Dalarna Region Sweden 22 & 23 July

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July 23rd 2014
Published: July 30th 2014
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Dalarna Region Sweden 22 & 23 July

We were really looking forward to visiting the Dalarna region in the heart of Sweden where we were told we could experienced genuine folklore traditions, midsummer celebrations and see the idyllic lake, Siljan. We did all of this. As we drove through this region, we saw castles, museums and old Viking settlements, as well as the bridges, waterfalls and lovely little red wooden villages. The weather was beautiful, in fact about 25 degrees. The locals kept telling us that is was not usual. We have been very lucky as apparently in June in this region, there was hardly a dry day.

Our first port-of-call was Falun. We wanted to go to visit the copper mine "Falu Gruva", inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. The fist mining was carried out in the Middle Ages 1300 years ago and operations ceased in 1992. We were just in time for the last guided tours for the day. The Tourist Information Centre was very helpful with information on the area, as well as for booking our Mine tour. The guide took us through the mine tunnels that were around 5 degrees. This was after ringing the miner's bell and after we put on our helmets and water-proof capes. We were pleased we had extra clothes, rather than just our summer clothes.

We learned that a farmer had noticed his goat had red on his mouth so followed him one day and found where the goat was going and that the region was rich in copper. The farmer then started extracting the ore.

Today, there is no copper mined but there is red sap in the mine that is used to paint most of the regions wooden houses. It is a fantastic preservative of wood. In addition to this, various experiments are being carried out on the total preserving environment in the mine. Bread is being stored down in one of the shafts and has been for over 4 years...and is still OK. A story is also told that a man was discovered in one of the abandoned mine caves and it was found that he had been dead for over 40 years and his body was still soft due to the environment!!

There is also a mining museum but we were too late to visit it.

That night we camped at grounds where there was a ski jump and several buildings that facilitated both summer and winter sport. It was a well appointed camp site and included an extensive put-put golf area which was well used by families.

Next we drove to Leksand which is where the biggest Midsummer Festival is held on 21 June each year. We saw many maypoles which are dressed up with leafy branches in all different patterns. Apparently over 20,000 people arrive in the town to listen to live music, sing and dance. Swedes love their music.

We visited the Leksand church with its onion-shaped dome, and it dates back from the early 13th century. It was then time for a coffee so we found a little café by the river. Swedish consumption of coffee (kaffe) is among the highest in the world. Drinking coffee at home or in a café, an act called fika, is a common Swedish social ritual, used for planning activities, dating, exchanging gossip or simply spending time and money. Swedish coffee is usually stronger than American coffee - but still not the espresso of France or Italy. We have not had a bad cup of coffee since been in Scandinavia. Excellent.

Driving further along the windy tourist road, we drove through Tallberg which is cuteness personified, with its lovely little gingerbread houses scattered over the hillside. It is also beautifully situated by Lake Siljan.

We then drove onto Rattvik, which was a bit sleepy, with its sandy lakeside beaches which were being well used on this lovely day. We saw the wooden pier which is 625m long. At the end of it was a couple of big trees in the water.

About 7kms north of Rattvik, there is an old quarry called Dalhalla. It took a few wrong turns, and a few bits of advice from locals for us to eventually find it. Apparently the acoustics are fantastic. They were setting up for a show that night. Jose Carreras was performing but we didn't have the time to stay. The performance was starting at 9.00pm that night.

Next was Mora. Legend has it that in 1520 Gustav Vasa arrived here in a last ditch attempt to start a rebellion against the Danish regime (remember, he was the one who introduced the Protestant religion in the region). Initially the people of Mora weren't interested but later, changed their mind. Gustav Vasa built a number of fortifications in the region, one of which was in Mora. We saw this Fort, which was in ruins. However there has been a building built onto it where the tourist information is now housed.

We saw several sets of cannons, one of which was pointing straight at the Cathedral, which used to be Catholic before the reformation.

We then drove further along the Lake to a little place called Nusnas. An unofficial national symbol, the Dala Horse, is the souvenir of souvenirs to bring from Sweden. Named after their origin, the province of Dalarna, these small wooden horses have been around since the 17th century. They are normally painted orange or blue with symmetrical decorations. This is where the horses are carved and painted in workshops open for tourists. We watched the wood being cut and then sanded. You will see by the photos that it is big business. We counted 3 factories along the little main street of the town. There were bigger models outside which children enjoyed climbing over.

We were rather lucky in the next town we visited which was Orsa. We found a lovely spot to park for the night, just near the centre of the town. It is legal to park anywhere in Sweden (unless there is a sign saying otherwise!). This is due to the Right to access (Every Man's Right) principle, allowing anyone to camp in uncultivated areas (including private property) free of charge. There are certain limitations, for instance you are only allowed to stay at a certain spot for one night before you have to move on. So we felt quite comfortable pulling up in a town and parking.

After dinner, we heard music being played and noticed many people walking into the centre of town, some carrying their musical instruments. We asked one person what was happening. We learned that during summer over the past 5 years on every Wednesday in July and the 1st Wednesday in August, a music festival is held where they close several of the main roads in the middle of town. Any musician can come along and join any of the 'jamming' sessions that pop up along the streets. There were guitars, violins, base string instruments, piano accordions, percussion instruments, symbols, trumpets and even portable organs. We wandered around the streets listening to the various groups.

We noticed that musicians also wandered from area to area, joining in when they could play what was being played. Over a couple of cold beers (the weather was still hot) and some great conversations with locals, we walked back to our motor home and went to sleep with the faint sound of music in the air. Very pleasant.

We were noticing that we were starting to talk like local Swedes. We have learned that Hej (hey) is the massively dominant greeting in Sweden, useful on kings and bums alike. You can even say it when you leave. The Swedes most often do not say "please" (snälla say snell-LA), instead they are generous with the word tack (tack), meaning "thanks". If you need to get someone's attention, whether it's a waiter or you need to pass someone one in a crowded situation, a simple "ursäkta" (say "or-shek-ta") ("excuse me") will do the trick. Some say 'Hej' several times when they greet you...so this is what we are doing now!!! When in Rome......

The next morning, we left Orso and drove on some dirt roads to see some more spectacular sites in the area - Hells Fall or Helvetesfallet, and Storstupet - the Big Gap. It was lovely walking through the pine forests to get to these natural features. There is a massive wood industry in Sweden and the river which flowed through the Big Gap and Hells Fall, was used to transport the logs down-stream. We saw some structures that were built to assist logs over the Falls. Logging continues in Sweden.

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