Midsummer 2020 has been one of the most bizarre in my life, filled with silence and a lack of cheeriness. I even got a sense of breaking the law.

The Channel.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

The Channel

On the brightest day of the year, when the sun barely goes down, there was a shadow hanging over me. All thanks to the Covid-19 virus, which parted us Norwegians from our dear neighbours in the east. The Swedes, known for their joyful midsummer celebrations, were almost absent at Kornsjø — a lake on the border.

Well, I must confess: Yes, we crossed the border. More than once. Mainly on the lake. We even went a couple of kilometres into Sweden, into a narrow channel, under a bridge, where some of us got worried.
Flying trouble in the air.

«Look out! There’s Batman!»

«Oh, is he that small? I’m not impressed.»

Not quite like that, these quotes were from another trip, but we joked about it now as well. Nevertheless, this time it was different. Now there was mention of bats and the Covid-19 virus, and we decided to turn back to Norway again.

Should we have been sentenced to 10 days of quarantine?

No, I do not think so. We did not meet any Swedes, other than at a safe distance, only on the water.

The Batman bridge is in the background
Acrylic on canvas 50 x70 cm
Painting: Tom Thowsen
The Channel from another trip where we used a canoe, in the happy days before the virus came.
Photo: Tom Thowsen

The Signs

Two border signs.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

In some places, Sweden is exceptionally near, so close that we can toss stones at each other. The island to the left is Sweden. The pole in the foreground, and the cabin as well, is in Norway. Hey, you`re bound to break the law when travelling by boat. There are no markings on the waves.

Hisøya island

Hisøya island.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

The next day we visited «riksrøys» number one, a border marker from 1752, situated on Hisøya island. As you can see, the trees are chopped away along the borderlines — all the way down to the watershed.

Here some noblemen greeted us. — Yes, it is true. We saw their monograms carved in stone, placed at the top of the cairn. Strong guys? Yeah. It must have been a difficult job for them, to stack all these rocks into this fantastic pile. Just look at the photo; how proud they look.

The guy to the right, he with the sword in his hand, is the reflection of Frederick V. He was a freemason who loved to party. Besides that, he was king of Denmark and Norway. He would indeed have joined our midsummer celebrations if he could.

Hmm, one other thing that caught my attention — his sword. Did he cut down all those trees on his own? All by himself?

The guy to the left, Adolf Frederick, was also a Freemason. But as a Swede, he loved snuff. His favourite hobby was making snuffboxes, which he allegedly spent a great deal of time doing. He was supposedly a good husband, a caring father, and a gentle master to his servants. Besides all that, he was also the king of Sweden. A hard-working man!

Hisøya island and the borderline.
Google Earth.

To make borders is a troublesome business—no wonder why they look so strange. Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes have argued about them for centuries. They have fought numerous wars and have been moving them back and forth and back again. Somewhere it follows a creek, and otherwhere it follows unexpected turns.

However, as this monument shows, they came to an agreement in 1752, or more precisely, one year previous, in 1751.

These kings did neither know that a crazy author of suspense books should pass this border 268 years later – illegally! Almost 1400 metres into Sweden. Still, nothing compared to getting illegally into Belarus. But that is another story.

Lake Kornsjø marked with a red square
My wife handles our boat near Hisøya island.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

After we met with the kings, we headed back to our boat and left Hisøya island while the wind whispered gently in our ears: “Everything will be fine. One day the borders will open again.”

One year later

A Swedish farm at Lake Kornsjø, which could resemble a typical summer residence for Norwegians.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

Since 2019, the borders had been closed almost like during WW2. Both our government and our citizens were tired of the whole situation. It was a living nightmare for those who lived in one country and had to work in the other. They really had a hard time those days.

The same goes for those who had summer houses on the wrong side of the border. It went on for many months.

In the media, we heard of a desperate Norwegians caught while they illegally travelled by helicopter to their summer residence in Sweden. Apparently not a good choice. Noisy and expensive too.

I also read about one incident where a police squad hunted a 60-year-old woman. She had received a briefcase on the border. The poor, terrified woman left her car and ran far into the woods before they caught her. Mostly cigarettes, which are much cheaper in Sweden.

From the Norwegian side of Lake Kornsjø. With a view towards Sweden.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2021

In the meanwhile, I improve my self-discipline with stone balancing. This one lasted for five minutes. It was blowing in the wind that whispered: It will be over soon …

It luckily happened some months later, in 2022

PS. This sculpture would generally have fallen over to the right due to gravity. So why didn’t it? A crack in the bedrock holds it fast.

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