After taking a 5-hour train to Södertälje, Sweden last night, I met up with my dad’s cousin, Helmut, and his wife, Lisa. Helmut, like my dad, is German and Lisa is Swedish. They have been living in Sweden for several years.
Today, they very kindly showed me around a couple villages in Sweden the first being Mariefred, a small and well-preserved town east of Södertälje. One of the main sites is a sizable castle called Gripsholm slott. A long time ago, there was a catholic monastery in Mariefred, but when the king converted to Protestant Christianity, all the Catholics were forced to convert or leave. So he took the stones from the monastery walls and built a castle. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m a blogger not a writer. The castle served as a fortress in the medieval times and later served as a residence for the Swedish royal family. Now it’s a museum. We were able to walk in the main courtyard and look around, but the castle itself was closed for the day.
The designs in the courtyard differed depending on when they were made, or where they came from. The walls were very simple, but some sections of the castle were added centuries after the original castle. The two cannons were Russian and had pig heads at the mouth. The well was very ornate, while the decorations on the wooden entrance were simply the crests of Sweden. Outside the castle, there were some viking tablets with ancient inscriptions on them commemorating old battles.
In the charming town of Mariefred, we started by taking a look at the church, simply called Mariefreds kyrka. It’s towering white steeple made it very easy to spot in the town. This was the church that Helmut’s son, Jens, and his wife, Lena, got married a few years ago.
The church in design was similar to one I visited in Malmö in February. Most of the walls were white and the decorations were gold. This church was different because it also had many paintings. One of the other characteristics of Swedish churches is the candle globe, where you make a small donation for a candle and light it in memory of someone you knew or in light of a recent tragedy or disaster, then place it on the globe.
The tour continued with a stroll down the main street of Mariefred. The shops on this road were not touristy, but instead showed some real Swedish life. One prime example is the feathers. It is traditional to decorate your house around Easter and the main decorations you use are chickens, eggs, and feathers. You’ll especially find feathers in the flower arrangements. Swedes are also creative with their egg covers, I got one with bunny ears, and Lisa had some knitted to look like chickens.
We finished of the day with cakes at the Taxinge slott. Yet another castle in Sweden, but they can’t all be museums, so this one is a cafe that is famous for its cakes. The selection of cakes was enormous! And, of course, they were delicious!
There is also a nice park behind the castle that we wandered for a bit. It would be a lovely place for a picnic in the summer. Helmut and Lisa told me that it is also a wedding venue! Looking over the lake, there is a small building for drinking tea/coffee donated by China.
Back in Södertälje for dinner, I met Helmut and Lisa’s son, Jonas. Over dinner I got to hear about all the travelling he’s done, especially in Eastern Asia, and all the foods he’s tried, including snake and various insects. I think I’ll stick with my plain cheese pizza. After dinner, I taught them how to play Uno, which they had received as a Christmas gift, and Helmut attempted to keep score. I don’t know if there is a specific way of scoring Uno, but he just gave a point to the last person left with any cards. He “won”.
It was a very relaxing and low-key day, filled with tea, cakes, and lakeside castles.