Det magiska växthuset

BACKAGÅRDEN ANNONSBILD REDIGERAD

Troligtvis är det ljuset då det känns som att man är ute fastän man sitter inne i värmen. Kanske är det grönskan med fikonträd, eukalyptus och de vinrankor som dinglar ovanför huvudet under sommaren. Kanske är det för att inredningen härinne består av trädgårdsmöbler som det känns mysigt. Hundar är välkomna och barn kan springa fritt och det gör inget om man spiller på stengolvet.

Förmodligen är det hembakade pajer och kakor som serveras här som gör att man känner sig hemma. Eller kanske är det en känsla av att vara i kontakt med jorden. Växthuset är nämligen byggt mitt ovanpå en så kallad Inka-pelare (ett starkt kraftfält) som en förbluffad jordenergiexpert upptäckte en gång med sina slagrutor när han hade vägarna förbi. Men den starkaste kraften måste ändå vara 80-åriga Gunnel Broman som med sin skaparglädje har bidragit till en trivsam plats att koppla av och varva ner på. Det sägs att det här är en grön oas eller en kraftplats där man har lätt för att stanna upp och fundera över livet. Gästerna stannar ofta länge i lugnet. Därför har Backagården myntat begreppet ”en plats för själen” som sin slogan läs mer på  www.backagarden.com . Deras främsta målgrupp är, som de ser det, den stressade stadsmänniskan på flykt sökandes lugnet.

Sökandet leder till Backagården på Österlen, en skånegård mellan mjuka kullar och vida fält vid vägkanten mellan Kåseberga och Löderup. Växthuset står här på baksidan av Backagården tack vare Gunnels ivriga önskan att odla blommor trots att hon vid den tiden då hon köpte växthuset inte ägde någon mark! Hon köpte växthuset på vinst och förlust vid en konkursauktion 1986 innan hon ens visste var det skulle placeras. Hon ägde ingen fastighet då. Hon visste inte ens hur stort växthuset var eftersom det var nedpackat. Hon visste bara att hon skulle odla blommor någonstans. Växthuset visades sig vara mycket stort, totalt 500 kvm, men på väg till Backagården ramlade en del av växthuset av från lastbilen så det krympte lite.

Gunnel är uppväxt på Österlen och köpte Backagården, en 1800-tals gård, på sommaren 1986. Hon började med att odla eterneller och sälja blommor. Sedan lade hon till försäljning av linnegods som tillverkades i Litauen. Efter ett tag fick hon frågan av personalen på Dag Hammarskjölds Backåkra om hon inte kunde börja med kaffeservering eftersom många besökare efterfrågade det. Backagården ligger nära det här populära turistmålet.

Så har verksamheten vuxit med åren och kaféet blev så populärt att sonen Kai Svensson blev indragen i att jobba där på somrarna. Nu har han tagit över mycket av det dagliga arbetet med Backagården och kaféet drivs numera i separat regi sedan 2011 av Przemyslaw Rozavski och hans mor Danuta. De odlar egna grönsaker och kryddor på gården som sedan används i matlagning och sallad – inte bara ekologiskt utan också så närodlat man kan komma. Deras specialiteter är räkmackor, västerbottenpaj och scones med hemmagjord havtornssylt från buskarna vid Backagården. Przemyslaw undersöker nu om kaféet kan bli KRAV-certifierat och drömmer om att starta en restaurang här. ”Normalt stänger vi kl. 18.00 men ljuset är så fint i växthuset vid skymningen och solnedgången att det är synd att inte utnyttja den tiden och njuta av ljuset”, säger han och blickar mot framtiden.

Det har anordnas bröllop i lokalen. ”Bröllopsgästerna tycker om den annorlunda atmosfären”, säger Kai Svensson. ”Vi har upptäckt att växthuset har jättebra akustik”, tillägger han och nämner konserterna som han arrangerar i växthuset. I år den 15, 16 och 17 juli kommer Malmöpoeten Jacques Werup och jazzpianisten Jan Lundgren med gästartisten Edda Magnason. Den 25 juli är det dags igen för åttonde året i rad för en konsert med den berömde gitarristen Janne Schaffer med Stefan Blomqvist på klaviatur. En konserttallrik serveras vid de här tillställningarna som ofta blir fullsatta.

