The Swedish Agatha Christie

The day started, as most recent days have started, grey and drizzly. It didn’t look at all appealing. It wasn’t that cold but the grey just made it miserable. Still, we had decided to go into Nora and walk along the lakeside path, so we packed up the puppies and drove into town.

And it wasn’t long before the sun came out, the grey went away and the blue sky was revealed. Combined with the new warmth, it was a wonderful day to be outside.

There’s a group of steam train enthusiasts at Nora. They have a station, a few carriages, track and engines. It’s at the beginning (or end) of the lakeside walk and we started there.

Walking down to the railway, the first normal gauge railway in Sweden, we noticed how many tourist type places are currently closed. This has nothing to do with the plague. Places like Nora close for the Season every year. They change from sleepy old towns into crowded visitor ridden places every summer. While it’s far more pleasant this time of year, there’s little to do and, unfortunately, there’s none of the famous Nora Glass.

Nora Glass, for the uninitiated, is a small business, started in 1923 in the (almost) centre of town. It makes ice cream, fresh every day. Three flavours, every day: Vanilla, hazelnut and one other, determined each day. It is also available at two other places in town. But not this time of year. Given my love of ice cream, this is very sad.

There’s also a historic house and garden to visit. But not this time of year, which made Mirinda sad. And, of course, the railway and attached museum.

So, that’s a list of things we didn’t do today. We did walk along the lake and find the bust of Maria Lang though.

Maria Lang (ND) by Rune Johansson

Born in 1914 as Dagmar Lange, she was a prolific writer of murder mysteries, much like Agatha Christie. She wrote either 42 or 49 novels, depending on what information you read, and is credited as being the first Swedish writer of detective fiction.

She was born in Västerås (the place that Ryan warned us about in The Hairy Pig), but was moved by her parents to Lindesberg before she was one. Then her father died and, after her mother remarried, she was moved to Nora which remained home for her. She died aged 77 in 1991.

Most of her novels take place in Skoga, a fictional town which was mostly based on Nora. Fans of her books and the movies adapted from them, come to Nora just to walk the streets and see the sights that she wrote about.

Presumably, Skoga has a lake for it to sit beside.

The lake at Nora

Having never read Lange’s books or even heard of the fictional town of Skoga, I have no idea whether it has a Greek Restaurant. But Nora does, and we returned there today to have lunch. Mainly because they allow dogs and also because the food is very good.

The serve a special lunch menu for 100kr. You choose an item from the list and that’s your lunch. We confused them a bit by wanting three for two of us. But it was soon sorted out and we had a very fine, food filling time.

The reason we had three meals was because this was going to be our main meal of the day. We were looking forward to a bord type supper (as Sarah would call it) so Mirinda went back to the Nora deli for some wonderful cheese, meat and Easter treats.

Rather than just head home, we stopped off at the big cemetery which we’ve driven by each time we go into Nora. It’s a beautiful sweeping landscape with little box walled off squares containing burial plots and headstones. There are gullies and a burbling stream. There’s a chapel with a detached belfry. There’s a lake for it to overlook.

It’s very peaceful. If the dead realised what was happening, they’d be well pleased with such a location for their eternal rest.

It’s one of three cemeteries in Nora. In town there’s the North and South Churchyards and, outside town there’s this, the Karlslunds Kyrkogård. And, while there’s a main road which runs beside it, it’s way more peaceful than the UNESCO World Heritage Skogskyrkogården which we visited back in November.

Opened in 1954 and enlarged in 1989, Karlsunds Kyrkogård sits up above Lake Norasjön ( which is Lake Nora Lake in English) and the older part, according to the website, ‘consists of rectangular blocks located on terraces down to the lake.’ While the newer bit ‘has a more rounded shape with paved corridors.’ It’s all very beautiful and peaceful.

While we visited, a couple of groups turned up to tend the graves of their relatives. This is a big thing in Sweden. You can tell the graves that no longer have living relatives to tend them. They are overgrown and neglected.

Which reminds me, it’s not just final resting places that the Swedish people care about. It seems they go out of their way for everyone’s comfort.

I came across this attached to the side of a public toilet in Nora.

And, unlike the UK at least, the air is free.

