Midsummer 2020 has been one of the strangest 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 has 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. Most on the lake. We even went 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 Covid-19 virus, and we decided to turn back to Norway again.

Should we have been sentenced to a 10 days quarantine?

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

The Batman bridge in the background.
Photo: Tom Thowsen
The Channel from another trip where we used canoe, in the happy days before the virus came.
Photo: Tom Thowsen

The Signs

Two border signs.
Photo: Tom Thowsen 2020

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

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 surely have joined our midsummer celebrations if he could.

Hm, 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 to make snuffboxes, which he allegedly spent a great deal of time doing. Supposedly a good husband, a caring father, and a gentle master to his servants. Besides all that, he was also 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 show, 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 get illegally into Belarus. But that is another story.

Lake Kornsjø marked with a red square
My wife at the beach of 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 last year, the borders are more closed than ever, not since WW2. Both our government and our citizens have got tired of the whole situation. It is a living nightmare for those who live in one country and work in the other. They really have a hard time these days.

But it is not easy for those who have summer houses on the wrong side of the border, either, which they have not visited for many months.

In the media, we heard of a desperate Norwegian caught while illegally travelling by helicopter to his summer residence in Sweden. Apparently not a good choice. Noisy and expensive.

A few weeks ago, loads of police forces were hunting a 60-year-old woman who had received a briefcase on the border. The poor, terrified woman left her car and ran 20 kilometres into the woods before they caught her. Mostly cigarettes, which are much cheaper in Sweden.

A big drama certainly worth the efforts …

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, who whispered: It will be over soon …

PS. I have to confess that this sculpture would normally have fallen over to the right due to gravity. So why didn’t it? — The secret lies in the foundation. The bottom stone has been placed into a crack in the bedrock, which holds it fast.

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