Our next destination was Lake Storsjön. We parked up for the night near a ruined old church in what seemed to be a good beastie-spotting location:
The beastie in question is called Storsjöodjuret, though “Nessie’s Swedish Cousin” (N.S.C.) slips much more easily off the tongue! It even looks like Nessie:
We tried to get a good photo, but this was the best we could do:
Oh well….. It’s better than nothing…
Tuesday was also Mark’s birthday. We celebrated with steak and chips:
Mark was very grateful for all of his birthday greetings, except perhaps the one from Cortez Dental Care. Not an episode he wanted to be reminded about on his birthday!
On Wednesday we visited the Gamtli Museum at Östersund, which had on display some of the contraptions used in the late 19th Century to try to nab N.S.C.:
The thing on the left was used to secure a pig, thrown into the lake as bait. There was no explanation of why they thought N.S.C. might be partial to pork. Unsurprisingly, the attempt failed.
We weren’t at the museum to see fanciful monster-catching gear though. Nor were we there to see any of the exhibits on life in this part of Sweden, fantastic as they were (a summary: life was so grim up North that you probably didn’t have a free moment in the year to realise just how bad it was, and you probably didn’t know that folk elsewhere had it any easier). I’d take a farming life in Cheshire over Sweden any time….. No, the main exhibit at this museum is a set of tapestries:
The Överhogdal Tapestries were found in 1909 at the bottom of the log store in the village church. Someone realised that they were old and gave them to the museum, who initially thought they were medieval. Unfortunately, some bits had been snipped off, but after asking round the village, these were miraculously recovered and stitched back into place. One piece had been given to a little girl as a cover for her doll’s bed. I’d like to think that she struck a very hard bargain when asked to hand it back!
The tapestries were later carbon-dated, and the results were a surprise: 800-1100 AD, so these are Viking-era tapestries and most probably older than the Bayeux tapestry.
One intriguing thing about the tapestries is that it’s not completely clear what they depict (assuming of course that there is an overriding “story”). We were given three competing theories:
1) Ragnarök, the great battle at the end of time when the gods and giants are fated to destroy each other and the Universe. For example, in the first panel stands Yggdrasil, the great tree. The birds on top and at the foot of the tree are supposed to signify the coming of Ragnarök, and all the figures are heading from right to left towards the great battle. Odin’s eight-legged horse can also be seen next to the tree.
2) Scenes from the Völsunga Saga. For example, at the top of the first panel, to the left of the tree, we see a chap called Gunnar in a pit of vipers. Gunnar has been put their by his evil brother-in-law Atle. His sister Gudrun, Atle’s wife, gives him a harp which he plays with his feet and manages to pacify all the snakes except one, which kills him. Sister Gudrun is not best pleased. She kills her two children with Atle, cooks them up and serves them to their father for his tea, then burns down the banqueting hall with him and his cronies inside. Not the shy retiring type then…. The burning hall can be seen just to the left of Gunnar in the viper’s pit.
3) Missionaries bringing Christianity to the region. This seems to hinge on the little buildings with crosses on top in the third panel.
Some figures seem to be able to be interpreted any way you like…… so you really could spend hours staring at the three panels and trying to decide what’s going on.
We didn’t have hours to deliberate, as we needed to head back East to our next stop, the Nämforsen rock carvings which are spread over a wide area around the village of Näsåker and depict Northern hunting scenes. Altogether there are around 2,600 figures, carved between 4000 and 1000 BC. We looked at the accessible rock carvings when we arrived on Thursday night:
What’s that molesting a moose? ⬇
Dog with large bone? ⬇
They’re very close to the local hydroelectric plant!
We parked up overnight on the other side of the river, and were surprised to find out when we visited the museum the next morning that the spot we’d chosen was an important stone age settlement site where lots of artefacts were found when it was excavated…..
The museum itself was small and the signs on the walls were predominantly in Swedish, but as we were the only ones there we got some great information in English from a helpful young guide called Mats. As regards our choice of camping place the previous evening, he quoted one of his archaeology professors: “a good spot is a good spot is a good spot”.
After a slight detour South of Östersund to some good fettlings, we’ve now driven back East to the coast, and are parked up down a little lane in some woods just North of Ördsköldsvik:
From here, we’ll be heading South down Sweden’s “High Coast”, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its scenery. We don’t quite know what to expect. How could anything be more scenic than the astoundingly beautiful (non UNESCO-badged) landscapes we’ve seen so far in Norway and Sweden? We’ll let you know…..
Update: The morning after this was posted, we received an email from Yvonne informing up that Boaty McBoatface now has a Swedish Cousin too, Trainy McTrainface (click for the BBC video)! Well done Swedes for sticking with the name chosen by the public!
The mini-submarine the UK Government deigned to name Boaty McBoatface (having decided that public involvement perhaps wasn’t such a great idea after all when deciding on a name for a research ship, ignoring the result of the public vote and then, to make matters worse, applying the name to something that isn’t even a boat) now lives on the very research ship that Mark used to work on….. so it’s good to know that at least now he too has a Swedish cousin……