Summer in My Sweden #2

Skara, Skövde, Lidköping and Mariestad

We departed Falkenberg and arrived at Kronogården between Skövde och Mariestad in the afternoon and were introduced to a cake in the fridge for our use. That was a very nice gesture coming from our hosts. Maybe it’s a good idea to read through Summer in My Sweden #1 before reading this post.

Kronogården

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As you can see, Flat Stanley is still with us. He kept hassling us that he wanted to play outside. There were chooks, sheep and cows close enough to touch, fruit trees galore, flower beds and the green grasses of our home country. He stayed out until we dragged him in.

At this stage, I cannot find information on Kronogården on the net. Maybe it’s not rented out any longer. But it was a wonderful place and we had it all to ourselves. All three bedrooms, sitting room, lounge, dining and kitchen. From memory, the farmhouse is around 200 years old and that is charming all by itself.

We made visits to all the cities around the area and saw every little church in the countryside. Even my husband turned seriously interested in looking at hundreds of year old churches with many old gravestones with names and dates from the 1600s and 1700s. The churches were interesting, especially since there’s been a lot of excellent renovations with repainting of all old patterns. I have photos from a lot, both inside and out, but have only included a couple here. The colours used were always slightly different in every church we saw, but always in amazing tones.

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The photos below speak for themselves. A happy couple and happy flowers makes for a perfect holiday.

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Lars walks the trail to a waterfall area with a ruin of an old mill. The water fall is called Silverfallet.

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If I remember right, the church below is the old Timmersdala Church. The red and cream building is Binneberg Tingshus (an old court house) with its first part built in the middle of the 1600’s. The upper story was added in the 1800’s.

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Kungslena Kyrka

First parts built in the early 1100’s.

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An old door in the church has a handle depicting St George, as he slays the dragon. I think it’s very artistically made. I’m a bit fascinated by old doors, old handles and old locks.

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The Battle at Lena

Yes, it’s a place called Lena. The battle was between the son of Erik Knutsson with Swedish and Norwegian warriors and King Sverker, the younger, with a Danish Army, at Lena in Kungslena on the 31 Januari 1208. Skänningeannalerna tell that “there was a battle at Lena, Sverker fled”. Two years later in 1210 another battle was fought at Gestilren.

We went to look at the battlefields. It’s hard to imagine that bad things had happened right there in the fields and meadows where many died.

Around Kungslena below.

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A small, old church in the countryside in need of renovation. Every church we visited was standing empty with unlocked doors. I believe it happens during summer only.

Below the church is a photo of the middle of Lidköping.

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We saw a few castles, but the best, most beautiful, and maybe most famous, is the medieval one called Läckö Castle (slott in Swedish). We had lunch for a special person’s special birthday and enjoyed a walk though the surroundings, both inside and outside. And we also loved the food, of course.

Läckö Slott is best known as De la Gardie’s magnificent castle/mansion on the shores of Lake Vänern, but it is much older. In 1298 Brynolf Algotsson, Bishop of Skara, laid the foundations for a fortified castle here. Probably no more than a redoubt surrounding a few simple houses, it was nevertheless strategically located in the middle of his diocese. Read more here …

This white castle with its towers and turrets always looks good in photos. It also reminds me of fairytales.

Varnhem Abbey and Skara Cathedral

Both seem to belong to the ancient area – the Cradle of Sweden. This is where many of the old Swedish kings are buried.

Varnhem Abbey (Varnhem’s Kloster in Swedish) in Varnhem, Västergötland, Sweden, was founded around the year of 1150 by monks of the Cistercian Order from Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland.

The Cistercian Order used the same floor plan for all its abbeys, which makes it possible to easily locate the different rooms and halls regardless of the building site. Read more here …

You can read the trilogy of books by Jan Guillou Arn – The Knight Templar or buy a DVD set. I have watched the movies in Swedish and they’re not only great fictional stories, but also comes with history lessons, all in my opinion, of course. The scenery is from Varnhem and surrounding areas. That’s also what makes it so interesting.

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Inside are many inscriptions, wall plaques and fancy scrolls. Here’s just one example.

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Here’s the entry.

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Some ruins of the Cloister Garden at Varnhem Abbey. I can almost imagine the old monks tending to the herb garden.

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Unique Ancient Skeletons Discovered at Varnhem Abbey, Sweden – will be interesting to find out what the DNA showed. Maybe we hear later.

We had coffee a couple of times in the gardens at Varnhem Abbey – Varnhem Cloister Café. The days were always sunny and we had a pleasant time with waffles, apple pie or other little goodies.

Below is part of a photo of Skara Cathedral – the seat for the Bishop of the Church of Sweden’s Diocese of Skara.

Its history is traced from the 11th century, but its current appearance is from the 13th century. The church has a medieval crypt that was found in 1949 after having been buried under stones since the 13th century. A grave, containing a skeleton, was found in the crypt, which is within the oldest (11th century) part of the cathedral.

