Tag Archives: Sweden

Making Swords for the Army at Wira


Some time ago I wrote a post about Engelsberg iron works, that is a world heritage site in the middle of Sweden. I mentioned another place in that post, namely Wira iron works, which I find as nice as the former one. So why is the former a world heritage site, but no the second one, nor the other places just like these two, that must also exist.


Green surroundings



Wira bruk or Wira iron works is a village and an historic iron works in Österåker, near Stockholm in Sweden. Wira bruk was founded around 1630. On the basis on a monopoly granted by a royal privilege it manufactured most of the rapiers and swords for the Swedish army into the mid 19th Century.

The royal privilege lasted until 1775, but the forge continued to supply weapons to the Swedish armed forces into the 19th Century and later manufactured civilian products, such as axes and scythes, into the mid-20th Century. Wira bruk is now a museum.


Inside the smithy


Inside the smithy

Sounds pretty much like Engelsberg, maybe even better, so why is only Engelsberg mentioned like special and unique? Is it because Wira is too close to Stockholm and someone wanted to spread the special places? I agree that today Engelsberg is better preserved, maybe due to the place being a wUNESCO World Heritage site. But back in the days life and work here were pretty similar.

The village looks pretty similar, they both have dark red houses where worker lived, both have a small museum, although the one at Wira is as interesting, both have an old smithy. The one at Wira is older and more destroyed by time, but you can visit it. Engelsberg have a mansion that is private and not possible to visit and Wira has iron workshop, where you can buy real iron stuf. From small hooks and can openers to larfe grills.


Mysterious grave inside the smithy


The water wheel

The both places are located by water and both places have water wheel. The mosquitos where larger at Engelsberg and we saw more frogs there, at least when we went there and Wira had more ducklings in the lake.  Wira have also Wira games at the end of each summer with dance, song and old music.

While being in Wira smithy we discovered an old, mysterious grave. Why is it here? Who was he? Why was he burried here and not, as others, by the church? Did he do anything wrong? It’s interesting, disturbing and I’ve been trying to find answers. Maybe one day I will find out.


Beautiful red smithy


In the village

I have no idea why the one is a world heritage, but not the other. I mean there is another site that contains over hundred old houses in another part of Sweden, several miles apart, so why not these?

I’ve been to Wira several times at least. It’s cute, picturesque and beautiful place. It’s perfect for a summer excursion with or without picnic and the museum is really interesting. Last time we were here we saw a family of duckling with mother duck and the previuos time we saw cows in the field behind Wira. So near city and in the nature.


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Is copper better than silver?


Sometimes I don’t get it. Two mines, two different points of view. Two different guided tours. One is a World Heritage Site, the other is not. I liked the both mines, I visited them with few weeks apart and it seems as the Copper mine in Falun is satisfied with the fact that they have a World Heritage site and don’t need to do more than exist. The Silver mine in Sala makes the visit there much more special. And both had almost the same information, but the guide in Sala made it very more special and interesting. I expected more of Falun, I got more in Sala.


An old building in the mine village.


A wagon used in the mine in the old days.

We went to Sala silver mine a rainy day at the end of September 2012. We drove all the way from Stockholm, nice and easy. We arrived a little bit before the pre-booked tour, so we had time for coffee and a visit to a very nice second-hand shop. The rain was pouring down, so the photos of the village are very few, quite dull, grey and wet. The village was very pretty. though with the Autumn colours and stillness of the great times , long passed.

When we went to Falun few weeks later there had already been some snow, the weather was quite chilly, but sunny and nice, so the experience had a chance to be nicer. You can read about visit there in Jany’s post here.




A building over one of the shafts.


Another shaft, the one we used to get into the mine.

And then there was the tour. An enthusiastic young man met us and showed us a map of the mine, we were about to enter. Everyone got to hold a big piece of stone, that conyained some little percentage of silver. Stones just like that one were collected by the miners and sent up to the surface in a little wagons. Not an easy work.

He told us about the mine using colourfull and powerfull words. He mixed facts with stories. When he told us about how the only light was from fires and how hot it was in the mine at that time, we could almost feel the heat, even if it was near 5 C now. At the beginning of the tour he talked about superstitions among miners: when you entered the mine you had to knock three times on the wall, you were not allowed to spit nor swear. If you didn’t obey you would see the mine lady, a ghost of the mine, and you would not get out of there alive. He had us to obey these rules too.


