Postcard from Kalmar

Mirinda is always looking at real estate. It’s a strange kind of hobby and one she’s embraced for many years. It was bad enough when I had to steer her away from estate agent’s windows but, these days, most of the time she’s on her phone looking at houses. Quite often she’ll pass the phone over to me and insist I look at whatever property she’s found.

Given our desire to eventually settle here, Mirinda’s house hunting has switched to possibly areas in Sweden. One of those areas is in and around Kalmar.

Kalmar is south of Stockholm and on the Baltic. And we visited today. And, I have to say, I rather liked it. I know I’m not big on seaside resorts but Kalmar is a lot more than just sand and surf. Actually, it has neither sand or surf which is definitely in its favour. Though, according to our host, Kalmar has been voted the best summer destination in Sweden for the last two years. Maybe my thinking is more Swedish than I realise.

Of course, Kalmar was particularly beautiful today given the weather.

Mind you, something that isn’t that delightful in Kalmar is finding a parking space. There’s plenty of spaces if you want to stay for 15 minutes. There’s even a few if you want to stay for an hour. But, if you intend to spend a lot of the day wandering around at leisure, you have to drive down to the station.

It’s very handy having parking areas indicated on Google maps but knowing how long you are limited for would be handy. Also, why is Swedish parking signage so unhelpful? I get the small sign with the amount of time allowed but something with a few more details would be helpful.

Not that it mattered. Having found the massive station car park and paid a pittance to park for 24 hours – I had to use the machine because I didn’t want to add yet another parking app to my phone – before heading into town along the boardwalk.

Our first stop was a lovely dog friendly place overlooking the marina.

Having taken a rather delightful snack of charcuterie and guacamole, we felt set up for the rest of the day. And we explored Kalmar both inside and out. Stopping now and then in the shade to rest and observe what the locals were up to. This is always a good way to ascertain how we’d fit in.

I’m not sure about the millions of sunbathers dotted around the place. They were like seals, spattered all over the pier or dotted randomly yet socially distanced, on the grass of a park. As far as lying around turning into pork scratchings is concerned, you can forget it. I would not fit in with that. However, the rest of the place seemed perfect. There’s even a cathedral.

I visited it in the centre of town – I was far from impressed – and the two of us strolled down the main shopping street to the theatre. It wasn’t massively crowded in town, though there were quite a few people wandering about. Quite a few with strollers and even more in beach gear. The whole place had a huge holiday vibe about it.

Kalmar was quite an important spot back in the 17th century. So much so that it had its own war, the Kalmar War (1611-1613).

During the Kalmar War and, later, the Scanian War, the local castle was put under siege a total of 22 times, but it was never successfully taken. The castle that stands there today is not the same one. Our old friend Gustav Vasa didn’t fancy the original, so he had another built. And that’s the one that’s there today.

The Kalmar War happened because the coalition of Denmark/Norway was missing out on tolls.

They had been collecting money for the ships that went through the stretch of water between the Baltic and Arctic seas for ages. Then the Swedish King, Charles IX decided he wanted a bit of the action. He established a land toll-way higher up, in Lapland and bits of Norway, and started collecting money.

Denmark/Norway declared war and it all kicked off. Sweden lost (though the castle was saved) and the long drawn out process of creating, agreeing to and signing a treaty rumbled on (Peace of Knäred). It was prompted by James I of England who clearly had skin in the game. It was finally signed by all parties in 1613.

Denmark/Norway were proclaimed victors and everything returned to normal. Well, until the next war. There wasn’t much of a wait.

All of that is made more interesting when you realise that Sweden, Norway and Denmark had united as one kingdom in 1397 and Eric of Pomerania was made king of the new union. The reason for this big group was in order to oppose the Hanseatic League which was threatening the Nordic countries’ Baltic trading interests.

The reason I mention the Kalmar Union, as it has come to be known, is in an effort to explain the statue at the bottom of the town called The Union Monument.

The Union Monument (1997) by Roy Friberg

Friberg made the monument to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Kalmar Union even though it was, basically, split asunder when the Kalmar War started up. I guess some unions are just not meant to last.

After wandering the bastide like streets of Kalmer, we headed off to the island of Öland. This meant driving across the amazing Öland Bridge. It’s six kilometres long and seems to glide across the top of the water. There’s a big hill in the middle which, I assume, is to allow big ships through. One of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever been across.

Mirinda thought the island was small enough to drive from one end to the other in about ten minutes. She was wrong. It would take around two hours to drive from north to south then another two hours coming back.

We didn’t drive the length. Instead we drove to a small place called Mörbylånga before then driving across the width of the island to Runsten. This required driving across the most boring UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world. It’s called the Stora Alvaret and it’s a massive lump of limestone covered in scrubby grass and bushes.

There is an iron age fort at one end but, sadly, it wasn’t in the bit we were driving through, so I don’t feel we can really add this to our World Heritage list. Actually, who am I kidding? I’m including it.

Limestone aside, the interesting thing about the island is the number of old, turnable windmills there are. Exactly the same as the one we saw at Skansen, they are lined up along the centre of the island like sentries.

We eventually turned round and went back to the house for a supper of chicken drumsticks and coleslaw. A vast and tiring day.

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