Saturday, August 27, 2011

Seeking Vikings

A very bored moose. Or, possibly, elk.
If you want to know all about Stockholm,  plus pictures, forget it. Look on the internet; that's what it's for. If you want to know what the Vikings were up to, you can buy a T shirt with all the venues and gigs on it from 793 to 1066. If I were to tell you that the city is beautiful, relaxed and full of confident, happy people with blonde hair, blue eyes and remarkably good teeth, you probably wouldn't believe me. Should I venture to suggest that a large proportion were outdoorsy, fit, and walk around wearing backpacks - with full access for the disabled - this too might not be believed, especially in the light of the fact that tattoo and piercing parlours flourish and quite a number of persons engrave themselves, often inappropriately. If I were to also suggest that the city was unpolluted, traffic by Parisian standards was light and well-behaved and people obeyed the 'don't walk' signs, I can almost hear a lightly mocking laugh. I could also make a guess that it is possible to travel in outstandingly clean relative comfort, without snarling or crowd control, to reach from one side of the archipelago to the other in less than an hour by bus, tram, tunnelbahn or boat.

One such boat does a hop-on-hop-off circuit and one stop houses the  rather impressive Nordic Museum and also the Vasa
A very expensive mistake
In 1626, King Gustav II Adolf  ordered his finest shipbuilders to build a vessel fit for a king. With an extra tier of gunports. Nobody could quite summon the political will to tell His Majesty that this was a really, really bad idea, which was a shame, because the customer isn't always right. Workers toiled night and day for two years to assemble a beautifully carved warship which sank within one nautical mile of her launching dock on her maiden voyage in Stockholm harbour, blown over by a light squall. The extra gunports meant that there wasn't enough room for the ballast so the great beast simply toppled over like a pot-bellied pig, where she lay in embarrassed silence for the next three hundred and some years. Gustav was, understandably, a mite ticked, but since the extra gunports were his idea in the first place he agreed to let bygones be bygones and nobody was flogged or executed for carelessness. He had the idea of decorating his masterpiece with brightly coloured, intricate carvings of Roman Caesars, with the exception of Augustine, who was replaced by himself. King David also features in the lineup, since His Majesty was something of an admirer and regarded his Lutheran inspired warfare against his Catholic cousin Sigismund, King of Poland in much the same way as he had read that David attacked the Philistines. Oh, dear, not again...
Rather better engineering raised the entire boat intact in 1961 and over 95% of the original structure has been recovered, the brackish waters of the Baltic having prevented extensive damage from seaborne worms.
A very nice little house
The next stop on the boat tour was Djurgården on which is housed Skansen, or Sweden in miniature,  houses assembled in a living museum of mostly Swedish history amidst pleasant woodland. Apple-cheeked, flaxen-haired and pigtailed maidens in traditional clothing give history lessons in the buildings while doing a little crochet. There's also a small zoo housing mostly Scandinavian animals. I have always wanted to see an elk, although the psychology of wanting to see a very large deer wearing a pair of oven gloves on its head is probably labyrinthine and obscure. After the brown bears, wolves and grey seals, we were finally introduced. The female and its fawn looked at me disinterestedly and I can tick it off on the bucket list. The photograph is of the creature in the next enclosure who gets in because it has antlers. I thought it was a male elk, but my so-called 'friends'  from Canada tell me it's a moose. It looked quite stupidly at me so perhaps they're right.


  1. Err...? are you sure that you were in Stockholm.? Dat's not an Elk! But it is easy to get the taller mammals confused because their feet are all in the same place.

  2. Bwahahahaha!! That's a bored moose. Now you'll have to erase and mess up your pristine list, MathMan. I'm laughing out loud...really.

  3. OK.Here's the story. There were two enclosures, side by side, One contained a deer-like creature plus fawn, minus antlers, labelled 'elk'. The photograph was of the creature in the next enclosure which looked similar, so I concluded that this was the male which had been separated from the female and its fawn (or whatever the young are called). How was I supposed to know?

  4. And furthermore...this caused s semantic firestorm at home, since there are dissimilarities in nomenclature between a number of these species. Gipsy went berserk finding taxonomies from the US, Quebec, and the UK. She might post...I'm now not even sure which beast was on the bucket list. Oh, dear.

  5. Easy, easy, all you need is a French AND Canadian to sort this out!!

    Everybody is right :

    AMERICAN = moose
    QUEBEC = orignal
    FRANCE = élan
    ENGLAND = elk

    then :

    AMERICAN = elk
    QUEBEC = caribou
    FRANCE = renne ou wapiti
    ENGLAND = reindeer

    this kind of mix and match happens all the time in botanics too, not to mention the vernacular names that's why the only truth is in latin

    a link to sort it a little bit more :

    the swedish choosed to label the animals in latin, swedish and British, hence the elk


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