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.

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.