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Off-season (August) mini-vacation in "Little Sweden, USA"
When we suddenly found ourselves with two days free to travel last week (mid-August in Kansas City), my husband and I decided to head west to "Little Sweden, USA." The roundtrip by car would take about a tank of gas ( 17 gal. at about $3. a gal., so $50.) and we called the Swedish Country Inn to book a double at $80. for one night. After three hours on I-70 to Salina, KS, then half an hour south on I-135, we took the Lindsborg exit #78. Salina radio informed us along the way that the temperature was now 108 degrees F., actual, not heat index. We were about to research how Lindsborg's Swedish American population manages to stay cool while "havin' a heat wave" on the Kansas prairie.
For starters, Lindsborg's central downtown hotel/B&B, the Swedish Country Inn, is magnificently air-conditioned. Room #103, with its light pine furniture made in Sweden; its delicious cold tap water (really); its pastel quilt bedspreads; its sheer lace lampshades was a totally refreshing environment. Off the lobby, in the gift shop, we enjoyed gazing at a huge color panoramic photo of central Stockholm, the mother lode.
Secondly, after leaving our cool inn oasis, we crossed Main St. (very hot, red , historical bricks, Main St.) to pick up some freebie handouts at the Chamber of Commerce. "Destination Lindsborg 2006" is chock-a-block with local info, maps, hours, directions, phone numbers. Also available is a printed list of "Basic Swedish Expressions" with pronunciation guide, e.g., "hemslojd," pronounced hem shloid, meaning "homemade crafts." Continuing along Main St., we passed several shops, cafes and galleries until we were too hot and parched for comfort. A new oasis appeared in the form of The Old Grind coffeehouse, air-conditioned and offering wild lingonberry smoothies. Lingonberries are supposedly similar to cranberries, but thinner-skinned, smaller, more delicate, and, as noted, make fabulous smoothies. Skal !
Carrying on down Main St., we stopped in to a couple of interesting and air-conditioned galleries, the Courtyard Gallery (with bakery and cafe in the back) and Small World Gallery, owned by National Geographic Magazine photographer Jim Richardson and his wife, Kathy. The gallery showcases his worldwide photographs and offers a 350-image greeting card line. When asked why Venice, Italy was not included in the collection, Jim told us that he was planning to conduct a workshop in Venice next February (2007) during Carnivale, his first trip to Venice. Bet we'll find some beautiful shots of our favorite city, next year at Small World Gallery.
Back outside, walking along Main St., we found ourselves at a corner shop called....... Hemslojd ! In front of the shop stood a six-foot wooden Dala horse (Swedish symbol), painted red. Colorful Dala horse plaques hang by the door of most Lindsborg houses. Also displayed outside the shop was a bright blue and yellow quadricycle, available to rent to any four hardy travelers. "Uff da !" (an old Swedish term meaning "not so fast on this August day"). But definitely next time. Inside air-conditioned Hemslojd we were surrounded by great Swedish, Norwegian and Danish art; books; glassware; stationery; music; and foods. The paintings of beloved Swedish artist Carl Larsson are available in framed prints; books;calendars; notecards; and even coasters (6 for $10.) . He painted his most famous works of home and family life in Dalarna, Sweden; they bring to mind scenes from Ingmar Bergman's haunting movies, such as "Wild Strawberries." Hemslojd's bookshelves include Sigrid Undset's "Kristin Lavransdatter" ; the "Journey Through..." and "Splendors of..." travel series on Sweden, Norway and Denmark; children's authors Astrid Lindgren and the Stockholm-based Bjork and Anderson creators of "Linnea in Monet's Garden" ; innumerable little books on the Vikings and their ships; and, for Garrison Keillor fans, "Lutheran Church Basement Women Receipes" and "Scandinavian Humor and Other Myths." You can find signed Orrefors and Kosta Boda crystal bowls, vases, and candleholders, and also etched, stemmed wine glasses (three crowns, Viking ship or Dala horse, set of four $17) or etched glass coffee mugs (work done on the premises in Hemslojd's back-of-the-store workshop). "King Oscar" coffee from Lindsborg was a must for us to bring home ($7.95 for 13 oz.), as well as a package of "Grandpa Lundquist's Swedish Glugg Spices," containing cinnamon sticks, dried apricots, raisins, almonds, orange peel, to which you add port wine and cognac after boiling slowly for an hour, to make a warm, spicy winter brew that should make the house smell divine. A 5.25 oz. box of pepparkakor (thin, crisp ginger cookies) by Anna's Bakery was on sale for $1.50 , and a 14.1 oz. jar of wild lingonberry preserves from Sweden will run you $6.95, in case you want to make your own smoothies.
Lindsborg is also a college town, 600 students enrolled at Bethany College, and on the campus you will find a cool, lovely museum dedicated to the work of Birger Sandzen, an artist who was also on the faculty for many years. His oils and lithographs (including a colorful "Tomatoes and Golden Glow") are worth a visit, and in the gallery's garden is a Carl Milles fountain with a rare fluted base, over which flows beautiful, beautiful clear, cool water.
For the past six years the International Chess Institute of the Midwest, called the Anatoly Karpov School of Chess at its 106 S. Main St. headquarters, has held annual summer chess camps in Lindsborg, instructed by grandmasters from Russia. Chess students arrive from all over the world, and, back in 2002, Mikhail Gorbachev visited Lindsborg to speak at a "Chess for Peace" conference.
A Swedish buffet breakfast---smorgasbord ! --- was included in the price of our room, and it was a winner. Swedish pancakes or waffles with lingonberry sauce; pickled herring in wine/cream sauce; Swedish tea ring (coffeecake); cereal; homemade Swedish rye bread, to die for; Swedish meatballs, even for breakfast; and superb Swedish coffee served in "Swedish Flower" porcelain cup and saucer, with the suggestion "Var sa god", meaning "Be so good---as to come and eat, come to table, breakfast is ready, help yourself." Our server, Rachel, was a wonder, preparing the food, presenting the buffet, keeping the coffee and waffles coming, posing for photos with us and taking our photos for us. Thanks to her we have great shots of the sunny, colorful Swedish breakfast room. Now if we only had a digital camera---how to share photos on-line if they aren't digital??
You can take a tour ($2. ) of the "Old Mill Complex" which includes a visit to a very Stockholm-looking building made in Sweden and shipped to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair and then shipped to Lindsborg. The 1898 Smoky Valley flour mill nearby, which shipped flour across the world until 1955, is gleamingly preserved, and the machinery still rolls annually in May at Millfest. Wheat here was processed into flour with rollers rather than with the usual grist mill with stones method. A photography exhibit connected with the mill includes a Victorian photo studio whre you can have your picture taken (insert face) in Victorian costume.
For 125 years the big attraction in Lindsborg has been the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday when Handel's "Messiah" and Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion" are performed by the Bethany Oratorio Society. Well-known musicians are brought in, often from Sweden (this year Grammy Award winner Hakan Hagegard, baritone, sang the role of Jesus in "St. Matthew Passion" on Good Friday at Presser Hall on the Bethany campus. Tickets sell out, and hotel/B&B bookings sell out at this time.
Despite our off-season timing in the heat of August, Lindsborg rolled out the "Valkommen" carpet and we had a great two days. Next time we will visit in the spring or fall. In October 2007 Lindsborg will celebrate "Svensk Hyllningsfest" with music, dancing and food. The St. Lucia Festival is held in December and Midsummer's Day in June welcomes the beginning of summer. If we could, and did, enjoy the sights of Lindsborg in August, imagine how much more you'll enjoy them in season.