Archive for the ‘Sweden2017’ Category

Day 9(2) – Coat hanger Museum

October 13, 2017

Olofstrom is famous, or ought to be, for two things: (a) a huge factory where metal sheets are pressed into shape to make Volvo cars and trucks, and (b) a coathanger museum.

Well there are coathangers all over the world, so there ought to be a museum of them somewhere, and why not Olofstrom? The museum also exhibits cameras from all ages – the owner is a bit of a fanatic and has collected cameras (and coathangers) all his life. Some people are strange, I mean, why doesn’t he collect manhole covers instead? This is part of the camera display, and a rare multi-shot camera.

Below is a cardboard camera from IKEA. You do not need the hex key to assemble it! But you do need to know someone very high up in the IKEA company to be able to get your hands on one of these. They were never sold commercially.

But enough of all these cameras. The coathangers are waiting for us!

Ah, coathangers. It was a balmy summer’s evening and we did not even bring coats to hang … but here is a Coat Hanger Tree, unpruned, showing coat hangers in their natural state.

These are harvested and hung on a rack to dry, as follows:

Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds comes to mind … the mature hangers fly away and roost, on a wall.

A rare Hungarian Coat Hanger:

A book about coat hangers. Well, I have a book about Japanese Manhole Covers, and a book about Spoons of the Third Reich, so I was not surprised to see this.

In the first picture on this blog post, of the outside of the building, you can just make out that there are a couple of cameras and coathangers nailed to the wall outside (and thus exposed to the weather). One of these is from Eliasson’s tailors in nearby Jamshog, telephone: 10.

Sorry if my readers now feel haunted by coathangers. This blog is running about 6 weeks after the events have happened, but to jump several weeks forward, when we had a flat in Barcelona, the coathangers were there waiting for us.

Barcelona, eh. What a riot!


Day 9(1) – Olofstrom

October 12, 2017

Barbro was born and grew up here, so we made it a focal point of the trip – but the only hotel was nice but bloody expensive, so we stayed at the camping site, which was cheap and awful. Still, you gotta laugh, eh … Olofstrom is a medium-sized town built around a huge Volvo factory.

To ride here from Solvesborg, we went along a lovely wooded path that was once a railway line. This “Banvallsled” was in perfect condition and well signposted.

This track is notable for a tunnel which was the first tunnel to be built in Blekinge – the next province to Skane, which is where we are now.

Here’s Mike & Jan, captured just at that magical moment before someone comes out of the tunnel behind and mows them down.

On we went to Nasum, halfway to Olofstrom and the location of a very nice cafe. This is Nasum church, on top of a hill, up which I led the group unnecessarily, as the cafe was somewhere else.

There’s not much to show of Olofstrom town, but 4 km outside is a place called Valhall where a cliff looms 80 metres over a lake. Named of course after Valhalla, home of the Norse gods.

Here’s Helga on her way to paradise. (almost literally true as I said there’d be no traffic but that bloody big 50-ton milk truck has just come blasting past us at full speed).

Ghost riders of Valhalla.

Valhall is aptly named because bones have been found at the bottom of the cliff, from which it has been established that in Viking times elderly people were taken here, and pushed off to their deaths. Nowadays everyone poses at this spot. Perhaps that is how the Vikings did it – stand here and we’ll carve your picture on a runestone – back a bit – back a bit further …

R-rated section

I asked Mr David Rowlands to take a picture, and in his enthusiasm he took several, depicting the entire trouser adjustment process.

Ah that’s better, with trousers finally at the proper height. One does not wish to make one’s lady readers come over all faint. Now Steve, back a bit … back a bit more …

Day 8 – Listerland (and not Hanö)

October 11, 2017

Listerland is the name of a peninsula that sticks out next to Solvesborg. The idea was cycle to Nogersund at its far end, get the ferry to the island of Hanö and spend half the day walking around it. Barbro & myself were there 3 years ago, written up in a series of 4 blog posts starting here – and I never did get to blog about the song “Herr Mannelig”, and I haven’t got time now 😦

That is Nogersund, with the stern of the Hanö ferry visible on the right, over towards the shed. After visiting Hanö we would then cycle over to Lars’ holiday house where he would put on a magnificent barbecue! But, having ridden bikes continuously for 8 days and with 7 more to come, we decided on a change of plan; we hired a coach and went, sans velocipedes, directly to Lars’s house. Which saved people having to find it, as it’s in the middle of nowhere in an area with no signs; it’s sort of here:

The coach driver – normally he drives it as a school bus – gave us a 45-minute guided tour of the whole peninsula, free of charge. The main industries here are (a) potatoes, grown for starch which is used in making paper and (b) farming mink, which are fed with fish caught on the coast here. Did you know that girls get minks the same way that minks get minks … Lars had specially imported his sons to help with the BBQ.

and the food was, of course, very good. We ate it.

Here we are, at the trough. What you have to do, dear reader, is click on those latter two photos and download them, then display them and swap between one and the other and back again. After the BBQ we went for a walk down to the harbour; here’s group 2 on their walk:

And that is the harbour. Out here, you get your own beach:

Flocks of geese wafted across the sky. They have just taken off, and will fly without stopping, to Siberia. (Siberia is very nice – I went there, and in 1981 to Liberia, which was also very nice before a 14-year civil war wiped everything out). The paper factory and power station stewed quietly on the horizon.

Day 7(2) Solvesborg bridge

October 10, 2017

Solvesborg is strategically located on the train line direct to Copenhagen one way, and to the whole southern coast of Sweden the other way including Karlskrona, a major naval base, and Kalmar, the gateway to the island of Oland. Business was getting a bit slack, so the city fathers commissioned this 800-metre long pedestrian and cycling bridge – the longest such bridge in Europe.

It was the best 8 million dollars they ever spent. The bridge not only gives access to the golf club (no doubt a very strong influence on why it was built) but it also opens up a whole new town being built on the other side of the inlet, with natty houses of modern design, greatly increasing the local population and enabling new industries to start up.

