Spring is Here?

Posted on April 12th, 2013 by

Last week was our Spring break. Instead of going utomlands, I spent the time exploring Sweden. It began in splendid Stockholm. My parents had come to meet me there the week before and we got to know the city together. We walked for days on end before we started taking the bus. Yet, walking was a fine way to learn the city and it made me appreciate the buses and tunnelbana more. For the first days I didn’t mind, anyway, it was so exciting just to be there! On Thursday (a walking day), we went to visit Skansen, the outdoor historic museum. Though not everything was open, we still enjoyed ourselves outside on a clear, beautiful day in the Swedish Spring. We saw a house set up to look like the 1930s, a dry goods store, the printer’s, weaving inside a farmhouse, and the school house. Making our way through the Easter market booths, we found Seglora Kyrka for Maundy Thursday service.

Seglora Kyrka in Skansen

Seglora Kyrka in Skansen

On Good Friday we went to Storkyrkan, right beside the palace in Gamla Stan. It was a pensive service with organ and choir, quite a beautiful place to contemplate Christ’s sacrifice for us (even if we couldn’t understand the whole sermon). Our next stop was just around the corner at the Nobel Museum. An exhibit there until the 2nd of June features Sweden’s beloved poet and winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature, Tomas Tranströmer. I enjoyed learning more about his life from the photographs and letters in the display cases, which included a number of his poems with their English translations. Accompanying this was a great display of the butterflies and insects from the natural history museum he used to visit every Sunday as a child. I was pleased to find a pocket edition of his works in the bookshop (perfect for my suitcase).

At Storkyrka

At Storkyrka

Nobel Museum

Nobel Museum

Since we hadn’t gotten our fill of thrifting yet, we spent Saturday visiting more stores in Södermalm. We had transportation passes for the whole day and entertained ourselves by riding the number one bus along its entire route just to see the city. After daylight hours we rode the tunnelbana. That evening we reunited with our friends from Germany. Laura stayed with our family as an exchange student when I was a senior in high school; we had not seen her for two years and had never met her parents other than on Skype. Happily, our spring breaks coincided and we were able to eat out together in Gamla Stan and walk the streets in the cool evening. I think we must have talked for five hours straight!

Jesus är uppstånden! Ja, Han är sannerligen uppstånden!–the wonderful Easter news we heard at Hedvig Eleonora Kyrka. The sanctuary was bright and light as the sun streamed in through the pastel-coloured stained glass windows. Looking up I could see the golden all-seeing eye in the centre of the domed ceiling. After the service, we received happy daffodils (påskliljor). The rest of the day we rode around the city on buses and trams and ate German chocolate.

Hedvig Eleonora Kyrka

Hedvig Eleonora Kyrka

For the next couple of days of break we decided to bo på landet on a sheep farm in a small village called Bitterna. Looking out at the landscapes of the counties we passed through, Västmanland, Närke, and Västergötland, I felt very much at home because of its similarity to Wisconsin. Trees grow in forests and mingle with fields and small farmlands. There is the same problem here with rocky farms, only whereas we would stack the rocks in a pile, theirs were lined up along the fence. Our train got us to Herrljunga and Lars met us at the station. He and his wife Monica are retired, but still have about 40 sheep (they used to have over 100!). They raise the sheep for their wool and meat. Lars has a little meat shop where he carves and packages the meat to sell, some he sells to restaurants. Not surprisingly, we ate lamb for every meal (and potatoes-what else?). We were very spoiled there and hardly stopped eating, what with three meals a day plus fikas and dessert.

There were many chores on the farm during lambing season. New lambs, the orphans and the runts, had to be bottle fed every couple of hours and the ewes got fed twice a day. They can get pretty loud when they are hungry. Each one has an individual voice–some deep, some higher, even human-like at times. The lambs chime in with their small cries. It was cracking me up while standing in the barn feeding lambs, all these yelling sounds filling my ears, and I could not stop laughing (but that couldn’t be heard over the sheep). By our second day, we had picked up the routine of the farm and it felt like we had been there much longer. We witnessed three lambs being born (not necessarily an agreeable sight, but something which carries a beauty in its own way). From Monica, we got lessons in carding, spinning, and felting. We really got the hang of carding, but our spinning needs more practice. Wool is a very strong fiber and the most important step to fine thread is to stretch it properly with one’s fingers at the beginning.

Lars and Monica were a very welcoming couple. They have been hosting guests on their bed and breakfast farm in the country for 15 years. It was so pleasant in their home. This combined with what I could see from the train, bus, and car rides across Västergötland makes it an enchanting place for me. I caught glimpses of the woods, the floors already green with moss in the early Spring. I would love to return to see it in the summer.

On the farm

On the farm

Black sheep

Black sheep

The young ewes

The young ewes

The farms here are rocky.

The farms here are rocky.

The spinning

The spinning

After this interlude, it was back to the city with us. We next visited Gothenburg (Göteborg). The sun stays up later and later, so we still had time to walk around in the light our first evening there. Then next day we got 24 hour passes so we could see more of the city riding the trams. Many of the museums in Göteborg are free to students up to age 25. For others, when you buy a ticket at one museum, you have access to the other public museums for the rest of the year. We went to Stadsmuseet, the impressively large city museum, but did not have time to see it all. It chronicles the city’s history from the Viking age to… well, we only made it to the 1700s because we were distracted by the ‘take your portrait’ computer that places your face into a painting. So much fun!

We went to a lunch organ concert of Bach music at the German Church (I love that organ sound!). Then we rode the tram to the end and circled back around to visit a couple second-hand shops we had caught sight of on the way. From there it was not far to the Maritime Museum and Aquarium. I’m not much interested in boats and ships, but the jellyfish at the aquarium were mesmerising.

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

Moving on, we searched out the magic M sign for Myrorna, our favourite thrift store chain in Sweden, sort of like Goodwill. (I have so far been to five locations, but there are two more here in Uppsala!) After this, we were able to make it to the art museum to round out our busy day. The exhibit on Nordic art was well worth seeing. I’m a fan of Carl Larsson and he had his own small room with paintings and wood work.

Friday morning got a little more interesting when our train to Nässjö was exchanged for a bus. I didn’t really have a concept of how far away this city was from Göteborg, but after the five hour bus ride Sweden did not seem so small anymore. It was fine for us, we loved seeing more of the country than we would have from a train. We had missed our connection, but they easily updated our tickets and we finally made it to our destination of Linköping. Our one full day there included a visit to the Gothic style Domkyrka and the nearby museum–former residence of Bishop Hans Brask.

Domkyrka, Linköping

Domkyrka, Linköping

On Sunday, the last cherished day of break, we attended Domkyrka in Uppsala. This is perhaps my favourite sanctuary so far. Upon entering, I stared in amazement at the high ceilings, all painted in unbelievable patterns. It was a cloudy morning at first, but as the sun broke through it glinted into all the stained-glass windows, highlighting their deepest shades. My camera could not capture the sight with complete accuracy because the light was too overpowering. However, this picture gives some indication of the beautiful ceilings.

One section of the many paintings on the ceilings of Domkyrka, Uppsala

One section of the many paintings on the ceilings of Domkyrka, Uppsala

On Sunday, too, we finally visited Ikea. We had wanted to see one in Sweden, but found that they are all so similar, we could have been in Minneapolis. We had a Swedish lunch in the café (quite  crowded on a Sunday afternoon) and casually strolled through the living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. Amazingly, we walked out with nothing!

 


One Comment

  1. Roland says:

    Wow! You certainly weren’t idle during the break! And how smart of you to spend part of it “ute på landet.”