The Ultimate Guide to SCANDINAVIA: DUCK HEAVEN ________________________ UWE HANTSBO BB.Hq2, Tmx.d, HHH.H, DD.D... (you name it, he’s earned it) and “France: As We like It” Preface This travel guide to the almost indescribable marvels of Scandinavia was composed on my lap in shorthand during tedious classroom lectures during my culturally-impoverished undergraduate days. Tell the truth, Emily Dickinson said in one of her poems. But tell it at a slant. Well, what could be more slanted than Scandinavia? Describing it as it is, the account is necessarily slanted enough, without any adding to the gradient. Simple prose--slanted or straight--cannot do justice to the reality, I can assure you. I can only make the attempt. Most people would agree that Scandinavia is composed of five nations (Finland is considered to be an “honorary” part of Scandinavia, since nobody can speak its language but the Finns, and they aren’t giving out any clews). To view this supposed Nordic Shangri-la with the rather high self-destruct rate, the author offers what he calls “pure escapism”--a “brown study” of sheer boredom, only without rosy glasses. Anything, he finds, can look attractive when you’re sitting in hot tar with devils using your head for a drum. As soon as one slice of Scandinavian scenery and culture becomes too much, proceed to the next slice. 1 What is the Arctic Circle? Lapland is notable because it lies entirely north of the Arctic Circle. Now I suspect a lot of people have lost considerable sleep because they haven’t the slightest idea what it is--the Arctic Circle, I mean. That’s a shame, since it’s just a plain line that is drawn all around the world close to the North Pole. In a way, it is like the Equator, which also circles the globe but has no pole. It must be a visible line, because all the maps show it. Both also compare in that no one really knows who first drew these lines around the world. They’ve been there such a long, long time nobody can remember who it was, and who would want to take the credit? Drawing the Arctic Circle must have been quite difficult, though it’s much shorter in length than the Equator’s, of course. Imagine someone doing it in all that cold, ice, and snow! However hard it was, it was done. The Arctic Circle is there today, for all to see--a narrow black line, sometimes dotted where the terrain was especially difficult. It extends around the upper part of the Northern Hemisphere. As for what the Northern Hemisphere is, I would rather leave that to other authorities. Now some more important facts. Anyone travelling south of it gets warmer and warmer. Anyone travelling north of it gets the opposite effect. Now why anybody in his right mind would want to live north of it is anyone’s guess. But the native people called Laplanders seem to perfer life above the Arctic Circle rather than below it with most sensible people. Perhaps, because it is so cold and icy, they don’t have many people coming to take their land (they’d freeze before they even got half-way!). Therefore, the Laplander country is free and blessedly underpopulated and the Arctic Circle keeps it that way indefinitely. Another important fact is that the Laplanders make a living, more or less, by keeping and raising Raindeer. This, like the Laplanders, is a species you find only above the Arctic Circle. Raindeer are quite different from other deer. In spring and summer, thick rain clouds perpetually follow the herds as they move about looking for pasture. You’d expect the Raindeer would mind getting rained on day after day, but they don’t. Nature has provided them wonderful raincoats--thick, water-repellent hides--that shed the rain like water off a duck’s back. The constantly falling rain keeps off the bugs as well, which are not able to cope with all that rainfall because nature--you guessed it--has not provided them with raincoats. Naturally, in winter the rain attracted to the herds of Raindeer turns to ice and snow. That is no doubt why there is so much of it north of the Arctic Circle. If it ever melted, we’d all be flooded out. Fortunately, summer thaw above the Arctic Circle is too short, so not much melts before winter returns to freeze everything solid again. 2 Who are the Laplanders? The Laplanders, or Lapps, are people with congenitally large laps. They are called Laplanders for that reason. Along with their own unique language, clothing, and culture, the Lapps have a special native name for themselves, which they do not tell outsiders. That is the reason why I don’t know it. Perhaps, Lapps think outsiders might laugh if they were told their true name. If it is so funny, why should they keep it to themselves? I suppose if I promised not to laugh, they might trust me enough to tell me what it is. But since that would necessitate my going to Lapland, it will never happen. I would have to have a better reason to go there. Wouldn’t you? As for a relative who claims to be part Laplander, she might go there at the drop of a hat. But I don’t wish to give the wrong impression. If you know anything about Laplanders’ hats, you would know they don’t drop lightly. You hear a definite crash on such rare occasions as the fall of a Lapp’s hat. Fashioned of permifrosted Raindeer leather and fur, heavily embroidered, and standing up more or less to over a meter in elevation, Lapp hats look most like bent stovepipes. It has happened that Lapps, running out of stovepipes, have substituted their own hats in a pinch and got through the winter without any more trouble. That alone would demonstrate how durable and strong they are. Naturally, Lapps have strong necks too. Otherwise, they could never wear such skyscaping headgear. How did they come to invent such tall hats? I have an answer to that too. Beyond the Arctic Circle, the topography is generally flat and anyone coming can be seen at quite a distance. This advance warning, the Lapps discovered at some point in their evolution, was doubled when they took to wearing distinctively tall stovepipe hats. Those who had particular trouble with a mother-in-law arriving unannounced, for instance, favored increasing the height. There were other reasons for increasing the height too, but none so pressing as that one. In any case, the high hat got higher and higher, until the Lapps all went about with versions of the Tower of Babel (or, if you prefer something more hitech, the Eiffel Tower, or even the Trump Tower). There is report of hats reaching ten or twelve feet and weighing up to a hundred pounds (several specimens were found frozen in bogs in perfect condition, complete with sales tags). Putting one on required the assistance of someone on a stepladder, who steadied the hat as the person struggled to his or her feet beneath it. As long as their necks could stand it, everybody could see their mothers-in-law coming from a distance of up to a hundred miles--which was plenty warning for anybody. The thing that mystifies me is that the mothers-in-law never seemed to figure it out and switch to squatty, low, beret-type hats. Perhaps, pride prevented them from making a change, even if they did see what their scheming, ne’er-do-well sons-in-law were up to. Tall hats were terribly attractive, in their estimation. In any case, gravity asserted itself, even if common sense and modesty could not, and the awesome, towering hats that made Lapland an amazing spectacle for several centuries bent and shrunk--the result being the much smaller version we see today. Still photogenic, it makes for good tourist photos, but visitors have no idea that they are taking pictures of seedlings compared to the magnificent Redwoods and Sequoias that used to grace Lap (SORRY, I forgot the second “p”!) heads. 3 Pratfalls and Windfalls Resorts, as we all know, are places where income is rather seasonal. Resort owners and help pull in big bucks when they’re open for business, but come the off-season (there is always an off-season with these places, no matter how thronged they are during the on-season) the bulging wallets and purses begin thinning out. Supplementary income is, thus, quite welcome. Groundskeepers at Hogfjalls, for instance, pad their regular pay with the sale of lost dentures and eye shades. When the snow melts in the spring, hundreds of these items can be found on the slopes. By that time the owners have flown far afield and are nowhere to be found. Who can blame the finders if they regard these losses as a windfall? Or should we say “pratfall?” 