September 18, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (0)

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13 September – daytrip from Stockholm

Trosa. One of the prettiest towns in Sweden. It came as a bright surprise one rainy day. Like being given a present between birthdays. The contrasts of that day were part of the wonder.

We were to visit an old friend, Paula and I. I took the circular tramway from Gullmarsplan (Tvärbanan) through undistinguished suburbs to Liljeholmen, which is distinguished (for its Ugly Urban Usch). It is one of those so-called “centrum” that revolve around Stockholm. Like an undigested lump – an accidental coagulation of grey apartment blocks, T-bana station, predictable McDonalds and COOP (the saddest part is someone planned it).

The best part is getting out of there on comfy TROSABUSSEN. Only 100 sek for an hour ride to Trosa (toilet on board).

It was raining, clammy, wet and grey. I took snapshots awkwardly from under my umbrella. Regardless of the input from the heavens, the little town of Trosa warmed us with its colours, food and charm.

It’s just a teeny town but has 10 restaurants, among which is picturesque Antons Krog, where we ate excellent lunch for only 85 sek. With a rainbow of brightly painted wooden houses, Trosa  spreads along two sides of a running river, which becomes a canal and then flows out into the Baltic. The banks are lined with boats of every size and shape. Each house has a boat tied up in front. Here is my friend Erry’s pride and joy – an undoubtedly picturesque rowing boat.

Trosa has a yacht marina. It is a popular excursion for Stockholm yachters and has also been well-rated by the international yachting fraternity.  Even by rowing, you are within easy reach of sheltered waters between the islands of the Trosa archipelago – the southern reaches of the multitude of offshore islands along the coast north and south of Stockholm.

Summer is when Trosa blooms to full life. With music and markets, dining in gardens, cappuccino under the apple trees. Boats coming and going. “And,” adds Erry, “busloads of German tourists.”

“You know that Germans like Sweden,” she said. But now many more are coming to Trosa in tours following in the footsteps of Inga Lindström. This popular German TV series is filmed in Sweden’s Sörmland county, many scenes in little Trosa.

Though the cast is German, the language German and the writer German (Inga Lindström is her pseudonym) – the impression is given that these are Swedes talking Swedish with dubbed sound. The Inga Lindström series creates eternal green summer, an idyll of beautiful scenery and beautiful (Swedish) people. In this setting there are fairy-tale like endings when love triumphs. “The Germans think that Sweden is a little nicer, a little cleaner and more honest, and the films owe their popularity due to a longing for better times,” she adds lightly.

The series continues – new episodes were being filmed this week (16 September 2010) in nearby Nyköping. showed a film clip.

But back to Trosa.

It is 13 September. We are walking under umbrellas. Garden cafes are wet and deserted.

It’s not cold but…Summer is almost over. It came to Sweden like a dream. Like an enchantment, and now you wake without the kiss of a prince…

The crowds have fled from Trosa. Many restaurants and B&Bs are closed.  The apple trees that so frothily fill the gardens are now dotted with red. The maple leaves are turning with a triumphant blaze. They do it in a way that says “we wanted our last fling while still young and sappy in mid-September”. Other leaves hang on green and hopeful till mid-October when they bleach, crumple and fall, giving in to barrenness. The conifers never cared for summer anyway…

Erry is resigned to autumn. Descended from fisher folk in the arctic areas of Norway, she breathes its first dews and wisps of melancholy with Scandinavia’s harmonious resignation and belonging.

We walk back from our delicious meal at Anton’s Krog, where Anton from Switzerland started a restaurant in an old fire station 30 years ago (the dish Paula ordered as an extra was best – chanterelle soup – unimaginably delicious). We walk in a circle (I believe) past the bookshop (“a real bookshop” Erry says. Past stadshotell – a hotel with a literary history (hence a real bookshop).

Along the river past the angled roofs of quaint bright houses, red, green, blue, terracotta, walls with wooden trimmings in contrasting colours. Boats all along the way – you maybe have a car at the back, but a boat in front.

“That white house used to belong to Benny of Abba,” she points out. “I don’t think he ever lived there but he has an island nearby. I like him – he comes to town like an ordinary guy … in gumboots.”

We cross an arched wooden bridge to her house. Very sweet house with the typically glassed in veranda (lots of smaller panes creating a traditional yet light area  – not floor to ceiling glass which might cause your neighbours a heart attack).

They have a platform in the garden extending to the water’s edge swirling by under the willows – too wet for coffee there. So we go in to enjoy her version of cafe latte (with heated cream) in her cosy renovated house. She has just had a kitchen made brand new in fifties style (when Sweden was still making Utopia in more solid fashion than the 60s and 70s).

The jade green “kakelugn” (tile heater) is the centrepiece of the room where we drink our cafe crème. “Interesting that you have so many small rooms – no temptation to follow modern fashion and pull down walls to make open spaces,” I say. “No – awful. I like it cosy,” Erry says.

