Amalia Eriksson: the trailblazing Swedish businesswoman who created a beloved minty candy called polkagris.

It was 1859, when a new confection emerged on the market in the small town of Gränna, Sweden. It was a hard, minty candy with whimsical red and white stripes. Called polkagris, it soon became one popular and beloved sweet. The treat was the work of Amalia Eriksson, born in 1824 and grew up in Gränna, who ended up marrying a tailor. The poor woman was only 34 years old when became a widow shortly after giving birth to her daughter Ida. Her husband died in dysentery only four days…

Read More

Alvastra Abbey: the first Cistercian settlement in Sweden

The ruins of the oldest and most important Cistercian monastery of medieval Sweden preserve a part of local history from before the Protestant Reformation, when people donated land or money to gain easier access to heaven after their deaths. This monastery was founded in 1143 when King Sverker the Elder and his queen, who wanted to gain favor with the church, donated land to the French Clairvaux monks and invited them to come and build the sanctuary. Monks, who belonged to the influential Cistercian Order, brought from Clairvaux modern methods…

Read More

Malte Stierngranat: the man who did what he wanted

Locals in Sweden have a nickname for the eccentric nobleman who built himself a pyramid tomb in the middle of the south highlands: “Mannen som gjorde vad som föll honom in”. Literally: “The man who did what he wanted.” The curious character certainly carried around a lot of names. His name was Georg Malte Gustav August Liewen Stierngranat, and was born in 1871 on an estate called Nobynäs, outside of the small city of Aneby. Because he was the oldest son, he was expected to stick around the manor house…

Read More

Visingsö Oak Forest: a forest of immensely tall and unusually straight trees planted nearly 200 years ago to build naval ships that never existed

Oak has traditionally been used in shipbuilding since centuries, as its wood is incredibly strong, and if tended just right, the grain is straight and true. Going back even to the Vikings, the slow-growth trees have been used in Sweden for vessels of all kinds, including naval ships. On the lake island of Visingsö, a narrow island in the middle of Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake, there are hundreds of acres of tall and orderly oaks, all planted with an eye to the long term. As far back as the…

Read More

Bysen: the gnome-like creature in Swedish folklore

“Bysen” is the creature who haunts the woods of Gotland, in Sweden’s largest island. Most of the time he takes form as a gnome-like creature, but occasionally he can be seen as a tree stump as well as other creatures who live in the woods. When he is in his gnome-like form, sometimes wears a red woven hat/hood, he is also wearing gray clothes, and he tends to carry an axe with him. Bysen is locally known as a “skogsväsen”, literally “forest creature”, and he is the ward of the…

Read More

Jeppson’s Malört: the world’s worst tasting liquor?

If you’re not into liquors and probably all taste bad for you, there’s a particular liquor that, apparently, everyone agrees tastes horrible. It’s called malört and, over the years, it has been compared to battery acid, pesticide and gasoline. Carl Jeppson Co., a Chicago company, has built a minor social media empire around malort’s “brutal” flavor. Although Jeppson’s Malört is most often associated with the American city of Chicago, its roots are in Sweden, where where “malört” is the word for “wormwood”, a weedy plant that’s also the key ingredient…

Read More

Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse: a peat bog in southern Sweden that provides a cozy and photogenic home for decaying cars.

Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse near Ryd in Småland is an unusual but charming attraction. The swampy forest is literally an old car graveyard, filled with the wrecks of historical vehicles which found their last parking space there decades ago. Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö Mosse is the final resting place for an estimated around 150 car wrecks in various stages of disassembly, partially sunk into the swampy forest ground, some covered with moss, others are covered with pine needles or overgrown by shrubs. There are old VW Beetle, Ford Taunus, Opel Kadett, Volvo PV,…

Read More

23# The curious story of the Swedish Yule goat

In Sweden there is a town that every year celebrates the start of the Christmas season by putting up a giant straw statue of a goat. Then folks wait (and sometimes bet) on whether the goat will make it to Christmas. The reason? The town of Gävle has another, very different, tradition: every year someone tries to burn down the goat! But, above all…why a goat? For hundreds of years, folks in northern Europe had big festivals in December called Yule, traditions that became part of regular Christmas celebrations in…