4 The Law of Diminishing Returns In the heyday of the Czarist Russian hegemony over Finland (one “n” for the citizen, two “n’s” for the country---or is it the other way round?) , it’s easy to see why an army of oesteopaths , chiropractors, boot pedlars, and cobblers regularly dogged the heels of the Finnish army. When the the goose-step eventually fell out of favor, many people lost their livelihoods. It couldn’t be helped. You can step like a goose only so long before you--and the economy with it--collapses. Whoever initiated the high kicking step ought to have thought of that in the first place. One line of goose-stepping guardsmen or militiamen was a fine sight, the Russian thought. If he had stopped right there, it might not have developed into a national disaster for the Finns. But no, he thought more was more, not less. So the entire army was ordered to goose-step. That meant each line, except the first, had its head kicked by the line behind. Since they wore cleated boots with metal toes, this was a serious handicap for each line in turn. Naturally, after a few such steps, the entire army keeled over unconscious. This spoiled the parades for the generals, of course, but they never figured it out, and goose-stepping continued as a practice until the Russians were obliged to leave Finland (“kicked out,” in the vernacular). 5 Variations on a Theme Homogeneity in milk is a must for maintaining commercial value (the days of a layer of thick yellow cream on top and thin, bluish liquid beneath in a milk bottle may be over forever). Homogeneity has always been a strength of Scandinavians as well. In fact, they’re generally more like each other than they’re given credit. Ole, for instance, is the name of four out of five Scandinavian men. The non-Ole is undecided. But when he finally decides, he will probably take Ole as his name too. 6 Smart Fish Make Smarter Fishermen If bombs can be made “smart,” fishermen certainly stand a chance. Fish, as we know, have always been smart. They don’t like being caught in nets or on a hook. They do all they can to eludethe frying pan. As the cod fish assume a lower profile in northern waters (they’ve enrolled in small private colleges insead of large, conspicuous schools), it has grown even smarter and harder to catch. The fishermen, in turn, have been obliged to sharpen their wits and fishing strategy. Technology, they found, is their way to do it. Without radar they cannot hope to snare cod nowadays. Since a single cod goes for something like $1,000 at Sotheby’s in London, the investment is well worth it. . At college I knew a fellow named Codd. He was very talented. He tried his hand at streaking, attempted a burglary of my dorm room while I was in it, and during quarter breaks rode for free all over the world by hopping on military flights between air bases. That’s what fishermen face with cod. As long as the supply lasts, fishermen need all the help they can get. 7 Cleanliness is Next to Swedish One thing the Swedes abhor is an excess of feather “grease,” or “grooming oil,” as it is euphemistically called. Saunas heat the grease to the melting point, and just before the bather vaporizes, he or she is spun contrifugally on a solid steel shaft, while jets of high pressure hot water and steam are directed at the spinning bather. By this method 95% or more body grease is effectively removed. Survival rates of bathers, however, are not so good at present, but engineers are working on the problem. 8 A National Passion It is difficult to say which Danes love most--tobacco in any shape or form, or Danish pastry. Not surprising, many Danes can’t decide either, and for them a unique pastry has been invented (so that they can have their cake and eat it). It is a torte with cigars arranged in concentric circles, covered with whipped cream, and glazed with almond paste and candied cherries. 9 The First Columbus Ate Cod, not Pasta! Vinland (which would have made a sixth Scandinavian country, if it hadn’t been mislaid) was the northern land where Leif Erikson landed in America, long before Christopher Columbus thought up his voyage to seek out India’s back door by sailing west instead of east. Erikson found a lot of “vins” or probably grapevines growing in the new world. They made marvelous jams, jellies, and wines, he soon discovered, handily supplementing his monotonous diet of cod fritters, cod waffles, cod souffle, cod ham, cod pie, and cod Jell-o (you get the dismal culinary picture!). Being a Viking, while making the wine he sampled more than was perhaps good for him, so that when he sailed to tell everybody back home the good news he couldn’t, for the Leif of him, remember where Vinland was. For many years he and others tried to find it, but to no avail. They had to be content with Greenland and Iceland. As for discovering America, Columbus blundered onto the scene centuries later, didn’t even know it was the New World, but was awarded full credit. Alas, isn’t that the way it always goes? 10 The Cutlery of Choice For all its simplicity, Swedish tablewear doesn’t come cheap. Steel employed is of a very high quality and finish. Master craftsmen take ingots weighing in excess of two metric tons and grind them down individually by hand to make a single spoon (or fork, or knife, depending on what you think it is). This flatware is greatly esteemed within the borders of Scandinavia, but elsewhere it has had a hard time catching on. 11 A Nation of Givers, Not Takers Swedes are gratified to see foreigners taking an interest in their country. Naturally proud of the superlative, pristine beauty of the countryside and thriving industry and model cities that abound throughout Sweden, Swedes are a bit put off by the suggestion that they ought to make a killing on the crowds of admirers that flock every year to see how good the Swedes have it. “No, please, keep your money!” is the comment you hear most often from hotel and resort people. I’ve even heard of Swedes who are offended if you return home and, to ease your conscience, send a check by mail. They’ll double the amount and send it right back. What a rare, selfless, uncommercial attitude, so refreshing to see in this fast-paced, duck-eat-duck world! 12 Quantity or Quality? That is the Question Many Danes are concerned with the question today, since you seldom find both together in this world. For instance, Denmark led the world in butter pats until just recently. Their butter was superior to everyone else’s, and so the butter pat they produced was, if a bit large at 2,000 pounds, without peer. Americans, however, saw a possibility for profit here and got into the act with large-scale production of butter pats. They were only interested in quantity, turning out tens of millions from an amount that in Denmark only produced a single pat. Since there’s a rule that the bad drives out the good, the Danes saw their monopoly of the butter pat industry melt away almost overnight. Instead of requiring an entire table to hold a butter pat, people could have a plate of them on their own table as they ate. This convenience drove the Danish butter pat into extinction. What to do? The Danes went back to the drawing board. Teams of butter pat analysts and engineers working round the clock re-designed their block-buster butter pat until they came up with a kissing cousin weighing in at exactly 666 pounds. They could go no smaller. This, however, did not help them regain their former place in the market. The number of 666 proved rather unfortunate, since it was taken by some to be the End Times Mark of the Beast in the Bible’s prophetical Book of Revelation. “What if it is?” the exasperated Danes replied to their critics. “After all, our butter happens to be the produce of a beast--a cow, in fact!” 13 What You See Is Not What Others May Get Isn’t it amazing how perceptions of the same object by individuals differ? Stockholm the capital of Sweden, for instance. Is it covered with air principally (as the average young, uneducated Gustav in the streets avers) or water (as Professor Cloudberry, the average don of the university, holds)? The same question might be applied to the University. Are the professors all wet? Or are they air-heads and windbags like most of ours? A nation rises or falls on the answer to questions like that. 14 Helsinki--Good Place to Do Your Wash Finland’s ultra-modern capital boasted laundromats long before they were found in other countries. Today, the same system operates virtually unchanged (why change anything that works?). A long-deceased Raindeer provides a convenient, cheap, drying rack. A live Raindeer produces the rinse cycle. As for the wash cycle, there is both salt and fresh water and plenty smooth stones available for beating the clothes on. Particularly stubborn stains can be trampled out by stampeding the Raindeer herds in the area. Static cling? No problem! The Cling-off-berry grows like a weed everywhere, and you simply squeeze the limpid juice to produce a natural bio-degradable anti-static solvent, which you add to either the wash or drying cycle. 