Österlen’s coastal landscape is beautiful indeed. But it looks even better after a nice dinner with friends and a good night’s sleep.
The picturesque crooked roads that lead from Lund to Kivik opened our appetites to the home-made pizza that our swedish-spanish hosts had prepared for us. Champagne and good wines flowed, mouldy cheeses and spicy olives were devoured, the drums rolled.
Board games were set, pseudo-punk spanish kids TV-show music chimed in, bringing in weird childhood memories for those who hailed from those parts. Even a sketching workshop for children was going on, until it was way past bedtime.
The morning after, all residues of the tiniest hangover vanished at the sight and smells of Skåne’s east coast. In Vitemölla Strandbackar nature reserve, just north of Kivik, the calm waters of the Baltic touch the dunes of sand, the dirt of land and the trunks of pine trees, simultaneously. Something didn’t add up, and yet, it was very pleasant to walk around, up and down from the field to the forest and back to the beach in less than a kilometre. It’s as if three different landscapes came together in the very same spot, like three different sentences that don’t belong to the same paragraph, punctuated regularly by the pre-emptive concrete bunkers of the WWII-era. Later, I learned that this type of landscape is known as sand-steppe – something very particular to this area of the Baltic sea, and that the pine forest is actually planted. Our hosts explained that this area generates some discussion because it seems that the pine forest is conflicting with the native sand-steppe landscape.
Oblivious to these reflections on the conflicting landscapes, Jesus picked mushrooms for lunch. And they were slimy-licous fried in garlic and coriander!
While travelling in and around Stockholm, the kronor spent in a several-days ticket for the insanely efficient mass transport system is a wise investment. You can get pretty much anywhere by train, bus, subway or tram if your feet are getting to you, not worrying about fares. And everything comes obsessively on time – can’t speak for the wintertime though.
There are around 80 museums to visit in the Swedish capital city. Fotografiska, now featuring a huge exhibition by Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, is highly recommendable. Vasa Museet is a must. But my prize has to go to Etnografiska Museet. It owns an extraordinary collection of objects from all over the world and it had to be three of the most interesting and fun hours we spent in the city. Featured were an overview of the native North American cultures, then and now, and a review of the devastating effects of the Carlisle School (the documentary Schooling the World – the White Man’s Last Burden provides a sound outlook on this subject) and an exhibition about Swedish missionaries in Sub-Saharan Africa, through whom many objects came to be at the museum today. Outside the museum sat this small, beautiful Japanese Tea House, surrounded by a proper Japanese garden. It only opens for booked groups and special occasions, but the garden is there to be enjoyed by all visitors.
When night-time came, and as recommended by a friend, we went in search for Stampen (the Pawn Shop), a jazz club right in the middle of central Gamla Stan. We sat at the bar, drinking Swedish beer and munching chips, as a band got ready for their act. The Dixieland tunes that they played were a pleasant surprise. As the night went on, the band had a small break, and some of the members caught a glimpse of the sketch. For a few hours, all of us were the bestest of friends!
It took us two years living in Sweden to visit its capital city. A few stolen days from the travels around the Iberian Peninsula finally gave us the chance to do that! It is a gorgeous city, with a lot of different areas, depending on what are you up to. It’s widespread and controlled in height, although easily navigable, sensibly planned, and has a stupidly efficient transportation system – as you would expect from a Scandinavian capital. The first day usually absorbs the shock of us wanting to visit a little bit of every part of the town. That let us to a walk around in tourist-riddled Gamla Stan (Old Town), the hip Södermalm district and the western area of the Djurgården (the King’s Game Park) island, where quite a few museums are based.
One such museum is the Vasa – a 17th century ship placed within a building. This ship was built at the peak of the Stormakstiden (the Era of Great Power – or the peak of the Swedish Empire) to serve as a royal flagship. The project was a fiasco, however. The ship had to high a gravity center and foundered right after setting sail from the harbour. Centuries later, in the 50s, it was recovered and turned into the most profitable tourist attraction in the country. Talk about a late break-even!