It’s really two bridges, joined up at an island that was already there in the middle. This is a nature reserve, with many rare plants having evolved over the thousands of years that the island was inaccessible except by boat.

The view of the town from the island, and of the cathedral.

Some of us rode across and noted that on the other side, a viewing platform was accurately placed to give the best view of the bridge. The platform was donated by a building company, whose advert covered one side of it. Nearby was a stone wall, the worst stonework I have ever seen. More like a pile of stones … there was no sponsor’s name on that!

After this arduous journey across the bridge, by expending further effort we just about made it to the golf club, where a cafe served snacks and beer. Fine Czech beer, which we decided to evaluate, at great personal (and monetary) sacrifice.

Day 7(1) – Solvesborg

October 9, 2017

Looks like a nice place, Solvesborg. It has an information kiosk and, er, um, and, well there should be room to add more things and put them on this road sign. Lately a spectacular pedestrian bridge over the sea has been added, which is described in my next post tomorrow.

On this 7th day of the trip, we rode into Solvesborg where we had to stay in two hotels because we’d be here two nights, thus both groups would meet up and nowhere could take 30 people at once. But we found two hotels close to each other, group 1 took over the Vita Huset which was really nice, and group 2 stayed in the Stadshotell which was very dignified and formal.

Group 1, having rested in front of yet another stately home, spent half their afternoon picking berries in the forest. Next day, my group 2 instead made a bee-line for the town where group 1 had now laid on a terrific afternoon tea. Barbro in group 1 and myself in group 2 can track each other’s mobile phones and see their accurate location, so the moment we arrived there was tea and cakes and conversation – loud enough to raise the roof. It was a good thing we had the hotel to ourselves!

Solvesborg city square has a fountain – what need is there for a porno shop when there’s a fountain like this? One of the artwork panels around it shows men catching an eel – well, two of them are working, the third one does not seem to be doing much – captioned “The king of the sea is the fisherman, old and young”. There is also a major cathedral, St. Nicolai –

– with this runestone outside its door. (There is another very famous runestone inside, named the “stentoftasten”, similar to the huge, ancient Bjorketorp one that I blogged earlier here, and which will be the subject of an emotional blog post when I have found the picture I need.)

The inscription on this small one, registered as DR356, says “Vade made … in memory of his son Asmund”. Unfortunately, the words that state exactly what Vade made are chipped off; the words were probably “this stone”, but we will never really know what it was that Vade made. A coffee table? A spaceship? A better mousetrap? A way of keeping runestones intact? (No, not that).

Sadly at this place one of our riders had an unwell husband at home, and had to leave the trip in a hurry. This was easily managed, and we saw her off at the Solvesborg railway station, below. The trains run direct to Copenhagen from here.

Day 6(2) – Backaskog and Gualov

September 30, 2017

On this day, we were at the Maglesten, which I already wrote about; and there were a couple more sideshows on the way to Solvesborg.

Backaskog castle is situated in a novel place, on a promontory of land between two large lakes. See that the lakes are different colours – there are many small faults like that, with reality – but Google makes them the same colour. Anyway, all traffic going north-south over a huge area had to pass by here, and could be “taxed”.

As the castle sign makes clear, there is a four-sided building with a large courtyard, and extensive formal gardens. However, we were all castled out after Glimmingehus, and all the rooms and cafe were closed this day, due to a wedding reception. We were welcomed to visit the yard and gardens but could not go in, or buy anything.

As we were leaving (having eaten our BYO lunch that we bought an hour before at the Cafe 22 in Fjalkinge, run by Syrians and very good), we saw this vintage car arrive to collect the bride and groom.

Ah, cars, even de-luxe cars, were simple in those days. My dad’s first car had the usual gear stick, steering wheel and 3 pedals, plus two knobs you had to pull, “choke” and then “starter”, and there was a sort of gas tap to drive the windscreen wipers from the carburettor vacuum, and a slider to divert hot water into the heater, which I think was an accessory. It could not reach the speed limit.

Meanwhile, at Backskog slott, when the bridal couple showed up for a lift in the car, they brought these two totally cute kids:

We also departed, on our humble bicycles, and rode on through Gualov on our way to Solvesborg. Here we met the mob of 45 Danish cyclists coming the other way – causing chaos on the road and in the car park of Gualov Church, a very old (dating from the 12th century) stone church, with a separate wooden bell tower added in the 1700s.

Typical of a country church is the very well-kept graveyard. (A bizarre post about Swedish graveyards will come later). The gravestone inscriptions are very simple, usually listing the job and name of the deceased (so mine would be complex, as I’ve had roughly four distinct careers). The late Elmar Bratt was evidently a mechanic of some sort.

But I hope he did not really use that awful shifting spanner; O, Elmar, buy spanners of the proper sizes! I was once in a workshop of the Royal Australian Air Force, wonderfully equipped with the all very best tools for aircraft maintenance – they don’t want the wings to fall off, etc – and they had a shifting spanner but it had a sign beside it “Every separate use of this tool requires the personal signature of an officer”.

Day 6(1) – Viby Storks & Dolmen

September 29, 2017

We rode out of Ahus, the track dead level and straight as it followed a railway line (and a noisy freeway) and soon came to the village of Viby. Oddly, storks were flying over the village and standing in the fields – at Viby, and nowhere else. You almost had to bat them away with a stick. Must be a good place for storks. If storks wrote a travel guide, Viby would be in there, near the top of the list.

This picture on the Viby community noticeboard makes the hierarchy clear. At the lowest level is a building, then a wind vent, then a cross, so we have Man, Nature, and God – and above it all, above even the lightning conductor, the majestic Stork. He doesn’t even need two legs – why bother putting the second leg down, when one is enough?

