Friday, December 13, 2013

R.A.Q (Recently Asked Questions) - Swedish Winter

In a comment to my previous post, Louise in Australia (Twenty Four Seven) asked about “old boots, old people and their boots, wheelchairs and icy paths, and whether these ice creepers are a version of a traditional footwear”…

If you mean what kind of boots were worn way back in the past - like hundreds or even thousands of years ago - I’m far from an expert on the topic; but I think the people who first inhabited the snowy parts of the world wore skins and fur etc tied around their feet and legs – their skills in making boots  developing gradually along with everything else. Later on, in the agricultural society, poor people wore shoes carved in wood (clogs); and in winter there were also boots made from straw.

halmskor

One must remember that our modern roads and pavements etc can’t be compared to the conditions before motor traffic was introduced. To get around in snow, people used skis and sledges.  Wooden skis have been found in the north of Sweden that were dated to ca. 5200 BC (older than the pyramids of Egypt):

Kalvträskskidan

(image from www.svenskhistoria.se)

First to develop ice skates, about 5000 years ago, were  the Finns. Originally, skates were sharpened, flattened bone strapped to the bottom of the foot.

Another alternative was snowshoes. The picture below from an old history book (mid 16th century) shows that snowshoes could even be worn by horses:

File:Swedishnowshoe.PNG

In my own childhood, back in the 1960’s, I lived in village outside town (not this town, another town; but that doesn’t really matter in this context). Back then, and there, we could still use a kicksled sometimes.

This must mean they did not strew out so much grit after plowing the roads back then. I know mum was able to use the kicksled to the grocery shop sometimes.

Up in northern Sweden I know there are villages where they still use these frequently in winter. Down here, I haven’t seen one in ages, as there are no roads where they can be used.

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As for modern day “old people”… First of all, the older I get myself, the harder I find it to define people by their age alone! There are older people who are both healthier and wealthier than I am, for example; but also younger people who are worse off in both respects.

However, generally speaking, old bones are said to break more easily than young ones… Which is why one general recommendation is to use ice-creepers like those I showed in my previous post. (It may be added though, that many young people would never consider wearing them. And for all I know, there may be many “old” people who wouldn’t either!)

As for those in need of walkers or wheelchairs, besides the weather etc I’d say their options depend on lots of factors, like their living arrangements, where they need to go, and what kind of help/ assistance they have (and/or need). Some inner city streets and pavements are kept ice-free by heating (if the winter is not too extreme). In other streets or areas the situation can be totally different. People who have a disability that makes it impossible or very difficult to use public transport are entitled to mobility service. That assessment (like need of for example home care services) is made from case to case. In Sweden we have a basic social insurance system not dependent on private insurances but financed by taxes. (There are still certain fees to be paid by the individual, but the costs are limited.)

Just now the streets here (where I live) are basically snow-free again, after several days of thaw. While up in the north of the country, they’re just now experiencing another really bad snowstorm (even hurricane).

Down here, in the southern parts, the winter weather varies a lot more than up in the north. Some winters we get more rain than snow. Another year it can stay cold and snowy for months. One never knows, so all one can do is just try to be reasonably prepared for “whatever”… according to one’s own circumstances.

 

 

 

16 comments:

  1. This kicksled looks pretty cool, I have never seen one. Good for the bones to not have to lay down on a flat sled. I did get a laugh out of the horse wearing snowshoes!! I remember how you blogged about heated streets, several years ago. I had forgotten until now. I still have never heard of it before, only from you. Wonder why it is not done more in places that have long times of cold and snow?

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    1. It may not be the best solution in every town. (Cf Katherine's comment below.) We don't have any big indoors shopping malls our town centre here. The places where the heating is applied are a the main shopping streets + a square where all the bus lines meet.

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    2. To clarify: We have another shopping center in town that might more rightly be defined as a mall (or two). In the central parts of town, however, the only "mall" consists of five shops. Every other shop I can think of has its own separate entrance from the street.

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  2. I've learned so much from your winter boot posts...thanks for increasing my knowledge.
    The straw boots are quite interesting.
    Like Ginny above, I wouldn't mind having a go on that kicksled.

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  3. Fascinating, I read aloud to my hubby about the first snowshoes and skis, and snowshoes for horses. Stay warm.

