|Mauve early morning sheen over Hammarby Sound
I am writing this blog after the fact. The last three weeks have been alive with small activities that would take an ordinary man a day or two to settle. But I am retired now and – for some strange reason – am enticed to let even small tasks stretch out to last at least a week or two.
So, let us travel back in time to beginning of July! On the very day when the Swedes by tradition head off to a four weeks' leave, my sleep was interrupted at an early hour, at 3.30 am already. Whilst one eye was still firmly shut, the other was greeted by a strange mauve sheen, alighting the blinds. Intrigued, I stumbled out of bed and out to the balcony to investigate.
An otherwordly scene welcomed me out there. A broad but narrow band of intense light hovering just above the horizon, like neon above the entrance of an old-time movie theatre. It appears that the rising sun labored to outshine a thick cloud bank hovering just at the horizon and preventing it from breaking through. In desperation it spread its rays to enlighten a full 45° of the horizon with a completely even and strong shine, ranging from Northwest to straight West.
|My watering hole – breakfast at "finefood"
This view got me wide awake, so I decided to work on the queue of small tasks I have been talking about above. By 8 am I had come a long way and felt quite satisfied with myself. Suddenly, I got the idea of enriching my usual morning walk, by taking a camera along and documenting some of its highlights for you, dear readers. Said and done: on with my shoes, a Nikon over my head, grasping two Nordic walking sticks to get me on my way with speed, and off I went to my usual breakfast place.
I am a lucky man, having access to at least two cafés at 5 minutes' walk from my apartment. The one pictured above (fine food) is my favorite and I have had breakfast there (almost) every morning since 2009! Although the girls serving customers here have changed over the years, the owner couple is still going strong and has adapted the place to changing times and circumstances. It started out as a shop for gourmet food (thereof the name) with just one table squeezed in for people like me to have coffee and a sandwich. Nowadays, it is a fully fledged café and restaurant with still some "fine foods" for sale.
|Sjöstadsparterren, a Park with award ---
Refreshed from fine breakfast in a fine café, my feet got wings and I hastened to my morning trail. Its first part lies along a nice town park, called Sjöstadsparterren. This is a beautiful piece of greenery and sculptures that is laid out, in between townhouses, for almost a kilometer towards the East. I can tell you that it is very pleasurable to perambulate, due to its humane proportions and delicate features.
About halfway through there is a nice water sculpture greeting you. Since it is still early in the morning, we are missing the small toddlers that just LOVE to stumble around among these "geysers" of ever changing shape and intensity. So we have to do without the delighted giggles and screams of children getting a surprising splurge of water on their faces and feet.
|... and "geysers"
I am not the only one being in love with this place. It was even awarded a cherished architectural prize back in 2005, the Kasper Salin Prize. I am not surprised since I count this park among the most pleasurable in Stockholm. A pity that more recent building frenzy is preventing its continuation beyond the old Luma factory, which divides this part of Hammarby Sjöstad into two.
My apartment lies towards the West, beyond the factory, where town planners have left it to the building companies to plan our part of the district. As a result, the counterpart of Sjöstadsparterren on our side is a plain street, with cars driving along and a rather drab mid-section trying in vain to be pleasant. Shame on you, you Stockholm City planners, for a abandoning us when we needed you the most!
|True love – being active together in the morning!
But back to my walk. As I enjoyed the nice greenery along Sjöstadsparterren, my eyes caught a lonely couple who exercised their young bodies in camaraderie. Did the mirrorlike symmetry in their movement indicate a happy meeting of body and mind, I wondered? I couldn't tell, of course, but could still wish them all the best for their relationship.
By then, I approached the Eastern end of the park. There lies a cosy little daycare centre, which is pretty busy on ordinary working days. In Sweden, children can be delivered there as early as 7 am, so I am usually greeted with the steady buzz of children rushing in and out of doors and happily doodling around the various playthings adorning the outside. But this was July and holiday season, so the centre was closed and I was the only person ambling around those children's delights.
|Rare view of playground without kids
From this juvenile paradise, there is just a small set of stairs to navigate before arriving at the pleasant oak glade already mentioned in an earlier blog post (Young Virgins' Summer). But what a difference in apparition! Where there was, at that earlier occasion, a sunny glade with eloquent light shining through budding leaves, I was now greeted with sincerely green trees, rendering the scene a somber dark.The deep green of deep summer appears – to the photographer – rather drab and boring, but to the hiker i provides welcoming shade after a stretch of sunny walking!
|The oak glade again – this time in deep summer green
Continuing along the road through the glade, I soon arrived at the lock that leads boats from the Baltic Sea up to the bucolic lake region lying on a plateau to the South-East. Whenever I am in a vigorous mood – which happens less and less these days – I will deviate to the right and have a prolonged hike of two hours or more into that rejuvenating region of forest, lake and moor.
