Just a couple of days ago my faith in the helpfulness of Swedes was given new life. My car had died in the garage. The battery was shot. So I went down there with a nice little note I had written up with plans of leaving it on the car next to me, in hopes that they would give me a jump. The car was missing. But luckily, as I was walking away, a group of men came in with a large van. They were working on the trash system under the building. So I approached cautiously. Because let’s be honest, it’s always a little creepy down in underground parking garages. Turned out though that they were willing to help.
So I started my car and pulled out of the garage with plans of driving around for a little bit to let the alternator do its job and recharge the battery. So I drove around for about 15 or 20 minutes. Then decided that I needed some stamps. And pulled into a grocery store. I was inside for maybe five minutes. Maybe. I came back out to another dead battery. Not completely dead, but dead enough that it wouldn’t start. So I asked the guy who followed me out if he could give me a jump. Reluctantly, he did. I was two for two when it came to getting Swedes to help me out. Life was good.
This time I learned my lesson. I drove around for about an hour. All the way past Södertälje. I decided that it was about time to head back and pulled off E-4 to start heading back north. And that’s when I saw it. A little spire sticking out of a grove of trees on a hill. So obviously I headed over to it. And found a lovely little church in a small farming community. But it was getting late, and I was still hesitant to turn my car off. So I headed home.
And that’s how I found myself driving down E-4 today past Södertälje. That little itch to get out of the apartment got the better of me. And it was worth it.
About 15 kilometers past Södertälje is exit 141. Towards Gnesta, Järna, and Katrineholm. And if you head off the east and follow the road Ytterjärna will appear. And that’s where the spire of the church can be seen rising above the trees.
As I drove along the gravel road towards Ytterjärna Kyrka with the windows down all I could think of was that beautiful smell of farming. The freshly mowed hay, the livestock, the fertilizer, the tractor diesel. Something about it all coming together makes for something pretty amazing.
After coming up the hill to the church I pulled off into the gravel parking lot and began to explore. My first stop was the minneslund, the memory grove. A nice little place where ashes had been interned with a large wooden cross looking out over the grass. Nothing remarkable really, aside from the water that could be seen through the trees behind the cross. But there was something peaceful about the way the grove was surrounded by the hill’s vegetation.
But I moved on. Towards the church yard. As I wandered around the church I stumbled upon the requisite rune stone. Because what Swedish church is complete without a rune stone? I can’t help but think of the irony when it comes to the stereotype of the marauding pagan Viking carving out a rune stone, which then finds its way into a churchyard. Granted, plenty of rune stones were carved after Christianity had made its mark in Sweden, but stereotypes sometimes die hard.
The church itself was old. The oldest parts of the church being from the 1100s. The spire that drew me to the church was built around 1740. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get into the church. The doors were locked. Which, to be honest, was the first time I had ever been unable to get into a church in Sweden during the middle of the day. I was a little disappointed, but the surroundings made up for it. Because as I walked towards the east again, I looked out through the trees and could see Järnafjärden, that body of water that I caught a glimpse of from the grove. And I realized that whatever was inside the church wasn’t going to beat what was outside of it.
Welcome to Sweden.
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