Men för det mesta är det bara öppet under dagen på Backagården, varje dag under sommaren men fredag till söndag under vissa andra perioder. Säsongen varar från mars till december.

Förutom växthusets kafé, hittar du också här Kais presentbutik och Butik Omtanke, en klädesbutik som drivs av Helén Abrahamsson sedan åtta år tillbaka. Hon säljer kläder i naturmaterial som består av en kombination av linne och siden. Många av hennes kunder kommer tillbaka år efter år.

Nya medarbetare har kommit hit men grundaren Gunnel är kvar som inspiratör. Hon sköter fortfarande blommorna i växthuset och ser till att det finns färg i rabatterna både inne och ute.

Hennes senaste projekt tillsammans med några medarbetare är en örtträdgård som är inspirerad av Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), en nunna och abbedissa som helgonförklarades 2012. Hon är känd för sin helhetsläkekonst där hon använde örter, ädelstenar, kostråd och läkande toner. Örtagården är uppbyggd i liten skala än så länge och den blev en 80-års present till Gunnel, som trots sin ålder, fortfarande sprudlar av energi.

”Det skall inte vara flott här men mysigt och gott”, säger hon om sitt livsverk  –  växthuset som fortfarande frodas med idéer. Hon skyndar sig iväg för att skapa något vackert i växthuset.

When does pottery become art?

Bernard Leach“It was Bernard Leach who uplifted pottery to an art form. Bernard Leach didn’t make pots, he made art,” comments Maria Ekberg, a potter with a gallery in Hammenhög in Österlen. She has always admired Bernard Leach, an Englishman born in 1887 who lived his early life studying pottery in Japan before returning to Cornwall in England in 1920 to set up his own pottery. He developed his own style based on a combination of traditional Japanese, Chinese, Korean and European slipware. (Slips or engobes are colourful coatings of liquid clay applied to the surface for decoration.)

Bernard Leach (1887-1979) was one of the great figures of 20th century art and his sons David and Michael carried on the tradition. Maria Ekberg once attended a workshop held by his grandson John Leach who trained under David Leach. Inspired by the Leach legacy, she has developed her own special style of ceramics featuring flowers, buds and seed pods. No ceramics like hers can be seen elsewhere in Sweden.

“I have never had the ambition to be an artist,” says Maria Ekberg modestly. “Few potters would actually call themselves artists. Perhaps we are so busy mastering our craft and learning pottery that this alone takes us a whole lifetime if not longer. This has been the case for me. So I have been quite satisfied to call myself simply a potter up to now.”

keramik Maria EkbergHer garden is like a gallery decorated with her creations placed on iron bars planted in the flower beds. In the spring and summer, her bold ceramic floral creations on their metal stems can be seen juxtaposed with roses, hydrangeas and crocuses. They bring colour to her garden all year round even when the flowers are long gone and the cold winter winds blow.

Her latest collection is inspired by flowers without petals. She is fascinated by what is left when the petals have fallen to the ground. The petals represents the transient radiant beauty of a flower but the bulging seed pod left behind can also be seen as an object of beauty, depending on the eye of the beholder. The stamens and pistils of the flowers protrude prominently in her latest art with naked flowers that almost resemble sea anemones. “I have grown a bit tired of creating shiny, colourful flowers and pods,” she admits. This year she has created a more austere look with subdued pale colours and off-whites.

Maria Ekberg encapsulates seed pods in her art. Interestingly, Hammenhög where she lives and has her gallery was once the home of a thriving seed company named after this small town on the plains of Österlen.

thomas alexanderssonThomas Alexanderson is another potter from Österlen. He lives at Ateljé Brännorna secluded in the woods near Onslunda where he has practised his craft since 1975.

