Eyes On The Arctic : Need To Read Things

In this weekly post, I collect all the need-to-read arctic related things that I’ve found over the past several days, and put them here in a handy bundle of links for you to pick, click and read.

12526-snowflakePolar Bears Appear Where They Never Were Before

12526-snowflakeThe Arctic Is On Fire, And You Can See It From Space

12526-snowflakeArctic Wild Goose Chase Threatens Chicks As Temperatures Rise

12526-snowflakeWe Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

12526-snowflakeBetter Living Through Tide Pools

12526-snowflake‘City of icebergs:’ Study Says 100s Of Arctic Glaciers Shrinking, Disappearing

12526-snowflakeAn inside look at the AGO’s largest showcase of Inuit art

12526-snowflakeHeat wave scorches Sweden as wildfires rage in Arctic Circle

 

A Conversation With Artist Alessia Brusco

The best types of Instagram accounts are the ones that leave you feeling better for encountering them. That leave you feeling as though, actually, life is good, and there are decent people out there doing brilliant things. One such precious account is that of  Italian artist Alessia Brusco AKA Skogens Rymd.

Although she’s an expat in Sweden, Alessia illustrates the north as though she’s never spent a day away from the deep woods and wide skies.

MostNorthern caught up with Alessia to get to know the woman behind the art. We talk about her career as an artist, her infatuation for the aurora borealis, and her experience taking Scandinavian Studies.

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Hello Alessia! Would you mind telling MostNorthern’s readers a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and where you’re based at the moment?

Hey Katie and thanks a lot for your appreciation and your questions! I was born in north-west Italy, in a region between sea and mountains called Liguria. I lived there all my life and studied at the University in Genova.

It’s two years now I’ve been living with my boyfriend, Martin, in Skåne, southern Sweden, in a small village in the middle of  a beautiful countryside landscape.

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When I first saw your art on Instagram, it was obsession at first sight. I was gobsmacked when I found out you’re entirely self-taught. When and why did you first start to create art inspired by the north, and how long were you painting before you decided to share it with the world?

Yes, I’m self-taught and I’ve always liked to draw: when I was a little girl, I enjoyed to reproduce Disney´s characters and to draw clothes! When I was 14 and I had to decide for the high school, unlucky the art school was too far from were I lived and I chose to go to a school were I studied Latin, Greek, History, Literature and so on. I left my passion for art but sometimes I kept on drawing small things, like copying black metal bands´logos or covers.

I started to paint on Christmas´eve 2015 being home alone with my mom. I didn’t have nothing else to do and the day before I bought two canvas and some colours just for fun. I’ve always liked the north and I had already travelled there before.

I think I showed my first paintings just some weeks after I did them, receiving at once a very good response, not expected and super appreciated!

Can you tell us about the meaning behind Skogens Rymd?

This name has a double meaning: literally means ”the space of the forest.” It was actually my boyfriend to create the name for me and it suits perfectly: it refers to the connection between earth and woods with the night sky and cosmos, but it’s also thought to be the actual room covered by woods and nature.

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I can really feel, through your paintings and the way that you talk about Scandinavia, the love affair that you have with this part of the world. When did this passion first start to develop and how did you feed it? Did you always know that you would end up living in the north?

I think that it really started when around 12 years old I discovered Tolkien´s universe. Soon after it I started to read about Nordic mythology, fairytales (also from other places in Europe) and began to study a little of Norwegian language by myself, using lyrics from my favourite songs.

I could not imagine to actually live here but I think I’ve always wished for it.

You have this inspiring infatuation with the aurora borealis. What draws you to this phenomenon? Have you had the chance to experience it in real life?

Unluckily I’ve never seen an aurora in real life but I feel very fascinated by it and have been since I was little. I think it´s so elegant, majestic and mystical. I really would like to experience it not only for the visual part but also for the sounds they say you can hear!

How long does it tend to take to finish an art piece? Do you work on multiple pieces at the same time?

I’m not able to work on more pieces at the same time even if it happened that I stopped a work and took it again after some days, but it happens only for commissions. When I paint something from my own mind, I usually want and need to finish it the same evening I start. I usually work on evenings or nights and I can go on until 4 or 5 in the morning just to finish. But usually for small pieces it takes only 1 or 2 hours to be done, but still it takes a lot of energy for me.

