I usually like to keep things going in chronilogical order for the blog, but I’m switching it up to cover my trip to Båstad, Sweden yesterday, because I frankly just can’t wait to write about it. Båstad was the second part of my pilgrimage after meeting some of my Swedish relatives in Stockholm. Båstad is really where my family has its roots, and while driving around the city it was very clear that we basically ran that town back in the day. Every house in the whole town was either owned by a relative or some great great great aunt had been born or we used to farm on that land – the stories go on and on. Båstad is mainly a tourist city now – an idyllic little area of Skåne county that sits at the top of the southern peninsula. It used to rely solely on the agriculture of potatoes, but then the northern Swedes discovered how awesome it was and started spending ridiculous amounts of money to have summer homes there, so now it is a beach party town where drinks and good times thrive for six weeks a year, not unlike some hybrid of Cape Cod and Panama City Beach. My relatives are just lucky that they get to thrive there full time. Båstad is the Chamonix of Sweden. And it is absolutely gorgeous. And only a two hour train ride from Copenhagen.
After a lot of email exchanges, I was really excited to meet Gudrun, my grandmother’s cousin. In Swedish, I am supposed to call my grandma “Far Mor” for Father’s Mother, but as kids its too confusing to have different names based on your mother’s and father’s side, so my dad and his sister just chose “Mor Mor’ which is what I have called her since I was little. Gudrun is 72 years old and she has the spirit of a 17 year old. She has so much personality and is full of energy. She is in extremely good shape and she could probably beat me in a bike race. She is proof that there are some stellar genes running through our family tree. Gudrun had a full schedule planned out for me when I arrived. I only had the day in Båstad because I needed to get back to CPH to study for this thing called an exam that I apparently have, so she made sure that I got to meet the WHOLE family.
I was really fortunate that the woman I had stayed with in Stockholm (Gudrun’s daughter Carina) was in town visiting and it was really wonderful to see her again. Her and Gudrun look so much alike and I felt like we all connected really quickly. Gudrun was snapping photos of me before I even got off the train. First stop in Båstad was Gudrun’s house, where we enjoyed some coffee and biscuits, and then a car pulled up to whisk me away to meet more family. Petra and her husband Per took me to meet another cousin of my Mormor’s – Sten-Olle and his wife Ulla-Britt. I was pretty sure that I had met Sten-Olle previously in the states as a very little girl, but him and his wife barely spoke any English so I wasn’t quite able to confirm it. Despite the language barrier, it was obvious that they were so thrilled to have me there. They had tea and drinks and snacks all set up in their sun room so we could sit down and enjoy ourselves for a bit. Ulla-Britt even had scrapbooks open with pictures filled from the few times they had been to the states and I got to creep on a much younger version of my dad and mom, right before their wedding.
We had a strict schedule to keep to, so just thirty minutes after arriving we were off to Petra’s twin brother’s farm, which had been passed down for many generations. Now it is a cow and horse farm, and Peter still does all the milking by hand every morning and every night. I had previously been discussing with Petra the idea of “holiday” and how it is a totally foreign concept in the US. People don’t get four weeks of paid vacation every year and they don’t get to travel to Italy, Spain, Greece, and anywhere else in Europe they desire during the summer. Petra said that Peter may have the one profession in all of Europe that doesn’t have holiday either.
After a short stop to that family farm, we visited Petra’s house, which was also an old farm house that had been completely renovated by her husband and her. They now run their business on their land, which is a chicken production company Bjarefagel, where they raise extremely healthy, organic chickens and sell them to high end restaurants in Scandinavia. All the production is literally done in their backyard, and the business is doing really well, with hopes of going global in the near future. It was fascinating to learn all about their history and how the business transformed from a tiny farm store to a solid, successful company. Petra was living in the US at the time of my parent’s wedding, and she had scrapbook pages devoted to it, which was so fun to look at. Young love 🙂
I was promptly picked up again by Gudrun and Carina, where we traveled to Karin’s house to have lunch with her and her two daughters. My cousins Karina and Ashley have both met and stayed with Karin in the past, so I was really excited to meet her because I had heard such great stories. The house was stunning, set back on a private road with wooden gates. It overlooks the most beautiful part of the bay and I’ve been told it was a view my Mormor would remember very well. We had a lovely meal and I spent a lot of time talking to her youngest daughter Sophie, who was just the cutest little bean on the planet. I was telling her how I wanted to return for a longer stay and bring my little sister and her response was “Well, if your family is at all as nice as you, then I would very much like to meet them.”
Lunch was delicious – everything from traditional Swedish meat pie to spinach pie, smoked salmon, and mozzarella salad. We finished with coffee and chocolate and just got to enjoy the view. My Mormor’s other cousin Ingrid was there as well, and bless her soul, the woman had made me a hand written family tree so I could make all the proper connections, all the way back to 1854 when our ancestors first settled there. I learned an interesting bit of history that I didn’t know – my Mormor and her mother (Marta, my great grandmother and the rightful owner of the amber ring that I wear), were visiting Sweden in 1939, but ended up staying much longer than that due to war. My Mormor and Ingrid attended grade school together every day, and that is where my Mormor learned Swedish. She still speaks it fluently to this day. Ingrid was the spitting image of my Mormor. Oh, what I would have given to have seen those two together.
After lunch, we made plans to “go hug” the oldest living member of the family. Gudrun said we were literally going to give her a hug and go. Marianne was married to the youngest of the nine children of Olof Olsson – my great grandma’s father. A quick hug turned into a nice chat on her porch. She insisted that she serve us some Coco Colas, and even at 92, she was still moving around pretty well. Another proof that there are some stellar genes in the family. We were commenting on how lovely her flower garden was, and Marianne was telling us that she can even water the flowers from her kitchen window – she doen’t have to go outside. She then commented “I am a self-made women, even if I am old.” Still spunky as ever 🙂 She loved seeing Marta’s ring on my hand.
Next stop was a birthday party for Gudrun’s brother’s daughter Annette, where there was a lovely spread of coffee, pastries, traditional Swedish strawberry cake, and fresh lemonade. Annette and her husband live practically on the beach and have a gorgeous home and a beautiful garden in the back – perfect for entertaining and hosting family, which I image they do a lot considering the whole family lives in a five mile radius. The garden was spectacular, and they grown tomatoes, grapes, peas, and mulberries! We took a short stroll down to the water where I got to see the other side of the peninsula. We were basically staring at where I had previously been at Karin’s home.
The busy day was quickly coming to a close and I had a train to catch. So we drove through the main street in Båstad and I got to see the world-famous tennis stadium that houses the great tennis tournaments that Båstad is known for. Then it was back to Gudrun’s house for a traditional dinner of Swedish meatballs and potatoes, followed by rhubarb pie. And before I knew it, I was back on the train to Copenhagen – my soul feeling light, uplifted, and determined to return again with the rest of my family some day very soon.
Thank you to Gudrun and Carina for taking such good care of me on my day in Båstad. Words can not describe how grateful I am for the chance to see the beautiful land and the even more beautiful family members that live there.