The cold hit with the equivalent force of a truck. Blasting, penetrating, all-encompassing. “Bone-chilling” didn’t begin to describe it. Then again, it was my mistake that I willingly jumped through the hole in the ice in the first place.
But not every adventure in south-eastern Sweden has to involve cutting a hole in ice atop a frozen lake, warming up in a nearby sauna, and then running out to jump through the hole and then just as quickly hop out and dash back into the sauna before you can feel anything. For instance, tucked in the wild woods that look like dragons may live there in the heart of the Småland region – and bordered by a lake seemingly made for Hollywood – is Hogwarts.
Actually, the castle’s called Teleborgs Slott, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s Hogwarts; the two seem so alike, one wonders if it didn’t serve as the real-life inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s fictional school. Whatever the case may be, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a famous Swedish fika (coffee or tea, usually accompanied by pastries or other snacks) – or even linger a little longer, as you can also stay the night. But be warned: the area’s so magical, you might wake up thinking you’ve somehow stumbled into an actual fairy tale. Be on the lookout for those dragons.
To the sea
You could easily spend a couple of days in the forests around Teleborgs Slott and no one would fault you. But hop on a train departing from Växjö (before leaving, check out the ruins of Kronobergs Slott and pop into Kafé de luxe for a fika or köttbullar, beef meatballs that are one of the most quintessentially Swedish foods) and head east – past wooden cottages painted red with white trim that Sweden is famous for – to Kalmar. A seaside town also overdue for major motion picture treatment, a must-visit is Kalmar Slott. A pretty castle jutting into the Baltic Sea, a tour through its halls makes it clear why it’s one of Scandinavia’s most popular wedding venues.
Kalmar also makes for a great gateway to Öland. Connected to the mainland by a long bridge, the island is an outdoor lovers’ paradise – but also a treat for lovers of the great indoors. The cosy cafes in town like Mörbylånga and Borgholm are a perfect pick-me-up amid a day of exploring fields, forests and beaches seemingly straight out of Middle-earth. There’s also plenty of ruins to explore from the days of the Vikings – and some even older than that.
But no visit is complete without experiencing Borgholms Slott. One of the largest ruins in Scandinavia, this Baroque castle suffered a devastating fire in the early nineteenth century. But today it’s been “reborn” as a place where visitors’ imaginations can run wild.
Goldilocks was famously picky when it came to how she spent her day at the home of the three bears. Clearly, the bears didn’t live in Sweden; if they did, things would have been just right.