The International Writers Magazine: Sweden
Bradley J Thornton
Living in Southern California I had a difficult time finding cold weather clothes, the ski slopes are a few hours away and not many stores load their shelves with thermal underwear. Coming from the blue ridge mountains of Pennsylvania I know a few things about bad weather and how to prepare for a Christmas vacation in Sweden.
Luckily for me, my fiancé at the time, is from Sweden and is an expert traveler, so the language barrier wouldn't be a problem, I hoped.
Arriving in Denmark’s, Kastrup airport I was pleased and surprised to see how clean it was and how friendly everyone was as well. One of my favorite things about Scandinavians is most of the people I talked to spoke fluent English. Next we hoped onto the train that would take us to my future mother in laws house, yes I'm traveling to a country I don't speak the language to meet my mother in law to be, I was sure hoping she was better at English then I was at Swedish.
My fiancé still didn't believe me I had never been on a train before; train travel is common in Europe and a great way to see the countryside. I was a little nervous about the train ride across the water to Sweden, of course my over active imagination was working overtime, maybe a symptom of jet lag. We finally arrived about 10:00 pm Sweden time, I think, after a thirty-six hour marathon travel expedition consisting of a shuttle bus, three planes a train and barely any sleep, I was feeling a little worse for wear.
We were greeted at the Växjö train station by you guessed it, my future mother in law, after an awkward hello and sort of a hug; we drove off in her very little car to her apartment building. The next morning after some Gevelia coffee, a hearty breakfast of thin slices of cheese on bread and Muesli cereal, we were off on our first site seeing adventure. Unbeknownst to me we were about to walk around the closed castle ruins of Kronborg Slott (castle).
Of course I wasn't told about this ahead of time and guess who wasn't wearing thermal underwear? The castle ruins had not stood up well to time, but considering the onslaught of attacks over a few hundred years from the Danish I guess it did pretty well. Despite high winds and rain coming at me sideways, I was still amazed at seeing my first ancient Viking castle. The next day we jumped back on the train to Kalmar, to stay in my fiancés apartment for the remaining two weeks. The countryside was beautiful and I really enjoyed the train ride. I saw a lot of beautiful little farms and a lot of deer. If I didn't know any better I would swear I was back in Pennsylvania.
||The next day we walked to my favorite castle in Sweden, Kalmar castle, or Kalmar Slott. At one time this castle was home to the King of Sweden and next to my fiancé the most beautiful site I've ever seen. Kalmar Slott surrounded on three sides by water in an inlet from the Baltic Sea.
Protected by cannons, overlooking the water as well as land and of course a draw bridge. There was also a small little fort on an island about an acre in size I guessed, that was the first line of defense against sea fearing attackers, again usually the Danish.
There seemed to be a pattern emerging here, but I was totally oblivious to the Swedish/ Danish history. Upon closer inspection I found cannon balls stuck in the facade of the castle walls. Yup you guessed it, parting gifts courtesy of Danish Vikings. My wife seemed to think they would get liquored up and jump in a boat just to go pick a fight and perhaps lob a few cannon balls at the Swedes.
Hmmm being Irish I thought we had a patent on the drinking and fighting. Climbing up on one of the defensive hills to protect the castle I not only got a chance to see my first cannon in person, but be completely amazed at the beauty of the Baltic Sea. It was getting near sundown, about three pm, and the sunlight over the water was an incredible sight to behold. It was then I knew I wanted to move to Sweden. Kalmar Slott had also served as the head of the Kalmar union and for about two hundred years the Swedish Ruled over Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The history in Kalmar was more amazing then I had ever imagined. The thought of being in the very place where warring Vikings had clashed, broad sword against broad sword and many had fallen in battle to defend their homeland made me feel lucky to be able to travel to this wonderful place. Even though the castle wasn't open during the winter season, I vowed to return in the summer and really take in the full experience. Little did I know how incredible my one in a life time experience would be on my return trip?
© Bradley J. Thornton
bradleyjthornton at yahoo.com