This has been a very special week for me. Yesterday was the first World Cup race of my career; something I’ve been dreaming of and working towards for several years. It was an exciting race in some rather surprising ways, and I promise I’ll write a detailed blog post about it in the next few days. However, first I’d like to share some cultural experiences from today. I apologize in advance for a decline in photo quality- my camera had a little accident and will only work on one mode and without flash (I’ll try to get it fixed over Christmas).
In Europe, the Advent season is often associated with Christmas Markets and many cities have one of these open air street markets. I had never heard of them until Haley Johnson, a former member of the US team, had told me about Ostersund’s Christmas Market, which is held during the 2nd weekend of Advent. From her description, I knew it was something I very much wanted to see, even though I didn’t fully understand what it was about. This morning, I wandered down to the Market with Laura Spector, Ed Merrins (our team doctor) and Ed’s son Sam. Imagine hundreds of street vendors selling foods and crafts: artisan cheeses, dried meats, baked goods, glögg (Nordic mulled wine), knit socks, felted mittens, leather pouches, word carvings, wrought iron candle holders, paintings, jewelry, angel ornaments, homemade paper, knives with moose antler handles, straw reindeer dolls, embroidered pillows… you get the idea. Ostersund’s Christmas Market is held in Jamtli History Land- a museum village much like Colonial Williamsburg or Vermont’s Shelburne Museum. Between my fascination with historical buildings and the numerous vendor stalls to check out, I could have happily wandered around for an entire day, but I limited myself to an hour and a half.
After returning from the Christmas market this afternoon, I got an invitation to share some glögg (non-alcoholic in this case) and tea at the home of a Swedish couple I had befriended earlier in the week. Nina and Staffan live in a cute house in a nearby residential neighborhood. Staffan is one of the municipal lawyers in Ostersund and did a lot of permitting work for the biathlon stadium. He shared stories of skiing down the streets to get from place to place when he was growing up. Nina isn’t as interested in skiing. Her favorite activities are gardening in her back yard and working on crafts projects. They gave me a tour of a “typical Swedish house” and showed me pictures of some beautiful National Parks in northern Sweden. Someday I’d like to travel to Sweden in the summer and see the Parks.
My final adventure of the day involved a quick elevator ride to the top of a giant mystery tower called Arctura that sits beside our cabins.
When the wind blows (often), the tower shrieks and howls and keeps me up at night. I’d been told that there was a restaurant at the top but I had no idea what the tower’s purpose was beyond that. Today I finally put 2 and 2 together and realized that when the coaches have been referring to “the thermos” on the course, they mean the tower.
Turns out it’s a giant centralized hot water storage unit for the entire town and its high location ensures good water pressure for everyone below. It is part of a cogeneration power system capable of storing 26 million liters of hot water and up to 1500 MWh of power. The energy comes from burning trash and biomass. Neat.
And to end with, I’d like to include this pic I took several days ago. Yes those are poles and skis she is carrying. It’s just a way of life here.