The Magic of Curling

Curling. The sport no one knows about. Or very few people know about, anyway. And if you know about curling it’s because you play it or you know someone who does. So, what is curling?

Curlingnoun 

  • a game played on ice, especially in Scotland and Canada, in which large round flat stones are slid across the surface towards a mark. Members of a team use brooms to sweep the surface of the ice in the path of the stone to control its speed and direction.  (from Webster’s)
  • a sport involving ice, brooms, and originally a rock. It is chiefly played in Canada. Unlike hockey, it is not taken seriously in the United States. Many suspect that it is a byproduct of both the cold Northern climate and the Canadian propensity for beer.  (from Urban Dictionary)
  • Norway skip Thomas Ulsrud, center, keeps his eye on his shot as Christoffer Svae, right, and Havard Vad Petersson sweep during an morning draw against Scotland at the mens world curling championships in Victoria, British Columbia, Wednesday, April 3, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward) ORG XMIT: JOHV117
    Norway Curling Team,2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward) ORG XMIT: JOHV117

    a sport where people are encouraged to throw rocks at houses and walk the same 150 feet 24 times while sweeping ice in the cold; sometimes while wearing flamboyant pants. This is considered fun. (from me)

 

If that wasn’t enough to give you a good idea of what curling is you can watch this very informational (and funny) 2-minute video from World Curling TV.

Curling season upon us. Once again on Tuesday nights, and the occasional long weekend, I am a curling widow. Tuesday nights we have a quick bite of dinner and then Mark sashays out the door with his gear in his backpack and his broom slung over his shoulder. The kids and I wish him good luck and then he’s off to throw some rocks at houses.

It started almost 20 years ago. We were in Vancouver for our friends’, Phil and Marcella’s, wedding.  Mark and Alan were just starting to flick through the TV channels when I went into the bathroom to put on my make-up and the next thing I knew they were hovering over the edge of the sofa yelling, “SWEEP!!” at the top of their lungs.  A hotel in any other country would have chucked us out, but this being Canada the staff were probably too busy yelling “SWEEP!!” as well to notice additional noise.

Then one day, after we’d moved to DC, Mark read an advert in the Post for a try out day at the Potomac Curling Club. And that was it. He was lost into the world of curling. First it was Pizza League on Sundays. Then it was Tuesdays and Sundays. Then there were the tournaments. Including the one in Sedrun that was outside.

Look at that curling form! Like a champ!

And, lo, the clouds did break and the team did score 4 points in one end.

He’s even won a trophy!

Mark curling trophy

E even joined the kids’ league and can’t wait to get back to it when we move back to DC.  In the meantime, he watches curling and occasionally gets to go to the curling arena (yes, it’s only for curling) to throw some stones with Mark.

The 6 year-old has begun demanding to go along.

Curling is magical. It’s easy to love curling – doing and watching. It does actually take finesse and a fair bit of strategy to play well, but it’s so easy that anyone can play along.

It is totally inclusive. Men and women and children all participate. Don’t worry if you think you’ll just fall over when you try to squat down and throw the rock. They have these neat little bracket things you can hold on to for balance.  You can’t squat down at all in the lunge position to throw the rock? They have a long stick you can use so you don’t even have to bend over. Can’t walk? Don’t fret! You can play while sitting in a wheelchair.  They even have whole wheelchair leagues!

Curling doesn’t require full-time commitment. Unlike basketball or gymnastics you don’t have to make curling your full-time job to compete at the top and Olympic levels. Almost all curlers have other careers – from architects and actuaries to zoo keepers.

And the people are some of the nicest people you ever want to meet. They are kind and generous. More than anything they want you to do well in curling. And the winners buy the losers a beer at the end.

Curling can take you all over the world. The European Championships just took place in Denmark! Mark’s home club even had a delegation from Japan a few years ago.

A few weeks ago Mark giddily came home and told me that the World Championships would be played right here in Basel in April. He is beyond happy. We are going to get a pass or two to attend all the matches we can and he is inviting some of his curling buddies to stay with us.

I am going to have to go along.

Now here I sit, in front of my computer, streaming curling tournaments and spouting phrases like, “Wow! She really bolted out of the hack!” and “The skip is going to have to try to draw in with the hammer to prevent a steal.”

And I almost understand what I’m saying.

Come get addicted with me!

The Swiss Family Carlson Visits Disentis-Sedrun!

