It is June 1888 and the city of Sundsvall is laying in ashes…….again……
To be precise this is now the fourth time since the Russian Army caused the first fire in 1721. This time an accident was to blame – a spark from a passing steam boat had set a local brewery alight and the strong winds on that day together with the dry weather conditions took full advantage of the fact that most of the buildings were made of locally sourced timber.
The resulting damage and devastation was huge, but as it was the era of the timber barons, this time there was enough money available not only to rebuild, but to think “big”:
Solide stone buildings replaced the timber structures in the center of the town and now no expense was spared to show the world that Art Nouveau was not just reserved to Paris or to wealthy metropolitan areas in Central Europe.
A shining relict of this time is Hotel Knaust right in the center of Sundsvall.
When entering this iconic building, the visitor’s view is immediately drawn to the center piece of the hotel – the magnificent staircase made of Carrara marble, which for many years has been the place to be to welcome the New Year in this part of the world.
Having enjoyed this view and sensed its history ( once a Swedish cavalry officer is said to have ridden up his horse on these steps and at another time the hotel entertained the King of Thailand while he was visiting the region…),….
I am heading for the other great feature of this place : the Room of Mirrors.
With one nightshift at the moment chasing the next at the veterinary clinic, I had decided to have a lie-in today and instead of a normal breakfast I would treat myself to an extended lunch before going to work.
It was a decision I didn’t regret: while sitting on the far end of this beautiful ballroom taking in the whole scenery, I was enjoying an excellent Nordic Bouillabaisse accompanied by a fresh salat and still warm homemade bread.
This was followed by good coffee and fresh pastries while I took my time to improve my language skills with a couple of local newspapers.
My only regret was that I couldn’t enjoy a glass of wine with the fish….well, may be next time…..
Even the bill for these two hours of absolute delight was a pleasant surprise: with just over £10 I was wondering if I was really in one of the most expensive countries in the world?……
Needless to say that this was a great start to another 16 hours of emergency care and it shows that the best experiences in life often don’t cost a lot of money, you just need to open your eyes (and your mind) to spot the outstanding among the normal, especially while working and traveling.