The trip out to the Kronoberg's castle ruin can give more than just a glimpse of the castle.
Just before the bridge that connects land with the castle there is an older red house, which is called "Ryttmästaregården". When I was there in the beginning of January it was all closed, but at least in the summer there is a very nice café. The building is from the end of the 1700s or the beginning of the 1800s. The roof is made of peat and looks very genuine.
Originally it was used as a house for the riding lieutenants in the Swedish army, but was then placed on another spot (Urshults socken) outside Växjö. In 1940 it was moved to the Kronoberg's castle ruin.
Today it's just mostly as a café, but there are also held conferences, christmas food dinners and evenings with speed dating.
8-10 minutes drive outside Växjö city center you'll find the old ruins of the castle Kronoberg. It's from the 1400s, bishop Lars Michelson started to build a house of stone here in 1444. The Danish army invaded and destroyed it during a war 1469, but it built up again when the war ended in 1472.
Most famous it is from the Dacke revolt, when the rebel Nils Dacke invaded the castle in 1542 and then stayed there with his men during the winter.
When the revolt ended the bishops took the castle back, but during the reformation it was taken by the Swedish king Gustav Vasa.
The castle is situated on a small island in the lake Helgasjön, but it's just about 25 meters from land and there is a bridge connecting with the island. It has been possible to enter inside the castle, but when I visited the gate was locked, due to the risk of stones falling down on visitors. It's still possible to walk over the bridge and reach the wall though.
As with the rune stone at the Växjö Cathedral there isn't much information or protection around the castle. A sign give some info about a Danish attack during the 1500s, that was easily avoided by the king's defence, when the few hundred Danish riders realised it would be a bad idea to try to attack a whole castle with just riders.
What the sign doesn't say though is that Danish armies invaded the castle in the 1400s, 1500s as well as 1612.
Today it's an interesting sight, although I feel sorry that the Swedish state doesn't take better care of such a historical place. It lays very nicely at the beginning of the lake, and the view is very nice.
One can't walk around the castle though, as the walls reach all the way out to the water line.
According to the Sigfrid legend the English bishop Sigfrid came to Sweden during the 1100s to teach the Swedes about christianity. He was told by God to build a church and so he did what's today Växjö Cathedral.
The church is far from the original though, as it burnt down a first time already 1276. The next one, probably in gothic style, was burnt down by the Danish army about 300 years later, and then again in 1740 after a lightning stroke the church' two towers.
In 1960 the cathedral got its latest re-make. It's a quite unique sight, with the two towers and the colourful building that lights up the surroundings.
The church is not very big as it's always been other cities in the area which has been more important for the religion. It's Växjö's tallest building though, standing up 63 meters over the ground. It can be seen from far away and it's for sure worth a visit. With the white colour inside it reminds me a bit about the protestant church in Helsinki, but I would say that the outside is more impressive than the inside.
If I found it quite logical to find a statue of the church's first bishop Sigfrid outside the cathedral I was a bit more surprised to find the rune stone on the backside.
Tyke Viking's stone was found inside one of the church walls in 1812 and is now placed outside, standing freely. No information sign or protection, so it looks really strange.
The text on the stone apparently means "Tyke - Tyke Wiking - raised this stone after Gunnar, Grim's son. May God help his soul". At the end there is also a short christian prayer.
A bit upsetting that the stone isn't better taken care of. It's starting to get green and is in big need of a wash.
The English bishop Sigfrid is according to the legends the man behind the cathedral in Växjö, and naturally he also stands statue outside the church.
In the Sigfrid legend it's said that he was sent to Sweden to teach the Swedes about christianity. The legend wasn't written until about 200 years later though, and it's not sure it's the correct one.
According to it Sigfrid was the bishop of York and was sent to Sweden by the English king. He came here with his sister's sons via Denmark and immediately started to build the church.
While Sigfrid was away to baptise the Swedish king Olof Skötkonung some of the locals in Växjö attacked the sons and beheaded them. When Sigfrid returned to the city he found the heads floating on a wooden box in the lake.
The German priest Adam of Bremen told another story though, saying that Sigfrid came to Sweden via Norway from England. In his texts he says that Sigfrid came from England together with the Norwegian king Olof den helige, who later became a saint.
In any case, Sigfrid's statue is standing right outside the cathedral, and there are plenty of places in Växjö that is named after him.
My main intention to drive up all the way to Sweden (instead of flying and then renting a car) was to visit the Kingdom of Glass and do some shopping. Already before my trip I have looked at the websites of the several glass manufacturers to get a rough idea of what I wanted to buy. Of course, everyone knows Kosta-Boda, the most famous among all these manufacturers but the other ones have also very beautiful and even better products. Especially Bergdala’s work caught my attention: they have beautiful utility glassware with a bright blue rim, called blåkant.
