Saturday, March 27, 2010

At last the ice has melted out by Skeppsholmen and Kastellholmen, the ducks and coots and swans swimming and diving. Quite different from three weeks ago, when we took one of the ships overnight to Åland with the children's book author, the sea captain and the Australians.

Because of the unusually cold winter, the Baltic was all iced over and we wanted to see what it looked like out on the open sea. Of course the day before we left, some 50 boats had gotten stuck fast in the ice. But the sea captain assured us that we wouldn't get stuck.

"The boat is too big," he said. "It's made for seas full of ice like that. Besides, they wouldn't let us go if we were going to get stuck."

So on Friday afternoon, we boarded the boat with several hundred teenagers, bound for the island of Åland, which is all of 85 miles from Stockholm.

We took a look at our cabins, which were actually kind of charming with their round portholes and all the wooden detailing. Then we walked around the boat, checking out the tiny little pool, the various restaurants and the casino (well, slot machines anyway), the nightclub and the bar, where we had drinks and watched the city lights disappearing behind us.

We had dinner at about 8:30 or so, and about 9:15, as we were deciding whether or not to have dessert, an announcement came on the intercom telling us that due to recommendations from the authorities, we would not be going to Mariehamn in Åland for fear of getting stuck in the ice. The captain had set anchor and we would be spending the night where we were, returning to Stockholm the next afternoon.

"What?" we said all together.

You promised us we wouldn't get stuck, I said to the sea captain.

"We aren't stuck!" he tried to claim.

We were all terribly disappointed - and probably the only people on the whole boat who even cared since most people were there just for the cheap liquor. In fact, we were probably the only people who even noticed.

The next morning, when we got up, the sun was nearly blinding on the ice, and even if it wasn't the open sea, it was spectacular and terribly arctic.

As we looked out onto the snowy islands in the distance on either side, with people walking on the ice in between, I realized we were just outside Birds Island, where I've spent many a summer day. I could even see the very rocks where I sit every day at about 9:30 a.m., midway through my morning constitutional. In fact, if we'd wanted to, the husband and I could've actually gotten down off the boat and walked over the solid ice and spent the night there. If we'd wanted to.

Dammit. There I was, no further out in the archipelago than I'd ever been.

The Swedish word for the day is en förbannelse. It means a curse.


Dave Messina said...

Any chance you snapped some pictures of the spectacular ice? I'd love to see them.

And, having been all the way to Mariehamn on that boat, I can tell you there's not much to see once you're on the open water. I know, I know, you still want to see for yourself. :)

MadEnglishWoman40 said...

Hey Francis, just discovered your blog today. Loving your work :-D
I read an earlier post of yours where you mentioned gingery chicken pancakes with scallions. Sounds divine!! Please could you give me the recipe?
Thanks so much!


Francis S. said...

Julie - I guess I was unclear in my writing (nothing new there, sadly) because it was ginger chicken, with scallion pancakes on the side. The scallion pancakes are basically just flour, water, scallions, black pepper and sesame seeds - combine one part hot water to two parts flour plus salt and lots of cracked black pepper, mix to a dough and let sit for thirty minutes, then roll out one-inch balls into four-inch pancakes, add scallions and sesame seeds and form into a ball, then roll out again into a four-inch pancake and fry in peanut oil, flipping so both sides get brown. Serve at once.

MadEnglishWoman40 said...

Hey Francis-that sounds really nice! I will make those pancakes for sure:-) How do you go about making the gingery chicken "gingery"? Is it just seasoning, or fresh ginger, or what? Thank you for your just make everything sound so yummy!!!
Kind regards

readersguide said...

Except arctic and icy -- sounds exciting!

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