Category Archives: History

I’m Biting You in the Butt. And Other Adventures at Skansen in Stockholm.

Stockholm, as many of you know, is my former hometown. Now spending the month of July here with family and friends is a real treat. The weather is fantastic and the whole city is in ‘summer mode’. Walkers, bikers, flowers and restaurants have taken over many streets in the central parts of the city, like this one where I’m staying.

my street UD164

restaurang gatan 2 UD164The day is 18 hours long, the sun rises before 4 a.m. and goes to sleep around 10 p.m.  The picture below was taken around 10:30 p.m., just after sunset. Unfortunately this night owl is not inclined to get up early enough to offer sunrise pictures.

evening stockholm UD164There are so many places to visit, but first I wanted to go to Skansen, the world’s first and oldest open-air museum. And a place where we took numerous weekend walks when our son was small. So last Sunday my sister and I made plans to go there. I invite you to join us.

skansen tower ud166The Swedish way of life in the past is exhibited in villages of authentic old residences, farmsteads, shops, a pottery, a bakery, a bank, a post office and a large number of specialized workshops and factories, store houses and barns. These exhibitions are manned with people sporting time-typical outfits. They can tell the stories (in many languages) about life in Sweden from late 1600s to early 1900s. Please follow us to the glassblower’s workshop, where the master is working on small animals in brilliant colors. Then we’ll stop at the general store, the bakery, and the pottery still making lergods typical in Sweden in the 1800s and early 1900s.

glass blower ud166

shopkeeper ud166

bakery ud166

krukmakare ud166

krukor ud166Next, let’s take a peek into the life of middle class people at a house where the publisher and his wife lived in early to mid-1800s. Their parlor houses an old piano in a good working order and we can see the weekly magazine they published spread on the dining table. The intricate wall paper is not clued onto the walls, but as customary, it’s nailed on the walls so that should the family need to move, they could take it to their new house.

a publishers house ud166

piano at a middle class home publisher ud166

old magazine ud166The workers’ quarters are not as elaborate, many people used to live in one room in a house like this.  We can also take a peek through the door into the shopkeeper’s room adjacent to the shop.

We walk the cobblestone alleys between the old houses enjoying the beauty preserved from old times.

alley with old houses skansen ud166

window of an old house ud166Next we find a bank and a government office.

bank ud166

old house skansen ud166Skansen also houses authentic old farmsteads and typical farm animals, such as cows, pigs, goats and chicken. I focused my camera only on the smaller, more colorful animals.

old house UD166

rooster UD166

hen ud166Passing a windmill, a belfry and a traditional (now dried out) midsummer pole, we can observe a woman taking care of her cottage garden, just like women had done in the 1800s.

windmill skansen ud166

klockstapel 2 skansen ud166

midsommarstang ud166

skansen gardener ud166From there we walk to see some Nordic wildlife. The huge brown bear is bound to leave a lasting impression.

brown bear 2 skansen UD166

brown bear skansen UD166The lynx appears sweet like a house cat, but appearances can be deceiving…

Lynx at skansen ud166And at the home of the wolf, we are in for a surprise. Mama wolf has three cubs!

mama wolf UD166

a third wolf cub skansen UD166

two wold cubs skansen UD166 16x9

wolf cubs at skansen UD166We stay for a while and watch the cubs play. Luckily they have a large area to explore. Finally our feet decide it’s time for a late lunch at one of the restaurants and we round up our ‘wild tour’ by visiting the moose and the European bison.

mama moose ud166

Vicent at skansen UD166Of course we have to ‘shoot’ some birds on the way too. The Skåne geese have young goslings. (Aww). And finally we have to document the Swedish version of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard.

Canada geese ud166

gosling skansen ud166

mr and mrs Mallard ud166Greetings from Skansen and thank you for visiting this unique museum with us!

lily at skansen ud166

The Last Day. Anno 79 A.D.

