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Traveling with Grace: Norwegian Adventures

Posted on June 23rd, 2020 by

This week, Grace continues her travels in Norway. Special thanks go to JMM volunteer Harold Toppall for his transcriptions of Grace’s travel diary.

To read more of Grace’s travels, click here. 

July 3, 1950                        

Location: En route to Stalheim

Left Balestrand by ferry about 11, one hour to Sonjedal; then a lovely mt. ride to Kaupauger where we boarded another ferry (they served lunch on board) & just after the ferry pulled out a man told us something very excitedly in Norwegian & when we couldn’t understand him he ran over to Mr. A. who asked us if Miss Coleman had gone off the boat. By that time, we saw her standing at the landing & the boat went back to get her. We had a good laugh about it. This trip lasts 3 hrs. & it is just as lovely as the others.

Stalheim hotel, 1902. Via.

We got off the ferry at Gudvanger & had an exciting ride up the mt. to Stalheim, a beautiful hotel with breathtaking view down the mt. into the alley far below with waterfalls on either side. In front is a lovely little rock garden with marigolds, pinks, violets, painted daisies, tulips, etc. The dining room is unique, hung with homespun runners in lovely colors & native patterns. The waitresses are dressed in traditional costumes lavishly trimmed with Hardanger embroideries. The dinner too was delicious.

July 4, 1950                        

Location: Bergen

Rural village in Norway, 1950s. Via.

Leave Stalheim at 9:15. Weather perfect & quite warm toward noon. Up & down mts. thru tunnels, out into the warm sun shine, along the fjords watching the little & big boats, in the early part of the morning we see many country people on the road carrying their produce to market. Saw one woman milking her cow near the road. Many travelling by horse & buggy, many by bicycle, the women carrying their milk cans with their little children sitting behind. We pass thru many old & picturesque villages. They are cultivating the steep slopes and hanging the hay on long racks which from a distance have the appearance of terraces. In one place we saw some little boys playing ball & batting it with their heads. Wherever we stop our car becomes the center of attraction.

Panorama of the city of Bergen, 1948. Via.

We arrive in Bergen about 1:30, going to the handsome Norge Hotel where we have a very large bright room with balcony overlooking the main thoroughfare. In the square in front of the hotel is a fine bronze statue to Ole Bull by Sincline playing his violin with the muse in front of him. In the park at the next corner a band in playing in the little bandstand & they wind up their concert with the Star-Spangled Banner. I heard a lot of clapping after that. We have lunch at the hotel, then ride to the American Consulate which was closed + so for a tour of Bergen a very impressive city.

Statue to violinist Ole Bull, 1904. Via.

Panorama of Bergen’s harbor. Via.

The old part with its Hanseatic bldgs. is very quaint & the business section very modern. The harbor is a busy one with every kind of craft including the big new line of the Norwegian American Line & the Stella Polaris just in from the North Cape. We rode out to Flop, a suburb of Bergen to see Troldhaugen the home of Edvard & Nina Grieg. A bus was in front of the house & as we drove up we heard some of Grieg’s music coming from a music box.

Troldhaugen, 1940s. Via.

We saw many beautiful and & interesting things in the house including some original manuscripts (Bergliot, Serenade, part of the A minor piano concerto), some homespun scarves, lovely chandeliers & curtains, a wonderful silver lazy Susan, some curious porcelain table pieces, a runner of white linen with design of cupids & garlands done in a black running stitch that gave the effect of a pen & ink sketch, an old desk inlaid with mother of pearl, some trophies & decorations, many pictures of distinguished friends. The house commands a lovely view of the fjord & fiellen. There is a pretty garden & a little house adjacent in which he did most of his composing. He and Nina are buried on the property.

“German pier,” Tyske Bryggen, old post of Bergen, 1932. Via.

From here we visited the Stavkirke & the old port of Bergen (the Hanseatic town) which reminds me strongly of the old Germantowns of the period. The beautiful theatre with statue to Bjornsen, several fine museums & parks, King Haakon’s banqueting hall, a fine example of 13th century Gothic, now mostly in ruins but still beautiful, a large monument to Norway’s heroes past & present 12 in all, including some Vikings, & on each side a plaque in high relief (bronze) depicting scenes from history. Altogether a fair city as we appreciate even more when viewed from the height of Fløien where we had dinner at the Floirestaurant [Fløien Folkerestaurant].

