Sweden. Day 6. Walking over thin ice.

So today the idea was to skate over a frozen lake. I went with Håkan, who is a documentary film-maker from Stockholm that is visiting up here, and a very experienced skater. He’s been making movies all over the world, from the Himalayas to Hawaii. He’s also a former Navy Seal, or the equivalent of it in the Swedish Navy.

He told me that in the 1970s he was in a Swedish submarine pursuing a Russian nuclear submarine that hat entered Swedish waters, but he became afraid of being ordered to attack it and start Thord World War. So he decided to quit the Army, and became a film-maker.

Håkan told me the basics of skating in frozen lakes. “Today the temperature is a bit above zero,” he explained, “but yesterday it was -10 and thick ice takes a long time to melt, so we are PROBABLY SAFE”. He also said, “In case the ice breaks and you fall onto the water, do not PANIC, or it is WORSE.” He also explained, “You should tie your floating backpack with straps to your body, or you will DROWN.” And he added, “You should always have your isdubbs (handheld spikes used in emergencies to stab the ice and claw your way out of the water) in an easily accessible place, or you will DIE.”

After such tranquilizing words, he told me to follow him as we walked across a frozen lake.

Unfortunately it had snowed too much during the night, so the frozen lake was all covered with three centimetres of snow, and ice skating was not possible under such conditions. Then we walked across another lake, but the situation was the same.

At that point we met on the other side of the lake a nice Swedish family who was cooking a barbecue in their backyard. They invited us over. They offered us a cold beer and hot dogs to be cooked over a small fire outside. They were perfect strangers, but Swedish people appear to be very kind and spontaneous. The name of the couple was Peter and Katarina, which sounded like very Swedish names to me — weren’t those the names of one of the couples in Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage“?

So we ended up having a barbecue instead of ice skating. Håkan seemed a bit disappointed, but I, not so much — sitting by a fire with a hot dog and a cold beer is a much safer entertainment than skating on thin ice, and just as rewarding.