This is a true story.
Doc in Central Maine to patient: "How far did you travel to see me?"
Patient: "I came from Sweden."
Amazed that his reputation had spread half-way around the world, the doctor excitedly said, "Oh wow! You must be so jet lagged!"
Patient looked at him quizzically and said, "Um, no."
The doc was later informed by his colleagues that Sweden is the on other side of the roundabout at the main entrance of the hospital! This roundabout also anchors Norway and Poland and China. Denmark, and Egypt are nearby.
Welcome to Maine.
The reasons for naming towns after distant countries cover a wide spectrum: some reasons are religious, other names reflect the towns that the early settlers came from, and some names are rooted in the fact that early Mainers had fought in the Revolutionary War and had enormous sympathy for countries that were experiencing their own revolutionary struggles at the time.
China dates back to 1774 when the Clark family settled there and wanted to name the town Bloomfield. After the residents objected that the name would collide with a neighboring town, the patriarch chose the name China, paying homage to his favorite hymn. Poland and Bangor are likely named after hymns as well.
Norway is home to lyrical Lake Pennesseewassee reflecting the Native American roots that predate the Europeans. The settlers had named this town Rustfield after a resident with the last name Rust. From there, the residents attempted to rename it "Norage" which means falls, but the town planners thought it was a misspelling of Norway and changed it.
Denmark honors the country by the same name. The town is site of Camp Wyonegonic, which was founded in 1902 and hosts the oldest girls camp in the country. The soil here is stony and sandy making it difficult to farm crops other than potatoes, corn and oats. However, the town has excellent sources of water that have successfully been harnessed by companies like Poland Springs, whose bottled water you must have had at some point in your life.
Falmouth, Yarmouth, Leeds and Acton are named after the English hometowns of settlers. Belgrade is named in solidarity with its sister city in Serbia undergoing political strife at the time. Then there is Moscow named after the Russian city fighting a Napoleonic invasion when the settlers were looking for a name.
This weekend, we visited Pietree Orchard in Sweden. It took over an hour of driving on winding backroads to reach the orchard. Under a canopy of stunning New England fall colors, it occurred to me that THIS is truly the middle of absolutely nowhere. There was no cell signal, no interstates, no strip malls; just meandering brooks, rolling hills, one-store, one-church, one-crossroad towns, an occasional home next to the road, and long driveways to homes deep in the woods. Without cell, we had a heck of a time navigating back from the orchard and reminisced about the benefits of the ye olde Triptik planners from AAA.
I can just hear the ancients among us are going, "Ahhh, Triptiks!!"
Despite the isolationist political mess we are stewing in right now, it was soul-warming to see signs to countries I have visited or wish to visit and to know that the early settlers felt such a deep bond with far away places. May doctors moving into Maine from more connected corners make the leap that you can whip around the world in less than 90 minutes here and that jet lag can't possibly be a thing in Central Maine.
This trip to Falmouth and Sweden proved that "Vacationland", seen on local license plates, is a perfect tag line for the mystique of Maine.