Map of the mine.


Our guide in old clothes, especially for the tour.

The mine in our days is cold. Water was dripping everywhere and the wind was blowing from the shafts. We were happy to have rain gear, helmrts to protect our heads and warm clothes. Helmets were given to all the participants of the tour as protection. Sometimes the corridors are low, sometimes a rock can fall down and sometimes the ghosts of the mine can hit you in the head. The protection is a good thing.

We visited Victoria’s chamber. She is Swedish crown princess and there is her signature in the mine. In Falun, in the Copper mine, there is her father’s, the Swedish king’s signature. It’s misspelled, this one is not. You can rent the chamber for a private party, or a wedding, since there also is a chappel down there.

We also visited the honeymoon suite, a cozy room, with absolutely no view what so ever. There is no mobile net here and the only communication with the world outside is an alarm phone that guests can use in case of emergency. Hopefully there is someone on the other side of the line and he is not taking the night off.


Telling an exciting story of the old days.


A room with no view.

In the copper mine in Falun our guide was just a guide. It was an older lady, maybe a teacher who have already given up on the kids. She told us facts and more or less only facts. She said that tgey believed that you have to knock on entering the mine, but not why. She said that they used fire as light, that’s it. The most interesting part was about a miner who died, fat Mats, and was found several years and was put on display at town square.  And that they had a misspelled signature of the Swedish king and a christmas tree that lost it’s colour, but not pins. But she said it before all the group was together listening. Not good at all. Pretty boring.

In the both mines we got the same facts, but so differently presented. But Falu copper mine is a world heritage, maybe that’s enough? A mine that don’t think that’s enough is Wieliczka salt mine. The tour is both interesting and engaging and it is a world heritage too. I think Falu mine could do better.

Check also out Jany’s description of the Falun copper mine.


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Engelsberg Ironworks and the Oil Island, how much are they worth today?


The place Engelsbergs bruk, or ironworks in English is a place situated in picturesque landscape in the middle of Sweden surrounded by lakes, woods and cute villages. The place started its work in 1681. At that time the work with iron was made by people living in the mountains. The place was modernized during 18:th century and was used until 1919. There is of course a large mansion and smaller houses for the workers.


Short information about this place


The washing cottage


Old iron in the washing cottage

We visited Engelsbers works last summer (2012). The place was open and you could book a guided tour of the works, so we id.The place was very beautiful and picturesque, but also depressive, especiially when you know that there is not much work for the people around here, especially not after the summers season.


The old mill


Inside the mill

We went around workers’ houses, washing room, the mill, looked att the smithy (but didn’t go in. We also looked at the mansion, but since it’s private owned we couldn’t go too close. I wonder how it feels to live in World Heritage site.


The office of the supervisor


Cute bridge



The place was full of red houses that belonged to the workers, a stable and some other simple buildings- Then there was the mansion, white, shining, magnificent. Two worlds, so close to each other. Even today the two worlds are separated, since you are not even allowed near the place of the nice people. Mixed feelings.


The smithery


The mansion

In the tour ticket there is also an option to visit the Oil Island. At the end of 19:th century the owner of the small island on the lake next to Engelsberg’s works, founded a refinery, one of the older in the world, at least the oldest preserved. He imported oil and refined it, producing different oil based products.


The Oil island


Our guide on the island


Inside the old refinery

The refinery on the little island was closed in 1902 and today it is museum, telling a great story about innovative minds and great times. To make the visit even better we had a great fuide, an older lady who worked as chemistry teachear and could tell the story of the island, the refinery and the products in a very interesting way.

There is another place close to Stockholm, that is pretty much alike, except for the island. It’s called Wira works and it’s also old iron works, where weapons were made for the military in 17:th and 18:th century. It’s a great place, where you can walk and enjoy the old houses, old smithy and mill. Why is Engelsberg and not Wira a world heritage site? The tour of the both places is prettymuch allike. The similar history is hidden there,so why? And why, once you can put up a World Heritage flag some places think it’s enough and they don’t need to put so much more effort into it? I might write about Wira in another post, so you can see the similarities. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This place has been a world heritage site since 1993. Link to the site: Engelsberg Ironworks.

