Öland

we’re visiting the island today. sounds simple enough, but it has a surface area of 1342 km² so we’ll have to make some choices if we want to make it out before dark. we set off for the northernmost point and first visit Långe Erik, one of the many light houses on the island. we don’t feel the need to climb it, so we drive on to Trollskogen park, a large nature reserve. it has a couple of things we’d like to see, so we follow the red trail from the busy parking lot into the forest. there are quite some people around, at least until we’ve passed the ship wreck and the 900 year old oak tree. it seems everybody turns back at that point, but since we want to see the burial mounds we press on. the heat here is not too oppressing, there is a fresh breeze rustling through the trees. some of the rustling turns out to be cattle, quite well hidden until they’re right next to the path, they’re meant to keep the undergrowth under control and allow the old trees to prosper.

the bronze age burial mounds are easy to recognize, once you know what you’re looking for, but there is no information about whether these were excavated or about who these people were, that lived here so long ago. even so it’s cool to see them and realize they were made 5000 years ago. we walk back down over the coastal meadows and spot a large green woodpecker with a bright red crest. it’s sitting down on a rock in the middle of the meadow we’re crossing, but flies off before I can take a picture. to compensate, I photograph a butterfly and some really bright orange moss.

the next leg of our journey down Öland is a bit longer: we drive back to Borgholm where we were sleeping to take a look at the castle ruin. it was destroyed by fire, so all the stone walls are still standing perfectly, but nothing is left of the interior or floors. we decide to skip the visit (not that much time and much left to see) and drive on south, past the bridge to the mainland, on a tour of ancient remains. our first stop is Mysinge Hög, the biggest bronze age burial mound on the island. it’s in a pasture with cows, but freely accessible from the road, so we go stand on it to have a look around. we’re right on the edge of the famous Alvar, this is a completely level stretch of limestone rock, covered with maximum 2 cm of earth and it has its own history and ecosystem.

we cross the alvar underneath the burning sun, I can picture that it must be a harsh place to live in winter, since there is no cover from the wind. next stop is Eketorp, another fort like Gråborg, but reconstructed to show how it would have looked at different stages of its history. on the way we search online to figure out the historical ages here in Scandinavia. First Bronze Age (early and late), then Iron Age (marked by making steel tools), then the Viking Age (793-1066 AD). different from the Western European ages I’m used to, that’s what makes it a bit confusing for me. though these people were in contact with the Roman Empire and even further, there was no Roman Age here. Eketorp is really interesting to illustrate how these ages evolved on Öland.

we continue south towards Gettlinge, where we find tombs, cairns and standing stones from all of these ages. in fact the whole 2 km ridge parallel to the coast line is covered with them. we wonder why and find out from Wikipedia that this was the only real estate with earth deep enough for burials. everywhere else it was either rock or sand. on our way north we do a final stop at my insistance to see the Karlevi Runestone: it’s standing in the middle of a field, 50 m from a small parking lot and again we turn to Wikipedia to find out what this is, exactly. the runic text is clearly visible – we’re assuming it’s painted regularly, just like the rock carvings in Bohuslan – and it’s just so amazingly cool to see this message from the 10th century AD.

we’re sleeping tonight in Kalmar on the main land, it’s a four star hotel so we’re looking forward to a big, fancy and above all cold room, but it turns out the stars are due to its beautiful location next to the castle and its romantic charming house of several hundred years old, and not due to its modern amenities, so we’ll spend a hot night in a small room. first we have nice dinner outside in the nearby park with a view of Kalmar Slott, which we also visit after dinner when it’s cooled down enough for a walk.  Arne manages to get the cheap, ancient fan going – we had signaled the front desk that it wasn’t working, but they did not have a replacement, we must accept that fans are completely sold out all over the south of Sweden.

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