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How would you describe your ideal working environment? Do you listen to music or prefer silence? Do you need daylight to create, or do you choose to work at night?

I like darkness to paint. Even when I studied, I preferred to do it in the evening or night, I can´t concentrate during the day. It can differ about music or silence: I can paint with my favorite music, a movie, a series or a TV program from the PC or just sitting and listening to my boyfriend playing video games, alone or with his friends.

I’m not bothered by other people speaking but I want to have my physical space on a big table in the living room or sometimes in the kitchen. Nowadays I got a hamster and his cage is on the table with me (and the dog at my feet).

On your website, you talk of having taken Scandinavian Studies in Italy. I’m intrigued about what aspects of Scandinavian culture your studies were focused on. Could you talk a little about your experience and what you got from it?

After I graduated in Medieval Literature and History in Genova, I really wanted to start a new degree in Scandinavian Studies so, under almost three years, I took classes in Swedish language and Scandinavian Literatures reading the translations of Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic and Danish literary works. Moreover we studied the history and culture of those countries.

I surely got a lot of info from my classes but of course the most about Swedish language, I’ve learnt living here.

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You’re extremely well read when it comes to Swedish folklore and fairytales and if you were to recommend a folk tale/fairytale, which one would it be?

Something from the collection of Hyltén-Cavallius.

One of your series of paintings is inspired by Swedish folkloric creatures. Which creature would you say intrigues you the most?

I think it´s Älvorna, the fairies who dance in the mist. When there´s fog on the meadows it is said that ”the fairies are dancing.” I love the concept and I find it very suitable for my art.

One of the series of my paintings it´s called De Underjordiske, and it refers to small creatures, sometimes identified also as trolls, who live in the underground and they are invisible to the humans. Sometimes, at dusk, once can see a light on the hills, and that means that they left a door open. I like this concept so much as well.

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What’s the furthest north you’ve ever been, and is there anywhere on your bucket list that you’re aching to visit?

I think the furthest north have been in Dalarna (Dalecarlia, Sweden) and somewhere south of Bergen in Norway. I really would like to visit Norrland and Iceland but also Siberia, speaking only about northern countries.

You have over 8,000 followers on Instagram. How does it feel that so many people are drawn to your art, and do you find that your interaction with followers helps motivate you to create more?

I really think it´s amazing that so many nice and kind people like my art. I could not imagine it and I feel grateful every time I think about it. When I read all your comments then, I really go super happy and many times this has given me the strength to keep on in what I´m doing!

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Swedish artist John Bauer is one of your biggest artistic inspirations. How did you first discover his art and what are some of your favourite Bauer pieces?

I discovered his art randomly on the web: the first piece I saw what Tuvstarr riding the moose in the moonlight. It was love at first sight but I could not find anything in Italy about him.

I bought a book when I finally traveled to Sweden some years after and now I´m actually working on the translation of the fairytales illustrated by him in the beginning of 1900. The book is going to have an introduction about the artist, his life and style and so on to be able to give the Italian public an idea of his wonderful art and works.

I think that my favourite works include paintings from Tuvstarr, Svanhamnen and När trollmor skötte kungens storbyk.

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Norwegian artist Theodore Kittelsen is another of your muses. How did you first encounter his work? Do you have some favourite pieces of his that you would care to share?

Yes, he absolutely is! I discovered him much before Bauer, always on the web and thanks to metal music. I love everything from him but now, if I’m going to pick one is the jumping squirrels from a snowy tree. Of course all the trolls and the creatures and the drawing with the moose are favourites as well!

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As well as taking inspiration from the work of Bauer and Kittelsen, it appears you also find inspiration from music, in particular the Norwegian band Ulver. I’d love to know more about the series of paintings inspired by their album Bergtatt.

Bergtatt is my favourite albums of all times, I never go tired to listen to it and it gives me always the same fantastic feelings.

My series of paintings Blandt disse mørcke Graner is meant to be in honour of Ulver´s first works, a way to ”thank them” for the inspiration they gave me.

You’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of bands. How has this experience been? Is there any band or fellow creatives you would love to work with in the future?

It has been unexpected and fantastic! And thank to it, I had the opportunity to know more bands and talented musical artists!

