Weekend in Antigua, Guatemala

After the week-long MBA Field Study, my husband and I headed over to Antigua, Guatemala for a long weekend. Antigua was originally the capital of Guatemala until an earthquake destroyed it in 1773. This colonial city is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. The city is full of history, beautiful architecture and ruins, abundant with arts and crafts, and culinary delights. We didn’t have time but I would like to return and tour a coffee plantation and climb the volcano.

The Hotel

We stayed at the Hotel San Rafael. This former home boasts a lush and tranquil inner courtyard with fountains, wide walkways, ample seating areas, excellent food and large elegant rooms and suites. Here are the fountains in the center courtyard and the comfy sitting area outside our room where we spent evenings talking and enjoying cocktails.

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This smaller courtyard was behind our room. We could hear the soothing water from our bathroom window.

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The Architecture

If you do a search for Antigua, undoubtedly you will find photos of the Arco de Santa Catelina. This archway dates back to the 1600’s and was constructed so that nuns could cross the street without being seen. From a distance, you can see one of the three volcanoes that surround the city.

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The city’s spiritual center is the baroque church, Iglesia de la Merced, with its yellow facade. I don’t know if that giant rosary is a permanent fixture but it was a sight to see!

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The Iglesia y Convento de la Compañía de Jesús (Church and Convent of the Society of Jesus ) was destroyed by several earthquakes and rebuilt only to be destroyed again. What is interesting about these ruins are the headless saints. Many statues lost their heads after the earthquakes and they could not determine which head went with which statue so they were never replaced.

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Convent of the Capuchins

One of the most beautiful and interesting ruins are that of the Iglesia y Convento de las Capuchinas (Convent and Church of Our Lady of Zaragoza) which was consecrated in 1736. I spent a relaxing morning exploring the ruins and gardens of the convent.

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After many twists and turns, I found my way to the Edificio Circular (Circular Building), the circular dormitories where the nuns lived.

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The nun’s “cells” were approximately 8′ x 10′ and had the most modest accommodations – an arched doorway, what appears to have been a narrow toilet, one or two niches presumably for religious statuary, and a small window.

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View of the mountains through the window of a nun’s cell.

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Standing inside a cell looking towards the inner courtyard.

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The bathing room was located near the circular dormitories.

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The sótano (basement) was particularly intriguing. A long flight of stairs led down to a barren circular room. The room is dark with only a couple of windows situated beyond reach letting in natural light.

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I heard that the basement was used to punish the nuns by leaving them there for extended periods of time. I don’t know if this is true but it was chilling nonetheless.

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Arts and Crafts

As you might imagine, the city was abundant with arts and crafts. There were large warehouse-like stores filled with pottery, textiles, woodwork and more. There were countless smaller stores with beautiful hand crafted items. Everywhere you walked there were peddlers on the streets carrying armfuls of textiles. My favorite were the colorful tote bags made from upcycled huipils.

With the abundance of textiles, several purveyors displayed the plants from which they made natural dyes such as achiote, cedar, ilamo and wood from the blackberry tree.

In one courtyard, a woman sat at a back strap loom weaving. I watched for a long time as she methodically wove the multi-colored threads on her loom.

A relaxing and fun weekend after a week of interviews and translating.

Field Study in Guatemala City

The capstone assignment for the MBA program was a team-based global business project. For our project, our client was a private equity firm that invests in companies with growth potential primarily in Latin America. Our charge was to develop a country expansion strategy for one of the companies in their portfolio. To accomplish this, we spent a week in Guatemala conducting a field study. We interviewed key stakeholders – the CEO, CFO, clients, partners, third-party administrators, vendors and others in their supply chain. It was an immersive week where we learned a tremendous amount and were able to apply the concepts learned in our MBA courses.

My husband accompanied me on the trip and we arrived in Guatemala City a day early so that we could take in some of the sights before my busy week began. Here are my impressions of Guatemala City.

First, there’s the foliage. The city is lush and green, and the leaves are huge!

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These are the very large leaves of a monstera deliciosa (otherwise known as the swiss cheese plant).

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My husband and I stayed at a lovely boutique hotel called La Inmaculada. The ambience, service and food were wonderful. I took these photos in the inner hotel courtyard where we had most of our meals. The rooms were not as fancy as some of the big-name hotels, but they were clean and had everything we could possibly need.