Bernard Leach mastered the technique of firing clay in traditional wood-burning kilns. However, since the 1950s, electric kilns have largely taken over for the firing of clay. Inspired by the work of Leach, Thomas has built two wood-burning kilns on his property in the woods, one for salt glazing and the other for glazing without salts. “I work very much in the spirit of the ancient pottery tradition. I like to use salt glazing which has its origins in Asia,” says Thomas. “The ash from the fire gives certain effects and this can vary depending on how the wind is blowing outside. You can also achieve special effects using techniques such as reduction.” (Reduction is the creation of a special type of atmosphere.)

He holds up a teapot where one side of the pot has a mottled look because the glaze was exposed to the ash whereas the other side, not facing the fire, has a more uniform colour. Thomas Alexanderson likes these unpredictable effects. “You never know exactly how a piece will turn out,” he says. “I also like it when you can see traces of the hand of the potter in the final piece. Each piece has a memory etched into it from the time when it was made.”

His pieces are marked by the insignia T in a square plus his brand name Thomas Drejare, which means Thomas the Potter. He likes working in large formats and many of his circular bowls are about one metre in diameter. “Is this art?” I ask referring to the bowl. “You can put fruit in it if you like but many people hang these bowls on the wall,” he replies. “I like making teapots too because they are functional but yet works of art.”

His teapots come in a multitude of salt glazes and often have a multi-faceted surface created by cutting the clay with a knife. The salt glazes are various metal oxides known by exotic names such as tenmoko, chün, shino, celadon and ox blood. The latter describes a blood red glaze which Thomas has used for one of his teapots – the perfect pot for a rooibos drinker! The most expensive teapots sell in his studio for about SEK 1400 each and often come with matching mugs and cups.

Thomas Alexanderson has become a well-established potter in southern Sweden after 40 years working in Onslunda and he has built up a large customer base. His studio is open from 11 am to 5 pm for visitors throughout July and the first half of August or by appointment.

He produces a large output of pottery but the method he uses is painstakingly slow. Each firing of the oven takes 12-14 hours and he and his sons usually chop the wood themselves. This is truly a handicraft and each piece he makes is unique in its own way: “You can come and see the process,” he says, inviting visitors to see him at work at his potter’s wheel. “Experience the living surfaces of the pottery where the flame has licked and the ash has fallen.”

For more about Maria Ekberg, visit skapa.krukmakeri.se

For more about Thomas Alexanderson, visit www.thomasdrejare.com

 

Österlen’s champagne

Kopingsberg vineyardYou may not associate the climate of Sweden with winegrowing but in this northerly part of Europe in the county of Skåne, a number of vineyards have grown up since the turn of the millennium. The changing climate is working in favour of growing vines here but the climate is still far from ideal and makes winemaking a risky business. Nevertheless, with the right types of grapes and a lot of enthusiasm, wines of character with a distinct acidic taste can be made.

In Österlen, there are a growing number of vineyards but the one that receives the most visitors is Köpingsberg, east of Ystad. Köpingsberg’s speciality is sparkling wines including the Swedish equivalent to champagne called Köpingsberg Blanc de Blancs Vintage. This sparkling white wine made from Swedish grapes is aged for four years. When each precious batch of wine is released after four years, it usually sells out within minutes. That’s what happened when about 1,000 bottles went on sale in November 2014 at a price of about SEK 400 per bottle.

The wine is released through local Österlen branches of the Swedish state-owned chain of off-licences known as Systembolaget. They have a monopoly on sales in Sweden of wine, spirits and beers of a certain strength. Traditionally Sweden has had a strong temperance lobby for restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Indeed, from 1982–2000, the nationwide branches of Systembolaget were closed on both Saturdays and Sundays. Now they open on Saturdays but remain closed on Sundays.

Sweden’s strict rules mean that winemakers like Carl-Otto Ottergren of Köpingsberg cannot sell their own wine on their premises. “The rules are a bit crazy,” says Carl-Otto Ottergren. “If I could sell my wine direct to customers, I would keep my vineyard open for visitors much longer. But with the rules as they are, it just doesn’t pay.”  Visitors can pay for wine-tasting at Köpingsberg but they cannot buy the wine and take it home. For that, they have to travel to the local branch of Systembolaget in Ystad, Tomelilla or Simrishamn or order the wine from another branch in Skåne.