I´m very happy with my collaborations but if I have to dream, I would like to make a cover for the band Otyg.

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Are you a full-time artist or do you need to hold down another job to put bread on the table?

I work some small jobs to be able to earn more: for example I take dogs for walks and recently I worked for some months for a dog breeder taking care of the puppies and their mums. One of the best experience of my life that I will do again in some months.

In your opinion, what draws people to the north?

The idea of wilderness, the connection to some kind of spirituality and the wonderful mythology.

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Do you have any favourite influencers inspired by the north that you would like to tell us about?

I´m not very inspired by nowadays stuff, I don’t follow any trends (maybe I did when I was younger but not anymore) so I don´t actually know. I mostly like past things, cultures and art.

Can you reveal what you have lined up in the coming months?

Of course! Soon, in august, I will have an exhibition here in Skåne where I will show some of my watercolours. At the end of October I will be in Stockholm for a three days exhibition and there will be other shows next year.

I hope to have time and energy to work on bigger pieces.

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Finally, in three words what does ‘North’ mean for you?

Nature, Thule, Freedom.

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Your Daily 5 Nordic Facts : Sweden

  1. In 1628, the Swedish nation built The Vasa, a huge warship, to reflect the country’s power. The boat sank a mile from shore within 20 minutes.
  2. In 1980 Norway banned the film Life of Brian for blasphemy. Sweden then marketed it as “The film that is so funny that it was banned in Norway!”
  3. As recently as 1979 homosexuality was considered to be an illness in Sweden. Swedes protested by calling in sick to work, claiming they “felt gay”.
  4. Sweden’s tourist association has created a “Call a Swede” phone number which is assigned to random ‘fact ambassadors’ with no training or expectations. The purpose is to provide an unfiltered view of Swedish life.
  5. The Ice Hotel, built every year out of ice from the Torne River, is required to include fire alarms, despite being made entirely out of frozen water.

 

Sources that helped me find this stuff: FactRepublic.com, Quora

 

 

 

Eyes On The Arctic : Need-To-Read Things

In this weekly post, I collect all the need-to-read arctic related things that I’ve found over the past several days, and put them here in a handy bundle of links for you to pick, click and read.

12526-snowflake Plastic Tide Reaches The Arctic And Polar Bears

12526-snowflake Massive Iceberg In Greenland Breaking Up (Video)

12526-snowflake How Global Warming Is Destroying Our Best-Preserved Archeological Sites

12526-snowflake Ongoing Global Heatwave Is Setting All-Time Hottest Temperature Records All Over

12526-snowflake Beavers Are Moving Into The Arctic And You Can See It From Space

12526-snowflake As Arctic Warms Reindeer Herders Tangle With New Industries

12526-snowflake Nunavut Day Celebrations Include Facebook Beginning

12526-snowflake Welsh Students Create Ice-Rebuilding Machines

12526-snowflake Exploring The Arctic On A Sledge

 

Your Daily 5 Nordic Facts : Sweden

  1. In Stockholm they tested a ‘Speed Camera Lottery.’ If you didn’t drive like a dickhead, you were automatically entered into a lottery funded by the fines of drivers who did drive like dickheads.
  2. Thousands of ‘moose-crossing’ warning signs are nicked every year.
  3. If you donate blood in Sweden, you receive a text message every time it’s used to save someone’s life.
  4. The late Swedish badass Göran Kropp rode his bike from Stockholm to Nepal, climbed Mount Everest alone without Sherpas or oxygen, then cycled back to Sweden.
  5. In Älvdalen, a locality in Dalarna, the people still speak an ancient dialect of Old Norse called Elfdalian. These also used runes up until the 1900s.

 

Sources that helped me find out this stuff: FactRepublic.com, Quora

A Conversation With Marcus Eldh Of WildSweden

It was thanks to orangutans and a group of enthusiastic guides in Indonesia that Marcus Eldh had an ultimate light bulb moment and realized his mission in life – to become a wildlife guide in his homeland of Sweden.

Within a few days of setting up his website offering moose tours, Marcus had his first bookings with WildSweden and his career as a guide kicked off.

