Travelling to new countries and continents is exciting. But let’s not discount the hidden gems that are tucked right where we are! After a day of treating ourselves with Swedish treats and an afternoon by the beach at the Taxinge Slott/Castle, we headed to the little town of Mariefred, one such gem, which is situated on the outskirts of Stockholm.
Mariefred quaintly sits beside lake Mälaren, 65 Kms west of Stockholm in the Strängnäs municipality. With a population less than 4000, this town had all that we expected for a two day getaway in the Swedish country side – picture perfect nature, a castle, great food and relaxation!
We always take the ‘cheap & cheerful’ route in our travels. For stay, we found a good deal at the Gripsholm’s Bed & Breakfast. We took a single room with a shared toilet/bathroom. It was very clean and well maintained. The B&B has two well equipped kitchens on both the floors. It makes it very convenient for those who would like to cook a simple meal.
The B&B is situated right next to the nature reserve. In front of it was an apple orchard and beside it wide open meadows. We also had a great view of the Gripsholm Castle.
The stay included complimentary breakfast, a very good one I must mention. The spread was at the main hotel, which is a ten minute walk from the B&B and we did not mind the walk. The menu consisted of a good variety of bread, cold cuts, cheese, jams, fruits, egg and we could even make our own waffles.
Mariefred’s rich history dates back to 1370 when Bo Jonsson, one the most powerful counsellors & warlord next to Sweden king of that time, build a castle on Mariefred’s cape. Over the following centuries, after several expansions, this became the Royal Gripsholm Castle!
There are numerous castles in Sweden. However, most of it resemble manor houses like the Taxinge Slott or Hasselby Slott which were owned by the rich and currently function as hotels and conference centers. But then, there are these Royal Castles which are owned by the Swedish Royalty which are majestic and fairytale like. Gripsholm Castle is one such. Taking a tour of a royal castle is totally worth it!
Earlier that morning, while Vj and kids were asleep, I took a walk around the town of Mariefred and around the castle cape, reading its history. The scenery was too good and all the historical information built my curiosity to take a look inside.
Gripsholm Castle is internationally renowned for it’s National Portrait Collection. From the moment we stepped inside, we were wowed by the numerous portraits that adorned the castle walls. Since KT love art and painting, I was so glad she could see such masterpieces.
The interiors from each era are well preserved. The wall paintings, the patterns and textures of fabrics and furniture took us back in time.
The castle consists of three floors and nearly 60 rooms! Walking the length and breadth of it I couldn’t help but wonder, how the royal family would have located their kids or family members without the assistence a mobile phone!
Over the last two years of travel, Vj and I have slowly transitioned from being a hurried tourist (The kind that rushes from one tourist spot to the next within a short time just for the sake of seeing the must-sees of a place) to relaxed travellers (the kind that covers fewer places in a relaxed manner, soaking in the beauty and atmosphere of each place!).
The castle consists of gorgeous massive windows in all it’s rooms.
The special feature of these windows were the cute seating that it has with it or beside it.
Since it was pretty hot summer day, we took our own sweet time to sit by these windows and enjoyed the lovely cool breeze that swept in from the lake Mälaren.
As King Gustav III was a passionate play writer and actor, he built a theater in one of the castle towers in 1782. It is one of best preserved to this day. King Gustav himself acted in the plays he wrote and nobility from across the land came to watch him perform.
The room where one of the king’s spent a few years in confinement evokes a lot of feelings. He was said to have spent his days writing and playing the piano.
I may not be much into historical facts. But I just the love the sight of everything ancient and royal.
As we reached the end of our castle tour, we were rewarded with the sight of the infamous ‘Lion of Gripsholm Castle’!
In 1731, the Bey of Algiers presented King Frederick I of Sweden with a lion. It was one of the first lions in Scandinavia. When alive, the lion was kept in a cage near Junibacken. When the lion died, it was stuffed and mounted, but the taxidermist and the museum-keepers would have been unfamiliar with the appearance of live lions. However, from the side, the setting does resemble a heraldic lion rather than a “real” lion. (Excerpt from Wiki pedia)
We spent the rest of the evening at the Gripsholms B&B Hotel. Live music went on till late in the night. Families and couples wined and dined under the summer sky with music in the air.
After relaxing at the hotel garden…
The kids played at the lake until the sun set!
After a scrumptious breakfast the next morning, we took a long stroll through the town!
It was quiet and laid back, very Swedish.
There were a few shops, supermarket and some boutiques.
Watching the locals carry on with their daily routine, their houses and little gardens was lovely experience!
It was a super sunny day, we looked for some place to sit, relax and recoup our energy levels for the rest of the day. The Mariefreds Kyrka was just the right place.
This 17th century church was very minimalistic. But whatever piece was on the wall and the ceiling dates back to the 16th and the 17th century.
The view of lake Mälaren from the church yard was beautiful!
We had a good lunch and headed to the Gripsholms Hjorthage Naturreservat next.
It is approximately 60 acres of fenced nature reserve that is home to hundreds of Dovhjort deers.
We had the entire woods to ourselves. We occasionally came across one or two wandering souls like us.
We encountered deers up close.
To my surprise, they were very bold. They never feared our presence nor did the flee. The stood their ground staring at us as we stood there admiring these gentle beings.
I absolutely enjoyed that quiet walk amidst nature with just the four of us. It felt so special and I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratefulness for that moment in time.
As we walked back through the fields, we noticed the old train of Mariefred chug through the scenery. It honestly appeared like a postcard. We got excited at the sight of it as we were actually heading towards the station to board the same train!
At the tiny Mariefred railway station, you literally get a ticket to travel back in time!
It is an open air museum where we can see how the steam trains functioned back in time.
These are genuine 100 year old steam trains.
The ticketed reminded me of the electric train ticket we used to get in Chennai.
As the train slowly departed from the station, we bid goodbye to Mariefred with a very content and happy heart.
The train ticket master punched our ticket. W
e enjoyed getting to know a kind fellow passenger who had spent a few years in India.
Riding through the Swedish country side and the golden fields was a surreal experience.
The train ride takes only 15 minutes from Mariefred to Läggesta Nedre Staion. But it is an epic 15 minutes!
We stood there as the engine drivers shifted the rail roads (what is the exact term for it?)…
And watched the train huff and puff its way back to Mariefred!