Tuesday 2 August 2022

Happy Places 1: Smultronställe

In the (relatively shallow) depths of a Tasmanian winter, I find myself daydreaming of other places and other seasons. Take Sweden in summer as an example. Why Sweden for goodness sake? (you may ask.) Haven’t you watched enough Scandi noir to know Sweden is a place of constant snow, rain and grey weather, all bundled up in a flat and dreary landscape?

My simple answer is this. Before you judge it, spend one week of summer in Sweden. That is unless you object to VERY long, mild days, beautiful forests, meadows full of wildflowers, and stunningly intricate waterscapes of lakes and sea. And that’s not to mention the Swedes themselves, who in summer throw off their Scandi gloom, and become all frisky and fun-loving.

Take, for instance, one of their linguistic delights: the Swedish word smultronställe. It literally translates “place of wild strawberries”, but is most often used metaphorically to mean a semi-secret favourite place; a place that makes you happy. English phrases like “sweet spot” or “happy place” feel linguistically pale in comparison. If you've eaten wild strawberries, you'd surely agree. Smultronställe is a word forged from dark winters, scarce sun, and the utter delight at the sweet return of light and flavour. 


So it’s not unusual in Sweden to be asked for your smultronställe. What is your special place in the outdoors? It’s a question that resonates very much with me in relation to bushwalking in Tasmania. I’m often asked, especially by those who are not bushwalkers, or by people from other parts of Australia or the world, what my favourite bushwalking spots are. My plan for what remains of winter is to write about some of these in a series of blog posts; to share a bit of my daydreaming about places I'd rather be. However I should warn – and it’s probably in the spirit of smultronställe – that my posts might be a little geographically vague. If places are semi-secret, maybe it’s best that people discover their sweetness for themselves.


But before I start on my Tasmanian smultronställe, it’s only fair that I mention at least one favourite Swedish place. And that is Ängsö National Park, on the eastern coast of Sweden, about an hour’s drive north-east of Stockholm. I’ll let these images be a little taster of this beautiful place, and a reminder of all that was sweet – and accessible – before the pandemic. Let’s hope that such places will be within safe reach again in the future.

[Scenes from Ängsö National Park, Sweden]

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