Currently the winery is open for drop-in visitors on certain afternoons in July and August. At other times, visits can be booked in advance by groups. Most of the visitors are Swedish but some groups come from abroad. With his command of English, German and French, Carl-Otto Ottergren is able to guide groups from different parts of Europe. Visitors are shown around a modern winery attached to the house at Köpingsberg dating from the 17th century.

Carl-Otto has strong connections with France where he runs a joint venture with a vineyard in Bourgogne. Under his supervision, two types of sparkling wines are made at the vineyard and sold under his label, namely Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Carl-Otto (100% Chardonnay grapes) and Cremant de Bourgogne Cuvée Carl-Otto (45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir).

Using the Champagne method to make wine is labour-intensive requiring not just one fermentation of the wine in a tank but a subsequent fermentation in the bottle. Carl-Otto Ottergren is a serious winemaker who makes his living from wine and has been planting vines (mainly Chardonnay) here in Österlen since 2005. The vineyard now has about 6,000 vines. The 2015 harvest is expected to yield 6,000 bottles of the sought-after sparkling wine Köpingsberg Blanc de Blancs Vintage. The wine will be aged for four years before the vintage from 2015 is released for sale. “Even some well known brands of champagne only age their wines for two years,” Carl-Otto points out. “Our long ageing gives a rich taste.”

The Österlen region is perhaps best known for its apples. Tasty apple juices and ciders are made here. But Österlen also has a few small vineyards. With no tradition of winemaking in Sweden, Carl-Otto Ostergren is one of the pioneers in these northern climes.

A selection of vineyards in Österlen receiving visitors

Köpingsberg Vineyard near Ystad between Nybrostrand och Glemmingebro. Started 2005. About 6,000 vines. www.kopingsberg.se

Ekesåkra Vineyard in Ekesåkra near Sandhammaren. Started 2002. About 2,000 vines. www.osterlenvin.se

Skepparp’s Vineyard in Skepparp near Kiwik. Started 2010. About 4,000 bottles in 2014. www.skepparpsvingard.se

Skillinge Vineyard on the coast near Skillinge. Started 1998. About 2,000 vines.

Borstar för det vardagliga och det ovanliga

Ann-Christine Magnusson har uppfunnit en tangentborste med gethår.Ärligt talat, när jag först gick in i Sveriges enda borstbutik, tänkte jag att det här inte kan vara så roligt, speciellt eftersom jag avskyr städning. Jag blev förvånad. Mest för att jag inte visste hur användbara borstar kunde vara, från att skala potatis till att rensa upp oljeutsläpp. Jag köpte till och med några olika borstar som kommer att göra underverk och som kommer att vara den perfekta presenten till mina vänner, speciellt skäggiga sådana!

Vad sägs om en borste som gör rent tangentbordet, till exempel? Borsten är gjord av gethår som når under tangenterna och drar till sig damm. Perfekt till alla som har en dammsamlare under sina fingertoppar!

Eller en borste som är gjord för att kamma skägget med? Skägg är inne och många unga män visar sin manlighet genom att odla en skog av hårväxt.

”Några män kom in i butiken och frågade efter en skäggborste så jag tänkte att jag måste utveckla en. Den måste vara i lagom storlek för ett skägg”, säger Ann-Christine Magnusson som är ansvarig for butiken och produktutvecklingen. Hon har nyligen tagit fram en speciell skäggborste som är gjord av bok med vegetabiliskt fiber från Indien och hår från piggsvin. Ann-Christine håller det gamla hantverket vid liv genom att tillverka borstar med handsättning.

En annan borste som hon har uppfunnit är speciellt gjord för att framkalla mer hårväxt. Man masserar sin hårbotten med borsten. Jag ska ge den till min tunnhåriga vän så att han kan prova den!

