Sweden Week 3

Cross Country Skating

On my first trip to Sweden in 1990, I spotted the strangest ice skates I had ever seen, They were half a meter long with a T-shaped body and cross country ski bindings on the top. I asked Elsa Hardemark, my host, what they were and she said that they were cross country skates. People used them to skate tens of kilometers a day on rivers, lakes, and even on the Baltic. I thought then I'd have to try that sport, but then for the next 10 years I only came to Sweden in the summer.

Now however, I'm in Sweden in the winter, and there is ice. Lots of ice. I knew this because they had ice sculptures in downtown Sodertalje carved from river ice nearly a meter thick.

Ice sculpture on the main pedestrian street, Storgatan.

Patrik Waldenstrom invited me to try cross country skating with Ingrid, his wife, and Asa his daughter. We packed a lunch and headed out to a lake southwest of Jarna. I adjusted the bindings on the skates to hold my cross country ski boots tightly. Then strapped them on tightly and stepped onto the ice. Every one, me included, waited to see if I would pull a "Bambi" and end up spread out on the ice. To everyone's surprise I didn't fall over immediately. It was a lot like ice skating, perhaps with a little bit of the modern skating style of cross-country skiing.

There was a little fluffy snow over the ice which made things a little slower, which was probably perfect for a beginner like me. I brought along my ski poles but my hosts skated in the more traditional style without poles. Well, Patrik did bring one long steel tipped pole to "test the ice." It was heavy enough I felt as if Patrik could protect us all from any local "ice bears." Patrik also carried a throwing rope rope, just like those carried by river rafters, to toss to anyone who fell through the ice. We each wore two ice picks around our necks, The points were in plastic sheaths, the theory was that if you fell through the ice you would grab the picks out of their sheaths and use them to claw your way back onto the ice. I hoped that this would remain theory and not practice!

Asa, Patrik and Ingrid and my shadow.

It was great fun! You fly across the ice at high speed with the smallest effort. Once or twice I hit the balance just right and I could feel the thrill of soaring effortlessly along over the ice. We only went a few kilometers but I can see that you can cover much greater distances on good ice.

Ingrid brought a great lunch and after skating for an hour we stopped on a bright sunlit side of a rocky island for a break.

Asa helped a lot, I was standing on the ice worried about falling over when she skated up next to me, smiled sweetly, put out her hand, touched me, shouted kull and bounced away. I didn't need a Swedish dictionary to know what was going on. I was "IT" and the game we were playing was kull AKA tag. I forgot m fear of falling and started out after her. I had good acceleration, but she was wearing hockey skates and could turn better. A classic confrontation of speed against agility. All day long we traded touches, shouting kull each time. At the very end of the day she tagged me and I started out after her, she zigged and zagged heading for the safety of the rocks near the car. I came within centimeters of touching her but she dodged me expertly and I ended up being IT last.

I want a rematch!

Me without my poles.

This week also featured a wonderful visit with one of the most creative engineer/scientists in all of Sweden, Goran Lundstrom, known as Engineer Lundstrom. I met him in his office at Ny Technik a weekly newspaper of engineering and science. He publishes a weekly column containing interesting tips on how to use workshop materials to build interesting engineering projects. I sure wish he would write a column in English!

Engineer Lundstrom, by pulling cables two people can add their forces to make a crane move, lifting balls and placing them into holders. A fun way to teach vectors.


Some of the activities he shared with me will appear in my Activities from Sweden pages.

Go to Week 4