...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The journey home from Borgholm

Last installment of our Amazing Car Trip story

Before our long journey back home to Norrköping from Öland, we took a swing to Öland's main city Borgholm. I've already posted pictures of the whole trip in my Multiply, so instead here is a real-time picture (as I write, that is) of Borgholm's main street Storgatan, which literally means The Big Street.

You can access the real-time camera through this Borgholm city link.

As you can see, The Big Street isn't so big. Borgholm, though Öland's largest city, is actually one of Sweden's smallest. It isn't even technically a city since it has less than 10,000 inhabitants (about the population of Ateneo de Manila university at any given schoolyear). Historically, though, it was one of the towns to gain a city status and is therefore still called a city despite its small size. As you can also see on the time-stamp on the picture, it's now past 6PM now but the sun is shining brightly – always something exotic to point out to my friends in the Philippines. Just wait 'till winter comes and the shadows will be longer than that at noon!

Apparently the place that lures most tourists in Borgholm city isn't its small town center, but it's old seat of power: the Borgholm castle, which now lies in ruin. Dubbed as the most beautiful castle ruin in Scandinavia, it's outer walls are mostly intact and it's size is intimidating. I can't offer a more exciting description since I only saw it from a distance. However, I can offer to tell you about another castle, Solliden, that lies south of Borgholm. At the time of our visit, it was occupied by the Swedish king, who makes this castle his summer home.

The gates to the castle with the King's message to the visitors (he tells us to enjoy ourselves!), and the main stairs to the summer castle that looks like it has been plucked out of the rolling hills of Tuscany.

You get a feeling that the king's gardeners are well-paid for doing their jobs. One of the hedges was so designed to look like it's going to fall over you (witty, artsy, but a bit out of place since all the other hedges were symmetrical and ordered), and you feel that alarms will go off if you dare step on the grass. The whole atmosphere was opulent and, well, kingly, for lack of a better term. It's the type of garden that would make an anti-royalist say, "Glad that our tax money is of use!" The king's sign at the gate though, says that it is proceeds from the Solliden shop that goes to the upkeep of the garden. Such a sane man.

Anyway, a summary about this trip: It's hard to leave Öland and not think that you'd want to go back there again. We've only explored less than half of the island's landmarks, yet they were so varied that it feels that I've been to many islands and not just one. How's that for an action-packed vacation? The southern part of the island is still uncharted territory where I'm concerned and is left to be explored on some future trip. But with all the exotic landscapes I've seen so far in the island, I would believe a map of southern Öland even if it actually said "here be dragons".

Before leaving our STF (Swedish tourist association) hostel in Hagaby / Lantgården, the hostel owner – a friendly middle-aged man who manages the hostel with his equally cheerful wife – asked Mats what my impressions could be, as a foreigner, of our stay. I could run out of superlatives and still not accurately describe the whole experience. It's also very hard to write something unique about landmarks millions of others have seen and written about. The island, the sights, the people, the hostel and its hosts were all terrific. It made my summer and I would go back in a heartbeat.

In the meantime, the souvenirs from this trip will help me remember the wonderful memories (plus the fact that I took a thousand pictures. Sigh!):


Anonymous Lara said...

hi joy!!! gränna really is lovely. its quite small but i felt like in a different world there. you will love it!

try crossing over to visingsö. we didnt have time to do that.

i think ill leave it to you to write about it ;-)

we didnt eat polkagris but we did watch how it was made. they have signs outside the stores saying that "cooking" is on-going. i wasnt really interested in tasting it, it's just plain candy to us. hahah.

yes, i have been thinking about sharing some tips. ill probably write that close to the end of the series. i have over 15 listings for blog ideas already and i am still overwhelmed by it. will i finish this? when? i wanna get this over with! :-)

i feel like its a distraction to my work because im kinda obssessed by it. bad me :-(

im not sure if i want to compare sweden and finland because right now, i would be biased towards sweden (really!...and i know you are, too!) and it might offend jaakkos family.

we drove through the main highway in finland and stopped over only in pori and nivala, so we didn't see much of the country. and i slept on the car a lot! hahaha. oh but we did walk around turku and helsinki...

but thanks for the thoughts! keep em coming. hows your job-hunting going? blessings to you and marcus!

9:01 PM

Blogger Ren said...

Question: was that small city you visited have a Lutheran cathedral? The classical definition of a city is that it has one. Oxford is another example--it's about the size of UP's population in both Diliman and Manila, and it's a cathedral.

3:44 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Lara: Seems like we're going to Gränna already on Friday. Bus connections are really bad on weekends, so we're going to borrow a car and tent in Gränna :-)

Ren: I didn't notice a cathedral; it really was a small place. According to the Swedish wiki, it became a city in 1816 when it only had 150 residents! On the other hand, it was an old Viking town too, so maybe the term "city" is really more like a symbolic tag to say that the seat of the island's power lies there. Thanks for your interest though!

3:52 PM


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