Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An unusual Sleigh Ride from Norway to Denmark -

Our climate has changed a bit and hard winters are rare, at least here in the Danish country. Some people still remember true winters with lots of snow and ice through the whole winter season -  snow for sleighing and ice for skating. It was a wonderfuul time for children.

In the old days, before motorcars arrived people either rode or drove in horse waggons. In the winter season they found their sleigh in the barn or another farm building. People had many varied horse waggons and horse-drawn sleighs. When the sleigh had been cleaned and was ready with furs and warm blankets inside, the horses were harnessed . They had got new safe shoes for the icy roads by the busy blacksmith.  Now the family was ready to take a sleigh ride through the snow.....                                                                                 .


A common sleigh was simple and could be used for both working use and for taking people on a sleigh drive -  in manors and other posh places they had some very fine sleighs with painted decorations,  some with carved decorations. A sleigh had usually one or two seats and a place for the driver on the back.


The sleigh drive is an elegant and romantic form of transport. There are many colourful 
descriptions of such romantic sleigh drives in Scandinavian literature. The horse or horses had to be equipped with sleigh bells, little ringling things, which  might be of silver. They were a necessary accessory, in order to tell other wayfarers that a big sleigh was coming near. A sleigh ran almost silently through the snow and was a  dangerous vehicle to a pedestrian.  A                 horse-drawn sleigh was used if people had to go to the city, to the church or on a visit - it was seldom used for long trips.

An unusual story is known about a sleigh drive from Norway to Denmark.

Venus passage

The date 3 June 1769 was by astronomers all over the world foreseen in excitement. A rare vision on the sky was expected, a Venus-passage, a phenomenon, which is like an eclipse of the sun - only that Venus cannot cover the whole sun but  only a small part of it. Some important knowledge was in waiting and several European states took the initiative to do something about it  In Denmark the young king Christian 7 invited his ambassador the Austrian-Hungarian Maximilian Hell to do some observations on Vardø at the Barents Sea in the northern part of Norway. Denmark and Norway had a Unity of the Realm at that time.
Maximilian Hell
Maximilian Hell was a Jesuit pater, but he had since 1755 very skillfully managed the emporial university observatory in Vienna. He got the allowance for the trip to Norway by empress Maria Teresia and travelled in 1768 to Denmark together with an assistant Johannes Sajnovics.

Vardø, island north east of Norway
Vardø means Wolf's Island in English. 
Vard = varg = ulv

It might seem odd they wanted to go to Vardø - almost as far north as possible -  but the calculations showed that the Venus-passage would happen at a time where the rest of Europe lay in darkness, except the northernest Norway, where the sun was low but up both day and night. The travel north was difficult, first across the Norse mountain roads to the city Trondheim and then by sea in stormy weather. It was now close to autumn in 1768 and the expedition was trapped in a small town by the coast, Kjelvik, the northernest parish in the world. Maximilian Hell met the parish priest Jens Eriksen Grøn and they became good friends

aurora borealis
The expedition continued   to Vardø and arrived here on the 17th October. On this part of the tour they had the assistance of the commander of the fortification Vardøhus, major Eckleff and 50 soldiers. Hell established an observatory which was finished at Christmas, and he did not waste time. He made observations of the aurora borealis and studied the phosphoresence of the sea water -  and he examined flora and fauna in the area. His assistant carried through studies of the Samic language.

And then came the 3 June 1769, there was a great excitement up to the date, bad weather could ruin everything but the time arrived and they were lucky. When Venus had done its passage and Maximilian Hell and his helpers had done theirs, a Te deum was sung and the canons of the fortress Vardøhus were saluting and the flag went up. Major Eckleff and several honoratiores were invited to see the star and they were celebrating with drinks.

The Austrian-Hungarian espedition - as it was -  started the home trip except for a two weeks visit by reverent Jens Grøn from Kjelvik, who told that he was not happy for his work as far north - and Hell promised him to talk to Christian 7, who listened to Hell's words. In the same year Jens Grøn became parish priest in the town Rudkøbing at the island Langeland.

