Midsommar ute på Hartzö

The rubarb was taller than I was. The stem, which transitioned in color from a deep red-purple to a near tropic green, was almost as thick as my wrist and I could hardly believe it. And the farmer said I could have it. It was like Chirstmas. Maybe even better. The crisp crack the stem made when I picked it made it so. In about an hour, we had a rubarb cobbler.

It is hard to know where to begin when describing Hartzö, the small island just off Sweden’s coast near the city of Nyköping, that I and a few other foreign guests got invited to spend the Swedish holiday of Midsommar on. The giant rubarb seemed like a good place. But now I don’t know really where to continue, as Hartzö is a place where time is hard to keep track of as the sun refuses to go down. As a result, what follows is neither logical nor chronologial. But bear with me.

Annikas Uncle Lars-Erik picked us up in a small motor boat from Källvik harbor. We were two Germans, two Americans, an Ecaudorian, and a Swede (that would be our gracious host, Annika). The whole day really had been spent picking people up, really. Annika and I had slept only 2 hours, and had been to 2 of 3 of Stockholm’s airports. Nonetheless, we climbed onto the boat and left the mainland behind.

The house was old, about 300 years, and red…it wasthe postcard picture of the Swedish countryside that I had ridden through for so many many kilometers in the weeks before . Food was stored on the bottom floor, where it was dark, and cool. The stairway leading up to the room we slept in, all four of us, was a puzzle at best, at odd angles pieced together and spiraling saggedly up to the second floor. White wall paper pricked with small blue flowers, a smell of dust, and scratchy woolen blankets. It was like having summer camp in a junk shop. I loved it.

Yes, we decorated a May pole and danced the silly circle dances around it. Even 87 year old Ulle.

Midsommar dinner was special because it didn’t rain. What was typical was the fresh potatoes, meatballs, herring (sill), and of course sugar cake with strawberries. I remembered talking with Johanna’s grandma, and hearing her complaints that only Swedish strawberries are worth eating, and that Beligan berries taste of water in comparison. I didn’t believe her until I popped a swedish strawberry into my mouth. My god. The woman was right.

We rode a boat out to a small island, and I did a geolgical survey of its glacially carved surface by walking around the coast. Soon it started to rain and we motorboated back to Hartzö. The next day, when it was sunnier, we rode out again and I did a marine survey of the island, namely by swimming around it.  hadn’t realized how much I had missed being in the water.

The nights were filled with card games with Annika’s  cousins, the teenage Joel and Anton, who love jokes, World of Warcraft, marshmellows, and drinking chocolate milk out of shot glasses. There was also Anna and her boyfriend Kristian, who are almost professional at the sport of orienteering, and will go to the world championships next week. As we hiked and heard stories and picked flowers, they ran around the island with maps and compasses. Impressive.

Walking to the outhouse at four in the morning, when the sun was already well on its way up but the moon, a bloated yellow, still hung low in the sky, I stopped simply to breathe in the air. And above all to realize who lucky I am to have gotten to share Hartzö, this special, isolated place where a hug is the only acceptable form of greeting and when you leave, someone is always standing on the dock, waving you off into the distance.


I’m back in Stockholm now. Yesterday I worked in a boatyard and helped put the mast on a sailboat (long story). Today I searched for mushrooms (found none), got lost in the forest, listened to last night’s allsång på skansen, and kicked some butt in the viking game of Kubb. Tomorrow more boat work and possibly sailing.

And Saturday, saturday I am going to Oxford. Yup, you heard me right, Oxford, UK. Watch out, Cowrinna! Anyone have and England tips? I have a fews days there that I really don’t know what I am going to do with yet…


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