After trying multiple times unsuccessfully to register for a library tour, I found myself with two choices. Either I stay in Gothenberg and go on one of the spontaneous walking tours, which is a viable option, or I create my own library tour. I have to be back in Gothenberg by 5:15 for a meeting with the St. Kate’s people, but I have the whole day before that to explore Sweden. The thought that this is my first trip to Sweden and quite possibly the last, there was really only one thing I could–take a chance and go exploring.
My roommate Jodi was up for the adventure as well. Last night, we researched different places we could go along with their libraries and then we would see if the train or a bus would get us there. My first choice was Ystad. Of course I wanted to go to Ystad with their rich golden fields spreading their golden arms out for miles. Of course I wanted to see where Henning Mankell set his Kurt Wallander mysteries. Of course I wanted to see this small, charming scene that was also shown in the BBC movie Wallander. As we all know, you can’t always get what you want. It is easy to understand the math here. If it takes 4 hours to get to Ystad x2 for roundtrip =/= returning to Gothenburg by 5 pm. We both were wanted to see a charming village. I was really hoping for one on the water. Eventually, we decided on Lysekil. It looked perfect. It was, indeed, perfect.
Lysekil is not pronounced as it appears based on American English rules so when I tried pronouncing it at the bus station ticket counter, the woman nicely corrected my pronunciation. The k actually sounds like an English sh. I repeated what I thought I heard. The ticket woman repeated how it should actually sound. Rewind. Repeat. Rewind. Repeat. Jodi got in on the pronunciation game as well. Eventually, we purchased our tickets and had a general idea of how to pronounce the town we wanted to get to–at least well enough for someone to understand what we were trying to say in order to correct us. We were off on our adventure.
The drive there was beautiful as all the landscapes are that I have seen of Sweden. The occasional group of cows with white heads that topped brown bodies like snow covered mountain peaks grazed lazily beside the road we travelled upon. A fortress rose majestically from an island dwelling. A grand bridge stretched in front of us and then mile after mile of golden fields of wheat stood neatly before us. Then, we were driven on to a ferry and rocky outcrops outlined the distance between here and there until there was here and we were once stop closer to Lysekil.
As we approached the city, Jodi and I sucked in our breathe. It was almost simultaneous as we seemed to see the village nestled into the shore at the same time. As a fishing/resort village, it definitely looked the part. It was a short walk from the bus stop to the seemingly center of town. We stopped short of it and asked for directions to the library at the book store. We thought it was an apt place to ask such a question. They were friendly and very helpful so we set out again. In front of us was a small, what we would call farmer’s market back home, but probably a normal Lysekil market here. They sold fresh eggs and fresh fruit. There was also the normal purse stand found in markets. As we walked farther ahead, the park of Lysekil appeared and I think it made me want to move to Lysekil permanently. Could this town be any more perfect in its appearance, in its environment, in its charm?
We walked up the cobblestone street after spotting signs for the library. Outside, a toddler was sitting on the cobblestone throwing a toddler fit. His father watched the meltdown and quietly tried to calm him. Two friendly dogs, one golden and one black, silently rested on the sidewalk. They both looked up in unison when I greeted them with a hello and they posed happily for their picture as well–both looking up at the camera as the golden one wagged his tail.
We walked in and approached the librarian named Marianne. We told her what we were doing, that we were here attending the IFLA conference in Gothenburg, and we were wondering if we could tour her library. Eventually it was decided that we should go to lunch and come back for our tour after lunch when the two people who were on lunch break would return. Also, they felt like they needed to prepare for us. We tried to assure them that they didn’t need to prepare, but we were happy to have lunch in this idyllic place.
We went to the Old House Inn. We both decided we wanted fish and chips. When it came, it looked delicious, but at that point the waitress said there was a salad bar inside where the silverware was and that we should go in and help ourselves. We went in to see a table with fresh loaves of bread, different kinds of salads, olives, and a bowl of herring. We both also decided we would try one piece of herring since it was traditional Scandinavian fare. I remember herring being served at large family gatherings in my Minnesota childhood. I never like the taste of it as a child and some things just don’t change no matter where in the world you are.
As we were getting our salads, the waitress came in carrying our plates.
“You left the table,” she chastised us. “And the birds came and ate your food. I will get new plates for you.” She repeated this again to assure us this was, in fact, truth she spoke. Sure enough, when I looked at the plates, they had been picked apart and when we returned to the table, there were remnants of fish pieces left as evidence. Birds ate our lunch. This was an unexpected twist of events.
In the end, we got our food quickly and it was worth the short additional wait. It allowed us to taste the different salads as well. Eating fish and chips at a little fishing village’s outside restaurant on a beautiful sunny summer day–what could be better than this? Well, the librarians at the Lysekil library could.
When we returned to the library, Marianne was so kind. She walked us through the different sections of the library starting with the local history reading room. We talked about Swedish library system and how it was similar and different from libraries in America. We laughed at different phrases and how they were translated. We tried to think together about the word for working with stone-axing? no. chiseling? maybe. We discussed the different programs this library had like delivering books to people who cannot physically get to the library, their teen library section with their newly incorporated graphic novels and mangas, their educational tools to help children and adults to learn Swedish. The people there could not have been more cordial, more kind, more welcoming. The time flew and I was amazed that our time had come to an end despite the fact that we could have stayed there all day. Our bus departed in 15 minutes and we had to walk to our stop. We exchanged contact information and I was sad to say goodbye. We were so impressed with this library. Jodi said, “I could spend the whole week here.” I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Lysekil library for a truly amazing day!