15 In the Beginning was the Sardine Unlike the U.S. where the Congressional Records are published in large volumes, parliamentary proceedings in Iceland are canned. Written on large folio sheets of nearly transparent fish meal, the acts and laws of the world’s oldest legislature go into tins stamped with the Great Seal (or, to be accurate, the Great Sardine) of Iceland. A word to the wise. “Seal” is not a good thing to mention in Iceland. When in doubt, always say “sardine” and you’ll get a blessing, not a curse. Seals, you see, prey on the same fare that sustains Iceland, and though the Icelanders have the sardine in common with seals, so far they decline to share it gracefully. For that reason, you can’t go anywhere in the country and not see signs like “Alien Seals Deported” and “Go Home, Seals!” and “You’re Taking the Fish from Our Babies’ Mouths, Seals!” Meanwhile, a few yards off-shore, the seals munch happily on sardines. Gluttons, they couldn’t care less if the Icelandic sardine economy took a nose dive. The United Nations formed a special commission for arbitrating the dispute, but so far the parties aren’t talking to each other. It’s a sad situation, with no change in sight. 16 It All Began With a Cabbage Shredder The sultry, intellectual Ingrid Bergman style (no one could fling a shredder so dramatically, with such perfect timing) largely contributed to her rise to international recognition. But she still couldn’t have done it without a certain kitchen utensil. Her famous scene with the shredder in the movie, “A Dinner to Remember,” rivaled Jimmy Cagney’s applying half his grapefruit to his lovely co-star’s face at the breakfast table. 17 Temperature: The Key to the World’s Most Astounding Box Office Receipts Sweden boasts, besides great advances in Cloudberry Torte-ery, the Neutralist Policy, and Automated Agriculture, a definite lead in theater and stagecraft. The raft of superb actors, directors, and producers does not fully explain the phenomenon. Rather, Sweden’s numerous outdoor theaters probably contribute to the record attendance which is sustained throughout the year. Particularly during the winter season, audiences are so loyal they remain in their seats long after the performances are ended. Certain plays have been known to be abyssmal, floppy things in New York and London, yet they run for consecutive showings year after year in Sweden. “No, No, Inga,” which played only two shows in New York and was greeted with tomatoes on opening night in London, started in 1872 in Stockholm and is still the rage. New York theaters, on and off Broadway, ought to look into this. Perhaps, their theaters are entirely too warm. If a production is perceived as a bomb and people are able to get out of their seats and leave, they will do so. It is as simple as that. 18 A Cloudberry Torte Recycled is a Cloudberry Torte Earned It is a good thing the Swedes learned how to salvage tortes that fall off hi-fat assembly lines. Half the production used to be lost routinely because the tortes are so topheavy with cream that they couldn’t stay put on assembly lines and fell off. Until modern times, when someone thought up recycling, the tortes on on the floor were thought no good anymore and were thrown away. Recycled, they reduce waste 100 per cent, and everybody is happy. Whatever type of Cloudberry cream tortes you prefer --hi-fat or lo-fat--they are irresistable. Statistics show Swedes consume more of these pastries than the rest of Scandinavia combined. History records these tortes have been around for a long time. Leif Erikson was said to have committed the first tortes on American shores in his relations with the native Indians. In the Middle Ages Cloudberry tortes were soaked in flammable spirits, loaded by the hundredweight onto catapults, and fired at rebel castles and fortresses. These flaming tortes were known as “Swedish fire,’ and turned the course of many a battle. Furthermore, on impact, something happened chemically, so that the tortes produced an enormous blast not equalled until the invention of dynamite (some say, the Atom Bomb). In this century Norway’s intrepid Thor Heyerdahl sailed a Cloudberry torte to Brazil all the way from West Africa. He thus proved his theory that Ancient Egyptian tortes reached the New World as early as the Bronze Age and sparked the magnificent pyramid-building civilization of the Tortetecs. 19 Brunhilda’s Last Stand Gustavus Adolphus’s trusty steed, from her expression, was probably stuffed at an early age. Evenso, she was so beloved by the king he could not part with her. Fitting Brunhilda with casters, he rolled forth into a major battle with the primary powers of Europe. We know the sad outcome--stuffed horses do not a victory make. As for the king, his will expressly stated he was to be stuffed and placed on Brunhilda’s back, his sword upraised in death even as it was in life as he rolled against the German, French and British lines. This equestrian monument was to be set on view in the Royal Armory forever. It was a noble desire, but the Swedes--practical souls--decided one royal stuffed horse was enough. 20 Dairies With a Difference The same genius evidenced in Swedish industry has naturally slopped over into agriculture, transforming the dairy farm and how things are done there. Automation has fully arrived, and dairymen are forever freed from the drudgery of manual labor. Gravity-powered devices such as a boulder attached to a long pole at one end lift heavy milk and yogurt containers directly into waiting vehicles, which soon are speeding away to markets in the cities, guaranteeing absolute freshness for consumers. 21 Preparedness is Everything Royal Danish troops are trained to meet any emergency from the loss of a set of car keys to the latest biker war between the Hell’s Angels Copenhagen Chapter and the Bandidos. Elite SWAT teams feature laser-guided stealth bowling balls and Raindeer-AWACS for surveillance and mapping of enemy movements. So equipped, the Danish army can deploy anywhere within five miles of Camp Tivoli. All they need is an advance warning of two to six weeks. 22 Interpersonal Swedish Communication: A Quantum Leap Swedes are known to be reserved, especially with each other. I put this tendency to clam up to a desire not to intrude on other people’s duck ponds. This is quite evident, for example, in the way Scandinavians treat royalty, behaving toward them as they do to ordinary citizens entitled to normal courtesty, even when shopping. Talk about revolutions! The Swedes need take a bow to no one in that respect! The original Talk-a-Bunch was an American adaptation of the common bed-warmer. Up to the late 19th Century, when central heating was unknown in many households, the bed-warmer contained live coals which thawed out the bed so that it could be occupied. As soon as that was accomplished, the whole family piled in--ten or twelve children, Mama and Papa, a Grandparent or two, and even sometimes a maiden aunt down on her luck. The implement’s two apertures were for inserting coals at one end and extracting ash from the other. With the advent of electric blankets, bed-warmers piled up at factories and retail outlets through the U.S. and Sweden. The primary manufacturer, Consolidated Bed-Warmer Corporation of America, Warm Springs, Illinois, quickly redesigned the product to make it more in tune with the new age of mass communications. With the deployment of the new Talk-a-Bunch, painfully reserved Swedes at last found themselves on speaking terms. Millions were sold, the Swedish Oral Revolution was underway. It was so epochal an event, in fact, the Talk-a-Bunch did the same for the Swedish university faculty that the hydrofoil did for the Nowegian fjord--increased traffic by 100%. 23 Svenborg: Denmark’s Grand Central Station Since Denmark is so blasted flat, it is difficult to find a place high enough to jump from, making it very difficult to take your life because of sheer boredom. Svenborg’s Warterdag Castle is an exception, soaring to an elevation of thirty feet. Several people have broken their necks jumping from Waterdag. But most people use it for transporation. The Danish isles being so close together require no costly, time-consuming ferrry system. Instead, people go to Svenborg and simply hop from there to any island of their choice. A hop, skip, and jump is sufficient to carry a Dane anywhere in the kingdom. 