The church is 65 meters long and the towers reach a height of 63 meters.

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The beautiful Swedish landscape. The clouds seem to be hanging so low that we could almost catch them.

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Lena on Billingen with a beautiful view over Skövde. Further below are more of the red cottages. You see them everywhere – from south to north.

Billingen is the largest of the thirteen mesas in the Swedish county of Västra Götaland, with a maximum altitude of 299 metres (981 ft). The mesa extends in a north-southerly direct with a length of 23 kilometres (14 mi) and a width of 11 kilometres (6.8 mi). Billingen is divided into two parts by an east-west valley between Skövde och Varnhem. The mesa plateau is covered with vast forests and moorlands, including the nature reserve Blängsmossen with its unique flora. Read more here …

Below you will find Lars at Göta Canal. It’s supposed to be a great trip, but we never had time to spend a few days on the canal. We had lunch on one occasion and coffee on another and could watch the goings-on.

Göta Canal is made up of a man-made canal, locks, towpaths, walls and embankments. Since opening in 1832, the canal has served as both an important transport route and a restful holiday paradise. Naturally, over the years the structure has aged and been subject to wear and tear – and now it is to receive some well-earned restoration. Read more here … 

Lars, also on top of Billingen, to admire the view over Skövde. Below is another church, but I’ve forgotten which one this is and I’m too lazy to try and find it on the net right now.

A mansion somewhere, but can’t find the name of it at this time. There are many places like these in Sweden. Not only small red cottages, but often large white mansions and sometimes with a bit of red it seems.

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This is at the city of Hjo vid Vättern. Read more about Hjo here. This is a lovely place with a nice boat harbour and shops selling smoked fish and smoked eel etc. Just what I like and need. Even better than ice cream. See a short clip about Hjo in Swedish. 

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Here, below, you have Swedish fir trees, which are the real Christmas trees. They look good in the summer, as well as in the winter when covered in snow.

Below is one of my favourite places. We had quite an exciting experience in this area with many hills, lakes, swamps and ponds.

We had no plans when we drove around as sightseers on a small forest road and came to a sign showing Höjentorp Castle Ruin. I got excited straight away. Who doesnt want to see some old ruins? Yes, the others wanted this too.

We parked the car and took to the small insignificant dirt track leading straight into the forest on the right hand side.

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Maria Euphrosyne of Zweibrücken Married Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie on 7 March 1647

At the wedding, which happened 370 years and one month ago, as of today, Queen Christina granted Princess Maria Euphrosyne several estates, among them her grandmothers favorite residence Höjentorp, which was also to be her favourite. Read more here about Maria Euphrosyne and her life here.

Below is an old stone sign, which I suppose shows how far it will be to the Royal residence following the road through the forest. The castle is associated with Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie (also Läckö Castle), his wife Maria Euphrosyne of Zweibrücken, who was granted the Royal status as a Swedish Princess (she also had a Swedish mother), and not least with the Swedish Queen Christina.

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Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie with his spouse Maria Euphrosyne of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, the sister of King Charles X of Sweden. Painting from 1653 by Hendrik Munnichhoven. The picture is filled with symbolic details: Magnus Grabriel is standing lower than his wife because she is sister of the king; their holding hands symbolizes fidelity; the bean in Maria Euphrosyne’s hand shows that she is pregnant. The painting is regarded as one of the finest from the early Swedish baroque era. 

The picture below shows this part of the Valle district filled with hills, lakes, both smaller and larger, and swampland. The Höjentorp Castle was once situated on a hilltop overlooking a lake. The ruins are there in the ground, but hidden in the long grass. But they were not as we expected. We had imagined it to be parts of walls, but there was nothing to see more than an entry to the old cellar.

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There was a castle at this location already during the Middle Ages. Höjentorp was mentioned as Hognathorp the first time in the year of 1283 and was owned by the then Bishop Brynolf Algotsson in Skara.

Swedish kings, such as Erik Magnusson, Gustav Vasa och Johan III visited Höjentorp periodically.

In the year of 1566 the Danes were fighting the Swedes and managed to destroy the castle. It apparently burnt down.

The castle was rebuilt by De la Gardie, but in 1722 it burnt down, while King Fredrik I and Queen Ulrika Eleonora visited.

So, little did we know about its history when we embarked on our forest walk to see a fantastic old castle ruin. None of us had heard of this Höjentorp ever before.

After an eager walk through the beautiful forest, we came to the hill where the castle was to be. We climbed the hill and expected to come across the castle ruins. Only, there was nothing much there. The photo below is more or less what we saw. A hole in the ground with steps leading down. This is the only remaining part of this old castle. Steps show the way down, but there is a gate to barricade the entry, as it’s  not considered safe to venture in there. But it would have been fun to do.

Why can’t they start a dig of the old cellar under the medieval castle? I wonder what treasures will be hiding there. Below is my husband looking through the gate. He would’ve liked to get in there too.

