Dalarna

Sweden is divided into three parts. The central part, in which we live, is called Svealand and is like a belt across the middle of Sweden from the east coast to the Norwegian border. The Svea people gave this country its name – Svea Rike means kingdom of the Svea people, and it doesn’t take much imagination to transform Svea Rike to Sve-Rige or Sverige, which is the real name of this nation, not Sweden as we English speakers call it. The southern part of Sweden is called Götaland, which is pronounced like yertaland, without sounding the r. The northern part is called Norrland.

Each of these parts of Sweden is divided further into counties; Örebro lies in one of the southernmost counties of Svealand, called Närke. It is only a stone throw from Örebro to the southern edge of Svealand. Maria’s parents own a holiday house near Orsa, in Dalarna, the northern border of which marks the transition to Norrland. Örebro is a city of 120 000, originally an industrial town but now the site of a growing university and a big regional hospital. The city is surrounded by farmland, with a range of hills to the west and a largish lake to the east. It feels civilised and sophisticated, only a few hours drive from Stockholm.

This last weekend we spent three days in Orsa, up north in Dalarna. It is 3 or 4 hours drive from here through a corridor of forest dotted with lakes. In Orsa one gets a feeling of the edge of the civilised world – northwards there seems only forest, mountains, wild rivers and adventure. It is a wonderful place, one of our favorites in the world. We go back again and again, and never fail to be refreshed and revitalised by our time there. This last few days, unseasonably warm for the end of September, was the same. We walked in the forest, picked blueberries, gazed in wonder at the views south over the lake and the mountains to the north and east.

On the way back to Örebro we drove south along Orsasjön (Lake Orsa) and then Siljan – reputed to be Sweden’s most beautiful lake, the result of a meteorite strike in the distant past. Orsa – Mora – Rättvik – Tällberg – Leksand: a string of country towns with once strange but now familiar names. The tourists have largely disappeared at this time of the year so the cafes and hotels seemed deserted. There was no-one to see our kids jump into the icy waters of Siljan at Tällbergsbadet or hear them shout for echos across the still waters of the lake.

Back in Örebro now and tomorrow the kids are back to school. I’ll add some pictures tomorrow.

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