Monthly Archives: February 2013

Costa Rica is a magic place (part 2 of 2)

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Costa Rica was a pretty nice place. We were told that they didn’t cut the rain forrest and that’s why the desert didn’t spread, as it did in some neighbour country. Lots of rain came from the forest and with no forest there is no rain. Pretty smart. The environmental thinking was good. But there were also companies as large banana producers, where you can be sceptical. Costa Rica produces lots of bananas, sugar canes, pineapple and coffee. Pura Vida!

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A wagon on a coffe plantation decorated as local tradition says

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Coffee

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Sugar canes

After La Fortuna and Arenal we went up to Monteverde. It was pretty nice place with hills and nire hills. We stayed at a place called Los Establos, where it took about one hour to walk up a very steep hill from restaurant to our part. We stayed at level 8 and the bus ride from there to the reception took about 10 minutes. My walk up the hill without sunscreen, hat nor water bottle almost killed me. I might also have been food poisoned, so I just lied on the bed and tried to exist for the rest of the day. The following day was just coffee for breakfest and some bread for dinner. Day 3 was better. 🙂 But we’ll get to that part.

The first thing we did in monte verde was to visit caffee and sugar cane plantation. They showed us how to pick coffee and asked if we wanted to try. Neh, drinking coffe was good enough. We also walked through sigar cane plants and were told about the dangerous snakes living there. Nice.

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Crazy humming bird

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Blue humming bird

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Los Establos

After tasting some coffe we also visited a place where they had humming birds. We took plenty of photos, only few were nice. At that place we encountered a nose bear. He just walked out in front of us an was as surprised as we were. Some people also saw a tucan, a birds with a huge bill. I saw one, but no pictures. Too bad.

This is also the place where we celebrated New Years. Well, we watched some fireworks and went to bed. The fireworks were nice from the top of the hill!

The next day we had a night walk in the jungle. I was sick, but the people wjo went didn’t see much, except a huge spider at the end. I’m quite ok to havemissed it.

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Looking for shells

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Racoon

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Bats

Tambor was our next and final stop. It was an all-inclusive resort on the Paciffic side. The beach was nice, but the food and drinks were lousy. People here eat rice and beans sometimes with meat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and it was the same here.

In the evenings there were racoon stealing food and we saw some bats living in the bar om a Turkish flag. The place was happy, easy and relaxed. We swam in the pool, sat on the beach or wandered in the local jungle. We found a coconut on the beach one day. It took about one hour to open it, but it was worth it. It was tasty and warm. On the beach we had company from some squirrels.

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Agooti

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Sunset

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Howler monkey

The local jungle was a little jungle built up by the hotel. There were monkeys there, crabs and many birds. We saw parrots too, the racoons and an agooti. Not much happened here, which was relaxing.

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Parrot

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Squirrel

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Iguana

Pura Vida is a saying in Costa Rica.It’s used often and with a smile. Pura Vida literally means Pura = pure and vida = life, but “Pure life” in Spanish would be “Vida pura” instead, so the real meaning is closer to “plenty of life”, “full of life”, “this is living!”, “going great”, “real living”, “Awesome!” or “cool!”.[5] It can be used both as a greeting or a farewell, universally known in Costa Rica and it has been used by many Costa Ricans (and expatriates) since 1956. (wikipedia)

The trip to Costa Rica was great, relaxing and I learned a lot and saw planty of cool animals and other stuff.

//Monika

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Costa Rica is a magic place (part 1 of 2)

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We went to Costa Rica early in 2012. It was a dark cold winter and we longed for sunshine. Costa Rica has a few world heritage sites and we didn’t visit any of them. But we one of the places that we visited could be such a site. Costa Rica is a beautiful place with easy pace, wonderful nature and nice weather most of the times. Pura Vida!

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A sign on the beach, simply keep away.

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Is this a rest of a turtle egg?

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A green froggy

We arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica in the evening. Early in the morning we left to explore this magic country. One of the first places we visited was Tortuguero, a beach by the Atlantic ocean where majority of western hemisphere’s sea turtles hatch. Pretty cool place. We didn’t see any turtles (wrong season), but few broken eggs and empty nests. Pretty cool place why isn’t this place a world heriage? I think it could be for sure. I’ve seen sea turtles when diving on a different occasion and they are very amazing creatures! I’d love to see them hatch one day, maybe this is the perfect place.

There at least is a nice beach, star filled nights and a nice town. And rain, very much rain. Our guide was surprised that it didn’t rain the entire time, cause it often does. Warm tropical rain. We had some, but it was ok.