Upon returning from our brief sojourn among the dead, we settled in on the outside terrace for a few hours of reading, gin and beer as the sun gradually disappeared and the temperature dropped.

What a splendid day it turned out to be. And supper was fantastic too.

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Witches on the roundabout

On the day that the giant container ship, Ever Given, was successfully refloated and started making its way out of the Suez Canal, we decided to visit a very ugly and miserable looking town. Given the weather was likewise miserable and ugly, we felt it only right.

In the case of the ship, the build up of other vessels will be cleared in four or five days. In terms of clearing the vision of the ugly town from my mind, it will probably take a lot longer. In fact, it reminded us of Cinderford in the Vale of Dean, and it’s been very many years since we first clapped eyes on that place.

Unlike the ship, we were able to park the car and, as we realised how awful the place was, get back in Max and drive away.

The town was Hällefors. It was once famous for steel production. Then the 1970’s happened. Now it just seems to pride itself on noisy cars and men who look like grim, worn out versions of Joseph Stalin.

I found only two things to like about Hällefors. The statue outside the culture school called Ragtime and made by Niklas Göran in 1962. It was originally in Karlstad but poor Niklos died in Hällefors, so I guess they thought they’d move the statue to be closer to him.

The other thing was a strange bit of street architecture which may have been a half mile marker. It was an upright bit of old metal, marked accordingly but obscurely.

According to one tourist site, visitors are warned about wandering in the woods around the town because of the old, disused mine shafts dotted throughout the area. Falling into one could mean spending eternity in this town that beauty ignored.

Then, as if in some strange, yet unsuccessful, attempt to completely wipe the ugliness of Hällefors from our minds, we drove a little bit down the road and ended up at Grythyttan.

Grythyttan couldn’t be more different. It was quaint, cobbled and has an extraordinary church. In fact, Grythyttan is a Swedish church village. I don’t know what that means, but the church was remarkable. Sadly, it wasn’t open.

The exterior walls appear to be built with thousands of wooden drop tiles, like so many leaves. The building has bits added and various dates displayed on the corners of each bit presumably indicating when the bit was added.

The churchyard was well tended and worth an explore for the quality of its graves.

We were going to try and eat in the big restaurant called Cornelius but lunch is only served between 11 and 14 and we were well beyond that. There was no point waiting around for dinner because they are only open for lunch at this time of year. A pity because something that the village is well known for is food.

The very empty streets didn’t really entice us any further so we returned to Max and headed back to Nora.

And it was good to see that the roundabout in Nora has become home to three witches, in preparation for Easter.

It was a bit chilly on the roundabout but, I guess because they’re witches, they weren’t particularly bothered. Or, maybe it’s because their bodies aren’t solid and the wind just blows through them.

We decided to park Max and head for the Greek restaurant. Unfortunately, the Greek restaurant was closed so, after a stroll around a block or two, we popped into the Coop for the makings of pork and fennel.

On our stroll we discovered the old telegram office in Nora. A rather plain building but a very important one.

This was the telegraph office between 1880 and 1959. Back when Nora was famous for its mining, I guess communication with the outside world was pretty important. No doubt, the tap tap of Morse code would have echoed through this small, nondescript building day and night. The building itself was constructed in 1869 by Av Gustaf Wendin. I assume it is now a private residence.

And that was our day, apart from Mirinda’s hour trek through the mud in the morning.

Oh, and I have mastered the hob and the oven. And dinner was subsequently delicious.

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A penguin at the town hall

I reported yesterday on the bathroom in this place we’re staying. Today I want to talk about the kitchen. More specifically, the hob. And, the need for instructions when you descend on an unfamiliar home with unusual equipment.

The hob looks normal if you ignore the push in dials. However, it seems pretty simple. You turn the dials corresponding to the hotplates and they should come on. Not so.

You turn the dial and a number flashes on the surface. This number indicates where on the dial you are. The hotplate, however, does not get hot. I figured they needed a pot on them. I’d prepared some cauliflower in a pot so I put the pot on top of the hotplate and tried again. It made no difference.

Mirinda messaged the owner while I just microwaved everything.

Fast forward to after dinner and relaxing in front of the TV watching Young Wallander and there came a rat tat tat at the front door. It was the owner come to show us how to use the hob.