24 The Neutralist Policy After the resounding defeat of the stuffed-horsed King Gustavus Adolphus in the Battle of Lutzen, Swedes found they had no further taste for foreign military adventures. From then on they decided to play it cool and neutral in every continental European dispute. But that did not mean they turned pacifist. On the contrary, they fully determined to defend sacred Swedish soil to the last endorphin (a common microorganism in Swedish soil that has been found invaluable in dentistry and Swedish Television sitcoms, as it produces laughing-gas). As for stock-piled weaponry, once they decided on this policy of strict neutrality they found much of their military arsenal was no longer needed. Gathered together, it was put on display in the Royal Armory, where tourists can view Swedish arms that once terrorized much of Europe. Finland, too, has assumed the sensible, neighborly neutralist posture. Its visitors can tour museums and brush shoulders with relics of vintiage feminity that are just as scary as Sweden’s. 25 The Origins of a National Delicacy Tourists in Sweden are well-advised not to leap on every food offered at Smorgasbords. Some foods require gradual introductions, and Rekorret is definitely one. First, it is necessary to understand how Rekorret got going in Sweden. It is certain that refridgerators requiring electrical power were generally unknown in ancient times. This did not pose much of a problem for the Swedish housewife, however, since the entire country, for at least nine months of the year, was basically one big refridgerator. People were used to throwing excess perishable food out the door of their houses and it would be frozen solid in seconds. Later, they could retrieve and thaw it out in a frying pan. Fish were commonly consumed raw, sushi-style. But as the Swedes got better at catching them, the catches piled up until there were heaps of frozen fish everywhere across the country. Since there was plenty to go round, nobody minded if you helped yourself. You had to fry the frozen fish, naturally, but it tasted almost as good as raw. A good thing like this had to be spoiled by someone sooner or later! Sure enough, hoping to impress foreign dignitaries and ambassadors, the king was embarrassed to the point where he passed a royal decree. No more could the basic refridgeration system be used above ground. From then on his subjects were required to bury all uneaten catches. Everything else had to be consumed on the spot and the messy litter of fishbones and used tartar sauce packets deposited in the waste receptacles provided. So the citizenry buried left-over trout (they couldn’t possibly eat everything they caught in one meal). No one knows just who it was who first discovered that vintage, buried trout tasted “better” than the trout frozen above ground in the old days before the decree. That’s just as well. The discoverer of Sweden’s greatest delicacy might not have been Swedish, if the truth be known. He might have been a passing Finn, or, worse, a Norwegian. 26 Preserving the Viking Heritage Viking Petroleum Company should be commended for a policy of preserving the rich Viking tradition. Outlets are constructed as nearly as possible on old, high-gabled Viking gas stations, though the fuel in previous times was “mead.” Mead has been found in stone bottles stock-piled by the thousands in caves against some Stone Age mead embargo. Analyzed in the lab, the constituents are a high degree of alcohol and an anti-knock compound derived from Cling-off Berry extract. Comparable to modern premium gas, this high-octane powered the Viking armies and fleets (some accounts even allude to space and time travel to other galaxies and back). Without mead it is unlikely how the Vikings could have sustained long sea voyages or presented such a dire threat to European civilization 27 An Acquired Taste Manufacturing a line of products with no distinguishable difference in taste and texture while marketing them as distinct entities is a trademark of Swedish ingenuity and subtlety. From one substance (mostly clay with additives for emulsion and adhesion) the Swedes spin off several products without having to change the basic chemistry. Thus, one base produces goat’s cheese (called Geitost), soap, and plastic. Of these three, goat’s cheese has climbed to acceptance as a national delicacy. If tourists think it is rather bland, that can be expected. Appreciating its subtle flavor takes time, for Geitost must be cultivated with diligence. Some tourists have spent decades trying to figure out what it is the Swedes are so mad about. 29 Motorized “Heaven’s Angels” Young, attractive tourist pilots guide befuddled foreigners along the roads of Sweden. The idea got its start when the Swedes discovered they were being croweded out of favorite scenic spots. “Why not give them directions to places we don’t want to go?” a native genius suggested to the Royal National Travel Bureau. The presiding king could not have come up with a better plan himself, and he ordered the creation of a motorized squadron of “tourist guides” and list made up of eyesores to be called the Historic Register of National Treasures. Later, when the usual tourists arrived in spring like hordes of lemmings, the Swedes were ready. Anyone who wished to go to a prime hotel or posh resort wasdirected to a number of diverting sights, such as Wartby, a nine hundred year old castle that, besides being dark, draughty, and without toilets, had been used to keep the king’s poultry until too many walls and turrets fell down, disturbing the fowl so much that egg-laying was severely disrupted. None the wiser, tourists were effectively diverted to places any Swede would not be caught dead in. If they ever succeeded in reaching a beach, it was composed wholly of boxcar-sized boulders. Yachting? A mothballed sardine fleet was put at their disposal. Dining? Geitost factory lunchrooms were given Michelen five-star ratings. “What if the suckers ever figure out this tourist guide scam?’ a Travel Bureau adviser wondered at one meeting. “What will we do then? They might never come back, and then we’d be out the hard currency they bring in every year.” “It’s not likely,” replied a colleague. “We charge them such extortionate prices to see these revoltingly horrible sights on the Historic Register that they think it has to be highly educating. Why, some of them even write books on the sights, encouraging others to come to view them. It’s called the snowball effect. Once it gets going, nobody can stop it. I’ve heard some of our countrymen are even going to see what the tourists are raving about.” 30 The Highest Literacy Rate in Europe Explained Why so many Scandinavians devouring books? Simple. Scandinavians can find no difference in taste and texture between a book and a sandwich. If there is one, sandwiches are more bland and require a bit of garnish and poupon to make them palatable. A word to the wise. When invited to a Swedish home, you will find a hard-bound book placed conspicuously on the coffee table. It is meant to be eaten, not read, since it is a form of geitost that can take printed material. Hosts and hostesses are highly offended if you don’t at least sample it. Chew the corner off at least one page or you risk having the book thrown at you as you exit the house. 31 The Bone of Contention International controversy can usually centers on natural resources and territory, but the Danes fought the Germans for centuries over a bone. Granted, it wasn’t an ordinary bone. It was a “Grand Boney.” Whoever gained absolute possession of it held the title to the provinces of Schweswig-Holstein, since in those days plebiscites were unknown and the major parties in the dispute could not have cared less what the Schweswiggers or the Holsteiners wanted. In fact, we still don’t know. Amnesty International has seen people to inquire but turned up nothing. The Schweswiggers and Holsteiners have, apparently, forgotten what it was and seem well content with the Holstein cow and manure pile out front of each cottage and the garden full of Schweswiggers pulling weeds in the garden at the back. Back and forth the Danes and Germans pulled at respective ends of the Grand Boney. The contest was not settled until the Danes brought in a platoon of Great Danes. The Great Danes leaped on the bone and it was all over in seconds. Denmark had Schweswig-Holstein!! As for the Germans, all they could do was rush in reinforcements of German Schnauzers and Dachhunds, but they didn’t stand a chance. 