Bocksten Man

Back in Sweden. We do really like it here – except for the prices of course….

We’ve been reacquainting ourselves with all of our favourite Swedish things. It didn’t take Mark long to notice the first Robotgräsklippar (as they call them in Sweden):

Having looked these things up online, they can be eyewateringly expensive – Husqvarna ones, for example, seem to cost between £1250 and £3000 here, depending on the model. Perhaps that’s why they haven’t caught on in the UK (and we haven’t worked out how you stop them from being stolen).

Our first night’s stop in Sweden was at Laholm, a short drive from Helsingborg where we got off the ferry from Denmark. There’s a nice free parking area for motorhomes on the outskirts of town…

… with an attractive view towards a restaurant and the river:

As we wandered in the general direction of the town centre, it wasn’t long before we came across an interesting-looking sculpture of two fierce-looking blokes in boats:

We could make out the date on the inscription, 1062, and the name Harald Hardrada. That looked interesting (we know about Harald’s subsequent foray to Britain in 1066), so we looked it up online. It seems that Harald, who was king of Norway, had since 1047 been also claiming the throne of Denmark. In 1062, he decided to go for it, and invaded (just to confuse matters, this south-western part of modern-day Sweden was Danish at the time). A big naval battle was fought near here, the Battle of Nisa. Although Harald won the battle, it wasn’t a decisive victory, and a peace was formally agreed two years later….

Continuing into the town itself, we saw what our guide book describes as “Danish style houses”, reflecting the area’s history:

We found the town hall, which our guide book said has an automaton. That sounded interesting:

We only had twenty minutes to wait before the next “showing” – just long enough to do a lap of the main square and equip ourselves with some Swedish Krone from an ATM.

We’ve no idea what the statue of the girl with birds sitting on her plaits represents, but she was very cute:

The “Knights’ Game”, when it happened, was quite disappointing. It’s supposed to represent another peace, concluded in Laholm in 1278, with the two parties represented as knights having a peaceful joust. It was quite the most peaceful joust we’d ever seen – basically their sword arms are on bits of string and just bounce up and down a bit…. There’s not much automation in this particular automaton!

Returning to SOK, Mark spotted a trailer parked on the grass verge near the restaurant that he swore hadn’t been there earlier. We could make out that day’s date and the word “Elvis” on the hand-written advertising blurb attached to it.

Sure enough, at 7pm, we realised that Elvis had arrived. Not in the house, but rather in a small boat attached to a jetty by the restaurant. Oh, and there were three Elvises, not one. We watched lots of locals troop down to watch (and some of them even danced):

They didn’t really look like Elvis, or indeed sound particularly like Elvis, but no-one seemed to mind.

The Elvises packed up and left the boat at around 11pm, silence was resumed, and we had a very good night’s sleep.

Saturday was a “jobs” day. We stopped at a big ICA supermarket to buy a couple of bits and bobs and reacquaint ourselves with what it is that we can afford to eat in Sweden. The prices for many things were actually OK, it’s just the odd item like peppers (three times the UK price) that we’ll be having to do without….

We then drove to a town called Varberg on the coast and headed straight for the motorhome aire at a nearby marina. This marina offered a gravelled parking area (marked out to provide decently sized pitches for 21 vans) for £21.50 a night with electricity. It was right by the water but well away from the sailing boats – a shame in one way but good in another in that the sailors weren’t sharing our facilities!

Our view across the water to the town of Varberg (and the castle); the passing Stena Line ferry is heading to Jutland in Denmark:

We discovered last time we were in Scandinavia that going to a marina is how you get your washing done. The trick is to pick a marina where the laundry is included in the price….

The communal kitchen area. There were also showers and the hallowed washer and dryer:

I set myself up in the kitchen for the afternoon, using the free wifi and supervising our washing. Thankfully, no-one else seemed to have any interest in using the machines so I got four loads of washing done – hurrah! That £21.50 was now looking like a very good deal indeed! With everything washed, we won’t need to go to another marina for a while…..

I did at one point notice a familiar-looking man outside at the motorhome fettling point, vigorously scrubbing a shower mat with an old washing-up brush he’d conserved for the purpose. Now who would do a thing like that?

We had a look at Varberg on Sunday. Here’s the Moorish-style cold bathhouse:

This one was built in 1903 (the previous versions, built in 1866 and 1886, were both destroyed by storms). One side is for ladies and the other for gents, with separate cold bathing areas (which seem to involve going down a wooden staircase into the sea under the bathhouse) and saunas. They are keen to emphasize that both activities are to be done in the nude…. Now I don’t like saunas at the best of times, and the idea of paddling around between the pylons in full view of the beach didn’t really sound that attractive either (think cold shallow water and algae) – so we took a photo and moved swiftly on to the castle….

