Sunday, April 20, 2008

I fed no moose

[Previous Sweden posts here (2007) and here (2006)]

Didn't even see one, in fact. That's what comes of my lovely wife hailing from the south end of Sweden. However, it is an area replete with history, much of it to do with carving out the Swedish kingdom. Three pitched battles were fought within a few miles and years of each other to rid the country of the Danes, after which Sweden could get on with becoming. As my own parents live not too far from the stomping grounds of Alfred the Great, who did his own bit to rid us of the Danish yoke, I feel that as a family we have the Danes pretty well hemmed in.

At one of these places we found this stone lying on the ground (my lovely wife providing some human scale perspective):

But not just any stone! No, no. This is the Drängasten, weighing 368lbs/167kg. If you applied for a job on the farm, you had to lift it three times. If you wanted to marry the farmer's daughter, you lifted it seven times. I did marry a farmer's daughter but luckily I did it in England where brains are valued more than brawn in prospective spouses.

That interesting looking structure behind Best Beloved is in fact a belfry. The Swedish Christians got the idea of churches long before they got the idea of belfries to go with them, so they had to be added later. Here is church and tower together.

The white walls + black roofs and windows theme is a very common one among the churches, making them striking both from a distance and close up. The graveyards, as commented, are always immaculate, many not only with raked gravel paths but with rakes provided for visitors. I somehow don't see this catching on over here and it's our loss.

So, much driving around looking at immaculately kept churches and graveyards, and fields where battles were fought that decided the fate of nations. The post-glacial landscape is scattered with massive boulders, smooth and round, that break the surface like whales coming up to breathe. Often these natural outcroppings will have been utilised by the builders of forts and now the sites are also scattered with carved stones in such a way that you can't tell where geology ends and archaeology begins. Very Tolkienesque. In a similar vein, we came across these water falls where once there stood a mill, now just ruins. The entire far bank is in fact a wall, carved blocks of stone mouldering with moss and age. It really was like something out of Middle Earth.

Complete with trolls.

Yes, fairness makes me report we were accompanied all the while by a bored teenager who DESPITE being reminded as almost the very last thing to bring his iPod charger, didn't. No internet and no iPod for a week. Oh my, how cruel we are. Still, the alternative to coming with us was staying with his 80 year old non-English speaking grandfather, so really we were stuck with him and him with us.

This year's hire car was an Opel Astra - a nicely restrained and much preferable choice to last year's tank - and to alleviate the boredom I gave him driving lessons. Round and round his grandfather's yard, never higher than second - or if he felt really adventurous, down to the end of the drive, after which either I had to drive further to turn the car round or he had to reverse back. After the first couple of days he stopped leaving little craters behind as the wheels skidded at take off, and he was hardly ever stalling. It's a start. When he starts proper lessons he'll have to learn to change gear with his left hand rather than his right, but the pedals will still work the same way. Hopefully he'll also remember the other key lessons acquired this week: wear glasses, and when reversing, it's helpful to look behind you.

You may notice that I haven't referred to this bored teenager as the Boy. The Boy is no more. I learnt a new word: bonusbarn, meaning stepchild; literally, because a stepchild is one you get for free when you marry. So Bonusbarn he will be from now on.

Two out of three of us had a lovely, quiet, peaceful week: absence of internet is a blessing if correctly viewed, rather than the curse the third of us seemed to take it as. And even he enjoyed it more than he will admit. The weather was bright and sunny, with a cold dry wind: infinitely better than the grey cloud and drizzle I see outside now.

And I grew a beard, but this really requires a post of its own.


  1. Booo! You promised there would be feeding of meese!


  2. I couldn't get "hypothetically" into the poem without breaking the scan.


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