The only real place of interest in Belkinge is the handsome town of KARLSKRONA, the provincial capital, which really is something special and merits, say, a day or so of your time. Set on the largest link in a chain of breezy islands, this fine example of Baroque exuberance, founded by Karl XI in 1680, is unique in southern Sweden.
No sooner had the base for the Swedish Baltic fleet been chosen (the seas here are ice-free in winter) than architects from across the country were dispatched to draw up plans for the town’s grid of wide avenues and grand buildings. These were to provide the classical purity and Baroque splendour commensurate with a town destined to become Sweden’s second city. Built to accommodate the king’s naval parades, Karlskrona’s original layout has survived intact, a fact which has earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, despite the anonymous blocks plonked between the town’s splendid churches.
Today, cadets in uniform still career around its streets, many of which are named after Swedish admirals and battleships; the town’s biggest museum is, unsurprisingly, dedicated to maritime history.Read More
Located on the tiny island of Stumholmen at the foot of Kyrkogatan, Karlskrona’s Marinmuseum has a facade like a futuristic Greek temple; a portrait of Karl XI, who had the navy moved from Stockholm to Karlskrona in 1680, features in the hallway, a pet lion at his feet gazing up at the king’s most unappealing, bloated face. Down a spiral staircase from here is a transparent underwater tunnel offering a view of hundreds of fish in the murky depths. The best room, though, contains the figureheads designed and made by the royal sculptor to the navy, Johan Törnström. King Gustav III declared that ships of the line should be named after manly virtues, and so have male figureheads, while frigates have female ones. Among the finest is one made for the ship Försiktigheten (Prudence; 1784) – a metre-long foot, perfectly proportioned and complete with toenails.
A beggar’s tale
A beggar’s tale
Outside the entrance to Kungliga Amiralitetskyrkan, take a look at one of the city’s best-known landmarks: the wooden statue of Rosenbom, around which hangs a sorrowful tale. Mats Rosenbom, one of the first settlers on Trossö island, lived nearby with his family and earned his keep in the shipyard. However, after a fever killed six of his children and left him and his wife too ill to work, he applied for, and was granted, a beggar’s licence. One New Year’s Eve, while begging at the homes of leading townspeople, he became somewhat drunk from the festive wine on offer and forgot to raise his hat to thank the wealthy German figurehead carver, Fritz Kolbe. When admonished for this, Rosenbom retorted, “If you want thanks for your crumbs to the poor, you can take my hat off yourself!” Enraged, Kolbe struck him between the eyes and sent him away, but the beggar, unable to make it home, froze stiff and died in a snowdrift by the church. Next morning, Kolbe found the beggar frozen to death and, filled with remorse, carved a figure of Rosenbom which stands at the spot where he died. It’s designed so that you have to raise his hat yourself to give some money.