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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.