Glad påsk, or Happy Easter from Sweden

It was four years ago this Easter that I visited Sweden and met some of my relatives there. Sweden is a beautiful country, both the urban areas as well as the rural ones. The connections I made during this trip inspired me to write my novel, The Forest King’s Daughter. If you’ve read it you may even ‘recognise’ a few of these places 😉

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Stockholm sunset

Degerfors sunset

Degerfors sunset

We flew into Stockholm first, where we spent a couple of days before taking the train onto Värmland, a province to the west of Stockholm. We got off the train at Degerfors, where my cousin and his wife live. He is the grandson of my great, great grandmother’s youngest sister.

They were kind enough to show us the place where our grandmothers had lived, the old church in Åtorp which they would have attended, and the cemetery where our relatives are buried.

We also visited their farm, Daldenas, a working strawberry farm up until the last generation. He showed me how they kept meat cool in the days before refrigeration, where they chopped wood, and the old strawberry fields. He also described to me what it had been like here when he was a boy.

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Daldenas

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Strawberry fields

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chopped wood

When they showed us the barn, there was a very large, very old photograph on the wall of a man with long-ish hair looking out at us. They said they didn’t know who it was, but thought it might be our grandmothers’ father. I recognised the photo immediately as it was the same one which had been discovered in my grandfather’s house in America, after he passed away. The date on the back was from the mid 1800’s. Somehow it had survived all these years in the back of a barn, just as my grandfather’s copy had survived several moves all over the United States.

We went to visit Högtorp, the croft our grandmothers grew up in. Here I am posing in front of it.

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The croft— torp in Swedish, for those who lived there were called torpare meaning a small scale tenant farmer —was deep in the woods above the small village of Åtorp. The road was unpaved so we had to walk. It took us about half an hour to get up the hill walking at a good speed. The woods to either side were deeply thicketed. My grandmother would have had to take this road each day to school, and then later to church. She would have walked her younger siblings down the road to ensure their safety from wild animals. During that period of history wolves were rampant in Sweden.

Later I would read The Saga of Gösta Berling by Selma Lagerlof—a Värmland writer—who tells in one scene of a young woman being dragged from her carriage by a pack of wolves as she rides through the woods at night.

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When my grandmother lived here the forest would have been felled for farmland. There was a large yard which once would have been used to grow crops. The trees nearby were short, their height a marker of the time which has passed since this torp was occupied.

Across the yard, and visible from the front door of the house, was the wooden barn where the family would have kept livestock, although they were poor and so would not have had much. Certainly they would have had a cow for milk who would have remained in the barn, especially during the winter.

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The church in Åtorp was beautiful. It was wooden, done in an old Norwegian style. It was quite a ways from where they lived. Although Sweden is no longer a practising religious country, it used to be controlled by the church, especially the rural areas.  Ironically, it was because of the tests the church imposed and the catechism lessons that Sweden was one of the most literate countries in Europe in the 19th century.

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On Easter Sunday we looked at old postcards which had been exchanged between our grandmothers many decades ago. Here’s one of the photos they had, which was sent from Minnesota. We think it might be my great, great grandmother sitting in the chair.

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Have you ever taken a trip which has inspired you to write a story? What are the themes which recur in your own writing? I’d love to hear about them so please leave a comment below.

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8 thoughts on “Glad påsk, or Happy Easter from Sweden

    • Hi Ruth, Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 I hope you are able to get to Berlin too. Your next novel sounds like it will be quite interesting. I look forward to hearing more about it in due course. One of the things which is so wonderful about reading (and writing) is that we can be transported to other places without even having to leave home.

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  1. HI Kendra…

    Happy Easter…. I really enjoyed your post and your photos are beautiful… it must of been magical to have visited while writing your amazing novel…. what inspiring trip…

    Take care…

    Katie…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy Easter Katie! Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed reading The Forest King’s Daughter :-). It was an amazing trip and I felt very privileged to be able to see the places my family had lived. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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  2. Hi Kendra
    I loved seeing your photos from Sweden. I visited the country once over thirty years ago on a day trip from Denmark and can’t really remember much about it other than it seemed rather sparse! Your pics make me want to go back again and visit it properly 🙂 I love visiting new places and experiencing the differentness of the new before it becomes familiar and while it may seem a cliché, I believe traveling broadens my mind and my expectations and makes me feel alive and more connected to the rest of the world (even just going on wee trips to other parts of Scotland). As for your question, as you know, I spent ten years in the Pacific and that inspired me to write Food of Ghosts and the second soon-to-be-published crime novel, Killer Shoeshine. I wanted to share what I had experienced and the best way to do that seemed to be through stories. The challenge, of course, was/is to write a story that makes the unfamiliar fresh interesting to a reader (who has no connection whatsoever with said place), without the place seeming so strange that the reader feels alienated, or bored, and switches off. Easier said than done, but it feels good when it works 🙂 I’m about to, at last, start reading The Forest King’s Daughter and I know I am going to enjoy being transported to Sweden and America 🙂

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    • Hi Marianne, Thanks for your comment. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed my post and the photos. Sweden is rather sparse but that is one of the things I like about it. 🙂
      Travel is important to experience for those reasons, and it certainly does broaden the mind and expectations too.
      I really enjoyed being transported to Tarawa in Food of Ghosts and look forward to travelling to the Pacific again with Killer Shoeshine.
      I hope you like reading The Forest King’s Daughter 🙂 Thanks again!

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