The Wild Strawberry Patch at Händelö
When Augusta and her mother visited spas in the summer, they referred to their visits as summer séjours. So this year, Kerstin and I decided on a summer séjour where we would visit places with connections to Augusta. It would be a four-day trip, by car, dressed as in the 1840s.
Day 1. Händelö
On 26 June, we get in the car – happy that we don’t have hoop skirts. The two layers of petticoats and all the four yards of cloth in the skirts still fill all the space in the front seats. We are really excited to take off on our summer séjour! Every time we travel in Augusta’s footsteps, we meet interesting people and have a lot of fun.
Our first stop is Händelö.
“Did you read about Händelö in Augusta’s diary?” Kerstin asks.
“Yes, I did. ”
But I have to admit that it had not seemed too important when I read it. What I do remember, however, is a seminar we attended in Norrköping last year. It was a talk about historical buildings threatened to be demolished. One of those was Krusenhof, the estate where Augusta’s best friends and neighbors had lived. Another one was an estate close to Norrköping – Händelö. But what was the connection to Augusta?
Augusta’s Diary, Loddby, 1850
“Nothing out of the ordinary has happened here except for the fact that we on the 13th of August traveled to Hendelö where we spent a rather pleasant afternoon in the company of the Theodors.”
Kerstin has done her research and explains as we continue our drive south on the E4.
“The Theodors was the family of Frans Theodor Osbeck. He was the husband of Augusta’s cousin’s daughter, Albertine Schubert.“
“Yes, I remember their engagement.”
”And Theodor’s dad’s sister, Sofia Charlotta, was married to Ernst Fredrik Munck who was renting Händelö,” she continues. “Can you look up who the owner was?”
I search for the history of Händelö on my iPhone. There are several links because there is an interest in saving this estate from further neglect and from the threat of demolition.
“It was owned by the minister of foreign affairs, Baron Gustaf Adolf Stjerneld at Lindö,“ I read. “There is also more recent history about the place being used as a drug rehabilitation center.”
It is not hard to find Händelö. There is a sign, and we exit. Then we take a turn into what would have been the road up to the estate. I can imagine Augusta and her family in the carriage driving up the same road.
Suddenly we get to where the road is overgrown and we can only guess where it must have continued under the tall trees. We park in the grass and get out. The grass is tall and interspersed with a rainbow of wildflowers – bluebells, red clover, yellow St. John’s wort, and lady’s bedstraw. But all I can think about are the presence of ticks. I do have a well-founded fear of ticks. And here I am in a long dress, 2 petticoats, silk stockings, and fabric shoes. Ticks would have no problem latching on to all this sweeping fabric.
Kerstin, on the other hand, has no fear of ticks. She is busy getting her Nikon camera ready.
“Can you walk slowly towards the house,” she asks.
I look at the sea of tall grass. What can I do? I am just going to take the risk today. I will check all the fabric folds for little hitchhikers once we are back at the car.
Händelö looks like a painting. A beautiful two-story, yellow mansion under as deep blue summer sky with puffy white clouds. Flanking the mansion are some very tall trees. There must have been a courtyard in front, or at least a circular gravel road where carriages would have pulled up. We walk slowly towards this abandoned mansion; the only sounds are the rustling of our dresses and the chirping of birds.
The Wild Strawberry Patch
Kerstin sees it first.
“Look!” she exclaims, “the strawberries!”
I turn to where she is pointing. On this side of the courtyard, the short grass is dotted with wild strawberries. I have never, ever seen such an abundance of wild strawberries.
Wild strawberries (in Swedish, smultron) are nothing like domesticated ones. Wild strawberries are small, with a distinct flavor far superior to that of the domesticated ones. A smultronställe is a patch of wild strawberries, but it conveys something special – a hidden, wonderful place that one stumbles upon in surprise. When I try Google Translate, it suggests that smultronställe could be translated as a hideaway or a favorite spot – close enough, I suppose.
Anyway, we have literally found a smultronställe and now we are both on our knees picking as many strawberries as we can, and threading them onto straws of grass like we used to do as kids. The picture is almost surreal. Here we are, all alone, in our 1840s dresses, in front of a stately, yellow mansion, picking and eating strawberries on what would once have been the courtyard.