Jens Grøn could not wait, he wanted to leave Norway as soon as possible, but the last winter ship had left the harbour in Kjelvik  Jens Grøn was resolute, he placed his wife and four daughters in a horse-drawn sleigh and began the long tour down through the winter-dressed Norway, a tour of 2500 kilometers. There is no information about the long difficult sleigh drive, he might have driven a part of the tour through Sweden ,  but he and his family arrived safe and sound to Rudkøbing where Jens Grøn started his new job.

The old sleigh was taken good care of because of this unusual travel from Norway to Denmark.. It is now at exhibition at Langelands Museum in Rudkøbing

Source: Archaeological magazine Skalk, nr. 1, 2004, Kanetur, Ole Mortensen

photo winter: grethe bachmann

other photos: wikipedia

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Capricious Weather!

Saturday by the lake -  21 November 2015
Sunday morning 22 november from my window
My Christmas tree from last year 

It's snowstorm today! The web cameras in the roads show lots of snow almost all over the country Worst on Zealand right now.

Weather changes so fast!!

photo grethe bachmann 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fussingø Forest, a mild November Day and a Norwegian Forest Cat.....

The last Days of Autumn. ....

Fussingø, the day before the leaves were all blown away by the storm.

Will we get a record-hot November again in 2015? The temperature yesterday was 16 degrees Celsius and some sleeping butterflies woke up and fluttered around..

Some people still wear short jeans - and on the jogging trip in the evening even summer shorts!
The air is warm both day and night.

The average temperature for a November day is 7 degrees Celsius.

Yellow/Green Beauty

Autumn, especially in poetry, has often been associated with melancholia - the summer has gone and winter is near. Skies are grey and the evenings are dark, but these present warm lovely autumn days of 2015 are not a breeding ground for melancholia, but maybe I should be at the forefront. You'll never know how things look next week!  So here's a little poem about autum from a master.

When a sighing begins
In the violins
Of the autumn-song,
My heart is drowned
In the slow sound
Languorous and long

Pale as with pain,
Breath fails me when
The hours toll deep.

My thoughts recover
The days that are over,
And I weep.

And I go
Where the winds know,
Broken and brief,
To and fro,
As the winds blow
A dead leaf.

 “Chanson d’Automne” by Paul Verlaine, from Poèmes saturniens (1866). Translated by Arthur Symons in Poems (First Collected Edition, 1902)

Some of the forest at Fussingø were laid out as untouched forest since 1992. The section is no longer used for timber or fuel. The trees live as long as they can. The dead trees are important habitats for mammals, birds, insects and other little animals. The forest will gradually turn into a kind of jungle with fallen and dead trees and a variation of trees growing up.

Cyclists in the forest
Lady with dog

old oaks by the road.
The path down to the forest.
The Fussingø district was inhabited since Stone Age. The first safe proof of human settlements is from the bondestenalder which begins 4200 BC. From this period are found many flint axes.  

the buzzard high up in the blue.
A hen in the road, the hens at Fussingø live a dangerous life. The whole flock was up in the traffic road a short minute before I took the photo, but they are very.very fast to get away from the traffic. They disappeared down in the garden below in the flash of a light.  
Fussingø slot in the background.

See Link: 

Fussingø slot is today used for alternate exhibitions of art and arts and crafts. In other buildings are Nature School and Skov- og Naturstyrelsen. Fussingø is owned by the Danish State.

The German family  Skeel von Plessen owned the estate until the end of WWII, where the estate was confiscated by the Danish State as some kind of war compensation.

Fussingø slot is only open during the year in connection to various arrangements etc. The park is
open to the public all year.

Fussingø skov

Stævningsskoven . The coppice forest on the other side of the brook.

The coppice forest (Stævningsskoven)  is the earliest known form of forestry in Denmark It can be traced back to Stone Age in Denmark and further back in other parts of Europe.

