Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wintering

Two bits I especially liked from Barbara Sjoholm's The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland.

On a earlier precursor of the Ice Hotel:
The winter of 1740 was bitterly cold—one of the coldest in European history. Rivers froze to record depths, birds dropped like meteors from the sky. On the River Neva in St. Petersburg, not far from the Winter Palace where Empress Anna Ivanovna reigned, a three-room Palladian villa in ice went up, the marvel of all who saw it. Carved ice plates froze to an ice table in the formal dining room. Two ice pilllows and two ice nightcaps sat on the turned-down ice sheets of the ice bed. The dressing table was jumbled with carved boxes and bottles; over it hung a mirror of ice. From outside, the ice palace was just as remarkable, surrounded as it was by twenty-nine trees, with birds and a fountain, all of ice. From ice cannons shot ice balls fired with gunpowder. The ice came from the Neva and was transparent blue, an enchantment.
On Norwegian Christmas:
Ragnhild loved to make all the special Christmas dishes—pork ribs, halibut, and creamed potatoes—and, as Christmas Day approached, we spent more and more time at the groaning table. Breakfast, too, was enormous—four kinds of herring, six types of cheese, and jams, jellies, and fresh butter with the julekake, a holiday bread studded with candied fruit, smelling of cardamom. When we visited Ragnhild and Øystein’s friends or when friends visited them, plates of almond-studded butter cookies came out, along with fluted cones filled with cream, and kransekake, the tall almond-flavored cake made of rounded rings arranged in a pyramid, was passed around with the marzipan, chocolates, and strong black coffee.

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