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.