The long way home, part one. Östersund, Orsa, Copenhagen.


So it’s time to take the long way home, driving through Sweden along the street that runs through the whole country parallel to the Inlandsbanan, the railway that connects Gällivare in the far North with Kristinehamn, not far from Stockholm. The impressive forests now often leave space to small villages, not much more than a few detached houses with fresh-cut grass lawns, where old men in shirtsleeves wax their vintage Saab smoking pipes: you feel like being in an American 50’s movie, even colors look a bit faded in the sun, that has always been at your side for the whole route (such good luck you had with the weather). You make a stop for sleeping in Östersund, on Storsjön lake, whose waters are haunted by a Loch Ness monster relative, they say, the jawbreaker Storsjöodjuret.


The camping’s concierge describes it, laughing, as a mix between a snake and a pig: not much frightening by the way, not even for little Maia. The King of Sweden in person included it in a list of protected animal species! We too in Italy should invent some kind of creepy story about a monster living in an Italian lake. For instance the Garda lake monster: result of a genetic experiment led by Nazi scientists during the infamous Repubblica di Salò period, in order to create a sea monster to fight against Allies landing in North Europe. They say it still crawls in the depths in front of Gargnano…

The day after you have a break in Orsa, on the Siljan lake, renowned vacation destination: the mood here is much different from the wild North, is not crowded as usual (is there any crowded place in Sweden?), but you meet plenty blonde families strolling along the lake front promenade in the late afternoon sun.

It used to be a placed loved by Swedish painters, the Siljan lake, for his peaceful atmosphere: you visit Anders Zorn museum with his gentle, and a little boring, watercolors. It’s getting late for the Scandinavian timetable (why everything has to close at 5 p.m. even during summer, when the days are so long?), and unfortunately you have to renounce to visit the house-museum of Carl Larsson, the Swedish Norman Rockwell (actually it is correct to say that Rockwell is the American Larsson), and even the infernal Falun copper mines! What a pity. After dinner you fix the Volkswagen’s back seats so the girls can sleep safely even in case of sudden brakes, and you can drive through the night.

You and Mitia sit in the front row, talking and listening to Tom Waits while you drive; in the backseats the girl enjoy their own very special mobile pyjama party. Darkness falls, there is no more that dim light that used to be in Lapland all night long, and Swedish do not love street lamps: the Volkswagen lights foxes and rabbits crossing the dark road in front of you. When you feel tired, you stop in a parking area close to the road and sleep.

The day after you pass the Øresund bridge, and Sweden loses its bigger Kanelbullar consumer… The other junk food you have been all eating in these days is Marabou: Swedish chocolate bars, definitely delicious. Why the hell the product’s name is the same of an horrible African bird whose diet is based on animal carrions, it remains a mystery… Passing the border you think that you travelled all across Sweden and did not encounter a single policeman; whatever this may mean.

You plan to catch the ferry from Rødby that arrives directly in Germany, this will avoid you to travel more miles across Denmark; as there are night time ferries too, you decide to hit Copenaghen first.

The traffic circulation in Copenhagen with the Volkswagen is quite difficult, and requests all your concentration, due to three reasons: first, the city center is quite intricate; then, there are thousands bicycles running fast in every direction; last but not least, the female population. You didn’t consider that it is clear that the women of Copenhagen are the most beautiful in the world;that’s what you think while you try to keep the control of the situation with the kids. You park in the first place available you find, and then you continue by walk. Here too museums close at 5.00 p.m.: by chance on Wednesday the National Gallery closes at 8.00 p.m. You pass through the beautiful Rosenborg gardens and reach the impressive Staten Museum for Kunst building, with the large pool where you can place the iron chairs and sit with the feet in the water.

artists at work

A sign for the visitors is placed at the entrance: please, take photos. You don’t have much time, and the collection is huge: therefore you choose to focus on the Nordic art. The kids run happily in the desert halls (you and a couple of Spanish tourists are the only visitors), until they find the “draft room”, where visitors can use all kind of pencils, papers, wooden boards and chairs to wander around copy dal vero the pictures and statues: this will keep them busy for one hour at least. You are then free to visit the museum on your own, and search for Vilhelm Hammershøi paintings passing through the exhibition’s rooms that covers all the Scandinavian art of the last three centuries. There some kind of, well, depressive/tragic/somber taste in Nordic art, unless it represents landscapes:

“and in his eyes I saw death”, AKA the cheerful mr. Ejnar Nielsen

natural size statues of Death taking away a baby from his mother’s hands, a young tuberculosis girl drawing her lasts breaths portrait… the good ol’Edward Munch looks like a merry guy here! You find a room dedicated to your beloved Emil Nolde, with exploding colors painting of sea landscapes. You catch your kids while the custodians start closing the Gallery, and exit.

Ocean and dark clouds. Emil Nolde, 1935

Well: maybe it’s just the frustration about the fact that you have to go back home now, but you feel a little in argumentative mood. Ok, let’s go then! Denmark National Gallery is a massive museum , with a huge collection and, moreover, big temporary exhibition. The quality of the exhibition spaces is gorgeous, and also all the services, shop and cafe/bistro are excellent. Entrance is free for everyone, as the Nationalmuseet, while all other museums in town have one day free entrance for week. Under 18 is free always and everywhere.

Meanwhile in Milan, a recently opened new museum offers just a passable temporary exhibition and proudly announces that has reduced the ticket cost from 15 to 12 €, during the Expo period. Under 18? Only 10 €! Gosh. But anyway, you did not earn any Master in a Business school, probably you don’t understand the point of it…

It’s time to leave, now; sun is going down. You have to return in Copenhagen, with more calm. Greet the Danish girls, and drive.


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