National Geographic : 1928 Oct
SWEDEN, LAND OF WHITE BIRCH AND WHITE COAL BY ALMA LUISE OLSON < I- HIS is Sweden," says the peas ant of Dalarna (Dalecarlia), as he looks out upon the rolling pastures and birch-clad hills of the prov ince dear to him as life. "Our ways are changing, of course. The good old days are no more. But you may still find a handful of us Dalecarlians who go on liv ing as our fathers lived, tilling the same soil, hewing timber in the forests for our houses, spinning wool and flax for our clothes, hammering out copper and iron from our mines for utensils and tools." With quiet dignity he towers in the doorway of his home, into which his gra cious "Valkommen" bids strangers enter. The wind plays with the wide brim that gives his black hat a quaintly solemn Puri tan air. But against the weathered gray of log walls he is a vivid figure in his long, single-breasted blue coat, his yellow buckskin breeches, red-wool stockings tas seled at the knee, low handmade shoes adorned with gleaming steel buckles. Overhead, slender blades of grass of apple-green lightness shoot up from the sod of his thatched roof. Behind, fram ing the scene, stand silver trunks of stately birches, the graceful "white ladies" of the forests of central Sweden. SWEDEN NEVER BOWED TO ALIEN RULE "We are a proud and independent peo ple," he continues. "Sweden, as you know, has never submitted to alien rule. Only once, for a brief century and a quar ter, Sweden joined Denmark and Norway in experimenting with a joint sovereignty. But we did not like the iron hand of our Danish kinsmen. "In the Stockholm 'Blood Bath' of 1520, King Christian II of Denmark be headed more than 80 Swedish nobles, therewith sealing his own destiny. It was that act of tyranny which led young Gus tavus Vasa, later king for 37 years, to rouse the strong men of Dalecarlia to the country's defense. So one of the most illustrious chapters of Swedish history has been written here" (see, also, Color Plate VIII). The blue eyes glow with the fervor of conviction. There is a challenging ring in the sure, soft-spoken words. "Know Dale carlia and you will know the very heart of Sweden." PLOWING UP TRADITIONS A THOUSAND YEARS OLD But the landowner of Skane goes a step further. Within view of crumbling for tress or surviving splendor of medieval chateau, where lazy swans swim forget fully in the encircling moat, he halts in the shade of the widespreading beeches that line his fields of sugar beets or grain. He is willing, and mentally far from un prepared, to turn antiquarian for the mo ment. "The ice sheet slipped off this southern tip of the Scandinavian Peninsula ten or fifteen thousand years ago," he begins. "Our scientists find traces of a civilization not unlike our own running back through seventy centuries and more. Our rune stones are not all deciphered; some of our Viking mounds are still unexplored. Not long ago we unearthed a grave from the Bronze Age. Here in Skane"-lovingly he slurs the long o sound of the vowel a-"we turn up thousand-year-old tradi tions with our very plowshares!" (See page 451.) Were it not for his imperturbable poise, he might be off, at a signal, to search for the cradle or one of the cradles of the human race. But quietly he turns instead to historical fact, as he would like to read it: "Once Skane was an independent king dom in itself." . . . He checks his flow of words and, chuckling, adds: "Know Skane and you really do not need to know the rest of Sweden !" STOCKHOLM A MODERN, BEAUTIFUL CAPITAL In Stockholm the city-dweller, born into an atmosphere of Old World leisure and acquiring by choice the ultramodern con veniences that mechanical genius contrib utes to our age, wanders out to enjoy the lustrous tranquillity of one of the "white nights" of the northern summer.