Category Archives: Cute!

Huggorm i Hemlingby

Huggorm, picture borrowed from WWF

Today was a nice sunny day, so we went to Hemlingby to see how the forest was doing.  Hemlingby has lots of great trails, and also little gazebos and mini-cabins for picnics.  We skied there a time or two when it was snowy, but haven’t been there in weeks. Graham has run a lot on the treadmill but me not so much, so we compromised on a 10km run.  It was a bit windy but not to bad in the trees. However, not a lot of sunlight had penetrated to some densely forested parts, so we ran over snow in a few places and saw residual snowpiles in other places.  It rained cats and dogs yesterday, and that along with the snow melt made for a boggy run with lots of detours around puddles and streams.  Unfortunately the lake had flooded out the trail at about 6km in, so we had to turn around and do an out-and-back (a little longer than I set out for, but I survived).

The awesome highlight of my run was the huggorm (viper) I saw on the trail.  He was sunning himself sleepily and I almost stepped on him, he was not so quick to get out of my way.  He was as long as a big garter snake but much thicker, and he had an awesome light blue-gray on black zigzag pattern.  He also had a big head, so it didn’t look like he just ate worms and grasshoppers.  I didn’t actually find out he was a huggorm until I got home to google it, turns out he is a protected species who eats rodents and birds.  I am amazed a cold-blooded animal can live so far north, and be awake and slithering between snowpiles.

Creatures

We saw some neat fauna on our trip. I know we have some biologists in the audience, feel free to enlighten us if you can identify the species!

Butterfly (swallowtail?) on the Marjan peninsula

Green lizard on the Marjan peninsula. This guy lived in a crack in the rock and came out to sunbathe
An urban lizard, sunbathing on the city wall in Dubrovnik
A peacock on Lokrum island. There were dozens... and they were noisy!
Teeny-tiny hermit crab from the tidal pools on Lokrum island
Sea cucumber also in the tidal pools. His pool seemed a bit limited and there are not big tides. I wonder if he misses his friends?
Sea cucumber also in the tidal pools. His pool seemed a bit limited and there are not big tides. I wonder if he misses his friends?
Not fully in focus maybe, but Elizabeth won't care.
Obviously the cutest picture here, two bunnies kissing! We saw lots of rabbits on Lokrum island too... I guess no one has brought any cats from the mainland yet given the proliferation of rodents and flightless birds.

Slavic Kitties

Kitty in the hillside neighbourhood of Split

The first thing we saw when we landed in Split and walked out of the airport was a palm tree… with a cat under it.  This must be paradise!

Sneaky kitty cleaning up scraps at a cafe in a plaza. Most of the local folks don't appreciate the cats as much as the tourists, so the cats keep a low profile around restaurants.

In old cities, there are no back alleys to store garbage. This means that garbage gets put out front at night, and combined with the warm climate seems to be a perfect habitat for rats. However, I didn’t see any rats in any of the places we visited. What we did see were cats – lots of them. The inverse relationship between cats and rats made me wonder: why do we say kitties for cats but not ritties for rats? Graham says it is because rats are not cute.

It is hard to take a good picture of a cat, they never look at the camera. This cat's back half was tabby and the rest calico
This one hung around the Jupiter temple in Split. Most of the cats seemed to have a very specific territory, so we would always see them in the same spots.
By the Cathedral on our first morning in Split. From here we could probably see 5 or 6 cats, just hanging around in the courtyard.

Tabbies, calicoes, plain black or white ones; some with collars or bells but most were wild; many were skittish though some were friendly.  The general thing to say is that they were medium sized (not Swedish giants) and quiet cats, we heard hardly any meows.

Old timer on a city roof. This is one of the few cats with a collar - he has a little bell- so he must be getting cat food somewhere.
This cat was making himself comfortable in the shelves of a semi-outdoor shopping kiosk. How much for that kitty in the window?
Bosnian kitty. To me, it seems just like the Croatian kitties... but they assure me they are different!

One night we had a wonderful dinner on a plaza by the old port.  We had a great salad and risotto and some fired sardines.  There was a massive pile of sardines and since we don’t usually eat meat we got full pretty quickly.  Luckily there were some local cats willing to help us out.  They sat patiently under our table for extras.

Aw! They are hugging! These ones weren't friendly to me though, because I tried to pet them 10 seconds later and they ran away.
This guy in Split is a scruffy oldtimer, but friendly and with a lot of personality.

We don’t see many cats in Sweden so it was nice to be able to pet some cats.  You can sit on a park bench and a friendly one may come by.  One crawled into my lap while I was sitting on some rocks by the sea.  Just in case you are wondering, Graham also pets cats, but somehow all the pictures are of me petting cats, making me look like a crazy cat lady.

Seaside kitty sitting on a rock outside the Dubrovnik city walls.
The winner of ABSOLUTE CUTEST!!! This is a mamma cat with her two kittens living in a space between the wall stones in Dubrovnik.

Lussekattar

Sputtnik, crowned Gavle Lussekatt 2008.
Sputtnik, crowned Gävle Lussekatt 2008.

The other day I saw a great picture on the front of the local newspaper: a cute orange and white kitty licking a whipping cream-covered cake. How cute! I thought it was a great sign for the neighbourhood when ‘cute kitty’ is front page news (albeit of a lesser section of the newspaper). It turns out the cat is Sputtnik, the winner of last year’s ‘Gävle Lussekatt contest’.

Lussekatt is the name of Swedish saffron buns that are very popular at Christmas, starting on Luciadag (St Lucia’s day, December 13.) Traditionally schools/towns choose a young girl to be ‘Lucia’ and bring buns and coffee on a tray on the morning of Luciadag, and usually sing. Nowadays everyone gets to be a Lucia can (boys included) because things are pretty inclusive in Sweden, but at one point there was more of a selection process to ‘crown the Lucia’. I’m told this is not like a beauty contest, but it is hard for me to picture anything but Miss America.

In Lussekatt, the ‘Lusse’ part stands for Lucia. I’m not sure about the ‘katt’ part, since bun is usually ‘bulle’. but the local newspaper has made an annual joke out of it for the last few years by getting people to send I pictures of their cats (along with a bio.) The top pictures are published and the readers vote to crown the year’s Lussekatt. The winner gets their picture and bio published, and perhaps also one of the those whipping cream cakes? I thought about entering some cute pictures of grey kitty, but I don’t think they award it post-humously, and it would be very awkward to explain in broken Swedish when they came to deliver the whipping cream cake (because of course grey kitty would win).

Naturally I will be following developments in this year’s Lussekatt contest very closely and will post results here.