Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Swedish castle

We went to a wedding while we were in Sweden. It was a weekend event at a castle. Before you get all excited and think "ooooh, a castle!" it's important to remember that what you and I might think of as a castle is not always right. In Sweden (according to the guide for our tour) a castle is simply a dwelling that was owned by royalty or a home where three different church steeples could be seen from the top floor. So castellated walls and towers, giant fireplaces and stone everything is not necessarily true. This was a 18th century building that has been renovated a number of times over the years.

Still, it's a beautiful setting for a wedding. All dark woodwork and candles everywhere. The afternoon started off with "Tea" and the quotation marks are intentional. It's a real tea, with breads and scones and sweets and savories plus all the beverages. Very classy if you can ignore the giant stuffed swan that presides over the whole affair. It sits in a niche above the bread table. Impossible to ignore. I assume the swan is some previous owners trophy and difficult to unload at a garage sale. Or, and this is possible, they actually like it. Tough call.

After tea we went on the guided tour of the castle, because I love seeing old buildings. Naturally the tour was in Swedish, so Leif spent the hour breathing translations into my ear. Very distracting, the breathing I mean. What I managed to gather from his translation was that this was more than simply a was a haunted castle. By at least four ghosts. Let me be the first to say it. Awesome. So on top of the creaking floors and candlelight and dark paintings, in addition to the sort of creepy swan in the foyer, there were ghosts. I was hoping to meet up with at least one of them. That would be something to write home about. Maybe not the little boy who died  from TB at age six, that would just be sad, but the woman who wanders around the halls wearing a white dress with puffy sleeves sounded interesting.

The wedding was performed (unattended by any of the ghosts), the toast was drunk, and the dinner eaten accompanied by wine. (side note: the menu for dinner changed that morning to venison. I was the only one who laughed when I said "Oh, someone hit a deer on the way to work this morning?" Maybe they were laughing inside...) After dinner we went downstairs to one of the parlors, which is romantically (or sinisterly, depending on your frame of mind) lit by a few strategically placed candles and lamps with 5 watt light bulbs. We watched the bride and groom open their presents while sipping the local after diner wine.

I was sitting near the piano talking with one of the bride's relatives when I happened to look over my shoulder and just about fell off my chair. I didn't scream, I don't think I made any noise at all. But when you've had more than a few glasses of wine and are sitting in the near dark in what has been recently described to you (albeit in Swedish) as a haunted castle a person gets a little jumpy. This is what I saw when I looked up. I dare any of you to say that you wouldn't have been at least surprised, if not scared, if you saw that after listening to ghost stories just hours earlier.

Once my heart stopped racing and I took a better look at it I realized it wasn't alive (my only real concern because something alive can randomly decide you're threatening and really, truly attack you) and I was able to pretend it wasn't hovering over my shoulder for the rest of the evening.

I went back the next morning, just to confirm that there was a bird perched on the piano ready to pounce on unsuspecting guests. I mean, I never drink enough to hallucinate but if a castle is haunted it also has the potential for enchantment and anyone who has read King Arthur knows that nothing good can come from enchantment. In fact enchantment is usually followed 15 years later by the arrival of a son or daughter "unbeknownst to him." King Arthur's knights weren't the sharpest swords in the armory. But I digress. The bird was still there but after a good night's sleep it didn't look near as bad as it did the night before. In fact, it looked kind of fake, but it's not, I checked.

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