Sometimes places are not what they seem. The place was interesting, but not special. The Oil island is not part of world heritage site, but it still was part of the experience for us. If the Oil Island would be part of world heritage sie it would be three globes, now only two.


Happy New Year!


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Unfinished business with death

The granite cross at Skogskyrkogården

The granite cross at Skogskyrkogården (the Wooden Cemetery), a symbol of the circle of life and death.

I like cemeteries. They make me feel calm and relaxed, and sometimes they make me think about life and death and everything between life and death. One cemetery where you can wander for hours and hours is Skogskyrkogården (the Wooden Cemetery) in Stockholm, Sweden, a World Heritage site since 1994.

The main reason to visit Skogskyrkogården, 102 acres big with 100,000 graves, isn’t necessarily to see the graves and tombstones. Many people from all over the world (many of them from Japan) come to Skogskyrkogården to experience the wonderful architecture and nature. The granite cross casting huge shadows in the green grass, the meditation grove Almhöjden (a hill with elms), the pond, the wall, the visitors center and the chapel of resurrection are just a few of all buildings and places that makes Skogskyrkogården worth visiting.

My father

My father.

My unfinished business with death

I have only been to one funeral, my godfather’s. But what about the tombstone in the picture above? It has my father’s name (my father is buried in Nora, a small village 200-250 kilometres west of Stockholm). Didn’t I attend at his funeral? The sad answer is no, I did not. I guess I wanted to, but the grown ups told me I was too young to attend the funeral. It’s true I was only six years old when my father died in an accident, but I believe that children know far more about life and death than you might think. Maybe that has changed in recent years, I don’t know, but I hope that everyone, no matter how young or old they are, are allowed to be at their parents’ funeral.

Anyway, the fact that I was not allowed to witness my father’s funeral makes me feel that my relationship with my father is an unfinished business with death. I never got the chance to say goodbye to him. Often when I visit a cemetery, whenever I wander among the graves, a thought that always pop up in my head is:  who was and who was NOT allowed to witness his or her funeral? Now, that may sound sad and perhaps a little bitter, but it’s just a quick reflection, no worries.

Back to Skogskyrkogården
Skogskyrkogården was founded in the beginning of the 1900s. Two architects, Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz designed Skogskyrkogården. Gunnar Asplund is considered to be one of the most importent architects of that time. The same is said about Sigurd Lewerentz, although he never got the fame he deserves.

The pond and the Almhöjden.

The pond, the granite cross and Almhöjden.

Statues stretching towards the blue sky.

Statue stretching towards the blue sky.

The chapel.

The chapel.

Autumn at Skogskyrkogården
I doesn’t matter when you visit Skogskyrkogården – it’s always a magical place. This time (I have been to Skogskyrkogården many times) we decided to visit Skogskyrkogården in the autumn (when the nature explode in beautiful colors) and the day before all saints day (when the Swedish darkness is lit up by candles).

Beautiful colors.

Beautiful colors.

Almhöjden in the evening, the day before all saints day.

Almhöjden in the evening.



More candles.

More candles.

Even more candles.

Even more candles.

Cool cemeteries and churches

There are cemeteries and there are churches, and there are “cool” cemeteries and there are “cool” churches, if you know what I mean. Skogskyrkogården is a beautiful cemetery, but is it cool? No, I love the mysterious gothic style, and cemeteries and churches with a long history. Skogskyrkogården is too young to be a mysterious place with a long history. But I still love Skogskyrkogården!

One of my favorite “cool” cemeteries is the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France, where many famous people like Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Fryderyk Chopin are buried. Look at the picture below and imagine the same place a cold misty autumn evening when the ravens croak in the trees!

The Père Lachaise cemetery.

The Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France.

Graffiti next to Jim Morrisons grave.

Edith Piaf.

Edith Piaf.

