From Lussebullar to Lucia | Celebrate an Authentic Swedish Christmas
A SWEDE SHARES HER DECEMBER RITUALS AND A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR SAFFRON BUNS
Here in Scandinavia, every December 13th is known as St. Lucia’s Day. In Denmark, Lucia is celebrated with parades of lights through the canals by kayak, but it really is Scandi sister Sweden’s special day. But why is it important? And how do you celebrate it? Maybe we should ask a Swede? Yay! I already did! I’ve asked my Swedish friend Alexandra to share some of her family’s traditions from Sweden. We have been lucky enough to explore southern Sweden with Alex and her family when they lived across the Øresund from us. Alex now lives in Oregon with her husband and two girls, so she makes sure to keep the Swedish rituals and recipes alive for her girls when Sverige might seem so far away. Continue reading “Savor Some Christmas Traditions From Sweden This Season”→
Nearly two thousand years before Viking legend Ragnar Lothbrok and his progeny prowled the fjords and forests of Scandinavia, ancient civilizations were already making distinct marks defining cultures and religions across this region. Oh sorry, hold up – you don’t know of Ragnar Lothbrok? Don’t watch the HBO series, The Vikings? His story is epic. No? It’s ok. Don’t worry. It isn’t required before visiting the Tanumshede petroglyphs. You’ll learn plenty while on site. And anyway, this is about pre-Viking peeps. We’re going all the way back to the Bronze Age. In Scandinavia. West Sweden to be specific. Västsverige.
BRONZE AGE IN SCANDINAVIA | 1500-500 BCE
Scattered along a 25km stretch of what used to be a fjord, circa 1500 B.C.E., the area around Tanumshede, Sweden is home to the largest concentration of Bronze Age rock carvings in all of Scandinavia. Thousands of images have been chipped into the flat rolling granite stone that is characteristic here. And while you need not seek out all 600 panels in existence, you can prioritize a few and get a little more perspective about the ancient peoples who lived on this land.
PETROGLYPHS = rock carving or drawing
The petroglyphs around Tanum aren’t actually carvings per se. And don’t call them decoration. Although I can definitely see their graphic potential. They are well executed and super interesting. Anthropologists believe that these images were chipped into the stone to be used as a practicable road map of sorts – outlining the religion, rituals, and hierarchy of these ancient societies. Nowadays, we can readily see them in well-marked and easy to find sites, recognized by UNESCO World Heritage Convention since 1994.
TO PAINT OR NOT TO PAINT
Many of the images on the panels have been highlighted in bright red or white paint. And although controversial from a preservation perspective, I will admit the color helps instantly identify the iconic imagery and makes it fun to find. Especially when you are searching for specific shapes sited on the nearby signs; luckily presented in several languages. When looking at those panels that are not painted, the distinctive shapes become decidedly more difficult to discern. I truly believe my children would have been much less interested in the outing without the colored, easy to read pictures.
Can you find the foot? What do you think it represents?
Largest petroglyph figure in Scandinavia
LITSLEBY – ROCK OF THE SPEAR GOD
We stayed in nearby Fjällbacka and made a half-day trip to check out some of the panels at Litsleby and Aspeberget. Litsleby is famous for its depiction of a Spear god, possibly even Odin, the leader of the Norse Gods. Standing at 2.3 m, this is the largest figural petroglyph in all of Scandinavia. He is impressive. All of him. Is that a spear in your hand or are you just happy to see me? Hello, Odin.
And while the king of Nordic Mythology may have had the largest (you know what) my favorite depictions were of the vessels. (Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too much “Vikings.”) But the elegant and easily recognizable ships seemed to sail across the stone. Besides dozens and dozens of ships, we could also point out reindeer and humans and bulls and balls. I’m not being cheeky. It’s true. They’re all there. And it was truly entertaining traipsing around Tanum to find them. Even in winter, when the weather can be windy, we had fun climbing around rocks in the West Sweden hills.
Lots of pre-Viking vessels
Difficult to see when not painted
Follow the Tanum Heritage markers to see the panels
In summer months, you can see what a bronze age settlement would look like
On the road to Tanum Petroglyphs
Vitlycke 2, 457 93 Tanumshede, Sweden
Interactive experience detailing Bronze Age settlements and artifacts.
Every day May-September 10-18:00 plus Saturday and Sundays starting late March and into early November. Check website for details.
STAY In TanumSHEDE:
Tanum Camping Vitlycke 4, 457 93 Tanumshede, Sweden
Tel +46(0)525 200 02
Conveniently located across the street from the museum; cabins and plots for rent.