32 High Fiber in Low Country Fruit trees were relatively unknown in Old Denmark, but oaks grew everywhere for the taking. By a recipe that equalled the feat of the Alchemists’ Philosopher’s Stone in turning baser metals to gold, the Danes succeeded in making an excellent jam from oaks. Soon there were piles of oak logs everywhere waiting to be jammed. It made travel very difficult, and the big piles also spoiled what view there was. “We’ve got to do something about these log piles!” people declared at town meetings. “Either we quit cutting down trees (which no one advocated), or we reduce these infernal log jams.” Like a lot of problems with no foreseeable solutuon, it resolved itself in time. The population increased their consumption of oak jam to the point where the forests shrank to next to nothing. Jam factories eventually ran out of oak trees and had to shut down. To secure control of the remaining oak piles, dukes built castles right over them, and there followed fierce battles, or “jam wars” between competing dukes. The fighting was all for naught. The recipe, a rather complicated affair containing references to the phases of the moon and a number of special dance steps, fell into disuse and was forgotten. People made up their own recipes, but they were never as good, and the jam tasted terribly wooden. The castles continued to squat on oak piles nobody wanted, but eventually they were considered quaint and photogenic by tourists and the owners made fortunes on tours and raffles. 33 Troops, Tighten Those Belts! Ever so often the bridges of Denmark--constructed of leather--get a bit slack and sway-backed, dipping into the water of canals and rivers to the point where people see something must be done. The Big Belt Bridges require a lot of citizenry, divided into two massed groups pulling from either end at the bridge until it can be cinched tight again. The method is the same for the Little Belt Bridges, though usually only one farmer at each end is necessary. Or if two farmers are not available, one farmer and his mule. Even the smallest islands can come up with a farmer and mule, so there is no excuse not to tighten belts when it is needed. If you are traveling and find a bridge that needs tightening, don’t try it yourself. Get help. A lot of foreigners have thrown their backs out, or they’ve tightened too much and the bridges bulge at the center, making it very difficult for milch cows and buxom, big-bloomered cowmaids to get from one island to the next. 34 Toast, Anyone? With cheap, abundant hydroelectric resources, Sweden sees no reason to scrimp on anything so cheap and plentiful as electricity. Visitors should bear this in mind unless they wish to leave the country looking like well-done toast. “Charge it” is a phrase the Swedes translate in their own way. In their view, it has nothing to do with credit. Rather, it’s sending thousands of volts beyond what is necessary to run any small appliance, and woe betide the naive foreigner who hasn’t prepared to meet the surge with an adapter or a surge protector! The electric chair that is still being used in the U.S. was originally a Swedish invention and domestic household fixture. Not really intended for executions, the electric chair warmed either Mama or Papa on a cold winter night. Winters are known to be ferociously cold in Sweden, so, naturally, with electricity so cheap, why not pour it on? But excess can quickly spoil a good thing. The voltage in the chair was found to be harzardous after the chair fried a number of Grandmas and Grandpas, Mamas and Papas. Not wanting to lose the investment, the company shipped them to America, where people did not read Swedish newspaper reports of the dramatic losses of buyers using the warming chairs. They became so popular in America that every prison ordered one and the company got rid of every one it couldn’t sell in Sweden. 35 How Copenhagen Got (and Lost) Her Little Mermaid The charming bronze statue of the Little Mermaid, that keeps faithful vigil on rocks across the harbor from Copenhagen, was cast from a plaster mold taken from a live mermaid. She had a habit of sitting on the rocks to rest after a time spent fishing. For a few minutes, before she slipped back into the water, she would gaze at the twinkling lights of Copenhagen’s Ferris Wheel and the fireworks displays as if she wished she were there. Several times fisherman caught her in their nets, but she was able to free herself each time with her hands. No one could sneak up on her either. Her hearing was excellent and she always jumped back into the water just as they rushed forward. Finally, a young sculptor eager to make his mark in the world, seeing what an excellent model she would make for a statue he planned left delicious cream puffs on the rocks every afternoon. In the morning he would check and, each time, they were gone so he knew she was developing a taste for Danish pastries. Finally, she was hooked, and she would eat the puffs direct from his hand. Her confidence in him built up, he dumped plaster on her one day. She was very angry and soon wriggled free, but he had got the mold he was after. Unfortunately, the Little Mermaid and the scultor were never again on speaking terms. He would leave puffs behind him as before, but when he returned he always found them untouched. Eventually, his hopes utterly deflated, he took his puffs and departed forever. It was quite sad, but, after all, who likes being plastered? 36 It All Started with Snap, Crackle, Pop! Alfred Nobel, otherwise a quiet, inoffensive man, invented dynamite in the 19th century. He made millions by manufacturing it in vast quantities. What influences made him who he was? For one thing, he was born in the 19th Century, a member of the baby boomer generation (he was born just after the first Franco-Prussian war). It appears another formative influence can be tracked to his childhood, when he ate an American cereal, Rice Crispies, for breakfast every day. From Rice Crispies with their distinctive snap, , and pop, he progressed rapidly to pop guns, fire s, cherry bombs, rockets, and--ultimately--dynamite. Parents are well-advised to watch what goes into the mouths of their little ones. Does it snap, le, and pop? To be safe, parents might reconsider corn meal mush which has no sparkle whatsoever and lands in the stomach and intestinal tract with a reassuring thud. If little, impressionable Alfred Nobel had been given mush and nothing but mush for breakfast, who knows? He might have gone on to invent bird feeders or corn meal muffin tins or designer Barbie Doll’s clothes, not the means to blow them to smithereens. 37 “Hey, Mister, Can You Spare an Ore?” Who needs money anyway? Swedes gladly give theirs up to the government in taxes. In exchange, they get health care, low-cost housing, free daycare centers, and other benefits. It is a model sytem for the world to admire. No other country could make the system work so well, it is generally agreed. It is like everything is free--free apartments, free hostpitals, free taxis, free food--you scarcely have to shell out for anything nowadays if you’re a Swede. The only thing Swedes lack now is--yes, money! 38 “Catch a falling egg and put it in your pocket...” The classic song about eggs falling on starry evenings came about in this way. Once a century the goose on top Atterdag Castle is supposed to drop an egg. It is no ordinary egg. Like the goose that lays it, it is golden. Naturally, people come from miles around for the centennial event, all hoping the yoke will be on them. Since the next laying will come on the eve of the 21st Century, everybody thinks the millennial egg will be quite a bit larger. Well, we’ll see. The last time the goose laid a millenial egg, Anno 1000, it was a bust. The egg was the ordinary type and came neatly wrapped in aluminum foil. Furthermore, if this wasn’t enough to establish the fame of Atterdag Castle, the term “Egghead” originated here. A professor from the University of Copenhagen was knocked silly beneath the tower of Atterdag Castle in the 16th century. A solid gold egg weighing 100 pounds dropped on his head when he was examining some rare species of lichen on the tower masonry. The word “egghead” came to mean anyone who was too intellectual for his own good and didn’t pay enough attention to what was going on around him. The professor’s name also had something to do with the term. His name was Hans Christian Egge. Without his wits, he went back to the university and did even better than before. After he demonstrated he could lecture for twenty-four hours straight facing a blank wall, the Board of Regents voted him president. 39 Vigeland’s Folly? Sculptor Vigeland’s monumental reinforced concrete art sparked controversy from the first. But now that his works are in place in Oslo’s Frogner Park, the furor has settled down a bit and people have found considerable meaning in the statuary. For instance, the figures of the 40,000 ton “Ode to Life” all seem to express the thought that “birds of a feather flock together.” Now what could be more Scandinavian than that? Yet one still can’t help wondering if the Ode couldn’t have been expressed with less than 40,000 tons of concrete? 