Another of my favorites Polish traditions is All Saints Day and Zaduszki. All Saints is a solemnity celebrated every year on 1st November. It is a national holiday when in church people honour all known and unknown saints and martyrs. It is also a day when people visit the graves of loved ones to talk to them, to pray and to place candles and flowers on their graves. The special candles are placed there so that departed souls can find their way through the darkness. Many Poles travel long distances to visit family graves and to remember the dead.
Then on 2nd November we celebrate All Souls Day (Zaduszki). It’s a day of remembering the dead and its origins can be traced to the times of Slavic mythology – the tradition of lighting candles comes from ancient slavic Dziady (Grandfathers Eve). Dziady were held twice every year (in the spring and autumn). During the feast the ancient Slavs organized libations and ritual meals. In local mythologies such feasts were organized both for the living and for the souls of the forefathers who joined the Dziady after dark.
In my childhood we used to go to the cemetery in the morning and then joined our family for dinner. My Grandma used to cooked two dishes – soup and main, then two kinds of veg and dessert cake and jelly with whipped cream for my younger brother. The most popular soups are chicken soup and barszcz (beetroot soup) with uszka (dumplings). For main different kinds of meat schabowe (breaded pork fillets) or collops or fried chickens. And then the most plump yeast-raised cake. Oh and let’s not forget the kompot. It’s light, refreshing drink most often made of dried or fresh fruit boiled in water with sugar and left to cool and infuse. The Eastern European drink originates from the time of the Ottoman Empire, it may be even the predecessor of the Western European dessert of the same name.
After dark we used to go for a walk to Poznan Citadel. It is one of the biggest military cemeteries. In fact there is not one but a few of cemeteries, all gathered in one place, among them there are:
Old parish graveyard
Old Garrison Cemetery
Russian Military Cemetery
Graves of German soldiers
Polish Military Cemetery
Graveyard of Distinguished Residents
There are also monuments and graves belonging to veterans of Napoleonic wars, soldiers of I World War, scouts, Citadel fighters (polish civilians, which took part in fights in February 45).
Some of the graves are very old and abandoned, some of the look quite new, there is also part which looks like American cemetery (foreign soliders from US, Australia, UK and many other countries ) what they all have in common is the huge amount of candles lit on them, if not by members of the family then by strangers. This was my favorite part of the day. Watching the lights, reading the names and details of dead trying to imagine who they were and what their story was, litting candles that burned out and the ones we brought with us. This year we didn’t go to the Citadel but still I would like to show you some taken in cemetery near where I live now.
The Port of Stockholm is one of the major ports in Scandinavia. It is a major gateway into Sweden. Many ferries and cruise ships dock at the southern end of the Old Town. When we were there most of the water was icescuffed but we could see still some ships operating from this part of town.
One of the most popular ways to get around Stockholm is to go sightseeing via Hop-On Hop-Off boats. they offer convenient access to top attractions like: Gamla Stan, The Royal Palace, the shopping district near Nybroplan, Vasa Museum, the museums on Skeppsholmen and the open-air museum, Skansen. So it’s something you can consider in summer. Make sure you don’t make the same mistake we did (because of lack of time) and visit Vasa Museum with the impressive Vasa warship! I will have to go back if only for that!
And now this a place to mention the Swedish Vikings! There is a distinction between “Swedish” and “Danish/Norwegian” Vikings. The Danish and Norwegian expeditions went westwards, concentrating on Western Europe and England. The Swedish, on the other hand, went mostly eastwards into modern-day Russia and further on to Byzantium and the Caliphate. According to a chronicle written in the 12th century AD, the Swedish Vikings were the founders of Russia. Although this is not very likely, the influence of the Vikings is still visible. The name Russia for instance, probably originates from one of the names of the Swedish Vikings, “ruser”.
