Monday, April 9, 2007


On a large plateau with a view over the Kungsbacka river and the fjord beyond, there was a village. It had been there, as far as anyone supposed, for generations, stretching back deeply into the Middle Ages. Around a dozen farms with their barns and stables; home fields held closely and outer fields escaping to the river, where hooves sunk into the soft ground. Fences of wood and stone, ditches, paths. Every so often a house burned, fell into disrepair, or was deemed obsolete, salvaged, and rebuilt. Again and again houses rose upon the remains of their predecessors. Like the cells of a human body, the houses were replaced, but still it was the same village; still it was Varla.

It even was Varla in the 1960s, when I was there. Hand-in-hand my grandfather and I took sugar cubes and apples to the horses stabled down the dusty road. With trepidation I observed the hay-bailing machine in the summer pasture, suffered a wasp-sting and burning nettles, but nothing clouds the sunshine in my memory.

Today much of the plateau is covered with typical, tasteful, functional Swedish homes, lining up along the streets that arch their way around the hilltop. In between now and then, though, came the archaeologists, looking for history and traces of earlier times.

Who lived there before? Would you believe it? Women in woven aprons and bronze brooches, keys dangling, in longhouses by hearth-light weaving sails for the ships that plundered and traded. Men in peaked Viking-helmets and riders with iron spurs and gleaming silver buckles of twisted animal limbs. Meat roasting in pit-ovens and bread baking on heated stones. Wells dug, and wells filled in with refuse. Births, deaths and burials following upon each other as times and habits went through their slow changes.

Is my Varla is gone? Is it gone, too, the Varla that nurtured the Bronze Age, the Vendel Age, the Viking Age and generations more? Once again we’ve built upon past structures seemingly obliterated. I wonder if, this time, it is still the same village. Is the old grown new again, or is it just layers?


  1. Beautiful. I'll be in Varla this summer. I wonder if I will be able to find a sugar cube and a horse for my daughter to feed it to?

  2. No shortage of sugar cubes, I'd imagine, but horses? Not so much.

  3. Ritha Magnusson SpitzJanuary 28, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    I was for a moment home in Varla!
    It was a bittersweet visit.
    kramar Mamma

  4. It's all still there, in our memories and in the earth.