Midsummer celebration poles


We’ve seen many of these structures, and wondered about them. Discovered the answer on our second day of travels among the Åland islands.

Midsummer is a serious holiday and celebration time here. Our host at the Stellhagen Brewery said they only close for Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Midsummer.

Here’s the story about the midsummer poles, from the open air museum near Kastelholm:

The spar, which is usually made of spruce, should be felled in winter. The poles used to be unpainted, but nowadays they are often whitewashed and in some cases adorned with painted-on garlands, or wrapped garland or ribbon of different colors. Leafy bunches of vegetation adorn the spar in the form of wreaths or other decorative gatherings attached to or around the spar. The height of the spar varies between 10 and 25 meters.

The pole has a number of crossbars, which are attached horizontally. The ends of the crossbars are adorned with the tops of young spruces, small flags or tassel pins. Sometimes there are also wreaths or leafy branches tied to the ends of the crossbars. Modern midsummer poles are secured in a flag pole base. The archipelago poles that usually are raised on a rocky surface are additionally secured with steel cables.

The crown has been interpreted as a symbol for virginity and symbolizes hope for youth, health, and a joyful future. The crown framework was originally made of reeds decorated with colorful tufts of rags, dyed wool, ruffled newspaper, and other showy and colorful materials, today, the frame is usually made of steel pipes, wire, or wooden pins, these are decorated with cut and crinkled crepe or tissue paper,masses, bows, and ribbons in different colors. Some non-woven fabrics are also sometimes used.


The sun
Most midsummer poles are decorated with a sun, the rear of which has a weathercock formed as a rooster, a fish, an oar blade, or something similar. The sun symbolizes the life-giving heat that causes everything to grow, the rooster or fish behind the sun is said to represent agriculture or fishing, respectively. The suns are most common on midsummer poles on the m win island, but can also be seen in the archipelago.


The Fäktargubbe Figure
On top of the midsummer pole stands the Fäktargubbe, with his long flat arms waving in the wind. Some of the men wear a cap, others a hat, and sometimes they are smoking a pipe.

The Fäktargubbe has many different names: fäktmästare, viftargrubbe, sprattelgrubbe, etc. It has been said that “he fences for a good crop,” and that he symbolizes the diligence of Åland.


Malmo, Sweden, Pt. 2

The money here is a challenge. Tried to purchase a bag of roasted almonds from one of the street vendors, but couldn’t work out what I was paying when he said it was 60 Kr. As it turns out, there are about fifteen of our cents for every kroner (kronen?), so those almonds would have been in the neighborhood of nine dollars. But getting a dinner bill over 900 Kr can take some of the joy out of a meal, I’ll tell you. It means a body carries a wad of pretty big bills around, too. And alcohol is EXTREMELY expensive. I won’t even disclose what we paid for a bottle of wine at dinner last night. Again, tends to take some of the delight out of a nice bottle of wine.














Malmo, Sweden Pt. 1

Malmo is an interesting place. There is a street festival happening, which has filled the square with vendors, booths and tastings. Apparently, there is music at night, but we have not participated.

Tons of construction speaks to a place growing – but makes it less picturesque than I like. Malmo boasts the tallest building in Northern Europe. There are carnivals and rides and special no-car areas due to the Fest. Way too many peeps, IMHO, but quite international. Our waiter at dinner last night (Lemongrass Asian cuisine) compared Malmo to Chicago, and Stockholm to NYC. The meal, by the way, was extraordinary, but quite expensive. It was definitely high-ticket, and quite a memorable meal and atmosphere.

Here are some Malmo pix, about half, and I’ll post the other half shortly.













Seen from the train

En route to Copenhagen for our connection to Malmo, our stop for the night, and our first “official” night of our Baltic Adventure. We should arrive in the early afternoon, and be able to rent a bike for a bit of touring.

Seen fr the train:

Four cranes in a dewy pasture – gray with (I think) a strip of red on the heads
Went thru Lubeck (w/an umlat over the ‘u’), Germany, for which Lubbock, TX is named; thought about Bob & Bretza Mooty
8:21: first sighting of the Baltic Sea
A buteo (buzzard? redtail?) sitting on a fence post)
A thatched-roof house
HUGE wind turbines
Crows in the stubblefields: I’m looking forward to flying CJ again
A deer in a stubblefield
Puttgarden, last stop in Germany; next, we ride the train onto the ferry, leave the train for the 45 min. crossing (hoping I don’t get seasick), then re-enter the train for the rest of the ride to Copenhagen
Re-board the train and exit the ferry at Rodby, Denmark (there’s a Danish slash thru the ‘o’ in Rodby) – should be lots of water to be seen during the 2-hour ride to Copenhagen
A half-buried building, like a bunker, with the sea-facing side totally underground, and the train-facing side half-exposed
Acres and acres of small greenhouses, or maybe big greenhouses with small roofs – covering rows and rows of plants, reminiscent of Netherlands