Hon visar upp en annan uppfinning – en lång borste gjord av ett syntetiskt material som är fäst på en metallpinne avsedd att sätta in i en borrmaskin. Man stoppar ner borsten i en hink med vatten och nypotatisar. Borsten roterar och skalar potatisar på noll tid. Vem kunde tänka sig att en borrmaskin kunde användas vid matlagning?

Man kan skratta men det här företaget från den lilla byn Onslunda på Österlen har gjort sitt för att rädda miljön från en naturkatastrof. När oljeutsläppet i Mexikanska golfen blev en världsnyhet 2010 blev deras borste, som är speciellt gjort för att ta upp olja från havet, en storsäljare i Amerika. Borsten roterar på havsytan och oljan passerar genom en slags kam som fångar upp oljan och för bort den till en cistern. Borsten är gjord av nylon speciellt för ändamålet.

Närmare till hands finns skidvallaborstar som används av olika nationella skidlandslag i Skandinavien. Hur de vallar sina skidor hålls hemligt och kan vara nyckeln till framgång i en sport med små marginaler. En liten borste kan göra skillnaden mellan guld och silver. ”En av våra vallaborstar har tråd av metall som är 0,06 mm i diameter vilket gör metallen mjuk som hår”, säger Ann-Christine Magnusson.

En annan innovation är en diskborste av nylon som klarar av temperaturer på 120 grader så den kan användas direkt i en stekhet panna utan att bli förstörd.

Borstbinderiet i Onslunda har gamla anor och har funnits här sedan 1800-talet då byn blev känd som ”borstbygd”. Det nuvarande ML BorstaTeknik som driver butiken och tillverkar borstar härstammar från 1875 då Mårten Larsson startade sin borstfabrik i byn genom att ta över sin brors verksamhet. Brodern Lars åkte till Amerika medan Mårten stannade hemma och blev en sorts kung. Snart hade han 25 fast anställda i sin verkstad och ett 75-tal hemarbetare runt om i bygden. Han blev känd som ”Borstakongen” förmodligen för att han leverade ryktborstar till Kungl. Hovstallarna i Stockholm. Han fick inte kallas ”Borstakungen” med ”u” för att det fanns bara en med titeln kung i Sverige – Hans Majestät. Företaget utnyttjade sin kungliga kundrelation och registrerade namnet Borstakongen som varumärke 1951. Namnet används än idag både som varumärke och som namn på butiken i Onslunda.

Butiken är den enda i Sverige av sitt slag och den erbjuder priser på borstar som är lägre än i detaljhandeln. Den har öppet året runt och har även ett kafé. När du går dit är jag nästan säker på att du kommer att hitta en borste som är precis vad du har saknat, oavsett om du har skägg eller inte.

Traditional Swedish inn looks more at home in France

Lennart Mårtensson with a carving of Ganesha from India, one of the collection of elephants at his inn in Sjöbo.

Lennart Mårtensson with a carving from India of the god Ganesha who has the head of an elephant. It is one of the large collection of elephants at his inn in Sjöbo.

Sjöbo is an ideal spot for reaching most parts of Skåne including Österlen to the east. Within less than 30 minutes by car, you can be in Lund, Malmö, Ystad or Simrishamn. But getting around Skåne was not always this easy. Visitors of old often required a supply of fresh horses at strategically placed inns. That’s how Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård first started. Ever since 1700, there has been an inn at this location in the heart of Sweden’s southernmost county – Skåne. But there is something distinctly ‘unSwedish’ about Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård. The architecture is like a French chateau and inside are 3,500 elephants from around the world.

Ingeborg Liedholm, who ran Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård from 1917 to 1955 with her husband Hilding, loved elephants. Her guests used to bring her elephant souvenirs and ornaments when they returned from their travels in exotic lands. She dutifully registered each gift in a book and gave each elephant a name. By the time she died, her collection had grown to 500 elephants which are now displayed in a cabinet in the lobby of Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård.

