Discovering the Baltic

I was lucky enough to be treated to a Baltic Cruise this Summer, and I thought you might enjoy a selection of the more artistic, quirky, and crafty things I encountered. So settle down with a drink and enjoy the ride.

Ruth on board Balmoral

I was surprised how “lucky” statues are a “thing”; statues that you rub, sit on, or throw money at to gain “luck”, on the same lines as wishing wells or throwing coins into fountains.

This is the Old Town cat in Klaipeda, Lithuania, who apparently has a lucky tail!

Old Town Cat sculpture

The whole mouse sculpture, also in Klaipeda appears to be lucky:

Lucky Mouse sculpture

The mouse is quite shiny with all the rubbing he gets, maybe this “lucky statue” trend in the Baltic is the origin of why poor old Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh is losing his nose.

In St Petersburg they have a lucky camel!

Lucky Camel sculpture

And a lucky cat in St Petersburg, you have to throw coins onto his ledge to be lucky. It’s quite tricky he’s about 12 feet off the ground:

Cat Sculpture

I don’t know if it’s lucky to sit on Hans Christian Anderson’s lap in Copenhagen, but he’s getting a very shiny knee:

Hans Christian Anderson

The Iron Boy in Stockholm is also getting some attention. He’s Stockholm’s smallest public sculpture:

Iron Boy sculpture

Kind knitters keep him warm in Winter.

I saw some famous statues. The Little Mermaid mobbed by tourists, a view you don’t usually see of her:

Little Mermaid

Also in Copenhagen, by the Radhuset, Lurblæserne (The Lure Players):


The Freedom Monument in Riga:

Freedom Monument

Macabre sculptures: ghostly monks in the Danish King’s Gardens in Tallinn:

Ghost Monk sculpture

The black ghost, emerging from the harbour in Klaipeda:

A skull on the Dragon fountain by the Radhuset in Copenhagen:

Dragon fountain detail

Dragon fountain

Art and other statues in Copenhagen:

Another detail from a fountain, the Stork fountain:

Stork Fountain detail

Stork Fountain

This pretty Tivoli fountain:

Tivoli statue

Glass sculptures in the trees in Tivoli:

Tivoli tree sculpture

This amazing piece of contemporary art, Soleil Levant, by Ai Weiwei in Nyhavn in Copenhagen, looks great from a distance:


and is really poignant close up:

19Soleil Levant

Over 3500 life jackets from refugees, the sculpture was officially “opened” on World Refugee day 2017.

I’m not sure if this is art or a cycle path in Stroget, Copenhagen:

Copenhagen streets

Does anyone know? It made me think of an underground stream under the street, I like how it catches the light.

Lovely Polar bear and cubs sculpture, has bulletholes in it from WWII:

Polar bear sculpture

In Stockholm, I liked the Sea God in the harbour area, greeting us as we alighted from our tender:

Sea God sculpture

And this sweet lamb in Storkyrkan:

20Storkyrkan lamb

A frog outside a shop:

Shop sign

Tallinn has a strange boot sculpture:

Long Leg sculpture

Actually it’s a leg, and refers to one of two steep streets to Toompea hill: the Long Leg and the Short leg.

There were some lovely old painted panels in the Old Apothecary shop:

Tallinn Apothecary interior

It still operates as a Chemist shop, but has a little museum room too, and all the old shop counters and fittings.

There was a giant astronaut monkey in a park in Riga:

1Sam sculpture

He’s 12 metres tall, his names Sam and he was created by a Russian artist.

There were cats on top of the buildings – this is the Cat House:

35Cat House

36Cat House

And funky stencil graffiti in the streets:

21Art Nouveau district graffiti

At the harbour in Klaipeda, there was a statue of a boy, waving his hat at matching girl statue on the other harbour arm:

24Boy sculpture

He had his dog with him:

23Dog sculpture

Most of the statues were naked in Oslo:

In a distinctive naturalistic Scandinavian style.

Of course the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen was clothed:

29Ibsen sculpture

And the trolls:

19Olso trolls

They were outside many of the souvenir shops.