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But wait! What was much more exciting was the man we met! It was a warm day with sunshine finding its way between the myriad of leaves in the dusky forest. The small lake glittered behind the tree trunks. We had explored the grounds where the castle had been and then on the way back we met him at a gate. We went out, while he waited to enter.

We call him “the black man”. He was Caucasian, but dressed in all black and had a black hat. He came walking barefoot with a pack on his back. He looked out of place and talked in an old-fashioned way with phrases we had only read in books, depicting life in the early 1800s, or even earlier. We were three people who met and talked to him and afterwards we all thought we had been in some kind of mysterious time warp.

We talked for a few minutes. He told us about the area and the castle before we found out he had his sight on a swim in the lake. He left one way and we left the other. Who was he?

Askeberga Skeppssättning

Askeberga Skeppssättning or Rane Stones are situated in Askeberga about 25 kilometer north of Skövde in Västergötland. It’s 55 meters long and 18 meters wide (in the middle 20 meters). The date is unknown, but may possibly be during early Iron Age.

All these stone monuments are strange and you wonder what this had to do with a ship or a longhouse. Nobody knows exactly why 24 blocks of stone up to two meter high and with a weight of up to 15 tonnes each were placed there.

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Ancient Jättekullen

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During our stay in Sweden, we saw rune stones, gravestones, millstones, rock walls, huge stones, small stones, church walls, castle walls, old walls, new walls and probably more. Do you see that I like rocks?

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These are church doors. Have a few of those too, but don’t want to bore you.

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Here’s a typically renovated church below. Nicely painted.

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Mariestad with its Cathedral

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Mariestad Cathedral was built in Gothic style between 1593-1615 and is very unusual in being one of the few churches built in Sweden in the late 16th century.

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I don’t know the measurements, as in how tall it is, but when you look at the people in the photo you can imagine it to be incredibly tall.

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Below is the garden at the back of Mariestad Cathedral. Then another little red cottage at the world renown Hornborgasjön where the cranes go to dance and play.

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On one of the last few days in Sweden, we had to take Flat Stanley to the Golden Arches for pancakes. Did he make a mess of himself? Oh, yes, he did.

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Then it was back to Kronogården for a good clean up before packing for the trip home.

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Above you have the beautiful old farmhouse in the evening sun.

Next day off to the airport. That’s when the rain started.

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Good bye Sweden until next time! Soon we hope.

Summer in My Sweden #1

Falkenberg and Lomma

This post with photos are from our trip to Sweden in the summer of 2012. We planned a special visit to spend time with a close family member and had booked two summer houses as accommodation in two different places. I will not be posting any photos, which includes the family member, as I don’t know if I’m allowed. If I get an okay later, I will update my post.

Before we left on our trip, we promised our granddaughter to bring Flat Stanley, which is not a person 😬, but a cut-out paper doll covered with a plastic coating. He needed to go on a trip, so that a story about his adventures could be produced for the kids in her class. Yes, we had to organise for a paper person, Flat Stanley, to see what we saw and be a part of what we were up to. Many people looked at us when we made him stand here and there and then taking photos of him in different situations. People must have thought we acted strange. At least until we explained ourselves. What don’t you do for your grandkids! Oh, yes, we had fun with it ourselves despite being embarrassed.

When boarding our plane, the airline personnel played along, but may have felt slightly silly.

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We left Australia in July and stayed for six weeks until middle of August. Therefore we were there during the time blueberries and cranberries were ripe in the forest and we were able to buy chanterelles at the market square. We had not had those for around 40 years and bought them as often as possible. Now we can’t wait to go back. Hopefully the forest is full of them next time again.

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The first stop was Falkenberg where we had rented an older style cottage, which was both comfortable and cozy.

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Our hosts welcomed us with a Swedish bouquet of flowers picked in a meadow. As you can see, it looked fabulous.

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This is the cottage in sunshine. There was a nice outdoor area where we could enjoy the morning breakfast or afternoon coffee. The weather during our stay wasn’t at all selfish. We had a big share of sunshine and warmer weather. Strangely enough, it more or less only rained, while we drove to the airport to leave Sweden.

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Flat Stanley wanted to be everywhere. He liked the old pump, but had trouble pumping. He was cheeky and liked to hide in between the rocks in an old mossy wall.

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Our cottage was at the furthest back. Our hosts live in the buildings close by.

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Flat Stanley loved the strawberries and the blueberries. With no time for foraging in the forest we had to buy both kinds at the market. Every day he begged for more. And every day we listened and obeyed.

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Swedish meadows with grasses and flowers – is there anything more beautiful?

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In many places, the horizons had rows of wind turbines. Sometimes so many that it was hard to count them. In my opinion, they don’t belong in a landscape with red farmhouses and cottages. Not in any landscape for that matter. They don’t always work either. No wind means no power, or in cold temperatures when they get all iced up – no power.

