At last we set off to go to Norrkoping, the city of my birth where my parents had met and married while they were working there in 1946. We found our campsite on the edge of the city in a lovely parkland setting by a river only a couple of kilometres walk from the centre. The walk through the park took us past several places I remembered from my father's photos, including the outdoor swimming pool but this sketch of the waterside was quite news to me. I had no idea that the city had such an amazing complex of canals which channelled the flows to produce hydro-electricity. The city planners had cleverly arranged suspended walkways around the sides of the buildings so that you could walk right above the rushing streams with their deafening noise.
One of the iconic buildings is the 'Flat Iron,' a former cotton mill which now houses a fascinating museum of industrial and domestic history over it's 5 floors. Many of the other waterside mills have now been converted into office and university buildings so that the population has an opportunity to enjoy the sight of the water as it rushes over the weirs while they go about their business. The other half of this sketch depicts the mid summer pole decorated with wild flowers which is a large part of the summer celebrations. I can remember collecting daisies and cornflowers to weave into the wreath for the special day. We were lucky to be able to see the school children in the park on Midsummer's day dancing around the pole and reciting the traditional poems as they went.
We collected a street map from the tourist office and found our way to Strymansgaten where my parents had bought their first apartment. I was able to match up with the 60 year old photo I'd copied and to get Bob to take a new one with me standing in the same place as my Mum all those years ago. If you want to see the original photo go to the link here to have a look. We walked all around the city looking for the hospitalgaten where I assumed the hospital might have been but all we could find was the job centre!
This is a Dala horse,a typical Swedish symbol, originally made by the carpenters in the winter using offcuts of wood. They come in all sizes and several colours although the red is traditional and I couldn't wait to get myself a new one as my childhood one was lost long ago when I grew up. My parents had a collection of at least 6 sizes which also seem to have disappeared.
Everywhere you go in Sweden you'll see sights like this, even right at the edge of the city there are lovely walks trough birch woods like this one sketched on green tinted paper. I'm beginning to realise my love of these beautiful trees stems from my childhood when we were surrounded by their delicate leaves in summer and the wonderful silvery trunks in the winter.
Our visit to Norrkoping lasted a few days and while we were there I had an amazing encounter. Being an arty type I can never resist looking at art materials so when I saw a wonderful display in a shop window I went to investigate. I got chatting to the charming lady in charge of the shop and discovered that she was English and came from a town only 10 miles from where we had lived in Surrey. I explained the reason for my visit and that my father had worked for Dunlop in the city in the 1940s to 50s and was amazed when she told me her older sister had married a young man who also worked there. We exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch after my return.
By the time I got home a couple of weeks later I found an email from my new friend Jacquie, telling me about her sister. Can you believe that she had worked as a secretary for my father in London in the 1960s and married one of his trainees who was eventually posted to Norrkoping to take over my Dad's job! We found out that Jacquie also knew some of my parent's old friends when I sent her a copy of an old photo of their group. I have made a new friend who I now keep in touch with on facebook.
In the next post I'll take you to see the country cottage where we spent all our summers.