Berries and caves of my ancestors

It was the second full day of our road trip, and finally the sun had arrived. The country was transformed, and for a little while we imagined we were in another land, but more on that later.

We had all been avidly checking our various, and variously unreliable, weather apps in the hopes that there would be a gap in the clouds, and though predictions had ranged from rain to cloudly to partly cloudy, we awoke to clear skies. So with enthusiasm, and a tiny bit of trepidation, we set off for a day of adventure on the coast.

Our destination was Mölle, a little seaside town that was apparently very popular with German tourists around the beginning of the last century. There was even a direct train from Berlin, and the Kaiser visited once. I assume the lack of explanation on the posters about the heady days of sunbathing Germans was a combination of Swedish humbleness and self-effacement. Or perhaps they were just as baffled as us.
Whatever the actual reason, in the sunlight, the whitewashing houses and jetties seemed more Mediterranean than Scandinavian. Lovely as the curving streets and seaside villas were, we had another goal in Mölle, and it involved even more activity than climbing the steps of Viking watchtowers (see the previous post if that comment seemed at all peculiar, it’s got Vikings in it).

Mölle by the sea

Mölle by the sea

Our friend had been told that the area had some beautiful scenery that was best seen on a hike, and even included a few bathing places. So we had come with bathers, walking shoes, packed lunches and I at least had a burning need to do my first swim of the year.
The hike started off relatively easily then suddenly became steep and rocky, reminding me of the hike I had done around Cinque Terre in 2008. Rather than gnarled old olive trees, here were bent over birches and beeches, and I imagined the sea that swooshed against the rocks below would be colder.

Rocky coast

Rocky coast

After a time the trees opened up and we found ourselves on a grassy field, bounded on one side by a cliff and on the other wind blown birch trees. On the edge of the cliff stood a pine, that looked strangely that those I had seen at Gallipoli last November. The yellow grass and sunlit sea almost convinced us we were on the edge of the Mediterranean, rather than within sight of Denmark.

Birches and sunburnt grass

Birches and sunburnt grass

Then we heard a familiar thunk, and agreed that Swedes were undeterred by any terrain when it came to golf.
It wasn’t the last time we saw signs of golf courses on our hike; we’d think that we were in a dense forest, the quiet only broken by the crashing of waves, when a loud donk interrupted the idyll.
Another surprise was the raspberries. Oh the berries. They started appearing after the Mediterranean cliff, first in tiny patches by the sides of the path and then in larger swathes, tiny snatches of red among the thick green leaves that were quickly plucked and stuffed in our mouths. Some were bitter or sour, but more often than not there would be a perfectly sweet one, and we got adept at recognising the most ripe ones. Unfortunately we had nothing to put them in and so had to eat them all straight away, which was terrible, of course.

Technically unripe blackberries, but still, berries!

Technically unripe blackberries, but still, berries!

I got especially good at spotting them along the paths so we would often be walking along quietly, watching our footing and the scenery, when I’d cry out ‘berries!’ and point, like some sweet-toothed bloodhound. Often the cry would come before the thought, which we decided must be some latent skill that has been passed down from my early Scandinavian berry picking ancestors.

Over cow fields mysteriously empty of cows, past other hikers and through forests we walked, until finally we reached our first destination. Right on the point of the peninsula stands an old lighthouse, a small building surrounded by sudden tourists. There were two cafes, a bar, a tour bus and lots of people milling about, which was quite a change from the peaceful if slightly minefield-like cow fields we’d just left.
We found an empty picnic bench overlooking the sea (and sunbathing tourists) and enjoyed our lunch, as clouds began to make their way back across the sky. While there was no rain, it seemed that the clear blue skies and sun were over for the time being, and so after having eaten and rested, we put our cardigans back on and continued our walk.

Old beaches

Old beaches

The walk back around the other side of the peninsula was easier, and the first stop along the path was a cave. The way to the cave was a rope hanging down a steep, sandy cliff, so we left that one and continued on, exclaiming about berries and eating them. We next found a porpoise look out, where we saw no porpoises, but rather a small rocky beach. I felt like an ant scrabbling across jumbles sandgrains, which made more a cleaner but more treacherous beach walk. The water was warmer than I thought and after all the walking, it was pleasant to cool my feet on the shore, balancing on the pink and blue rocks.

Pebbled shores

Pebbled shores

Our final stop on the hike was the beach we’d packed our bathers for. It turned out to be similar to the porpoiseless porpoise beach (and before you ask, yes, I did make a few puns), though with more people and with two other sights of interest. On either side of the beach, among the cliffs, were two caves that had been inhabited since the stone age. We went into one, a tiny places only a few metres deep and a few more high. There was soot and ashes from a recent fire, and two benches just outside. It was very moving standing inside, wondering who had lived there and how different the world had been for them. And how similar.

An ancient cave

An ancient cave

I can imagine that they, at least, would have been more likely to wade into the sea than I was when I realised that most of the rocks had a green, slippery covering that almost sent me under the shallow water as I considered swimming. Other people on the beach swam instead, though hearteningly for me none of them managed it without at least a little bit of wobbly balancing.

From the beach it was a short walk across the peninsula to Mölle, via raspberries and at least one golf course. Back in town we enjoyed the feeling of earning a bit of tiredness, and drove back to Malmö for our last night.

On the final day we packed up and cleaned out, and as the weather still seemed pleasant we drove further along the coast to a little town that had been recommended to us. Ystad was indeed small, a harbour town with a cathedral, cobbled stones, a sandy beach and a Viking ship.

Ystad street

Ystad street

The Viking ship was admittedly not from the town, but from Denmark, and was making a quick stop. Most of the space was taken up by supplies, sleeping bags and the sort of equipment that I imagine Vikings would have liked to have had on their voyages. It was also graceful and impressive, and I wondered how I hadn’t picked it out of the crowds of other boats in the harbour before.

A Viking ship

A Viking ship

Back in town we had lunch in the courtyard of an old brewery, an excellent and tasty end to our roadtrip. After that it was only a matter of a final stop at a bakery and then driving back up to Göteborg, saying goodbye to Skåne and the girl on the goose as we went.

Goodbye to the goose girl

Goodbye to the goose girl

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.