STAY IN FJÄLLBACKA:
Stora Hotellet Bryggan
Ingrid Bergmans Torg
Reception: Galärbacken 2, 457 40 Fjällbacka, Sweden
Tel: +46 (0)525-76 50 20
As a family of five, we prefer the space and flexibility of renting a home or apartment. There are many for rent in this area, start by searching near Fjällbacka and Grebbestad, both adorable outposts with groceries, shops, restaurants and things to do. Never used Airbnb? Click here to get 255Dkk off your first booking. Not in Denmark? Don’t worry – your discount will convert to the correct currency.
Know someone who might be interested? Share it! Want to see them for yourself? Save it for later!
Picture this. A pint-sized European rental car jammed to the gills with two growing teen brothers and their not-so-little tween sister. Shove in the majority of the Christmas dinner fixings, all the wrapped gifts as well as some that weren’t, stockings to hang, candles to light, fishing poles, winter clothes, and wellies. We’re going on a road trip to Sweden. Or rather. We went. To little Fjällbacka, Sweden. I want to take you along.
HELSINGØR-HELSINGBORG FERRY CROSSING
From Copenhagen, it is only a five-hour drive north to little Fjällbacka, Sweden. A mere 400 kilometers. That’s 250 miles if you work in those. Doable in a day. Even with a packed car and unconvinced children. It doesn’t feel so far really, especially when you punctuate the trip with the quick and efficient ferry crossing between Helsingør, Denmark and Helsingborg, Sweden.
ForSea operates two fully electric, battery powered ferries for this quick crossing. Book online for the day you want to depart and roll up at any time as your ticket is valid all day for the next available ferry. There are crossings every thirty minutes, so you never have to wait for long. If you haven’t already, you can buy a ticket right at the terminal from the automated machines, then proceed to your designated lane.
Don’t forget your passports. There is a possible border check before you board. To avoid an issue, a valid identification is recommended for all members traveling with you. It is a simple and easy procedure, just don’t forget or you won’t be allowed to cross. When instructed, roll on board the M/F Tycho Brahe or the M/F Hamlet (appropriately named for the nearby Elsinore Castle which Danes claim is the home of the Shakespearean prince.)
Once aboard, lock-in or bring your valuables, as you aren’t allowed to remain in the car for the crossing. And don’t dally. Chop chop. Hurry upstairs toot suite. With only twenty minutes between the countries, there’s just barely enough time to grab a snack, peruse the Duty-Free, stock up and get back to your car before landing across the sound. The Øresund.
NORTH TO FJÄLLBACKA, SWEDEN
Once in Sweden, follow the signs towards Göteborg (Gothenburg). You will remain on the E6 for most of the drive to charming little Fjällbacka on the west coast of Sweden. This is Västsverige. West Sweden. We rented a cozy cottage from Airbnb near the water.
Never tried Airbnb? We love the flexibility, charm and homey feel of staying in an apartment or private home when we travel. Being able to save costs while cooking part of our meals in an added advantage. Space for growing children to claim – that we all can get behind.
Click here for 255 Dkk off your first booking at Airbnb.
MURDER MYSTERY TOUR – CAMILLA LÄCKBERG
Fjällbacka is famous for a few things. Lobsters. Ingrid Bergman. And murder. Or murder mysteries rather. Local writer Camilla Läckberg’s popular crime series is set in and around little Fjällbacka. I hadn’t read any of her books, but now have them on my list! If you are a big fan of the series, you can take the Murder Mystery Tour nearly every Saturday, starting again mid-February. You will learn some history of the fishing village and get a first-hand look at infamous sites set in the books; led by the author Camilla herself. For more information and bookings, see here.
Ingrid Bergman, of Casablanca fame, grew up spending summers here on her family’s little island, Dannholmen, off the shores of Fjällbacka. The town clearly feels a deep connection with the Swedish actress and has named their center plaza Ingrid Bergman Torg where you can relax and get an intimate look at her life and family time here in Vastsverige. If you have littles in tow, you may enjoy the small playground situated nearby, beneath the huge granite cliffs that border the village.
Close to Ingrid Bergman Torv, you will find the arched entrance to the Kungsklyftan. The Royal Gap. Take the stairs and scramble up over the rocks. Don’t worry, no special equipment or experience is necessary or required. You will soon come to a large channel between two granite cliffs. Wedged overhead are four enormous boulders. Up here even on a windy day, the channel is serene. The Nordic light was raking through in its winter zenith. Low and pointed and beautiful. It felt otherworldly. To me. I can’t assure you the teenagers felt the same. *Wink, wink. But, we had the gap to ourselves. And it was beautiful. A bonus for a winter visit for sure.
At the end of the Kungsklyftan, you can take stairs to the top of the cliff. I highly recommend the easy ascent. The views from the top over the surrounding archipelago are fantastisk. That’s Swedish for fantastic. There is a path that you can walk to return you down to the other side of the village, but the wind was extreme and we enjoyed the view and returned down the same stairs.