Upstairs under the sloping eaves we meet her cat with new kittens. This kitty is a very typical Trosa cat. It catches fish in the river. Paw trails in the water, and suddenly up comes shining fish, swept against kitty mouth. This year kitty brought in fish after fish, into the kitchen – the way other kitties bring mice. She does not get tempted to eat them. A present for the house…

Trosa was given city privileges in the middle ages. It became a leading Swedish bathing resort in the late 1900s after the first steamboat came, and the scene of important meetings, balls and masquerades. Stadshotellet is known as a literary hotel, associated with The “Five Young People” group which met there from time to time in the 1930s.  Erik Asklund, Josef Kjellgren and Gustav Sandgren wrote books about Trosa; Artur Lundkvist and Harry Martinsson became members of the Swedish Academy (Nobel prize fame); and Martinsson won the very prize. Another Academy member had a cottage near Trosa and often visited the hotel, occasionally writing poems on table napkins.


September 11, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (18)


”LJUSSTRÅK” ART TRAIL (art along a ray of light)

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It’s the first week of September – and its Ljustråk, a kind of festival of art and culture in the quiet little town of Nora and surrounding villages. It is the tenth anniversary of its launch in 2001. This time there are over 90 artists exhibiting in an art trail that starts in the converted brewery and guides you to private exhibitions all over Nora and its surroundings – in homes, gardens and studios. And there are some 20 cultural events including church concerts in Nora and other villages.

Nora is a jewel in the rural art and culture belt of Sweden – and that so many artists (and art enthusiasts) live here seems quite a jump from its origins as a centre of the independent iron mining industry.

Iron mining dates back to the middle ages among the rolling forested hills of Bergslagen, with foundry mills driven by its many rushing streams and wood for burning. In the 1600s King Gustav Wasa gave the independent miners the right to sell iron ore in Nora.

Nora’s charm and beauty owes as much to the rise of the iron industry as to its fall. After two prosperous centuries Nora had many beautiful wooden buildings and a grand church. The decline of the industry at the end of the 1800s held back the rush of modern development. So Nora still has most of the centuries-old buildings, cobbled streets and picturesque town square where the iron miners have a monument.

Nestled among green hills by a silken lake, Nora’s wooden buildings are painted in a rainbow of earthy colours from terracotta and sienna to green and mustard yellow, with a typical three-colour scheme for each house. Its quiet pace and beauty is probably what attracts and inspires artists.

Picture taken earlier for my post on Lilla Hotellet

The pace rises to a pleasant excitement some 10 or so times a year, when the town holds special events including music festivals, antique market (in July), and Ljustråk, always held in the first weekend in September.

Sometimes Ljustråk days glimmer in damp misty air. Or it rains. But today is mellow golden sunshine, spread out over the town and though the day as if it never thought of abandoning us.

Our trail starts in the old brewery where each of the 90 artists has one painting displayed. There are several other exhibitions. For 4 year old Frejda the undoubted height of the exhibition was the metal works display. There stood a magnificent dragon with long greedy hands clawing for golden necklaces. In the gloom he stood quiet but several times a minute with a roar he spurted flames from his metal mouth. The artists (add to that inventors) watched with pleasure as little Frejda stared  and asked for safety sake: But he is not real is he?

Another popular section of the exhibition in the old brewery was devoted to glass objet d’art  – sculptures and vases and that seemed to magically encapsulate 3-D artwork (or art in glass). Some vases seemed to swell and swirl like bubbles (Studilglas Elna Jolom). One of the more unusual exhibits was “Skoga-stugan”. This showed clippings about Dagmar Lange alias Maria Lang the crime writer who set so many murders in Skoga (Nora), and Magdalena Persson (the guide of Nora’s sought-after murder walks in the footsteps of Maria Lang) was to be present.

With the neat little catalogue on hand one then heads off to individual exhibitions.

The oldest artist was Thérèse Stanbridge, 88, entered in the catalogue as Theresa. She was written up in the local paper since she is not only oldest artist exhibiting but has an exotic background – moving to Sweden after a life devoted to art in South Africa.  

Her exhibition was held in the corridor of her cerise-painted block of flats, opening out into a courtyard garden full of flowers and sunshine, with view of the Nora church tower. Very Nora-ish. A steady flow of art hunters walking the art trail came in to look over or even buy her paintings, and were offered tea and coffee as well as cheese straws baked by the 88-year-old artist. Some haphazard snapshots of her paintings follow.

Moving closer to my second home at Ramshyttan, we visited the exhibits of Lena Hellström, Kerstin Wagner and Caterina Mårtensson. Lena, who has a studio in Ramshyttan in the grounds of her former home, is one of the inspirations for the circles of art and culture in Bergslagen.   I was transfixed by her shimmering birches – very tempted to buy. There were several of her birch works – “a world of birches” whispering of secrets in elfin land.

To Lena art is as much to be found in paint or sculpture as in household objects or décor. She has devoted many years to studying, writing about and furthering the old art forms – and painted her home in gallantly expertly home-made egg tempura.

Here in her Provençal rural Swedish kitchen, Lena has a hat rack painted her own creation “rural red”.

The next event in the Nora calendar is half marathon around Nora lake on the 11th and the old-fashioned Christmas market in December 4-5, 2010. Järnboås culture days are 25 to 31 October.

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