I spend three days in this amazing region and visited seven of the thirteen manufacturers. I was lucky to had a good advisor with Klas Nystrand, the owner of Bergdala Wärdshus (see accommodation) where I stayed. He pointed me out to the best and most interesting glass manufacturers and shops. While visiting the production sites I was especially amazed how easy it is to get inside and that we visitors could walk around almost everywhere. In several of the productions, visitors can sit on wooden benches (type sport stadium) to watch the glass blowers at work. Some had special work with coloured glass to demonstrate, which was of course more interesting. In addition to the production, each manufacturer also has a shop (different sizes – see shopping section) and a show room where they display exceptional work.
General recommendations about visiting glass works factories:
* Look at their websites first to get an idea of what they are famous for. Then it is easier to choose which one you would like to visit.
* Take into account that the workers work from 7 a.m. to latest 4 p.m., so you might like to get up early in case you want to visit several during one day.
* Plan some time for shopping. Make notes of what you would like to buy before you go. You will be overwhelmed by the selections anyhow, so it is good to know what to expect.
* It is possible to visit several manufacturers during one day, but look at the distances first. The biggest distance in Kingdom of Glass is from Bergdala to Nybro, according to google 54 km and 1 hour to drive. Actually a bit more because there is roadwork on road 25 between Eriksmåle and Nybro (between Eriksmåle and the turn-off to Boda to be precise). They are expanding the road and according to the sign it will be finished not before end 2010.
* if you visit a factory, please ask if it is allowed to take photos. In several cases it is not allowed due to the legitimate fear of the usual “dragonland” counterfeits. If you take photos, use the “sport” setting on your camera. Be aware that the light conditions inside the factories is often not good for taking photos. Try and avoid flash when the guys are working on the objects (it distracts them).
The ones I visited and what I thought about them (details to the locations are in the shopping section):
Simply the best!! They are the masters, have held several glass blowing workshops all over the world, they have excellent students each year and they work with several interesting and fascinating techniques. The location is magnificent, set back in the forest, surrounded by meadows and birch trees, a lake nearby. The only downside for me (in August) was that they did not work in summer but start again in September until December 13.
Entry to the factory: no fee.
It is interesting to watch, because they work both on the utility glass (the blåkant dishes) and on decoration objects. It is fascinating to see how they make plates and cups, I will upload more photos on my Bergdala page. But also the making of these happy angels (see shopping section) is fascinating. Highly recommended!
I have uploaded the photos I took inside Bergdala’s factory several albums: Blåkant plate making and Bergdala’s showroom.
Entry to the factory: no fee.
Åfors belongs now to the Kosta group but they manufacture the design objects. Therefore a visit of the factory is exciting, provided they make special things. But already the equipment is interesting to see, because many steps are made with the help of machines, like cutting. I saw a special glass work in this factory (no, not how they made it but the result), a “ship”, which is also shown in Kosta’s movie. I didn’t dare to take photos, because there was no special watching area and the guys were too busy working.
Entry to the factory: no fee with glass pass, 30 SEK without (Aug. 09).
Visiting Boda’s factory was fun. In retrospective, this was the best visit for me. They have a huge watching area and the two glass blowers really enjoyed both, their work and “entertaining” us spectators. When I came, they have just started to make a rooster and photography was not a problem at all. In addition, it was quite bright inside, so the photos came out rather good. See my several travelogues of the making of a glass rooster.
Entry to the factory: no fee with glass pass, 30 SEK without (Aug. 09).
Visiting the Kosta factory was different. Maybe my expectations were too high because of their famous name or maybe they just didn’t make any exciting stuff. On the other hand, the factories are not there to entertain us but to work what is demanded and on the production plan. And if it is utility glasses, then it is utility glasses, like during the day when I was there. Of course, given the fame and size of Kosta, the production hall is huge. But I was still amazed that we all could walk around almost as we wanted. They had a little watching area next to the drinking glass making sites, which was nevertheless also interesting to watch. Photography was no problem and I have added mine into several albums about making vases, glasses and showroom exhibition.
Entry to the factory: no fee with glass pass, 30 SEK without (Aug. 09).