There are only a few farm buildings in Viby, but most of them have a stork nest on the roof. The birds come and go frequently. In the old days I would have wasted a lot of film, but with modern technology these are my best from dozens of attempts –

A nearby house roof was also popular, and I got a close-up:

And I present this picture, which is titled Stork on Roof (Flown Away) :

We got all storked out, so we left Viby and its ciconidae behind us, and headed for Fjalkinge which we had been told had a Useful Cafe. But on top of the hill overlooking Viby – I cannot say my wish was granted, because I had not even thought of wishing for this – there in a field, was a dolmen. (A big stone supported on other stones, making a chamber). And beside it, a small ring of 17 stones.

These, the sign said, were the “Stone Dance” and the Viby Dolmen, and they are 5,500 years old. They stood here long before the Vikings, long before the time of Jesus Christ, a thousand years before the Pyramids, a thousand years before Stonehenge. There is a local legend that when giants walked the earth, they met here at the stones, and that one of them, named Ormes Yngvesven, is buried here. And that men should therefore avoid this place. (At least, the man who cuts the grass earnestly avoids it).

Maybe the storks know more than we do.

Day 5 – Andrarum to Ahus

September 28, 2017

An easy day today, only 40 km and all FLAT after going down a steep hill into Brosarp. Of course, we reduced our speed to ensure the safety of hedgehogs –

– especially as a hedgehog is about the last thing you would want to run over. In Brosarp we had morning coffee in a retro cafe that had a jukebox.

This was loaded with many of the finest rock&roll classics, some of which had been played so much that they didn’t play any more, and you see a little sticker at the bottom right of the display, listing the records you should not pick. Oh .. for my younger readers, a record is like a CD but bigger, and with mechanical grooves. A CD is like a DVD but holds less data. A DVD is a rotating medium that stores a huge amount of data – oh, 4.7 gigabytes. A gigabyte is 1/1000 of a terabyte, and your grandmother might remember getting those for free in her cornflakes packet.

Also on the jukebox was a sign that it took only the old 1-krona coin, which you could borrow from the waitress. The Swedes have just re-done all their money, making the old coins and notes obsolete – the banknotes we brought from last year were no longer legal tender, and the deadline for exchanging them had passed, but a kind bank teller did change them for us (After we had been served by two unkind bank tellers). Having re-done all the coins and notes, it was then announced that Sweden will become cashless – everything, even a single cup of coffee, is now bought by credit card or using an application called SWISH which is like Paypal for small amounts. The banks have no cash, and usually will not accept any.

Brosarp had this antique milestone from 1764, and further along we rode past a military one.

A quarter of a mile … these were to mark the distances that soldiers were marching. Bear in mind that a “mile” in those days was 10.69 km … it is now defined as exactly 10 km and Swedes use it in conversation (“Vi cyklade 6 mil i dag” – today we rode 60 km). After Brosarp we saw this pile of “toilet rolls” – I am interested in the different ways that farmers stack them; Sweden, Australia and NZ all have quite different styles – then we rode through a forest and came out at the coast.

Just before lunch I saw this snail, fleeing in terror as I approached.

And thereby hangs a tale – a Snail Tale – it pulled its head in and would not pose for a photograph. Eventually it did stick its head out, as you now see, but by that time the other riders were a long way ahead, and I needed to catch up to steer them off the path to where our lunch was waiting. So because of this snail I had to ride like a bat out of hell for 4 km. Ironic, really.

This path today was well marked by “The south east path” signs, so well marked indeed that no maps or navigation lists were necessary. Paths on some other days were badly marked, or not marked at all except on the maps. Being a geek, I examined the back of a sign and found it to be made all in one piece – look, there are no joints in the aluminium – and it bore several guarantees as to how long the sign would last (10 or 12 years).

One sign in Brosarp said “Ahus 30,6 km” and we followed it all the way, and when we reached the “0 km” point, that’s where our hotel was. We had an amazing dinner of spare ribs. Sadly there are no decent photos of Ahus or the dinner. Ahus is famous for four things, all of them evil –

  1. vodka (Absolut Vodka is made here),
  2. cigars (were imported to here),
  3. chocolate (the raw materials were imported to here), and
  4. smoked eels.

This coast is known as the “eel coast” because (a) there are eels and (b) it is a coast. I don’t know how you smoke an eel, it must be very difficult to light the end.

“When things go wrong and don’t work out …”

September 24, 2017

“… Run in circles, scream, and shout”.

We arrived at our thatched cottages where 8 of my group of 15 would be staying; the other 7 would be at a big country house, 1 km away across the fields. A path, walkable but not with suitcases, joins the two places. This area was noted for the mining of alum (potassium aluminium sulphate, essential in paper manufacture) and there are mighty hills of spoil heaps contaminating the countryside.

Below is the view from the balcony of our alternative house – now it’s just fields and a distant river, but 200 years ago there would have been thousands of men toiling away down there, with wheelbarrows and buckets. Vast amounts of wealth were accrued, not all of it coming to the workers.

That is us enjoying our afternoon tea, as we arrived. As I was trying to enjoy mine, I saw some of my riders furtively drawing lots and the one who got the short straw came up to me and said, Steve …,

… You would remember how you attached red ribbons to the bags that were to go to the other place, and the bags without ribbons were to stay here … well … um … the bags that are here seem to have, er, sort of red ribbons on them. A quick inspection verified this to be the case. Ferkety Ferkety ferk ferk ferk, quoth I, now what happens. Well, first we have a cup of tea.

I soon realised that by sending 3 bags to the other place and bringing 3 bags back, I could then swap all the people over, and it would work out. Great idea, but these two places do not really have car access. There are unmarked forest roads, though … I managed to borrow a waitress who had a car, but did not know know where the roads were …

… and our pre-planning and thorough surveying paid off again; I was able to guide her to the other place. Thus it all worked out. I pulled out one of the bottles of red wine from my suitcase (which may be why it weighed 32 kg) and drank the lot.

Our alternative house was a hunting lodge for the Master of the Hunt, who would stay here with his friends and they would all get sozzled – like me, really. The house was equipped with, er, a facility on the landing, just outside my bedroom.

