Friday, 28 September 2018

Fair & Scare





The last weekend in September means Autumn Market in our city centre. Friday morning started out sunny (if somewhat chilly), so I decided to go for a walk into town to have a look around. It’s kind of become a tradition that I buy some cheap postcards from a special market stall on these occasions (usually found in the same corner every year). But … When I had picked the cards I wanted and was going to pay, it turned out that my wallet was not in my handbag! So disappointingly (for myself as well as for the stall-owner), I was not able to buy anything. For a brief moment I was also scared that I had lost the wallet; but I quickly arrived at the conclusion that I must just have left it at home. The zipper on my bag was firmly closed, and I had not opened it at any point during my walk until then. I had my camera with me and had snapped a few pictures (above), but I was carrying that in its own separate bag.

Still, the incident kind of un-inspired me when it came to further browsing among the market stalls; so I pretty much turned straight around and went back home… Had another brief scare when I didn’t immediately find the wallet where I thought I must have left it (on the desk in the study, where I had been going through some receipts yesterday)… But then – duh! – I found it neatly tucked away in my other handbag… (No, I refuse to blame old age… I prefer to think of it as having been preoccupied while multitasking, LOL!)

(Why two handbags? I hear someone asking… Because sometimes I prefer a smaller one and sometimes a bigger one, depending on where I’m going! They’re both equipped with certain other basic essentials, and I only have to move the wallet between them – if needed.)

As for postcards, I really have enough cards “in stock” already; so perhaps just as well that I was saved from the temptation!

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Ismantorp Fortress, Öland

Road Trip 2018, Part 18

From Karum’s Alvar with the Bronze Age stone ship, we went on to also have a look at the ruins of Ismantorp Fortress; an old ringfort dating back to between 200-600 A.D.

I struggled with how to present this place, but decided to let you see it pretty much the way we did. All I knew beforehand was really that the fortress is the largest and probably also the oldest on Öland; but also has the unusual feature of no less than nine gateways in the wall.


The fort is situated kind of “in the middle of nowhere”; and from the parking space, we had to follow a woodland walkpath to get there.



When the woodland opened up, there was the ancient limestone ringwall in the background; said to have a circumference of approximately 300 meters and a diameter of 125 meters.


From the burnt grass and some trees already in autumn colours (this was 18th July!) you can tell how very hot and dry the summer was – and that we’re once again on “alvar” kind of ground (cf. previous post).


Entering “the main gate” in the wall (well, the one used as such nowadays, anyway!)



Within the wall are the foundations of around 90-100 buildings, with an open place in the middle.



Getting an overview of the place from the ground level is difficult… If not for the sign and map at the entrance (+ having read a little about it beforehand) I don’t think we’d have had much clue what we were looking at inside!





Because of the unusual construction with the nine gates in the wall + all the buildings inside, opinons seem to vary about the purpose of this fort. On the one hand, the layout is thought to be inspired by Roman military camps; but on the other hand, the large number of gates makes it seem unlikely that it was built primarily for defense. The buildings are said to have been homes, workshops, animal sheds and barns; but at the same time, archaelogical excavations have provided very little evidence of the fortress having served as a permanent settlement.

There seem to be three main theories – and I suppose they don’t necessarily contradict or exclude each other:
1/ A military training camp, perhaps also used for storage of goods, livestock and slaves brought back from raids abroad.
2/ A fortified trading site, like Gråborg (another ancient stronghold on Öland, which we also visited on the same day)
3/ A ritual/religious center. This theory is supported by the nine gates, as the number nine is important in the old Norse mythology. (For one thing, there were nine “worlds” all connected to the mythical tree Yggdrasil. Was there perhaps once a big tree growing in the middle of this fortress? Who knows!)

