Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful country. Very dramatic with steep mountains, volcanoes and lakes and streams with waterfalls.

waterfall

Iceland is a geothermal country and is growing – slowly. Volcanoes are a big part of the landscape. We saw the volcano that erupted in 2010 (I can neither pronounce or spell the name) and stopped air traffic over Europe. The lava formations do indeed look like trolls, which are huge in the mythology. Our tour guide read us a troll fairy tale. (Another one sang America the Beautiful with us, since it was July 4th. A wonderful and very special memory.)

lava

The scale of the image does not show how enormous this outcropping is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because of the this activity, all the energy is geothermal. And signs of the geothermal activity are everywhere. Incelanders heat their homes with geothermal energy – we toured a power plant.

 

geyser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This geyser is at Geysir – yes, folks, geyser is an Icelandic name. Another feature is the boiling water and mud that one can see everywhere

fumerole

 

 

 

 

Iceland was very green, with snow on the higher peaks. But it is too cold to grow many things so most of the produce – that is not imported – is grown in greenhouses. Here, even a degree or two can make a huge difference. Iceland is trying to establish plants so they have imported various trees and Alaskan lupines.

We bought more sweaters.

One interesting feature: the livestock. Almost feral horses that are thickly covered with hair. Cattle that are a very old breed (Iceland has strict laws on importing livestock since they want to keep their breeds pure). The cattle look very different from our modern cows. They are horned with long pointed horns, for one thing, and instead of a barrel shape their bodies hang from their prominent hips as though the flesh was on a coat hanger.

And there are more sheep than people: sheep everywhere.

I loved Iceland but I don’t think I could take the cold climate. And, in the north, we had almost 24 hours of day. I cannot imagine coping with 24 hours of night.

Norway number two

One of my favorite parts of this trips was seeing an Iron Age farm. Man, times were hard. The people lived in longhouses with sod roofs.

Peopel lived in the south, animals in the north, so the heat from the animals came down, Also the smells and other less nice things. I’ve read about the custom of keeping the animals in the house. Diseases that began in animals then jumped to humans.

But I digress.

I was very interested in the loom. The weaving was done top to bottom. The warp threads at the bottom were hung with weights. Weaving, which for me is a fairly quiet operation, must have been noisy.

loom weights

One of the things I found interesting was the green tape and the interpreter’s green shirt. I knew from my research for “Death of a Dyer” that there was no green dye in Europe. In Peru they used some plant but that had not been discovered in Europe. But they did have yellow, blue (indigo) and red (madder).

yarns

So, where did they get green? Here is a better shot of the green tape.

green tape

I asked the interpreter and he referred me to the Archaelogy Department. Answer: they over dyed, beginning with yellow and then blue.

For pictures of the dress and shoes I refer you to the blog by ArchaeoFox.

 

Norway

After Copenhagen, a city I loved, we went to Norway. We stopped at several cities: Oslo. Kristinsand and Stavanger. Another wonderful country.

One of the things we saw in Oslo was a stave church. Only a few of these remain.

stave church

The pointed roofs are absolutely characteristic but of course they have tons of snow. This stave church was on the way to an Olympic style ski jump. I would never do it; just looking down at the run up made me queasy. It was about half an hour out of Oslo – the Norwegians love their sking. As we saw in Copenhagen, there are lots of buildings hundreds of years old – like this stave church.

baker

All the buildings here are very very old and are still in use, mostly. The inhabitants can do anything they like inside but the outside has to remain as it was. This was a medieval bakers. He went out of business several hundred years ago but the pretzel still remains.

 

viking ship

As one would expect, Vikings are very important to Norway’s history. This is NOT a reproduction; it is a ship, one of three, pulled out of a bog. From the 800s. Yipes! Hard to believe anyone sailed in these little tiny things – and crossed the Atlantic besides and made a colony in North America.

But how did people live?

open air museum

This shack housed about 15 people with their animals. There was no chimney, just a hole in the sod roof which had to be closed during bad weather. Infant mortality was 50%.

