I went on the international researchers group summer trip again this weekend. We went to a tourist spot called Mariefred, which contains a pretty old Swedish town and a castle with the delightful name of Griffon Island Castle.
As a trip, it could have been more exciting, but it was fun. The day was a little short; we had little more than four hours in the area, which included a one hour guided tour of Mariefred and a two hour tour of the castle.
The first was a little disappointing; Mariefred has a fair number of pretty traditional wooden houses, but there's not a lot else to see, and the guide didn't really seem to know what she was talking about. Basically there was a German monastery there called Pax Mariae, or Mariefred in Swedish. In the sixteenth century, the first king of Sweden, Gustav Vasa, dissolved the monasteries in the name of Protestantism and a desire to get his hands on the church's wealth. He used the physical stones of the monastery to build a castle on the site of the ancestral seat of a nobleman who had a griffon as his device. And then apparently nothing very much happened until WW2, when the entire Polish navy escaped to Sweden and five submarines were berthed in Mariefred throughout the war.
The SIRAP group are generally an exceptionally friendly crowd. I spent a lot of the day chatting to a nice nutritionist from Bangladesh, whom I often see at SIRAP events, but many other people introduced themselves or remembered me from other events. She bought some exquisite strawberries to share, and smoothed over the awkwardness caused by several of her friends wanting to speak Bengali among themselves (not in a rude way though), while she was trying to be friendly to me.
The castle itself was worth seeing. It's not very old by the standards of the English and Welsh castles I'm used to, but it has a couple of rooms that have been untouched since the seventeenth century, and many others that have been restored very thoroughly. Plus the guide was both knowledgeable and witty. It's also the national portrait gallery, so we got a kind of walkthrough of 500 years of Swedish history. And there's a really cool theatre built by Gustav III in the late eighteenth century, with some amazingly steampunk machinery for moving sets.
I have basically given up on taking decent photos with my camera, and I'm using it as a point and shoot until I can replace it with something that suits me better. This is partly a bad workman blaming her tools, but that camera really doesn't match what I want as a photographer. It is possible, but way more fiddly than I can usually be bothered with, to switch off the autofocus and auto light balance. Anyway, here's a selection of the least awful of the snaps I took during the trip.