Simrishamn to Andrarum

September 23, 2017

We reached the hotel by a devious but well-researched route into and through Simrishamn town, me being grateful that I had pre-ridden this part of the route, twice. Not a lot else to report at Simrishamn, but we had a very nice hotel, with a lovely garden in which we could eat take-away food and drink wine, the hotel even providing plates, glasses, corkscrew etc for this purpose. (A glass of average wine is A$12 at a hotel – so most hotels like to deny you these resources, hoping to flog you a meal or a drink in their own bar instead). There was a great little shop for natty take-away food, right outside the hotel, unfortunately they told us they were going to close at 6pm which they did when we went back at 6:05 … Sales: 0.

Our bike-hire shop was evidently more interested in hiring the bikes out than in maintaining them, so by now all our chains were squeaking. Jacques was despatched to buy, and apply, an oil can. And we rode with markedly less effort (and noise) after that.

The next morning we rode up the coast through Kivik, a totally cute fishing village, thus, it is normally inundated with tourists. Google Maps street view – my close friend in planning this whole trip – shows a traffic jam into town, the Google camera car being stuck along with all the others. You poor sods … but we easily rode in on bikes. It was just after the end of the main tourist season – the Swedish schools had gone back but the Danish and German schools were still on holiday.

Just before Kivik is the studio of Gunilla Mann, a prolific artist who paints cheerful and densely active scenes of Swedish towns. (The big wooden chest, this one dated 1814, is commonly found in Swedish homes). Hmmm, I see on the left in the studio she has a unicycle … I was going to buy one once, at a Swedish jumble sale in 2014, but I read that you have to fall off it 300-500 times before you get the hang of it.

One of Gunilla’s pictures is “Wallander’s Ystad”, with the town oddly shown as active and cheerful – it would be more appropriate to paint a few dead or mutilated bodies, trails of blood, discarded weapons etc and with a big black cloud of depression and doom hanging over the whole scene. But nobody would buy that, would they … mind you, people do pay to see King Lear and Macbeth … But never mind the artwork, this studio also sells coffee and cakes, from 11:00. I thought we’d be too early, but as we passed by at 10:15 I saw the girl carrying the “open” sign, and I persuaded her to open up and thereby flog us 13 coffee’s and 13 gianormous cakes.

Kivik itself has some nice cafes, but not much else. We met a group of Danish cyclists, 40-45 of them .. imagine trying to keep that lot in order on the road. We rode on, turning inland, through some very atmospheric forests, but while on the actual roads we met some mighty farm machinery …

The roads were small and obscure and I was glad that I had thoroughly surveyed them before I left Melbourne, and that we four leaders had then pre-ridden them … In the late afternoon we came to our destination. This was a set of thatched cottages, normally a tea room but they do have some accommodation.

When we arrived, we got afternoon tea, and later on, dinner outside:

As overnight accomodation was limited here, half the group had to stay at another place 1 kilometre away. For the bag-delivery guy, I carefully marked the suitcases for those people with red ribbons. And thereby hangs a tale …

Day 3(2) – Glimmingehus

September 22, 2017

This 15th-century “castle” stands alone in the Skane countryside; here’s an old woodcut, the present-day look and a view from one of the windows.

The King ordered it to be demolished in 1676 but the workmen found this impossible – the walls are 6-9 feet thick – so, here it is today.

It’s really more like a big, defensible house than a castle, but it does have a moat, drawbridge, portcullis, holes for pouring boiling oil over unwelcome door-to-door salesmen, etc. The windows have holes cut into the thick stonework on either side; these are for putting a wooden beam across, for gunmen to lean on while firing at visitors (as neighbourly relationships tended to become a little strained, in those days).

We booked a guided tour, which was quite good. The guide showed us the rooms and explained their uses. This was the kitchen – the woodcuts give you the idea of what went on here. Look at all those chooks being roasted … when I was a lad, we had one chook a year for the whole family!

The guy who built the place was rich enough to (a) get himself included at the scene of the Crucifixion – that’s him on the right, taking up as much space as Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene on the left. Fair enough – he paid for the artwork;

. . . and (b) to have himself depicted over the main door, with his wife and, er, his other wife, as he was so stinking rich that he could afford two. The text on the plaque above is all weathered away which is a pity, as it might have described how he came to acquire two wives, and what it was like trying to live with them.

The castle has a legend that it was built by a giant – a pretty way-out guy, judging by the sign – who did not get paid. Or, he said he’d build it for free if the owner could guess his name (and of course as the owner was walking around the village he overheard the giant’s wife talking and mentioning the name, “Finn”.)

There is a courtyard, with the obligatory set of stocks.

And sometimes there is a cafe, but not today – we had to BYO lunch. Now there is one thing I have saved till last [actually, there cannot be more than one thing that is last] – in the big banquet room there hangs a magnificent tapestry.

And, that little doorway beside it leads to a little room that was not often built in castles. Yes, this place had all modern conveniences … here are some details from the tapestry, which I recognised (and the guide did not know) as showing the English story of King Arthur.

At the top left it says “Camelot” and this part of the tapestry shows poor Arthur going indoors, while unknown to him Queen Guinevere frolics with Sir Lancelot, a dastardly Frenchman. What a story was there. That poor, sad, noble King Arthur. (On top of all this, he did not even exist).

Day 3(1) – Ales Stenar

September 21, 2017

We left Ystad and rode eastwards along the coastal path.

Among the trees bordering this, there is a hidden village of expensive beach houses; some were very elaborate. About 15km further along, the road went slightly inland and then came down to Kaseberga, a coastal village near to Ales Stenar, a brilliant array of stones in the shape of a ship. This is a major tourist attraction, with visitors from all over Europe so it was amazing that there was no bike path to it – we had to ride along a rather dangerous country road, with cars on it. So I led the cyclists along at full speed – with some helpful whinging from the back of the pack about effort, speed and cars – and we arrived at the village, parked the bikes and walked across a couple of fields before the stones came into view:

The sign tries to make out that the stones were aligned this or that way. Here’s the end stone close up:

And that was it in 1974 (with Barbro and two friends), before there were any tourists climbing all over it. I can appreciate why the British have fenced off Stonehenge – albeit some years after I put my sticky schoolboy hands all over it.