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Guatemala is renowned for its coffee – and it was delicious. We drank freshly ground coffee in the courtyard every day. Here, a late-night craving for sweets – a warm latte paired with fried plantain covered with cinnamon and a dab of fresh cream.

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We took an excursion to the Mercado de Artesanias La Aurora, a beautiful arts and crafts market next to a rose garden. We practically had the place to ourselves.

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Coffee beans growing in the garden.

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At the market, we were overwhelmed with colors and textures from all the hand-woven textiles and crafts.

 

We bought this little hacky-sack turtle for our puppy. It didn’t last long. I managed to get it away from him before he destroyed it. Now the turtle is missing one leg.

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We brought home several textiles including these cloths to place in a basket with bread or tortillas.

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This queen size textile will serve as a light, cool bedspread during the summer.

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One of my favorite parts of travelling is street food, and Guatemala did not disappoint. There were snow cone vendors all over the main plaza in the historic district. I had one with tamarindo and pineapple – yum!

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The smell of freshly baked bread permeated the air.

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As we walked through the historic district, families outside a church were selling these handmade tamales. I did not resist.

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This gentleman was leading his goats through the downtown area. For a few quetzales, you could have a fresh cup of warm goat’s milk.

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Dinner consisted of a chicken breast covered in an exquisite cream sauce with loroco – a wild vine of edible flowers. Restaurant: Café Kacao. My husband’s meal was smothered with an anacate cream sauce. Anacates, or chanterelle mushrooms, were in season. One night, I had a traditional mole dish.

 

You can’t visit a country in Latin America without visiting churches. The baroque Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint James dominates the city center.

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That particular Sunday was the feast day of Santo Domingo. My husband and I joined the jubilant procession through the streets.

 

 

A few blocks over we passed Rectoria Santa Clara, a Catholic Church in the historic district. Construction of the church was completed in 1734.

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The streets had so much character.

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During the week, while I was busy with the field study, my husband took a side trip to Santiago Atitlán, one of several Mayan villages surrounding beautiful Lake Atitlán. Lake Atitlán is in the Guatemalan Highlands at an elevation of 5,105 feet (1,556 meters). Three volcanoes are situated around the lake.

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(Source)

Part of the reason my husband selected Santiago Atitlán was to visit Cojolya for me. Cojolya is a cooperative of 30 artisans, 25 of whom are women, who weave beautiful and intricate textiles using the traditional back-strap loom. My husband took a photograph of one of the women, descendants of the Mayans, weaving a vibrant textile.

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While the women weave on the back-strap loom, the men weave on large foot looms.

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My husband said he had a great time talking with the weavers. He also enjoyed the serenity of the town by the lake surrounded by mountains. Being the amazing husband that he is, he brought me back these items he personally selected – a gorgeous scarf hand embroidered with local birds, an intricately woven catch-all bag, and an exquisite blue woven scarf. He bought them straight from the women who created them – what a treat!

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I had scheduled this post before I heard the news of the volcano erupting near Guatemala City. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones.

 

Politics, history, and the arts through murals

Visiting Mexico City means taking in the larger-than-life murals of Diego Rivera. We visited three locations featuring these exquisite frescoes.

The Palacio Nacional (National Palace), which houses the office of the President and other cabinet departments, contains a historical timeline of Mexico as depicted by Rivera. It is difficult to capture the grandeur of these detailed murals of the Mexican civilization. I will share only two murals with you, one showing the indigenous cultures that flourished before the Spanish conquest, and one after.

After the Mexican Revolution Rivera was concerned with two issues, and these determined his artistic themes: the need to offset the contempt with which the conquistadors had viewed the ancient Indian civilizations, and the need to offset the anti-mestizo and anti-Indian attitudes of the European-oriented ruling classes during the porfiriato (the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz).

The role of the arts was to restore understanding of and pride in the heritage and cultures that the concept of Spanish superiority had subverted . . . early indigenistas [like Rivera] tended to glorify the Indian heritage and vilify that of the Spaniards as a means of rectifying a historical imbalance and advancing certain political ideas” (103). (Source: http://bit.ly/2sBTjbn)

Totonac Civilization

Ruins of the structures depicted can be found at El Tajín, Veracruz. At the Museum of Anthropology, we saw the rings and balls used in the ball courts in the upper left corner of the mural.