The current owners Lennart and Eva Mårtensson have continued the tradition so visitors continue to bring elephants as gifts. The whole hotel is now overrun with elephants featured in every display cabinet and window sill. There are flying elephants decorating the dining area. An elephant is also part of the logo of Sjöbo Gästifvaregård.

This is just part of the quirky history of an inn that has been welcoming travellers since around 1700. This type of inn is known in Swedish as a gästgivaregård or gästis, which means more than simply a guesthouse. The name designated a statutory inn that was primarily for the nobility and ruling classes. No one else, apart from their entourage, was allowed to stay there.

During the first half of the 17th century, when representatives of the Swedish crown and Swedish noblemen travelled the length and breadth of the country, local farmers were obliged to offer them free accommodation. In 1649, this obligation was removed but farmers were still obliged to provide fresh horses free of charge to move these travellers from A to B. As a result, a series of coaching inns with stables were set up around the country. The law stated that these inns should be about 20 km apart to allow a change of horses at regular intervals along key routes. The routes were often signposted with milestones giving distances to the next inn.

So it was that Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård first came into existence around 1700 located at the crossroads of the Ystad to Hörby road and the Malmö to Simrishamn road. It was strategically located between Hörby and Herrestad. Incidentally, the inn in Herrestad dating from this period is still in existence today and open for guests as is the inn in Hammenhög on the old road east to Simrishamn.

In the old days, the innkeepers did not earn anything for providing horses. To compensate, they were exempted from paying tax and were given a monopoly to sell alcoholic beverages in a 20 km radius. Thus the inns became a focal point for the community and this is still true today.

Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård is today a popular venue for weddings and other family gatherings and has by far the largest restaurant in Sjöbo. It is a popular place to eat, priding itself on serving traditional Swedish recipes made with local produce. This is where the local people of Sjöbo eat out. Indeed, Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård was once a favourite haunt of one of Skåne’s most famous authors, Fritiof Nilsson Piraten (1895-1972), who wrote colourful stories about this area.

“We have a lot of Danish guests who appreciate the tradition of a local inn. In Denmark, the local inn still lives on in many rural towns. Many Danes come here in search of their history because Skåne was once part of Denmark,” says Lennart Mårtensson. The origins of his inn date from a time when the Swedish crown and military were keen to establish control over a part of Sweden that had only just been conquered from the Danes in 1658 and was still the subject of dispute.

One of the early visitors was the famous Swedish botanist Carl von Linné. He and his party planted two elm trees here in 1749. He stayed at Sjöbo to do an inventory of natural resources and land in the area. The inn is mentioned in his travel book “Den Skånske resan” (“Travels in Skåne”) where he comments on the softness of the down made from goose feathers.

Nothing remains of the original inn which was a low building with a thatched roof. The current eye-catching design dates from 1901. A firm of Swedish wine merchants from Malmö called Wiens & Sederholm first rented and then bought the property as an outlet for selling alcoholic beverages. They rebuilt the inn in the grand style of a French chateau or hunting lodge with distinctive oval windows. The building looks more at home in Versailles than in the provincial town of Sjöbo.

”Many of our international guests come from Denmark, Norway and Holland. They like the character of the place and our rooms rapidly fill up in the summer months,” says Lennart, who has been running Sjöbo Gästgifvaregård with his wife Eva since 1997. He has noted an increase in interest for online booking via sites like www.booking.com and www.hotelspecials.com. The inn is also to be found on Facebook at sjobogastis.

Even if the guest rooms are sometimes full, guests are welcome to the restaurant or bar seven days a week. And if any guests want to bring an elephant with them, Lennart will always make room for it!

A place of peace, Hammarskjöld´s Backåkra

KåsebergaWhere do you take someone who has never been to southern Sweden
before and wants to get away from it all? My recommendation is to
visit a stone in a field in Dag Hammarskjöld´s Backåkra
and enjoy some calming views of the Österlen coast.
This is not just any old stone. Engraved into the surface is the
word PAX. In case you did not have the benefit of studying Latin at
school, PAX means PEACE. Words have power and I believe this place
imparts a sense of peace to the visitor; a place to sit and ponder
on the state of the world or just escape the bustle for a moment.

