Thursday, February 28, 2008

Österlen, February 16, 2008

2 photos by Phil Munts

Österlen, February 16, 2008

Curiosity woke me up in the morning. I couldn’t sleep past 6:00 am and I don’t usually awake before 8 am any morning. There was only one small window in the room at Elisetorp B&B, but I must have checked the state of the sunrise over the 50-year apple orchard 10 times in an hour (each time going back to bed with the hopes of falling back asleep again). It was a relief when Phil and Hunter finally woke up, too.

One thing I like about staying somewhere other than home is taking luxuriously long, warm showers. However, Phil quickly discovered that the shower refused to warm past freezing cold. He grumpily dressed as Hunter and I happily scampered around in our pajamas getting breakfast on the table. I suggested that Phil call and tell the hosts that the water was cold, but he just mumbled something under his breath.

Phil did finally call, just after we had the yoghurt, muesli, bread, meat, butter and jam on the table. They said they would be bringing cheese in case we were sorely missing it, which was the reason they thought Phil called. They brought the cheese and explained that power outages sometimes trip the water heater fuse. We decided that a delicious, leisurely breakfast in our room without having to meet in a breakfast room by a certain time, was especially nice. Afterward, Phil and Hunter showered iand made a two inch lake of the bathroom (as there was no curb or slope). Fed and bathed, Phil was a much more pleasant person. I had already French-braided my hair, so opted out of the luxurious shower-in-a-flooded-bathroom idea. Despite these things, I want to stay there again!

As soon as I could get out, I gaily questioned Saga and her husband, Hasse, about their businesses. Hunter chased around with their two-year old boy, Hampus. Phil wandered around taking photos, checking on Hunter and loading the car.

Saga showed me what she sells in her shop, which was presently in a state of chaos as she and her husband build a large studio between each set of boarding rooms. There, also, were her greenware, drying slowly in the cold, unheated area. She sells saltware dishes, white stoneware, little magnets, knobs of humorous sculptured grotesques, and is currently working on a garden face fountain. If the fountain is successful, she hopes to sell those, too. She even let me see inside the barn where her electric kiln and other finished, boxed ceramics were. Out back of the B&B was her wood-fired kiln house where she does most of her salt glaze pieces. For more on her work, see her excellent website:

I learned that Hasse and Saga Johnsson had purchased the farm from Hasse’s grandparents. His grandparents were among those who planted the apple orchards during World War II when there was a great need for fruit and vegetables in the country. Currently, the Johnssons sell their apples within a cooperation that sells older apples as well as homemade jams, etc. “It’s not [paying for much], yet,” Hasse told me. He installs security systems during the week and remodels the farm on the weekends, as well as running the Bed & Breakfast.

Saga also handed me a hand-drawn map of places to see between the park and Kivik. It was so useful that for the rest of the day we disregarded our guidebooks.

It did not take long for us to reach the parking area for Stenshuvud National Park (when Phil could finally remove me from talking with Saga). We realized, for the first time, that our Bed and Breakfast really was on the very outskirts of the Park.

Hunter quickly began moaning about having to go for a hike. We practically had to drag him to the mouth of the trail, and secretly worried we would have to endure his squealing the whole time in the park. It was truly cold, at freezing, and the wind was picking up off of the sea. Some of Hunter’s noise was understandable. Cold or not, the parking lot was beginning to fill at 10:30 am. Hunter would forget about his complaints when we crossed an interesting bridge or found a big rock to climb. I started urging him on in his explorations, pointing out interesting hopping rocks or fun hiding places between trees and rocks so that Hunter was soon singing and exploring ahead of us. A potty stop also seemed to make a difference in his attitude.

We found the three “peaks” of Stenshuvud, the ruins of a castle fence and foundation, and enjoyed looking out over the sea. The Stenshuvud Lighthouse was immediately below us at one point, but we could not see it for the overgrown trees. We never did go back to find the lighthouse because our explorations went a little beyond the endurable hunger for lunch, and the walk would have been another 800 meters each way. We had already walked/climbed that much. Hunter found what he called his “skating rink” at the top of the highest peak. We took a family photo, there, and shared an apple, nuts and soda water. We were, indeed, “lucky enough,” as one guidebook stated it, to see the tiny island of Bornholm from where we stood.

This hike took place in what seemed like a fairy land of trees, heather, heath and ancient rocks. Sometimes it seemed Tolkein’s listening trees or C.S. Lewis’s breathing tree forests surrounded us. We leapt, ran and grunted up and down over the tree roots and rocks, enjoying the healthy air.

By the time we reached the car, our sunny weather had turned gray and dreary, but we were feeling spunky, if desperately hungry. We drove to a lesser known apple farm called Bagar'n Pa Österlen, Bageri and Café in Tomelilla. We ate meat and vegetable pie and varied green salad with fresh applemust and enjoyed a chat with the chef, who once lived in Florida and Texas. He urged us to return to Österlen during the Easter art festivals (everyone in Sweden recommends their own kommun, it seems). We did not make it to the better known Kiviks Musteri (apple farm) as it was closed until April.

After lunch, we followed Saga’s map to another set of standing stones and the 3000 B.C. Kungagraven, or Kiviksgraven, which Phil thought bordered on the time of Noah’s flood. On these last two excursions we saw an adult girl and a young boy walking. They finally asked us if we knew about any busses passing this way as they had been walking for five hours, that day. After they had walked on (because we didn’t know anything about the area) and we were finished looking at the huge gravesite and nearby stream, we caught up with the brother and sister team (you can barely see them near the tree in the photo) and offered to take them as far as we could toward where they needed to go. They led us to their hostel, not far from where we picked them up, but we probably saved them 45 minutes of walking. The girl offered to lead us around Göteborg (you might know it as Gothenburg), where she is a pharmaceutical student, should we make it there. She entered her number into my cell phone so we can call when we are there.

I asked myself on the way home if it was the landscape, the food, the art (we also saw a metal sculpture gallery in Ystad) or the people I enjoyed most about Sweden. Of course, it’s not easy to separate these aspects and I am glad for each one. The chance to see, taste, smell, feel and hear a place is important. But the final touch, that effects our perceptions the most, is getting a sense of the people, learning what they love and in how many ways we can try to relate.

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