The Arrival of Cortés

… he depicts in dramatic fashion the violence and exploitation of the Spanish conquerors. Natives hanging in the background, the branding of the native in the foreground, and the reduction of the indians to slaves and pack horses show the cruelty and savagery of the Conquest.

In the center is La Malinche (Doña Marina), a native woman who became Cortés’ mistress and mother of his child Martín. Malinche knew both the (Aztec) Nahuatl language and Maya, thus enabling Hernán Cortés to communicate in both. She became a very valuable interpreter and counselor. The blue-eyed child staring outward at us represents the mixture of the races. (Source: http://bit.ly/2tubi3n)

At the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a magnificent art deco building that hosts visual and performing artists, is the famous mural, “Man, Controller of the Universe.” This is the recreation of the mural that Rivera painted at the Rockefeller Center and which was destroyed in 1934. It is almost impossible to capture the entire mural given its size and frequent visitors, so I show you the panel that caused the controversy.

Man at the Crossroads

Man at the Crossroads … is a whodunit tale that also illustrates the tensions between art and politics.

… the piece would have been stunning had it survived. He had this vision of the importance of technology in the future and the hope that there would be a coming together of workers and industrialists and businessmen to further mankind in general, … It was a very hopeful mural. (Source: Destroyed by Rockefellers, Mural Trespassed On Political Vision, NPR. http://n.pr/1G1R5Rj)


If you are ever in CDMX and want to get unobstructed views of Rivera’s murals, go to the Ministry of Public Education, a few blocks away from the National Palace. We had the entire grounds practically to ourselves. The building has two large courtyards with Rivera’s murals covering several floors in each.

Attempting to sum up his 235 panel cycle, Rivera later writes that his goal was “to reflect the social life of Mexico as I saw it, and through my vision of the truth to show the masses the outline of the future.” (Source: http://mo.ma/2sBNvia)

While all of the frescoes have their own story, these were my favorite. They depict the daily arts of dyeing and weaving.

Los Tintoreros (The Dyers)


Los Tintoreros 3

Los Tejedores (The Weavers)

The one mural I have not seen is Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park) located at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. Therefore, I must return to CDMX one day!

More Mexico City Highlights

Our trip to CDMX (Ciudad de México or Mexico City) was packed with visits to historic archaeological sites, museums, street festivals, and restaurants serving the most delicious food. These photos do not do justice to the sights, sounds, and smells of the city but they will give you a glimpse of the amazing CDMX.

Templo Mayor

The Great Temple was the Mexica sacred space par excellence. The most important rituals were enacted here, including those dedicated to their gods, the naming of their leaders, and the funerals of the nobility. The Mexica architects designed the Great Temple as the center for their model of the universe, where the horizontal plane converged with the vertical plane. (Source: Site placard).

Coatepantli aka
Serpents and Frogs at the Great Temple. Different species of serpents were represented in architecture; their bodies were decorated with symbolic elements, such as feathers, rings, or spirals. Two enormous serpents, each measuring 6 m (20 ft) long and with an undulating body, flank the access to the platform. (Source: Site placard).
Chac mool at Tlaloc Shrine
Tlaloc, the rain god … was responsible for bringing rain, which enabled crops to grow. Outside the entrance, we can see the polychrome sculpture of a chac mool, bearing the attributes of Tlaloc and still retaining its original color. (Source: Site placard).
The House of the Eagles
Bas reliefs of eagle warriors and serpents.

Coyoacán

Frida Kahlo’s blue house is located in the neighborhood of Coyoacán. The word means roughly “place of the coyotes” in náhuatl, an Aztec language still spoken today. The neighborhood is vibrant. Walking along the shady streets, we came across this brightly decorated altar to the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Our destination was La Casa Azul, the home that Frida Kahlo was born and died in. A hand painted sign tells visitors that Frida y Diego vivieron en esta casa 1929-1954 (Frida and Diego lived in this house 1929-1954).

Frida’s studio still has her collection of paint bottles and brushes.

A special exhibit called Los Vestidos de Frida Kahlo (The Dresses of Frida Kahlo) displayed the artist’s clothing, jewelry and footwear. Also on display were the tight corsets she wore as a result of a childhood accident that left her with a lifetime of pain.

