Sunday, May 2, 2021

Cherry Blossom Time in Sweden

You don't have to go to Japan to see cherry trees blossoming; they're here in Sweden too.  Spring is definitely here, though we still need a warm jacket, and often we still need our toques and gloves too.  

The days are getting longer.  We're used to long days in southern Alberta, but these days are even longer.  Today, Sunday May 2, dawn came at 3:51 with the sun rising at 4:43.  The sun will set at 8:46 p.m. tonight, with the sky staying light until 9:37.  Sweden is on daylight saving time, and we used to wonder why they would need to save daylight.  But it's very helpful that it doesn't get light at 2:51, which is what it would do if we weren't on daylight saving.  We can sleep a bit longer!  And the sun will rise earlier and earlier until we reach midsummer in June.  It makes up for the long, dark, winter nights.

Life in the mission is busy as always.  Our missionaries are working very hard to share the joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But they also have time for some fun things too.  Friday, April 30, was Walpurgis Night.  It's a night to build huge bonfires to ward off evil.  Saint Walpurga was a missionary in the 700's who was later honored for fighting against pests, rabies, whooping cough, and witches.  Now the evening is simply a day to socialize, light bonfires, and have fireworks.  But due to the pandemic, the government cancelled the celebrations, so we didn't get to see the bonfires nor the fireworks.

Our missionaries here in the office invited us to celebrate Walpurgis by having an evening barbecue on the lawn by the mission office.  They barbecued hot dogs and roasted marshmallows.  The police stopped by because it looked to them that we were having a "gathering," which is illegal right now.  But the missionaries assured them that we all live in the house, and the police were impressed by the nice manners of the young men.  We played a lawn game with sticks and blocks of wood.  Can't remember what it's called but it was fun.  I didn't take any pictures because we were too busy eating and visiting, and then it got too dark for pictures anyway.

Following are some fun pictures of the cherry blossoms, a Jewish synagogue, missionary pictures, a castle house, the huge Storkyrkan cathedral, and a short video of the missionaries singing the mission song, in Swedish of course.

Yesterday we drove to the middle of Stockholm, hoping to find the cherry trees.  Parking is very hard to find, but we managed and then had a half hour walk to get to the park.  Love the architecture here in Sweden.  Very European and yet different.  Love the red and white of this building.  But we don't like the concrete modern apartment buildings that have sprung up everywhere.  So many people have immigrated to Sweden that it's been hard to keep up with the housing.  So they build huge, blocky, and very ugly apartment buildings.  So glad I don't live there.

We were surprised at the "park" that we were trying to find.  It was just a narrow place between streets with two rows of cherry trees, but it was still pretty.  LeRon has seen Japan in the spring, and he says it is magnificent with thousands of cherry trees blossoming and girls in their bright kimonos by the Buddhist temples.  He served a mission in Japan in his youth from 1972 to 1974.

This is Kungsträdgården, or "The King's Garden," in downtown Stockholm.  In non-pandemic times it is a popular hangout place with cafes and open-air concerts. In the 1400's, it was the king's "kitchen garden."  There is still a king and queen of Sweden.  In fact, the day before, April 30, was the king's birthday.  We visited his palace in Gamla Stan a few months ago.  He and the queen are "working royals" and work each day in the palace and then go home to their living residence called Drottningholm Palace, which we haven't seen yet.

Gorgeous cherry blossoms!

I love this picture, which turned out more beautiful than I thought it would.  My new phone has an excellent camera.  As I was taking the picture, I felt that the sky was too light and the blossoms wouldn't show, but they did and it's beautiful.  Click to enlarge.

This picture reminds me of the gorgeous yellow laburnum arch in Bodnant Gardens in northern Wales that we saw in May 2019.  Google for "laburnum arch bodnant images" and you'll see what I mean.

I have a double flowering almond (also called a double flowering plum) at home in Alberta with flowers similar to this, but with double blossoms.  But the buds need to be protected from our harsh winters in order to bloom.  In Alberta, the temperature can go from -40 F to +40 F in a matter of hours.  Things freeze, then thaw, then freeze again.  My dad says that Alberta trees have to have multiple sets of buds so that as one set gets frozen, another is there to open.  

A last look at the cherry trees with the dome of St. Jacob's Kyrka touching the sky. We need to see inside this church someday. But not today since it's closed during May.

The Great Synagogue of Stockholm is very close to the Kungsträgården and is a beautiful building.  Decorative inscriptions in Hebrew are etched and painted into the stonework of the Great Synagogue. On the front facade is written, ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם, from Exodus 25:8-9, "And make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them."

A monument to the victims of the Holocaust, with 8000 names of Swedish Jews was dedicated by King Carl Gustav in 1998.  The Holocaust was such a horrible thing.  We have seen the Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, and the ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, where up to 460,000 Jews were walled into a 1.3 sq. mile area.  So sad what human beings do to other human beings.  When will we learn that we are all children of God?

The menorah, or candlestick, or lampstand, which is so symbolic of the Jewish faith, was actually described in Exodus 25:31-47.  These verses are God’s instructions to Moses for creating the menorah, specifying the ornate flowers, bulbs, and goblets that should be used. The menorah was built in the desert so the high priest Aaron could light it daily in the Tabernacle and later, in the Temple.  The 7-branch menorah is the one most commonly used, with the 9-branch menorah being used in the celebration of Hannukah.