40 Too Much of a Good Thing? It seems even a paradise can sometimes get on people’s nerves. Perhaps, that explains the existence of Hell, Norway, and the rather high suicide rate. Natives, getting sick and tired of so much happiness and delight, realized they had to do something drastic. They went and made a direct plea to the king of Norway. “We have it just too good in your kingdom,” they explained. “If you don’t want us all to go crazy and end it all by shooting our brains out, you’ve got to allow us to raise a little Hell once in a while,” they said. Harald the Easy (not to be confused with a non-kissing cousin, Harald the Hard) heard the citizens out and thought they had a good point. He granted articles of foundation and built Hell on land nobody could want. In deference to the theme, it was a real hot spot, suphur and stem spouting from the ground so that nobody could grow potatoes there without the spuds being boiled right in the ground. King Harald embellished Hell with everything you could want in a theme park--thumb-and-screw booths, shooting galleries with live burgermeisters, governors, and top officials, saunas without thermostats, even lovers’ leaps positioned over boiling vats of lutefish (a Norwegian delicacy of lye-soaked, aged cod), and other such horrors. Understandably, Hell was soon a crowded place. It quickly outgrew the walls. Incorporating more territory, it soon expanded as far as Oslo and Bergen. It became so popular, in fact, the neighboring town of Trondheim was annoyed and became a fierce rival, making all sorts of civic improvements that brought it on par with Hell. The competition stiffened between the two to the point where you couldn’t tell the difference anymore. Which was Hell, and which was Trondheim? Even the signs were confused about the situation. 41 The Cranky Bad Boys of Romsdal Nowhere in Scandinavia do the hills and mountains evidence more unusual shapes than in Norway. Tourists, however, should be prepared for surprises. The Troll Pinnacles of Romsdal, for instance, make noises--rather rude noises. You are liable to hear “Grrrrrs!”, mutters, grunts, snorts, and such. No one can tell when they will do so either. They erupt when you least expect it. Maiden ladies have been so startled by wolf whistles that they’ve dropped cameras and purses into the fjord. The Trolls, it seems, enjoy being trolls. It is useless to try to teach them manners. Obviously, they like rude behavior and have no intention of changing. Swedes, who come by Romsdal to take a look now and then, always shake their heads and say something like, “Only in Norway! Only in Norway!” It is said the Trolls, in response, like to give them a lively send-off. One university professor was awarded a belch that sent his hat and pipe flying into the fjord. Like we said, the Troll Pinnacles are insufferable boors. And you can’t change them. Take my word for it. They’re absolutely set in their ways. 42 Crime Prevention After rates of burglary increased .005 % in a single century, the good people of Kalmar decided enough was enough. Egg-laying was affected by the general feeling of insecurity. Housewives were afraid to cool potato and pork pies and hogfat stuffed pastries on sills for fear they would be swiped. Children evidenced higher rates of nightmares in which favorite toys were stolen by grinning trolls and replaced with messes of vegetables their parents forced them to eat. The whole of Kalmar was in an uproar. To restore domestic tranquility, they installed a city-wide security system, putting the whole town under lock and key. But incidents of pies snatched from ledges and other such thefts increased nearly ten-fold (housewives lost 5 potato-pork pies in 1846 alone!) How could that happen? The Kalmarites still haven’t figured it out. 43 Mt. Everest Step Aside! It is grossly inaccurate and uncavalier of most travel guides to say Denmark is flat. How can the writers say such a thing when Denmark boasts mountains that would have challenged the stamina of Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Mt. Everest? Sky Mountain is the tallest mountain in Denmark. To make it even more a man-eater, King Frederick VIII increased the height by eighty feet. Some say the added elevation divides men from the boys. True or not, it certainly divides goats from sheep. Sheep climb as far as the original summit, but only goats will venture to the top of the King Frederick Addition in search of pop cans and candy bar wrappers left behind by mountaineers. 44 Gumless in Copenhagen The king of Denmark had in mind an eighth chair for his university, but by that time he had run out of money for an additional professor’s salary, health care insurance, sabbatical leave and retirement. What was it? Gum! The king refused to go anywhere and fight the Swedes, Flems, Sorbs, Wends, Walloons, Burgundians, and other mighty powers of the day unless he had an ample supply of gum to last the campaign. Once he was defending his capital from an army of creditors who wanted him to pay up on some loans he took out to expand the palace carnival.when the royal gum ran out. The king retired from the fray and sulked until a fresh supply was smuggled through the war zone to the beleaguered, gumless king. Delighted with the jumbo pack of cherry, spearmint, grape, and other flavors, the king went forth and chewed up the enemy. 45 The Last Saint The abrupt departure of Denmark’s first and last saint on the glad day of his canonization forced the church authorities to try other methods. Perhaps recalling St. Lavard’s experience, no more candidates rushed forward. The canonization board then grew desperate, to the point of dropping flyers from Goodyear blimps all over Denmark promising prospective saints that they would all receive unrestricted sick time, pensions, and other fine perks. To no avail! After millions were spent not one wannabe saint presented himself. The doleful situation has continued to this very day, and one can’t help imagining St. Lavard must feel somewhat conspicuous in Heaven as the only Danish saint. 46 Sweden’s Eerie Canal Until the world-famed (well, not quite world-famed) Gota Canal, water always flowed downhill in rivers and streams, so it was difficult to go in the opposite direction. Reversing the flow, the Gota Canal enabled Swedes to travel upriver for the first time and see what was there. Commerce and tourism was greatly enhanced by the break-through in navigation. But first it had to be built. To gain right-away from the cunning farmers, the canal engineers explained they needed the farmers’ land because they were going to make water run uphill. “Impossible!” reasoned the farmers. “We can collect the money from the engineers, then when they fail they’ll want to sell it back to us right away, but we’ll pay them a few kroners and make a big profit! That’ll be better than raising turnips and turkeys this year as usual and we can take vacations instead!” So the farmers all sold their land to the engineers and took off for Cancun and Palm Beach and Las Vegas to wait for the inevitable. But they were in for a terrible shock. Report reached them from relatives that the water in the canal was, indeed, running uphill! They were ruined! They’d never get their land back now! How did the engineers do it? The secret has been well-kept, or it has been lost, for nobody seems to know. All sorts of interesting theories and ideas have been put forward by retired garage mechanics, car dealers, realtors, and lawyers. One of the most plausible says the canal is based on an optical illusion. The landscape round it has been so artfully rearranged that the water only appears to run uphill. If so, Walt Disney could not have done it better, for Uppsala and Stockholm, holding forth at their respective ends of the canal, must have been rearranged also--whether up or down, that is anyone’s guess. 47 Hard Does It! King Harald the Hard, when he ascended the throne of Norway, decided that in order to save the country he had to get it back on solid, hard footing. He immediately passed a decree banning hush puppies (how pogo sticks got the death penalty, I have no idea). Everybody went back to bare feet or wore shoes and boots soled with wood or metal. It proved most uncomfortable, and soon very few Norwegians were walking. Many took to getting about by stringing up lines and swinging from house to house and castle to castle. This is how the sky-ride of world’s fairs got invented. Not content with changing shoewear, King Harald decided to rebuild Oslo from the bedrock up. Since no one wanted to help, he had to do it himself. That wasn’t a problem. He knew what he wanted, and so he set out. Oslo always had plenty of loose boulders lying about, so he had his building material. After tearing down the cathedral, he built his own. Then he started on the royal palace, greenhouses, the principal forts, and a number of museums. Visitors to Norway can see a number of these structures still standing. They are attributed by the guides to the megalithic peoples who lived hereabouts before the Vikings, but they got it wrong. Harald the Hard did it all, single-handedly (and without gloves!). 