Take the stairs up from Kungsklyftan for views and heathery hiking
Climb up the stairs from Kungsklyftan for views over the Västsverige archipelago.
LOBSTER AND SEAFOOD
For all of its famous residents and epic landscape, Fjällbacka is really just a simple fishing village. Herrings. Shrimp. Crabs. Oysters. Mussels. AND LOBSTER. Hummern around these here parts. Västsverige is known for its seafood. Especially the lobster. Black gold, they call it. As it can fetch a more than a fair price at the market. Care to pluck the crustaceans yourself? You can. Charters are available, veritable seafood safaris, complete with a full feast afterward. Unfortunately for us, they aren’t available at Christmas. Lobster traps lay dormant upon every dock. Taunting us with treats we wouldn’t be able to try.
We settled for sampling other local seafood specialties from Fjällbacka Fiskaffär down the street – a fresh fish shop and delicatessen. Luckily, we caught it open in the hours before Christmas. And while we may have missed the local lobster and oysters, I can highly recommend their house-cured gravlax (salmon) and the unassuming Fjällbacka seafood salad – a Swedish staple done to perfection. Filled with crab meat, shrimps, and fish in a dilled mayonnaise and soured cream mixture delicious on toast.
Don’t miss this delicious local fish market and deli.
Fjällbacka lobster hunting
The mild days of summer bring swarms of sailors and seafarers to this gorgeous Swedish coast. Come winter it’s quiet. And charming. And personal. Literally, it felt like we were only a few of the people here this past Christmas. It was perfect. For me. Easy to explore. Serene to soak in.
Like a little anthropology with your travels? You’ll love the region even more. Sporting the highest concentration of Bronze Age petroglyphs in Scandinavia – sites around Tanum are easy to find and fun to discover.
Sweden is super cool. Yep, you heard me. I know, I know. I live in Denmark. But our Scandi neighbor really is. Cool. In a completely different way than Denmark. I mean Copenhagen is cool. VERY COOL. Sometimes, maybe possibly – a little too cool for school. Don’t get me wrong. I love it here. In all it’s tatted, skinny black panted, chunky white trainer wearing, oversized trench coated, giant scarf wrapped, top-knotted or bearded, coffee drinking, Tuborg swilling, design toting, bicycling glory. I said I loved it – remember?
But today – it’s all about Sweden. Denmark’s tall leggy blond and blue eyed cousin -Sweden. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. Not all Swedes are tall, blond or blue eyed. But… Sweden’s flag is blue and yellow. Coincidence? I don’t think so. And so is IKEA. All blue and yellow. (P.S. – you pronounce it ee-KAY-uh here. Not EYE-kea.) And every time you step inside one of those enormous Swedish box stores and think – jeesh, I just came in for cheap candles and a couple picture frames – do I really have to wind through all of these displays? Just think of how big Sweden is! Compared to Denmark anyway. It’a all relative. But Sweden is pretty big! Have you looked at a map? Much larger than Denmark. In fact, Sweden is the third largest country by area in the European Union. And it’s all kind of tall and long. Another coincidence? I don’t think so. (*wink, wink.)
AREA: 450,295 square kilometers (173, 860 square miles)
POPULATION: 9.9 million
DENSITY: 21 people/square kilometer (54 people/square mile)
And of all those 9.9 million people living in Sweden, 85% of them live in urban areas – mostly Stockholm, Gothenberg and Malmö. That means there is a lot of land with nobody on it. Lots of space for all the moose. And farms. And trees. And nature. Lots of nature. Want to know the coolest part about Sweden? All of that land and all of that nature is available to everyone.
Especially lovely to roam old growth forest – beech trees as old as 200 years at Osbecks Nature Preserve, Hallands, Sweden
Get outside – southern Sweden
You heard me. It’s open to EVERYONE. Sweden has a law called Allemansrätten that gives the right of public access to everyman. It literally translates to everyman’s right. Also known as outdoor access rights or freedom to roam, it means that you have the right to walk, hike, bike, ski or camp on any land in Sweden. The only exceptions to the rule being that you can’t tromp through someone’s private garden, across cultivated land or hang out near homes. Because that would be just rude and really kind of creepy. But everywhere else – open. Yep. It’s awesome.
As an Oregon girl – this resonates with me. In the state of Oregon we border the Pacific Ocean. It is a beautiful stretch of coastline. But when we visit, we don’t say we’re going to the beach or the shore – while both are there. We go to the coast. The Oregon Coast. It is also known as the “people’s coast.” And for good reason. Every inch of the Oregon Coast belongs to the people and because of that you have access to it. Where it is safe to do so – of course. My inner Oregon-ness appreciates Sweden. In fact – it feels a little like Oregon over there. Especially when you start throwing in evergreen trees across the landscape the further north you travel.
