Swedish children grow in delight through trolls. Stories handed down to the generations are provided with the big-nosed creatures, wandering from forest dwellings to make mischief in cities.
Could it be that these crooks have smothered my plans in Smaland, a wild region of southern Sweden? My boat trip with troll theme was canceled because a tree fell that morning and blocked the route.
But in the end I arrive at the edge of a forest, where sun rays break through the awning to give a different worldly quality to silver cobwebs and creamy bark birch. A scarlet mushroom shines like a ruby in the moss. A fairy will certainly fly by quickly.
Loneliness: an island cabin on the lake of Orken, where Siobhan spent a night
Sweden have a name for a place like this: & # 39; Bauer forest & # 39 ;. The artist John Bauer, born in 1882, conquered a fantasy world of nature in his paintings for fairy-tale books for children, with giants, princesses and trolls. This month marks the centenary of his death. So I have come to where he was born and died.
Småland is a land of spruce fires, pines and birch forests, marshes and marshes – including a salt marsh & # 39; called Storre Mosse – about 5000 lakes.
My first base is the John Bauer Hotel in Jonkoping (pronounce: & # 39; Yon-sherping & # 39;), 90 minutes from Gothenburg Airport. During an exploration of the suburbs on the windy shore of Lake Vattern, the second largest lake in Sweden, I learn that Sweden, despite their fantasy worlds, also has a flat side.
& # 39; This city has thousands of free parking spaces & # 39 ;, my guide informs me. Smalanders are known as the Scotsmen or Scandinavia – we do not like paying. & # 39; Also free of charge is the Jonkopings Lans Museum, where an exhibition is dedicated to the famous illustrator of the area. It shows & # 39; singing & # 39; alder who step out of the walls.
On 19 November 1918 a boat left on the lake with John Bauer, his wife Esther, and their two-year-old son Bengt. The next day the only sign was that it was a floating kindergarten shoe. The steamboat was sunk, along with 24 people on board. Locals have no trouble telling this story. But then Smalanders have never been head-in-the-clouds.
One of these is Jan, an engineer who stopped the rat race to build the Ramoa Adventure Village in the desert, one and a half hours from the city. Jan explains his master plan. & # 39; For Sweden, being in nature is a spiritual experience. So we want people to feel as close to it as possible. & # 39;
There is adventure here, if you want it, with water sports on the lake in the summer and ice skating in the winter. But the focus is on connecting with your environment.
Accommodation takes different forms. Jan hands some people a map and they go into the woods to find a hammock between the trees. I choose to stay alone on a small island in the wide Orken lake in a wooden hut of 2 by 2 meters.
Fantasy: John Bauer conquered a fantasy world of nature in his paintings for fairy-tale books for children, with giants, princesses and trolls
Jan says: & # 39; It was built for crayfish festivities. & # 39; (A Swedish tradition where everyone with copper hats is about to feast on their appetite).
The growl of Jan's speedboat disappears, not to return to daylight. I feel a tweet of fear.
But then it is so calm. No modern conveniences or distractions. Do not sing insects. The lake is quiet, with the light of the full moon reflected on it as if it were a glittering VIP carpet rolled out just for me. & # 39; In the morning, when I see the mist floating against the sunrise, I remember Jan & # 39; s leaving words: & # 39; If you see fog rising from the lake, it means that fairies have danced on it. & # 39;
Bauer's friend believed that the artist thought deep inside that the creatures he painted were all real. After my night on this fairytale island, I might be convinced to agree with me.
Rooms at the John Bauer Hotel in Jonkoping (johnbauer.se, 0046 36 34 90 00) from £ 93 B & B. Ramoa Adventure Village (ramoa.se, 0046 70 575 82 20) offers double cabins from £ 59 and the private island from £ 108 pp per night. BA (ba.com) flies back to Gothenburg from £ 72. See visitsweden.com and visitsmaland.se/en.