The good old days were terrible!

 

 

 

Copenhagen and random thoughts

I love Copenhagen as a city. I suppose its greatest claim to fame is Hans Christian Anderson, the author of such tales as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Ugly Ducking.” As any one who has read these stories will tell you, they are much darker than their Disney versions. There is a statue of the mermaid in the harbor and she is little.

little mermaid

I would have like seeing the museum but it was outside of Copenhagen and we didn’t have the time.

This is also a very green city- and by that I mean it is rapidly attaining full sustainable energy. There are not that many cars = probably because they are so highly taxed. In the harbor, on reclaimed land, there are wind turbines. Here is an idea I thought very cool as a form of tree irrigation.copenhagen irrigation

All the trees have these gigantic bags of water around them as a form of irrigation. They are also working on fresh fruits and veggies grown in the city. As someone who has a large garden every year, I found this fascinating. These igloos dot the city and when you get closer they are full of growing things. Plus, they play music to help the plants grow.

copenhagen greenhouse

So, there has to be something I didn’t like, right? It was cold! We stopped for lunch at a cafe. Note the blankets on the chairs, the jackets everyone was wearing. And there were heaters every few feet. I want to add, this is the beginning of JULY!

copenhage cafe

In all fairness, all of Scandinavia was cold. We’d brought jackets, long pants and sweaters and we still had to buy new sweaters. In Iceland, the tops of the mountains were covered with snow.

iceland snow

So, I loved everything about Scandinavia but the climate.

Scandinavian cruise – Denmark

I haven’t blogged for awhile. My husband and I went for a cruise in Scandinavia. (Disney cruise – we are all about Disney!) First up: Copenhagen.

I loved this city. It is old, with a lot of medieval remnants.

copenhagen building

medieval carving

They all seemed very old to me – until we saw neolithic ruins later in the trip. But more about that later.

One weird sight: old buildings with new things like a Macdonalds and an electric billboard.

copenhagen old and new

There are bike lanes everywhere and man, are the riders aggressive. If a pedestrian strays into their space, they will curse and sometimes try to push you out of their way. One of our bus drivers called them anarchists on wheels and they are. They don’t stop for red lights or anything!

copenhagen bike lane

A tiny lane for cars and a tiny lane for pedestrians and a wide lane for bikes. There are more bikes than people in Copenhagen – which means some people have two or three.

Witchcraft – Salem and More

I ‘ve had a couple of questions about my most recent book, Death in Salem. Why didn’t I fully explore the witchcraft angle? Well, as I’ve said in earlier posts, Salem by 1797, was a very cosmopolitan city. It was not only the sixth largest, one of the most diverse (with the first East Indian immigrant populations in the US) but it was also the wealthiest. Salem’s witchcraft past was more an embarrassment.

IMG_2633

House of one of the judges.

 

 

 

 

The witchcraft spell has never completely left Salem, however. On one of our tours, the guide was the descendent of one of the accused witches. Reminders of this past abound.

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Graveyard includes memorials to those that were executed.

 

 

 

 

Although Salem became something other – a huge center of shipping and trading, however, the belief in witchcraft did not fade. In an earlier blog I wrote about trials that continued, right up to one in Russia in 1999. Belief that women are witches never completely disappear.

And I wonder what is behind these accusations? Belief? Greed, malice, revenge? Hatred of women. With Gamer gate and all of the Internet attacks on women we  cannot discount that as a motive.

Christianity certainly plays a part.I think most of us are familiar with the quote from the Bible about not suffering a witch to live. During the middle ages and right up to modern times this has been used to execute any number of innocent people, primarily women.

I will blog  in the future about my research into witchcraft and goddesses – I think the two are tied.

To answer the question I have asked, I decided, that since I did not explore witchcraft and the psychologies behind it in Death in Salem, I would do so in the next book. That book, titled The Devil”s Cold Dish, will be coming out next year. Spoiler alert: it does not take place in Salem.