It is said that stone number 8 has some special alignments with the Sun on certain days of the year, and indeed it does have a sort of depression in its flat top where something may once have been carved. The ground around it is more worn down than at the other stones.

This man is surely a good father! One day I will bring my family back here and give them a tedious talk about stones, equinoxes, sunrises etc. Another field away, there was a stile over a fence and a path down to the sea. A lamentational sign (in Swedish and English) was by the stile.

Back down to the harbour for lunch, in 1974 and 2017:

Then we rode on towards Simrishamn, our destination for the night, passing through the town of Borrby (900 inhabitants), where by coincidence we met the guide who had given us the Wallander tour the night before. She said her son does artworks (graffiti) on the sides of buildings and Borrby is noted for these. He did the first one below.

Borrby council had the brilliant idea of declaring Borrby to be a Famous Place for Street Art, and holding a competition. That way, they got their ghastly buildings painted for free. There is nothing else in Borrby (except they have housed a lot of immigrants here, fortunately fairly peacefully but a change is very evident in the streets and in the community). Next stop: ancient manor of Glimmingehus.

Day 2 – Ystad town

September 20, 2017

Not much to see as we cycled along this coastal road – this is the Horte Ruin.

It was built in 1907 by the wealthy landowner, who felt that he ought to have a ruin on his property. One imagines an argument with the builders as the work neared completion “You have built it well, please do it again, badly“. The irony is that there already are ruins all over Horte, although they are below ground. Further along we came to Disas Ting, a stone circle right beside the road.

Disa is a girls name and Ting is a meeting place. It was thought that people met here. But nobody has any idea who Disa was. Life can be so mysterious at times … but onward into Ystad, here’s its 1930s town hall, and the town’s own design of manhole cover! (I bet you were waiting for that).

A church and another building with the stepped-edge roof, an architectural style typical of Skane.

That building above is a car park – why not build that with some style? There is a medieval quarter of the town with very old buildings – this one has faces around the windows.

That last face is popularly believed to be Stalin, magically incarnated and then rendered in wood, centuries before his actual lifetime.

Ystad is nowadays famous as the setting for the police series Wallander, and we got a guided tour of Wallander’s favourite cafe (above – they used to display a whopping great sign that said so) and the places where this or that happened, or so-and-so got murdered. As the time was nearing 6pm, when all the government alcohol shops (“Systembolag”) have to close, I nipped off from the back of the tour group and scored a couple of bottles of vino, in the Systembolag plastic carrier bag. “You have visited Wallander’s favourite shop” said the guide.

She also said this brick wall was very dull. I’m not so sure, I could get into an appreciation of the various styles of brickwork. I believe that John Horton Conway has described the seven most common styles of bricklaying in an article or a book “How to look at a brick wall”. There is an article with that title, by C.T.Grimm, in Journal of the Masonry Society, vol 13 no.1 (August 1994). And you can read a posting here which explains the correct way to look at one (i.e. in diffused light). I can foresee myself wasting much time on this … when I can find the time.

Day 2 – Trelleborg to Smygehuk

September 18, 2017

Another 55km of riding today, from Trelleborg to Ystad; half-way we rode through Smygehuk, the southernmost point of Sweden.

Not a big deal really, because if this was not the southernmost point, then somewhere else would be the southernmost point, and these signs would be there instead. (See my post 20 months ago about “the biggest concrete slab in Yarram”). We rode through some cute little villages along the coast, here’s one:

Oddly, the name of Lojtnant Flinth was mis-spelled on the sign at the other end of the street. Or perhaps it was mis-spelled at this end. Or both. And who’s that up on the roof at the right?

Probably a CIA sniper … the street did have an eerie silence to it. Meanwhile, Barbro and two other ladies from the other riding group, riding a day ahead of us, were disporting themselves in the Baltic Sea.

When my mob arrived at Smygehuk, oddly, nobody decided to go and stand at the actual southernmost point:

Now, there is a kids’ story well-known in Sweden, about Nils Holgersson and his goose, Akka. He was magically reduced in size (as has happened to some parts of me, whereas some other parts seem to have expanded) and was thus able to fly on the goose’s back, in which manner they educationally toured the whole of Sweden. The story then has it that they flew south from here at Smygehuk, and, obligingly, the tourist shop here shows a statue of the goose.

In the original stories, written in 1906 and 1907 (and being among the first writings to use a new reformed spelling) Nils and the goose flew over all the provinces of Sweden, viewing and correctly describing their wildlife, geology, and other features, in a highly didactic and educational manner. All the provinces, that is, except Halland, and there was a mighty hoo-hah about this, resulting in a new chapter being added to the book, extolling Halland and its inherent wonders. The story was so noted in Sweden that it got onto the 20-krona banknote (now obsolete):

Young Mr Holgersson is nowadays much depicted as an advertisement for ice cream. And the Oresund Bridge has been added into the picture, as a proud attribute of the province of Skane. Later on, we saw this poster displayed in shops just within Blekinge, the next province.

Meanwhile at Smygehuk, there was a cute little harbour, well sheltered. But I walked away from this and the main tourist drag, to see another Bronze Age burial mound; here’s the mound, and the view of the off-street coffee houses from the top of it.

The mound was used in the Middle Ages to light bonfires on, as a signal to ships; now of course there is a proper lighthouse nearby. Then somebody decided to continue this fiery tradition by building a brick-firing kiln partly cut into the mound. Imagine what the poor Bronze Age chieftain must have thought, as he roasted.

Finally at Smygehuk there is a runestone – and this one, instead of being displayed in the customary “upright” position, is placed face down so that you can’t see it.