What started as a one man venture in 2003 is now a hugely popular, award winning eco tourism organisation offering dozens of, quite frankly, amazing opportunities for people to experience Sweden’s staggeringly beautiful nature and wildlife up close.

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With just a few taps on your phone, you can book yourself on a small group moose safari, a bear watching day trip or a night in the forest listening to wolves howling. You can reserve a stay at the Kolarbyn Eco Lodge AKA the most primitive hotel in Sweden, or be dropped off by helicopter in Swedish Lapland and hike the Sarek National Park, with no marked trails but plenty of opportunities to be guided by the northern lights.

The day trips and wildlife expedition holidays offered by WildSweden will enable you to collect the kinds of memories you’ll never want to loose.

MostNorthern caught up with Marcus to dig deeper into the story behind WildSweden, to talk about his first moose tour, the value of Allemansrätten and how WildSweden helps with the monitoring of Sweden’s wolf population.

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Marcus Eldh

Hi Marcus! Would you care to introduce yourself, and talk a little about WildSweden?

Hello! Well, who am I? Today I am a bearded-soft-adventure-nature-lover. I was born and raised in Blueberryland among moose and pine cones. I eat plants, drink oats and locally brewed ale. I spend a lot of time out in the woods, on wooden skis and in canoes on any of the thousands of lakes. I heat up in saunas and cool down in Lapland.

I share my days with my wife and I am also father to two little blond fairies. We live in a white wooden house in a village called Sundborn in Dalarna. I founded WildSweden in 2003 and it is the only job I have ever had. Although I have a handful of amazing guides and colleagues I still love to lead tours.

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Jan Nordstrom

The story behind how WildSweden came to be reads like a dream. You set up in business on the day you decided to become a guide, and a few days later, had your first clients booked. What did you do that was so right and which led this immediate success?

I followed my dream and I guess people were drawn in to join me on my path. I made a lot of beginner’s mistakes, but I never focused on them. When obstacles showed up I just went slalom. I also had a lot of beginners luck. Crucial was that I offered tours that people were able to book. I am sure that one of my main success factors was that my tours were ready made, all inclusive, at set dates and with set rates. That made it easy for tempted nature lovers to just click and join me.

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Jan Nordstrom

Can you take us back to your very first moose tour?

Hehe, yes I still remember that first Moose tour. I had never been on a moose tour myself but I had an idea how to see moose and how to make it a memorable experience for my guests. Three cool persons from Russia and Austria.

Luckily we did find some moose that night. We also stayed overnight in an abandoned forest worker’s cabin far out in the woods where we grilled sausages over an open fire. The next morning I woke up in the cabin and two thoughts came to my mind: 1) Wow, I am now a moose guide. 2) I will never do this again!

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Glenn Mattsing

WildSweden can boast that it’s one of the most prolific eco tourism companies in Sweden, having won several awards, including Eco Tourism Company Of The Year (2009). Did you visualise your company becoming the roaring success it is now? Are you happy with the current situation, or are there any grand plans to expand the services you provide?

I don’t really make plans… I just go for whatever feels right at the moment. I already live my dream and I have what I need. But of course I still like to evolve. I love to find ways to improve our tours and to create new tours. How can we create better experiences for our participants? How can we make life better for our guides? How can we contribute to the local society? And how can we preserve and rewild nature?

WildSweden will never grow to become a large company. Small is good. But I know that there is an increasing demand for nature based experiences. I also see that a lot more people could get involved in leading guided tours. But instead of growing WildSweden I would like to share my experiences to help other ecotourism businesses get up on their feet and to take off.

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Jan Nordstrom

On every tour, for fifteen years, you and your team have provided tourists with sightings of moose. How do you stake out the places where you’re going to take your visitors?

Well… last week we actually had our first tour when we didn’t see a moose 🙂 But we still have a fantastic track record. Our guides are local and they know where and how to find wild animals. Our strength is not that we know how to find wild animals, but that we know how to create memorable experiences around wild animals.

When I introduce new guides I tell them that finding wild animals is actually one of the easiest things with being a guide. We always know that Moose, beavers, wolves and bears are. They are in the forest! Our participants however… they are from all over the world, stay at different guesthouses and hotels, they all have high expectations and different reasons for coming on our tours. And when they arrive they are not used to being out in these forests. I can easily say that it is more difficult to find participants than to find a moose 🙂

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Jan Nordstrom

For those who don’t know about Allemansrätten, could you explain what it is and why it’s valuable for WildSweden?