I had been right about the pot having to be on top of the hotplate but I was using the wrong pot. Yes, there are right and wrong pots. Anyway, that was solved. And, of course, we met the owner. She said she’d ring the Internet provider tomorrow to hopefully fix it.

She asked if we were enjoying ourselves and we told her how we’d driven to Örebro for a lovely day out today. Not that the day had started particularly lovely. In fact, it didn’t stop raining until after lunch. Lunch which, incidentally, came earlier than expected. This was because I hadn’t realised that daylight saving had started this morning.

Eventually, though, the rain did stop and I realised what time it really was and we set off.

Everything I’ve seen regarding Örebro features the slott and we visited it, having parked Max and wandered the streets for a bit. The slott is an impressive landmark and Mirinda actually visited the turret at the left of the photograph. Dogs in hand, I visited the café which is in the right hand turret.

Mirinda spent a lovely half hour wandering up and down spiral staircases while I sat with a hazelnut latte and talked to a chap who spoke a combination of Swedish and English, both of which I found hard to understand. He was talking about his mixed breed cats. I think. I just nodded and laughed when I felt it was appropriate.

The rest of our visit to Örebro was spent walking around the park which edges the river and canal system. It was all lovely, the banks littered with public art. Like this centaur.

Bågspännande kentaur (1965) by Sigrid Fridman

Bågspännande means archer and it’s a bow that the centaur is holding. This was one of the more recognisable artworks. There were a couple of big blocks with vaguely curved sides which Mirinda said her father would not consider art and a human/insect hybrid.

There was also this small penguin standing in a small niche by the town hall building.

Pingvin (2013) by Linnea Jörpeland

Another reason we were wandering the streets was because we were looking for a restaurant which would let us eat with the dogs in tow. There are a number of dog friendly establishments in town however, because it was Sunday, they were either closed or not serving yet.

Actually, Mirinda found a lovely restaurant in a hotel which was happy to take the dogs but when she came and collected me and we wandered back inside, we were told that, while they were happy to have the dogs, food wouldn’t be served for another hour and a half. We wandered back out.

Which is why I cooked meatballs and cauli mash in the microwave back at the house.

Speaking of the house, there’s a beautiful old family bible sitting on a cabinet. It dates from 1917 and has the names of a couple who were given the bible on the occasion of their marriage. I have no idea if the couple is related to the house owners.

Idly flicking through (it’s all in Swedish, obviously) I came across an intriguing photograph. How could I resist including it?

The plate being held by the smiling chap features a horses head in the centre and round the outside is engraved “Segerrikaste körsven 1962”. Segerrikaste körsven means most victorious driver. I think it has something to do with harness racing. I don’t know about the other three but the guy holding the plate was, I guess, pretty handy in a gig.

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Nordic masters of flower arrangement

I don’t particularly like baths. Wallowing for a while in my own, wet filth, does not appeal to me in the least. I realise there’s a lot of people who like it a lot. Fair enough, I say, as long as I can have a shower, that’s fine. Unlike me, my wife is one of those people that rather enjoys a bath.

Mirinda was very pleased when we walked into the house and saw the bath. There’s no bath where we’re staying near Stockholm. Just a shower. Mirinda was further delighted when she realised the bath had big, gushy water jets lining it. This is something she’s always wanted. A jet assisted bath.

So, this morning, filled with anticipation, Mirinda prepared for her bath.

The water was pretty slow so it took a while for the water to reach the jet holes. But, eventually, there was enough water to get in the bath and turn on the juice.

The jet bath started spitting out water. Unfortunately, water wasn’t the only thing it spat out.

Apparently the water is sucked in and the dirt from the previous bath spat out. How come the water has changed colour, she thought given she didn’t have her glasses on. Retrieving her glasses she decided a shower was the better option as she watched small bits of something brown floating around her. It was, as she said, totally gross.

Mirinda was quickly convinced jet baths are not a good idea.

The shower, attached to the bath, was a bit squirty, so the bathroom gets an impromptu wash every time you use it. But, at least the water is clear and clean.

