Friday, January 31, 2014

Umeå 2014 - European Capital of Culture

The air is filled with excitement and anticipation. This is the day the residents have been waiting for, when they are going to inaugurate the newly acquired title of our city. It's chosen as the European Capital of Culture for the year 2014, along with Riga, the capital city of a neighboring country, Latvia.

I'm not a citizen of this country yet, but I'm a permanent resident, so, of course, I'm also caught in the frenzy of it all. Today after my jobs, I stopped by the city center to see what's being done during this first day of the inauguration weekend (from Jan. 31-Feb. 2). Preparation is in full blast. Those involved in the programs, activities and snow/ice-building projects have their hands full as they make everything ready for tomorrow's grand opening ceremony.

The official inauguration ceremony is called Burning Snow (hmm...quite intriguing title), which will be launched tomorrow at 5:00 pm. It's a show that will set Umeälven, the main city river, artistically ablaze.

During the opening weekend, an event called City of Winter will transform the appearance of central Umeå. Here's how the website describes this event: "Burning ice pillars replace electric lights and lead us on through the unrecognisable city. Huge fires form gathering points. Artistic and self-creative happenings, that you are join are taking place here, there and everywhere."

Other highlighted events can be viewed here: Umeå2014 Programs.

Many people, even from other places, came here to witness this historical event, including the Princess and her family, and journalists from other countries who were offered free hotel accommodation. Swarms of onlookers walked about the city today, watching the preparations in several locations, taking pictures and videos, conducting interviews, etc.

I walked about as an enthusiastic spectator, capturing scenes all over.

Setting up the Burning Snow on the frozen river

the city square turns to Sami center

finishing an ice sculpture

Sapmi Today

snow castle

outdoor ice coffee bar

Throughout the year, our city will host many tourists from other countries who want to see this European Culture Capital. Some U.S. and British news agencies mentioned Umeå as one of the world cities that are worth-visiting this year. This is just a small and simple city, yet it offers things that cater to the intellect, the aesthetic and cultural minded individuals.

May all, residents and visitors alike, enjoy being a part of this year-round event in our city. I, for one, am thrilled by all of this!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

One Fine Frosty Day

One of the several reasons why I have an enigmatically endearing affinity with winter in our place is the season's exquisite beauty when all the seemingly lifeless botanical world suddenly comes to life with leaves of crystals. In plain English, all the leafless trees and shrubs are coated all over with hoarfrosts.

According to Wikipedia, frost is formed when "a solid surface is chilled below the dew point of the surrounding air and the surface itself is colder than freezing....Frost consists of spicules of ice which grow out from the solid surface. The size of the crystals depend on time, temperature and the amount of water vapor available. Based on wind direction, 'frost arrows' might form....Frost crystals are translucent, but scatter light in many directions, so that a coating of frost appears white."

Some days in winter are graced with stunning abundance of frosts that transform all bare trees to gorgeous whiteness. Frosts usually accumulate during the night and last throughout the following day. At times, they would remain for two days in our city, and several days in the mountainous inland.

It is on such days that I find myself walking on air with eyes glued to all the crystalline trees despite the extreme coldness. The first of such days in this season came last Wednesday, 22nd. Though the temperature was -15 degrees C, the sun shone radiantly and the sky was clear blue. A day like this calls for a break from whatever we are doing and just soak ourselves in its ephemeral loveliness that can nourish our psyche and minimizes our feelings of angst.

Before going to work that morning, I took snapshots of our neighborhood's playground and main street. The sky was still overcast that time. 

After my work, I set about sauntering through the area adjacent to where I worked and on to the city and along the river. Everything was just so charming that I couldn't resist being pulled deeper into this world of frost. I regretted not bringing my other camera. I only had my Nikon compact camera and my cellphone at my disposal, both of which ran out of batteries while in the middle of shooting amazing river views. But that was okay. I needed to go home anyway since my feet started to feel the painful sting of cold. And I've captured enough to keep this day permanently frosty.

It was another blessed day that rejuvenated my whole being and hopefully delighted and warmed the hearts of those who dislike winter. Another reason to be grateful to the One who made it possible for this season to be wonderful with its diverse facets that can dispel whatever boredom and loneliness some feel during this season.

Some better frosty days that I have previously experienced can be read in the following links:
My Second Winter

Have a blissful weekend!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Another Sun Dog Occurrence

Yesterday morning at a little past 10 a.m., as I got out of the building where I just finished my first job and took several steps away, my eyes were drawn toward the direction of the sun. I saw in an instant the familiar solar form which takes place mostly in winter. My heart hammered in excitement. I knew that something marvelous was in the offing.

Every few steps that I took on my way to my next job, I captured the sun in different angles. While I was dead set on capturing this solar phenomenon, I was conscious of the little things right under my nose, which also exhibited their subtle beauty. These too are a humble source of life's simple pleasures.

I moved on until I reached a spot where I saw in plain view what I had suspected - a sun dog, the sun with two smaller mock suns or lights on both sides. My first sun dog sighting, including an explanation of the phenomena, can be read here: Sundog (Parhelion) in Umeå.

The first thing that caught my eyes was the left mock sun, which was more distinct than the right one. As expected, I took several shots again from different angles. I wished I could find a place without any distractions in the foreground but I didn't have time to hunt anymore since my next job was waiting.

After my second job, I decided to drop by the city center, particularly along the river to "meet" the sun as it shone upon the frozen river. The vertical pillars of light were still visible. I also captured those houses on the other side of the river with a man drilling a hole on the frozen water.

That covers my day with the sun dog. Another brilliant winter day. Another reason to be blissful and grateful to the Creator of such magnificent things.

Have a fantastic weekend!