The county of Närke, in which Örebro lies, is topographically rather flat and featureless. The Kilsbergen hills, which lie to the west of Örebro, between Närke and Värmland, provide some relief to the flatness of the Närke plain, but even they are not very elevated. Närke, strangely, was once covered by a vast inland sea, and the pebbled beaches upon which that sea once lapped can still be seen in the forest tracts that cover the eastern edge of the Kilsbergen range.
Millennia ago, the land rose, and the sea receded back east toward the Baltic. The big lake, Hjälmaren, remains, as do hundreds of smaller ones. Two of the shallow lakes that remain, East and West Kvismaren, lie 10 or 15 km southeast of Örebro, and today we drove out after lunch to take a look at them. They are renowned for their birdlife. Amazingly enough, this particular area is listed by the United Nations as one of the world’s most valuable wetlands.
There is a curious knoll that rises out of the surrounding flatlands, between the East and West Kvismaren lakes. This, really, was our destination. It is a popular place for Örebro people at this time of the year, renowned not just for its birds, but for its snakes. There are two main kinds of snakes in Sweden, the dangerous “huggorm”, as well as the harmless “snok.” Both of these thrive in the wetlands around Kvismaren, but during winter they look for somewhere high and dry to sleep the cold months away. This knoll, which is called “Öby kulle,” is perfect, being really just a huge pile of stones with countless nooks and crannies, making a perfect winter lodge for snakes.
Then, when the first sunny days of spring come they emerge, all at once, and mate, before they head off to the hunting grounds around. For a few weeks in early spring the snakes can be seen, slithering and squirming in the sunny hollows of Öby kulle. Today we joined a crowd of other wanderers to look at them. It was a fascinating sight. Afterwards we dawdled along some of the walking tracks toward the lake, and climbed a wooden birdwatching tower, from where we had a spectacular view across the shallow reedy waters with its crowds of birds.
Best of all were the blue skies, the budding branches, and the sunshine…