Vintage postcard, interior of the Floien Folkerestaurant. Via.

We had to get special permission from the police dept. to drive up & when half way up a very winding & precipitous way, the sun blinded Mr. A. & the car went off the rd. with 2 side wheels in the ditch. We were a little scared but no one hurt & not the car either. We all got out & several men came to help lift the car back on the rd: (they would take nothing for it) & soon we were in the restaurant enjoying our dinner & the view was so magnificent as to fully compensate us for the slight inconvenience. We stayed until nearly midnight-the sky still pink & blue like at sunset for it never gets dark in summer, & the town far below looked like a small scale model lit up in colored electric lights lying in the deep cup of the surrounding hills throwing it in shadow.

July 5, 1950                         

Location: En Route to Lofthus

Vintage travel poster, Norway, 1950. Via.

After another ride thru the city we left Bergen about 11 A.M. traversing some of the routes covered yesterday, but it is so beautiful that we are glad to see it again & from a different angle too. We stopped for a very good lunch at the Tourist Hotel in Norheimesund some of the prettiest villages hereabouts. A little further on we crossed the Hardanger fjord to Kinsarvik, thence to Lofthus where we spent the night at the cutest little hotel Ullensvang with a stone quay in front of it with benches to sit on & people swimming & boating in the fjord. Also a little garden but the flowers are not so pretty here (they have clovers on the dining room tables whereas heretofore we have had much more pretentious blooms).

Ullensvang Hotel, c. 1945-1960. Courtesy of the National Library of Norway, via.

The dining room is quaint with a large display of pewter, copper, fine Hardanger embroidery & lovely chinaware. A large party of French people are staying here & they are making plenty of noise. We had tea on the porch (we have a balcony outside our room too) & enjoyed sitting here till dinner time. I had to go up 12 steps to our room but then everything is on one floor so I didn’t mind. We got a box of the biggest most luscious strawberries in the neighborhood for about 50c. Lots of cherry trees here.

July 6, 1950                        

Location: En route to Dalen

Vintage postcard, Latefossen Waterfall. Via.

Left Lofthus at 10. Went thru the town of Odda, another exquisite ride over hill & dale; here a madly rushing torrent cascading over rocks, there a gorgeous waterfall, one of the handsomest Låtefossen, has an enormous flow & throws clouds of spray across the rd. We saw many herds of goats scampering over rocks little & big ones camouflaged against the stones. Lots of snow at some places altho the sun in very hot. We stopped at Haukeliseter for lunch. From here on the road descends, the hills pine clad & greener.

Vintage postcard, Dalen Hotel. Via.

We arrived at Dalen about 5 in time for tea at hotel of same name, a plain country hotel, but the parlor where they serve us tea & cookies is a big high-ceiling room with handsome wooden wains coting, a stained-glass dome & a bright fire cracking in the big fire place. Mr. A. turned on the radio & we have some nice music. Played bridge tonight.

July 7, 1950                        

Location: En route to Oslo

Vintage travel poster, Oslo Norway, 1950. Via.

Left Dalen at 9:45. Character of the scenery changes radically as we approach the capitol. Mts. recede, no more waterfalls tho we still have lakes & fjords. The country is more fertile, farms larger, more modern. Fine strawberries & cherries purchased en route. Weather warmer & glorious. Skien first large city since Bergen. Industrial & prosperous looking. Porsgrunn next town where we lunched well at Hotel Victoria. Then on to Larvik & the pretty, old town of Drammen which straddles a fjord.

The approach to Oslo is quite lovely & on first acquaintance reminds me of Paris. Sts. wide, business houses very modern, inviting parks, large university, imposing Royal Palace, Opera House, beautiful monuments & fountains, illuminated at night, the main st. lined with flags (they are celebrating jubilee here this year) museums, public libraries, the Parliament or Stortling.

July 8, 1950

Location: Oslo

Walked in vicinity of Hotel Bristol (very deluxe, service excellent, food ditto) shops interesting. Sat in park most of afternoon, weather perfect. Crowds walking fascinating to watch variety of types & costumes, many cars but more bicycles, gorgeous children everywhere. One man sat next to me, spoke little English, invited me to have drink at open air café, amplifying with gesture of drinking from bottle.

July 9, 1950                     

Visited Frogner Park with wonderful [Vigelandsanlegget], a prodigious sculptural project-far from complete-which depicts life in all it phases & ages, more than life size figures, single & in groups, some in granite, some bronze, a fountain supported by 6 powerful male figures surrounded by bronze trees each a shelter for 1 or more figures, the whole bordered in bronze plaques with high reliefs depicting the entire life cycle. A monolith 55 ft. high rises above a stone elevated platform the entire surface of which is covered with human shapes struggling to reach the top. Motherhood & childhood seem particularly glorified. There is a handsome bronze fountain around the corner from the Bristol in the center of which is a lovely figure of a young mother holding her babe.

Vintage poster, “Oslo: The Viking Capital.” Via.

We visited the museum containing Viking ships excavated in 1866-1904, another containing the polar ship Fram with memorabilia of Nausen & Ammundsen & their several expeditions. Lunch at Hollmenkollen’s restaurant on the heights above Oslo, fine view. The folk museum, quantities of exhibits of Norway’s costumes & interiors, etc. from the past 6 or 7 centuries, too numerous to encompass in a day.

Oslo City Hall, early 1950s. Via.

Visited cemetery to see graves of Bjornsen & Ibsen (guardian granting us special permission to drive in the gates). Saw the magnificent new rådhus, something quite novel in architecture, a soft pink brick lavishly ornate with wood carvings brightly painted which resemble majolica, depicting mythological & legendary figures, other carvings of stone, a carillon the roof (about 12 stories high) housed in a glass belfry & a terraced approach with fountains cascading down both sides floodlighted at night. In one square near the depot is a large ferris-wheel, blue & white, each car filled with big red geraniums. The flowers here are lovely, double orange blossoms smelling divinely, [d………….],            begonias, fuchsias, huge roses, nasturtiums, etc.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Traveling with Grace: Headed into Norway

Posted on June 16th, 2020 by

This week, Grace travels across the border into Norway. Special thanks go to JMM volunteer Harold Toppall for his transcriptions of Grace’s travel diary.

To read more of Grace’s travels, click here. 

Tännforsen waterfall. Via.

June 26, 1950

Location: En route to Trondheim, Norway

Left Ostersund regretfully about 10 am in magnificent weather. About 1 P.M. stopped at Tännforsen – a tourist attraction – to view falls, largest in Sweden. Quite a sight with rainbows blowing in all direction in the mist.

We had no trouble at all when we reached the Swedish-Norwegian border. I did not even have to go into the Customs as Mr. Andersen attended to everything & told them we had nothing to declare. There was a public dining room near here but it was so crowded there was no room for us, so we went to a private home on the other side of the road & had a delightful experience. The house was beautifully furnished & altho we did not see any of the family we looked at their photos, their very interesting furniture & trophies, beautiful hand loomed rugs & other hand made articles, laces etc. A nice little servant girl set the table for us in the dining room, took out the prettiest china and silver & set it out on a snowy damask cloth & served us a most delicious meal. We ate a new kind of bread here. We felt like invited guests. When Mr. Andersen paid her, she was so pleased with her tip that she shook his hand & curtsied to us.

Vintage Norwegian travel post, 1952, printed by Grøndahl & Søn. Via.

Once inside Norway the scenery changes radically. Mts. are higher & the rds. go thru what we call canyons. There are many turbulent streams & lovely graceful waterfalls. We saw our first fjord & it was mirror clear reflecting the towns on its shores, the isles floating on its bosom. Also, beautiful clear lakes with the snow streaked mts. mirrored in them.

About 7 pm we arrived in Trondheim, a rather large city with ornate public buildings with many carved figures, fine wide streets, nice shops, pretty houses & and Hotel Britannia one of the finest deluxe hotels we have so far encountered. We have a handsome large room & bath.

Britannia Hotel, Trondheim, 1920-1930. Courtesy of the National Library of Norway, via.

Dinner was served in a spacious dining room around a sort of patio with fountain in center & a full orchestra played beautiful music (whenever there are Americans they play Old Folks at home and medley of folk songs American) while the food is good & plentiful (another new kind of bread here, thin as a wafer).

June 27, 1950

Place: En Route to Surnadal

They served us a very dainty, good breakfast in our room. We left the hotel about 10:30, rode around the city, saw the large commercial school, the old fortress high on a hill whence a fine view of this city on the banks of a fjord; the warehouse district around the dock very old looking; a canal running thru it, reminds me of Venice.

(Left) Exterior of Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway, 1950-70s. Via. (Right) Interior of Nidaros Cathedral, 1920-1930. Courtesy of the National Library of Norway, via.

We went thru the Domkirken, a fine Gothic structure with very fine stained-glass windows & marble figures of saints & apostles on the altar. It was originally built 1060 as a Gothic Cathedral & dedicated to St. Olaf but it is now used for Lutheran worship which is the religion of the country. We saw an open-air flower market & another market including wagon wheels of odds & ends. There is a tree here with gracefully yellow flowers which hand down like wisteria & have a delicate sweet perfume.

We left Trondheim about noon & travelled along the edge of a fjord where the road winds in scallops around the many indentations of this very uneven coastline. In the country we see many houses with roofs several inches deep in sod & grass sprouting all over them, in some instances even very good-sized trees growing on the roofs. Passed may waterfalls & the meadows are thick with wildflowers, daisies, butter cups, dandelions & clover grow to immense sizes here.

Vintage Norwegian travel post, 1955, printed by Grøndahl & Søn. Via.

Arrived at the little village of Surnadal at about 4 & are staying at a cute little country inn where the lady speaks English & makes us feel right at home. On one side is a garden with lovely red birches & other trees, paths bordered with tulips in full bloom, an ornamental pond in center. Directly in front is a mt. flecked with snow patches. They served supper at 7:30. A great variety of dishes stood on a long table in the dining room & the guests help themselves.

June 28, 1950

Location: Surnadal

Breakfast this morning very much like supper with the same large assortment of food. My bill for the 3 of us for 2 meals & the night’s lodging in 2 rooms was $2.50.

Vintage postcard, Åndalsnes. Via.

We enjoyed the ride to the ferry which took us across the fjord on our journey to Åndalsnes. This country gets more gorgeous every minute. Such a profusion of waterfalls some starting high up in the clouds, leaping from ledge to ledge in graceful, swirling columns of foam We go higher & higher until the air is very cold and we look down the precipice to see the dark green ribbon of a river far below. At one place we saw a man fishing for salmon & since his parked car showed a French license tag Mr. Andersen pulled up so I could talk to him. He said the fishing was not so good as there was still too much snow on the mts. We see new & strangely lovely wildflowers every day. It is no wonder Grieg wrote such beautiful music about this superlatively beautiful land.

We stopped at Oppdal at a very fine hotel for lunch. The railroad runs right in front of it. Then on thru the beautiful valley of Romsdalen. Here the waterfalls are about a dime a dozen. The majestic peaks of Trolltinden & Romsdalshorn are veiled in mist. It is raining most of the way, but the trip is none the less enjoyable & the grandeur of the scenery in intensified by the somber effects of the clouds. The lakes and fjords shimmer like steel engravings.

Romsdalen, Romsdalshorn, 1880-1890 by Axel Lindahl. Courtesy of the National Library of Norway, via.

We arrived at Åndalsnes about 5:30 & received a warm welcome by the proprietor of the new & very pretty Grand Hotel Bellvue. There is a lady manager who told me she learned the hotel business from the ground up in the States where she spent 2 yrs. Our room are lovely & cheerful & the whole place modern. Met an Englishman from Nottingham who knew the Weinbergs & Dessauers. Supper, as usual, is good & well served.

Åndalsnes. Grand Hotel ‘Bellevue’, 1956. Via.

June 29, 1950                         

Location: En Route to Loen

Traffic on the road from Romsdal to Valldal, Norway, c. 1950s. Via.

Arose early to a beautiful sunny sky & after a hearty breakfast we started out to enjoy the most magnificent ride yet. We go thru Valldal. Almost every inch of the way is spectacular with hundreds of waterfalls each a different type and breathtakingly lovely.

Arrived at Sylte in time for the ferry which came promptly at 12:15 loaded & left immediately. We bought a big bag of sweet cherries, just coming in, from a woman at the pier & enjoyed them during the trip which was heavenly. We got a good vantage point from which to watch scenery & right in the sun. We crossed the beautiful Geiranger fjord, saw houses perched high on the craggy mt. sides, snow at the top, a few mt. goats grazing on the sparse vegetation but the focus of attention as always are the lovely waterfalls at every turn & one never tires at admiring them singly & in groups starting high up in the snow & emptying into the fjord. The few people who live in these parts apparently have no roads & travel by boat & climb up the cliffs to their homes.

As the boat glides smoothly thru the deep green water the captain describes the scenery over the loudspeaker, translated by Mr. Andersen, & we all feel very jolly. At Geiranger is another large waterfall which seems to dominate the town like a magic guardian. We stop at the inviting little hotel of the same name for a most appetizing lunch. The waitresses hereabouts are simply adorable, so pretty, clean looking & friendly.

Road to Dalsnibba, c. 1950. Via.

We are now in the province of Nordtrondelag. Scenery just as gorgeous as before. We drove up the Dalsnibba, elevation 5000 & climbing straight up from sea level. There is a private toll road going direct to the mt. top, took 4 yrs. to build 500,000 kroner. We go thru walls of snow. Some of the lakes still frozen. View from the top sublime, roads below look like zig-zag cracks in the mt. sides. Too cold + windy for me to go out to the look-out platform. The others went for a few seconds & nearly froze. Mr. Andersen took many pictures today at various scenic stops. We see a lot of tame mt. sheep, branded, & stopped to feed some.

Vintage travel poster, Lake Loen, Norway, 1958. Via.

We were supposed to spend this night at the Grotli but when we got there it looked so primitive & unattractive that we cancelled our accommodations & decided to push on to Loen. The people were very nice about it & when we had gone about 5 miles to the next house a girl stood in the road to flag us & tell us that the people from Grotli had phoned that they noticed we had taken the wrong road & wanted to warn us before we went farther out of our way. So, we reversed our course, gave the man at Grotli a tip & continued for about 30 miles to Loen, with more gorgeous mt. travelling all the way. By this time, it was raining hard but didn’t spoil the views or dampen our spirits.

Vintage art deco luggage label for the Alexandra Hotel, Loen, Norway. Via.

However, it was almost too much beauty crowded into one day & we were glad to reach the nice Hotel Alexandra at Loen about 8 & in time for dinner. We have 2 lovely rooms, one a sunroom facing the head of the fjord, snowcapped mts. & a nice little garden below the windows where I am writing. The proprietor is a very nice fellow.

July 2, 1950                         

Location: En route to Balestrand

After 3 nights and 2 days rest, we start out at 9:15 for another glorious ride thru mts., fjords, & lovely valleys thru which mt. streams rush in whirling eddies & mad cascades & at every stop another exquisite waterfall. Cows & sheep amble along the road & at one point we saw a herd of goats large & small which scampered up the rocks at our approach. The horses too are a special variety. There is a lot of snow along the rd. & the color in the rocks are lovely. Also, the pine forest. We had lunch at Betlefjord, at a nice little restaurant, while waiting for the ferry. A favorite dessert in these parts, & very good too is rice stirred up in whipped cream with fruit juice in a pitcher to pour over it. And as usual the loveliest potted flowers in every windowsill & a large picture of the Norwegian royal family on a sort of altar flanked by candles.

The royal family of Norway waving to the welcoming crowds from HMS NORFOLK at Oslo, 1954. Via. 

At 3:15 we took the ferry & had a pretty trip of 35 minutes across the Sognefjord to Balestrand. At the hotel Kikue they wanted us to go upstairs & I had to turn on all the charm at my command to wrangle a room on the ground floor. This is the most beautifully situated hotel so far on the itinerary with a full view of the fjord & all its inlets, the little villages on the opposite shore spotlighted in the evening sun (oh how good the sun looks & feels after 2 solid days of rain). Here too it is cool enough for a fire in the open hearth. We have dear little porch off our room & in the garden below bloom roses, mock orange blossoms, elderberry, scarlet sage, Spanish poppies & straw flowers. I must devote a line to the pretty Norwegian horses. They are blond like the people with pretty faces & manes that stand up straight & stiff like brushes. They remind me of the horses Walt Disney drew in “Fantasia”. Also, I must mention the birds most frequently seen are black with while bordered wings & Mr. A. calls them Skota.

After dinner a lady played the piano in the parlor–all classical music- then Helene and I took a long walk around the porch overlooking the fjord, a view indescribably beautiful.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Traveling with Grace: From Falun to Rättvik to Östersund

Posted on June 9th, 2020 by

This week, Grace travels from Falum to Rättvik to Östersund and experiences the Swedish celebration of Midsommar. Special thanks go to JMM volunteer Harold Toppall for his transcriptions of Grace’s travel diary.

To read more of Grace’s travels, click here. 

Date: June 21, 1950

Location: Falun to Rättvik, Sweden

Vintage postcard, c. 1907 of the Falun Mine. Via.

Left Falun at noon after visiting the old copper mine, largest in Sweden [and] in operation since 1600, & the old museum where we saw models of the mine at various periods which worked electrically with push buttons, also very interesting exhibits of wood in all its various usages. Stopped at Lekvand for lunch in a modest little restaurant. But no matter how simple they are always very clean + made attractive by the lavish use of trained vines + flowers.

Vintage postcard, 1940s of the Hotell Siljansborg in Rättvik, Sweden. Via.

Arrived at Hotel Siljansborg at Rättvik on Lake Siljan about 3 o’clock. This is a charming resort on a very large lake (Siljan) surrounded by formal gardens & comfortably furnished, with a friendly home like atmosphere. We had a very warm welcome by English speaking hostess & later had tea on the verandah overlooking the beautiful garden with fountain below us & lake in the background, a charming setting. After dinner we played whist with Mr. Andersen & had fun.

Date: June 22, 1950

Landscape from Gopsmor, 1917 by Anders Zorn. Via.

Met a Miss Arlene Hoffman from N. Y. & took her with us in the car to Mora, a pretty little town on Lake Siljan where we saw a statue of Gustav Vasa & went thru the attractive Anders Zorn museum where we saw many of his fine portraits, sketches, sculptures & beautiful nudes. Also landscapes of his native Dalecarlia. We left the museum in a drenching rain so came back to the hotel. Outside of a filling station we saw a man spraying his horse with D.D.T. to keep off the mosquitoes which are quite bad around here. At various places we have noticed May poles with decorations of the Star of David, but I have not found out why.

Tonight, we watched the dancing in the hotel. Some of the guests braved the wet lawns to pick flowers for tomorrow’s May pole (the word is a misnomer, it has nothing to do with the month of May but comes from an old Swedish work Mayo meaning flower festival).

Date: Midsummer’s Eve. June 23, 1950

Vintage postcard, labeled “Leksand,” shows Swedish woman in traditional folk costume, 1911. Via.

This morning we rode over to Leksand which was in gay holiday attire, streets thronged with pleasure seekers, mostly natives many of whom wore the native costumes of Dalarna (Dalecarlia) a most interesting garb of fine hand work & many colors. The children, even babies, similarly clad. Street vendors doing a lively business in toys, balloons, dolls, souvenirs, a typical fair crowd the world over. A tent village had sprung up on the riverbank & food, hot & cold, sold at booths along the way. A circus was coming to town, in the usual red wagons. I noticed for the first time bright colored flower wreaths painted on wooden houses around windows & doors, reminiscent of Swiss chalets.

Back to Siljansburg for lunch. The meals here are delicious, the food varied. After lunch it is customary for the guests to help themselves to pastries & tea from the dessert table at the head of the dining room.

This afternoon we watched from the terrace the great ceremony of erecting the May Pole in the center of the lawn. First came 2 violinists (playing some traditional melody) dressed in black hats, long black frockcoats, chamois colored knee-pants, black hose topped with large red tassels. Following came a long procession of men women & children carrying the long pole twined in garlands of vines and flowers which they hoist by means of huge wooden scissors & when it is upright they fasten it to a tree stump with a heavy iron ring & this stays up until next year. On top is a Swedish flag surmounted by a cock & at either end of the cross arms hangs a round wreath like our Xmas wreaths with a heart shaped one in the center. The crowd danced around this holding hands & swinging first one way then the other while the two old fiddlers played for dare life. After about an hour the rain drove them inside where they continued their games & dances in the large parlor. The children had a party downstairs & the elders were served tea, coffee, fruit punch, cream cake, ginger snaps & sugar cookies in the lounge where a miniature May pole stood on the mantle shelf.

