Swedish ‘Ski shooting’ – the king of the hybrids

In the Swedish town of Östersund, the World Championships in biathlon is currently taking place. For the uninitiated of you, the biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. In Swedish, it is called ‘skidskytte’ – literally ‘ski shooting’. The sport is a race where the contestant with the shortest total time wins. Depending on the competition, missed shots result in extra distance or time being added to the contestant’s total.

The biathlon is an example of a hybrid sport – one which combines two or more sports in order to create a new sport. Waterpolo, which combines swimming and handball, is another example. Biathlon is the king of the hybrids as it is the only one to be recognised as an Olympic sport.

As usual, I got curious about what other hybrid sports exist. So I did some research. Here are some of the, according to me, funniest ones:

Bossaball – combines the many elements of volleyball, football, gymnastics and the Brazilian martial art Capoeira. Strangely, it is played on an inflatable field with 2 trampolines at each side of the net. These allow players per side to bounce high to spike or touch the ball.

Chess boxing – weirdly combines the sport of boxing with games of chess in alternating rounds. Chess boxing fights have been organized since early 2003.

Darchery – combines darts and archery, using crossbows and arrows typically used for archery, but the target is a dart board.

Footgolf – combines football with golf. Players kick a football into large holes placed around a golf course.

Headis – combines table tennis and football. Players use their heads to hit a football across the table tennis table and net. Sounds exhausting.

Kronum – combines handball, football, basketball and rugby played on a circular field with four goals at each end.

Octopush – combines swimming, diving and hockey. Players try to push around a hockey puck at the bottom of a swimming pool. The goal is to shoot the puck with a small, curved piece of wood into the opposing team’s goal.     

Do you play any of these sports? Or do you play another hybrid sport? Let me know!

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6 reasons why Swedes take Eurovision so seriously

We are in the middle of the Eurovision qualification rounds (known colloquially as ‘Mello’) in Sweden – three weeks in, three weeks to go. This extended selection period occupies every Saturday night for 6 weeks, and results in the song and artist who will represent the country in the big final in Israel.

People gather up and down the country to have ‘Mello’ parties. Social media and traditional media are full of comments about the bad quality of the contestants this year (and every year). People are raging that the wrong songs are voted to move on in the league table.

Nobody, and I mean nobody takes their Eurovision (ESC) more seriously than the Swedes.

But why is that? Here are a few theories:

Brightening up the winter blues. Mello comes during the deepest, darkest, dreariest time of the year. The glittery colourfulness of Mello brightens up February and early March, when nothing much else happens.

Reliving the glory days. ABBA’s legacy is a constant reminder to Swedes that they once reached long-lasting global fame and it all started at ESC. Every year is a hunt for the next big thing, when the international light will shine once more on this little country in the north.

Organized ‘religion‘. Sweden is, relatively speaking, not a religious country. So the human need for organising ourselves into a collective manifests itself in other ways. Hockey and football become a form of organized religion. And ‘Mello’ is another variation on the same theme. Ask Swedes why they like Mello and many use the word ‘folk fest’ – a ‘national party for the people.’

Swedish traditions. Sweden is a country that is good at holding on to traditions – crayfish parties, snaps songs, semla cream buns, Easter trees – to name just a few. Therefore it is easy for this society to absorb, and structure, new traditions. Halloween is now a thing here. So is Valentine’s Day. So Mello becomes another tradition and slots nicely into the national calendar.

Vicarious extrovertism. Swedes are not generally known for being outgoing and extroverted, although there are of course exceptions. This means that Mello becomes so attractive, as it’s an opportunity for Swedes to live vicariously through the ‘crazy’ performers who dance around in sequins and funny outfits. It’s also an opportunity to push your own boundaries and wear a glittery hat or a pink feather boa. And all under organised, acceptable conditions.

Love of music. Because some Swedes actually like the music.

Which theory is most accurate do you think? Do you have another theory?

Ice, ice baby: 15 Swedish words for ice

Currently in the depths of winter, the Swedish landscape is covered in snow and ice.

I previously published a blog about 50 Swedish words for snow. So I became curious about how many words are there to describe ice.

I was surprised to find an enormous number of words. I guess it’s not so surprising for a Nordic country with so many lakes, rivers and waterways that there are many words to describe the different stages and shapes of frozen water.

Here are 15 of the words I found: 15 words for ice.

  1. Is – the standard word for ice
  2. Blankis – ice that shines like a mirror
  3. Nyis – ice that’s only a couple of centimeters thick and transparent
  4. Fast is – thick ice, often not transparent
  5. Issörja – when the air is cold but the water is moving, a kind of ice slop forms
  6. Tallrikis – plates of ice that form when above mentioned ice slop clusters together
  7. Pannkaksis- similar to tallriksis but formed when water with different amount of salt content meet each other
  8. Svallis – the kind of yellowish ice that freezes on mountainsides or rocky walls
  9. Drivis – large pieces of ice that float on the water and are driven by wind
  10. Isflak – a large, loose sheet of ice floating on water
  11. Rutten is – literally ‘rotten ice’, the first stage of thawing ice
  12. Skruvis – when thin ice layers itself on top of each other, like filo pastry.
  13. Istapp – icicle
  14. Svartis – black ice on the ground
  15. Glattis – an evenly compact layer of ice on the ground

What other words for ice do you know?

