...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Midsummer at Löfstad castle

Video added on June 21, 2008.

Dancing around the midsummer pole at Löfstad castle, 15 minutes away from the center of Norrköping. If you're thinking that the midsummer pole looks strangely like a phallic symbol, well, that's because it is.

If you've been following this blog for the past year, you may have noticed that we've turned to being landlubbers and are not out having our vacation on Juanita. Honestly, I'm incompetent when it comes to sailing and – despite what they say about sailing and relaxation – there are actually countless moments when sailing can be stressful, or even boring. We figured that what we really liked about sailing was being able to go to an island, i.e. being on land. So, instead of joining the boat club's midsummer activities out at the archipelago, we decided to do our own thing this year.

Some say that midsummer is more important than Christmas up here. There's a lot of anticipation about what the whether is going to be like (it usually rains!), panic-buying at the groceries to buy the traditional midsummer food of herring and potatoes (I read somewhere that Swedish potatoes have been sold out and we need to import from Denmark), and a compulsion to do something on midsummer eve to keep the Swedish tradition alive and going. Usually the tradition involves going to your summer house or hometown (or otherwise some place out in nature), putting flowers in your hair and dancing around the midsummer pole. There's also a lot of eating and drinking and merrymaking – and consequently, a lot of accidents – on this day. Midsummer planning can also lead to a lot of stress and frustrated expectations. Most think that they have to go out and do something every midsummer, probably because for many working people, this marks the beginning of their summer leave.

We weren't intending to celebrate midsummer, but I got the idea of hitting two birds with one stone and taking a tour to Löfstad castle where they also arrange traditional midsummer festivities for the public. Löfstad castle was the home of a baron Axel Lillie in the 1600's. It was renovated by his son and was then passed on from generation to generation through sons or daughters. In 1750, the main building and one of the wings burnt down to the ground but were soon rebuilt and modernized to the standards of the time. The family's descendants then continued to live there until the 1920's, when the last descendant Emilie Piper died and left the possession of the castle to the county of Östergötland as a museum.

The main building at Löfstad castle. The castle lies on a mountain overlooking a small lake. The large "English gardens" lie at the foot of the mountain.

In her will, Emilie Piper stipulated that no furniture in the castle could be moved and that no new furniture should be brought in. Things have been left exactly as they were from the time of her death, which means that a tour in the castle takes you back to how Emilie lived 90 years ago. She had furniture and paintings dating from the 1600's, a silver toothbrush inherited from her grandfather (the bristles though, were replaceable), memorabilia from a famous ancestor Axel von Fersen, who was reportedly a "pretty boy" friend of Marie Antoinette's. The first floor of the castle was also alloted to the legion of servants that cooked, polished, and cleaned everyday. The castle was self-sustaining. It had its own farms, book binders, candle makers, cloth weavers, among other things. In fact, all the books in the castle library were bound in the castle, which explains their rather uniform look in red-and-brown hues.

The tour guide, with gloves so she can display some of the items to us.

A tour of the castle costs 70 kronor (free if you're under 18), but you should check their website for schedules, as sometimes they have interesting theme tours on food, fashion or art. They also have a café, a restaurant, and a store where you can buy porcelain and glass. Worth a second visit! For me, it will probably be the food-themed tour. Heheh!

More pictures posted at Multiply. I posted some videos there too, one of which I included here. However, neither Blogger's nor Multiply's video qualities do justice to the original video resolution. You may, however, download them from Multiply if you wish; they're less than 15 seconds long. You can also read about midsummer 2007 here.

Glad midsommar!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

åååhhh!! kaingit ang sunny midsummer niyo! here up north sobrang ulan at hanging. sayang kasi si nini inaabangan niyang sumayaw to små grodorna sana =)


1:06 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

It also rained here! But thankfully we were inside the castle taking the tour then, and it was sunny again when the tour finished. Here, all the dancing people were oldies! :-)

3:25 PM


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