Kalmar, Öland, and Kalmar

posted in: Nordic Adventure 2012 | 0

It’s actually Day Eight, Sunday, May 20, 9:30. I didn’t blog last yesterday because I was on the go all day and was too tired by the time I got back. I started the day the same way I ended the day on Friday, with a walk around Kalmar.  It’s a nice town, built largely on islands, so there’s a lot of water, and the castle stands guard in a lovely setting.

There’s also a really prominent and picturesque tower in the heart of the city, and I took a lot of pictures of it,  wondering why it’s not mentioned in any of the books about Kalmar.

I finally walked up to the tower and found out what it is.  Not exactly a landmark of historical significance.

After my walk and breakfast at the hotel, I picked up my rental car and drove across the bridge to Öland, the second largest island in Sweden. I stopped first at a tourist information bureau, and I’m glad I did, because I got a great map of the island and some good suggestions on how to spend my day.

My first stop was Borgholm Castle. Rick Steves says in his book that it’s not worth the 50 kr entrance fee. Well it was actually 70 kr and worth every kr. First of all, it was really good to be there in the morning; I loved the way the light and shadows changed the appearance depending on where I was standing and which direction I was looking. Second, it was like eavesdropping on history. I’m always most fascinated by things that were built so many centuries ago in a world whose civilization has continuously thrived here, since there’s virtually none of that in North America. Third, the spaces were serene and it just felt good being there. Well, mostly serene: they were setting up for a wedding (I asked on my way out, and apparently anyone can book a wedding there, except during high season), and before I left a pretty mediocre cover band started rehearing. (They wouldn’t have had enough rehearsal time even if the wedding weren’t until next week.)

About a half mile from Borgholm Castle is Solliden Palace, the summer home of Carl Gustav, the current King, and his family. You can’t go in the palace, but you can tour the grounds, which Rick Steves said is worth the 75 kr. Well it was a lovely garden, impeccably landscaped, but it’s a lot like places that exist all over the USA and Canada, and I’m really disappointed in Rick for getting it so wrong.

From there I did essentially a circle of the southern half of the island, stopping to explore the ruins of ancient forts and burial mounds,

walk on the Alvaret (limestone savannahs that can grow very little except some wildflowers and scrub brush),

take pictures of a few of the countless rickety windmills,

dip a toe (a hand actually–I wasn’t going to take my shoes and socks off to actually wade) in the Baltic Sea,

and visit Eketorp, a reconstructed fifth-century stone fort that, IMHO, would’ve been more interesting if it weren’t reconstructed.

Well, at least the reenactment cast let me shoot a bow and arrow at a target, patiently letting me try six times til I actually hit the target.  I also went to the southern tip of the island, where there is Sweden’s tallest lighthouse (not a particularly photogenic lighthouse, but tall) and a migratory bird research facility. (All over the island there were birdwatchers with binoculars, tripods, and cameras with huge telephoto lenses, all standing patiently, quietly, staring off into some unknown space waiting for something to appear. I never saw anyone actually snap a picture of anything.

I got back to Kalmar at around 20:00 and had a nice dinner at a restaurant recommended in Rick’s book. (This he got right.)

Right now I’m sitting on the bastion overlooking the harbor, watching swans swimming about. My plan is to catch a train at 15:04 that will get me to Stockholm at 19:50. I just hope nothing goes south with that plan. Between now and then I’m going to visit the Slott (castle), and maybe a museum, and i’m going to try to get inside the cathedral. They have high mass at 11:00, but I’m going to try to get in and out of there before that.

I haven’t actually seen anyone who works in the hotel where I’m staying. Since I was arriving late Friday evening, they gave me a door code and left my key in an envelope taped to the door of my room. It seems I could easily sneak out without paying, if I were the sort of person who’d do such a thing.

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