I’m not usually one to brag, but here at Linnaeus University we actually have a castle on campus. Seriously.
Yes, I know I sound conceited. But hey, it’s pretty freaking cool, especially when your home university is well-known for being ugly even by U.S. standards.
Your campus might have a massive football stadium. Your campus might be in the heart of a major city like Stockholm. Or your campus might even have its own movie theater, or be located in Hawaii. But your campus doesn’t have Teleborgs Slott.
Teleborgs Slott (Swedish for “Teleborg Castle”) was built in 1900 by Swedish count Fredrik Bonde af Björnö as a wedding gift for his wife Anna Koskull. After the couple died in 1917, the castle was used as a hotel for young girls. Finally, the city of Växjö bought it in 1964 for – as legend says – one kronor.
Today, the castle is used for a variety of purposes, including weddings, city council meetings, conferences, and a 23-room hotel. But as a student, perhaps its best function is as the site for Sunday afternoon fikas, where from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. anyone can come and have coffee. And at only 22 kronor (about $3.50) per person, it’s even cheaper than a trip to Starbucks. But it serves another purpose as well: the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
When I was a kid, I owned enough Legos that if I had called the right people I probably would have set a world record. But of all the strange and bizarre things I spent countless hours building (and rebuilding, and then rebuilding some more), my favorite thing to build was castles. I’d imagine having all kinds of great adventures, usually involving dragons, treachery, blackmail, the impending end of the world and/or lots of unnecessary violence resulting in the deaths of virtually every non-essential character.
As I got older, my love affair with the archaic medieval architectural innovation took on different forms, from reading fantasy novels to watching sword-and-sorcery films such as “Lord of the Rings” to even trying to write my own novel (alas, it remains unfinished).
But for all my adoration – and even my parents visiting the famed Neuschwanstein in Germany – I had never actually seen a castle in person, Disneyland not included. Up through high school, and even my first couple years of college, I still dreamed of how cool it would be to actually visit one at some point.
Then I went abroad. If I were to tell you that having a castle on campus wasn’t a factor in my decision to come to Sweden, I’d be lying. Teleborgs Slott, though not large, was the first castle I ever saw in person, and though small, remains the prettiest I’ve seen so far – despite its eerie similarity to Hogwarts in the “Harry Potter” films (the real-life inspiration, perhaps?).
Yes, I’ve had some wild times in Sweden so far, but I’ve also had some more calming ones, too. And most of those calming ones, I’ve noticed, tend to happen in and around the vicinity of Teleborgs Slott. In terms of the most memorable times of my life, they’re definitely up there.
Normally this is where I’d tell you how beautiful the castle is, how it’s many parlors open to the public are exquisitely detailed, how the luscious grounds look they were used as background in a major motion picture or how the ivy growing along the Western side of the main façade gives the castle an overpoweringly romantic feel. But for the first time in my life, I’ve got nothing.
All I can say is this: words truly cannot describe how beautiful it is. Sure, studying abroad anywhere is great, but when you have something so overpoweringly beautiful on campus, it makes the whole experience even better.
So when I eventually go back to the U.S. and am feeling nostalgic, I just might unbox the Legos or try again at writing that novel.
And this time, my adventures would be based on a true story.