Marianne Wie visits the country’s Pippi Longstocking-inspired theme park with her family
Crossing the bridge that divides Denmark from Sweden, we are coming towards the end of our drive, heading past fields and farms in Småland, Sweden. This is the area where Scandinavia’s much-loved children’s author and creator of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, was born and raised. And it was here she found much of the inspiration for the 50 books she wrote during her lifetime.
Una and Elin, both 11, and Monty, seven, are full of excitement as we head through the gates of Astrid Lindgren’s World. Suddenly, we have stepped into a retro fairytale full of colourful wooden villages. Mrs Prysselius, the hilariously eccentric character from the Pippi books, is pedalling past us on her bicycle, inviting us to join her for coffee and cake.
Nevertheless, not to be sidetracked, we head towards Villekulla Cottage ready to catch Pippi’s first performance of the day. The happy, red-haired, freckled girl gives the audience a lively show, as she rescues her dad from a group of dancing pirates. We are invited into the house to join the actors, who remain in character, singing Pippi songs.
When it comes to lunch, we are spoilt for choice. There are lots of cute restaurants selling the local dishes mentioned in Lindgren’s stories; from meatballs and mash to salmon with potatoes and dill. Not a burger in sight! A picnic area with benches and barbecues is ready for visitors who have brought their own food. The entire park is run in the spirit of Lindgren, who wanted to inspire children and parents to read more together. This is what actually seems to happen here, as families fall in love with many of her other characters during their visit.
The story of The Brothers Lionheart becomes the children’s new favourite: good winning over evil, the heavy emotions of loss, not to mention an enormous dragon firing out real flames! Two of the three kids in our party don’t speak Swedish, but are entirely engaged in the performances. After two days, we leave the park with lovely memories and a hunger to start reading the books we carry home in our rucksacks. Just as Lindgren intended.
Want more? Here’s a postcard from Turkey