Further below is a bridge in Falkenberg. Under the bridge and along the river, people may fish and it seems like many do.

7Below is Glommens Fiskekrog Restaurant, on Facebook. It’s situated between Falkenberg and Varberg on the Swedish west coast. We had lunch in the outdoor area and enjoyed views of the ocean and the shoreline. Nice place with excellent food. Will definitely go back on our next trip.

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Further down below you can see people swimming in the ocean. Do you notice the low water line? To swim, or if you want to wet more than your knees, you have to walk far out.

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The red houses always look beautiful. It’s amazing how a bit of colour transforms the landscape.

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On our way to the next place, we found a real, old windmill. It’s not everyday you see one of those. And it doesn’t look ugly and out of place like wind turbines.

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Here’s Lars admiring the Glommen’s boat harbour. Glommen is the small fishing village where we also had lunch.

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After we had seen enough, we went further south to Lomma where Lars was born. Lomma is situated just outside of Malmö, which is the third largest city in Sweden. Lomma was a small town, but maybe it’s considered more like a suburb today. The town has changed considerably in the 40 years we’ve been away from Sweden. Everywhere we looked, the surroundings seemed sleek and modern. We could hardly recognise where all the old houses and buildings had been. New buildings were established or were popping up in the old neighbourhoods. Where his grandma’s house once stood had become a café. We had coffee and cake in what used to be his grandma’s courtyard and it felt strange. But, I suppose, that’s progress.

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It looks like every person in Lomma has a boat. Seeing boats in many places we visited, it might be that “every Swede” has a boat.

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After we had seen enough, we went back to Falkenberg and packed our bags to continue on to Kronogården, a fantastic house for rent, close to Skara, Skövde, Lidköping and Mariestad. Part of that area, especially Skara, belongs to the cradle of old Sweden. That’s coming in the next instalment. See you next time!

Here’s a link if you want to go straight to Summer in My Sweden #2.

 

 

 

 

The Mongolian Box – Short Story for Kids

Mongolin Box Social Media

Tom picked up the wooden box so fast it tumbled out of his hands. It made a racket as it bounced across the floorboards. Everyone in the room watched in horror, expecting it to fall to pieces.

He swooped down to retrieve it at once. Not that he wanted the old thing, but because he was embarrassed and wanted to leave the room. He had trouble understanding why his grandpa had given him a worthless piece of wood, while his cousin inherited the valuable stamp collection. Kevin could sell them and collect a fortune. Who in their right mind would even look at a cracked box?

‘It’s as useless as an ice cube in Greenland,’ muttered Tom, as he left the room in a huff.
He was going to open the box, but needed to be alone. Kevin wasn’t going to hang over his shoulder and gloat. Close to tears, he slammed his bedroom door shut and slumped down on the bed. If not for the secret compartments, he would have chucked the box in the bin before even thinking about to look inside.

Tom thought back to the day about one year earlier. It was the day before his birthday. His grandpa had shown him the ancient-looking keepsake, which nobody knew much about. He had gone on to tell about his travels in the Far East where he had come across the box at a village market stall in Mongolia. The small case was worn, decorated with carvings of animals and scrolls and was no bigger than six half-kilo butter packets, put three on top of another three. His grandpa told him he had found it fascinating and had haggled long and hard with the stall keeper for the best price. After he had told Tom his story, he went on to show the hidden compartments and its contents.

‘Always remember this Mongolian box Tom and this wooden tablet with Chinese engravings. Look at the wording! “By the strength of the eternal Heaven”. It goes on to mention Marco Polo. If this box was alive, it might tell a story or two, I think.’

His grandpa picked up a fifty-dollar note from under the wooden tablet. ‘Here, take this for your birthday!’

The next day when Tom mentioned the box, his grandpa didn’t seem to recall the night before. He just continued his pottering around the garden as if he had forgotten all about it. Tom had kind of expected this. His grandpa was some times confused, usually grumpy and had not held a job since his youth. Instead he spent most of his time in the garden and used to say he needed to get his hands dirty by weeding, digging and raking, or he would go crazy. That is why he had also taken up stamp collecting and doing magic tricks. He often entertained at an old people’s home.

Tom sat with the Mongolian box on his lap and traced the scrolls with his finger. What should he do with the stupid thing? Should he keep it in the back of the closet, or throw it in the bin? He could not help thinking it ought to be the other way round. Kevin should have had the box and he could do so much better with the stamp collection, since he already owned many stamps. Kevin had none, even if his parents would be able to buy him the most expensive ones. When Tom had suggested they swap, Kevin had been adamant. He wanted to keep the stamps since there must be a reason why their grandpa had chosen him to have them.

His snobby aunt had turned around to glare at Tom. ‘Kevin doesn’t have to share. The stamps are his. That’s what your grandpa wanted. I’m sure you understand.’

