September 11, 2017:
After a very rough and windy sail last night, we made in port this morning in Helsingborg, Sweden. The winds are still so strong that the Captain had a very big struggle just to get the ship docked! Helsingborg lies just two miles across the Øresund strait from Denmark. When the weather is clear, you can actually see Hamlet’s castle, Kronborg, across the strait.
Our explorations of the day will take us out into the Swedish countryside. We plan to take in morning coffee (the Swedish call this custom fika), and then we will drive out to a coastal area called Kullaberg to see a natural preserve in that area.
As we drive along, we are still dodging rain as we take to the country roads. We can immediately see some differences from the Norwegian architecture. For one thing, many of the older buildings are made out of stone. Further, instead of being painted white, most of the wooden houses were painted yellow, blue or red, which was a cheery relief on a drizzly day like today!
Our first stop was about 45 minutes outside of the Helsingborg city center (which is the fourth largest metropolitan area in Sweden), at the farm converted into a coffee shop and bakery called Flickorna Lundberg. The current owner and operator of the farm met us at the bus, and he had a charming story to tell once he guided us into the greenhouse coffee room. Apparently, early in the last century, his mother was one of six daughters in her family when their father, who owned the farm, and told them that he was in danger of losing the farm because he couldn’t make the payments on it. The girls got together and came up with a plan to save the farm. Since all the girls were very good pastry chefs and since the farm grew many wonderful fruits and dairy products that could be showcased if they ran a bakery coffee shop, the sisters proposed starting that business. Now, nearly a century later, our host is running the business with his daughters, and his mother still lives in a charming cottage on the farm. Along the way, the coffee shop became semi-famous, as Crown Prince Gustav Adolf (who later became King) discovered their wonderful pastries and patronized their shop regularly. History lesson over, we tucked into some really fabulous flaky pasties and cookies, and then wandered outside to explore the gardens.
Our next stop was at the Brunnby Kyrka (Brunnby Church), which was originally built in 12th Century, and then reconstructed in the 15th Century. Like most Swedish country churches, it has a very plain white exterior, but inside it features a barrel stave ceiling. Also of note is that walls of the church were painted with frescoes painted by the “Helsingborg Master” (please don’t ask me who that was!) in about 1450 A.D.
Sadly, the frescoes were whitewashed after Reformation, but they were later uncovered in the 20th Century.
From Brunnby, we drove on to the coastal area of Kullaberg. This seaside community is a favorite vacation spot for the local Swedes, and many from the Helsingborg area own summer houses here. By this time, however, summer is officially over, and the town looked pretty sleepy and deserted.
The main object of our visit, however, is the Kyllaberg National Preserve, a wild cliff side area just outside of the town. We were happy to see that the rain had passed on by this time and we got out of the bus to explore the preserve. We climbed up to the light house to take advantage of the great views, and to visit the the small museum there. Frankly, the wind was so chill out on this rocky peninsula (which lies to the northwest of Helsingborg) that we were happy to go into the museum just to warm up.
Another cup of kaffe would have been great right about this time, but the café at the Reserve was closed for the winter. Oh, well, back to the ship!
Possibly the best part of the day was our passage down the Øresund Strait. We joined our new friends Marty and Bob up on the aft deck fortunately equipped with heat lamps, comfy chairs and wool blankets for the sail away. Not only were we able to see the Kronborg Castle across the Strait (at least with my telephoto lens), but as we drew near to Copenhagen, we could see the city clearly. Jim and I will return here next week when we visit our cousins in Gothenburg. Probably the coolest thing we saw, though, were the wind turbines situated in the shallow waters of the Strait. From the location of our ship, you could see the cars driving on the bridge connecting Malmo, Sweden to Copenhagen, including the place where the bridge becomes a tunnel and dives under the sea. From where we were standing on deck, it looked like the cars were just disappearing under the waves! If that weren’t exciting enough, the flight path for the Copenhagen airport had one plane after another flying right over us as they came in on final approach. Wow!
With that, we went down to dinner. Tomorrow we will land in Szczecin. Poland. Sweet Dreams!