This has bothered me for years. It is said that it’s kept face down to preserve the inscription from weathering, although that is surely the very worst thing to do. And that every 10 years, or every 50 years, it is turned over for a week, and photographed. But there are no photographs available of it … and nobody seems to know when these 10, or 50, years will come around. A word from the tourist shop clarified it all – this is all bullshit; there are no runes. But people do like a legend – hey, I fell for it. Onwards we go, to Ystad town!

Day 1 – Malmo to Trelleborg (again)

September 17, 2017

In the process of sorting out my pictures (from 4 different cameras, plus stuff that other people sent to me) I found some more photos I think are worthy of attention.

On this first day of the ride, as we left Malmo we saw posh shops & houses, heavy industry, railway yards, historic wharf buildings, parks, the Bridge, open fields, tiny villages, agriculture, a quarry, and a bronze-age burial mound … all before lunch! Here we are beneath the Oresund Bridge, with a stray plant to add foreground.

Detail of the four towers in the middle of the bridge, with an approaching ship. Will it fit underneath? Let’s wait and see.

Thank heavens for that. On a hill beside the Swedish end of the bridge is a radar reflector; they could have just stuck it on a pole, but no, they have to put this arty-farty curved thing, simply to hold it up.

View over the mud flats south of the bridge. Note the huge wind farm in the first picture; as you cycle past it, the turbine towers neatly line up at various different angles so you can see right through, and I gave a short talk on X-ray Crystallography to my stunned cyclists.

This is useless muddy shallow water and boggy land, but the area is famous for its diverse bird life. Can you make out the bush and observation platform in that last photo, on the shoreline above the left-hand end of the island? Well I have a new camera with 40x optical zoom, and here they are, photographed from the same place:

Great eh? Pointing the camera at Denmark – which a Swede normally would not do – and zooming in, we can see their new incinerator with its sloping roof, puffing away.

The Danes burn ALL their waste in that, using the resulting heat for house and industrial heating, and from the ghastly black slag remaining after burning they make tiles for road surfaces – heavy metre-square slabs riddled with holes, that grass can grow through while being able to support vehicles, and allowing drainage. They are going to put a snow-making machine up on the roof, and then they can charge people to ski down it. Those bloody Danes! They will probably charge Swedish skiers extra.

Further along we could see into the town centre of the suburb of Hyllie, which has some huge new buildings including this avant-garde water tower shaped like a UFO:

And further still we came to Borreback, an overgrown Bronze Age burial mound of that name commemorating a chieftain. He may have been cycling along this road in search of coffee.

Whitehorse Cyclists in Sweden! Malmo to Trelleborg!

September 16, 2017

I found this in my bed …

and it matches the logo on our riding shirts. As does this actual horse that we found in a Swedish Field:

Here’s the whole mob, 32 of them:

And here we go, with our hire bikes outside the hire shop in Malmo. We rode in two groups, this is the second group. I don’t know where the first group went. But hey, there are still 14 of us and really, 14 is still quite a lot.

We left Malmo – riding very slowly and gingerly in heavy traffic, but there are good bike lanes and the Swedish drivers are very polite.

We came to the beach along the shoreline of Malmo, where there is a public spa bath where you can have a sauna and then jump in the sea (freezing cold in winter). Barbro used to do that here, in the 1970s. She did a lot of silly things in those days, such as going to live in England, and marrying me.

From here there was a good view of Malmo’s famous corkscrew building – no other tall buildings are nearby. Perhaps it sort of slid around as they were building it – imagine the arguments, including “Look how much money Pisa makes from its dodgy building”. It also stands as a sort of raised finger to the Danes, as it can be clearly seen from Copenhagen across the water.

That’s a Swedish Dustbin in the foreground. We bought hot dogs. These were of less interest than the mustard and ketchup dispensers, which you milk in much the same way as one milks a cow. Eughhhh.

Now here we are with the Oresund Bridge in the background – we are about to ride under it. I see now there are only 13 riders, we must have lost one.

We had lunch at a vast complex of garden shops, out in the fields. A huge display of gardening, kitchen and home wares, several cafes, a funny garden to walk in with Eiffel Tower etc., and large sheds full of Halloween and Christmas stuff. The land and a new shed are so cheap, and there would be so much stuff to put away, that these sheds are permanently set up for 365 days every year. Here’s a corner of the Christmas one:

But we were not tempted to do our Xmas shopping in August, so we rode on to Trelleborg on the south coast of Sweden – 55 km for the first day’s ride. Trelleborg is a rather dull town, but we livened up a small pizza cafe (run by Armenians) by taking up all the seats and frightening away the other customers. Here’s how to divide a pizza into 7 parts:

My own runestone!

September 16, 2017

So there we were, surveying and pre-riding an obscure part of the big Sweden trip, when we came to Hallamolla mill, along a dirt road deep in the countryside – a cute little water-powered mill, still operating. On the path down to it I looked down at a stone and saw – runes!

I know I am no Greek Statue, but there are very few runestones in this province of Skane and I reckon I know them all. But not this one! The stone was covered in dust and dried mud, I cleaned it off and saw that the surface bore 15-20 runes … and, the runes were from the elder futhark! Thus dating the stone to 350-500 AD, long before there were Vikings as we know them.

This particular stone is not written up in the extensive catalogues of runic inscriptions and artefacts. Imagine, I had discovered a ‘new’ ancient runestone!

Back at the shack, I deciphered the runes: “fino saligastir“. These are two people’s names. I found that out, because there is another runestone that bears exactly the same names

And that is the famous Trosa Stone, click here. It is located in the red circle on this map (I was in the green circle).

And Google maps shows the Trosa Stone to be somewhere in that forest on the left, so I can’t show it to you in situ. Now, runic inscriptions using the elder futhark are found only near Stockholm. So how can one of them be down here, 400 km away to the south? (And why would there be a whopping great iron hook embedded in the top of it?)

