...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

excursion to Vadstena

In Vadstena, a town an hour west of Linkoping, stands a castle in a middle of a square moat, facing a giant lake. Originally built as a fort in 1545 by one of Sweden's warrior kings to protect against possible invasions by the Danes, it was later refurbished by one of the king's successors as a residential palace, and now looks like this:

Actually the information brochure to the castle says that King Gustav Vasa "ordered the castle to be built" -- a very concise and probably accurate way of presenting it! (i.e. king: "Build me a castle!") Well, as you know, anything was possible with slaves (or the like), and the rest is history.

The castle was mostly empty when we came because people were rearranging it for an upcoming Christmas market. The good part about that is that we didn't need to pay the entrance fee (since they took out everything there was to see), and we did get to appreciate some castle details:

(BTW that last picture could be the European version of a Chinese foo dog!)

Where there were no details, the big cave-like halls gave me that Middle Ages-feeling. I thought there could almost be hay on the floor and fat people gathered around a table eating lots of meat from metal plates. (I'm wrong though, because the caste is actually built in the Renaissance).

The town of Vadstena itself is a tourist magnet in the summers. They are lured there by the castle, the lake, and the nearby church designed by St. Bridget who in 1999 was hailed as the patron saint for Europe. This draws religious pilgrims yearly, not least because Pope John Paul II visited the town in 1989.

Below is the church, which Bridget designed herself based on a revelation. She also had a mental hospital and a convent for nuns built in the area. I hadn't actually reflected that there could be nuns in Sweden, since they don't seem to be as omnipresent as they are in the Philippines. There are apparently some here too, but in the cases of the nuns in Vadstena, they are not bound by any vows (St. Bridget was herself marrried and has 8 children).

The town seemed has two sides, almost: the quiet, sleepy side made for retreats, and the tourist trap side, landmarked by a street with posh stores, which seemed almost out-of-place in this off-tourist season! The calm, small-town side was quaint, though, and the lake was beautiful.

Thanks to Meagan, who thought of this excursion to Vadstena! :-)

P.S. Biking update: No, there haven't been any bike trips since the Vrinnevi Forest trip. Aside from the cold rainy weather that makes one have second thoughts about going out at all, this is because the tire on Marcus' old bike (the one which has been wobbling for a time now) finally gave up on him. There are plans of getting a new bike, though I'm not sure for how long it will still be biking season before the snow starts to fall for real.


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