It was late morning on August 24, 79 A.D. The lively city of Pompeii was buzzing with activity. The main street leading to the Forum was busy with carts, carriages and chariots bouncing over the large cobblestones.

main street Pompeii

street PompeiiOn residential streets, pedestrians negotiated their way on narrow sidewalks. The sidewalks were raised because unlike Rome, Pompeii didn’t have a sophisticated sewer system and much of the wastewater found its way onto the streets. Crossing the street with produce from the market or products from the many flourishing shops around the Forum was a balancing act on the large, flat stones provided for the purpose of crossing with dry feet.

street and crosswalk in PompeiiAs usual, people were gathering around the many drinking wells around the city exchanging the latest news and some, without a doubt, also engaging in rumor mongering.

drinking well in Pompeii_edited-2Nobody worried about the fact that the water to these fountains was flowing through lead pipes.

another well in PompeiiThe bath houses were still busy with late morning bathers, men and women enjoying separate quarters. Their clothing neatly tucked away in the “lockers” around the bath.

wall art outside a bath house in Pompeii

inside of the bath house in PompeiiSome people were lingering in the colorfully decorated common areas of the bath house.

bath house frescos PompeiiThis Tuesday morning, life was going on its usual merry ways at the many hotels (and brothels), shops and bakeries in the city.

hotel 2 in Pompeii

bedroom in Pompeii

shop in pompeii

bakery in PompeiiThe morning rehearsals at the Grand Theater had just concluded and the spectators were leaving the venue. It was a perfect morning.

grand theater pompeiiThe smaller Forum was busy too. Young men were competing in athletics, their families cheering them on. Some were standing in small groups discussing politics.

smaller forum in Pompeii

floor mosaic PompeiiAt the affluent villas of the nobel class and newly rich merchants, the morning was spent leisurely around the house.

the floor plan of the latest opened house in PompeiiGuests were entertained in the larger atrium, where the rainwater had been gathered in a shallow “pool” for some cooling on this warm summer morning.

Atrium of the most recently opened house Pompeii

House of Sirico Pompeii

frescos in a house in PompeiiThe servants were busy dusting the frescos and cleaning the mosaic floors in and outside of the house.

most recent house interior mosaic floor Pompeii

floor mosaic pattern PompeiiInhabitants and guests of the most opulent villas facing the sea, could enjoy splendid views from their elaborate terraces and gardens.

view of house interior Pompeii

sea view from the house garden PompeiiThose less fortunate could enjoy the public green spaces sprinkled around the city.

garden 2 in Pompeii_edited-1But the busiest place this morning was the Forum. It was the economic, religious and political center of the city, where municipal buildings, courts, temples and commercial activities were located around the two-story portico.

busy forum in Pompeii

two story pillars at the Forum Pompeii

Forum in PompeiiThe northern end of the Forum was closed by the Capitolium, with Mount Vesuvius rising towards the sky right behind it.

the Forum with backdrop of Vesuvius PompeiiAn ordinary late summer day. Until … around noon, a “cloud of unusual size and shape” appeared overtop Vesuvius.

the eruption of Vesuvius starts PompeiiIt could be seen across the city. At first, there was curiosity. But an hour later when ash started falling, people begun to panic. Many rushed towards the harbor, others started running north or south along the coast, but some 2000 people were hesitant to leave their homes. They would ride out whatever was coming and chose to take shelter in buildings and underground cellars they deemed safe. But the eruption escalated fast. Around 2 p.m. ash and white pumice was falling over the city at a rate of 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) an hour.

vesuvius erupts 2 Pompeii_edited-1By 5 p.m. the sun was completely blocked and there was no light for the people still seeking shelter or running away from the city. Ash, bits of pumice and charred rocks were falling on the city. Fires were burning everywhere. Roofs started to collapse.

vesuvius eruption 3b pompeiiAnd then, in the morning of August 25, just before 7 a.m., a pyroclastic cloud of hot ash and toxic gas surged down on the city killing everyone who had remained in its vicinity. Not one was spared. Men, women, children and animals all perished.

dead woman PompeiiThe eruption buried the city under 4-6 meters (13-20 feet) of volcanic ash and pumice. Life as it had been on that late summer day in 79 A.D. was frozen in time for almost 1700 years.

a man in PompeiiPliny the Younger,  a Roman writer who managed to escape from the city in time, described the eruption in letters to his friend, which were discovered in the 16th century. The ruins of Pompeii were found only in 1748.

artifacts found in PompeiiAbout 80% of the city has now been excavated and as the work progresses, we learn more about that fateful day 1938 years ago.

About 700,000 people currently live around the volcano, which last erupted in 1944.

outer walls PompeiiAs I am starting to “unpack” my latest travels, I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.