Allemansrätten is just common sense. It states that the land is open for anyone to enjoy. It states that noone can buy land and close people out. I can’t understand why Allemansrätten is not global. For our guides and participants it means that we can walk and canoe in nature wherever we like. I wouldn’t be able to run WildSweden without the freedom to roam.

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Vargsafari i Skinnskatteberg / WildSweden

Does one tour in particular stand out for you?

We have wolves here and our wolf tours have provided me with lots of unforgettable memories. I remember this warm Summer night some years ago… We had found fresh tracks of wolves and I knew they were probably nearby. We had set up a tented camp with a family from England. As it got dark we went up on a small hill to listen for the wolves’ howling.

We waited for about an hour and then heard the wolf family howl together. When we got down to the camp and the lake we realized it was full moon and the moon was reflecting nicely in the still water. We lit a fire and then we all went for a swim in the dark lake. To swim under the full moon with a family of wild wolves nearby was an amazing experience. I felt truly rich.

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Kolarbyn / WildSweden
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Per Groth

Have you had any terrifying encounters with moose, wolves or bears in the Swedish forest?

Nope, never.

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Sarek Lapland Kungsleden Camping / WildSweden

You taught yourself how to howl like a wolf. How did you do this and how would you describe the feeling when wild wolves respond to you?

I recorded their howls and then listened to the recordings and practiced while driving my car where no one could hear me. I have then tried different types of howls and pitches to see how they respond. Hearing wolves howl is definitely ones of nature’s great wonders, but I am honestly more fascinated by how silent and elusive they are. People say wolves howl. I would say they are extremely silent and just howl once or twice each night.

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Serek Wildlife Expedition / WildSweden

As well as being an important contribution to the life experiences of thousands of people from across the world, WildSweden provides valuable information to researchers to assist in the monitoring of Sweden’s wolf population. How do you gather your findings?

Throughout the years we have reported lots of wolf droppings that rangers and researchers may collect for DNA-testing to monitor the population. We have also reported howling pups which has contributed to find new litters.

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Marcus Westberg

WildSweden holds tours all year round, but do you have a favourite season?

Personally I love winter when I can play in deep snow, ski across frozen lakes, breathe the crisp air, dress up to stay warm. September is also a favourite time of year when the forest explode in colours and the forest floor is covered in lingonberries and autumn chanterelles.

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Lapland / WildSweden

Have you ever seen an albino moose?

I suppose you mean white moose… there are about a hundred white moose in Sweden, but they are not albinos. I haven’t seen them.

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Matti Holmgren

You recommend people to turn off their phones to truly disconnect when they’re on a WildSweden day trip or holiday. Do they mostly listen, and do as you recommend? Also, do you find because of your line of work, and the passions that you hold in life ordinarily, that it’s easy for you not to become trapped on your mobile?

It is difficult to keep away from phones. Some guests do and some don’t. Most guests are taking pictures, and some take pictures all the time, with their camera or phone. Sometimes I get the feeling that they are not actually experiencing nature at first hand, but rather taking pictures to enjoy later, again watching them in their phone or computer.

I remember this one time when a woman filming a bear that was just in front of us outside our hide. After a few minutes of filming I asked her… ”Have you actually seen the bear?” She didn’t understand my question as she was watching the bear in the iphone at that very moment. I pushed her hand and the iphone aside gently and when she saw the bear at first hand she twitched, and then she put down her phone.

I have to admit I use my phone a lot and sometimes more than I want. But the positive side is that I can keep in contact with friends, family and colleagues even when I am out in the forest. I can also manage all parts of my business like emails, bookings, social media, manage evaluation forms and much more. I don’t have an office. It is all in the cloud.

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Marcus Westberg

Being so attached to nature, what’s it like going out into the city?

Haha, I only live three hours away from Stockholm, but I go there less and less. Sometimes when I read a status update on Facebook where friends are asking if there is anyone who wants to go for a beer or concert tonight… Well… I can’t even if I would like to.

On the other hand, Sweden’s countryside is amazing… This evening I just got back from the sauna where me and my daughters plunged into a fresh water lake surrounded by forests and hills. This is where I want to be.

