Our trip continues through Smaland, a region where it feels a bit that time has stood still. Soft windy roads crossing lakes, forests and undulated fields. Some fields are green with spots of yellow dandelion flowers, some fields are totally bright yellow, covered with rape crops, surrounded by never ending mossy stone walls . And now and then a typically red wooden house, a farm, a barn. A tractor working the fields, some sheep or cows grazing. And the impecable blue sky just doted now and then by a soft white cotton cloud. We find the colours and the region extremely pleasant, even if it must be hard for the people living here, living of the land, dealing with the infinite amount of stones, with very tough winters, for sure. And of course, restless souls like ours, might find it a bit too quiet here after a while, but for now it´s quite soothing.
The road leads us to Eskjo next, which has a very well preserved city centre with cobbled stone streets and a collection of original wooden houses dating from the 17th century. It is so hot that our first thought is to buy ice cream in the main street. We close the visit to the town buying some fresh local strawberries, which are small and delicious.
The morning after, Polaris takes us through never-ending forested roads to the native town of Astrid Lindgren, famous children book writer, universally known for creating the character of Pippi Longstocking, my biggest childhood hero. The farm where Astrid Lindgren grew up displays now a quite moving exhibition about her life and her work. It transports us many years back in time and it also makes us think about the future. The gardens of the farm have been developed with quite exquisite taste and are full of different corners, covering a wide expectrum of moods, from solitude to laughter. It also contains the huge tree with the hollow trunk that inspired her to create the famous ´Lemonade Tree´ in the gardens of Villa Vilekulla (Pippi´s home). Quite a memorable experience. Such a strong woman, able to touch the lives of so many millions of children. We leave the place humbled with admiration and surely with long lasting memories that gravitate from our minds to our hearts.
The trip continues on a high, exploring the Glasriket, (kingdom of crystal), the region where traditional glass blowing is the star activity. Very simply put, glass is a mixture of sand and fire. Very, very hot fire, more than a 1000 C, we learn. The finished pieces ´cool down´ at more than 40 C. It´s quite inspiring to watch the work of the glass artisans, with a unique blend of creativity and dexterity. What a nice way to make a living, I think.
All along the road in the past couple of days, we have been passing little towns with names that remind me of pieces of IKEA furniture. The name of the town we just passed, suspiciously sounds like an old sofa that I bought many years ago. Well, as it seems, this would be totally plausible, since Smaland is also the home region of IKEA. It seems that there’s a big museum, displaying the history of the company, but it´s a bit of our route, so we pass this time and head off to Kalmar, a beautiful city on the coast, with a magnificent castle.
There we learn that the ferry to Gotland, the island that we want to visit next, is fully booked for the next 2 days, so we have to improvise a 2 days stay in the close island of Oland, which can be reached by a bridge. It turns out to be a happy detour. Part of the island has been declared Unesco World Heritage, and rightfully so, since it´s some sort of little paradise, where the deer cross the road from left and right, giant athletic rabbits run in front of the few cars without fear and the seals sunbathe in the south corner, where also thousands of birds live. All of them must be truly enjoying the grandiose sunsets everyday. Apart from that, happy cows and sheep grazing the fields, like they would have done a hundred years ago. And the absolute highlight, the island is nearly covered in lush lila trees, that surround gardens, delineate roads and are practically everywhere. Some of them are so tall that hide the houses behind, providing them shelter from alien curiosity and wind (quite merciless and persistent too, by the way). As it is quite warm, the air carries the scent of lilas everywhere. It´s quite amazing.