After our arrival in Sweden in the middle of the night, we drove a few miles to park on the first spot that came up to finally get some rest after the “hard” night on the ferry boat! On the following day we didn’t see much more than our pillows and the inside of our caravan, only in the evening we got active and headed towards Ystad, Wallanders hometown, to have a welcome cocktail (unfortunately without him). Ystad is a very charming city with a medieval town centre, half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets reflecting golden in the sunset when we arrived… We made the best choice with the bar HG8 (named after the street HammesGatan number 8), not only because of the clearly world class cocktails (!), but also, we got to know the owner, a very friendly English Man with great humor! and fixed a spontaneous concert in his bar the next day. An experiment for us as well as for him, as the time to make publicity was quite short…
This night we found a perfect parking spot with sea view, good-morning bath in the ocean included! (In Sweden, there is “everyone’s right”, so you can put your tent (or caravan) wherever you feel like, we read…) I jumped into the clear blue (and cold…) water with impatience. Ivan (who is more used the south seas, spending most of his summers on the Balkan coast) was satisfied to take a small foot bath. When we came back to our perfect parking spot, a Swedish guy run out of a beach bar and waved us excited. Did he know us? Did he want to book us for a concert in his café? Neither one, but he informed us that parking is strictly forbidden in this area, not only we had parked on a car parking and in the fire zone, also he told us that the police just passed, somehow didn’t stop like they use to and we were very lucky not to pay the double amount of 300€ (full jackpot)!! This year the rules became very strict because of the high number of caravans and Romanian gypsies that put their mobile homes in those places. I think they should have written the sign in another language than Swedish…!
When you play a concert for two people...
The concert in HG8 ended up in an interesting evening! The publicity somehow didn’t work and our public consisted of 3 people. The owner, his wife and a friend. Not to forget Ludvig, their son that happened to be this fantastic cocktail maker behind the bar! Never mind, it’s better to play for three people enjoying it than for a concert hall full of well-dressed audience that is just waiting the break to have their champagne… During our concert, more and more people came in hearing from the street that something was going on and the bar filled slowly… We tried out a few of Ivan’s new arrangements, and played the “Sweden Debut” of our Sweden Medley that we will record here. We were a bit nervous about the feedback from native people but apparently, they liked it and recognized the folk songs we had chosen, before we ended the concert with modern style “Stairway to heaven” and “Pulp fiction”. People were amazed about this spontaneous happening, some called their friends so that we had to play again at late midnight (after having cocktails ourselves…) in an overcrowded bar. We had lots of interesting and inspiring talks and after this first impression we must say that Swedish people are very friendly, modest and interested (in cliché-speaking…). Bradley, the English man and his Swedish wife Annika invited us to have breakfast the next morning in “Our House”, so called their house after the famous song which is a lovely Bed&Breakfast Hotel on the border of Ystad. Somehow this family was for us one perfect example how to combine respect, humour and creativity, we liked the way they treated each other and the talk full of life and interesting society subjects made us forget time and we could prolong this breakfast until dinner time, we felt at home in “Our House”… and learned some interesting things about Swedish mentality (they are like a ball that is hard outside and soft inside, once you cracked the nut, you have a friend for life ….”no pressure”😉), their cat Simba that used to welcome and host their guests and steel their ham from the bread as soon as they went to the buffet. And about the famous Jazz Festival in Ystad (that unfortunately didn’t fit in our schedule this year) with the Greatest of the Greatest’s like Hiromi, some of the artists stay in “Our House” and Bradley invited us to come next year, stay with them and organize some (non-jazz) concert for us, getting to know the Jazz artists and connect (Classic Connects Jazz😊).
Discovering a small Swedish treasure!
Sometimes it’s good to take the wrong way! When Ivan drives, I’m the responsible person for finding the shortest route, of course Google Maps helps me sometimes… This time I was maybe too fascinated of the beautiful landscape and the Caro-Google-Cooperation was a few seconds too slow so that we found ourselves on the highway- in the opposite direction. For me, it was no problem (like I was enjoying the landscape as I said), just Ivan was getting angry because the next exit was quite some miles away… Of course, we took it and I was concentrated to manage the shortest way back to minimize the damage of my mistake, ...when suddenly a small church showed up behind the trees. Like the church seemed waiting for us, we stopped spontaneously and took a walk around and inside these old walls of the eleventh century, a little treasure! Clapping in the hand (this is maybe a Musician Thing to clap whenever you enter somewhere to check the acoustic…), we realized that this 900 years old acoustic would be perfect for recording! We had the same thought to record spontaneously one Swedish folk song of our medley: “Lat till far” (it means: Tune for my father). Maybe some Middle Age Folk Musician had already performed it in this church, who knows… Unnecessary to say that this detour was the best “decision” of the day😊 so from now on, we decided that any direction will be the right one…
One small detail destroys everyting...