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“My painting carries with it the message of pain.” – Frida Kahlo.

The exhibition takes its title from an artwork by Frida Kahlo of the same title – Las Apariencias Engañan (Appearances can be Deceiving) – where Kahlo portrays herself in manner of an X-Ray, revealing her dramatic disabilities concealed beneath the layers. (Source: http://bit.ly/2s0j0lC)

Giant paper mâché figures are located throughout the house and courtyards.

Vogue Mexico has a slide show of many of the items from the exhibit plus selected photos of the Blue House. To learn more about the Blue House, go to the Museo Frida Kahlo site.

Trotsky’s House

Leon Trotsky’s house is a ten minute walk from La Casa Azul. The home is simple and the grounds peaceful although the guard towers and bullet holes in the walls tell another story.

Leon Trotsky House

Trotsky’s desk still has the items he used on a daily basis – his spectacles, papers and ink bottles.

Items on Leon Trostky's desk.

Yarn Sightings

The Mercado de Coyoacán is a typical Mexican market with all kinds of touristy items on sale including pottery, traditional dresses, puppets, t-shirts and the like. The market also carries an abundance of fresh fruit, meats and spices. Walking along all the circuitous aisles I finally spotted yarn. I didn’t buy any but it was nice to see and touch.

Yarn Sighting 1 at Mercado de Coyoacan

Yarn Sighting 2 at Mercado de Coyoacan

City of Teotihuacán

The holy city of Teotihuacan (‘the place where the gods were created’) is situated some 50 km north-east of Mexico City. Built between the 1st and 7th centuries A.D., it is characterized by the vast size of its monuments – in particular, the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon, laid out on geometric and symbolic principles.

Human occupation of the valley of Teotihuacan began before the Christian era, but it was only between the 1st and the 7th centuries A.D. that the settlement developed into one of the largest ancient cities in the Americas, with at least 25,000 inhabitants.

(Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/414).

A full-day excursion took us to the City of Teotihuacán where my son and I climbed to the tops of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. The Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest pyramid in the world rising to 75 meters (246 feet) high. The 248 steps to the top are high and narrow. I won’t show you a photo of what I looked like once I got to the top, but trust me, I did it. We also climbed the Pyramid of the Moon which is 43 meters (140 feet) high.

Pyramid of the Sun

Pyramid of the Sun: The pyramid’s base is 222 meters long on each side, and it’s now just over 70 meters high. The pyramid was cobbled together around AD 100 from three million tonnes of stone, without the use of metal tools, pack animals or the wheel. (Source: http://bit.ly/2r8Zr9p).

Temple of the Feathered Serpent

The structure known as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl or the “Plumed serpent,” was built between 150 and 200 a.d. It consists of seven stepped bodies, with “slope and panel” designed walls on all four sides, decorated with plumed serpents, carved in stone, which move among seashells. (Source: Site placard).

Temple of the Feathered Serpent - Wall

Temple of the Feathered Serpent - Close up

As we walked down one of the pyramids, we saw these stones jutting out of the slanted wall. There wasn’t a sign telling us what they were but we surmised they are there to break someone’s fall should they have the misfortune of tumbling down the pyramid.

Side of a pyramid.

El Bazaar Sábado

Early Saturday morning, we made our way to the neighborhood of San Ángel for the Bazaar Sábado. We walked along cobble-stoned streets into beautiful colonial buildings and around the periphery of San Jacinto Square overflowing with artists. Artisans in many crafts gather every Saturday morning featuring artwork in leather, glass, pottery, jewelry, and textiles. The Androna textiles were magnificent in their multi-colored hues.

Androna Textiles 1

Textile techniques and designs are a living heritage passed from mothers to daughters throughout generations in regions like Oaxaca, Chiapas, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Guerrero, Hidalgo and Yucatán. With materials such as cotton, silk, wool and linen, Androna Linartas curates traditional textiles made with different techniques like back strap loom, foot loom, embroidery and hook among others. Her goal is to preserve the essential Mexican textile culture. (Source: http://bit.ly/2suKWAI).

Androna Textiles 3

This is already a long post so I will stop here. Luckily, the flight to CDMX is only two and a half hours from Houston. I see another trip on the horizon. Hasta la próxima.

