An Island in the Middle of the Baltic Sea

I understand why long ago people thought the earth was flat. Looking to the horizon, a pang of fear spread across my heart. If we kept going, surely we would fall off the edge…

Baltic Sea

From Stockholm, we took a bus from the central station to Nynäshamn, about an hour and twenty minutes’ ride. At Nynäshamn, we boarded a ferry to Gotland, a Swedish island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The ferry ride took just over three hours. We rented a car and drove north. When the land ran out, we boarded another ferry for a seven minute ride to Fårö, our destination.

Tiny Fårö has expansive views of the sea. From its shores, the Baltic Sea is black and deep and cold. Ingmar Bergman, the famed Swedish director, lived and died on Fårö. Bergman also directed some of his films against the austere backdrop of the island.

Liv Ullman in Personal
Liv Ullman in Persona by Ingmar Berman (Source)
glassdarkly2
Scene from Through a Glass Darkly (Source)

We drove straight to the shore to see the “rauks,” giant limestone formations molded over time by the sea. They stood there, towering in the distance.

Sea stacks at Langhammars
Sea stacks at Langhammars.

Here and there, we could see man’s attempts to create their own stacks.

Rock pile at Langhammars

To give you some perspective, I took this photograph of my husband walking toward the sea. It’s difficult to express the impact of the scene on my senses. How tiny I felt against the raw power of rock and water and wind. So beautifully breathtaking and alarming at the same time.

Man vs. Nature @ Langhammars

The seawater is clear and cold.

Pool of cold sea water @ Langhammars

At times, I felt like an astronaut staring at a moonscape – eerily barren but very much alive.

Moonscape @ Langhammars

Topology @ Langhammars

This man-made stack was over six feet high. I wonder how long it will stand against the winds?

Man interferes @ Langhammars

The rocks were cold but soft from the constant beating from the sea.

Close-up of limestone rock @ Digerhuvud
Close-up of limestone rock at Digerhuvud

Our last stop was at Gamla Hamn. Gamla Hamn stands for “ancient harbor” as this area is thought to have been used for fishing and trading in the Middle Ages. (Source)

Sea stacks @ Gamla Hamn

As we walked further down the beach, we saw the sea arch known as both “The Coffee Pot” and “The Dog.” In the distance, I guess it does look like a dog standing at attention.
"The Dog" sea stack @ Gamlahamn Close-up of "The Dog" sea stack @ Gamlahamn

There was no one besides us out there, which made it that much more magical and melancholy. Then we spotted two swans swimming in the bitterly cold sea.

Swans swimming in the cold Baltic Sea

For some reason, the landscape made me sad. I was somehow insignificant against its raw immensity. But still I marveled at its beauty.

View to the sea @ Gamlahamn

 

My very own Scandinavian yarn crawl

Before our trip to Copenhagen, I dreamt of yarn stores on every corner. I compiled a list of stores to visit determined to find yarn that was “Made in Denmark.” Here is a recap of my very own Scandinavian yarn crawl.

Ulstedet, Vendersgade 3: The website for this yarn store beckoned with knit and crochet shawl kits, yarn and notions. When we showed up at the address, it simply wasn’t there. Strike 1.

Strikkeboden, Krystalgade 16: We found this yarn store on a pretty corner very close to the Round Tower, a 17th century astronomical observatory. It’s quite tiny but full of yarn in cubbies on the wall, in baskets and in window displays. Unfortunately, I was greeted by a very surly woman who seemed disturbed that a customer would actually enter the store. She practically barked, “can I help you.” I scanned the store, turned around and left. Strike 2.

Sommerfuglen, Vandkunsten 3: Sommerfuglen is located close to city hall and is bursting with yarn from floor to ceiling. It was a busy morning with many customers coming and going. The sales ladies were busy but very helpful. One sales lady explained that most of the fibers are imported since Denmark does not itself have many fiber-producing animals but some yarns are either spun or dyed or both in Denmark. I picked up this nice wool/silk blend. I thought it fitting to take a photo of it in Denmark. Home run!

Design Club DK, Duo Silke/Merino, 65% Wool, 35% Silk

Bette Design, Klosterstræde 20: I read about this yarn store on several blogs and set out to find it. It was very close to the Church of the Holy Spirit off Strøget, a wide pedestrian shopping street. We found the location, it even had a pretty sign hanging over the entrance, but the store was empty. By the ladder and bare walls, it may have been unoccupied recently. Strike 3.

Our next yarn forage took us to Malmö, Sweden. We rode a train over the 10 mile Øresund bridge connecting Copenhagen to Sweden’s third largest city.

Garn David Hall, Jörgen Ankersgatan 12: We found this store tucked away on a side street near the center of Malmö. Alas, it was closed. All I could do was stare at the fluffy yarn through the window. Strike 1.

Princess Garn, Lundbergsgatan 4: We walked a long way in search of Princess Yarn but it was not to be. We found the address but there was no yarn and no store. Strike 2.

Irmas Hus, Kalendegatan 21: Third time’s the charm. Irmas Hus is not a yarn store. It seems that it used to be and also carried fine fabrics. They had a wall full of little boxes filled with buttons. They now specialize in clothes but in the middle of a sale table, sitting in a couple of bins, I spotted yarn. These giant hanks are hand-dyed by a woman who lives outside of Malmö. And to make it even sweeter, the sale was a two for one! I picked up these two hanks of hand-dyed merino wool. Another home run!

Handy-Dyed outside Malmo, Sweden

Hand-Dyed outside Malmo, Sweden

Here’s a street band in Malmö celebrating my yarn find.

Malmo Street Band

Do you know of any Scandinavian yarn stores we should have tried?

The Ice Princess

Of late, I have been captivated by Scandinavian literature. I love the sense of place, the cold, the darkness of the settings. While I had read some Scandinavian authors years ago, it was the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson that brought me back. I discovered the series by watching the first movie in an old theatre with sticky floors that shows mostly independent films. It was the original Swedish version with Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. The sense of place of the Swedish landscape and the complexity of the characters were so palpable I could almost touch them. I immediately found all the books and devoured them. I’ve been on a Scandinavian literature kick since.

I had not heard of Camilla Läckberg but thought I would give her a try. The Ice Princess is Camilla Läckberg’s first novel – her first four novels have been bestsellers in Sweden. I like that the novel plunges you right into the thick of things in the opening pages. A man checking on a neighbor’s house during a cold winter finds a dead woman sitting in a frozen tub, with icicles hanging from her hair, and one of her arms dangling over the edge with frozen blood pooled on the floor.

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The rest of the story unwinds to reveal characters that seem real with human foibles and redeeming qualities. You meet Erica, whose parents have just died and who is in town to pack up their home. There’s a sibling rivalry between Erica and her little sister, Anna, who seems to tense up around her husband. There’s Superintendent Mellberg, the incompetent bureaucrat and chief of police; and Patrick Hedström, the detective who just wants to solve the crime. There’s a murderer. And there’s Alex, the ice princess, who happened to be one of Erica’s childhood friends.

One of my favorite parts of this novel is the setting. All of Läckberg’s novels take place in the remote fishing village of Fjällbacka on Sweden’s west coast. Fjällbacka is the author’s birthplace and she seems to know the town’s roads with all its twists and turns very well. As I read the novel, phrases like “15 degrees below zero” stayed with me. This is Fjällbacka in winter.

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I highly recommend reading The Ice Princess. It will draw you in immediately with solid character development, an element of mystery, and a chilly setting to get you through these hot summer months.

My Review ★★★★☆