For our first Swedish recording place, we chose Ales Stenar, the “Swedish Stonehenge” on the South Coast, respecting our English friend Bradley’s good advice. Although it looks similar with the same underlying geometry, it’s not a copy of the famous English attraction, but built in the Scandinavian Bronze Age as an astronomical calendar. Researchers still argue about the truth and age of these heavy stones (each weigh 4000 pounds) that form an oval shaped like a Swedish ship. Never mind the exact age, for us this scenery with fresh green grass on the rough cliffs were just perfect to visualize the traditional Swedish music in the medley! We doubted that we were somehow not the only ones “discovering” this unique spot (it’s by the way one of the most visited places in whole Sweden!).
So, we parked our caravan nearby and put the alarm clock at 4 o’clock (a time that musicians don’t know except as going-to-sleep-hour😊). We had quick coffee, packed the recording equipment and instruments, put on concert clothes and hiking shoes and climbed up the hill to the stones. Except a few sheep that looked quite stupidly at us (I don’t know if they look always like this or if they were just astonished because they thought there were Aliens at 4 o’clock…?), there was nobody on the spot! Everything was too perfect to be true: no rain, the sun slowly started to rise, not the slightest breeze in the air (which is one of the most important criterion because we film with a drone that is very sensitive to wind!), the colours were matching perfectly and the light couldn’t be better. I played on the merge of the cliffs and Ivan managed to fly the drone according to the music to combine music and nature in ideal harmony! Perfect! We finished the session, …when the catastrophe happened: it started to rain! That was not the main problem, but one small detail destroyed the whole recording and rest of the day… He had forgotten to press the REC-Bottom!!! When Ivan faced the sad truth that he hadn’t recorded anything, he transformed into a picture of misery walking up and down, screaming the hardest Serbian vocabulary (the sheep had now good reason to look surprised), the rain started to poor stronger and stronger like a mirror of his disappointment. I tried to raise his spirit, collecting arguments why it’s not the end of the world and why we will for sure find a solution and after rain comes the sun… But I knew myself that it will be very hard to have these conditions again on a spot like this! And we had to leave Ales Stenar to arrive in Kristianstad for our concert tonight! When we arrived in our caravan we were soaked to the skin dropping everything on the floor and being sad for a while… There had to be a solution! …and there was: we would come back after our concert tonight, never mind the double driving and the 4 o’clock-sacrifice again…: we would reach the goal and eliminate the mistake!
Best shrimps ever!
After this early recording and horrible mistake to forget the REC bottom, we drove in the pouring rain to our next destination Kristianstad where we planned to stay a couple of days for three concerts, with this small interruption for the recording session in Ales Stenar... The concert this night would be in a beach bar, organized by Tobias that we met on “couchsurfing”, (for people that don’t know: an internet platform where you can host people or make other contacts like finding some folk musician like Tobias!) He would teach us some Swedish folk tunes (from “first hand”) and we were very curious to meet him and exchange some musical experiences! He organized a concert in Duvander's Strandcafe, famous for their music happenings and world class shrimps!
When we arrived in Ahus near Kristianstad and ”, our stage for the next three days, we got to know Tobias, a sympathetic guy with a very long beard and a positive and friendly charisma. (his friends call him “Gandalf” and he cultivates this beard for nearly two years!). The strand bar was the perfect surrounding to forget all problems of the day: could you imagine a better place to perform than with view on the ocean and the smell of fresh shrimps that are waiting for you to be savored with a freshly drafted (astonishing good!!) Swedish beer after performance… And let’s not forget to mention Jens, the owner of the cafe and pastry chef of the most traditional confectionery in the whole area famous for the CHOCOLATE cake! A very entertaining, charming and hearty person!