Aerial photo of Ismantorp fortress (1997), from Swedish Wikipedia

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Karum’s Alvar, Öland

Road Trip 2018, Part 17

“An alvar is a biological environment based on a limestone plain with thin or no soil and, as a result, sparse grassland vegetation. Often flooded in the spring, and affected by drought in midsummer, alvars support a distinctive group of prairie-like plants. Most alvars occur either in northern Europe or around the Great Lakes in North America. This habitat supports a community of rare plants and animals, including species more commonly found on prairie grasslands. Lichen and mosses are common species. Trees and bushes are absent or severely stunted. --- The use of the word alvar to refer to this type of environment originated in Scandinavia. The largest alvar in Europe is located on the Swedish island of Öland […and…] has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” [Wikipedia]

We did not go as far south on Öland as the area known as the Great Alvar; but there are areas with similar nature in the mid/north half of the island too. You have already seen a bit of it in some of my earlier posts from Öland. And after our visit to the green oasis of the Solliden Palace Park (previous post), we took another detour inland (eastwards) to  Karum’s Alvar – an old grave field including an impressive Bronze Age stone ship, known as Noah’s Ark.




2018-07-18-11 Karums alvar, gravfält


“Straight in front of you you see the ship setting Noaks ark, with tall stones both fore and aft. The grave is from the Late Bronze Age, 1100-500 BC. There are also raised stones and stone settings from the Early Iron Age, 500 BC-400 AD. Several graves have been investigated, and the dead had been cremated. The graves contained belongings such as finger rings and clasps. Some had swords and spearheads with them. – The burial ground is part of our cultural heritage and protected by law.”


The whole grave field is around 370 x 50 meters, and besides the big stone ship, there are also other types of old burial mounuments. The stone ship is 36 m long and 3,5 m wide. The rows of stones laid across the ship here are thought to symbolise the thwarts, and a big stone in the middle may mark the position of the mast.

After the long hot summer this year, there was hardly green patch to be seen on the alvar; but I understand that in spring, it can be quite a different experience, full of colourful rare flowers. Have a look at the photos in the German Wiki article if you want to see some views from this place with a bit more colour!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Solliden Palace, Öland

Road Trip 2018, Part 16

Solliden Palace, commonly just called Solliden, situated not far from the Borgholm Castle Ruin on Öland, is the summer residence of the Swedish Royal Family. It was built in 1903-1906 for Victoria of Baden, wife of the Swedish crown prince Gustaf. One year later Gustaf became king (Gustaf V), and Victoria the Queen of Sweden. They were the great grandparents of our present king. The property has been passed on in the family, and now belongs to king Carl XVI Gustaf.

The inspiration for the architecture of this palace was an elegant Italian villa. The palace is also surrounded by a beautiful park, which is open to visitors in the summer. Traditionally, the present Crown Princess Victoria (born 14th July 1977) always celebrates her birthday here, also including meeting “the public”. The event also involves an outdoors concert with well-known artists, held in a nearby sports field and televised nationwide. I watched this year’s event two nights before Per and I set off on our road trip. Our visit to Öland and Solliden was on the 18th. No sign of the royal family still being there then, I’m afraid. Or perhaps that was to our advantage… (I’m not sure if they can keep the usual opening hours in the park when the royal family is actually there!)

Sign pointing to “Slottet” = The Palace


At the entrance to the park. (Inside, I think.)



For a palace it’s not really big, but it’s still grand…




‘A tourist may look at a king’… or at least at his garden!




This fairy tale cottage up on a hill opposite the palace used to be “playhouse” for the king’s four older sisters back when they were children. Perhaps still used as such when today’s generation of little ones are visiting? Anyway, besides the gardener mowing the lawn, there was also a very serious-looking guard keeping watch over the path up to that cottage, so that no visitors would dare go up there. (He looked so stern I did not even dare take a photo with him in it!)



No walking on the lawns!






Lots of sculptures, old and new, in the lower part of the park

2018-07-18-10 Solliden1


2018-07-18-10 Solliden2


The name “Solliden” may translate “Sunny Hill” or something like that. It is situated on the side of a hill, and if you ever visit, you should be prepared for quite a steep walk down to the entrance of the park, and further down again into the lower parts of the park. And then all the way back up again… I’ll add a little “phew”, as it was another day with temperatures around 30’C (86’F). But it was worth it, to get to see this lovely green and flowering oasis in the otherwise very dry and brown landscape this summer.


Also a lovely day to show off the Swedish flag!

Back up at the parking lot, I did not have the energy to also climb over a fence to go and pay my respects to the sculpture of old Queen Victoria who had the palace built.  So I just zoomed her in with my camera. (Yes, that’s the Borgholm Castle ruins in the background.)



And below is a portrait of the present-day royal family, copied from their own website.

Kungafamiljen vid Solliden slott 2016. Foto: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

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