Although there had been previous fortified buildings on the site, the castle as we see it today was started in 1595 on the orders of…. oh for God’s sake…. Christian IV of Denmark again! The Halland region has been under Danish, Norwegian and Swedish rule at different points in its history, as well as at one time being part of an autonomous state in this part of Scandinavia. Oh, and sometimes, the border ran through the region, with north and south Halland under different rulers. Far too complicated for the casual tourist like us to keep track of!

We paid 100 SEK each (about £17.50 total) to go into the Halland museum, located in one of the buildings inside the castle. This gave us an interesting history of the area, from the earliest human inhabitants right through to mass emigration in the 19th century.

These gold foil figures were interesting – they’re only found in Scandinavia, date back to the iron age, and are the first depictions of people with clothes and hairstyles in Scandinavia. Most of them show two people embracing:

They’re thought to have been used as sacrifices during religious ceremonies. Now if you’re going to start sacrificing things made out of gold, you’d want them to be really really small, right?

We hadn’t come here to see the gold, though. The museum’s star attraction is Bocksten Man. He’s a bog body, found a few miles from Varberg in 1936. Bocksten Man lived in the mid 14th century, and was found wearing a very rare complete outfit from the medieval period.

Nowadays, he’s pretty much a skeleton with hair (as you can imagine, Mark gazed jealously at Bocksten Man’s full head of curls!):

His outfit was presented separately. I really struggled to comprehend that all this stuff is original, it looks in such good condition:

We saw a really good film that explained the science that had gone into piecing together his age and also what might have happened to him. Interestingly, isotope analysis gave a very wide possible range of dates, and so fashion historians had a much greater input to the dating than we might have expected.

Here’s the obligatory reconstruction. He was 30-35 years old when he was killed (possibly having been strangled using the 90cm long liripipe “tail” on his hood – a victim of fashion in more ways than one?):

Bocksten Man wasn’t a member of the aristocracy, nor was he a peasant. He was somewhere in between. He might have worked for one of the many powerful magnates in the area at the time. Social historians explained how the area was rife with conflict during the 14th century. The peasants must’ve been pretty sick of it all, and sick of the taxation demanded by the magnates to pay for it. If Bocksten Man did work for one of the magnates, there would’ve been plenty of peasants who’d have happily murdered him and chucked him in a bog….

A tale from the parish where Bocksten Man was found, told to the curator of the museum in the 1930s, is as follows:

Once in the old days a man walked around the district recruiting soldiers but the peasants didn’t like this so they killed the man and buried him in a bog. And then there was a terribe haunting and all the dogs of the village gathered to howl at the place where the dead man lay. The people of the district decided to drive poles through the dead man and as a consequence the haunting stopped and the dogs stopped howling.

Driving stakes through bodies to stop them getting up out of the bog and making a nuisance of themselves seems to have been an accepted practice. Bocksten Man had three staves driven through his upper body, one of which was an old oak roofing timber someone local must’ve had lying around waiting for it to come in useful…..

Overall, Bocksten Man was well worth visiting. On reflection, we came to the conclusion that of the various bog bodies we’ve seen so far, Tollund Man is still by far the cutest, but that Bocksten Man has produced the best detective story….

Sunday night was spent in a car park on the outskirts of the town of Borås – we’d decided to track inland a bit to get around Gothenburg. Having visited one big city in the last week, we weren’t sure we were ready yet for another one…. The car park was busy when we arrived with joggers, dog walkers etc making use of the various marked trails through the woods, but was very quiet indeed once they’d all headed home.

Monday was, erm, expensive. As part of his regular peering at SOK’s front tyres since he noticed the chip and chunk problem, Mark had noticed some uneven wear which suggested that SOK’s tracking might be a bit out. So we went to get it sorted out. The cost? £145. Ouch! I suppose we should have anticipated the pain, having spent the best part of £1000 on a new fuel injector for Kampington a couple of years back in Sweden…..

Thankfully, the day’s tourism cost us no more than a donation to visit Sweden’s only preserved medieval stave church:

The outside was a brief disappointment (the stave churches we saw in Norway on our last trip to Scandinavia were much more elaborate), but the interior more than made up for it:

We’ve now tracked back to the coast and are parked up for the night by the sea at a place called Stora Höga. After a night on our own at Borås, we’ve got a few neighbours again tonight:

Everything’s going really well, though I am a bit concerned about Mark. He’s started talking about going to see some modern art tomorrow. That’s very out of character!

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