That’s when he had stumbled away to be alone. He turned the box over and over in his hands. He remembered so well how to open it. First the panel underneath had to be moved to locate the hidden place where the tiny iron key was supposed to go. His heart thumped faster as he slid the piece open.

Wow! The key was there! Then he coaxed away another panel, the smallest one, to find the concealed keyhole. The key fitted perfectly in the lock. He turned it and it opened like a well-oiled machine.

He was surprised to find an envelope inside. Underneath it, was the wooden tablet with the Chinese letters. When he discovered a fifty-dollar bill under the wooden tablet, a delighted cry slipped out. His grandpa had left him money. Even so, Tom couldn’t understand why he had been so unfair. Kevin received something, which could be priceless and he almost got nothing. The fifty dollars would be gone in a flash.

He opened the envelope and started to read.

My Dearest Tom
You are good! I knew you could open it. Remember, it’s all yours now. I chose you, and only you, to look after it. I know you’re kind and will help those in need. You can do the same magic as I’ve done over the years. However, only use it for good things. Saying that, if you believe that you deserve a new bike, or something else, you’ll have my blessing.
Whatever you do, don’t let anybody in on the secret, as it could have disastrous effects. If somebody finds out, the whole shebang might be lost forever. Remember, the value is so great that people on this earth will want to lay their hands on it. Keep it safe and guard it with your life!
Your loving grandpa

Thoughts whirred around in Tom’s head. Of what magic was his grandpa talking? Guard it with your life? How many did he think fifty dollars would help?

‘Grandpa, it’s just an old scrappy-looking thing, totally worthless!’ He felt let down, but grabbed the money. A new CD or DVD wouldn’t be so bad, but what he really needed was a new bike. He knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Fiddling around with the box, he remembered another secret slot. He pulled at it and yelled out when it slid open. Inside was a piece of paper with a list. It had headings such as, names, addresses, amount and reason. Who were those people? He didn’t understand, but put the fifty-dollar bill in his pocket. The wooden tablet, the letter and the list went back inside the box for safekeeping. After locking, he put the key and panels back in place. Then he left the room to join his family.

There were voices from the garden.

‘You know how much he loved his roses,” said his mum.

‘Well, he would, wouldn’t he?” said Tom’s aunt. ‘They were like his friends. He didn’t seem to have any others. Well, maybe the old people from the home. Anyway, hard to believe we were the only ones in church.’

Tom decided not to join them and went to the kitchen.

‘Oh, there you are,” said the mum, as she entered. ‘You got the box, Tom. That was nice of grandpa. He didn’t have much else, so you’ll have to be happy even if it doesn’t have any real value. You know how he treasured that box.’

‘But, it isn’t fair that Kevin got the stamps. I should’ve had them. I’m the oldest.’

‘Well, he gave you the box,” said his mum. ‘It must be a reason. Maybe you’re the best one to look after it. It’s old and it needs to be cared for. He bought it in the Far East, you know. I think you should be happy.’

‘I am … not,’ said Tom and went back to his room without talking to Kevin. He grabbed the box from the top shelf in the wardrobe and went through the rigmarole of opening it again. He wanted to look at the list with the names. Before he got to that part, he found a fifty-dollar note. Didn’t he just take out the fifty earlier? His hand went into his pocket. Right! There was the fifty-dollar bill.

He snatched the new one out of the box. Then he searched inside the compartment, first with his fingers and then he put the box close up to his eyes, while turning it around. He scratched inside with a pen, but there was nothing. For a moment, he had thought about a hidden stash of money somewhere, but no such luck. He closed it again.

Restless, he turned on some music and then sat staring into space for some time before he opened the box again. When he found one more fifty-dollar bill, he was dumbfounded. Had he not just searched through it?

He locked the box. Then he re-opened it. Another fifty! He looked at the serial numbers. Each note had a different number. They were not in a series. He closed the box and re-opened. One more!

Every time he went through the procedure, he found another fifty. He was confused and had no inkling how it could happen, but didn’t stop until he had a small pile of notes. He counted them. He closed and opened one more time to make it an even one thousand dollars.

Then it dawned on him. His grandpa had said something about magic. Was this some kind of magic box, which could make money out of nothing? If it was, the box must be the most valuable thing in the world. Moreover, his grandpa had given it to him. He could get rich, even richer than a billionaire.

The next few weeks, he went into a system to make money. When he had his first ten thousand dollars, he didn’t know what to do with them. There was nobody he could tell because his grandpa had said in the letter that the magic might break if he did. But if his parents found the stash of money in his room, they would think it stolen. He felt he had to use the money somehow. He wanted a new bike, but there was no way he could go out and buy one.

The same day when he was at the shops, he overheard a woman complaining to another shopper about the high prices. She said it wasn’t easy to bring up a family of seven when they had no wage coming in. Her husband was unable to work because of an injury. Tom followed her on his bike when she walked the few streets to her home with the smallest shopping bag. Back at his house, he picked up wads of fifty-dollar notes and put them in a shoebox.