Oh, and the wifi doesn’t work. I spent ages last night trying to get it to work. There’s a very confusing mess of cables and strange white boxes with some lights on but most off. Eventually I gave up and started using my phone as a hotspot. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

I sent a message to the owner asking how to make the wifi work. The owner said they’d have to talk to the provider and it would take a few days.

But, apart from that, the place is delightful. This is the view from the sitting room window.

And it was raining this morning. Not heavily and it did stop. And Mirinda managed to take the girls for a woodland walk up to a lake.

Finally, the sun came out and the day gradually turned lovely so we decided to head off to Nora for a look see.

And what a lovely town, Nora is. About the size of Haslemere while looking like a French bastide town, Nora is the kind of place I’d like to live in. In particular because it has a rather delightful and extensive cheese shop.

There’s also the beautiful church, perched high up, the steeple easily visible from every direction. It’s possibly the third church on the site and was built in 1880. They say ‘possibly’ because the previous church dated from the 6th century before it was demolished and there’s no record of the one before that.

Inside, the church is warm and inviting. Sort of like the one we visited in Dalarö but bigger and with a very impressive ceiling. In fact, as well as the ceiling, there are a couple of excellent frescoes painted by Mrs Ragnhild Nordensten from Nora.

Apart from the obvious beauty of the church, it was wonderful finding one that’s just open rather than strictly within certain plague restrictive times. The church in Nora is open daily from 9am to 5pm. This is far more like god intended. I’m sure.

Given I was the only one there, the church was infused with peace and solitude. It was lovely.

In the meanwhilst, Mirinda was outside with the girls, talking to locals. One very helpful chap suggested she might want to visit the local vet where they could give the girls a much better haircut than the GazHack they’re currently sporting.

Actually, there’s a lot of dogs in Nora. Emma ignored all of them apart from one, rather huge German Shepherd which she barked at. Freya didn’t engage with any other dog. Both of them were very happy to be fussed over by humans though, something which happened a lot in Nora.

Speaking of the girls, we also found a wonderful Greek restaurant where, as well as excellent food (and beer) they also allow dogs to sit quietly under your table while you eat.

We were a bit concerned when we were the only customers. I always worry about these small businesses when they are mostly empty. I guess a lot of it is the pandemic and some of it is the season but, whatever the reason, I always feel a bit sad.

But, needless worry has never been my strong suit and was proved once more to be unnecessary. By the time we left, the place was almost full of fellow diners.

Before heading back to the house, we drove around looking at For Sale houses before stopping at the big, out of town ICA for essential things that were not included in the rental. Like dish cloth, dishwashing liquid, toilet paper etc. We then drove back.

And, in a case of immaculate timing, the weather dramatically changed as we sat inside.

We decided that the house was the best place to be.

The house, as well as having an inadequate bathroom, has a lot of ‘stuff’. It’s one of those Airbnb places where it’s like the owners have just stepped out. Obviously, being the busy body I am, I decided to go through a lot of books and magazines under the rather giant coffee table.

Among such delights as floral magazines and a photo album featuring bouquets of flowers, was a folder marked Interflora University. This folder contained notes taken by, I think, the woman who now owns the house. At least the names are very similar.

We were both surprised that there is such a thing as Interflora University but, I guess, it makes sense. In an international company which prides itself in delivering consistently gorgeous bunches of flowers, a way of teaching the skills would be very handy.

Other books aside, possibly my favourite from under the coffee table was an interesting volume about a collection of Nordic people who are (well) known for their skills with flowers. In the brilliantly titled Nordic Masters of Flower Arrangement, these people show their wares in black and white photographs as well as appropriately flowery text. This must surely be an Interflora Univesity key text.

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Heading out to see the stars

Friday prevening traffic on the fringes of Stockholm is pretty much the same as near any big city. It builds up as you skirt the main roads, minor roads starting to choke with rat run seekers. Single lane roads, jammed bumper to bumper as people head home.

Of course, eventually, the traffic dwindles away to virtually nothing as you head further away from the city.

Of course, the original plan had been to leave just after lunch which, perhaps would have avoided the traffic and saved us about half an hour travelling time. Well laid plans, and all that though. We didn’t start our journey until 3pm.