 

 

A New Journey

I recently started something I have wanted to do for many years – I enrolled in an MBA program. Way back after working a few years out of college, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was accepted into law school and was even awarded a small scholarship – but that was around the time my dad died, and as the oldest in my family, I felt I needed to stay employed in case Mom needed anything. A couple of years later, after entering the private sector, I figured an MBA was the logical next step. Since I was a Literature major, I started taking college math courses to prepare. Around that time, I got married, got pregnant, miscarried, got pregnant again, almost miscarried again – and then stopped all extra activities to focus on my pregnancy. A few months later, my beautiful son was born. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last and I became a single parent for the next 8 or so years. Fast forward to 2016: I am married to an amazing man and we have two boys in college. Now it is my turn.

Campus Collage

The next 18 months will be challenging – the first two weeks of my residency made that clear – but I am so excited about this journey. It is never too late.

Residency Week 1 – Ithaca, New York

Hoffman Challenge Course
Residency Week 2 – Kingston, Ontario

Stockholm Yarn Crawl

For our holiday in Stockholm, we found the most adorable apartment through Airbnb. Monica’s apartment had everything we could possibly need – a comfy living room, narrow but incredibly well-organized and stocked kitchen, and a fold-down bed that didn’t take up much space. The lift to the third floor was one of those old-fashioned ones that just fit two people and had a metal accordion door. The apartment was located only one long block from the metro. The SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) neighborhood was very eclectic and bohemian with antique stores and fab pubs nearby. My husband and I wanted to just take up residence in Monica’s apartment forever, but we figured she needed it back eventually.

It’s impossible to visit Sweden and not run across yarn shops. Yet another reason why I ❤️ Sweden. I had a list on the ready for our forays around town. Our first stop was Stick it Up, located in SoFo only a brisk 15 minute walk from Monica’s apartment.

Stick It Up - Exterior

Stick it Up is a small shop with a nice selection of yarn in natural and man-made fibers. The owner was kind and friendly and explained the sources of the various yarns. I narrowed my selection to these 100% wool skeins intended for Lovikka mittens, which the owner explained were traditional in Sweden. Once home, I looked up the history and found a nice summary about the origin of the mittens on the Heart of Lovikka website. I brought home two skeins of a lovely green (not pictured here). Stick it Up is located at Ringvägen 64, 118 61 Stockholm, tel. 08-642 00 13.

Stick It Up - Yarn

Content with my purchases, we headed over to Gamla Stan to explore the old town center. As we meandered through the cobblestone streets, I spotted this in a dark window – yarn!

Makeri 14 - Window Shopping

Alas, as I got closer, the shop was closed. All I could do was cup my hands against the window and look longingly at the baskets full of yarn. The shop was tiny, meant only to walk in, buy and leave. Makeri 14 is located at Köpmangatan 14, 111 31 Stockholm.

Makeri 14 - Exterior

The next yarn shop was located near a statue of St. George slaying the dragon. I easily spotted it because this was hanging outside the door.

Anntorps Väv on Österlånggatan 11

Anntorps Väv was also somewhat small but had a luscious collection of yarn in natural fibers. Just look at these 100% silk beauties in the window! The proprietress spoke a little bit of English and I spoke not a bit of Swedish but we managed to point and understand each other perfectly. The silk is spun for the store and she hand dyes it in these jewel-tones.

Anntorps Väv - Window Shopping

The other reason the shop is small is because this large loom takes up most of the space. When we walked in, the proprietress was weaving on it. In the store were large fluffy blankets she had woven on the loom. Anntorps Väv is located at Österlånggatan 11, 111 31 Stockholm, tel. 0046(0)8 676 00 23. It’s a few doors down from Stockholms Gästabud Bar and Bistro where we had those fabulous Swedish meatballs (pictured in previous post).

Anntorps Väv - Loom

Window shopping in Gamla Stan is heavenly when you spot things like these skeins.

Galleri Yamanashi - Window Shopping

Galleri Yamanashi is located in a largish space in a busy corner with large windows facing the street. The gallery is very nicely laid out inside with plenty of room to look around. Throughout the space, there are examples of tools used in the spinning of yarn.

Galleri Yamanashi at 1 Köpmantorget

Their selection of yarns was nicely curated and presented. There were natural skeins of wool in burlap sacks and dyed skeins in large baskets. A large wall cubby housed skeins in various weights and colors.

Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Bag
Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Basket
Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Cubbies

During my visit, the shop had a special exhibition showcasing entries from the 2015 Wålstedts Textile Art Contest. The contest is a knitting and weaving competition between Sweden and Japan using Wålstedts yarns. To see the other winning entries in both weaving and knitting categories, go to galleri-yamanashi.se.

Wålstedts Textile Art Contest 2015 - 2
Left: Wålstedts Textile Art banner. Right: The chapell Notre-du-Haut by Ayako Murota.
Wålstedts Textile Art Contest 2015 - 1
Top Left: Weaver-Jyuri Nagayo. Top Right: Praying reconstruction and rebirth of eastern Japan by Mieko Sano. Bottom Left: Received Excellence Award, tomato by Weaver-Kaoru Yoneda. Bottom Right: Weaver-Maki Kimimori.

I was curious about Wålstedts yarns. According to the gallery’s website, the Wålstedts spinneri is one of the oldest spinning mills in Sweden dating back to 1934. Their fibers are sourced from Swedish sheep and have been cleaned, spun and dyed by four generations of the Wålstedts family. The following video from the Wålstedts Textilverkstad website depicts gorgeous Swedish country landscapes and the process the family uses to make this beautiful yarn.

There were several bags full of wool fibers from the Wålstedts factory dyed in rich colors around the gallery. Galleri Yamanashi is located at Köpmantorget 1, 111 31 Stockholm.

Galleri Yamanashi - Pink Fleece

Galleri Yamanashi - Blue Fleece

The final yarn shop I visited was Sticka, also located in Gamla Stan. At the entry, I was greeted by this ferocious ceramic bulldog – too cute!

Sticka at 37 Österlånggatan

The interior of Sticka looks more like a clothing shop than a yarn store. Displayed on racks throughout the space were beautiful, airy knitted items for purchase, such as shawls and sweaters. They had a small but nice selection of yarns from various countries but not too many local yarns. Sticka is located at Österlånggatan 37, 111 31 Stockholm, tel. +46 8 23 37 37. For some reason, the website will not display but here is a link to their Facebook page.

That concludes my Swedish yarn crawl. I know there were many more yarn shops that I could not possibly visit during my stay. Good enough reason to return one day!

Our Holiday in Stockholm

Stockholm is beautiful and crisp in the Fall.

To get the full impact of the photos and to read the captions, click on the first one and view them as a slideshow.

Among the Ruins

The ferry ride across the Baltic dropped us off in Visby. Everywhere I turned there was beauty. This medieval town charmed with its cobblestone streets, quaint structures and immense ruins. In 1995, Visby was designated a World Heritage site.

“Visby is an outstanding example of a north European medieval walled trading town which preserves with remarkable completeness a townscape and assemblage of high-quality ancient buildings …” (UNESCO)

Striking features in Visby:

  • A town plan with an ancient street network.
  • Medieval warehouses, serving as sales premises and storerooms for the merchants of the town.
  • The town wall, built in the 13th and 14th centuries, is 3.4 kms long. 27 ground towers and 9 hanging towers have been preserved.
  • The 12 church ruins … remains of churches erected in the 13th and 14th centuries.
  • Well-preserved wooden buildings … (Gotland Municipality)

One of many church ruins inside the medieval walls.

Drotten Church was built in the 13th Century and dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Drotten Church is an old Norse word for “ruler” and “God.” (Swedish National Heritage Board)

Drotten Church Ruins 1

Drotten Church Window

The summer tourist season was over. They say Visby is beautiful in the summer. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than the vibrant fall colors – all shades of reds, yellows and greens.

Fall in Visby 1

Fall in Visby 2

Fall in Visby 3

Fall in Visby - 11 Hästgatan

Imagine stepping into this rose garden from the back door of your home.

Visby Rose Garden

More sheep statues along the cobblestone streets.

Sheep Statues in Visby 1

Sheep Statues in Visby 2

Taking center stage on Stora Torget (Main Square) was S:ta Karin Kyrka (St. Catherine’s Church).

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As far back as 5,500 years ago, Stora Torget (The Main Square) was populated by Stone Age fishermen and seal hunters. Many artisans had their workshops here: comb-makers, shoemakers and tanners.

