2 Vikings, 2 towers and summer rain

I write this post from our new apartment, which we have officially and formally moved into. Following yet another visit to IKEA (let it be the last) it’s now looking and feeling even more homely.
The whole of this week hasn’t been spent moving our things and settling in though. We did most of the work last week, as on Sunday we had to be up and hitting the road, bound for more travels. This time we were heading south, for parts of Sweden that we had heard much of but had never seen. We were going with a friend, and so in true road trip style we piled into a hired car and set off with snacks and Spotify playlists, hoping that the weather would clear.

Snacks for the journey

Snacks for the journey

Our first stop was to have been Mölle, a coastal town where we were hoping to hike and possibly swim, but as the skies remained grey and the rain continued to fall we headed on to Malmö.
Malmö is the third largest city in Sweden, and has a reputation for innovation, lots of cyclists and general hippness. There seemed fewer cyclists than I had imagined, but it did have a modern feeling, and the Twisting Torso isn’t something you see every day. We first glimpsed it as we drove towards the city, a pale blue and white construction that seemed to change colour as we got closer.

Twisting Torso from the beach

Twisting Torso from the beach

As we were too early to get the keys to the apartment we were staying at (airbnb – it works!) we found some parking and went for a wander around town in the hopes of finding food and something to occupy us. We found both at the Malmö Konst Hall, including possibly the worst temptation to tamper with an artwork that I’ve ever seen. 10 metres of carefully laid sand with an artfully shaped wheel rolled over it. And nothing but an exasperated chap telling us to please step back. I resisted of course, but I dread to imagine a mob of school children on an excursion.

From there we went to the Modern Art Museum, via the canal that runs through the centre of town and the central shopping areas. At the museum I discovered that I still do not understand Picasso, but that there have been many more modern female artists in Scandinavia than I had thought. It also sparked a discussion about why self-portraits are less glamorous than the other paintings done by artists. Possibly you can choose a model but not your own face? Artists are as self-critical as the rest of us? Any other theories out there?

Our final stop was a closer look at the Twisting Torso, which looked less graceful but more impressive up close.
Then we found the apartment and got settled in, preparing for our first full day of exploring, in which the weather would hopefully improve.

Beneath the Twisting Torso

Beneath the Twisting Torso

It didn’t.

We did however have a plan and so after breakfast we set off in the car for a small town to the south, where there exists an even smaller town very different from any I had ever seen.
Foteviken village is a place where a very particular lifestyle is permitted and celebrated, where people can visit or stay if they wish, as long as they abide by the rules. For those who stay there are no mobile phones, watches, zips or clothing that would have been seen since the late Viking era.

The town is a reconstruction of a village from that era, complete with various types of buildings, workshops, chickens wandering around and a ship sitting out at sea.

A ship and two boats at sea

A ship and two boats at sea

Inside the buildings were authentic bowls, food, fireplaces, weapons, tapestries and furniture, and inside one there were even two Vikings. They were busy trying to light a fire in a large mud and manure oven, but fortunately were not too busy to have a chat with us. They spend a few months a year living here, often sleeping outside the town but spending as much time as possible working as smiths, carpenters of weavers, contributing to the town and acting as guides for visitors.

As it was raining the town was pretty quiet so we got about an hour and a half with one of the fellows, who eventually resorted to using the blacksmiths bellows to light the fire (authentic of course – when I joked that using new technology surely helped he looked as though I had spoken a terrible blasphemy). He showed us the house of the King, which was decorated with tapestries, helmets, weapons and a very nicely carved chair.

The house of the King

The house of the King

The King is the man who established the town, and who decides whether or not people are allowed to stay. He also scrutinises the goods at the regular markets to ensure that there is nothing that would have been made after around 1200 CE. From what we were told woe betides anyone who has plastic.

Apples for the King

Apples for the King

After our tour we found the guard tower, which housed some more helmets and weapons, and steep stairs that lead up to the viewing platform from which we had a wonderful view over the town and the sea.

The stone circle

The stone circle

From there we found the stone circle, the execution area and the sacrificial grove. Thankfully the guidelines for the town state that no live animal is allowed to be sacrificed, so all that stood there were a collection of wooden figures, that like the rest of the town looked more authentic than glamorous.

The sacrificial grove

The sacrificial grove

It’s fair to say that I thought the place was brilliant, and from the stories we were told there are many other places around Scandinavia and Europe where you can experience Viking life. Whether your interests are in markets, battles or just the authentic way of life, you can find something. The stories about the wounds that some of the fighters got gave us the impression that this is more than a hobby for some people.

Do not be surprised if there is another post about a Viking village sometime in the future.

The guard tower

The guard tower

When we got back to Malmö and had lunch, the weather still hadn’t improved, so we decided to explore another place out of town that we had heard interesting things about.
Lund is a university town, and as such seemed remarkably like Cambridge, which we had visited last year. The reason for this, we suspect, is that the reliance on the university means that other industries that tend to transform towns through the years don’t have as much of an effect. The result is cobbled streets, Tudor-style buildings and a sense of timelessness.

