When Sweden plays, everyone wears yellow

We went away for the weekend today. Mirinda took a day’s holiday, we packed the girls off to Linn’s place and we set Max to take us to Mariefred. We were actually going to Strängnäs but wanted to stop off and visit the castle at Mariefred first. And what a castle it is!

In fact, Gripsholm Slott is more than a castle. It also houses the National Portrait Collection of Sweden. Many faces from many eras, look down on the visitors as they wander from room to room. Gripsholm is also a fairy tale vision of turrets sat on its own little island, jutting out onto Lake Mälaren.

The castle has had many phases, additions, removals and renovations over the centuries. It was started in around 1540 when Gustav Vasa decided to get rid of the old one and build his own. Since then, a lot of kings and other royals have lived in and/or visited.

I’m not going to rattle off a whole bunch of names and dates, but I do feel I have to mention King Gustav III who I only just met last Tuesday. There are many portraits of him just outside the little theatre.

Yes, the castle has its own proscenium arch theatre on the top floor. Here’s proof.

I reckon it’s the equivalent of a modern home cinema set up, only with less comfortable seats. The rake was pretty serious and the wings almost non-existent, but it was the cutest little prosc arch theatre I think I’ve ever seen.

Something else the castle has are two big old Russian cannons, brought to Gripsholm in 1623. The Russians called them both Wolf but in Sweden they are known as the Sow and the Boar. They are both pretty mean looking. From the metal treads on the wheels to the big old toothy heads.

One of the best things about the castle was that there was hardly anyone there. The wandering members of staff far outnumbered the visitors. We almost had the place to ourselves. There was absolutely no problem with social distancing.

Speaking of social distancing, later, at the hotel where we’re staying, a member of staff who was coming up to fix the fan in our room, asked me if I was okay sharing a lift with her. She was bright, bubbly and recognised my accent for what it is: Australian. I was, to say the least, very surprised. She said it was pretty obvious. I asked her if she’d been to Oz. She said no, but that she’d really love to one day.

She was one of many people wearing the Swedish football team shirt today. Sweden was playing Slovakia in the Euro 2020 competition. In the Pavilion, where we had lunch, a massive screen was unrolled from the ceiling as the place filled up with fans. Fortunately, we were sitting outside enjoying the shade and the breeze.

By the time we left and the game kicked off, the social distancing inside had been reduced somewhat while the temperature had increased considerably. We went and sat on the grass for a bit and watched a group of marauding ducks search for tiny bits of food.

The ducks quickly left us alone when they realised that we weren’t on a picnic and, therefore, had no food. We later spotted them, in a bunch, chasing a young girl around. I guess she had some bread on her.

Having rested for a bit, we headed up to the church, just in time for a chap who was locking up to let us have a quick squizz. It was very generous of him.

The church, high up on a hill, was what we’ve come to expect in Swedish churches. It was plain but warm, welcoming and not your usual confrontational type god house. Missing, however, was a votive ship (“But it’s a lake and not the sea,” said Mirinda) and a detached belfry. The belfry was well and truly attached. We heard it ring out following, we think, a big wedding.

We weren’t exactly guessing about the wedding. We’d seen the bride and a few other wedding party members while we were admiring and deciphering a couple of Viking rune stones at the entrance to the castle.

They were only our second and third rune stones in the wild, as it were. We found our local one at Tyresö Slott a few weeks ago. And we can’t count the one we keep driving past too quickly to stop and admire. So, these two were two and three.

It says: This stone was set up by Tola in memory of her son, Harald. He was Ingvar the far travelled’s brother. They fared like men far after gold and in the east gave the eagle food. They died southward in Serkland.

‘Eagle food’ refers to the fact that they killed their ‘enemies’ and left their bodies to be eaten by the birds. And ‘Serkland’ is probably the home of the Saracens.

Eventually, and sadly given how much we loved Mariefred, we collected Max from the shade and headed for our accommodation at Strängnäs. Though, of course, we had to look at a few for sale properties inbetween the two places, on the way.

Like Mariefred, Strängnäs is on the edge of Lake Mälaren, though, obviously, another edge entirely. The lake is big enough to have quite a lot of edges.

We parked and then went into the centre to check in.

The Bishops Arms is a pub. I know they don’t necessarily have such things in Sweden but this one could have been transported from any British town and just dropped off. It even sells British beer. On tap. London Pride, no less. And a Birmingham IPA which I rather enjoyed.

And the beer was entirely necessary given the temperature. The day had been the hottest since we’ve been in Sweden. It hit the 30° mark and we sweltered in it. We are so not used to the heat. And it makes Mirinda quite cranky. Particularly when the fan in our room doesn’t work. Though, at least the windows opened.

After a couple of drinks and a light supper, we headed down to the water front for a wander, catching the sight of two chaps being looked after by two fully stocked police cars. They both had handcuffs on and were looking a little sorry for themselves. They probably just got a bit over-excited about the football. They were both wearing Swedish football shirts, after all. Like just about everyone else.

This entry was posted in Gary's Posts, Strängnäs 2021, Sweden 2021. Bookmark the permalink.

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