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Lennart Pittja Camp / WildSwden

For this year’s Midsummer, you posted on Instagram a famous painting by the late Swedish artist John Bauer, and called him ‘The Great Master of Dark Forests’ – such an apt title! Can you talk about your relationship to his artwork?

When I was a small child my grandfather gave me a big book with John Bauer’s paintings in it. I fell in love with his art. I am fully aware that most people prefer to lay on a sunny beach on a warm summer day, with endless views across the horizon.

I can appreciate that too (if not too hot and with plenty of clouds). But for some reason I have always been more attracted to dark forests with old growth conifers and large rocks covered in moss and lichen in all shades from grey to green. John Bauer didn’t seem to prefer sunny beaches either 🙂

What’s the furthest north you’ve ever been, and where do you ache to go?

I’ve been in Northern Norway a few times and in Northern Sweden many times. Some weeks ago I went to Alta in Norway’s far North to attend an adventure travel conference. 15 hours by train + 8 hours by car driving through an amazing landscape.

I went along with some friends. We were camping by a fjord and went backcountry snowboarding under the midnight sun. That is my ultimate holiday, very inspiring. I have always wanted to go to Svalbard, but I avoid flying, and there are so many places I still want to visit on the mainland.

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Lapland / Boel Engkvist

What do you think draws people to the north?

I guess the north is exotic to most people as most people don’t live in the north and it is not a rather new tourist destination. There is wilderness, wildlife and inspiring culture.

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Serak National Park / WildSweden

In three words, what does ‘north’ mean for you?

#natural #freshness #adventuretime


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Where I Live

I’m madly curious about people, especially where they live, especially when where they live is in the North. I’m also madly curious about what happens in their everyday. That’s why many of us read blogs in general and that’s one of the main reasons I established MostNorthern.

So, I thought it might be interesting for you to see some of my everyday, and in this instance, it was a hike in the forest surrounding our home, after a morning at my laptop writing about what mothers could be doing when their newborn baby is napping…

Winter is just giving and giving and giving this year, and I couldn’t be more grateful! After a morning of heavy snowfall, I trekked out into the trees to see what the skies had left, and here’s some of what I found.

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– Katie / Your Eyes In The North

 

 

 

Semla Season In Sweden

Yesterday was Fettisdag (Fat Tuesday) in Sweden, a day when everyone in the country eats semla buns until the blood in their veins is running sweet and they can hardly move.

While you may have heard about the Swedish king Adolf Frederick who died in 1771 after eating a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, kippers and champagne, followed by 14 helpings of semla with hot milk (a desert also known as hetvägg) you might not know what a semla (plural semlor) consists of exactly. So here I am to explain.

A semla is a  hefty sized soft wheat flour bun, that’s been flavoured with cardamon, and filled with almond paste and whipped cream. It’s probably the most decadent thing you’ll eat in Sweden. Back in the olden days, semla were eaten at final celebratory feasts before Lent. Back then though, it was just a bun soaked in hot milk.

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At some point, enough wise souls got so bored with their bun and hot milk that they decided to slice it in half and put in some almond paste and cream. Funnily enough – and thankfully – the Swedes never looked back.

While supermarkets provide everything you need to put your own together, the majority of people, including me, buy them ready made. (Though I think next year I’ll try and make a batch.)

My frugal sense has to be put to one side for the day – in ICA 4 semlor will set you back about 60kr or just under £6 – but though I silently complain about the eye watering price, I do think, as I take my first bite, ‘this was worth every bloody krona.’

Despite always feeling like a literal mountain after eating  semla (yesterday was my third year) and vowing that I won’t touch another until next Fettisdag – I lied to myself yesterday and ate another one today because I’m pregnant and I can – Fattisdagen still remains to be my favourite celebratory day of food in Sweden. And if it doesn’t become yours too, I would be sincerely interested to learn why not.

If you’re not in Sweden, but need to taste a semla, here’s an excellent recipe.

If you’re in the UK and somewhere near/or in London, quick march yourself down to The Scandi Kitchen where they have semlor available until Easter. Elsewhere in the world, a quick Google search will direct you to any nearby Scandinavian eateries where you might be able to invest in one of the best tasting things to come out of Sweden.

