it wasn't until the last century that church and state were separated. These days, those cabins are sometimes rented to tourists, used for summer camps or are not used at all.

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Another view of the exterior of Nordingrå Kyrka and 3 views of the ruins of the 12th century church. Only the foundation is left standing and nature is taking over the area. Such ruins are particularly beautiful to me with the contrast between the old stone and the lush colors of nature.

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Continuing our generally northward journey, we stopped at Rotsidans naturreservat on the recommendation of our cousin Örjan. The beach is famous in Sweden and he thought we should stop and see it. The path to the beach is about 500 meters through a lovely forest, passing over the rocky shore dotted with wildflowers... we reached the beach only to find it completely fogged in! My brother's partner is waving at me through the fog as he stands next to my brother. The last image of the sailboat with all the signal flags is from further along on our journey... more about that later. But first, a few more of the foggy Rotsidans naturreservat.

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The sea is lost in the fog...
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As is the shoreline...
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Wave action over the rocks along the shore...
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Shore bird soaring out of the fog over the trees on shore at Rotsidans naturreservat... you might enjoy taking the extra time to click this one and view it large... the light on the bird is quite nice!

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The High Coast town of Mjällom is where we finally saw a bit of the Midsummer celebrating that was ongoing during our visit... in the lower right on the distant shore, people had gathered and were playing games and listening to music. The image in the lower left is from Skuleskogens National Park and is of the tourist convenience facility there... it is a beautiful building and one would never guess its purpose without seeing the signs for Men (män) and Women (kvinnor) on the doors!

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Upon our arrival in Umeå, we find out once again that "proper" restaurants are closed due to the Midsummer holiday so we dine on OK fast food at Max, Sweden's answer to McDonald's and a cut above. Afterward, we wandered around the town exploring our neighborhood... the gentleman in the top left was quite insistent I take his picture and his fingers are forming a heart. The homes along the river are quite impressive and the differing styles of architecture on many of the buildings quite beautiful.

In my next post, you will see more of Umeå and then we are off to Lycksele where we at last meet up with our Swedish cousins who live in Vägsele, a small town of 43 inhabitants about 20 minutes from the larger town of Lycksele.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

From Stockholm to Härnösand... a day of travel in Sweden

It seems that when we traveled in Sweden, we often found ourselves traveling the highways in the rain. Some of the time, we got lucky and found ourselves stopping during lulls in the rain... other times we battled the rain when stopping to visit sights we wanted to see. Our day of travel from Stockholm to the High Coast town of Härnösand was just such a day... and we weren't always lucky as you will see! (reminder, just click any image to view it larger... or view them all as a slide show if you prefer)

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There are two reasons you won't see an image from me of the exterior of the Uppsala Cathedral, the tallest cathedral in Sweden and one that has survived fires and had multiple renovations over the years to reach its present form as a Gothic style cathedral. One is that there was no way to get far enough away from it during the short time we stopped in Uppsala en route to the High Coast... and the other is that the pouring down rain made me not want to even try! Meanwhile, this image is of just a few of the lovely stained glass windows... just look at that organ too!

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Near the Uppsala Cathedral, the Holy Trinity Church is older and much simpler... and to my eyes, lovelier. The church was consecrated in 1302 and was decorated with paintings by Albertus Pictor, a famous medieval artist, in the second half of the 15th century.

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The old buildings on the canal are fishermen's huts, houses and fish stores in the town of Hudiksvall, one of our stops en route to the High Coast from Stockholm. The church spires towering over the foreground buildings are on the cathedral in Härnösand, the only white cathedral in Sweden and also the smallest of Sweden's cathedrals. And the familiar (at least to Americans) golden arches barely visible on the building across the water is the McDonald's in Härnösand... it was an option for dinner that we did not take!

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The street scenes are from our exploration of the older part of town in Härnösand. The town was chartered in 1582 and has been partially destroyed by fire 10 times over the years since. I don't know the age of these lovely wooden buildings in the older part of town which is very picturesque with the narrow streets. It was still quite light after 10 PM! The colorful painted doors caught my eye as did a distant view of the cathedral from another angle.

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The pizzeria where we had dinner served OK food... not what I'd had in mind for dinner but that and McDonald's were really about our only choices during the midsummer holiday when almost everyone takes vacation. Another view of the church and yet another view of those painted doors which I liked so much! The tourists waiting for the photographer to stop playing with her camera are my sister and brother.

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Sometimes it seemed that there was brilliant color everywhere we looked! Two shop windows and these flowers caught my eye while we were having our after dinner stroll in Härnösand.

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Continuing our wandering, we saw still more flowers and a colorful building whose purpose I've since forgotten (maybe city hall). The other building (lower left) housed a pub on the first floor where we spent some time having a drink before heading back to our hotel. It seems the clocks in Härnösand's public spaces (the ones I noticed anyway) had not been set for daylight savings time. It was after 11 PM when the photos of the building and the clock tower were taken.

I think I'm getting the hang of putting these posts together a little more efficiently. I sure hope so anyway because I absolutely MUST finish reporting on this journey before my next adventure begins in mid-September!