30 January 2010

BT4: Butterflies

National parks obviously have certain wishes for the behaviour of the visitors, but it wasn't particularly easy to avoid touching the butterflies in Iguaçu - both because there were overwhelming swarms of them in some spots and because the more adventurous of them didn't hesitate to park themselves on backs, hats, backpacks etc.

25 January 2010

BT3: South American wildlife

One of the most important reasons for choosing to splurge on the hotel INSIDE Iguaçu National Park was the anticipation that early morning walks in the park would provide us with good opportunities for wildlife sightings. And we were by no means disappointed in this regard - here follows some of those we managed to snap photos of.

This (extended) family of coatis (a South American relative of the raccoon) let themselves be observed quite unperturbed so long as we didn't try to get MUCH too close to them. The four parents were busy eating and didn't appear to pay any attention at all to the kids. This resulted in one of the small ones standing at one side of the road looking quite lost and sad when it missed crossing the road together with the rest of them. Fortunately a sibling came halfway back across the road to lead it on the right track - then it bolted across the road at top speed!

When we saw something behind us on the road the following morning we expected it to be another coati, so we were quite surprised when we realised it was an armadillo. These should be nocturnal, so we hadn't counted on seeing any. It disappeared in the bushes before we got a good look at it, but it was kind enough to re-emerge shortly after to cross the road again. What a strange creature!

Another animal which might not seem very exotic at first was this guinea pig which we saw in the Argentinian part of the national park(s). But it was truly surreal for us to see this common pet sitting on a lawn grazing like some squirrel or other wild animal!

Last but not least we were amazed at our first sighting of the South American swan. We both knew of the black swans of Australia, but neither of knew that there was a specific South American variety of swans. But there is - and it can best be described as looking like a cross between black and white swans...

22 January 2010

BT2: Phone booths

While the trend most other places is for phone booths to decay and disappear, Brazil is obviously still putting up new ones. In smaller towns one often finds but a single phone booth, but otherwise two or three are mounted on the same pole - and as seen here one of them is usually mounted lower down on the pole to facilitate use for disabled persons. The phone booths are clearly also being used - even though in this case we are puzzled as to why the caller didn't chose one of the other two...

In central São Paulo there's still a couple of well-preserved phone booths from a somewhat different era.

21 January 2010

BT1: São Paulo

For the past couple of weeks we have been mainly blogging about Swedish Christmas traditions, snow and ice. But we actually started the holiday season with a serious dose of summer and sunshine. So in order to recap our trip to Brazil we are going to start a little series of blog entries which we have decided to call Brazilian tales.

Our starting point on this trip was São Paulo. Even though we have been to large cities before we must admit that São Paulo's extensive area littered with high-rises surpasses all we have previously seen. Lisbeth flew in over the city in broad daylight and seeing from above just how far the city stretched was incredible. Flying in over Los Angeles one is flying over the city for quite a while as well, but most of it are villas. In Los Angeles there can be no doubt as to the location of the city centre - that feeling of orientation is lost in the concrete jungle of São Paulo.

The vast majority of the buildings are of course concrete monstrosities, but in between those there were a number of older, colonial style houses and mansions. In the central business districts a little more attention had been paid to architecture - both in the form of interesting details and mirror facades:

São Paulo isn't a city with any particular 'must-see' sights; the experience consists largely of simply being there and experiencing such a dense and complex city. They do have a beautiful monument commemorating the 'Bandeirantes' who explored (enslaved and colonised would be another way to describe it...) the inner regions of present-day Brazil in the 16th-18th centuries.
Does it look a bit like something which has been seen in another - and certainly related - place?!

And if anyone should be in doubt as to whether or not we went to the tropics, we submit this evidence:

15 January 2010

Red ear

Those of our readers who know Tue well know that he isn't a great fan of headgear. And as the old saying goes (in Danish, anyway) "if you won't listen, you'll have to feel". During the first week of January Tue found one evening, after biking home in -15 oC (5 oF), that one of his ears was red and swollen - also a couple of hours after he had returned to the warmth of our home.

The swelling went away in a couple of days and after that the ear behaved just as if it had been badly burned under the sun. Said one f Lisbeth's Finnish colleagues: "Only teenagers go out without a hat in the wintertime". As Tue got not just one but two hats for his birthday, there's no excuse for biking without one from now on.

13 January 2010

Yule Post 2

Denmark can't just stand back and ignore Swedish and Finnish special Yule mailboxes - especially not in Varde, a town known as town of gnomes.

And with that we've come to the end of Christmas this time around. Which is quite fitting as we've been told that in Sweden Christmas is considered over today. That is: Christmas ends on the twentieth day after Christmas, a day known in Swedish as Tjugondag Knut. This also means that they will finally (from our point of view) be taking down the Christmas decorations.

12 January 2010

Gift basket

This past Sunday Tue had his birthday. The gift forecast didn't look fantastically overwhelming as by Friday evening only one letter had arrived for the birthday boy - and we knew that the Swedish postal service doesn't deliver on the weekend.

Which is why Tue was caught by surprise when Lisbeth presented him with a veritable gift basket full of goodies. The basket contained a hat, socks, tea, chocolate, chutney, jam, lemongrass paste and saffron. The magazine in the picture wasn't actually a gift, but it arrived by mail a few days before the big day, so Tue insisted on opening it together with his birthday mail.

Later in the day we enjoyed a piece of freshly baked birthday cake - more specifically a pecan nut cake with a caramel frosting.

To alleviate the worst withdrawal symptoms on the day after, Tue could open the additional greeting cards which arrived by mail Monday.

11 January 2010

Snow, Ice and Sun

This past Saturday we had beautiful sunshine. We went to the old centre of the city to look at broken ice.

Contrary to our expectation it was literally teaming with swans, ducks and coots in the partially frozen water around Skeppsholmen.

03 January 2010

Walking on the water

Safely back from our combined Christmas and New Year vacation we noted that the weather in Stockholm hadn't really changed while we were gone. As the sun was out this Sunday we decided to dress warmly and defy the -10 oC our thermometer told us it was outside. Our purpose with the trip was see Haga park in pretty snow. We expected this to be particularly lovely next to waters of Brunnsviken.

But as it turned out, Brunnsviken was iced over..

..and the ice was sufficiently thick to support us.

In fact there was a throng of people - on foot, on ski, on skates - when we got out onto the open part of the ice.

Interestingly, Tue would be able to reduce his commute to and from work by some 25-30% if he were to go in a straight east-west fashion rather than having to go around the southern tip of Brunnsviken. And yet, he hesitates to bike on the ice..