Katie / Your eyes in the north

 

My Top 10 Books About The North

The other day I was (sadly) complaining about a book I’d bought and read recently called Scandinavians by Robert Ferguson.

I rarely buy myself to a brand new book, but I was so absolutely sure that Ferguson was going to offer me 455 pages of potentially award winning literature, that I shelled out the £12 it cost on Amazon – it’s very newly published – believing it would be one of the best investments of 2018. (I’d previously really enjoyed his book The Hammer & The Cross : A New History Of The Vikings.)

One of the best investments it was not, and I was so disappointed I almost cried when I was done reading it.

Let it be known that I really hate it when I have to complain about a book, and if I don’t enjoy something, it’s not often that anyone else knows about it. There’s enough negative energy surging through the internet as it is without me ranting about every book I haven’t enjoyed.

However, something GOOD actually came from my bad experience with Scandinavians. My dissatisfaction led me make a post about it on Facebook, which led to a friend suggesting I make a blog post about my 10 favourite books about the far north, which then led to this post.

Every book listed here has deeply enhanced my knowledge, understanding and love of the north…and if any of them have touched you in a profound way, please comment and let me know!

I’m also interested in any suggested reading you have for me. Oh, and a final thing, if Viking history is your passion, do check out The Hammer & The Cross. Ferguson got it very right with this one.

Arctic Dreams By Barry Lopez

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My copy of Arctic Dreams, the award winning study of the Arctic by Barry Lopez (also the author of the outstanding book Of Wolves & Men) has been re-read so many times the pages have shed their whiteness, and have taken on that comforting softness that loved books adopt.

Practically each page has at least two of three paragraphs underlined or highlighted, and it still holds Post-It-Notes from several years ago.

Using just the most sublime prose, Lopez honours the Arctic, its history and landscape, its people, flora and fauna. He examines our deep fascination with the Arctic and why we find such a hostile environment so inviting.

One of my favourite of the nine chapters, though it is SO hard to choose, is Tornarssuk, a wedge  dedicated to history, present and future of Ursus maritiumus aka the wandering king of the polar north.

Buy it here.

This Cold Heaven By Gretal Ehrlich

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One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life was to invest in the writing of the goddess of the cold, Gretel Ehrlich.

Dedicated to ‘those who travel the path of ice,’ This Cold Heaven has everything you could hope to find in a book about the landscape, history and peoples of Greenland. I don’t actually have the strength to count how many Post-It-Notes I’ve crammed into it over the years.

In this spectacular work, Ehrlich provides an intensive, addictive narrative of her personal experiences travelling across Greenland (the largest island on earth, with all but 5% covered by a vast ice sheet) and her personal encounters with the Greenlandic Inuit.

It’s a book so wonderfully dense with wisdom that it’s virtually impossible to take in everything on the first read. You must return to it time and again to fully experience the ‘realm of the great dark, of ice pavilions, polar bears and Eskimo nomads.’

Buy it here.

Dark Matter By Michelle Paver

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It was a happy accident that I encountered the novel Dark Matter by Michelle Paver in the library a few years ago.

Unlike her previous books for children, which I wasn’t too fond of, Dark Matter is unputdownable. I think I finished it in a night and was left gagging for more. It’s one of the best ghost stories I have ever read and I’m not exaggerating.

The story takes place in 1937. 28 year old Jack lost, lonely and poor, so when offered the opportunity to join an Arctic expedition, he leaps at the chance.

However once him and his team arrive at the uninhabited bay where they’re supposed to spend the next year, Jack begins to feel uneasy, and one by one, his companions start to leave…

Buy it here.

The Magnetic North By Sara Wheeler

4

It was on one of my expeditions to Amazon that I found The Magnetic North by Sara Wheeler.

While her prose isn’t, I don’t think, as intense as Lopez or Ehrlich (and I favor intense) this volume about Wheeler’s travels through the Arctic is powerful, thought-provoking and, at times, immensely  poetic.

The variety covered in The Magnetic North is one of the things that’s makes it so readable, and by the end I was hugely envious of everything Wheeler had the opportunity to experience. I was particularly jealous of her time spent herding reindeer across the tundra with Lapps.

