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Tour "Around The Baltic Sea" report - Report 9: Sweden Week 1; 24/8/06 – 3/9/06. (2006)
Robert Laing (Szkocki Bob)

Pictures from the tour »

More immediate first impressions upon entering another country – Sweden is so green everywhere. And no wonder – according to the locals it has rained every day for the last 4 weeks. And every day since we arrived!

First night was spent in Finsta where Sweden’s most celebrated figure of all time, St Brigitta, was born in 1303. During her lifetime Brigitta recorded more than 600 “Divine Revelations”. St Brigitta is Sweden’s only canonised saint and in 1999 she was selected by Pope John Paul II to become one of the six patron saints of Europe.

After that bit of country culture it was on to Stockholm for some big city culture. A beautiful city built across 14 islands and often called the Venice of the North. It has over 60 museums but I managed only a few and have already forgotten which museum featured which exhibition but herewith a few highlights.

First stop was the Nobel museum which featured the history of the Nobel Awards, Plus a special exhibition celebrating 2005 as the “World Year of Physics” in commemoration of Einstein’s annus mirabilis (miraculous year) of 1905 during which he completed five scientific works including his Theory of Relativity.

Next was an exhibition about the Vikings which sought to dispel the myth that they were just a bunch of hooligans rampaging around Europe wearing helmets with horns. It seems the Vikings were quite cultured for the times and the exhibits included lots of silver jewellery.

Then it was on to some lighter stuff – an exhibition of photos of Greta Garbo who was born in Stockholm. Useless fact; Garbo rarely allowed herself to be photographed with a man – and never with a woman.

And finally the very serious stuff - the Living History Forum. This is a national forum commissioned to promote work on democracy, tolerance and human rights with the Holocaust as a starting point. The project “Sweden and the Holocaust” is an attempt to add complexity to the often simplistic image of Sweden as a neutral, isolated island in the midst of a war-racked Europe.

For the past week since Stockholm we have travelled down the east coast and then on Utvandrarnas Vag (Emigrants Road), towards our next rest day at Karlshamn on the south coast. Between 1840 – 1910 around one and a quarter million people from this region emigrated to America. Good undulating (ie slightly hilly), tarred roads with a few gravel roads with plenty twists and turns which make them less boring than the very long straight roads in the Baltic States. But like the Baltics - trees, trees and more trees everywhere. And there was not much of interest along the way apart from a visit to a glass factory. It seems the summer tourist season is over in Sweden by mid August and therefore many cafes and museums are either closed or open for only a few hours every day.

One thing which has relieved the boredom has been – mushrooms. No, not the magic sort, but just about every other variation. The Polish people have been busy picking them at every opportunity. In the evenings they then spend hours peeling, preparing and cooking them in all sorts of dishes. So far we have enjoyed, mushroom soup, scrambled eggs & mushrooms, mushroom omelettes, mushroom pancakes, mushrooms in tomato sauce, and something called Kania which seems to consist of one large mushroom cooked with onions. Plus a few other dishes which I’m not sure what they were but consisted of mushrooms and something and were most enjoyable. Thanks are due to Adam for all his culinary skills including an excellent mushrooms in cream dish, and to all those Polish grandmothers whose recipes have been used. And to Vitek who always seems to be peeling mushrooms every evening and morning. While on the subject of food – thanks are also due to Mai for a delicious and most welcome chilli and rice dish on a night of torrential rain. All most enjoyable and a pleasant change from bread and cheese.

This week has seen us goodbye to our oldest participant – Julius from Lithuania who is 74 years old and has been with us from Gdansk (I think?). Horst and Maria are also leaving so we will be down to 17 for the final week to Copenhagen.