There was a scary medieval carving embedded in the walls of Olso Cathedral:

18Olso Cathedral sculpture

And just over the road from the cathedral, randomly, some chickens:

20Olso Cathedral and chicken sculpture

Since I was in Olso, and the iconic painting, The Scream, by Edvard Munch, was in the National Art gallery, I popped in to see it, and found it lived up to expectation, and I enjoyed seeing his other works there. Outside the Munch room was a small sculpture by Vigeland, you can see the crowds in the room behind me drawn to The Scream:


There is a large park of his Gustav Vigeland’s sculptures in Oslo, and the statue of the man carrying a women in the selection above is also by him.

There were more paintings by Munch and other artists, in the Radhuset; the main hall is covered with murals:

The bench seats had gorgeous wool tapestry cushions on them, and were very comfortable. The whole building has amazing art incorporated into it:

I have a friend who lives in Olso, and he took me to any amazing place off the beaten track: Hausmania is a squat with a bar, nightclub, artist’s studios and is crazily and creatively decorated:

I loved this piece of graffiti, I saw too:

71Oslo graffiti

Olso’s Opera House is very impressive, photos don’t do it justice, it needs to be walked around and on, to appreciate its style and beauty:

10Oslo Opera House

It’s iceberg appearance is mirrored by the sculpture, She Lies, in the harbour, just off the Opera house. The first ship behind it is the Balmoral, the ship I sailed on.

14She Lies sculpture and Balmoral

The most revolting art I found on the trip was made from amber; there’s a lot of amber in the Baltic, and really I think they should have resisted the temptation to create these pictures:

23Amber chip picture

24Amber chip pictures


These amber bunnies are a bit of an acquired taste too:

7Amber rabbits

I loved this art jewellery amber necklace though from the Amber Museum outside Klaipeda:

8Amber necklace

I succumbed to the amber madness, and now have a more modest necklace and bracelet.

Onto the crafts! I hadn’t particularly looked out for knitting and craft shops on the trip, bu I’m naturally drawn to them. I also couldn’t spend too much time in them, as I had company. These are what I found:

Knit by Marie Victoria in Gamla Stan, Stockholm

31Knit By Marie Victoria shop

Sweden was a bit pricey for me, so I had a brief scan around, and managed not to be tempted to buy. There were a few Scandinavian brands I recognised, and I came away with an impression of an overall soft dusty pale heathered palette, it felt very refined, calm and tasteful in there:

Cute craft shop in Gamla Stan with quirky handmade dolls, toys, ceramics etc, out of my price range, but lovely:

11Stockholm craft shop

It also has a Viking gravestone embedded in the wall, and an old cannon:

12Viking gravestone

Riga has a fantastic yarn shop, Hobbywool:


A series of little rooms in an old beamed building, with all sorts of nooks and crannies to discover yarny delights and crafts, there was plenty of local breed wools, and a large range of kits to make the local Latvian mittens. There were nice little gifts decorated with stitch patterns, and a whole section of handmade crafts by local makers. I saw a gorgeous simple cobweb weight natural dark wool shawl there with a slight halo; exquisite work.

Tallinn brought the motherload of crafts! After I’d enjoyed a morning exploring the cobbled streets and defensive walls of the old town, I walked into the Town square and discovered a huge craft market taking place:

39Tallinn Market

These guys were in traditional dress, selling products made from honey:

35Tallinn Market stall

I was keeping my eye out for fine lace shawls, as Estonia is particularly known for this, from Haapsalu in Estonia, but I didn’t see any. However, there were these beautiful hand knitted traditional gloves and mittens:

36Tallinn gloves

They were pure wool, (I asked the knitter):

37Tallinn gloves

We had a little bit of a stilted sign language knitting chat, with lots of smiles.

There were women demonstrating their embroidery prowess:


Lovely work, but I was a bit too shy to talk to them, they looked quite formidable.

There were quite a few stalls with embroidery on them. Despite everything being set up to make the most of the tourist industry, I thought the crafts were authentic and good quality, and quite reasonable/cheap prices.

I was keeping an eye out for quirky items, as I had experienced some quirky illustrations in computer games from Eastern Europe, and in Polish theatre posters, and hoped I might see some of this sensibility in art/crafts etc.

