Lost in my Studio

I know I have to continue to update my trip to Scandinavia but we had a couple of rainy days here so I decided to hide out in my studio.  So I went through some of my photos from my trip and was inspired by the Tomtar I saw in both Sweden and Finland.


These little guys were in a shop in FInland


Some tomtar from Sweden

An amazing collection of tomtar at a friend’s house in Northern Sweden.


Here is one of the little guys that I have created.  Had a great time playing with the wool roving to get a really funky hair-do on this little guy.

One of our little Canadian Tomtar developed right here in the BC Rocky Mountains

A tomte is a humanoid mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore. The tomte or nisse was believed to take care of a farmer’s home and children and protect them from misfortune, in particular at night, when the housefolk were asleep. The Swedish name tomte is derived from a place of residence: the house lot or tomt. The tomte/nisse was often imagined as a small, elderly man (size varies from a few inches to about half the height of an adult man), often with a full beard; dressed in the everyday clothing of a farmer.

I will be back with more trip blogs.  More on Helsinki and then Northern Sweden, where my family is from.

Fortress of Suomenlinna

I arrived at the Harbour in Helsinki and boarded the Water Bus to the Sea Fortress of Suomenlinna. There were a couple of school classes headed over for the day as well.  How great to have so much history in a country and so many great places to explore when you’re a kid or even a kid at heart.

Founded on the islands off the coast of Helsinki in 1748, the Suomenlinna sea fortress is a cultural treasure.  My plan was to head over for an hour or so then come back to Helsinki for the afternoon.  That’s what all the travel sites recommended.  One, two hours tops.  For me they were wrong.    Once I arrived I didn’t want to leave. You can almost get lost over here and forget about time.    I found some great quiet places away from all the visitors.  Stumbled across the Nordic Walk by accident and walked around the perimeter.  I can see why it made such a formidable fortress.  Historically you had a full 360 degree view of enemies coming from any direction.  Today you have a 360 degree view of tourists and school trips so you can run in the other direction.  Just kidding.  Even with it’s military past for me it was peaceful and tranquil.

So if you like to get away from the city and step back in time, I recommend the Fortress of Suomenlinna.


The courtyard and tomb of Augustin Ehrensvärd


View from Cafe Piper


King’s Gate – The emblem of Suomenlinna. It was built as the ceremonial gateway to the fortress.

Waiting for the Water Bus

Waiting for the Water Bus


I know another crazy haired picture. Having fun on a windy cool day at Suomenlinna.

Sand-covered roofs of the gunpowder magazines

Sand-covered roofs of the gunpowder magazines


View of shoreline from the Nordic Walk


One of the tranquil paths away from the tourists. Ahh-h-h solitude

Next Stop Finland

While I was doing my family research I discovered that I had a Finnish connection.  I hummed and hawed about travelling to Finland until I heard back from my cousins who were excited to meet.  So after three great days in Uppsala I headed back to Arlanda Airport and caught a Finnair Flight to Helsinki.  I arrived late on a Sunday evening so headed straight for the hotel and prepared for my next few days.

Finland is so different from other Scandinavian countries and you can still see much of the Russian presence (1809-1917) in the architecture, at least in Helsinki.

I was so lucky to have found a hotel right in the middle of downtown Helsinki.  What an amazing city and so different from the cities I had visited in Sweden.  On the Monday morning I met my 7th cousin in front of the House of Nobility for my private guided tour of Riddarhuset.  I did not get pictures from the interior as I did not feel is was appropriate, but had an amazing visit nonetheless.

Then a walking tour before lunch.

Helsinki Cathedral

Helsinki Cathedral

The Cathedral is an Evangelic Lutheran church and for many is a symbol of Helsinki.  Loads of tourists, I myself included, descend on this square everyday.

Had to take this picture as Jean Sibelius is my 8th cousin once removed.

Had to take this picture as Jean Sibelius is my 8th cousin once removed.

I could not resist taking a picture of this as the composer, Jean Sibelius in my 8th cousin once removed.

Upenski Cathedral

Uspenski Cathedral

This cathedral was designed by the Russian architect Aleksey Gornostayev and was built after his death in 1862 to 1868.

Next time more from Helsinki, more family and the Fortress of Suomenlinna.

Historic Uppsala

Uppsala domkryka dates back to the late 13th century and is 389ft in height, making it the tallest church building in Scandinavia.  As you can tell by my photos I could not get the whole building in the frame.  It was used for coronations of Swedish monarchs for many years.  Gustav Vasa, Carolus Linnaeus(for you science buffs out there) are just a few of the people of note buried here.  No matter where you are in Uppsala you can pretty much see the spires of the Cathedral from most vantage points.