Our journey, by the way, was to a small place just north of Nora. An isolated AirBnB property, nestling near a big lake. A place to get away to when you feel you haven’t had a holiday for yonks.

I guess we had a sort of holiday back in October when we first arrived in Sweden. There was the short stay down south, near the beach where we learned quite a bit about the Swedish way of life. But, since then, it’s been work, work, work. Well, for Mirinda anyway.

And so, we (Mirinda) decided we needed ten days away which includes Easter. And, because we’ve not explored a lot of Sweden, we decided to head left and up.

Obviously, there was the customary stop at services in order to give the driver and the dogs a bit of a leg stretch.

As we stood (not) admiring the view, Mirinda said it was a shame there weren’t the Aire de Repose spots like throughout France. We have used them a lot on our trips to various departments. I agreed, saying I’d seen no sign of them here.

Hopping back in the car and rejoining the E20 we drove about five miles and found one. A lovely spot with picnic tables, trees and even a toilet. It would have been perfect. Maybe next time. At least we could, maybe, stop there on the way back.

After a brief stop at a Hemköp for essential supplies, we drove the final few miles in the rapidly increasing dark. Yes, no street lights and very few cars.

One reason for heading this way was for the diminishing light pollution. We want to see stars. We want silence. Just for a change, we want to experience peace, quiet and proper night sky.

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A labyrinth of shops

A long, long time ago, I can still remember when I used to walk…properly. I’d decided that I’d walk the entire length of the North Downs Way. Mainly because it started in Farnham. Not in one go, you understand. It is 153 miles after all. No, I intended to walk a bit every now and then of a weekend. As it turned out I managed to get as far as Merstham and never resumed.

I have always almost felt a sense of regret that I never finished, particularly given I would now be unable to do any of it.

Actually, not really. I don’t waste time on regret when there’s a whole world to explore, regardless of my beastly feet.

There is a reason for this reflection. It is not just the random ravings of a once long distance footpath attempting madman. Actually, there was a time when Nicktor and I planned to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall.

While I never finished the North Downs Way (or even started Hadrian’s Wall), today I achieved something almost comparable. I managed to complete the entire route of the 840 SL bus.

I’ve been from our place to Nacka Strand a couple of times but I’ve never ventured in the opposite direction before. Before today, that is. Because today I had to meet with the public notary in Handen Council Building. And to get there, I had to catch the bus to the end of the line at Handenterminalen.

There’s a lot of building work down at the railway station (photo above). I had to go there in order to get some cash for the notary. Cash. I’d almost forgotten what it was. The only Swedish cash I’ve had was from an ATM in Ahus when I needed change for a shopping trolley.

Anyway, although it’s been a while, I managed to work out how to use the ATM and headed back to the Haninge kommun council building. (Handen is the town, Haninge is the wider area.)

The notary had told me he’d be just near the reception. I figured he had a little office there but, as I entered and approached the reception desk, it was obvious there were no offices on the ground floor. A restaurant, yes, but no notary office. The lady behind the desk confirmed this by saying I should sit in the centre and wait for him to arrive.

While the outside of the building looks like any old red brick building, it belies the fact that inside is another matter entirely.

I sat and read and waited for the notary.

And he duly turned up and did his witnessing thing. I thanked him, paid him then went off to scan the pages for emailing to the solicitor. It took five minutes. I then headed back to the bus stop to go home.

Except I didn’t.

I had a message from Mirinda asking me to see if I could find something for her so, rather than waiting at the start for the bus, I walked ahead a stop, up to Handen Centrum.

Again, from the outside, the building looks like just an ordinary black of flats.

Inside, however, there is a labyrinth of shops, escalators and people. It’s like a TARDIS in there. I didn’t take a photograph because, firstly it wouldn’t have fit into one image and, secondly, because I was too awe-struck to think of it.

I’m glad I popped in, just for the experience, but it proved fruitless as far as Mirinda’s request went. I left empty-handed and caught the bus back home.

All very exciting and unexpected. Mind you, by the time I reached the house, my feet were in great need of a rest.

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Looking for a witness

The world’s biggest container ship blocked the Suez Canal today. Apparently there was fog and a dust storm, both of which forced the big bulbous nose of the Evergreen to become wedged at one side. The water floated the other end around, to cut off the canal to all other traffic. Quite bizarre.