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Butterflies, brown on the outside, blue on the inside

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Nasty spider

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Leave ants

At Tortuguero we also saw wonderful blue butterflies, green frogs with big eyes they wwere hard to find, but you could hear them every evening by the pond in the hotel area. Pretty cool. There were also pretty nasty spiders. I think they are called banana spiders and are harmless more or less, but I don’t like spiders. They are fascinating, but don’t need to be near me. You know. We saw other spiders as well. Their webs were huge and one was found in the morning by our bungalow. Not nice.

Talking about other bugs I have to mention the leave carrying ants.  Ant after ants was caryying leaves, pretty cool sight. We were told that they have different chambers in their nest and they grow fungus on the leves. If the fungus becames bad only one chamber will be affected and the colony survives. How cool is that!

Last but not lest there were beautiful butterflies in the area. They were fed with pineapple and one landed on Jany’s head.

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Jesus-lizzard

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Waiting for a fish

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An Elvis-haired bird

Another thing that we did in Tortuguero was to go on a cruise in the jungle. The jungle is dense, green and filled with birds, lizards and other creatures. We saw pretty many birds from the very beginning. But also several monkeys playing in the trees, among them spider monkeys, howler monkeys, capucin monkeys and squirell monkeys. We think. They were playing in tree tops, so it was not always easy to see.

What we did see was plenty of different birds. Mostly water birds, but also jays and humming birds. There was always something flying or looking for a fish where ever you looked.

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Jungle cruise

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Aligator

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Iguana

The lizards came also in different sizes and shapes. Jesus lizard was one. It was running on water, and that’s how it got the name. It was hard to spot in the green, but once you saw it you also saw several more. On the shores and in the trees there were iguanas. They seemed to enjoy the sunshine and sat very still or moved as slow. But when they started running, they were fast!

In the water there were also aligators, so swimming was not recomended. They were also hard to spot in the beginning for someone who is not used.

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Hanging bridges in the tree tops

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Tame parrot

After Tortugero we we went to another area, another climate zone with more animals. Even the vulcano Areal could be another world heritage site. Or not.

Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica in the district of La Fortuna. Geologically, Arenal is considered a young volcano and the age is estimated to be less than 7,500 years. The volcano was dormant for hundreds of years and exhibited a single crater at its summit, with minor fumaroles activity, covered by dense vegetation. In 1968 it erupted unexpectedly, destroying the small town of Tabacón. (wikipedia)

We went to see the volcano, but we also saw waterfall, where we swam and we walked on hanging bridges, between tree tops.

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Vulcano Areal

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Do not touch the volcano!

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La Fortuna

We visited, of course the town of La Fortuna, called so because no one died during the last eruption. We also went to hot springs and enjoyed the hot water and cold drinks. In the tropics you have to have at least one tropical drink!

To be continued…

//Monika

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Back to the future in Falun Mine

Falun Mine

I was born in Falun, a municipality that once was Sweden’s second largest and one of the most important places in the country, but that was hundreds of years ago. Nowadays Falun is the 28th largest town in Sweden, and is a pretty pale dot on the map (the Falu rödfärg is colorful though, but more about that later), except for some cultural exports like the power-metal band Sabaton and a mass murderer. No wonder the dalmasar and dalkullor (thats what the male and female are called in the region) are so proud about being  a UNESCO World Heritage (since 2001), namely Falun and the Falun mine in particular.  

Falun is three hours by train from Stockholm. These cute houses, painted with Falu rödfärg,  are part of the World Heritage.

Falun is located three hours from Stockholm. Quite a pleasant trip when you travel with your girlfriend and a big caffè latte. These cute houses, painted with Falu rödfärg, are part of the World Heritage.

What can we learn from this? Well, if you know that the mining industry virtually built Sweden, and that the Falun mine’s history starts back in the Iron age, it is no big surprise how important Falun used to be. Today, mining isn’t THAT important for the Swedish economy (although mining is still a big business in the northern parts of Sweden), and therefore Falun and its mine lost influence over the years.

A time capsule will bring Falun back to the future
Falun will rise once again, thanks to the photography project aday.org. That’s probably an exaggeration, but still, on May 15 2012 the Swedish non-profit foundation Expressions of Humankind asked people around the world to take pictures of their life at that particular day. 91,000 pictures were collected, a book was published, and a digital exhibition travelled the world in 48 hours. A time capsule with a copy of the book, a computer with all the pictures and some printed photos will be stored in the Falu mine. I hope there will be quite a few lolcats and pictures of food (yes, the Facebook era) for or fellows to laugh at.