Come on over to Sweden. But bring your passport. You’ll be checked. Even if you’re Danish. Maybe especially if you’re Danish. Just kidding. Maybe. But once here – roam where you want to. Roam around the land. Explore Sweden. That is cool. Sup-ah cool. And Swedes take advantage of it. We’re lucky to have Swedish-American friends living in Sweden while we’ve been here who were willing to share one of their favorite places to hike and explore.
Only 2 km off E20 in southern Sweden near Hasslöv
Autumn is a beautiful time to visit southern Sweden.
Allemansrätt lets you explore the Swedish countryside
Today, we’re going to Skåne, the beautiful region at the tip of southern Sweden. Think rolling green hills, tall beech forests, farms full of brilliant yellow rapeseed, old castles, rocky coastlines, little inlets and islands all await you in Skåne. (Pronounced “skona.”) From Copenhagen – you can drive across the Øresund Bridge to Malmö and head north or take the short 20 minute ferry from Helsingør, Denmark to Helsingborg, Sweden. Then take the E20 north in the direction of Gothenberg. Need a place to stay? Try super charming little Torekov or nearby Båstad. It’s not a bad word. It’s pronounced BO-stah and is the home of the Swedish Open. And unless you’re a huge Björn Borg fan or are just really into tennis, steer clear of this place for two weeks in July every year. Otherwise it is a charming little outpost to base your outdoor exploits.
Swedish seaside town in southern Sweden in fall’s colors
Fall colors in Torekov, Sweden, Skåne
Now that you’re here. Let’s get outside! Only about 10 minutes outside Baståd heading east on route 115 is the gorgeous Naturreservat Osbecks. Officially you are now in Halland County, but just right on the border of Skåne County. If coming from the E20 motorway, take the exit towards Hasslöv. After 2 kilometers there is a sign saying “Hiking area”. There is should be a football field on your left. Turn right onto the gravel road and follow the road up to the car park. A forest of beech trees cover this open nature preserve. Parking here and pick a trail. Autumn is an amazing time to visit as the leaves are turning, coloring the landscape and there is a crispness to the air.
The trees here at Osbecks are mostly deciduous with many beeches, birches and old oaks, which is why it gleams in autumn. Some of the trees here loom overhead nearly 200 years old. History rocks at this nature reserve in the form of stone age and bronze age cairns. Literally piles of rocks that farmers of yore piled to the side of their plot – both marking their territory and allowing cultivation. See if you can find them! But remember, the general rule when accessing allmansrätt is:
Do not disturb – do not destroy.”
Look out for tree snails and song birds, ferns and funghi. Sweden is proud of the diversity that has taken root here. Plan ahead and pack a picnic. There are several spots where you can make a fire in the pits available. Firewood is available free for your use. We grilled hotdogs and roasted marshmallows while soaking in the views. It was a perfect end to a perfect afternoon.
Grilling hotdogs (pølsers) over open fire in Osbecks Naturreservat
Tasty and fun end to a hike in southern Sweden
Hiking in southern Sweden forest ends with grilling
Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows in Osbecks Nature Reserve, Halland Sweden
Seriously more delicious after being outside in the beautiful fall Swedish forest.
Time to grill after beautiful fall hike in southern Sweden
Can you believe all this lovely is just over two hours from Copenhagen. Cross the big bridge or take the ferry. Go for a hike. Pick ligonberries. Hunt mushrooms. You can. It’s allowed. It’s allemansrätten. Tack Sverige! Thanks Sweden!
Southern Sweden spreads out in farm land and forests – fabulous view from the picnic grill
Hiking in the southern Swedish forest – it may have tasted like marshmallow!
Happy to link this post and introduce a new collaboration of travel bloggers today. Join myself, Katy of Untold Morsels and Clare of Suitcases and Sandcastles in a new supportive and inspiring linkup community we’re calling #FarawayFiles. Read more here about how we started it, what we want it to be and how you can engage. We’d love to see you there!
It’s Onsdag. Its on. Let’s travel somewhere – virtually – together! (For previous Wednesday wanderings – click on the menu above and read earlier versions – we all need inspiration!) Time to add some color and graphic imagery to your wanderlust this Wednesday. Today I want to share one of my new favorite cities. I know, I know – I have a lot, maybe I’m just a lover. Of new and beautiful and amazing. And THAT is Stockholm. Well, new to me anywho. It’s actually chock full of history and culture and art and action and water and all the trappings of a city that will charm your socks off. I almost felt like I was cheating on my Scandinavian partner with whom I have entered into a committed relationship. Sorry Copenhagen – I still love you, but Stockholm was quite a flirt and I enjoyed the performance!