Slowly, and sadly, it dawned upon me that any fool can take a stone, carve some runes on it and put it wherever they like. This is a 19th-century forgery. Oh well … but imagine the joy in my heart for the few hours when I believed I had discovered something startling.

But I soon cheered up – I was googling for runic pictures and I found this wedding cake:

… which has MY NAME on it! (“Heike Stefan 22 July 2017“).

And, you get two Runic Cake Snakes!

Now THAT is a runestone, and some other time I’ll write about it, but I really should get on and write about the bike trip. Ooo look, here comes one of them now, in front of the Oresund Bridge, and I have included some red berries on the trail in homage to Andrei Tarkovsky.

Pre-ride clutter

September 14, 2017

While preparing for the 13-day Sweden ride for 32 cyclists (which has already happened and was concluded successfully, a month ago, but now the photos are in I will be blogging it from now on, a month in arrears), during our ardent pre-ride surveying I found a Swedish cafe that served British food:

– complete with HP Sauce and tea, albeit from a tea bag and not the proper tea pot. Meanwhile, a friend travelling in Norway sent me this photo of a Norwegian manhole cover, with woman holding harpoons and a circular cake of bread, and standing on a whale:

And in the notes for the course that I recently completed in Reservoir Geomechanics (yes, really – I am now qualified to drill oil wells) I happened to come across this Useful Equation for the von Mises criterion:

The joke is, that a lot of things can be set equal to an empirical constant. But at least we know that J2 must be positive. As the sodium atom said, “Darn it, I think my outer-shell electron has fallen off” (Are you sure?) “Yes, I am positive”

And, indeed, I was pretty positive when I thought I had discovered a new runestone …

Thing happens in Lerberg

September 9, 2017

With Barbro and two of her Swedish friends, I have led a group of 32 cyclists around southern Sweden. More later, but we rode through forests of various types, such as this one.

The local newspaper in Hoganas reported our visit. (The article reports 17 cyclists, but we started with 32. Well, 17 is still quite a lot.)

“I was amazed” said Anders Svensson, the local mayor “The last time something happened in Lerberg was in 1964 when an elk ran down the street. Now we have a mob of Australians … oh well, we can’t be choosy”.

Here are some of us with the iconic Oresund Bridge in the background.

Meanwhile, THIS WORDPRESS SITE WAS HACKED on Sept 8, and some you will have got silly e-mails purportedly from me, with a bogus PDF file. Please delete those, and I have changed the password. Sorry.


September 1, 2017

You call that a stone … THIS is a stone:

It even has a name – the Maglesten. (“Magle” is a dialect word for “big”). And it has its own weather:

It is a glacial erratic stone – it was brought here, possibly from hundreds of kilometres away, by a glacier. There are bigger ones, the biggest is 16,500 tons but hey, this one was estimated at 15x12x10 alnar in 1749 – 31 July 1749, to be specific, and what with there being 18,000 alnar to a Swedish mile which used to be 10.69 km, and the volume of a sphere being (4/3)-pi-r-cubed, we can have a go at its volume as (4/3).pi.(15/2.12/2.10/2).(10690/18000)^3 = 197 cubic metres and being of granite, its weight is about 543 tons – which may have reduced since 1749 due to wind abrasion, but it may also have increased slightly due to dust from meteorites; and anyway 543 tons is its mass. Its weight arises from its being accidentally near the Earth.

A house is nearby – and I mean nearby.

It’s a very strange place to build a house – a stone like this has superstitions associated with it. It was believed, for example, that trolls lived under the stone – and every Christmas Eve, that the stone rose up on pillars of solid gold and the trolls held a huge party under it. And, that very few men have ever seen this (I can believe this last bit). Another legend is that a hefty troll threw the stone to try and destroy Ahus Church, which is 13 km away – what a rotten shot.

Here are some Whitehorse Cyclists trying to push the stone over. Actually, having regard to the legends, this would be a very silly thing to achieve. We rode the bikes in two groups, I was in the second group and there seemed to be a lot fewer volunteers in that group:

The Maglesten is near Trolle Ljungby castle and there is another specific legend, that the trolls abducted a princess from that castle. The prince waited till Christmas Eve, gatecrashed the party (thus, at least one man must have seen the party) and rescued the princess. The trolls gave chase, but the prince had arrived appropriately on a white horse (coincidentally, the name of our bike club!) and they fled across a ploughed field. The trolls, being quite small, could not climb over the furrows and had to go along the edge of the field.

I found this legend on an obscure web page, but the trolls have prevented me from using the ‘up’ and ‘down’ arrows. So two lines is all I can offer you; we will never find out what Mrs Cissela Ulfstrand got up to, or to what dire fate she may have come.

Reflecting upon this story, as one does, the prince must surely have fled diagonally across the ploughed field, because if he’d gone parallel to the furrows the trolls could have simply run straight along one furrow. And if he’d gone at right angles to the furrows, the trolls could have stayed at the edge of the field and run along that. But if the prince went diagonally across the field, the trolls would have had to run along two edges instead of the diagonal, a path longer by a factor of sqrt(2) = 1.414.

Now perhaps a crafty troll said, supposing we were to go halfway along the edge and then up to the middle and then across, it would be exactly the same distance as going along the two edges, as per drawings 1 and 2 below. (Trolls draw very badly).

And if we make smaller and smaller lines, it is still exactly the same distance, but when these lines get down to the size of a pea, or an atom, or the Planck Length, or even less than that (which is impossible, except for a mathematician), clearly the overall journey must then be the same length whether you go along the two sides or along the diagonal. Hmmm, said the other trolls, who had never studied calculus.

Anyway, the prince and princess lived Happily Ever After, and found a way to monetise the legend.

The Seby Runestone

August 2, 2017

A thousand-year-old runestone stands at the village of Seby, at the south-eastern corner of the Swedish island of Oland. It might be more correct to say that the village stands at the runestone. But see how things decay as time passes. Me, for example.