At Målerås, they have developed a new technique with glass. Instead of only blowing objects, they cast three-dimensional objects and engrave these. The result is quite beautiful artwork, although one must like it because it might appear a bit kitschy. Nevertheless, it is art and from the process, it is more hand work involved due to the engraving processes. When I was there, I saw a glass blower working on an angel (usual blowing) but this one involved several fascinating steps with adding gold foil on one of the glass layers. I made many photos but have added only some to my Målerås album because of the artist’s legitimate fear of being counterfeited. The gold foil technique is quite known among the workers though. There is an interesting video of Målerås glass works on their homepage.
Entry to the factory: no fee.
One can watch the skilled craftsmen demonstrating the glass blowing process and experience the true artistic feeling for glass. Do check out the website below for visting schedule. A worthwhile trip not to be missed. Don't forget to drop by the store and feast your eyes with those irresistible handmade glasswares.
This church is also very old, of approx. the same age as the aforementioned Granhult’s church (early 13th century). And I also found it (like Granhult church) through my Freytag & Berndt maps. It is one of the few remaining Swedish churches with painted wooden ceiling and plaster walls, although the paintings on the walls are quite faded. But this makes it even more fascinating because it involves a lot of imagination to find out what or who the paintings represent. According to the leaflet, they are scenes of Old and New Testament. Several parts of the church have been removed in 18th century, when the new church was built and this one was used as a granary. Among the removed parts was the chancel, now only the so-called triumphal arch is left. It has two paintings which are better preserved than the ones at the wall and show Knut, patron of Denmark and Katherina of Alexandria. An interesting detail is a runic inscription below the painting of Knut. According to the information table it reads skrþe fus Sigmundes skrifaði os and means Sigmund painted us. I don’t know how many artists’ signatures in runic writing are exisiting but I think it is not many. Next to the arch is a beautiful old wooden altarpiece (it looks like one) with most probably St. Olaf (of Norway) again, because there is a figure below his feet and he seems to have an axe in his hand. But neither in the leaflet nor on any of the information table anything was mentioned about this beautiful piece.
The church is opened all year round. No entrance fee is claimed but it would be good to leave a donation in the box. The ongoing restauration work of the wall paintings must cost a fortune!
A little leaflet can be bought for a small fee (10 SEK) which describes the wooden ceiling pictures in detail, although in Swedish only. But it has an English and German brief description as well.
If you like, have a look at the three albums on my Dädesjö page with more photos of interior and exterior of the little church.
Dädesjö is located northeast of Växjö. Take road 23 and turn off to the right (east) at Skåtaryd. Once you approach Dädesjö, follow the signs and turn left (north) into the little village. The little church is opposite of the new church (the new one visible through its spire).
Location of Dädesjö Gamla Kyrka on Google Maps
Granhult kyrka (= church) is the most beautiful church I ever saw. Yes, even compared to Basilica San Marco’s glittering splendor. It is the simple beauty, the painted wooden interior, which made this little church so exceptional for me. From the outside it looks rather simple, covered all over with weathered shingles. I found the birch trees left and right of the entrance very cute, something like a welcome sign, or maybe a remains of last midsummer?
According to the leaflet, the church was built around 1220, completely in wood. Inside it is painted all over: walls, ceilings, the chancel, the little vestry. Many of the paintings are of “newer” date (17-18th century) though, but this didn’t take away the really breathtaking feeling I had inside. The paintings on the main ceiling are depicting God’s throne in heaven (see photo). The ones in the vestry are scenes of the Old Testament, mainly Adam and Eve in paradise and Abraham’s sacrifice, painted by the artist Johan Christian Zschotzscher. There is an interesting little opening in the chancel (closed now) which, according to the information displayed outside of the church, is a hagioscope, a hole through which people who were not allowed to enter the church, either because they were sick or because they had committed a crime, could watch the mass. On the wall opposite of the altar is a little statue, of St. Olaf (of Norway) with axe and a figure below his feet. It is quite interesting to read about him on Wikipedia (see link) because it explains a lot about early Scandinavian history.
Take your time to visit this church. It won’t be crowded, and the people who come for a visit will respect the serenity. When I was there, everyone who entered the church was speechless in view of these magnificent paintings and atmosphere.
The church is open daily and there is no entrance fee. But it would be good to leave a donation in the little box below the St. Olaf statue. I found the sign there very much moving and it served the purpose:
You have seen me and maybe admired me,
I am old and fragile, please help to maintain me,
Please put a coin in the box,
That’s what the church’s committee is asking for. Thanks.
If you like, you can look at the six albums on my Granhult page, it will give you more ideas of the church’s interior and the surroundings.