Magnetic North is a book which will make you think and think hard about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of the Arctic. One of the ugly aspects that shook me the worst was reading about the bioaccumulated toxins in polar bears.

Buy it here.

5The Arctic : An Anthology Edited By Elizabeth Kolbert

In England, our best known bookstore is called Waterstones. It’s also the most expensive, and I could very rarely buy anything from there, unless I was in possession of a holy gift card.

At £8.99 The Arctic : An Anthology was one of the only things I could splurge on. But how it was worth it! It’s a close to perfect blend of writing about the science, nature, history, peoples and stories of the Arctic.

Published by Granta (one of my favourite publishers) The Arctic is an extraordinarily insightful read – though it’s FAR too short – featuring essential writings on our most precious polar region and its future.

Naturally Lopez and Ehrlich are in there, but there’s also works from the likes of Jack London, Rockwell Kent, Fridtjof Nansen and Knud Rasmussen.

Buy it here.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People By Michael Booth

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While finding really good books written about the Arctic isn’t that difficult, finding really good books written about Scandinavian culture is, I think, a challenge.

There just aren’t enough books getting published that are really sold reads. (Though I hope to change this in the near future.)

The Almost Nearly Perfect People however, is EXCELLENT. Instead of relying on the accounts of others, Michael Booth explores the cultures of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland using his own eyes and experiences.

He’s a funny, insightful and intelligent writer who, while highlighting the great things about living in the north, brings it to our attention that, actually, shit happens in Scandinavia too, and it isn’t all as dreamy as so many of us have been led to believe.

Buy it here.

Wild By Jay Griffiths

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Wild is one of those books that changed my life. And I don’t say that lightly. I found it at random in the library back in 2008 and after reading the first page, clung to it like it was my life raft.

I ranted and raved to anyone who would listen, about Jay Griffiths enlightening work in which she endeavoured to explore the wildernesses of earth, ice, water and fire.

While it isn’t all about the north – there’s one chapter called Ice which is northerly focused – I thought it essential I mention it here because her experiences and thoughts of the north are so profound, so moving, so aware that she can alter your way of thinking in a heartbeat.

Griffiths is one of the most important nature writers we have. Her ear is forever pressed to the ground.

Buy it here.

The Fellowship Of Ghosts By Paul Watkins

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I can’t remember if my Dad bought my this or if I did…either way, it was found in Pound Land. Yes. One of my favourite books about the north cost a quid in a bargain shop. Why it was there exactly isn’t something I like to dwell on because this author deserves ALL the readers.

When it first arrived in my hands, I knew it was going to be a winner not only because of  it’s spectacular front cover, but because it was published by National Geographic, and National Geographic do not piss about. Everything they publish is of THE highest quality.

The Fellowship Of Ghosts is a compelling narrative about Paul Watkin’s solo trek through the wilds of Norway’s Rondane and Jutunheimen mountains.

His descriptions of the challenging terrain he encounters on his journey is nothing less than spellbinding, and his natural ability to to weave together the connections between the Norwegian landscape and the myths and people found there makes for an exhilarating read.

Buy it here.

True North By Gavin Francis

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I was fortunate that back in England, my local library had quite the collection of Arctic literature, and among that collection was True North by Gavin Francis.

Although it’s been a few years since I read it, I can remember that I always had a pen and notebook so I could scribble down his impressions of journeying through the Shetland Isles, the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard and on to Lapland. (Envious am I? Naturally.)

True North is an engrossing insight into how the region of the Arctic has adapted to the 21st Century. I learned plenty from this book, and intend on returning to it asap to refresh my knowledge.

Buy it here.

Faces Of The North By Ragnar Axelsson

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I was first introduced to the work of Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson in 2008 when I was at University and working on a novel about Iceland.

A teacher lent me his copy of Faces Of The North (not without a lecture on how valuable it was first off though, to ensure it was well looked after.)

From the moment I saw the cover (can you taste the salt of the sea on your lips too?) I was happily stolen away from my life in England. Naturally, I didn’t want to give it back to my teacher. The impression it had left was soul deep.

This art book is as perfect as art books come, and through around 100 heart-stirring photographs of Greenland, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands, documents the vanishing lifestyle of the north.

Buy it here.

Katie – Your Eyes In The North