On the rear facade is a beautiful rose window and two inscriptions; בית הכנסת הגדול של שטוקהולם, the building's formal name ("The Great Synagogue of Stockholm"), under which is written Isaiah 57:19, בורא ניב שפתים שלום שלום לרחוק ולקרוב אמר יי ורפאתיו, "Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near, saith the LORD that createth the fruit of the lips; and I will heal him."

More signs of spring!

Lots of waterways in Stockholm.  In fact the Stockholm Archipelago has 30,000 islands.  When you're driving, you don't notice all the water because the bridges have high sides that you can't see over.  We drive across a lot of bridges and through many tunnels as we travel around Stockholm.

We stopped for a few minutes at Junibacken, a really fun place for kids and adults alike.  I wanted to check out the bookstore here.  Fun to see the tree with huge bananas hanging from its branches.  They weren't there when we visited a few months ago.  But then, that makes sense, since bananas don't grow in the winter!

Warm enough that our 6 missionaries took their studies outside onto the lawn!  Hmn. . . not sure that Äldste Austin and Äldste Scott are studying.  Looks like they're enjoying a nap!  But the others appear to be studying.  Missionaries spend a few hours daily studying the scriptures as well as the Swedish language.  The rest of their time is spent interacting with people, either physically or virtually, as they share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But Sunday nights at 9 p.m. are the highlights of our weeks, when the missionaries come to our tiny apartment for singing, visiting, and eating.  Äldste Stinson (who used to work in the office with us) in the white shirt, sitting on the couch, is here for an overnight visit.  His companion, is Äldste Gilbert (our French Canadian/Swedish missionary) in the pink sweater on the couch.  Äldste Stinson and Äldste Gilbert are the Toes (the Traveling Office Elders) who travel around Sweden recording members' testimonies and uplifting stories.

We get goose bumps when we hear these missionaries sing the mission song; the spirit is so strong.  Äldster Ronndahl, Wrangell, Gilbert, Nordgren, Stinson, Austin, Scott, Longman.

Äldste Stinson turned 20 today!  Happy Birthday!  We stuck some candles in the ice cream and sang in English and in Swedish.

Happy Birthday to our New Zealand Elder, Äldste Stinson!  Recently, we discovered some Torrie relatives who left Scotland and went to New Zealand.  Fun to know we have relatives there too.


Storkyrkan (or The Great Church) is also called Stockholms Domkyrka (or cathedral).  It is Stockholm's oldest church and was started in the 12th century.  It's been the home of coronations and weddings.  Love the ceiling! 

This statue of St. George fighting the dragon was made of wood and was carved in the 1400's.

There's a carving of the crucified Christ on a nearby column, and St. George appears to be looking right at him from his perch on his horse.  Apparently this sculpture has both religious and political overtones.

Painted ceilings in a side aisle of the church are impressive.  Hopefully this coming December 13, we will be able to watch a Santa Lucia concert in this church.  It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic.

I couldn't resist putting these pictures here of us in Wales at the Bodnant Gardens with the beautiful laburnum!  It's more stunning than the cherry blossoms, but they are beautiful too.

LeRon and his sister, Colleen Smith are enjoying the gorgeous laburnum.  LeRon and I traveled with Colleen & Craig Smith on a very intense 3 weeks of travel in 2019 to England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.  We packed in more than we even wanted to!!  It was great but we were definitely exhausted at the end!!  Nice to see some Torrie and Smellie birthplaces too.


How would you like to live in this castle house?  We discovered this home on one of our walks, not too far from our place.  It's kind of hidden amidst a forested area and it is totally abandoned.  Junk everywhere.  Broken glass.  One of our sons always wanted a tower as part of his home.  Here you go, Eric!

We've learned that the castle house belonged to a famous Swedish journalist, Stig Dagerman, and his wife, actress Anita Bjork.  This sign is on the street near their house.  Sadly, Stig suffered from severe depression, partly due to his dyslexia, and he took his own life in the car in the garage of this house.  Depression is nothing to fool with.  If you have severe depression, you need to get professional help, just like you would if you had a serious disease.

We will miss Äldste Longman in our mission office and in our Sunday night sing-alongs.  He's been a wonderful help to us in the office, but he is now being transferred to another area in Sweden.  Missions are full of hellos and goodbyes.  

Fun at our last office meeting in the mission home before Äldste Longman moves on.  President Davis, Äldste Austin, Äldste Wrangell, Äldste Scott, Äldste Longman, Äldste Rönndahl, Äldste Nordgren.
Not to be outdone by the elders, here are the sisters, Syster Johnson, Syster Torrie, Syster Hall (who is also being transferred), Syster Westman, and Syster Davis.


On our way to the vaccine place to get vaccines for TBE (Tick-borne Encephalitis), we stopped by this cute statue of a crying boy.  Just for fun, people regularly change his hats and scarves according to the season.  Cute!  They say ticks will be a real problem this year, so we were glad to get our vaccines.  We walk in the forest almost every day.

More signs of spring . . . blooming forsythia everywhere.

Here's LeRon relaxing after our walk in the forest.  You can see it's still light out at about 8:45.  And you can also see the beautiful painting on the wall above him.  This was LeRon's choice of paintings when we were shopping in Gamla Stan for some original artwork.  Gabil paints lovely scenes of Sweden.

Once in a while I video the missionaries singing.  Here they are singing the mission song in Swedish, with LeRon accompanying them.  Enjoy!