The coppice forest began in connection to the peasants' need for fence, fuel, grazing for the livestock, poles, posts etc. The landlords had the right to use the upper section of the forest, while the peasants had to settle for what they could find in the low forest. The coppice forest was a smart solution for the peasants, since this type of forest developed an upper forest, if it was coppiced regularly - and in this way they could keep on their right to use the forest.

When new materials arrived in the 1800s like stone, bricks, stone dikes, earth banks and fences like wire and fossil fuel, the importance of the coppice forest disappeared and the coppice forests were mainly allowed to stay as they were.

an old fragile bridge
the old boat is still there

Well, here comes the ruler of the water mill!

Dear Cat, I see from the facts below that you are adapted to a very cold climate. Don't you feel it is too hot here? Maybe you should have a little hair cut? Oh no, that would be a shame. You are so beautiful, and you know it. Maybe you have adapted to the mild climate too. I hope you have, but you have really got a big beautiful and hot fur coat! Do you like ice cream? 

Last time I met this cat it was so aristocratic that it was not interested in talking to me. Let's see how the pretty cat behaves today.....

Facts: The Norwegian forest cat is a breed of domestic cat native to Northern Europe. This natural breed is adapted to a very cold climate with top coat of glossy long water-shedding hairs, and a wooly undercoat for insulation. It is a big, strong cat, similar to the American Maine Coon  breed, with long legs, a bushy tail and a sturdy body. The breed is very good at climbing, since they have strong claws. 

Hello, are you social or aristocratic today, dear cat?
What a cuddly cat!
Wauw, you've actually got autumn colours. So beautiful.
Bye, bye....I'll go find my good landlady. She's got some food for me. and maybe some ice cream !

Emeraldgreen ferns
See you next year at Fussingø............

The Mill Pond
Long-tailed tit - the afternoon light was fading!!

Nature's beautiful decay. 

Text and photo November 2015: grethe bachmann :

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A little about Bird Migration

Geese gathering at Alrø bird reserve

The migratory birds move thousands of kilometres each spring and autumn, in spring to the north to their breeding places in Scandinavia in order to nest and have kids. Here is a lot of space and food in summer. In autum the migratory birds fly south to their winter-quarter in the warm countries, where they can rest and find food while snow and frost cover the earth in Scandinavia.

Denmark is a crossroad for both water birds and land birds Birdwatchers estimate that about half a a billion birds pass the southern Scandinavia each autumn.

The land birds prefer to fly over land as far as possible before the flight across sea - therefore they follow the coastline until they are forced to cross the sea.
The water birds prefer to fly across water as far as possible -  therefore they also follow the coast line  until they are forced to fly over land.

An extreme example of bird migration is the Arctic tern which breeds far north near Arctis and overwinters at Antarctis. The species fly usually a yearly migration of ab. 34.000 kilometer. Some individuals can even traverse over 80.000 kilometer yearly, which is the double of the circumference of the earth.

The birds' orientation, the ability to find their way, is genetically determined. How the birds orient themselves is not quite clarified, but it is known that birds use several methods like the Terrestrial magnetic field, constellations, the sun and moon position, polarized light and visual Memory.

Some examinations have shown that the birds not only feed on their fat-reserves but that some of their organs grow smaller during the migration - so the birds exploit the bound energy from fx muscles, stomach, liver and other inner organs. In this way the birds get both energy and a lower weight, which makes the flight easier.

During the migration the birds feed on metabolic water, which is released as a biproduct during the metabolism when the stored fat is burned. The biggest loss of fluid during the flight happens via the exhaled air,  but the birds lose only little fluid through their droppings.

Most of the big birds, like swans and geese, must be taught by their parents in order to find the right migratory route between the winter quarter and the breeding place.

Several migratory birds can fly at least a week in a row without landing.

Some species, like geese and swans, fly in formation during the migration like the V-formation (the wedge formation). A common misunderstanding is that a formation like this has a leading goose in front,  but the birds change place alternately.

