I was born in Falun, a municipality that once was Sweden’s second largest and one of the most important places in the country, but that was hundreds of years ago. Nowadays Falun is the 28th largest town in Sweden, and is a pretty pale dot on the map (the Falu rödfärg is colorful though, but more about that later), except for some cultural exports like the power-metal band Sabaton and a mass murderer. No wonder the dalmasar and dalkullor (thats what the male and female are called in the region) are so proud about being a UNESCO World Heritage (since 2001), namely Falun and the Falun mine in particular.
What can we learn from this? Well, if you know that the mining industry virtually built Sweden, and that the Falun mine’s history starts back in the Iron age, it is no big surprise how important Falun used to be. Today, mining isn’t THAT important for the Swedish economy (although mining is still a big business in the northern parts of Sweden), and therefore Falun and its mine lost influence over the years.
A time capsule will bring Falun back to the future
Falun will rise once again, thanks to the photography project aday.org. That’s probably an exaggeration, but still, on May 15 2012 the Swedish non-profit foundation Expressions of Humankind asked people around the world to take pictures of their life at that particular day. 91,000 pictures were collected, a book was published, and a digital exhibition travelled the world in 48 hours. A time capsule with a copy of the book, a computer with all the pictures and some printed photos will be stored in the Falu mine. I hope there will be quite a few lolcats and pictures of food (yes, the Facebook era) for or fellows to laugh at.
Follow me to the underworld
We visited Falun and the mine a cold and gray day in november 2012. Unfortunately the mine itself turned out to be as boring und uninspired as the weather. That’s sad, because there are few things I love more than industry buildings, mines, caves and culverts. My long-dead father used to work in a mine, so I guess I have mining in the blod. Or maybe I was an earthworm in my previous life?
Sadly, the guided tour was rather poor and unengaged. What could have been a cool and exciting one hour tour 60 meters below the ground ended with a big disappointed feeling of getting to know very little about how it was to work in a mine hundreds of years ago. Maybe we were spoiled after a visit to another mine, the Sala silver mine, one month or so earlier. The guide in Sala silver mine was really dedicated and painted a colorful picture of what it was like to work in a mine.
The guided tour in the Falun mine wasn’t a total failure, though. The mine itself is still very interesting and it’s a pretty thrilling feeling to be far below the ground, walking in the mine galleries that people have hacked, fired and blown up for many years.
Believe it or not, we actually learned some interesting facts in the Falun mine.
Behave, or you will be eaten by a lady dressed in white sheets
First lesson to learn: there are three important things you have to remember when you visit a mine: it’s forbidden to spit, it’s forbidden to swear and you should knock three times on the rock face before entering a mine. Why? Well, probably for no reasons at all, but people have always been superstitious, and if you swear in a mine, you could be eaten by an evil old lady dressed in white sheets. Or something like that. Well, we actually did learn this story in Sala silver mine, but I guess this is valid for every mine.
Peel an ox and you get falukorv
In Falun mine the miners used ropes of oxhide to transport themselves and copper ore. What do you do with all the meat that is left over after “peeling” an ox? You grind it down to “falukorv” (falu = Falun, korv = sausage), of course. Falukorv is a sausage with mostly potato flour, some meat and other junk. The taste is not exactly what you expect from a sausage. The falukorv has a rather bland taste, but if you use it in a dish called “sausage stroganoff” it’s quite good!
This is how you can cook a “sausage stroganoff”. It’s a very simple and cheap dish:
- Fry some shred falukorv and one chopped onion.
- Pour crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cream, salt and pepper.
- Simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Serve with rice.
Red is the color of Sweden thanks to the Falu mine
If you have been to Sweden you probably did notice that there are countless red houses with white trims. What’s the obsession with the red color? Except för being a beautiful color, it’s also very durable. That is – if you paint your house with “Falu rödfärg” (Falu = Falun, röd = red, färg = color). The red color can be traced back to Falun in the 16th century. The red pigment used in Falu rödfärg comes from iron oxide in the mine in Falun, and can be traced back to the 16th century when the Swedish king Johan III wanted to paint all the castle’s roofs in a red color.
A christmas tree and a human body can last longer than you think
In Falun mine we found this christmas tree. It’s been there for a couple of months (actually christmas trees are kept for years in Falun mine), and as you can see it’s still in a pretty good shape, except from some mold. In 1677 a miner, Fet-Mats (fat Mats), suddenly disappeared in Falun mine. He was found 42 years later, dead of course, but intact. How come a body and a christmas tree can “survive” for such a long time? Thanks to the composition of the air and vitriol living things kan be preserved for many years.
We actually did learn some interesting facts in Faun mine, and it is a fascinating place, but the guided tour felt a little sloppy and uninvolved – compared to the guided tour in Sala silver mine. Therefore the Falun mines gets two globes out of five. That’s sad because I believe that this World Heritage site deserves a better destiny.