But this was not the right occasion; instead, I just crossed the small bridge above the lock to get access to the cosy boardwalk along Sickla Peninsula, Sjöstaden's nucleus (where the building of it all started 15 years ago). I can tell you that this boardwalk, with its slightly bouncing wooden planks, lends your feet wings and is pure pleasure to hike along. It stretches for a mile along the waters and I can be seen there prancing with my sticks every morning!
|A boardwalk for eager Nordic Prancers
With the picture below we are at the usual endpoint of my board hike. It was taken whilst standing with my back against the railing, catching breath before stretching, with eyes resting on the buildings in front of me, which lie in the Fredriksdal block of our district. At this early hour, I am usually alone with my thoughts but, "Look!", wasn't there a fellow resident taking it easy on the pier?
|Relaxing on the pier, as I am on the boardwalk!
But soon I got the urge to take up the sticks and start my quick march home. Just a bit along the way, a nice view opened up to me, with Sofia kyrka throning on the Southern Island, as if to encourage me to put on some extra speed. I had admired this view many a time, but always without camera, so I was glad to get it documented this time, with nice sunshine and all!
|Get on with it! – the loong return
Whenever I return along the sidewalk, there is this beautiful detour, with wooden paths that lead exactly nowhere but are nonetheless inviting me to tread them. I had taken them up on their invitation many times before, but this once I contented myself with taking a picture of the delightful mix of boardwalk, water and reeds.
Swans and ducks are finding this a convenient place to hatch in. There are even beaver hiding in the thickets but I did not see them this time. Instead, the ducks rose to the task and formed a line for me to photograph, as if showing me the right way to the quay opposite the peninsula. Unfortunately, I could not follow them, since I needed a means to gap the waters in between without wetting my shoes.
|Ducks urging me on
Fortunately, there is a bridge just 50 meters from there, where I soon arrived by taking vigorous steps, aided by the sticks. The span looks a bit peculiar but there is a reason for it. It is constructed completely in steel, said to be among the first bridges built with this material.
|Bridge of steel. Architect Erik Andersson
Having passed this bridge of steel and looking back, it appears even more peculiar. From two concrete bastions on its left and right, thick steel cables emerge that project towards, and are anchored in, the bottom of the span. I used to wonder about the reason for this strange arrangement, until I happened upon a small plaque hanging rather discreetly on the left railing. It turned out that this bridge, called Apatê, is famous for its construction; it even received a prize for it. The cables have the task of easing the weight of the span, where it rests on the marches at the fringe of Sickla Peninsula.
I sometimes get visitors who have a training in engineering. The above explanation causes consternation to some of them, since they doubt that cables placed underneath a bridge can give it a boost upwards. Others of the same inclination point out that the bridge is formed like a bow; the cables anchored underneath it keep it under tension and thereby prevent it from sinking into the marches. I think we are forced to accept the latter interpretation, especially since it tallies with the official explanation given by the architect. ;-)
|Steel cables – to prevent the span from drowning in the marches
This about finishes the tale. We are back on my side of Hammarby Canal and have just another kilometer to go. A last picture of the track should suffice, before arriving at the Harbour Crane, the great marker of having arrived back home.
|Almost back home!
It would be a pity to leave it at that, though! Even if the remainder of the day was rather eventless, as is often the case for us retirees, there is another treat in store for you dear readers! Late in the evening, at 10 pm to be precise, we were able to admire this beautiful sunset, rarely seen even in Summer time. The more rarely since the sun will not set again as far North as this until July 9 next year!
|Sunset at 10 pm – at North-North-West!
I would be a bad blogger, if I did not have yet another story to fill out this post with. This as a reward for you, the most hardened and patient of readers, who have staid with me until now.
After having admired the gorgeous sunset I spent the remaining hours to midnight in front of the television screen, since an engaging movie was being played that evening. After that, I was tired enough to go to bed, or so I thought! Instead, the television having been shut off, I started to notice quite loud singing and laughing from below the balcony. Hoping that it would soon stop, being midnight and all, I kept reading for a while in bed. But, by 1 am, there was still a lot of commotion outside.
Enraged, I rushed down to the quay in pajamas, to admonish the malfeasants. What I saw was four young girls acting out, by singing and dancing, popular songs from musicals, such as, Mamma Mia, Grease and Sound of Music. As reaction to my angry words, they apologized profusely, telling me they did not realize that their happy go-together had disturbed the neighborhood. I almost felt sorry for having interrupted such girly-girly ebullience, but again, there is a limit even to female artistry. They were gracious enough to desist and leave, so we parted as friends and I could get a good night's sleep – or what remained of it – at long last.
Let me now round up this blog post about deep summer with some music in the same vein. A lazy season needs great artists to get us engaged: George Gershwin, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong!