Call of the moose
Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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It's a beautiful sunny day with no wind, -10C or so outside and here I am catching up on the blog before it just gets completely out of control and away from me - much like Olof's pet Doberman 'Balder' seems to do at every opportunity!
I'm reporting from Munso, an island in the greater Stockholm area probably about 25 km to the west of city central. To my very good fortune I've been invited to stay for a week or two with a Swedish work colleague (the aforementioned Olof) who is now based back in Sweden full time. That's meant plenty of adventures and a good look behind the gloss and into the day-to-day of Swedish family life in winter. Very interesting indeed, so please read on.
Of prime importance has been drinking beer and the moose hunt, as you may have read in past entries. For all you animal lovers out there, it's not the blow 'em away shotgun type of hunting, just the spotting and photographing sort. This type of environment is the perfect place to do both despite the weather - plenty of natural woodlands around, peace and quiet and a big dog to pick up the moose scent (and possibly scare them away).
Just so you know, I'm camped up in the little hut beside the main house in the photo above left, and of course I should introduce Olof (the one with the beer) and Balder (the one looking like Scooby-Doo) above right.
During daylight hours there is less chance of moose spotting, so local sights are a better option instead. The Royal Winter Palace at Drottningholm is en route to Olof's and a beautiful piece of work that the Royal Family now actually lives in full time. Still, visitors are allowed to inspect parts of the complex throughout the year and the winter snows seem to add to the grandeur.
This is one of Sweden's twelve World Heritage sites and as you can see by the scenery, it's well deserved. We did a tour as well, in which you weren't allowed to take photos (grrr) so I can't show you any of the splendour of the internals, but trust me, it's pretty nice inside too. On the way in, Ainsley was waved at by one of the Princess' in residence, but of course she didn't wave back - nice one mate!
Still, I was itching for moose so as dusk approached we headed into the hills around Olof's to see what we could track down. No luck at all, not even a breeze was stirring. Night searching proved equally fruitless, although excitement did build when we heard rustling in the dark undergrowth - only to find a mini-moose in the form of Olof's daughter Elise playing a joke on us. Cheeky indeed.
Still, we didn't give up - all the signs were around like big moose tracks as large as your hand right there in the snow. We managed to see a lot of the house's surrounds which was great but each time we had to return home empty handed.
Until one day, heading back to the ranch in the car, Olof's wife Anne spotted large black forms off in the distance. Not one but two moose just hanging about in the cleared forest! As yhou would expect, we all exploded out of the car in hot pursuit but only got to within 50 metres before they started backing off. The photo above is the only one we managed, zoomed in to a maximum magnification and therefore quite grainy.
Now I know that it could be mistaken for a donkey, the Lock Ness monster or a camel that's been painted black, but we swear they were actually genuine 100% Swedish moose - a mother and her calf to be specific. On further investigation that day we tracked them again for a while and also spotted one other bigger guy before he ran away too. They usually aren't that concerned by people in the proximate area, which may indicate that one of us needed a shower something..?
Anyway, that mission was deemed complete until the sighting of a closer, more camera friendly moose in future. I'll keep Fuji at the ready.
By popular demand: we should really let you, the audience, decide whether this is adequate evidence of moose in Sweden. Post a quick 'yes' or 'no' by clicking the 'Add Comment' link below.
There is a variety of historic stuff around Munso that rates a worthy mention too. First is the ruins of a 9th 12th century Viking encampment about 2km down the road at Adelso. There really isn't much left of the stone buildings but a prominent rune rock remains, carved by the Head Man on behalf of the king, by order of the Hakon (a God I think). Pretty nice work which Olof likes to refer to as 'an email from the past'. On neighbouring Birka was another main headquarters but it is not accessible during winter.
The surrounding waters are where the Vikings plied their rape and pillage trade and there is a sense of history about the place, but it is much nicer to visit in the summer when there isn't horizontal snow coming from every direction.
Munso Kyrka (Church) was probably built in the 12th century and is one of the rounded, defensible churches. The round bit is the oldest part, with further additions throughout the Middle Ages plainly visible. It's surprising how old and well maintained these places are considering their remoteness and sparse populations in the area.
A final note to make about Munso is a traditional adventure we undertook one evening to cook hotdogs in the forest. Apparently families have done it for ages, although it's obviously more of a challenge in the winter.
Off we went onto the hill and found a suitable place to make a fire. Snow coverage did make collecting wood a little harder, but as the wood is quite dry once you shake excess snow off, the pine we were using actually burnt quite well. Before long we had a rip roaring fire going, a beer in hand and a hotdog attached marsh-mellow style to a specially selected green spruce stick (so it wouldn't burn). Not long after that the hotdoggies were coming off the fire nicely done, sweetly tasting and definitely fit for eating.
It seems the Swedes have a lot of traditional foods when they think about it, and could have inspired some of the fast food we eat these days. Nice one guys!
Next entry -> adventures in the Arctic Circle at the Ice Hotel
Old Rossian Proverb
A sauna generates more heat than its steam.