48 Frigga’s Iron They say that if Norway were ironed flat, its coastline would exceed 12,000 miles and stretch half way around the world. Some--probably the Swedes--find that an appalling thought. How this was discovered is not known. But at some time in the dim past an iron must have done the job so that the enlarged area could be measured accurately. Fortunately, Norway has a body of mythology that is most instructive. From it we have records that tell us Frigga was a beautiful goddess and lived in the sky palace of Thor, the chief Viking god. She hated tiresome banquets and all the over-eating that went on to all hours of the night and draughty bedrooms with no thermo-pane glass in the s and the general lack of central heating in Valhalla. But mostly she hated creases in her robes and couldn’t find a maid good enough at the ironing board to suit her, so she had an iron made, it is said, that could do the job right no matter who was at the helm. It was the first steam iron that we know of, and could get up a head of steam worthy of Icelandic volcanoest. Since she was a goddess and rather large in beam, the iron was also pretty big. It was so big, in fact, that when she happened to drop it the whole country of Denmark, which happened to be passing beneath her board at the moment, was instantly flattened and steamed creaseless. I, for one, think this actually happened, for the proof is there today for anyone to see. Where else in the world can you find not one pair of pants with a crease. As for Norway, I doubt very much the iron landed there. Rather, it was Thor’s hammer that made such a crumpled, up-and-down arrangement of it. You see, when Thor was a naughty boy-god, he was forever hammering at anything within reach. His father, however, caught him giving Norway its present, tormented configuration and awarded him a thrashing that happily saved Sweden and Finland from similar fates. 49 The Comb of Turku The comb being worked on is an exact reproduction of the ones that were made on this spot as long as 700 years ago by castle comb-makers. Beaches at that time were covered with amber, which comes from buried forests and is resin hardened by age to a jemlike quality. Royalty loved amber and would do anything for it save buy it. The Swedes, in particular, liked amber. Their kings wore as much as a hundred pounds of it on their royal persons, making it rather difficult for them to get about. There was a reason for amber besides its beauty. It had a curious warming effect. So the more amber you wore the warmer you felt. That was a nice effect during the hard, cold winters. Since Finland had plenty of the stuff and Sweden, alas, had none, Swedes were always coming over to Turku and other places in Finland with armies to convince the Finns to give it up. The Finns were not dumb and knew it was valuable, so they all ran inside their castles and put up quite a fight for their amber. The Swedish king (I forget his name), invested Turku in 1142. The siege lasted ten years or so, and everybody was getting quite annoyed. Finally, the Turku defenders had an idea. They sent him the comb they used to comb the beach for amber. The king naturally thought that this comb had been made for a giant Finn the people of Turku were holding in reserve, and he was so terrified he packed up and went back to Stockholm and raised hothouse orchids the rest of his days. 50 Elektra’s Sad Fate We all know the old Greek accounts concerning Atlas, the poor weight-lifter who, after a long, distinguished career, was punished for some infraction or other by having to carrying the Earth on his shoulders the rest of his days. He should have belonged to a weight-lifters’ union, for then he could have demanded fifteen minute coffee breaks from his arduous task of holding up 6.6 sextillion tons of Earth. Moreover, if he was smart, he could have taken a coffee break and never returned, leaving some poor klutz with the Earth on his shoulders forever. Atlas, to my mind, was a pretty dull chap, for it would take someone not too bright to end up in such a fix as his and not think of a way out. But he did one thing right, he produced a gaggle of beautiful daughters. They were eventually set up in the skies as the Pleiades. How did they get there? Apparently, the Greeks thought that was a good place to put people who proved too much a nuisance on Earth or were causing trouble by just being too attractive, thereby incurring the wrath of envious, aging goddesses like Hera or Aphrodite. Elektra was one of these toothsome daughters. Collectively, they are known as the “Seven Sisters.” How nice! They can dance round and roud together forever, a bright garland in the skies, for they are made stars of a peculiarly cloudlike brillliance. No one asked them if they wanted to be made stars, however. They probably regarded it as most cruel and unusual punishment. But in ancient times no one thought to ask how the victims felt. It was their fate. That was that! If I can ever arrange a flyby of the Pleiades, I fully intend to ask Elektra and her sisters how they feel about being made stars. Just for the sake of argument, is it possible she and her sisters deserved their fate? Elektra, for example, might have been good-looking, but what if she was too much crocodile? Cold, calculating, merciless? Knowing Cassandra’s account, which tells us that she killed her own brother for her boyfriend Jason’s sake, it is quite possible Elektra was no nicer when crossed. With that in mind, we shouldn’t fault the ancients if they stuck her and her sisters as far away from Earth as they could. Perhaps, they knew something we do not. Yet I feel sorry for them. No one should be made a stellar body without that person’s permission. After all, stars, like diamonds, can last a pretty long time. 51 Atlantis on the Rocks, anyone? Scandinavians are known for making epic voyages to out of the way places. From Leif to Thor Heyerdahl, Vikings roamed the terrestrial globe like most people roam their backyards, searching out mysteries. One mystery they have yet failed to plumb is Atlantis. Where is it? What happened to it? These are questions that have filled libraries, we know. I, for one, have the same Scandinavian itch to turn it up one of these fine days. You never know, it might be right in front of us, but we were too busy to notice. I’ve read some of the accounts, and Atlantis enthusiasts place it in a number of sites, one of them rather south, in Antarctica, to be precise. I don’t think that is quite right, since there are too many penguins living in those parts, and I have a hard time imagining them as indigenous to Atlantis--unless the climate changed radically. It is possible the Atlanteans are still with us, then. If so, modern penguins are the Atlanteans, who are superbly adapted to the present frigid climate. After all, they seem to communicate with each other with ease, but they have, from long isolation from the rest of the inhabited world, lost linguistic ties with the Indo-European family of languages. Since we cannot as yet communicate with penguins, it’s reasonable to suppose that the knowledge of Atlantis is locked up until we find the key to understanding their language. Imagine what life they could bring to cocktail parties in New York, Boston, and Washington! We ought to devote as much government and foundation grant money as possible to the project, don’t you think? Part II “France: As We Like it” by Uwe de Hantsbo 1 Nice Lemons If You Can Squeeze Them Oranges are so tasty it would be reasonable to expect some official recognition somewhere in this wide world, but yet there is no parade for oranges, even in Orange County, California. Instead, lemons are celebrated and honored with a parade every year in France. But what is so nice about a lemon that it rates a parade and festival all to itself? To answer that we must go to Nice on the Cote d’Azur. Ask local people and you get various answers, possibly not ones you may expect. Madame Colette de Hauptstadt, a lady of nice means with no husband at present, thinks the festival got started when two young lovers passed lemons to each other when their parents barred them from meeting. However they hit on it, they used lemons to communicate. For instance, three lemons, one squeezed, the other two unsqueezed, said “I am dying, beloved, and I cannot remember to brush my teeth, and, moreover, I tremble all over and break out in a rash when I look at your picture.” This is the manner all good love affairs get going in France, if, that is, they are worth their lemons. 