The Franciscan brethren were granted land on the south side of the square in the 1230s. They erected the church of St. Catherine with adjoining monastery buildings on this ground. (Gotland Municipality)

S:ta Karin Kyrka 1

S:ta Karin Kyrka 2

Looking up at the ceiling. Man-made brick by brick.

S:ta Karin Kyrka Stone Roof

S:ta Karin Kyrka Arched Hallway

S:ta Karin Kyrka Roof Arches

Next to Hotell St. Clemens where we stayed (and which we highly recommend), was its namesake,  S:t Clemens Kyrkoruin.

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S:t Clemens Kyrkoruin Arch

I could not resist this narrow stairway.

S:t Clemens Kyrkoruin Stone Stairway

At the top, I had this lovely view of the nearby homes.

S:t Clemens Kyrkoruin Top of Stone Stairway

Across the road from S:t Clemens were the Botanical Gardens (which I’ve written about in my previous post). At one end of the gardens was a large stone wall.

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More glorious fall foliage covered large portions of the medieval wall.

Visby's Medieval Wall with Foliage

I could almost envision viking warriors positioned inside the wall looking out to the sea for possible invaders.

Visby Medieval Wall Lookout

The Powder Tower was a defensive tower and is one of the oldest surviving secular buildings in Scandinavia, dating probably from the mid-12th century.

The tower acquired its name in the 18th century when the Crown had a powder magazine here.There are ancient inscriptions on doors and walls. There was no heating and the tower was never lived in, though it did serve for a time as a prison. (Swedish National Heritage Board)

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The Gotland flag. What is not to like about this place?!

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An Island in the Middle of the Baltic Sea

I understand why long ago people thought the earth was flat. Looking to the horizon, a pang of fear spread across my heart. If we kept going, surely we would fall off the edge…

Baltic Sea

From Stockholm, we took a bus from the central station to Nynäshamn, about an hour and twenty minutes’ ride. At Nynäshamn, we boarded a ferry to Gotland, a Swedish island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The ferry ride took just over three hours. We rented a car and drove north. When the land ran out, we boarded another ferry for a seven minute ride to Fårö, our destination.

Tiny Fårö has expansive views of the sea. From its shores, the Baltic Sea is black and deep and cold. Ingmar Bergman, the famed Swedish director, lived and died on Fårö. Bergman also directed some of his films against the austere backdrop of the island.

Liv Ullman in Personal
Liv Ullman in Persona by Ingmar Berman (Source)
glassdarkly2
Scene from Through a Glass Darkly (Source)

We drove straight to the shore to see the “rauks,” giant limestone formations molded over time by the sea. They stood there, towering in the distance.

Sea stacks at Langhammars
Sea stacks at Langhammars.

Here and there, we could see man’s attempts to create their own stacks.

Rock pile at Langhammars

To give you some perspective, I took this photograph of my husband walking toward the sea. It’s difficult to express the impact of the scene on my senses. How tiny I felt against the raw power of rock and water and wind. So beautifully breathtaking and alarming at the same time.

Man vs. Nature @ Langhammars

The seawater is clear and cold.

Pool of cold sea water @ Langhammars

At times, I felt like an astronaut staring at a moonscape – eerily barren but very much alive.

Moonscape @ Langhammars

Topology @ Langhammars

This man-made stack was over six feet high. I wonder how long it will stand against the winds?

Man interferes @ Langhammars

The rocks were cold but soft from the constant beating from the sea.

Close-up of limestone rock @ Digerhuvud
Close-up of limestone rock at Digerhuvud

Our last stop was at Gamla Hamn. Gamla Hamn stands for “ancient harbor” as this area is thought to have been used for fishing and trading in the Middle Ages. (Source)

Sea stacks @ Gamla Hamn

As we walked further down the beach, we saw the sea arch known as both “The Coffee Pot” and “The Dog.” In the distance, I guess it does look like a dog standing at attention.
"The Dog" sea stack @ Gamlahamn Close-up of "The Dog" sea stack @ Gamlahamn

There was no one besides us out there, which made it that much more magical and melancholy. Then we spotted two swans swimming in the bitterly cold sea.

Swans swimming in the cold Baltic Sea

For some reason, the landscape made me sad. I was somehow insignificant against its raw immensity. But still I marveled at its beauty.

View to the sea @ Gamlahamn