He returned to the woman’s home and sneaked up to the front door to leave the box outside. How he would have liked to see when they found the money and the note with the words: “By the strength of the eternal Heaven – from Marco Polo.”

In a couple of weeks, he had four different addresses where he left money. When making a list on his computer to help him remember who was going to be on the receiving end and how much, he realised that the list from his grandpa was just that; people receiving money. His grandpa had chosen him to look after their needs, the same as he had done.

Before long, Tom had a full-scale production. When he wasn’t busy doing homework, or going to soccer training, he opened and closed the box umpteenth times. He had the time of his life. If he figured he needed more, he would make at least a thousand before going to bed. He gave away incredible amounts, but the wads still piled up inside his new hiding spot, inside the manhole, up in the roof.

That is where his dad found 23,000 dollars one day. He was going to put mice bait in the roof space when he found the old shoe box.

‘You won’t believe this, Jenny!’ he called down. ‘Come here and look what I found up in the roof!’

Tom’s mum was stunned. ‘Where does it come from? The people who lived here before must own it. John … I’m worried. It might be illegal money.’

Tom wanted to scream that it was perfectly safe. It was magic money and he could make thousands. But, if he did say it, the magic could disappear forever. Therefore, he kept his mouth shut and made more.

The next day they took the money from the attic to the police station. The officer stated if there were no other claims, they would be the owners after the required time.

As soon as they were home again, Tom went straight to his room. Nothing was going to stop him now. He became the busiest entrepreneur. When he was not at school or sports, he sat inside his wardrobe and made cash. The notes were piling up catastrophically high. He worried about what would happen if his mum wanted to look through his clothes or hang up some shirts. He knew he had to do something and the sooner the better.

After school the next day, he went to a second hand charity store. He found an old suitcase for nine dollars. It was shabby and perfect.

Tom stuffed the suitcase full of money bundles. He made a quick calculation and was satisfied. Then he went to the fridge and found a hamburger patty from the night before.
The same evening, he asked his parents if he could get a dog.

‘I don’t know if we can afford one,’ said his dad.

‘You pay a lot of money for a pedigree,” said his mum. ‘But, if you want one from the pound, it should be okay. Or, what do you think, John?’

‘Are you going to look after it? You’ll be the one and I mean, the only one. We’re both working all day. You’ll have to feed it and take it for walks after school. Is that a promise?’

‘Yeah, yeah, it’s a promise!’

‘Well, okay then. It’s Saturday tomorrow. Let’s go to the pound in the morning and see what we can find!’

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They came home with a scruffy looking mutt, but it was the one Tom had wanted. It reminded him of a dog from a movie.

‘No, we can’t call him Porterhouse,” said the dad. ‘It sounds like a steak.’

‘Oh, yes, we can. I like it.’

They let Porterhouse off the leash in the garden. He ran around, put his mark on every tree and then disappeared under the house.

‘What’s he doing in there?’ said mum.

‘You know how dogs are,’ said dad. ‘He’s probably found a place to dig, or an old bone.’

Porterhouse started to bark.

‘Can you see what’s going on?’ said dad.

Tom went closer and dropped to his knees. ‘There’s something in there! Looks like a suitcase. I’ll get it.’

‘No, don’t!’ said his mum. ‘There might be spiders.’

‘It’s okay.’ Tom crawled in a few meters and was back out with the case.

His dad opened it at once. ‘I can’t believe it! Where did all this money come from? What’s it doing here?’

‘What did I tell you?’ said his mum. ‘Of course, it’s illegal money. Maybe a gangster used to live here. We’ll have to take it to the police station.’

‘Oh, yes, they should be able to find out more about where it’s from. There could be fingerprints both on the case and the money,’ said the dad.

Tom went white. He had not thought about that at all. They might even check his DNA.
 ‘Do we have to take it to the cops?’

‘Oh, yes, we do,’ said the dad. ‘It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t.’

Tom lifted a few wads. He tried to do it absentmindedly, while his mum and dad almost argued about the money. ‘What’s this? Looks like an envelope.’

His dad grabbed it, opened it and started to read with his mum hanging over the shoulder.

My Dearest Tom

You are good! I knew you could open it. Remember, it’s all yours now. I chose you, and only you, to look after it. I know you’re kind and will help those in need. You can do the same magic as I’ve done over the years. However, only use it for good. Saying that, if you believe that you deserve a new bike, or something else, you’ll have my blessing. Whatever you do, don’t let anybody in on the secret as it could have disastrous effects. If somebody finds out, the whole shebang might be lost forever. Remember, the value is so great that people on this earth will want to lay their hands on it. Keep it safe and guard it with your life!

Your loving grandpa

‘Oh, my god, I don’t believe this. How could he have made so much money doing magic tricks for some oldies?’ said his mum.