From Växjö, drive northeast, direction Lenhovda. It is north of Lenhovda, on road 31, between the villages/hamlets of Vithult and Markhult on the eastern side of the road. There is a sign which says Granhults k:a (k:a = kyrka, church), but it is a white sign, not a brown one with reference to historical sights (which is do not understand due to this beauty of the church). After turning off road 31, it is approx. 1 km to drive/walk/cycle.
Location of Granhult Kyrka on Google Maps
I was delighted to see that Lessebo, which was on my way to the glass factories and back to my home at Bergdala almost every day, has not only a paper factory but also a hand dipping paper manufacturing. This hand made paper is being produced in a separate building, outside of the factory complex, which makes it easy and less time-consuming to visit. My guide said that they have found the old machines during renovation end of 19th century and have restored them to be able to produce paper in the traditional way, but for more exclusive use. It was and is still used now for official government documents or for private use in certificates, or just letters and as watercolour paper. In addition to the hand made paper, they have also developed many watermarks for their customers, such as for University of Stockholm (for dipolmas and other certificates). Specific artistic paper is made by adding pressed flowers (photo 4), or, more exciting, shredded money, as in the last photo.
Visiting the machines is very interesting! They also allow to take photos, which I liked, because it is not allowed in Fabriano, where I could visit the museum of the most important Italian paper manufacturer and inventor of the watermark technology.
The museum facilities are located on two floors (ground floor and basement) and are open to the public only in summer, when the guys don’t produce paper. This sounds reasonable, because in contrast to the glass works, it must be a nightmare for the paper producers if we visitors run around and disturb their routine. They offer guided tours in several languages (English, German and French) six times during the day: at a.m. 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, at p.m: 1:00, 2:15 and 3:00 and lasts one hour. During this time, the guide will explain evers step in manufacturing except the big vat (called “Holländer” in Swedish and German) where the fibre suspension is being prepared. This is only working during the rest of the year. But in the basement they have a vat where the ready made suspension is being constantly stirred and where during the tours one of the workers will show how the fibre suspension is being dipped on the rack, put on a layer of felt and pressed to remove most of the excess water.
Entrance fees: 20 SEK and an additional 30 SEK for a guided tour. The guided tour is free with the glass pass.
Location of Lessebo Hand Dipped Paper Manufacturer on Google Maps
Not just glass but all sorts of handicraft. However, the glass making dominates as it should do here in the Kingdom of Glass that stretches from Växjö almost to Kalmar. There is an extension to the museum with some of the best glass sculpting in the world and a good museum shop to find nice souvenirs in as well as a good café popular with everyone.The museum also runs the County Kronoberg Agricultural Museum just outside Alvesta (see page) as well as the boat trips with the Thor steam ship on lake Helgasjön (see tip).
Huseby is outside Alvesta a little less than half an hour south of Växjö along road 23. Here you find a classic Swedish mansion which used to belong to the Stephens family who collected all sorts on their travels so that there is an almost Victorian feel to some rooms today. There are guided tours around the lovely house and you can also visit the old style shop, the farm labourer's museum, the mill and many other things as well as eat in the restaurant in the former stables! The place is very famous for its Christmas market in December and is in fact County Kronoberg's most visited tourist attraction. See my page on Grimslöv for more pictures and information. The Lake Åsnen area just south of Huseby and Grimslöv is on its way to becoming a National Park (Västra Åsnen) and is already a nature reserve, famous for its birdlife. This is why Huseby also has a Naturum exhibition on local wildlife and bring binoculars if you're interested. The official site below is in Swedish only, but the second site listed is in English and German too.
Tegnér was once a bishop in the city, and probably the most famous there has been so far. He changed the look of many countryside churches in the area as wonderful medieval churches were considered too small and dark and he introduced brighter whitewashed ones which all look the same with their one tower and black roofs. He has given his name to this little cemetary by the railway station, which is mostly famous for the grave of internationally famous 19th century singer Kristina Nilsson who came from a village outside the city and sang in London and Paris.
An old bishops' seat, this later became a castle for the famous king Vasa like so many others in the country, and is the castle that has given the whole county its name. 1542-43 were the most dramatic years in its history when the local son Nils Dacke rebelled against the king, using the castle which was subsequently reinforced to withstand further sackings both by his followers and the Danes. Today, there is apart from the ruins (said to host a ghost) also a nice nature reserve and a base for trips with the tiny old steamer Thor out on the surrounding Lake Helgasj?n.
At the back of the cathedral, you will find a rune stone from viking times. It is from late11th century and therefore from the Christian rather than heathen period in viking life but has the same message to honour a dead family member as most other stones. It is unusual to find stones here, as they are more common on the plains between the great lakes but there is another impressive one in nearby Ljungby if viking life fascinates you.