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Celebrating Swedish Midsummer with good friends…and a few frogs

Hello Froggy!

Hello Froggy!

What do frogs and Swedish Midsummer have in common? We would say a lot more than you might think. But let’s make it clear from the start. We are not talking about that type of frog that turns into a handsome prince after you give him a kiss. Neither are we talking about that old traditional song called “Små grodorna” (The Little Frogs) that children used to sing while doing funny imitations of frogs around the Midsummer pole. No, it’s something else we have in mind – real frogs – in danger of extinction.

Today we are in a historic place with a long tradition of organizing spectacular Midsummer celebrations for the public. It’s called Nääs, a beautifully preserved 19th century estate that offers bed and breakfast, shops, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, horseback riding, etc. It is situated in Tollered, about 30 km east of Gothenburg.

Midsummer is when the longest day of the year is being celebrated and it’s a big event and a national holiday in Sweden. To sum it up, basically everybody is eating pickled herring, boiled fresh potatoes, strawberries and washes it down with some (or plenty of) beer and snaps. Since Midsummer involves tons of outdoor activities and dining in the open air, we are anxiously looking at the weather forecast and crossing our fingers that there will be no rain today. Unfortunately, the sky looks pretty gloomy. Still, a lot of people have arrived to have a picnic, listen to music and dance around the Midsummer pole.

Get ready for some pole dancing

There are plenty of old myths associated with Midsummer that might seem strange today. For example, on this particular night, women used to go out and pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under the pillow. If this was done in complete silence, her future loved one would show up in her dreams. Another old myth is that one can roll around naked in the grass to avoid getting sick. This is not a widespread, contemporary tradition so don’t expect to see this happen (unless there is a lot of alcohol involved).

But let’s go back to the initial question. What do frogs and Swedish Midsummer have in common (except for that Little Frogs song)? Well, to our surprise, in the vicinity of Nääs, there are some unique man-made culverts under the road, used by frogs and toads who otherwise would be at a high risk getting killed by passing cars (or end up eye-to-eye with a curious dog like Sam). Many amphibians are endangered so this practical construction helps them to survive.

While carefully looking around to see if we can find any frogs in the nearby ditch, the rain suddenly starts pouring down. Behind us, on the lawn where the Midsummer celebration takes place, everybody is probably running for cover. The rain definitely put an end to the celebration this year, although we are pretty sure, for the frogs in the culverts, the party has just started.

Another wet Midsummer party is over.

NB. We were actually not celebrating Midsummer or looking after frogs at Nääs this year (it was last year). But hey, we never let the facts stand in the way of a good story! Right?

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Here comes the rain again

When we thought that it possibly couldn’t rain anymore, it suddenly started to pour again. If you by any chance travelled to Sweden this summer, you know exactly what we are talking about. The non-existing summer.

Let’s take a look at some interesting figures (weather statistics are fascinating, aren’t they? No?) The month of June was, for example, the coldest in Sweden for the past 20 years, and, as if this wasn’t unfortunate enough, it was also the rainiest summer in a 100 years. Imagine, 100 years!!  (It is not like Sweden is known for its tropical summers anyway.) But bad luck doesn’t end here. Of course, the Sam and the dunes team decided to come over on this particular summer. Boy, that’s what we call bad timing. (Later on we would end up in Rome during the worst heatwave in many years, but that’s a totally different story.)

OK, luckily we had the camera with us so we could share with you this somewhat depressing slideshow. Enjoy!

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Gothenburg – Sweden’s Cinderella City

We are happy, no, in fact we are  overjoyed. Ecstatic!! Sam and the dunes blog post “Sweden’s Cinderella City” has just been published by the National Geographic Intelligent travel blog. Read the full story here: Sweden’s Cinderella City.

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Avalon – discover Goteborg under water

A cool gem in Goteborg (Sweden), Avalon Hotel**** can dazzle and disappoint, all depending on your room. The first time we stayed there, ours was slightly bigger than a shoe box and the bed, way too small for two people, was not exactly living up to what the hotel officially is claiming to be – Feng Shui. Even the fantastic smorgasbord offered in the morning couldn’t put us in a good mood after sleeping so badly. The next time we came back we were (for the same price) offered palatial accommodations with a terrace that could comfortably accommodate a squash court (not really but it sounds good anyway) and provided a panoramic view of the city. Bottom line, if your sleeping quarters are up to standards, then you hit jackpot. The restaurant menu is fun, a mix of traditional Swedish cuisine (you have to try the herring in numerous sauces) and the usual suspects: seafood, salads, pasta. The bar is usually full in the evening, especially during the summer months. The outdoor pool on the rooftop is small, we mean really small but it has one peculiarity, it extends a bit outside so you can see the pedestrians on the street through the glass bottom (hey, wait…) and yes, they can see you of course. The location is smack downtown with plenty of opportunities around the corner. Avalon is a member of Design Hotels (the interior is rather avant-garde) and although it is a four and not a five star, it’s a sophisticated joint to hang around for a couple of days if you ever end up in Goteborg. In 2011, Avalon received the TripAdvisor’s  “Certificate of Excellence.”

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