A church of which I am particularly fond of is another World Heritage site, namely Westminster Abbey in London, England. Imagine a place where people who influenced the world (at least in the Western world) so much are buried: Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin and many, many other significant scientists, writers, architects, kings, queens…

Yes, I have visited Westminister Abbey, but that’s one part in coming post with six World Heritage sites visited in five days: Westminister Abbey, Kew Garden, Tower of London, Greenwitch, Bath and Stonehenge.

Westminister Abbey.

Westminster Abbey.

Verdict and links

Skogskyrkogården is a unique place, the largest cemetery in Sweden, and a cemetery that attracts people who want to see the architecture and nature, as well as visiting the graves.

Number of globes? Four out of five, definitely!



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Birka – discovering old Viking village

There is not much left of Birka today, at least not visible for the eyes. But there is a lot, old Viking graves, fields, remainings of old houses and markets that archeologists find all the time. The latests discovery is that about 30% of old Birka is under water and there is so much more to discover. Fiest for marine archeologists as well.

city hall

Leaving Stockholm City Hall behind

But what is Birka? Birka was an old Viking town that was populated from 8:th to 10:th century. It is called the first city in Sweden, but there might be even older towns, but not as known as this one. I leave this question for historians to fight about. Back to Birka. We visited it in August this summer. It is situated on Mälaren lake not far from Adelsö. There is a tourist boat going there from outside the City Hall. That’s the best transport, unless you have your own boat, so we chose it.


The island of Kungshatt with a hat marking its highest point

The boat trip takes about two hours. Under the trip a guide was telling us about the different historical places that we passed and about Birkas history of course. We passed a Hat-island, Kungshatt, among others. There is a hat there on islands highest point. There is a story told that long time ago a legendary king visited the island and people put up a hat as a memory, but nobody knows how much truth is there in this story.


Another boat cuising on the lake

We passed many islands and finally arrived at Birka. We went for a guided tour and were told its history, about old rules, abot merchant point, abot missionaries that visited this place and about viking that were supposed to get the new religion without abandoning thier old one. The most important reason of Birka was its market and trading point.


Information point about Birka

We walked around the island and watched places that were old graves. We were told how the archeologist work and what kinds of things they were finding. Even if there were many people in the group it was good to hear someone tell us about this place. There is not much that a person that don’t know so much about this place could identify. There are green fields, some hills and not much that shows the islands former role and importance.


Here in these fields are old graves, remains of old houses and market places. Today there are field and grass anf trees. Your imagination is very needed.


Listening to the fuide


A girl trying to imagine old times

We went also to the hill where people have built a big cross to memory of and old German missionairy, Ansgar. He stayed here on the island during his lifetime and brought Christianity to these regions. Although old Viking jewlery are find in the old gravs, there are also Christian symols, like crosses, as well.


A cross to memory of old missionaries


The cross in the distance

There is a church on the island, but we didn’t have time to visit it. Maybe next time. Another thing that we didn’t see are the runic stones. They are saud to be here as well and are an old viking stones that were raised as memory of those who are not with us any more. They have beautiful carvings in old runic alphabet. The text is simple: “Eric raised this stone to memory of his father Thorvald, who was a merchant and…” Some of the text is usually missing.

runic stone

Example of runic stone. This one is from another part in Stockholm county, outside Ösmo

We walked to the reconstucted Viking village with tree houses. It seemed very cold for me. Don’t forget that our winters are cold and snowy. I imagine how cold these people must have been. Brrrr. There were also some boat in the harbor in the village showing that these people were good sailors. Well, the Vikings spread all aver Europe or even the world using their boats.


Reconstruction of old Birka house


Inside the house


Boats waiting in the harbor

We visited the museum on the island as well and saw a model of the town as it might have been once upon a time. There were some old jewlery there as well. It could have been interesting, but everything had too much kindergarden approach. I understand the importance of making the information easy for kids, but there should be more stuff for grown-ups (without being beurocratic, thanks).


Wandering on the island, trying to imagine how this place looked when there was a town here

unesco flag

Unesco flag marking this world heritage site

Birka was a nice and peacefull place nowdays, but it must have been very vivid and busy when it was still an active town. The guided tour gave us a bit of this world.


The Birka island

Birka became a world heritage in 1993. Link to the site: Birka and Hovgården.

My grade for this site is three out of five.


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