It is relatively easy to imagine that a big bird of prey can hover all the way to southern Europe or Africa on spread wings, but it is difficult to imagine a little bird on such a long trip. A bird weighing 10-15 gram has to bring fat in order to be able to survive the tour over long stretches, where it might have no possibility to seek food, water or shadow.

And what I have found here above is just a small part about this fantastic bird migration, the source is wikipedia, the photos; grethe bachmann . 

The bird migration is a wonderful miracle, isn't it? 

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    Childbirth in Scandinavia in the 16th century

    Dagligt Liv i Norden i det 16 århundrede 
    Fødsel og Daab

    The mother gets a drink
    Superstition was still alive in the 16th century's Scandinavia , much  like in the dark Middle Ages,  but it was more spread among people, and more common in the countryside than in the city. It might also have something to do with people being afraid of the dark at night. The city streets were relatively lighted up by the lit windows in the houses, but in the country the night was really black, especially in the winter season, and Christmas was a special dangerous time. No one went out after dark. The cattle had been taken care of - there was no need to go out in the stable. The household stayed inside in safe surroundings. Outside ruled the trolls and the elf-people

    The situation around the birth of a child was filled with dangers. "The mother to be" was assisted by a group of women who had to help her with everything possible, but their most important job was to watch that the newborn child became a * changeling - a a troll came and changed it with a troll-baby. Whatever the group of women were many or few,  they all stayed in the same room at nightfall - the delivery room. In common or poor homes the assisting women were usually a group of wives, who also had to go home and take care of their own house and children, only two or three could stay all the time, but in the nobility the women were family and friends, often from far away. They were invited to witness the important family event and they stayed in the house for some time.

    the baby is being wrapped.
    It might not seem a good idea to disturb the mother's nightrest, but the precaution  around the newborn child was one of the most important according to the contemporary concepts. The most difficult fight was in charge and many were needed to assist against the evil trolls.  All night through the women had to protect the two heathens, the mother and the baby, against the powers of the dark.

    First of all the room had to be continously illuminated. Poor people - who daily used some special sticks which could not be kept lit all night - had  to keep the fire burning in the hearth day and night as long as a heathen child was in the house. This was still a custom around 1900 in some districts in Norway and Sweden. The prosperous and rich people in the Catholic period had consecrated lights. They also sprinkled the room with holy water, and smoked it with consecrated herbs. But after the reformation people just used common lights and crossed themselves and put a book of psalms upon the baby's chest. Still on the time of the writer Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754)  this custom was used. The lights had to be as oldfashioned as possible, the waxlights were not as effective as the old tallow candles. (Ludvig Holberg wrote a comedy Barselstuen (The Delivery Room)

    Trolls, fresco Voldby kirke
    By using these precautions and still being two or three watching-women in the room they were able to secure the two "heathens" -  ( as they were considered to be until the baptismal) . But the women were sometimes in doubt if they - while they were in a hurry - had done one of some fatal errors. They  might have been drying the child's clothes out in the air,  or they might have borrowed something out from the house, or they might have been rotating the grinder etc. - there was no end on all those dangerous things they might have done. And this could be fatal in a house with a little heathen child. Especially the Christmas period was dangerous for the child.

    A son for the knight's wife.
    In such circumstances the women could do nothing else but try to have the damage fixed. The baby  was the weakest of the two heathens, it had to be cured first of all. It might be cured by a lead coin, best if it was cast of church lead and with a carved cross, hung around  the baby's neck in the name of Christ. A stronger cure was a ring, cast in silver, collected from nine various women, whose first born was a boy. The most effective cure was to bear the child again by putting it naked through a priest's collar, or through the hole of a together-grown tree, or through an opening in a grass turf from the church yard -  or through the fence by a cross road. And all the time while saying Lords Prayer.

