Fruity artworks in Sweden’s big apple

Christine Demsteader discovers that for one village in southern Sweden the humble apple is more than a healthy snack: a push to support Swedish farmers led a local artist to turn apples into an art form.

The year 1987 was crunch time for the Swedish apple. The combined forces of the then- EEC and the USA posed a threat to apple farmers’ livelihoods. But local producers in southern Sweden decided to bite back. And their fight proved so fruitful they even made it into the record books.

The sleepy fishing town of Kivik in Skåne hosts the annual apple market from 28-30 September. More than a few stalls and traders, this event celebrates the campaign to spread the word about the goodness of the Swedish apple.

Twenty years ago, calls were made to break down barriers in the fruit trade. The EEC and US demanded that Sweden’s embargo on fruit imports during the country’s high produce season, should be scrapped.

Farmers feared the foreign fruit invasion would hit their pockets hard. Meanwhile, producers voiced concern about the quality of imports, due to the use of certain pesticides abroad, which were banned in Sweden.

The bid to save the Swedish apple began and a healthy mass media campaign kicked off around the country to increase consumer awareness. A Swedish apple a day would keep the foreign crop at bay.

Hardcore activists hailed from Skåne, the region where around 80 percent of all Swedish apples are grown.

The ban was successfully lifted but the crusade continued. Bringing the Swedish apples to the people, the first market dedicated to the fruit opened in October 1988 in Kivik. For a town of 2,000, the onslaught of apples proved a quirky hit with tourists and pulled in around 6,000 visitors.

“They couldn’t stop the ban from happening,” says market organiser Anna Bjurnemark. “But the campaign was about making consumers more interested in Swedish apples and that’s why people showed their support.”

“Today, it’s important to talk about the climate,” Bjurnemark adds. “You don’t have to transport fruit all over the world and we have good, well produced, home-grown fruit here in Sweden.”

Now in its 20th year, the annual festival has grown in size and stature and the survival of the Swedish apple has, for the most part, been secured in its wake.

“At one time, you would find several hundred varieties,” Bjurnemark says. “Nowadays, there are around 15 different types in Sweden; the most popular being Aroma, Gravensteiner and Ingrid-Marie.”

HM Queen Silvia will officially open the event this year where over 20,000 people are expected to sample the delights of the Swedish apple from around 100 producers on show.

You can also try your hand at cider-making and such is the carnival atmosphere, a number of staple Swedish artists are performing on stage to support the cause.

But the eye-catching showpiece of the weekend is the traditional apple painting, a custom which dates back to the first market. Artist Helge Lundström had been working with apple sculpture since the late 60s but his 1987 creation wowed the crowds.

In 1998, his painting of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the world largest apple artwork ever. Then again, no one is quite sure whether anyone else has ever tried using apples as palette and canvas before.

Lundström’s daughter Emma Karp has now taken the helm as apple artist in residence. This year marks her seventh painting.

And it’s quite a feat; 104 square metres, 35,000 apples of 7 varieties, a team of 9 artists and five days to complete it.

“Working with natural material that grows here, in the region I live, is something quite special,” Karp says.

“When you see it for real it’s a sensational experience,” she adds. “When the sun is shining on the apples they have a special depth you can’t see from just a picture and it smells wonderful too. Many people come especially for the painting alone – that’s what brings them back.”

The logistics of keeping the huge design under wraps are not easy. But a big screen hides the painting, which is a closely guarded secret, until it is ceremoniously unveiled. “With the market in its 20th jubilee year, there will be some reminders of time gone by and a look back to my father’s work,” Karp says.

And when the weekend festivities subside, the apple painting stands tall and is exhibited for another month, before the rot sets in.

Yet, apples are not the only fruit for art. Or even vegetables for that matter. For the rest of the year, Karp works as gardener and landscape artist, using her terrain as a workshop. She is currently considering extending her repertoire and venturing into pumpkin and root vegetable painting in the near future.

Indeed, the Skåne region is a hotbed when it comes to paying homage to their fruit and vegetables. With Pear Day in Båstad and the Asparagus Festival in Skillinge, the southern Swedes are keen to show that when it comes to greens, they really know their onions.

For more information on the apple market and apple painting:


How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules