MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM IN SWEDEN

June 27, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (45)

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Horse drawn cart ride at Pershyttan

Midsummer dining
26 June 2010 – Celebrations from the past

I sit on the deck, gazing at a family of Canada geese sail down our river, over dark water – fresh and pure.  We are surrounded by the forests and hills of Kilsbergen – the Kilsberg hills (pronounced Sheils berry) .

It is a day after midsummer, as officially decreed this year in Sweden. The last weekend, closer to the midsummer solstice, was claimed by the Royal Wedding when Victoria married her Daniel.

We escaped to the countryside as most people do at midsummer, leaving a deserted Stockholm. Midsummer eve is the deadest day of the year in the capital city.

This is the time friends and families get together away from the city and celebrate often with music and dancing dating back who knows how many hundreds of years.  Every village arranges a get together round the “midsommarstång” (a Maypole named midsummer pole). It never fails to move me that a rational, highly industrial nation can still nurture these ancient rituals and traditions.

Traditional midsummer dancing

Afternoon of Midsummer eve we took a sprightly 88 year old to the midsummer thing at Pershyttan.  The pole is raised as part of the ceremony and is wound with birch twigs and wild flowers picked in the meadows. Players in traditional dress including knickerbockers play accordions and fiddles. 

From mother to daughter - old traditions

Mothers, fathers and grandparents hold hands with children and tiny tots, ring the pole and dance around miming actions to the old playful songs, passing on rituals from generation to generation. Teenagers are usually too “wanna-be cool” to even be there, but people of all ages sit around on the grass, licking Nora glass (ices).

This is followed by the spelmän (music makers) and a little troupe of country dancers. The dancers seem through the years to diminish in number – but I pray Sweden will never let this tradition die.

For us the grand finale at Pershyttan was to hop on a wagon drawn by Ardennes horses and take a  free trip through the leafy village of red and white houses. We passed wooden buildings that relate to the small-scale iron industry that began here in the 1500s and ended five decades ago. These are museums now –  graceful remnants of a muted industrial revolution along the rushing brook that brought it power. Aleah was invited to drive the wagon on this little tour.  Perhyttan is a horsey area and the owners of our wagon run courses in carriage driving (what is it called?).

Steam train Nora to Pershyttan

Its other claim to fame is a beautiful steam train that arrives pulling wooden coaches a few times a day in the summer. The train comes from Nora, which also offers train rides to other town in Bergslagen.  I should add that the Pershyttan” station” is a well-liked restaurant housed in empty train carriages and at open air tables.

Night brought a private midsummer eve’s party in Ramshyttan in the jaktstuga, built 1736 – and a monument to hunters past and animals shot and stuffed or rememberd for their horns. It has huge beams and solid wooden floors, plus a long table the owner inherited from times past. The long table held some 30 diners and many glasses of wine. A big lamb had been grilled all day over a fire, and was dismembered into a cardboard box, for lack of a larger receptacle. A feast for Vikings – though perhaps they would have used a stone receptacle for their meaty desires.

Midsummer dining Ramshyttan 2010

Wednesday – Animal kingdom

 The sun has been with us for 7 days despite competition from the clouds to do the usual Swedish midsummer washout. Warm days will never cease…or so you believe sitting on the deck and staring at the twinkle and glisten of the water  surrounded by the froth and exuberance of deciduous trees and a jagged fringe of firs at the far end of the small lake.

Animals have brought another dimension to nature this midsummer break. A beaver swam  right by the us as we crossed the bridge over the weir on midsummer eve and made an almighty huge splash with his tail. Three families of Canada geese sail over the water or waddle up the pathway (annually they find Sågdammen from far away in Egypt). An adder hissed at the cat and was kindly relocated in the forest. A new foal was born a week ago to a fairy tale Friesian mare with long mane and tail at Ramshyttan’s horse farm. Cuckoo calls float over the forests. A flashy red bird we have never seen in Sweden before  flies in as if lured by our warm weather. We are lucky to be here.

The new Fresian foal at Ramshyttan

This is a superb part of the world, despite the ever present threat of the giant deforesting machines (more about that later) and a neighbour’s new (glaringly raw and yellowish) wooden  stairs sprawling down the bank like an arthropod with various joints and different widths and angles over to a pier that now intrudes into the soft quietness of the pure and timeless river. Industrial builders meet nature and try hard.

 Contraption intruding among trees and water

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