When visiting the Swedish countryside, tourists are often struck by the little red wooden houses with white corners, the endless forests of evergreen and the omnipresent lakes and rivers.
And quite rightly so. This kind of landscape is ‘typically Swedish’ and is often how Sweden is marketed abroad. As a rural, forested paradise. But there are regions of Sweden which look quite different.
Take Skåne, for example, a county on the southern-most tip of Sweden facing Germany, Poland and Denmark. I am fortunate enough to have a summer place in the eastern part of Skåne – an area called Österlen. This area is as far from the Swedish stereotype as you can get. A flat agricultural countryside of wide open spaces, wild sandy beaches, fruit orchards and endless fields of billowing crops. The stone houses are mostly plastered and painted white. Gardens burgeon with hollyhocks, roses and fragrant lavender.
Being on Österlen feels alive. The place is different. The pace is different.
For me, my mind becomes free when I am here. This is thanks to the lack of oppressive pine trees and the fact that you can see the horizon far, far away. This gives a special kind of light, a bright light that inspires all the artists that have settled here. And it inspires me.
On Österlen, anything seems possible. The people here are amongst the most entrepreneurial in Sweden. All those creative ideas that you have do not get stuck in the overhanging branches of the fir and the birch trees. Instead, ideas can soar into the blue sky and expand.
And they can go all the way over the horizon.