After the concert (and after enjoying these incredible shrimps!!!) he invited us to play at his confectionary the next day. Ivan immediately accepted when he heard the word chocolate… But before this, one mission waited to be completed…:
Recording with the REC bottom!
Arriving back to Ales Stenar it was already dark (which means in Sweden that it’s in the small time frame between midnight and early morning…). We watched the weather report (no wind announced, good!!), took a brief rest and got up (as usual…) at 4 in the morning just before sunrise. In a sad routine, we packed our things and walked up the hill half-eye-closed and feeling like zombies. The sheep didn’t react this time (too tired themselves or thinking that we would come every day from now on…?), but unfortunately there were already people on the stones!! German tourists…, I generally don’t mind Germans, but couldn’t they stay in Germany just today or at least sleep a little longer? The place is just not as magic when you can see people with Deuter Backpacks, orange Jack Wolfskin jackets and big cameras walking around on the video. But I remembered that I’m German myself (at least half of me) and these people happened to be really nice, interested in our project and suggested themselves to stand near Ivan to watch him flying the drone so that you couldn’t see them in the Stone Circle. And we were lucky again with the wind condition! (which is not granted at all, especially on the coast where most of the times you need to be careful not to fly away yourself!!). So, we had the most perfect shooting with REC-bottom this time and were reconciled from all bad luck and water! Everything has a meaning and sometimes it’s better not to press REC because as special “gift” we met two interesting persons when we did some filming in the stone circle after the drone shooting. A photographer (from Germany, what else...:-) and this time I liked the early bird-German-habitude…) was happy to have an unexpected “material” to shoot and to use for his exhibition in Rostock, and we were thankful that he did some filming with the two of us, which is normally difficult because we have only the two of us for filming and playing. A win-win situation😊
After the scene was in the can, we met a Swedish lady, Yvonne, that lives nearby and told us very interesting stories about Swedish style of life and education. She is the founder of a project where all generations work together in a big farm, learning from each other and bringing the positive achievement of their “time” and education to make the most efficient team work! The Scandinavian education system is very successful because they further this way of thinking already in earliest school age. Children learn to achieve a goal together and not as individuals like I think it’s too much the case in Germany! Also, they are more connected to nature (of course, there is a lot more and wilder nature here, so it would be hard not to live with it😊) which makes the education complete because nature is sometimes the best teacher…
A little chocolate story...
Happy and fulfilled (our soul and the SD cards), we drove towards the North to play for the chocolate ca… I mean for the public in the confectionary café… It was quite hard to play for two dozen of people having cakes in front of them, cakes of every imaginable colour and beauty, chocolate, cream, cheesecake, pralines and the smell of freshly brewed coffee… it inspired us to play with a sweet sound and tasty phrasing. The acoustic in this beautiful saloon with ornamented ceiling made it fun to play anyway! And you could feel the tradition of handmade bakery art of over 5 generations. But the best part was the last piece of music which connected us to the first piece of THE chocolate cake!!! The Berlin cake had been great, but this was something different! A piece of art with finest chocolate, a soupcon of salt, a centuple of tastes exploding in your mouth… Even though Ivan is the chocolate specialist in our team, I must say: this was incredible, Bravo Jens!
Let's have a Swedish FIKA!
It's not buildings that make a place special, but people living in it… Kristianstad was a very special place for us, although I just realized that I don’t even remember how the city centre looks like… But we made two friends, Tobias and his girlfriend Johanna! 9 We did jam sessions in the night on a wooden bridge at the sea playing together Swedish and Serbian folk songs. Tobias plays lots of instruments that he learned as autodidact and likes to travel discovering new instruments to bring them home and integrate them in his folk band “Söderbotten”. Johanna is a psychology student, a charming, modest and slender woman that surprised us when she began to sing for us, we were astonished of her incredible powerful and colourful voice that can compete with the greatest! Just she doesn’t want to compete which makes her even more special! Also, we had a great evening with typical Swedish Barbecue (put a lot of American Barbecue Sauce on it while you drink Swedish beer and the dish is ready!). We learned about Swedish cuisine: there are two specialities in Sweden (except this barbecue of course): Kötbullar (see IKEA) and “Surströmming”, fish in a can that smells so awful that you need to open the can under water in order not to die before eating. And it tastes awful too, the reason why they “cook” it, is because of the tradition since centuries… BUT: there is something to remember about Swedish food: Swedish FIKA! This is something you need every day. It’s something sweet that has lots of sugar and the size that it just fits in your mouth and makes you stop talking for a minute. The best is the green punch roll, just after the chocolate ball fika! Swedish people don’t say: let’s have coffee, they say: let’s go for FIKA!