Uppsala Domkyrka - Street Level

Uppsala Domkyrka – Street Level

Uppsala Domkyrka - Too big to fit on my iPhone Camera

Uppsala Domkyrka – Too big to fit on my iPhone Camera

Uppsala Castle

Uppsala Castle

Princess for a Day

Princess for a Day.  I found my crown.

Uppsala Castle(Uppsala Slott).  Now the residence of the County Governor but was originally built in about 1549 during the reign of King Gustav Vasa.  Uppsala Castle played a major role in the history of both the city and Sweden, including some infamous events.  Such as the Sture murders, when in 1567, a mentally ill and paranoid King Eric XIV ordered the execution of a group of noblemen.

It was damaged by fire in 1702 being reduced to almost rubble.  It took many years to reconstruct the building partly due to the remains being used as a quarry for stone for the construction of the Stockholm Palace.

You also get some amazing view of Uppsala and the surrounding countryside from the battlements at the castle.

View from Uppsala Castle. Sorry my big head is in the way.

View from Uppsala Castle. Sorry my big head is in the way.  That is the Domkyrka in the background.

A better one without my head.

A better one without my head.

Uppsala – The City

My second day on my bike and thought I would head out of town to the Nature Reserve just past the city proper.  I had no idea that the Skandis Bike Weekend was happening  and wouldn’t you know it I got caught up in the middle of it.  I was casually riding out of town and down to the Nature Reserve minding my own business when I stopped at a small bridge and saw them coming up behind me. A man started speaking Swedish to me. He repeated in English and asked, “Are you joining the group,” and chuckled. My answwe was a resounding, “no”

I did eventually find the nature reserve and hiked around.  I found an alternate route back into town by accident and had a very peaceful ride.

The bike competition was centred at Uppsala Castle.  So I watched the riders from the safety of a park bench.

Uppsala Castle

Uppsala Castle

Next time the amazing Uppsala Cathedral or Uppsala Domkyrka and more about the Uppsala Castle.

Uppsala by bike

Sorry I have not continued with my trip blog but the summer has whizzed by and I have been working on new designs for the summer markets.

Here are a few more pictures and details from my trip.  My next big stop was in Uppsala.  My 5th great grandfather attended the Uppsala University in the 1700’s.  It is such a young a vibrant city.  You have to love university and college towns.  There is always so much to see and do.  Best city for biking I have ever visited.  Lots of great places to rent bikes.  Worth the little bit of money it cost to rent one.  It’s the best way to see the city and of course head out to Gamla Uppsala.  This is a must.  And a great trip on the bicycle.  I took the main highway out to the site but discovered there is a lovely walking and biking trail that winds through the woods just behind the Royal Burial Mounds.

Here a few photos of Gamla Uppsala.

Mode of transportation

Mode of transportation

Royal Mounds

Royal Mounds

Church at Gamla Uppsala

Church at Gamla Uppsala

Gamla Uppsala

Gamla Uppsala


City of Uppsala in the Distance

City of Uppsala in the Distance

You can just make out the spires of the Domkyrka in the distance.  More from Uppsala later this week.

Sweden – The continuation

I wish I could have had more time in Stockholm but there were so many places I wanted to visit as part of my family history trip plus many new cousins to meet.  A few tips for Stockholm. Get the Stockholm card.  So worth it for public transport and museums.  I missed out on the first few days but did get a 2-day card which does help keep the cost down while you’re in the city.  There is so much to see and do in Stockholm you just can’t do it all in a short time.  It’s worth jumping on the subway as well.  Clean, efficient and lots of great artwork in the subways.

The weather was awesome while I was there.  My second day I walked down by the National Museum and had lunch at an outdoor cafe.  Best Ceasar Salad I have had to date.  Maybe it was the fresh Swedish air and friendly service.  I did learn a bit of Swedish before heading over.  Not necessary as they speak English perfectly.  I was told that if you try to speak Swedish they’ll know you speak English and want to speak only English.  Not true.  Whenever I would try my very poor Swedish they were more than glad to help me try and speak the language.  Even teaching me new words and phrases.  So if you want to have a bit of a linguistic adventure try learning a little bit of Swedish before you go.  You’ll be amazed how much you pick up while you’re there.  Okay, here are a few more photos from Stockholm.  More to come.


National Museum getting a facelift. This was the site of Johan Clason’s shipyard in the 1700’s in Blasieholmen.


Nothing better the a Swede in uniform.  This is outside the Royal Palace.


Outside the Royal Palace. Hmm. Thought I might be invited in for tea.