Disentis and its little sister, Sedrun, are little skiing towns in the southeast portion of Switzerland past Lucerne by about 30 minutes and in the Canton of Graubunden.  (The leadership that led to the formation of the canton was called The Grey League.  It sounds like a comic book hero team and, therefore, makes this the coolest canton in Switzerland.)   They are in the Romansh speaking portion of Switzerland and if you speak Romansh the real name of Disentis is Muster and so the official name is Disentis/Muster.  Got it?  Good!

My elegant finger points to the two pins marking Disentis and Sedrun,
My elegant finger points to the two pins marking Disentis and Sedrun.

Disentis was first mentioned in 765(!) and the monastery started appearing in texts in 720.  I think I will never stop being astonished at the age of different communities in Europe.

We went there because Mark’s curling team was playing in an outdoor tournament!  Mark was extremely excited to be able to curl outdoor in the mountains of Switzerland.  The kids and I were thrilled with playing in the snow in the mountains.

Of course we traveled by train.  Actually, the winter snow had closed several roads up into the mountains and we would have never have made it otherwise.  The snow made the trip very picturesque.

IMG_0558 IMG_0560

Taking the train also allowed us to walk around and have chats with all the curlers on our team (9 of them in total besides the children and I).  The leader of our group was a true entertainer.  He brought along the most incredible picnic – sandwiches, wine, and beer for the first part of the 4 hours journey and then cheese and bread with more wine for the second part.  The children had a great time.  He brought juices along for them and they absolutely loved the sandwiches and being able to wander about the carriage.

Really, what is better than a glass of wine and a view like this?  (Hint, the answer rhymes with du-thing.)
Really, what is better than a glass of wine and a view like this? (Hint, the answer rhymes with du-thing.)
Books are wonderful things.
Books are wonderful things.
H loved being able to stretch out.
H loved being able to stretch out.

The weather was quite something.  It was snowing when we arrived at our hotel in Sedrun and it snowed for 2 days.  Our intrepid leader, Sammy, was quite displeased because it meant no curling because they couldn’t keep the ice clear.  (I strengthened my knowledge of German curse words and learned a couple Swiss-German curse words.)  However, we were all consoled by hanging out in the hotel’s pub area drinking beer and sampling the grappa after dinner.  Sammy proudly pointed out the grappa area and explained the hotel had 180 different kinds of grappa for tasting.  That’s when I realized we were also in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland.

The snow didn’t stop us from getting out, however!  The children loved the snow and Sedrun was equally lovely.

The church in Sedrun across from our hotel.
The church in Sedrun across from our hotel.
The road to the ski areas.
The road to the ski areas.
A pretty little creek that runs through the middle of town. It wasn't frozen over at all!
A pretty little creek that runs through the middle of town. It wasn’t frozen over at all!
It is snowing! We got over 9 inches in 2 days!
It is snowing! We got over 9 inches in 2 days!

And Mark got to visit a monastery in Disentis with the other curlers.  (The children were uninterested in seeing yet another church in Switzerland so we stayed in and sipped hot chocolate while their snow things dried.)

Disentis Monastery1
The monks know how to do up a ceiling!
Disentis Monastery4
The Monastery has been burned and rebuilt several times since 720. The nice monk in the picture said they had tried to figure out what the original color of the walls was, but when they couldn’t they chose white.

Disentis Monastery3Disentis Monastery2

And finally on Sunday (probably because of all the candles they lit in the Abbey chapel), the weather cleared and it was declared by all the veterans to be perfect curling weather!!

Look at that curling form!  Like a champ!
Look at that curling form! Like a champ!
And, lo, the clouds did break and the team did score 4 points in one end.
And, lo, the clouds did break and the team did score 4 points in one end.

For H and E, it was perfect snow-bathing weather.

IMG_0595

And Sedrun was really beautiful as well.

IMG_0580 IMG_0579 IMG_0586

I couldn’t get enough of the snow covered and tree-dotted mountains. I actually felt tempted to ski downhill.  I, for sure, would like to ski cross country up there.  The whole trip I kept staring at them and understanding why some artists only paint mountain snow scenes.  I am slightly envious of E’s ski trip to Nendaz coming up next week.

But before that we are off to Zurich for the weekend!  E and I are going to see horse show jumping and H and Mark will be exploring the realms of dinosaurs!