Recording in a shopping mall!
Some other highlight was the washing of our clothes since quite a time in the historical MIELE machine of Johanna’s Germany admiring dad. Washing saloons had been integrated in our planning but unfortunately not in Swedish culture… Luckily that Ivan had no worries having packed underwear for two months (they take one department of the precious space of our clothes corner! Hoping that it’s not too private or that he doesn’t read this part of the blog 😊: to “equalize”, he somehow lost one of his two trousers in the first three days, god knows, how…?!) We hope that our new friends will come to visit us when we have a “real” home again, to have some fika at our place and do some recordings together…
By the way we did some other spontaneous recording in the unfinished mall of the city, a black- and- white place with a special atmosphere! Tobias knows the manager and organized us some time to film the Swedish Folk Song “Trollpolska” what we learned from him, and as duo ICstrings the famous “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.
At the end of recording was a huge surprise: Jens stood at the mall’s entrance with a big exemplar of a CHOCOLATE cake that he had baked for us for the road… (let’s see how long it will travel with us hehe…)
Driving in Sweden
...is easy, push the gas pedal and go straight for as long as you like, (on the North Cape make a U-turn…). I heard that apparently one (American?) guy took it serious and put speed control to cook coffee in his caravan... (he finished his coffee break crushing into a forest…) Also without coffee, it’s quite relaxing to drive and I like the Swedish street rules. 1997 they changed some rules to make driving safer, they were successful and by now they have the lowest accident rate in whole Europe! Speed is limited at 110km/h which is perfect because I cannot drive faster and driving at the same speed as sporty cars gives you the impression that you are really fast. When you enter a village, there is radar every time (while reducing speed I smile every time to be sure receiving a good picture in case…). On the exit of each village, there is immediately speed change from 50 to 90km/h which needs some training to achieve on time (which with our heavy RV is a little hard)…😊 Also, it feels like holiday to enjoy the incredible landscape, sometimes you are between two lakes, then in dense forest again, like on a great hike (and you can sit, listen to music and sing really loud without disturbing anyone😊). The only danger that can happen anytime are animals on the street. We saw a sad accident when someone had bumped into a young deer. A Swedish guy left his car and helped him to drag the poor animal into the woods again, in a bitter routine. It will take some time until this picture will fade…
Sometimes it’s better not to ask…
One of the places we tried to organize from Germany for our video shooting is Kalmar Castle. I talked on the phone to a bunch of people to ask a permission for filming, they were all very friendly and after some chatting, they ended up giving me a number from the “responsible” for this kind of (apparently very unusual?) request. The fifth person promised to write me an email, she had to ask the responsible first. The responsible hasn’t been found or the mail never arrived in Germany, so we asked in person arriving in Kalmar. Same story: we received a card with the number of the “responsible” person, he didn’t work today unfortunately. Never mind, we decided to be responsible ourselves, getting up at “filming time” at four in the morning, same procedure, coffee, make up, concert dress, drone, camera, walking to the castle. It was opened and we just walked in, self-evident and very responsible, to do some great filming on the wall in front of the huge cannon on the edge of the moat. It was quite an adventure to fly the drone around the castle with strong and wayward wind not to crash it into the stony walls, Ivan had clammy hands from adrenaline at the end, but I think, he did a great job which you can see in the Sweden video as soon as it will be finished! Nobody saw us except some birds that admired the drone and all responsible seemed to have a good night’s rest… At seven we left the castle walking on tippy-toe, and meeting outside the castle’s gardener wishing him a good morning acting the most innocent possible.
Before heading further North, we did a half day bike tour along the coast, resting on a romantic harbour with old boats, red wooden boat houses and two fishermen looking at the sea. It was like entering in the “typical” picture that you get when you sit at home thinking about South Sweden…
“Schloss” means in German “castle” and “lock” at the same time. I don’t know if Ivan wanted unconsciously to compensate the “illegal transaction” in the castle. But he left our valuable bike lock in the castle garden realizing it 400km later😊.
Like that, we had already a plan what to look for when we would arrive after driving a few hours through the spectacular seascape to our next destination: