December 13, 2017, Lucia Day in Sweden, a very important day culturally.
MOBILE, Alabama, ”the best city in the USA.”
”the best city in the USA.” is what Sweden´s (second most important) author, Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, said in the 1860s. Almqvist was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1793 and died in Bremen, Germany, in 1866. Almqvist spent the years between 1851 and 1865 in America, mainly in Philadelphia, but traveled extensively in the USA.
Almqvist was a genius, unfortunately too modern for his own times. Almqvist managed to construct the Swedish school system before he left his country. Almqvist was a romantic writer and still would have fitted in today as he was a very early Feminist.
Yesterday, was the dramatic election in Alabama of a Senator for the US Senate where feminism played an odd role. That triggered my memory of Carl Jonas Love Almqvist and especially his love for Mobile, Alabama.
I had been curious about what Almqvist had seen in Mobile, and had the chance to see the town on a drive between Denver, Colorado and Orlando, Florida.
Mobile was well worth my visit. The old part of town today is restored and lovely and looks like it must have looked in the mid-1800s.
The Old Spanish Trail, or route 98, out of Mobile going east is a beautiful experience. And there is also the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park just outside the town. That would be interesting for a family with young boys. Interesting for Dads also. (For Mom?)
I had a great meal in a HUGE building, bigger than a barn, on the reef 3 miles east of downtown Mobile: Felix´s Fish Camp Restaurant.
Another restaurant I found and to which I´d like to return is Tropics Bar and Grill on 5872 Battleship Parkway, in Spanish Fort, just at the foot of a bridge on Route 98, about 8 miles from Downtown Mobile. The view is very inspiring.
When I went to school, they taught Almqvist´s writing. Today, many people in Sweden have not heard about him unfortunately. He is among the people who have shaped the Swedish way of thinking in the 1800s. Almqvist happened to live in the Romantic Era. For instance, he and some friends “went back to nature” the way the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) preached. Almqvist and his friends were farmers for a while in the wooded area in Värmland near the Norwegian border. The house is still there, well taken care of by people from the Almqvist Society.
We have several touch points. In 2012 we moved our Swedish home from the Stockholm area to Upplands Väsby, halfway between the capital and the city of Uppsala. From the time Almqvist was three years old till he was fifteen he lived in Upplands Väsby. He described his childhood on a country estate 200 years ago as an idyll. The square in front of our train station in Upplands Väsby is called the “Love Almqvists Torg.”
And another touch point with Almqvist is our country home I Värmland about 10 miles from Almqviststugan, his little cottage in the dense forest where he played at being a farmer for a few years around 1820. There he married a country girl and they had a daughter. The daughter was his contact in Sweden during his years abroad and we know so much about him through his letters to the daughter.
Mobile, Alabama. It is lovely. When I feel like it I shall take my little dog with me and drive there again, follow the Gulf coast, possibly take a detour to the lovely and artsy Cedar Key on route 24 north of Tampa. I will plan the trip over some Saturday and Sunday. In the USA it is so pleasant to travel through small towns on Saturdays and Sundays as people in small towns put on special “Days” at their market squares over weekends. We people are after all flock-animals, and seek any reason for festivities.
(The foremost Swedish author is August Strindberg, born and died in Stockholm, 1849-1912)
Have a great day, S.