First destination on our European trip was to the home of my ancestors, southern Sweden. To get there, we picked up Scandinavian Airlines in Newark, NJ on our way to Copenhagen. By far, the biggest hurdle to our trip was the transatlantic flights. While the food was good and there were plenty of entertainment options, the optimum goal is to get sleep on the way there, and that really wasn’t happening much.
It was great to see familiar faces at the airport, with cousin Kerstin and Lennart picking us up and taking us across the border and on to their lake home near Hässleholm, Sweden. They had a very nice guest suite built above their garage that was our home base while there. While we tried to adapt to the new timezone, we took a little day trip to see some local sights. We first saw their wonderful decorative old Church of Mary in Brönnestad, then had an enjoyable time with Kerstin’s mother Hulda (with coffee and some delightful sweets). Following our visit, our first stop was Trollenäs Slott (“slott” being Swedish for “castle”, one of the words I learned), and the second, Hovdala Slott, was aborted due to rain turning to light hail — this was our only interruption to pleasantly cool weather while we were there. As it was we needed a nap and time to visit more anyway. And our big surprise was tomorrow.
Friday morning we awoke with plans to travel to the southern coastline. Hässleholm is in the north central part of the county of Skåne (pronounced SKOH-nuh), and my grandfather and his family were from near Trelleborg on the Baltic. I had put Kerstin in touch with another cousin I knew of down there, and we were to meet them at lunch.
We first drove to Kåseberga, a little fishing village, and after a short walk up the hillside and through a sheep pasture, we found ourselves among Ales Stenar (“Ale’s Stones”), a 1400 year old Stonehenge-like formation of tall boulders in the shape of a ship. We also picked up some smoked mackerel and some souvenirs while there. Our other stop was in Smygehuk, the southernmost point of Sweden (and the smelliest, thanks to the constant seaweed dredging there).
(I’m going to save this special section for Sweden, Part 2)
On our way towards Malmö, we weren’t more than a few kilometers from Trelleborg when we saw one of Skåne’s wild pigs running in the field alongside us, not more than 100 meters from the highway! We had seen evidence of their rooting in the soil around forested area, but seeing one in the open was pretty unusual.
We stopped then at a restaurant in Lomma to have supper with Kerstin & Lennart’s son Johan and his fiancée Josefin; we were surprised that Johan had grown even taller than when we’d seen him five years ago. Afterwards, we stopped by their nice living space prior to heading back and calling it a day. A very long, eventful day!
Saturday We left Skåne for the only time and traveled to Växjö to the northeast in Kronoberg. Near Växjö are several glass blowing shops, and we visited Målerås Glassworks where we saw demos of glass blowing and many examples of glassware and art on display.
In Växjö we toured the Swedish Emigrant Institute, where The Dream of America is housed — particularly meaningful after the gathering the day before. We were struck by how multicultural Växjö was, and walking in Linnéparken, we noticed the unique double spire of the Lutheran Växjö Cathedral, and stepping in through the door in back, we got to experience a few minutes of a confirmation service which was in progress at the time.
On our return, we gave Hovdala Slott another try, and this time the weather did not prevent us from walking the castle grounds. Very peaceful, although the moat was dry
main entrance to Hovdala Slott
Sadly, Sunday morning we awoke to pack up, and our outstanding hosts took us to the train station in Hässleholm for our ride into Copenhagen for our second stop in our three country tour. Sweden was everything we’d hoped it would be, thanks to our wonderful extended family there.