I guess a better title would be "I am back, do you still remember me?", but I decided to dedicate my first post after my absence to the Midsummer celebration. Not to worry, I intend to fully summarize my wonderful vacation in a few posts in the near future.
Although they say that '...time flies when you are having fun...', I feel as though I have been gone for weeks and weeks, due to all that I have experienced and seen. I will do my very best to visit all your wonderful blogs, catching up on all the lovely posts that I have missed, but forgive me if it will take me a short while to do so.
I traveled back by train on the the 24th of June, which is the Day of St John and therefore missed the annual St John's Eve celebration, taking place the evening before. This is the Danish variant of the summer solstice or Midsummer observance.
It is a special time here in Scandinavia, celebrated slightly differently in each of its countries. In Sweden where I grew up, this was the second major annual holiday, right after Christmas. In Denmark, on the evening before St John's Day, everyone burns bonfires on beaches, a celebration that has its origins in the time of the Vikings.
In the Slovak folklore, where my roots lie, the night of St John was the night of magic. Slightly linked to similar traditions as the Scandinavian, people believed that certain secret portals were opened and creatures could cross into our world, thus one would burn fires for protection. Furthermore, there was the tale of the golden fern. This was a magical fern which would bloom exactly at midnight on St Johns Night and anyone who would pick it right then could become invisible and see all the treasures of the earth. Likewise, people would be (and some still are to this day) picking healing plants as they were attributed special potency around Midsummer. Placing nine different flowers under the pillow on St Johns Night would guarantee any dreams dreamed on that night to come true.
I like all the traditions linked to the celebration of the sun and its wonderfully healing powers. In some way, I find it amusing and to some degree comforting that despite all the technology and the speed and innovation, with which our lives progress so very relentlessly forward, most of us still like the idea of celebrating that which is magical, symbolically or otherwise.
Personally, I love Midsummer. But even more I endlessly enjoy the anticipation of the longest day of the year. As soon as it passes, it leaves me with a trace of a bittersweet realization that even though the summer has just begun, the days are slowly getting shorter again.
The below pictures were taken on the other side of midnight on the night of St John. I tried to illustrate the natural wonder that is the Scandinavian Midsummer Night Sky, by taking photographs of the simultaneous sunset and sunrise. As seen on pictures captured much better by others in Denmark, the sky did appear truly magical, as on that night the eastern part was covered by "iridescent clouds", illuminated by the setting/rising sun in an unusual way. This phenomenon is only possible to experience during summer months, when the sun is positioned about 5-13° below the horizon in the late night hours and illuminates extremely distant clouds situated some 80km above the earth in exceptionally cold surroundings (down to -100°C).
This set of pictures oncludes my "White Nights Countdown", as they have officially culminated and the day has already become 1 minute shorter (please click to enlarge).