At 5:15 we went to the Gamalgorde for the raising of the big May pole of the townsfolk. The first person to greet me was Mrs. Aspman whom we met on the Gripsholm who was very glad to see us & introduced us to her daughter Marianne, a secretary at University of Stockholme. We had just got inside the park whey the procession came along: 2 dignitaries on horseback followed by eight fiddlers in the costume previously described, then 2 horse drawn carts filled with children & decorated with the boughs & flowers, then the villagers in their traditional garb. Thousands of people poured into the park, many in peasant costume, many others very well dressed indeed. They came here from all over Sweden as well as from abroad. The hostess from our hotel arranged for a chair for me, everyone else walked or stood. A man gave a long speech over the public address system (lost on us) & then everybody joined in singing the national song. The people are so friendly, smile & try to talk to us & let us examine their lovely costumes & exquisite old jewelry some of which look like heirlooms. They erected the May pole just like the other one at the hotel only this one is much higher & took longer to get in place. Then the dancing began & the caller sang the folk songs while the others joined in. I recognized some of the tunes & works we had heard this afternoon. The dances are very lively & the crowd performed with great spirit. It looks good to see the oldsters & youngsters join hands & hop around together.

Dancing around the maypole, Sweden, 1948. Via.

They danced, we hear, until far into the night but we went back to the hotel about 9 o’clock & there was more dancing with most of the ladies in pretty evening dress. It never gets really dark at night, sunset, twilight & sunrise following each other closely.

Date: June 24, 1950

Church boat from Sollerön Island at Mora by the Lake Siljan in Dalecarlia, 1931. Photo by Berit Wallenberg. Via.

Today, Midsummer, they had services in the churches & the people went to Leksand to see the church boats (long narrow boats propelled by oars like Roman Galleys) filled with people in native dress come up the river to the church. The old church at Rättvik is also very interesting with log huts outside to accommodate horses in winter with cribs filled with hay.

This afternoon Mr. & Miss Aspman came to call and spent the afternoon with us. I ordered tea & they brought in a lovely assortment of cakes. We had a very pleasant chat & they stayed till dinner time.

Date: June 25, 1950                            

Location: En route to Östersund, Sweden

Vintage postcard, Sweden, c.1950. Via.

Left Siljansborg about 10 am in lovely weather & the ride was beautiful all the way. Saw some old folks on the road in peasant costume, evidently church ward bound, the usual cyclists manly of whom wave to us. Bicycles are often tied to the front of trolley cars. They are such friendly people. Am more & more impressed by the fine forests, lovely wild flowers which spread over the fields like thick oriental carpets, white [c………….] bells tinkling softly, the beautiful girls & children (I haven’t seen an ugly one yet.) The churches too are most interesting with their separate wooden belfries different in pattern in each district, and a flower bedecked church yard. We pass several picnic parties. They are wearing the briefest sun suits while we find our warm coats comfortable. We passed one turbulent stream with a lovely cascade & water churning over the rocks.

Vintage postcard, Sweden, no date. Via.

We stopped for lunch at a little hamlet, Hallefors Bruk, the restaurant most unprepossessing from the outside but very inviting inside (I had to go up about 8 steps). Every place is spotlessly clean here in Sweden & the inn keepers in the smallest places are so polite & neat in appearance. Here we had a delicious lunch with a new kind of bread I had never seen before & a sweet beer which was delicious.

A market in Östersund, Jämtland, Sweden, c. 1940-1959. Photo by Lundberg. Almquist & Cöster. Courtesy of the Swedish National Heritage Board.

We are now going into the province of Jämtland. We arrived at Standard Hotel Östersund, a most beautiful town on Lake Storsjön about 5 pm. At dinner we met a gentleman from the Gripsholm who introduced us to his brother & as we were at adjoining tables, we talked during the meal which was very good.

In our room on arrival we found some women’s clothes in the cupboard & soon the owner came in to claim them, a nice young Swedish girl who was born here but lives in Stockholm. She came back to a wedding, speaks fairly good English & told us about the trip she just made to Italy and Switzerland.

City hall in Östersund. Photo by Jesus Corrius, via.

After dinner we took a beautiful ride around the lake which she had recommended. We saw the aviation field with some the air corps, saw a ferry which crossed the lake on a cable & transports passengers free of charge (Mr. Andersen says all ferries are free in Sweden, operated by the govt. of course.) On the way back we saw the highlights of Östersund,. Here we first noticed mts. flecked with snow. Everywhere are wonderful flowers. The City Hall, High School & Hospital of Epidemiology were among the most impressive buildings, a large stadium, & wide, tree-lined avenues. We saw the most gorgeous sunset within my memory.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


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