2 The Social Animal Man is a social animal, thought Aristotle the great Greek philosopher long ago. The French agree, and the cafe is our national institution for dispensing, not food and drink primarily, but sparkling conversation. The cafe has been perfected as the supreme vehicle for communicating things vital to the human spirit. Listen! What are those two women saying at that next table? Prepare yourself for some exquisite quote from Moliere or Racine as they discuss a certain friend’s latest amour. “Oh, no! She said that? I could just scream my head off. She is a mad-woman, to hold herself back! Pull out all the stops, I say. Pull out all the stops! One only lives once!” “Yes, that is my opinion too, my dear. She should run right down to M. Cocteau’s and buy all the toilet bowl brushes he has left on the shelves. Two for 100 francs! She’ll never see the price that low again! Never!” 3 Ever Notice What You See Is Seldom What It Is? Alas! Napoleon was not French. He hailed from Corsica, an island somewhere. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland? British. The Irish potato? Bolivian. Tomato sauce? Certainly not Italian. Far from it. Russia got her name from Swedish traders. The infamous Schickelgruber was Austrian, not German. Greenland is not green but mostly white and belongs to Denmark, which is a fiftieth its size. Americus Vespucci gave his name to North and South America, though he didn’t discover them--he was only a cartographer working for a rich employer with a taste for fine maps. The American Indians are not Indians. How could they be? None of them were born in India. Ah, Italia! Italy is actually not one country but four sovereign states--Italy, SMOM, San Marino, and the Vatican. Argentina stands for “The Silver Land,” and it borders the “River of Silver,” the Rio Plata, but only its clouds have silver linings since the river is nine parts mud and silt and the land is very soggy, a lot more mud and silt. The “apple” Eve ate and passed to Adam in the Garden of Eden? Candidates range from apricots to papaya. The Holland tulip emigrated from Turkey (the Sultan’s pride and joy was his tulip garden). The windmill came from Persia and was used to grind corns off the feet of Persian nobility in the 7th century. England, which has no hummingbirds and an unwritten constitution that hovers forever in the British imagination, invented a mechanical hummingbird people could ride called the hovercraft and a unique politically flightless dodo bird consisting of absolutely powerless institutions--the Monarchy, the House of Lords, the commonwealth, and the Flat Earth Society. That’s what we get for exporting our superior culture to the British in the Norman Conquest! Look what they did with it! We ought to take it back! 4 Leap Now, or Claim Your Exemption Nobody but we Latins could be so thoughtful. To alleviate the rising cost of romance, leaps have been set up for lovers at varying heights all along our highly romantic coasts. Take another look at Monaco, the cliff leaping lovers prefer. At the bottom, just a foot or two above water line, there is a perch with an insurance company representative for lovers who aren’t quite so sure love is immortal. They are the same couples that file separate tax returns. 5 Fashion: A Way of Life We French know how to dress things up so you would never guess what they were originally. The Paris Opera House was a pawn shop during the Middle Ages where gallant knights could pawn armor and lances in a pinch to settle an account at a favorite bistro. The Arc de Triomphe? The original MacDonald’s golden arch for a franchise that was never granted (the crepe suzzette people threatened a boycott and the idea was squelched). And as for the magnificent Palais de Chaillot, it started as a White Elephant Wash in the 16th century, but so few white elephants existed at that time it soon went bankrupt, which is sad because the country today is full of white elephants today that badly need a good scrub and a rinse. 6 Refined Individualism! We French invented individualism, but there is nothing rugged about our coiffures! Everything is done in perfect taste. And what better setting for a new hair-do than the boulevards of Paris? Every Friday afternoon, main thoroughfares are cordoned off so that dogs may show off their leashed owners dressed in the latest styles. In London or New York, the same people would be run over--and nothing done about it! 7 The Haute Bourgeoisie: Lighter than Air Dirigibles This class of very chic people, the ultimate in haute couture, finds it impossible to rub shoulders with any other, since no one else can come up to its shoulders. I’ve found them out strolling, but not once did I ever see their feet touching the common ground that the rest of us tread. It is an amazing spectacle to see these creatures gliding over the pavement from limoisine to exclusive shop and restaurant and back to limoisine. It seems that if you hold your nose high enough then gravity is also suspended. However they do it, they hover from place to place like British contitutions, never encountering ordinary terra firma. Why they bother to wear shoes, I have no idea. 8 Shepherds With Eclairs Long, flowing capes and pom pons, stilts and berets, our shepherds know how to cut a dashing figure on the pastures among flocks of sheep and goats. As for steep slopes, they are capable of admirable adaptation too. One leg of the stilt is shortened to accommodate steep gradients, after the example of our alpine herds of cows. If there is any complaint I must made about them, it is their pompous, stuffed-shirt manner of speaking, a kind of stilted French you hear only in the most backward provinces, and the box of chocolates they insist on carrying everywhere they go. 9 The Auto Park With a Plus Rest Stops are found everywhere on the modern French expressways. No one need ride in discomfort. Between Paris and Nice, there is one public facility. I’ve heard they’re devising plans to build another between Paris and London, somewhere in mid-Channel. This feverish building program is probably due to the complaints from cathedral caretakers. As everybody knows, they’ve been awfully hard-pressed since the Middle Ages. 10 The French Statue of Liberty Visitors to New York City are mistaken when they think the Statue of Liberty there is the only one of its kind. On the contrary! We French had one long before the Americans! Ours was set up by the Allee des Cygnes for convenient viewing by people in excursion boats. So what if it is twenty feet high! What our Statue of Liberty may lack in size compared to the American one is more than made up for in sheer elegance and modernity of design. Instead of cumbersome, archaic scroll and torch, Mademoiselle Liberty holds a box of eclairs in one arm and a winning lottery ticket in her uplifted hand. What could be more French than Mademoiselle Liberty? From the Distinguished Authors Reader: If you have enjoyed these travel guides to Scandinavia and France, feel free to add remarks in the pages provided. Authors Mr. Uwe Hantsbo and Monsieur Uwe de Hantsbo (absolutely no relation) will certainly be obliged to hear what specific areas you enjoyed or found informative. They has given you the whole extent of their vast knowledge of the countries under discussion, and hope that you will go forth an informed traveler to realms that know no peer. 1. Reader’s name and occupation. Hobbies? How many times reader has toured Scandinavia and France? If several times, are you stark mad? 2. What “slices” were a special delight or gave facts you really appreciate about these countries that would encourage you never to go there? 3. Would you recommend these travel guides to your worst enemy immediately? Yes_______________________ Would you like to see Copenhagen’s Tivoli be registered with the United Nations as a an International Religious Shrine, to be preserved indefinitely in its present state in a giant lump of lucite? Thank you most cordially, Mr. Uwe Hantsbo, Mon. Uwe de Hantsbo Representatives for the UN Commission To Preserve Scandinavian Culture IP C H R O N I C L E O F T H E G I A N T C H I E F S Two Sayings of Uwe Hantsbo Regarding the Atlanteans A N N O S T E L L A E 1 9 7 2