Bring your worries or the world’s troubles to this place, release
them and leave with a lesser burden or with renewed hope for the
future.

A friend and I came here from England while visiting Malmö in Sweden
for a long weekend in wintertime. It was not the warmest time of
year to visit Sweden and the snow had fallen covering the rolling
landscape of the county of Skåne in a white cloak. I decided to
brave the weather and take my friend to this stone that I had
visited once before in the summer. In winter, it would be an
entirely different experience.

Skåne is not like more northerly parts of Sweden where there are
pine forests as far as the eye can see. The Skåne countryside is an open agricultural landscape
of rolling fields with some woodlands.

East of Ystad stretches the area known as Österlen that is a popular
place for artists to practise their crafts. Going eastward from Ystad, the main road to Simrishamn follows a stretch of coastline with sandy beaches popular for bathing in the summer.

We turn off to the right after Nybostrand to take the eastern coast
road. The route takes us slightly inland as the landscape becomes
more undulating with a ridge of hills rising up at the coast from an
otherwise flat landscape.

Just after passing Backagården, I know we are near. I have stopped
at this popular tourist spot on a number of occasions. There is a
cafe inside the house but you can also take your refreshments out
into the large conservatory to enjoy the sun and indoor plants. The
shop inside sells arts, crafts and antiques.

I see the turn towards Löderups Strandbad and Kåseberga but keep
straight on until I see the signs to Backåkra. It is here that the
renowned Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld bought a secluded farm in
1957. Hammarskjöld was elected as Secretary-General to the United
Nations in 1953 at the young age of 47. He did not live long to
enjoy his new summer residence. In September 1961 while on a UN
mission in the Congo, his plane crashed killing him and all on
board. His death is clouded in mystery and is still under
investigation by the UN. Though officially an accident, some eye
witnesses say his plane was shot down as it came in to land at
Ndola. Whatever happened, a great statesman was silenced in his
prime.

After his death, the estate at Backåkra was bequeathed to the
Swedish Tourist Association (Svenska Turistföreningen) as a place of
sanctuary and cultural activities. The 30 hectares of land around
the farm is a nature reserve that is open to the public at any time
of year. The farm building itself, which contains artefacts
belonging to Dag Hammarskjöld, is currently closed to visitors while
awaiting renovation.

We follow the signs to Dag Hammarskjöld’s Backåkra taking us up a
winding narrow track full of snow and I am not sure if we will be
able to reach the top. Thankfully we manage the slippery bends and
find we are the only car in the car park at this time of year.

To reach the inscribed stone, we follow the signs to the meditation
place and wander across a large field. The stone is in the centre of
a circle with a low perimeter wall. The view of the coast is
unspoilt from here and we quietly take in the peaceful scene,
enjoying the solitude. We are fortunate to see a purple sunset that
afternoon indicative of the special lighting that has made Österlen
an inspiring place for landscape artists.

Kids just love this place because they can run around freely on the
grassy slopes. While adults like to ponder and meditate here, kids
tend to go wild! Peace is not what everyone seeks or finds!

At the bottom of the large field, a gate leads to a path through the
forest to the sea and sandy beaches. A good place for the family to
regroup is at Löderups Strandbad, a nearby hotel and restaurant
complex just along the coast from Backåkra offering rooms
overlooking the sea. During the tourist season, the restaurant
serves an excellent buffet.

If you have an appetite to see more stones, just up the coast to the
west is the spectacular formation of Ales Stones in the shape of a
ship. The site of the stones is on high ground overlooking the
sea with panoramic views. Ales Stones are the largest ship formation in
Sweden attracting many thousands of visitors – Sweden’s answer to
Stonehenge!

There is something about the high ground of the coastal landscape
here in Österlen that imbues a feeling of peace, an unwinding of
stress and a heightened sense of being. Our ancestors who created
Ales Stones about 1400 years ago probably felt it too.