10% of the world’s trade passes along the Suez. That’s a lot of delayed Easter eggs.

In the meanwhilst, here in the southern reaches of Stockholm, I was trying to find someone to witness my signature. It’s very simple in the UK. You just ask any solicitor. As long as it’s not your own solicitor (or your wife). Not so in Sweden.

I have written to a number of people I found via our landlady but had had no response. I decided to head into Tyresö Centrum and knock on doors. Or door. Of the only one I could find.

It was also my first day out on my own since spraining my ankle. It was a great sense of very slow and deliberate freedom.

I didn’t have any luck with the solicitor apart from finding his office. Which was locked up tight. Which was annoying given it had meant a lot of extra walking.

My second option was a horse lawyer in Trollbäcken. So, having visited the System for some much needed supplies and Espresso House to explain my absence, I headed back on the bus.

And the horse lawyer was very helpful. Not that she could witness my signature of course. That would be expecting way too much. But she did tell me that I had to find a public notary. Now, a solicitor can be a public notary but she wasn’t. She suggested I look one up on the Internet.

I have to admit I was on the verge of witnessing my own signature but, instead, I went shopping at the ICA before heading back home to resume the hunt for a witness.

And this is what I discovered.

Further investigations found one. Not only did I find one but I also managed to talk to him and arrange to meet him tomorrow, so he could witness me. I swept all thoughts of forgery from my mind.

As it turned out, it was a very good day.

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Glad Påsk!

On Sunday, at Notholmen, we noticed a few shrubs decorated with coloured bits of material. I also noticed in Hemköp on the way home, that they have started selling bunches of, what appear to be, sticks with brightly coloured feathers attached to the end. It seems the two are connected, and it’s all about Easter.

Apparently, once upon a time, people would whip each other with birch twigs in an attempt to emulate Christ’s suffering. At some point, the coloured fathers were stuck to the ends of the twigs. I don’t know why.

These days, people just buy them and decorate their homes with them. Or shrubs.

The other thing about Easter in Sweden is the fact that, originally, it was all about witches. On Maunday Thursday, the witches were said to fly off to Blåkulla then return on the Saturday. So locals would light big bonfires and dance around them yelling and screaming in order to scare the witches away.

Blåkulla refers to an island where the devil holds an annual feast. This feast was actually a chance for the devil to have unlimited sex with as many witches as possible. The witches would then give birth to toads and serpents. Which doesn’t sound very healthy at all.

Nowadays, there’s no talk of toads. Children just dress up as witches and go door to door asking for sweets. If it sounds a bit like Halloween, then there’s a very good reason why. It’s because it’s the same. Except that, where in the US, people dress up as all manner of things on October 31, here in Sweden, it’s just Easter witches.

The Swedish people are also big into the egg thing. Apparently, given that Easter signals the end of Lent, people went mad for eggs. Real eggs, not chocolate.

Traditionally, eggs stand for rebirth and renewal. In a typical bit of appropriation of pre-Christian festivals, Jesus followers believe the egg symbolises the empty tomb, vacated by Jesus. I assume the yolk and albumen are symbolic of ectoplasm.

The first chocolate Easter egg was not made by an American, surprisingly. That honour goes to France. The first chocolate Easter eggs turned up in Versailles in 1725. The first ones in Britain were produced by Fry’s in 1873.

Back here in Sweden, eggs (real ones) are the chief ingredient for any Easter feast. Along with herring. Of course. The chocolate eggs go to the little witches at your door.

Possibly, the saddest thing about Easter is that it spells the end of the semla season which started back on Fat Tuesday. Well, sad for some. I’m very rare in Sweden in that I don’t like them much.

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Poor little apple

The church we visited in Dalarö on Saturday has a rich maritime history. This would be because a lot of ships were wrecked in the harbour. In fact, marine divers can do a tour of many of the wrecks. There’s even an online brochure detailing the more well known wrecks.

One of the wrecks is of the Riksäpplet, a Swedish Admiralty ship built in Gothenburg in 1661 and completed in 1663. She was built by an English shipbuilder called Francis Sheldon (1612-1692) who worked as a master shipbuilder in Gothenburg, arriving in April 1659.