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Sweden’s longest night

winter solstice

Today, Friday Dec 21st is the longest night for people in Sweden and the rest of the northern hemisphere. At this time of year, it doesn’t get much darker than this. In Swedish, there’s an expression – now we’re moving towards brighter times – and it’s really relevant today, as from tomorrow the amount of daylight will gradually extend until June.

The winter solstice is the official start of astronomical winter, and this year it will be extra special. The winter solstice marks the exact moment each year when the Northern Hemisphere reaches its greatest possible tilt away from the sun, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It signals the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere.

But this year, the solstice isn’t the only celestial show in the coming days. A full moon known as the Cold Moon will take place on Saturday. The moon will appear full for a few days. However, it is the first time it coincides with the winter solstice since 2010. It won’t occur again until 2094, by which time most of us will be dead. In addition to the full moon, a meteor shower will take place on Friday and Saturday nights, according to NASA.

So it might be dark and dreary outside, but look up to the sky. You might just witness something spectacular – and I don’t mean Santa and his sleigh.

The relief of Swedish Advent

 

So it’s the first of Advent this weekend and this year it comes as a major relief for those of us in Stockholm.

You see at Advent, Swedes decorate their houses, apartments and windows with lights. From ceilings, illuminated stars are hung. On window ledges, electric advent candles are placed. On tables, four candles are positioned and one is lit every Sunday up until Christmas. Small candles, often red, are dotted about the home.

Some years, there is already deepish snow at the first of Advent, but this year in Stockholm, there isn’t. So it is very, very, very dark. The collective advent decoration is a definite reprieve from this darkness as light is spread into these murky places.

The word ‘advent’ comes from the Latin ‘adventus’ which means ‘arrival’ and is traditionally the start of the period where we wait for the arrival of nativity, or Christmas. Some religions also see it as waiting for the second coming of Christ. But in this secular society that is Sweden, the waiting is probably for the snow to come, the cold to hit, the water to freeze to ice and for winter to clasp its fingers firmly around us.

Spectacular Swedish serenity on All Saints’ Day

I remember walking around Stockholm when I had recently moved here. It was a pitch black Saturday evening in November, cold and crisp. As I approached a majestic church, I noticed that it was shimmering from the grave yard. This yellow and white light slowly flickered and cast shadows on the gravestones and the church wall. As if drawn by a magic spell, I walked up to the church and looked over the wall. The sight that met my eyes was spectacular and serene at the same time. Hundreds of candles were spread around the cemetery, decorating each of the graves. In the memory grove a bright blazing blanket of candles lit up the area. It was as if the spirits of the dead had come out to play.

In Sweden, the first Saturday in November is All Saints’ Day (the Sunday after All Saints’ Day is called All Souls’ Day to separate between the saints and the dead).

Since the 1800’s Swedes have, during this weekend, made pilgrimage to graveyards up and down the country to decorate the graves with candle light and to pay respect to the dead. It is a much more elegant and atmospheric tradition than the typical Halloween parties that otherwise have become very popular in Sweden.

It is a truly beautiful experience to walk through the churchyards this weekend. In the pitch black November Nordic darkness, it is a peaceful reminder of those who have gone before us. So head for your nearest cemetery this weekend and, if you happen to be in Stockholm, go to the Forest graveyard (Skogskyrkogården) for a specifically spectacular experience (pictured below).

Swedish ways to die #4 Death by Ice

I am continuing my look into Swedish death and have come to Part 4 – Death by Ice.

Although it’s hard to imagine when the sun is shining, and we are baking in summer temperatures, Sweden is often covered in snow and ice. This slippery, freezing covering often leads to many a treacherous way to come to a sticky end.

1. Ice bombs. Walking the streets of any town in Sweden is often a dangerous pastime. The snow and ice that forms on the roofs loosens as the weather improves or the ice gets too heavy. This leads to an avalanche of snow which plummets to the street beneath. For any unfortunate walking along the street this can mean a rendezvous with death. As the snow and the ice rushes down, it hits the walker on the head. In best case, a concussion. In worst case, a permanent surprise.

2. Ice rafts. As the frozen lakes of Sweden break up, they form sheets of ice floating on the surface. These rafts of ice occur suddenly leaving any unsuspecting person or animal trapped afloat. In best case, you are rescued. In worse case, you drown in the frozen waters.

3. Skating. A safe sport when contained to a rink, the danger increases when Swedes take their skates out onto open sea. The notion of skating close to the edge where the ice becomes water is the main thrill. But if you’ve eaten one too many cinnamon buns the ice may break beneath you, and you plunge, in worse case, to a watery grave.

4. Pavement runs. Did you know that pavements kill? Well they do in Sweden. Black ice, shifting temperatures and substandard street-cleaning combine to turn the pavements into to bobsleigh runs. Many a broken bone occurs on the lethal streets of Swedish cities. And in worse case, broken necks.

So there you have it – four very Swedish icy ways to perish.