Notice that the runestone has IMPROVED in quality and tidiness over the years, whereas the little chap beside it has definitely weathered, and now has a sort of despairing expression instead of the youthful confidence of 1974. It’s a sort of Runestone of Dorian Gray.

A helpful sign lists the text; it is a typical example – in modern English it would be “Ingald and Nosey and Sven raised this stone after Rodmar, their father” and the sign helpfully goes on to explain “The name ‘Nosey’ is a nickname, usually applied to a person with a big or characteristic nose.

The names of Nosey’s brothers and father have stood here for ten centuries! Few other memorials to men have lasted as long. But whereas in the 1974 picture the scenery behind the stone was empty, now a house stands there and a small green modern runestone appears on Tuesdays, for example on 10/8/2010 and 25/7/2017:

The bin has had the same lid for 7 years, but in 2017 they are throwing out more rubbbish. Tut tut! The sky has also turned from blue to grey. Some anthropologist should re-visit the site in some future year, on another day of the week. If it’s not underwater …

Bjorketorp Rune Stone

July 29, 2017

Ah, Sweden, home of the Viking culture (ca 700-1000AD). There are thousands of rune-stones here, mostly around the Stockholm area and mostly standing in the fields or moved to stand near a church, having withstood the external Nordic winters for eleven centuries. But down here in the south of Sweden, there are still a few runestones standing around, and I love them all.

Runes of course belong to a 16-character alphabet called the Futhark, because it goes FUþARK HNIAS TBMLR –

Yes I know there are two A’s and two R’s (and no E or O) … but you would not argue with the Vikings. What you have there is the Younger Futhark; there is an Elder Futhark, of 24 characters, which allows a better mapping to our 26-letter alphabet and is therefore used (with invented additions) by modern rune fans such as Tolkien, and by the whole wacko culture around runes. It is quite hard to find a historically correct Internet page about runes, among all the woo-woo stuff.

Rune stones usually have a very simple message, which you can almost read today because modern English is derived from Old Norse. Here’s a basic one, DR317 (they are all catalogued) –

Tufa risþi stina þisi uftir kamal buta sin uk asur sun h(an)s
Tove raised stone this after Gamal husband hers and Assur son his

As you see, the layout of the lettering was very badly planned, and there’s no art work in the middle; we have a very cheapo runestone here … but today I visited the Bjorketorp Stones (DR360), which stand in a forest glade near Ronneby. These mighty monoliths were raised in about 700 AD – somewhat before most other runestones:

The main stone has a handy recess so if I were to turn sideways, my big belly would fit to it nicely. On the back a few runes say “See other side of stone” … well, actually they say “Prophecy of Doom”:

And on the front, in ancient runes of the Elder Futhark, reading left-to-right but from the bottom line upwards: “haidz runo ronu falahak haidera ginarunaz arageu(*) haeramalausz utiaz weladaude saz þat barutz”.

What, you want it translated? That’s hard, as these are ancient runes of the Elder Futhark, predating even Old Norse, but here goes. Please stand back, your monitor may catch fire:

In modern Swedish: “Mäktiga runors hemlighet dolde jag här, kraftfulla runor. Den som bryter detta minnesmärke skall ständigt plågas av arghet(*). Svekfull död skall träffa honom. Jag spår fördärv.”

In English: “Mighty runes’ secret hid I here, powerful runes. The man who desecrates this monument shall be plagued with abiding wrath(*). Terrible death shall come to him. I spell his ruin.”

(*) The word asterisked here, and ringed in my picture, has strong connotations of passive male homosexuality. (In Viking times the, er, active role was acceptable manly behavior; the passive role certainly not). We have a gay runestone here! It was legal to kill someone who spoke this word to you as an insult. See

Actually I took that photo of the runes in 1980. Today the runestone was standing in a weathered condition, with lichen starting to grow on it. Someone cleans the runestones every few decades, and the runes are re-painted in red – as accuracy is important, the painting is done by a university Professor or similar.

Noting what the inscription says, I hope the man who cleaned it in 1980 took due care not to desecrate it – not the wire brush and Brillo pad, please. Leave the angle grinder at home! I wonder what happened to him …

Another dire fate, although not as bad as being rogered by horny homosexual Vikings, awaits those who park nearby and fail to visit the runestone, because this little modern blue inscription says “Parking only for visitors to the runestone”.

Stora Raby church, Lund, Sweden

July 26, 2017

Behold, I have flown to Sweden; and it is time to fire up this blog again. Lufthansa gave me a turkey sandwich, with this contents declaration:

It does not need to include “Contains: Turkey” because the turkey is holding the sandwich. Anyway, after 28 hours of flying and eating airline food, I arrived OK and was soon taken on a tour of a little church just outside Lund, in Skane, south-western Sweden. The priest spoke to the masses about the general history of this 13th-century Lutheran church:

… presumably explaining (it was all in Swedish and I am not up to speed yet) how a 13th-century building can be Lutheran. The church is so old that its tower no longer stands up straight, or perhaps it never did.

And as you see, they leave a spirit level – a Holy Spirit level! – at the base of the tower, so people can see for themselves how much it leans.

The Leaning Tower of Stora Raby, no less. We moved inside this perilous structure for more history:

The middle section was restored in 1528 and given a new roof. As you see at the top left in that picture, the new roof stands in front of a major artwork depicting the Trinity, actually obscuring God’s face:

But they have left a sort of slot for God to fit into. No wonder he looks so glum. Probably not best pleased at his Son being crucified … the head of a dove representing the Holy Spirit pokes in at the left. Nearby is a sort of fish tail, with the date (1528):

But as you see, this is really the end of one of the ceiling beams. Outside again to tour the graveyard, where one grave is nicely air-conditioned:

And the sundial … it runs from 3am to 9pm! When I saw this, its side of the church was in the shade. But even in the shade, it still shows the correct time once a day, digitally, just after a quarter past six in the evening. 🙂