A street in Lund

A street in Lund

We first explored the cathedral in the centre of town, which included an interesting crypt, and then wandered outside, taking streets that seemed interesting and allowing ourselves to get lost.

In the crypt

In the crypt

As the rain returned so did we to Malmö, to rest for another day of sightseeing, hoping again that the weather would clear and allow us to explore without the tiring drizzle.

It did, and that is a post for next week.

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Weekend trip to the land of Angles

I write this latest update inside the apartment, as the weather outside fretfully decides whether to continue with the wind and rain of this morning, or return to the sunny skies that I’ve become used to. I fear that in returning from across the seas last night we may have brought with us the wind and rain of England. Sorry Göteborg.
It was not all rain and bluster fortunately, though I think the fact that the weather lived up to my expectations of the typical, cliqued sort of conditions I’ve heard so much of was a bit satisfying in an odd way.

So what were we doing in England you ask? Well, before we’d even left Australia my partner had heard of an annual airshow in Southport, which includes some of his favourite airplanes, and which he was pretty eager to go along to. Göteborg being a mere hop, skip and jump from England, we duly made plans and bought tickets and so last weekend popped over to see the show. I’ve wanted to visit England for as long as I can remember, seeing it as the home of many of my ancestors and a large part of the culture of Australia. Plus Monty Python, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Dorothy L Sayers etc etc etc… The idea that Australia technically has a Queen also makes me geek out a bit, in a historical way. How Medieval eh?

So, we caught the plane to Stansted and landed, all running more or less to plan and found the hotel. Morning arrived and so did we, though possibly not as quickly as we should have. By the time we were in our hired car and pootling up the M1 it was a bit later than planned, but after all, Google Maps had told us it would only take a couple of hours to get to Southport. No problem right? Guess.

Green sunlit fields

For all that it was longer than planned, it was a lovely drive. Traffic issues meant that we went on a small diversion, passing through small villages that were so very English that I almost didn’t believe it. Twisting streets, hedgerows, old churches, quaint double-storey houses and the most fabulous names, it almost seemed a parody of itself. As we drove, the sky cleared and for much of the afternoon the fields and houses were bright and sunny. I also enjoyed reading out the names of pubs that we passed, such as The Bears Head, The Green Wheelbarrow and The Wrestler. I’d guess there would be a story behind each name, that would be as old as the buildings, or at least an invented tale.

Though late, we did arrive in Southport in time for the displays that were most eagerly anticipated. Eventually making our way to the beach, we stood and watched and photographed the planes as they wooshed overhead. From the Typhoon, a modern jet that sounded as though it was tearing the sky apart, to a Lancaster bomber flanked by Spitfires in honour of the Battle of Britain, it was a very interesting show. The planes and helicopters eventually headed off into the distance, and so did we, venturing into town for something to eat and somewhere to sit. During our wandering I realised that without being really aware of it, Id become accustomed to the reserved, almost genteel manner of Swedes and being confronted by people who shouted questions at us and loud groups of swaggering sorts of men trailing young children and tired women was a bit of a shock. It felt like family night in Northbridge and I felt like a cosseted stranger. We did find a very nice hotel though, with friendly and gracious staff who also employed a very good cook. More relaxed and full of food we headed to Chorley, the closest place I could find accommodation an prepared ourselves for another early morning.

Southport beach

I mentioned that the weather was typically English didn’t I? Well on the Sunday this trend continued, and as such the second day of the airshow was cancelled with the expectation of storms, so we hopped into the car earlier than the previous day, with plans still up in the air. If we returned the car in good time, I hoped, there might be time for a quick trip to London, but as we drove on and I checked times, this seemed less and less likely. Fortunately, as it turned out, our route back took us closer to Cambridge than the previous day’s drive, so we decided to stop there for lunch. After some traffic issues, we parked in the city and looked around. Where is the University? I thought, peering around for old towers and gates and finding only winding roads and old buildings. Then it occurred to me why I couldn’t find the University; the city was the University. I was right in the centre of it. The old buildings were colleges and campus buildings, and those young people trotting and cycling around us were students, tolerant of the peering tourists who must be often getting in the way.

Cambridge street

I decided pretty quickly that I very much liked Cambridge, with it’s mix of the old and the new, and rather than just stay for lunch we made an afternoon of it, wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. A particularly touristy activity we did was a punt up the Cam, guided by a student who had a lot to say about the history of the town and University, and in particular the colleges that we passed as we floated upstream. It was the perfect way to get to the heart of the town, passing the old houses of Trinity, Trinity Hall, King’s and Queen’s, and under the bridges. Some ducks and swans also joined us, as tolerant of us tourists as the students had been.

Cam swans

After the tour we hurried back to the car to head to the airport, and managed through a little bit of speeding to get there only 30 mins later than planned, and after more running made it to the gate with time to spare. Then all that was left was to wait for the plane to take us back over the sea, and home.

Punts waiting on the Cam

Tomorrow I am off again, this time to Stockholm, to hopefully find the house where my mum grew up, find something suitable for my brother’s impending birthday and general exploration. Adventures and another blog post are on the way!