‘But, Jenny, it doesn’t look like that much. It says here … the value is so great that every person will want to lay their hands on it … guard it with your life? He’s embellishing it quite a bit, isn’t he?’

Tom smiled. He already had the new bike in his mind, the blackest with green stripes and everything possible to go with it. He would buy one for Kevin too, but in blue. He looked up towards the sky.

‘Grandpa, if you can hear this I want to tell you something. I love you! Thanks for everything! And if you see Marco Polo, thank him too.’

The mother stared at Tom. ‘Who’s … Marco Polo?’

‘Sounds like the old merchant traveller … you know, on the Silk Road … to China … from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. What’s he got to do with it?’

Tom shrugged. ‘Not much. Can you look after my money? I’m so busy, got to run.’

The End

© Copyright by Lena Nilsson. You may print or save the story for your own private use.

A Little Bit of Spring in My Sweden

After 40 years in Australia, and a few visits to Sweden, I still have my favourite memories of my birth country. I grew up with walks in the woods. Often to pick wildflowers. As far as I know, it’s still allowed to pick the White Wood Anemones, but not so the Blue Wood Anemones. I’m happy if I’m able to take photos of them to keep forever in my hidden memory cupboard in the top loft.

After a long autumn and a cold and dark winter, people in Sweden usually look forward to the lighter, warmer springtime. More people spend more time outdoors, preparing for summer. How much summer you get, is up to the laws of nature. You’re never sure if your holiday time falls due when the weather is at its best, or if it’s going to be cold and rainy when you had planned sunning yourself on a beach.

The photos show the progression from early spring when the snow starts to melt. What follows are many wonders. Spring is best. At least in my opinion.

All photos are taken in the Gothenburg region during late April – beginning of May. Göteborg is the second largest city in Sweden.

Below you can see a bit of evergreen between the birch trees with an icy small lake in the background.

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Snow is left in pockets of nature to melt away on sunny days.

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Below is an Australian little girl, used to the sun and the beach, wondering about what’s so good with the cold and the snow after a bit of playtime.

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This little Aussie girl seems to be saying: ‘So, what else can I do now? It’s cold and I want to go home.’

Sweden 21Halfway hidden, since the snow is melting. Maybe due to the flowing of water through the drain.

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A typically red house in a typical Swedish landscape.

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At the roadside where the birch trees are struggling to break out of a wintry stronghold.

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Snow, ice, evergreen fir trees and green mosses, surprisingly uncovered, to show that spring is on its way.

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Ice still lingers in the shallows of the ocean. Doesn’t look tempting now, but wait until the warmer weather starts. Then the place will be filled with people and boats.

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In the Swedish archipelago, on the west coast – a perfect place during summer, but wintry and cold here.

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People in flats look eagerly towards spring and summer. They can easily follow the seasons by looking out the window where the birch trees close by dress up in their finest spring attire. Sometimes it goes a bit slowly and at other times, it almost seems to happen overnight.

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But wait! There’s more. When the Wood Anemones start to show everyone is happy.

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The birch trees are now flowering and the landscape turns a light green colour. This is the time when Swedish people sometimes bring the newly developed leafy branches inside their homes. Especially at Easter time when they also decorate them with feathers and other Easter decorations.

Below are photos of birch trees in development and a photo of a ginst. I don’t know if it’s the same in English, but that’s what the net translation shows. In any case, I love the beautiful sunny yellow against the blue sky.

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Blue Wood Anemone, which comes in different shades of blue and sometimes in pink, has always been protected in Sweden. As a child I never saw them in nature. Only as an example in someone’s garden, but don’t know how it ended up there since it was illegal to pick or transfer. I have no idea if the same applies today, but I would think so.

These days you can see massive amounts in nature if you just happen to know the right places. On one of our visits to Sweden, our friends were kind enough to take us out to see large patches of the blue ones in the woods. That was an amazing sight to soothe a Swedish soul.

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Then we have the White Wood Anemones, which grow almost everywhere under a few trees, in a small copse, or as huge carpets on the forest floors.

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In spring, they stick up their heads through thick and thin. As children, we went out in the woods, first with our parents and later, when older, with a friend or friends. In those days it seemed safer to wander around on our own in the woods. Today it would be impossible.

When we came home with a bouquet of “vitsippor” to give our mums, we felt extra appreciated. Sometimes we picked small bouquets to give to friendly neighbours. If lucky, we were handed a coin or a cookie. So, that meant, every time we felt like possibly getting paid with a coin or a cookie, we went flower picking in the woods. No wonder I think back on those days with love and gratitude. Old Mrs Andersson was especially friendly and nice.

The smell of these little flowers is very special, fresh and earthy, and when writing about it, I can almost smell them now. Sometimes we were out too early in the season and came home with a small bunch with tiny buds, but as soon as they were placed in water at home, they started to come out.

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Those memories are firmly entrenched. Love those little white flowers, which brighten up even the darkest forest as long as some sunlight reaches down through the leaves to wake them up.

