Stuck in a small town in Småland, culture columnist Ondrej Gomola finds some much needed rest in the untainted wilderness of Sweden.
Summer is long gone now, just a vague hazy memory of stressless freedom and joy. At least, I suppose, for most people. I took the liberty of procuring myself a full-time job over summer, so I have trouble sharing those emotions. Summer, for me, turned into somewhat of a sweaty slog sitting in front of a computer. Despite the joy it robbed me of (but money it gave me), I managed to tease out a few free moments and take some days off. During these, I decided to get to know Sweden a little bit more.
That proved to be easier said than done because initially my family—who were visiting from Belgium—and I wanted to go to Sweden’s West Coast; but it was chock-full of people in July. Instead, we settled for Småland, a region of rolling hills, lush pine forests, red farmhouses and elk road signs. Although staying in Alvesta, a town seemingly stuck in the 1980s, may have been a mistake—not least because of its tasteless drab architecture.
But being lodged in a town whose Wikipedia page is two sentences long has an unexpected charm to it. Your expectations drop to bedrock and it makes you more creative in deciding where to go; it helps you find joy in the little things, such as the striking beauty of an evening sunset by Lake Salen.
One of the long-time goals of my stay in Sweden is to go to as many of its thirty national parks as possible. This summer, I managed to visit two more during our time in Småland. Åsnen’s tranquillity is as if taken straight from a fairy tale. Cycling along the coast of Lake Åsnen, we soaked in the sunshine, dodged colourful butterflies and darting dragonflies. Summer was in full swing and so were all of its flavours, from the almost sickly smell of blooming flowers to the stuffy stillness of the warm July air.
Another day, we went to Store Mosse National Park. Its vast marshland feels like you’re part of the Fellowship of the Ring, except for the added bonus of no ghastly shapes in the boggy waters and mostly stable wooden walkways. There’s also a stunning pine forest nearby, full of, well, pine trees. Walking through this national park definitely left a mark on our spirits as we neared the tail end of our stay in Småland.
The summer, for me, was not a continuous two-month long trip to the spa. It was more of a haze of work pockmarked with short trips and adventures. Gandalf didn’t come knocking at my door, nor did I have to go find special shiny bright rocks from underneath a sleeping dragon. But Sweden’s nature was a jewel of another kind.
I would make more references to Tolkien’s worlds, but my editor tells me I should stop this column now and definitely not continue writing and rambling and wasting precious internet space.