Monday, June 29, 2009

New Elf Mountain

Joe On an island at the mouth of the river Göta lies Nya Älvsborg Fastning, where I spent a pleasant few hours wandering about this morning. It's the "new" fortress only in relative terms, as it was built in the 17th century to replace the old Älvsborg fortress, which the Swedes had recently decided they needed to tear down. The old fortress, unfortunately, was good for nothing except as a revenue source for the government of Denmark: when the Danish king was running low on funds, he'd simply send his navy over to capture Älvsborg fortress, and then ransom it back to the Swedes for a lot of money (indulging in an age old Viking tradition, there). So in the end the Swedes decided the cheapest thing to do was just tear the place down and build a new one. To this end, they hired the leading fortification expert of the day and set out to fortify the island of Kyrkogårdsborg. Alas, construction took so long that by the time the fort was in service, it was also completely obsolete. Despite this fact, the new fortress worked out much better than the old one, fending off not one but two Danish invasion fleets.

Nowadays, of course, it's a tourist attraction, complete with comedic actors in historical garb. The comic troupe has also done the informative audio guide for the island, which is a nice change of pace. Instead of lot's of rambling on about what was built when, the audio guide is a series of historical conversations that could have happened in various locations about the fort. In one, King Vasa demands enough warm, sweaty cheese so that he can bathe in it, and when he is told there is no cheese on the island he vows instead to invade Denmark, give away Finland, and kill every Swedish male under the age of 26. In another, the erstwhile commandant of the fort mistakes a passing seagull for an aerial Danish invasion fleet.

I don't know how much I learned, but it did make for an entertaining morning. If you care to see more pictures of overgrown fortifications, check out the gallery.

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