Christmas around the world

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Summer Postcards

Have you ever sailed across the shore along the Archipelago of a white and blue summer country, gliding to a non-existent southern breeze while sails flap lazily in chorus with the persistent cry of fishing seagulls? If not, then you are missing out.

There are always houses snuggled against the shoreline. Little cottages made of wood and painted white or farmer’s red, but always with blue doors. To keep away the witches. Sunbathers and little swimmers wave at you from emerald green lawns or little stone-fixed piers. You will get the feeling of cruising along the rich man’s riviera, but no, people are much too friendly for that.

The ocean stays a constant blue in the low sunshine. A seal or perhaps a miniature dolphin will pop its head up and stare at you curiously. But other than that, it is you and the still blue, sparkling together in the warmth of summer.

Even at night, while you are docked safely to port, the golden sheen will continue to play upon the gilded currents, rocking you to sleep. And nocturnal seabirds will hunt and sing and dive into those golden ripples all night through.

And when you wake from your short, but deep summer night sleep, dawn has already beaten you to it, and is ready to greet you with a spray painted mural of lavender and rose quartz swirling together in a dizzying whisk of pastel hues. All you have to do then is make yourself a cup of strong coffee and drink it all in.

If you are lucky, an islander might invite you to strawberry and cream and a glass of champagne. They are friendly like that, the locals. You just have to give them a smile and a gentle hello. They never intrude on someone’s privacy.

And as you sit there, sipping collector’s champagne in the late afternoon sun, make sure to take a look around. Even animals go away for the summer here, to enjoy the fresh sweet summer grass and watch rainbows and sun showers and make new friends. Just like you. Sit back, relax, and take your time to just be alive, to be with the natural beauty of this quiet summer world and feel content to be just where you are.

Nordic Summer

It is June and the sun has come out. Finally. After eight months of cold, wet, snow and grey drooping skies. The roads have dried up, tanned into a paleness of taupe and stone marble.

Town gardens have sprung to life. Green climbers are cylindering up white picket fences and garden bluebells and peach blush roses lean towards borders of saturated unclipped grass. Lazy cats sleep on outdoor love seats, stretching their fury limbs in the direction of the sun and yawning sleepily at admiring bypassers.

Townspeople have come out of hibernation to drink cold beer in makeshift sidewalk eateries. The temperature has barely reached into the 60s, but the men have bared their hairy chests and women are strutting their white newly shaved legs to the warming sun. Here, neither animals nor people seek out the cool shade in summer, if they did, it would be considered equal to swearing in church. The sun is a rare, highly treasured guest in this part of the world, and we like to think of ourselves as her favorite host.

The seashore turns into an exhibition strip of pale bodies. Young and old shed most of their clothes and give themselves over to the national favorite summer activity: tanning. The brilliant blue sea shifts from black to lapis lazuli to aquamarine in the never-setting sunlight. And the archipelago becomes a playground for sailers, windsurfers and speedboat races in the daytime, and a treasure trove for young crabbers in the pale greyish dusk of the summer nights.

Many first kisses will be made in these long lawless nights. Hearts will be broken, new friendships forged and memories, to warm and sustain in the sunset years, will be made by unsuspecting youth, happily unaware of the passing of time.

Little red wooden cottages dot the shoreline surrounded by wildflower hills and yellow buttercup meadows. Some of them are boathouses, occupied by old fishing trawlers and temporarily by holiday-stay-at-home teens looking for a nocturnal hideaway. Others are aging holiday homes, sole survivors of a simpler time, when second-home owners were rare, and cabins with proper plumbing and electricity even rarer.

Woofing canines, leash-less and playful, prance around garden-style cafe tables, jumping to catch an occasional piece of prawn-and-mayo sandwich before it is snapped up by greedy whining giant seagulls.

And as bright days turn into a little less brighter evenings the smell of hot barbecue and daylong sun block fills the squares and the baked streets. Cover-ups and sleeved blankets hide the day’s work of skin darkening and some relentless, annoyingly repetitive radio summer hit with an irresistible foot-tapping appeal is boomboxing the awkwardness out of the otherwise quiet townies.

Time slows down during these precious sun-rich months in the cold north. Reserved introverted northerners find themselves dizzily drunk on too much vitamin D and transform into loud, half-naked, fun-seeking southerners, basking in the glow of the metamorphosed landscape, as though they were on a tropical island, carefree and uninhibited.

Nordic Summers are as intense and desperate as young couples in love, unfolding as though time did not exist, yet hurrying to blossom as though there was no tomorrow.