Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cycling Scandinavia: Stockholm to Falun

 I felt so refreshed after my two day stay on the island with Jonas that I was really looking forward to cycling again. I was so eager to get some miles in that I even decided to skip Uppsala. I felt I had done enough sightseeing in Stockholm. Also, this was the perfect Swedish summer. Blue sky every day. It was almost hot. Combined with the high humidity you could almost call it stinking hot. Luckily there where no big uphills but every little climb let me break out in sweat.

Every one was commenting on the weather. Apparently last year had been particularly bad with rain and cold temperatures almost every day. For once I seem to be lucky with the weather. During the whole month of July I had had very little rain and that had conveniently occurred mostly at night. Not knowing how long this fantastic spell of weather would last I decided to make the most of it and cycle.

Sala Silver mine
My stops were determined by were a Lidl store is. Although Sweden is cheaper than Denmark I am still on a budget and Lidl is by far the cheapest supermarket in Sweden. So while in Stockholm I had already looked ahead: After the suburbs of Stockholm my next Lidl would be in Sala. After shopping there I wondered what else to do in town. Of course there was the famous silver mine but a guided tour was 220 SEK. That was almost my entire daily budget - and I was soon going to visit another equally expensive mine in Falun. The visitor information had the right idea. They suggested the free Agueli museum. I must admit that I did not have the slightest clue who Agueli was, but I could not resist the free museum. Ivan Agueli turned out to be a Swedish painter around the last turn of the century but much more interesting than his modern paintings was his life. Born in Sweden he travelled all over world, converted to Islam, had a 23 year older anarchist lover, became an anarchist and animal rights activist himself and even shot a French bull fighter before he died in a train accident in Spain. The museum was very small and the paintings not that great but I was intrigued by his wild life. The museum attendant was a German art student whom I could quiz extensively and there was even free wifi. What else do I want....

Falun copper mine
Next big stop was Falun and the reason I had wanted to go there was my German classes at school.  Like most German school kids I had had to read Friedrich Hebbel's calendar story "Treue Liebe" about the miner of Falun and now it was time to find out how much truth there was in the story. A lot - as I found out on the guided mine tour. I had the perfect timing this time. I had camped close to town and arrived at the mine when it just opened - and just in time for the first English tour. This being so early there  were only three of us in the group which gave me ample opportunity to ask questions about "Mats". Historically Hebbel had described the events quite correct. A miner had been found in an old mine shaft and looked so alive that he was first mistaken as sleeping and then as recently deceased. But when brought above ground no one knew him until an old lady came forward and claimed him to be her fiance Mats. Mats had mysteriously disappeared a couple of days before their wedding and she had then never married anyone else. But now 40 years after their engagement they were finally reunited. She as an old woman and he miraculously still young because he had been well preserved in the vitriol of the mine.

But other than in Hebbel's story there was no happy ending in reality. Despite the old woman's begging Mats was not given a Christian burial. On the contrary: he was displayed in a showcase for thirty years until falling apart. He was then buried, but his grave was moved several times until he ended up in a church attic. When he was rediscovered there a century later he was displayed again..... He was finally laid to rest in 1932 and of course I visited his grave in Falun cemetery. The sign on his tombstone does not mean he is a feminist, but is the sign for copper as Falun is a copper mine. I spent the whole day in Falun tracing Mats' life. First in the mine, then in the fascinating Dalarna museum and eventually in the cemetery. Only then I allowed myself to go shopping at Lidl...

The next day was dedicated to the famous Swedish painter Carl Larson. 10 km from Falun is the Larson family home in their little village of Sundberg. Again I arrived just at opening time and got onto the first English tour with just 5 people. Maybe this should be my future strategy? The Larson home is such a popular destination that there are tours every 15 minutes. The poor tour guides have to dress up like the kids in Larson's paintings. The house was quite nice  but not so much from an artistic point of view but as a showcase of the Larson family life style. Larson loved children and had eight whose portraits are all over the house.

Not really fitting into this idyllic Swedish country life is the little water power planet next door. Larson must not only have been a great painter but also a good business man. He allowed the plant to be built on his lands and got free electricity for himself and his children. Now the old plant is quite an attraction itself in the village that is otherwise totally dedicated to Larson. The village meeting house has a Larson  portrait collection, the church has paintings of him and of course the whole family is buried in the village cemetery

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