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And here you have it! A small vase with typical spring brought inside to warm up everyone’s feelings.

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This was a little bit of my Sweden. Some other time I will post A Little Bit of Summer in My Sweden.

Varied Weather, Varied Nature, Varied Places, Tasmania

In Tasmania you will probably have varied weather with one day of clouds and rain, but the next day could be filled with perfect sunshine. Here are some photos to show the variety.

First you have the view from Mount Wellington, close to Hobart, on a cloudy, rainy day.

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Below is the view from the uppermost top of Mount Wellington on a cloudy, foggy, rainy day. But the fog is probably there most of the time anyway.

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Here we are up in the mountainous area of Cradle Mountain. Almost like in the northern parts of Sweden, but I never found any cloudberries like you could in Sweden.

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Here I am playing hide and seek when out for the Enchanted Walk – Cradle Mountain National Park. A mossy old lady between mossy old trees.

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We walked there in the evening too. That’s when we saw wombats out on their evening strolls. This is also where the cute and original platypus may live, but we never saw them. Maybe next time. This photo looks like the perfect setting for a saga about trolls.

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In the National Park of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair, you will find flowering plants of the more alpine kind. Here you have some of them. A Tasmanian Grevillea on the top left, and some kind of Christmas Bells on the low right. Don’t know the exact names and have no idea about the the others yet.

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On cloudy, foggy, rainy days, the roads may look like this. We didn’t mind. It just reminded us what we had “fled from” a long time ago. This photo looks like Sweden in the darker, colder months.

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Here’s something which doesn’t know what it wants. Sunshine? Or clouds and rain?

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Another cloudy, foggy, rainy day, but still interesting and full of adventure.

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Here’s time for lunch on another sunny, wonderful day in the north. Lars setting the table. We had just been to a bakery where they sold a lot of little goodies.

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When it’s half sunny in Tasmania, the colours turn on a magnificent display. In the north, I even found the red dirt, which makes for colourful pictures.

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Below:

Wow! The stripes of reddish brown, yellowish green and apple green together with the dark green and the bluish grey sky. Isn’t this slope beautiful and just like something woven? I want to buy it, but can’t afford it.

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When we arrived in Australia 40 years ago, people told us about forests in Tasmania where it’s possible to walk on top of trees. It seemed incredible at the time. Those trees were supposed to be in the windswept south, but these tightly growing ones in the north seemed ideal to take a walk on too. No, we didn’t try.

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Wherever we went, we found birch trees. In every city or town, people have planted them in their gardens, in parks and on street verges. This property had long rows of birch trees on both sides of their driveway.

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More birch trees! As I said, they’re everywhere and remind us a lot about Sweden.

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“Time for another coffee,” said Lars. Had to be the instant kind. No Latte or Cappuccino in the bush. But plenty in the towns and cities. Luckily!

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No more for now. See you later!

Hellyer Gorge, Gondwanaland, Tasmania

We had planned our route in advance when driving through Tasmania and were up in the northwest heading towards the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. In doing so we ended up at Hellyer Gorge, more or less by accident. When we saw the not so imposing sign at the roadside, we nevertheless had an immediate desire for a coffee break. Gosh, am I glad we did! And my husband too.

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This small, seemingly insignificant, detour from the Murchison Highway ended up as an amazing experience. We spent about an hour walking through an ancient relic of Gondwanaland. I couldn’t get enough of the incredible terrain from our ancient history, many hundreds of million years ago, when the Australian continent belonged to the supercontinent called Gondwanaland.

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Hellyer Gorge 4 Tasmania

Gondwana included most of the landmasses in today’s Southern Hemisphere, including Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar and the Australian continent. The Arabian peninsula and the Indian subcontinent were also part thereof, but slowly, slowly moved into the Northern Hemisphere.

The exciting vegetation around Hellyer Gorge include Myrtle Beech, Southern Sassafras, Leatherwood and Messmate, which belongs to the Eucalyptus family. Then there are the myriad of ferns and tree ferns and towards autumn, the ground is apparently coloured by different varieties of fungi.

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The old Myrtle Forest has a mysterious atmosphere. You feel like stepping back in time and it’s easy to imagine you’re walking with dinosaurs. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park or in my own fairytale.

When we were there, the sunlight filtered its way through the leafy ferns and Hellyer River flowed with an almost singing voice. Many days in Tasmania are cloudy and rainy, mostly depending on the season, but this sunny day in spring was excellent for walking through this forest on a 15-20 min track.

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Enter this remarkable and enchanting rainforest and you feel privileged to have been gifted the experience by Mother Nature. If you have children, I bet they would be deliriously happy to stare up into a roof of fern leaves and imagine themselves to be in a different world. I must be a child at heart because I like to imagine.

Hellyer Gorge needs to be protected, since it’s so very, very special. How many people know about this wondrous place?