I bought a cute White Rabbit wooden badge from a local illustrator, Lucky Laika:

White Rabbit badge

There was a crazy knitted window display:

12Tallinn shop window

Then I discovered the Art Doll shop and museum:

49Art Dolls shop

I didn’t go into the museum, but the shop was magical, and slightly creepy

48Art Dolls shop detail


I fell in love with a quirky grey plaid bear holding a bell, who has joined my slightly scary doll/toy collection:

Eugene Bear

I’ve named him Eugene, after Eugene Onegin.

The Art Dolls shop was at the end of St Catherine’s Passage, which is another great place for handmade items:

44St Catherines passage

The right hand building has small makers workshops and shops: quite a lot of fashion, and some ceramics. The passageway itself has a lovely atmosphere, despite the tourists:

45St Catherines passage detail

You come out of the passage to what is referred to as the Sweater Wall, this initially sounds promising, but seemed like manufactured mainstream jumpers, with some traditional styles thrown in. I wasn’t even tempted to look:

50Sweater Wall

At that point I stumbled across Domus Linum:

52Tallinn Fabric & Wool shop

Which I initially thought was just a fabric shop, but I spied the wool through the door and went in, and came away with 100g of Lithuanian Lace weight teal coloured wool, at only €5, to make my own Estonian style shawl with. There was actually quite a lot of yarn in there, but I didn’t have much time to stop and look, as my friend was waiting outside. I definitely want to return to Tallinn again!

So I’ll just round this post off with a selection of architecture shots, a lot of doors, and decorative manhole covers:


Gamla Stan, Stockholm:

Tallinn Old Town:

Art Nouveau in Riga:



I’ll be back with a post about what I discovered in St Petersburg soon.











Contemporary art in West Lothian

I came across the Felty Folk again the other day, late on a sunny afternoon. They seemed to be lazing around on a wall:

Felty Folk on the wall

Neeva assured me they were collecting a special type of hairy moss for furnishings in Oosie’s home. I wasn’t convinced: Dod looked particularly relaxed, although Oosie was excitedly scampering about.

“I like to jump around on the moss, it’s bouncy,” she cried.

Oosie on the wall

“That’s why we’re having to collect some again,” Neeva sighed, resignedly. “She keeps ruining it by jumping around.”

Maybe that’s why Neeva and Dod weren’t looking very energetic, this wasn’t the first time… I wished them luck and carried on my way.


West Lothian is not somewhere you would expect to see International Contemporary Art, there are some quirky sculptures along the M8, but you would probably head to Edinburgh on an art quest instead. I heard about  Jupiter Artland in West Lothian when it opened a few years ago, but I had been putting off going there; which was crazy, because walking around parkland looking at contemporary sculptures is something I would really enjoy. My friend from Newcastle suggested we go, and I wasn’t too keen, because it sounded like it was on a vast estate and I would have to walk miles to see everything, which  is difficult for me having M.E. However, I decided it was foolish of me to deny myself pleasure just because I thought I only had enough energy to see part of it, after all, I could return and see the rest another time. So we went, and it was fantastic; and here is a taster for you:

A Forest by Jim Lambie, Jupiter Artland

A Forest - Jim Lambie

This is on the back of the Steading wall, as you pass through the entrance into the parkland. I like this because it’s attractive; it’s shiny and bright coloured and I was intrigued by the technique. I didn’t think about the way it reflected the trees at the time, although I see it clearly now. I took a photo of it from within the trees:

From the forest - to The Forest

The next sculpture is apparent very quickly – a 10 foot high rusty cage and…

Suck by Anish Kapoor

Suck - Anish Kapoor

…a dangerous looking arty hole. I was surprised to find it was by Anish Kapoor initially, but getting closer and looking at the hole, it has the same curved shape he is so obviously fascinated with in his other work. Humans always have an urge to look into a hole in the ground, but if you get too close to this one maybe it could suck you in, like a vortex – it must be why it’s caged.

An 'ole in the ground

Onward to another contemporary art heavyweight – Antony Gormley:

Leg of Firmament by Antony Gormley

Leg of 'Firmament' by Antony Gormley

Apart from his very famous Angel of the North, he has made a number of sculptures filling the human body with nodes and vortices, and cubes. It’s often hard to make out the human figure initially and it’s quite fun walking around identifying the body parts. I liked his name for the piece, because you view the sky through it and the intersecting lines made me think of star maps, and searching the sky to identify the constellations.

Some of the sculptures have to be experienced in real life, and really don’t make sense in a photograph, so I’m not even going to try, I will just say that I loved the Stone House sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, and you just have to visit and discover it yourself.

The first Weeping Girl I saw reminded me of the scary end scene in the Blair Witch Project film. When you get a little closer, you realise there are a few of the Girls that you search out among the trees, slightly disturbing, but quite sweet.

Weeping Girls by Laura Ford

Weeping Girls - Laura Ford

They looked like they were made from fibreglass, but they were cast metal.

There were a number of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s works through the park, but somehow, they were a little disappointing. I have visited his garden, full of his work at Little Sparta, and his work is more effective en masse, when you are immersed in his world. This one wasn’t too bad:

Temple of Apollo by Ian Hamilton Finlay

Temple of Apollo - Ian Hamilton Finlay

It works well in the location, and I liked stepping into the temple to see the hand carved lettering – I’m a bit of a sucker for letter carving and stone.

Another non-event for me was the Cornelia Parker work, Landscape with Gun and Tree 2010, it’s a realistic but super-sized rifle leaning against a tree, and it didn’t really excite me. Looking at the blurb about it now, it’s referring to a famous Gainsborough painting, Mr and Mrs Andrews, where the man is posing with a rifle, so I can see what she’s getting at, but does it work if you have to explain the reference? I’ve loved her work with suspended objects before though. I was very surprised by the In Memory work, by Nathan Cole, it’s a high concrete wall which looks like a building without a roof, you discover an opening and find the familiar surroundings of a cemetery, with gravestones and flowers, there’s even a bench to sit on (it was very welcome). Although it’s quite ordinary, it somehow creates its own special world, and you are taken to a contemplative place. Quite lovely.

The next sculpture was KNITTED!!
How excited I was!

Over Here by Shane Waltener

Over Here - Shane Waltener

This is a view of it from the wrong side, it was the best way to photograph it. It is approached from the wood and the central hole frames a view across open fields. The way it is pinned out between the trees is like the way a lace shawl is pinned out to dry and give definition to the lace. It’s also a bit like fishing nets hung out to be mended and dried – it’s knitted from 4 strands of fishing line held together.

Knitted fishing line

A great sculpture, and it was knitting, and it made me happy.

We had completed our circuit of the sculptures out the back of the Steadings, and I was now feeling a little weary and in need of a cup of tea. Luckily there was a chromed 50’s caravan serving refreshments in the courtyard. It was all very civilised, a pot of Earl Grey tea, and a Bakewell tart in the cobbled courtyard surrounded by lovely arty things. I was impressed with the attention to detail here: to the standard and quality of The National Trust, but way more cool and arty. The sympathetic and creative restoration and conversion of the Entrance Steading:

Entrance Steading building

The Jupiter Artland logo: a beautiful design and repeated everywhere:

Jupiter boot scraper

The map guide to the park: lino cut illustration by Iain McIntosh. The truly amazing and original iron work gates:

Jupiter Gates

I loved the flowerheads made of chromed nails:

Chromed nails on gates

Lovely things everywhere:

Hartstongue Fern

After refreshments, we headed to the huge Charles Jencks Life Mounds sculpture we had passed by driving in.

Life Mounds by Charles Jencks

His work is familiar, there is one of his pieces outside the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. This is a vast sculpture, and is a delight for children and adults alike. It really brings out the child in adults too:

Life Mounds by Charles Jencks

Each of the mounds has an inscription, and some ceramic sculptured pieces at the top, and tired as I was I just couldn’t resist going up one:

Me on Life Mound

We had a lovely walk past donkeys, sheep, and an alpaca back to the car. In the car, on the way out, we noticed huge boulders placed in the trees, which we realised was the Stone Coppice sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, I guess I’ll look at that one properly, next time. I will be going back. A highly recommended day out, and an amazing contemporary art collection.