According to Nordic mythology the gods lived in Asgård, the humans in Midgård, and the giants in Jotunheim. These places were situated in the world tree, the ash tree Yggdrasil. The most important god was Oden, the lord of gods and humans. After battles, he took the fallen Vikings to Valhall (is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard) on his horse Sleipner. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who have died in combat as well as various legendary Germanic heroes and kings, as they prepare to aid Odin during the events of Ragnarök. Before the hall stands the golden tree Glasir, and the hall’s ceiling is covered with golden shields.
Other gods were Frö, the god of love and fertility and Fröja, the goddess of love and fertility.
The perhaps most famous among the gods is Tor the mightiest warrior of them all. He was the god of thunder and had a hammer called Mjölner which, like a boomerang, returned to his hand after he had thrown it.
And at the end of this post I would like to mentioned that we met Popeye the sailor man in the heart of Gambla Stan, who might have thought…
For those who don’t know him, Popeye the Sailor is a cartoon fictional character. Local folklore in Chester, Illinois, Segar’s hometown, claims that Popeye is based on Frank “Rocky” Fiegel, a man who was handy with his fists. Culturally, many consider Popeye a precursor to the superheroes who would eventually come to dominate the world of comic books. One of Popeye’s catchphrases is “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam,” In the story eating spinach gives Popeye enormous strenght, what serves as a role model for healthier eating but also saved spinach industry in US.
At the beginning of the year we went skiing to Poland. We booked flight to Stockholm and then to Katowice cos it worked out cheaper. We had almost whole day to spend in Sweden. January, freezing but sunny, offered us experience not to be forgotten.
Skavsta Airport is approx 1,5 hrs away from city center, so not that close. We took a bus (adult return – 248,000 SEK – so around 28 EUR). What draw my attention was a sign on the window. Take a look:
When we got to the city it was freezing. I mean really freezing. I had my whole winter gear together with ski gloves and I could barely feel my fingers by the end of our short and fast tour. But the sunlight was sharp and the views amazing. I really recommend it for a city break but do be wise and go in the summer.
The Old City is located on an island called Gamla Stan. We approached it from the Central Station and here are some pictures. Firstly the Parliament and a bit of Riddarhuset (The House of Nobility). During the Middle Ages the King of Sweden consolidated his power at the expense of the counties and the local chieftains. Centralization called for a standing army.
Taxpaying farmers were entitled to furnish a trooper with horse and arms to do military service. In return the farmer was granted exemption from land dues to the Crown and thus became member of the nobility. In time, from having been a class of farmers providing troopers for military service, the nobility became a class of military men and civil officers.
During the 17th century nobility became a form of reward for services rendered. In the 18th and 19th centuries the nobility became a leading social upper class. Prominent scientists and industrial leaders were also raised to nobility. Gustav II Adolf had founded the Swedish House of Nobility in 1626. Here all the noble families were regis-tered in order of seniority. Nobility could be granted only by the King. In Stockholm a stately palace was built as a meeting place for the nobility during
parliamentary sessions. The war of 1809 split Sweden into two states. The Grand Duchy of Finland received its own House of Nobility in 1818. Here the Swedish noble families who had chosen to remain in Finland were registered. The Emperor – Grand Duke continued to raise deserving Finnish citizens to the nobility. More information click here.
Gamla stan – The Old Town, until 1980 officially Staden mellan broarna (The Town between the Bridges) consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen. The surrounding islets Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg are
officially part of, but not colloquially included in, Gamla stan. The town dates back to the 13th century, and consists of medieval alleyways, cobbled streets, and archaic architecture. North German architecture has had a strong influence in the Old Town’s construction.
The area has Stockholm’s biggest ranges of restaurants, cafes, tourist shops stores full of handicrafts & antiques, studios and museums among them Nobel Museum it also comprises The Royal Palace and Stockholm Cathedral.
The Royal Palace is the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden, with over 600 rooms. We didn’t go in but the palace is open to public and like in London you can see the parade of soldiers and the daily changing of the guard. More about our trip and photos in my next post. See you then!