The time capsule.

Follow me to the underworld
We visited Falun and the mine a cold and gray day in november 2012. Unfortunately the mine itself turned out to be as boring und uninspired as the weather. That’s sad, because there are few things I love more than industry buildings, mines, caves and culverts. My long-dead father used to work in a mine, so I guess I have mining in the blod. Or maybe I was an earthworm in my  previous life?

Welcome to Falun mine.

Welcome to Falun mine.

Falun mine.

Falun mine.

To enter Falu mine you have to dress like the doozers in the Fraggle Rock tv-show.

To enter Falun mine you have to look like the doozers in the Fraggle Rock tv-show.

Sadly, the guided tour was rather poor and unengaged. What could have been a cool and exciting one hour tour 60 meters below the ground ended with a big disappointed feeling of getting to know very little about how it was to work in a mine hundreds of years ago. Maybe we were spoiled after a visit to another mine, the Sala silver mine, one month or so earlier. The guide in Sala silver mine was really dedicated and painted a colorful picture of what it was like to work in a mine.

It's quite dark 67 meters below the ground.

It’s quite dark 67 meters below the ground.

Hidden in the building in the center of the picture is the highest bridge in Sweden: 208 meters above the "Creutz shaft!

Hidden in the building in the center of the picture is the highest bridge in Sweden: 208 meters above the “Creutz shaft”!

The guided tour in the Falun mine wasn’t a total failure, though. The mine itself is still very interesting and it’s a pretty thrilling feeling to be far below the ground, walking in the mine galleries that people have hacked, fired and blown up for many years.

Believe it or not, we actually learned some interesting facts in the Falun mine.

Behave, or you will be eaten by a lady dressed in white sheets
First lesson to learn: there are three important things you have to remember when you visit a mine: it’s forbidden to spit, it’s forbidden to swear and you should knock three times on the rock face before entering a mine. Why? Well, probably for no reasons at all, but people have always been superstitious, and if you swear in a mine, you could be eaten by an evil old lady dressed in white sheets. Or something like that. Well, we actually did learn this story in Sala silver mine, but I guess this is valid for every mine.

Ghosts in the dark?

Ghosts in the dark?

Peel an ox and you get falukorv
In Falun mine the miners used ropes of oxhide to transport themselves and copper ore. What do you do with all the meat that is left over after “peeling” an ox? You grind it down to “falukorv” (falu = Falun, korv = sausage), of course. Falukorv is a sausage with mostly potato flour, some meat and other junk. The taste is not exactly what you expect from a sausage. The falukorv has a rather bland taste, but if you use it in a dish called “sausage stroganoff” it’s quite good!

This is how you can cook a “sausage stroganoff”. It’s a very simple and cheap dish:

  1. Fry some shred falukorv and one chopped onion.
  2. Pour crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cream, salt and pepper.
  3. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
  4. Serve with rice.
  5. Enjoy!
Falukorv and sausage stroganoff.

Falukorv and sausage stroganoff.


Red is the color of Sweden thanks to the Falu mine

If you have been to Sweden you probably did notice that there are countless red houses with white trims. What’s the obsession with the red color? Except för being a beautiful color, it’s also very durable. That is – if you paint your house with “Falu rödfärg” (Falu = Falun, röd = red, färg = color). The red color can be traced back to Falun in the 16th century. The red pigment used in Falu rödfärg comes from iron oxide in the mine in Falun, and can be traced back to the 16th century when the Swedish king Johan III wanted to paint all the castle’s roofs in a red color.

Paint cans with Falu rödfärg.

Paint cans with Falu rödfärg.


A christmas tree and a human body can last longer than you think

In Falun mine we found this christmas tree. It’s been there for a couple of months (actually christmas trees are kept for years in Falun mine), and as you can see it’s still in a pretty good shape, except from some mold. In 1677 a miner, Fet-Mats (fat Mats), suddenly disappeared in Falun mine. He was found 42 years later, dead  of course, but intact. How come a body and a christmas tree can “survive” for such a long time? Thanks to the composition of the air and vitriol living things kan be preserved for many years.

A spooky christmas tree.

A spooky christmas tree.


Final verdict

We actually did learn some interesting facts in Faun mine, and it is a fascinating place, but the guided tour felt a little sloppy and uninvolved – compared to the guided tour in Sala silver mine. Therefore the Falun mines gets two globes out of five. That’s sad because I believe that this World Heritage site deserves a better destiny.

GlobeGlobe

/Jany

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