    If none of those cures were good enough,  it really seemed that the child in spite of the care of the women had been confused with a troll's child. The women had been overwhelmed with fatigue and the woman, who had to do the watch had unfortunately fallen a little asleep. But even though they were all awake the cunning troll might sneak into the room anyway, while the tallow lights burnt drowsily. The troll might sneak along the deep shadows, remove the book of psalms from the baby's chest and change the baby with his own troll-baby without anyone noticing it.

    A changeling is whipped.
    If the women had a reason to believe that this had happened, there was nothing else left but having this little monster sent back to its home and get back the right child. But first they had to be sure that the child really was a changeling. A changeling-baby might be recognized by its big head and excessive appetite, but since human babies might be alike, the women had to do two tests. One was to hold the naked baby towards the sun in the morning - especially on Easter morning. If the child was a changeling it would crack at once. The other milder test was to lure the changeling to talk and thereby reveal its real age. For although it looked like a baby and lay in a cradle it was really an old guy. It was all foul play from the troll's side when the baby pretended not to be able to talk or understand but only knew how to eat.

    Many tricks were done to lure the troll-baby to reveal itself. A Jutland woman was brewing some beer and did it in a special odd way, and the baby suddenly said. "I have lived for many years and have never seen it done in this way!". Another woman used another trick. She promised to give the child some sausage but served roast pork and the baby said. "I have never seen such a sausage in all my life," And such the women tried to make the troll-child reveal its true nature.

    It was more difficult if it was impossible to see if the baby was a changeling. But if suddenly there were two babies in the cradle then there was really panic among the women. Which one was a changeling? Such cases are told in both Scandinavia and Germany. There was an advice to find out which child was a changeling. A wild foal was fetched. The two babies were laid upon the ground, shrouded in a cloth and the foal sniffed to them. The foal sniffed to one child and wanted to lick it, but when it sniffed to the other child, it became quite wild and crazy and wanted to kick it. There was no doubt who was the changeling! But before anyone could do anything a tall woman came along, took the changeling and disappeared.

    Delivery room, 16th century.
    If the watch-women and the parents had found out that the baby was a changeling, they had to mistreat it so forcefully that the true parents, the trolls, had pity and took it back. So the women whipped the little monster, they spit on it and swept it out of the house with the dust rubbish , they pretended they wanted to burn it in the hot oven -  but sometimes the changeling in the shape of a little guy, run off himself, he curled up and roll along up hills and down valley - or else it might happen that an old man or woman showed up, took the changeling and put the human baby in the cradle instead. Such strange stories are told from Germany, England, Scotland and Ireland.

    With all these terrible dangers it was no wonder that the parents wanted to baptize their baby as soon as possible, and it was usual at that time that a baptismal came soon after the birth.  People considered the baptismal like a new life where the child was dressed in some kind of armour. The child was hardened they said. This expression was still used in the 19th century.

    * changeling, Danish word: skifting. 

    Dagligt liv i Norden i det 16 århundrede, Troels fr. Troels-Lund, 1914-1915, Tema: Danish Literature, Middle Ages. .

    Tuesday, November 03, 2015

    A Misty Day in November...

    When the farmers had done the slaughter, they examined the spleen of the slaughtered animal. They were convinced this would tell them a lot about the weather to come. .

    Nove means nine. November month origins from the old Roman calendar of king Numa Pompilius ab. 500 bc. At that time the Roman year started with the month of March, which made November the ninth month. When the Gregorian calendar was introduced, the year started with January, which brought disturbance in the old numerical order.! 

    Aalsø kirke, Djursland

    November is dark, but a landscape swept in a haze is like a landscape from a fairy tale, a mysterious place where everything can happen. This is a landscape which a movie director could use in Lord of the Ring or in a movie about the legendary King Arthur. 

    Yes, the landscape is swept in grey shades but when the sun suddenly comes through, it reveals a beautiful golden tree upon a hilltop. Such is the weather in autumn. Filled with surprise and beauty. 

    photo on a misty day at Djursland and Kolindsund November 2015: grethe bachmann