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  4. Very interesting. Heating the streets ...? From underneath?
    When we arrived in Munich in a snowstorm, we wondered where all the people and shops were. We found them in the end - they we all in the nice warm underground mall near the railway station. We'd never have found them had we not been catching the train!

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    1. Yes Katherine. There are heating pipes under the surface of some of the main shopping streets (or sidewalks) + the bus terminal=a square where all the bus lines meet. Other cities may have other solutions but here we have no big indoors shopping malls in the town center.

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  5. Another very interesting post about what is definitely not my favourite subject - winter & cold weather - but important, because it affects me, too. Our winters may not be quite as long and cold as yours up in Sweden, but there still is enough snow and cold to keep us thinking about the best ways to stay warm and dry, and how to get from A to B on icy or snowy grounds.
    Here, people used to stuff straw inside their boots for insulation until as recently as the extremely harsh winters towards and after the end of the war.
    In 2010, when our community, just like almost everywhere else in Germany, ran out of salt, they stopped clearing all but the most important main roads in the city. Where I live, mere minutes from the town centre, and where my sister lives, the roads were untouched. In my sister's street, the trash bins were not collected for weeks because the car couldn't get there. It was quite annoying because the waste was piling up at every house, and they still had to pay the full fee in spite of not getting the full service.

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    1. Winter and snow is definitely not my favourite subject either, Meike :) Well, at least not in the sense that I'm a huge fan of winter, because I never was. I suppose I end up wiriting about it because every year I keep struggling with it! Actually, blogging about it, in English, has been educational for myself as well, because then I get comments and questions from totally different perspectives than my own...!

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  6. i am glad she asked all the questions, this is really interesting to hear. i read the post to bob, since he is from a state that has a lot of snow and ice. but where he came from everyone had cars.. so not comparable to yours

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  7. Thank you for all this information. It is so interesting to me. When you learn from someone who has actually had the experiences then everything is much more alive and truthful. The thoughts and emotions do come across.
    I had never before thought about waiting for a train or bus when the ground would be frozen. And of course now I can see the difficulty of piles of snow preventing garbage trucks from getting through. I guess the sewerage system freezes as well. It must be difficult to get water too if the pipes freeze. And strolling down to the shop for a bottle of milk would turn into an expedition.
    The ice creepers on your shoes must be terrific for little children as well as older people avoiding a fall. The way they tuck into the sole of your boot is so clever. And the concept of straw boots for both insulation and traction is fascinating partly because of the amount of planning involved.
    I can see how the customs that have been successful in your climate are very practical. I can see more of the how and why now. I am still puzzled by why people would choose this lifestyle, but then you would be puzzled by my choices too.
    Some of my choices?? Where I live it is always warm. I came to live here about forty years ago. I live in a city, not in a remote area. Traditionally the indigenous people here did not wear clothes or footwear although there is evidence that the region has been inhabited for 60 thousand years. The indigenous people still follow a nomadic lifestyle, although the methods and destinations have changed. They did build structures as housing in some places but many still prefer to live mostly in the open. Today more homes are being built with air conditioning, but going camping and being outside is the preferred way to spend leisure time for everyone. Some of my friends complain of the cold if the temperature goes below 20 degrees Celsius. Fortunately that happens only occasionally here, and the morning will be better by eight oclock.
    So now you know why I am fascinated by the posts about other countries. Thank goodness for blogs and all these connections.

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    1. As for "strolling down to the shop" being quite a different experience here when the streets are icy, you are quite right, Louise. However, waterpipes freezing is not a common problem (I'm thankful to say) For people living in the remote countryside, there can of course be problems if the electricity goes down for too long in a snowstorm. But on the whole, our houses including water and sewage and heating systems are built for the climate.

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  8. I like the idea of boots made of straw. I'd imagine they are warm specially if lined with fleece or something like that. Waterproof though? I don't know....

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    1. I think I read somewhere that straw boots were often used by those who sold things at markets and had to stand still a lot in cold weather, Jenny.

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  9. I found that fascinating Monica. I can recall the Winter of '47 in the UK when Liverpool ground to a halt for nearly three weeks and everyone and everything froze. On the whole, though, the UK is relatively temperate and the Western Isles are more renowned for wind and rain than ice and snow. Where I live in New Zealand there is rarely, if ever, any snow (even though, of course, I'm not here in the winter anyway!).

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    1. That's a very early memory, GB - I guess that besides making a deep impression on you, you also heard others repeating their memories of it in the years to follow!

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