At first, Sheldon built the Jupiter, but she was quickly deemed unfit for service and was sunk in 1666. However, things improved with the completion of Riksäpplet, and he built a load more ships afterwards. Sheldon moved to Stockholm for a bit but, eventually, the Swedish navy felt his methods were too expensive and turned, instead to a Dutch shipbuilder. Sheldon returned to England. He must have missed Sweden too much because he was back, working at the Riga shipyard until 1683.

In the meanwhilst, Riksäpplet was not having a good time. Having been launched, she headed off for Stockholm where the navy lived. She then sat there, unused, for the next decade. Then, inexplicably, she was used as a ferry to pick up King Karl Xl’s uncle from Holstein.

That seems a bit excessive. She was 48 metres long and 12 metres wide. Mind you, it’s comparable with one human being needing a couple of airplanes, one being a massive great Airbus A321, for random joy flights. I guess some things never change.

So, the Riksäpplet heads off for Holstein, picks up the uncle of the king and returns to Stockholm. That appears to be the first official voyage.

The next we hear of Riksäpplet is in 1675 when she is needed to help repel the combined Danish-Dutch navy. This was not a success. Not because of anything the Danish-Dutch navy did but because, ten days after sailing, the fleet had to return because of raging disease aboard the ships.

A year later, having cleared up the disease (there’s no mention of masks or social distancing), they had another go, but this was also a disaster. The Swedish fleet was no match for the Danish-Dutch navy. Two massive warships were blown out of the water, killing 1500 sailors. The rest of the Swedish fleet turned tail and headed back to Stockholm.

(Incidentally, one of the Swedish ships was the Krona, another Sheldon build.)

Dodging firepower, the remains of the fleet sought shelter wherever it could, in the Stockholm archipelago. Riksäpplet ended up hiding near Dalarö but, rather than safety, was battered by a huge storm. She was torn away from her mooring and dashed to bits on a skerry (small rocky islet of which there are many in the archipelago).

As if to remind the gods of the sea, forever, the memory of such a sad ship, the skerry was named Äpplet.

But the Riksäpplet story does not end there.

There’s a gate at Stockholm City Hall’s northern vault which is made from bog (or black) oak and, may have been salvaged from the wreck. More importantly, the baptismal in Dalarö church was made from black oak taken from the Riksäpplet. It was made in 1936 to a design by Einar Lundberg (1889-1978).

Lundberg was an architect who did a lot of church restoration work throughout Sweden. And, it seems, designed baptismals.

The next time we visit, I really must get a photo.

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Stockholm Biker Babes

In a wonderful link between our trips to the island today and yesterday’s trip to Dalarö, the pulpit in the church at Dalarö was given to them when the church at Tyresö Slott was rebuilt. It is beautifully made with inlaid woods. It looks a bit like the wooden pieces at Sorrento though not quite as highly lacquered.

The Guardian told us that the people at Tyresö Slott figured it wasn’t good enough for their brand new church. Well, I say that Tyresö’s loss was definitely Dalarö’s gain.

And, yes, we finally returned to the Island today. Evelyn had missed us and was pleased we were okay. The other lady who fusses over the girls, was also pleased to see us and even gestured me over to a newly prepared table.

It meant stepping ahead of a staggered, socially distanced group of women in motorcycle leathers. Not that they minded. Being the tough, Swedish type, they were going to sit outside.

The women were part of the Stockholm Bike Babes. Formed in 2014, the group was formed when Karin Pontén, a motorcyclist living in Stockholm, wanted to go riding with other, like minded women. She had plenty of men to go riding with but felt more women needed to band together on their bikes.

The group now has over 1,000 members, and they regularly go out for country rides. The group only has three rules: you have to live in Stockholm, you have to have a bike licence, and you have to be a woman. And, from our experience today, they seem a very happy bunch.

We were very happy as well. The soup of the day was goulash and the café at Notholmen was as warm, inviting and busy as usual. Mind you, they’d moved the furniture around a bit.

It felt great to have a normal Sunday after so long being stuck on the sofa.

We then spent a goodly amount of time planning our holiday to Nora and Sunne next week.

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