Wednesday, September 21, 2011

a day in southern sweden

Another day with the relatives meant more sightseeing around the area.  We went to a place with big bluffs by the beach. It was rainy and SO windy. If the wind had been blowing towards the ocean, I wouldn't have been surprised if one of us blew off the cliffs.  Luckily for me and my fear of heights, it was blowing inland. 

Up on these cliffs was Sweden's version of Stonehenge, known as Ales Stenar or Ale's Stones. The 59 stones make up what appears to be a ship and date back to sometime around AD 1500 to 1000.  There are many theories about the purpose of the Ales Stenar.  Some say it was built as a burial site, although a grave has never been found in the area, others say it was built to honor a ship lost at sea.  Still others believe it was used either by sun worshippers or to determine the solstices.

Ale's Stones weren't the only things in the fields on the cliffs.  There were also herds of cows and sheep wandering around.  The smart little sheep below is taking cover from the winds.

Next we went to a beach that I can't remember the name of...maybe it's Trygg-Hansa...or maybe that just means life preserver.  In any event, it was very windy here too and there were many signs warning of strong currents.  Also, the sand was the softest sand I have ever touched.  Softer than grains of sugar even! 

Above you will see my mom at the beach - her favorite pastime! Below are photos of our next stop, what I like to refer to as the Children's Chapel of Sweden, St. Nikolas Kapel.  It was the tiniest little chapel tucked into the hillside with a gorgeous view of the sea.

 The chapel is somehow a part of the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage (although quite far away from Spain) and the pilgrims on their trek bring the smooth, little stones and deposit them on top of the walls in the chapel.

Situated just behind the St. Nikolas Kapel is the most gorgeous road of Swedish cottages.  Every single one of them had beautifully landscaped lawns and architecture that looked like it came out of a fairy tale. 

After admiring these gorgeous houses, we headed along and had lunch at a Turkey farm. The meal was very similar in style to our Thanksgiving with turkey, lingonberry sauce, and potatoes.  Swedes celebrate a similar holiday, St. Martin's Day (aka Goose Dinner), to mark the end of the fall harvest. 

"Sagan om Växjö" by Gunilla Mann
Then we visited the gallery/studio of Gunilla Mann a quite famous artist of the area.  We saw her at work in her studio - actually, that's a lie, she was eating lunch - but still.  My mom bought me a print of a piece similar to the one above, except of the area we were visiting that day.  And I left it on the subway in Sweden.  Sigh.  It was even in a special poster tube that Kerstin insisted I use that Gunda had wrapped in cloth and bows to make it look nice and not like cardboard.  Ugh. I am so mad at myself.

Erik and Kerstin sample apple cider at the Kivik Apple Market.  In Sweden, apple trees are much smaller and almost look more like the grape trees we use for wine.  No climbing apple trees there!  Their factory was closed when we were there, but sometimes you can get tours to see how they process the apples into the different drinks and jams.

Yes Box Bombi by Emma Karp Lundström
We bought a postcard of artist Emma Karp Lundström's apple mosaics.  Every year she makes a mosaic using nothing but apples.  The one pictured above has 35-40 thousand apples in it.  Amazing, huh?

Up next we visited Kungagraven, which means the king's grave.  At first I thought this was another mysterious ancient placement of a huge field of random rocks.  Or perhaps a lazy man's way to clear a field and not build stone walls around it.  But upon further inspection (and an admission ticket), we realized there was a bit more to this grave.

We followed a path into the center of the rock hill, where we entered the tomb (pictured below).  The grave itself was discovered in 1748 by two farmers who were quarrying for stone in the area.  However, aside from looking for buried treasure, not much attention was paid to the grave at the time.  In more recent years (starting in the 1930's) the grave has been thoroughly researched and restored to what they think it would have looked like at its conception 3000 years ago.  

As they did more research on the grave, they found that there was not just one body buried there, but multiple that were buried over an extended period of time.  Some of the remains appear to have been teenagers.

Next, we visited a castle.  Many of the Swedish castles are not castles we would think of in the Cinderella/Neuschwanstein style, but are beautiful nonetheless and are often now privately owned residences, like the one above.  Construction on this castle began in 1635 and ended in 1638, as you can see on the building's facades.

While you can't enter the building (that whole privately owned thing kind of gets in the way), you can wander its beautiful grounds.  I pretended I was in the Sound of Music, obviously.  Also, it shocked that the owners of the castle would allow people to wander around in their yard, quite close to their home.  Maybe they get a tax break for that?  Unlikely in Sweden...