Read More

Anundshög – the Sweden’s largest burial mound, allegedly belonging to a mythical king

We are in Sweden, near Västerås in Västmanland. Scandinavia is full of burial mounds, runestones, and any sort of ancient graves. Similar to the Egyptian pyramids, great rulers were honored with these grand burial mounds as the correct ritual was important for the deceased to reach the afterlife. At 9 meters high and 60 meters in diameter, Anundshög (also know as Anundshögen and Anunds hög) has the largest burial mound in Sweden, which is often associated with Anund, a semi-legendary mid-7th-century Swedish king from the House of Yngling. His name…

Read More

How “Taco Friday” became a popular Swedish tradition

Fredagsmys, or “Cozy Friday”, is a popular beloved Swedish tradition. In the Scandinavian country, families stay home on Friday night, watch TV, and eat Tex-Mex-style tacos. This dinner choice is so common that, for most Swedes, the so called Cozy Friday is also know as Taco Fredag, in english Taco Friday. However, the cultural classic that is Swedish taco doesn’t actually have that much heritage behind it and was born out of a successful marketing campaign. In 1990, the country was emerging from a financial crisis, and Swedes were eager…

Read More

Bord för en: probably the only restaurant in the world that’s safe from Coronavirus!

While most regular restaurants and cafes around the world remain closed until further notice because of the Covid-19 pandemic, one Swedish restaurant claims to offer one of the safest dining experiences by only serving one person at a time, in the middle of an empty field. Saying to operate one of the world’s safest restaurants during a pandemic might seem a ridicoulous statement to make, but the creators of Bord för en (literally “Table for one”) can surely back it up. This eccentric restaurant consist of a simple wooden table…

Read More

Skogskyrkogården: the cemetery in the forest in Stockholm

Skogskyrkogården’s history begins at the beginning of the 1900s, when Stockholm’s cemeteries were insufficient. In 1912 Stockholm City Council acquired a tract of former gravel pits overgrown with pine trees for the purpose of creating a new cemetery and organized an international architectural competition for its design. The competition was won by two 30-year old Swedish architects, Gunnar Asplund and Sigurd Lewerentz, and and the first construction phase of the cemetery was completed three years later. Unlike most cemetery designs at the time, there was no rigid structure to the…

Read More

23# Julmust: the soft drink that outsells Coca-Cola during Christmas seasons in Sweden

Julmust is a soft drink that is typically consumed in Sweden during the Christmas season. Its name come from from Jul, the Swedish word for “Christmas,” and must, a common winemaking term for what you call the not yet fermented juice from fruit meant for wine or cider production. Julmust, which tastes like a blend of cola and root beer, was created by Swedish chemist Harry Roberts in the early 20th century as a nonalcoholic alternative to beer. Harry got the recipe from Germany where he studied chemistry and have…

Read More

The Øresund Bridge that connects Sweden to Denmark and dives into the sea

The Øresund strait separates Sweden from Denmark, and the bridge linking the two nations is a masterpiece of engineering and architecture that has few equals in the world. The two connected cities are Copenhagen, the Danish capital city, and the Swedish city of Malmö. The bridge, the longest combined road and rail bridge in Europe, runs nearly 8 kilometres from the Swedish coast to the artificial island Peberholm in the middle of the strait. The crossing is completed by the 4-kilometre Drogden Tunnel from Peberholm to the Danish island of…

Read More

17# Lussekatter – Swedish saffron buns

Julbord, a three course meal, is served come Christmas in Sweden. The first dish is usually fish, often pickled herring. As second, cold cuts (including Christmas ham) along with sausages are served and the third course is often meatballs and a potato casserole called Janssons frestelse. For dessert, rice pudding is popular, but there’s another treat for which the Swedes are known to make around this time: Lussekatter. Light and fluffy, these saffron buns are a fun to make treat for St. Lucia’s Day and beyond! Sweet yeast rolls are…

Read More

13# Saint Lucy’s Day: traditions of the world

Today 13 December is celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day, a Christian feast day commemorating Saint Lucy, a 3rd-century martyr under the Diocletianic Persecution, who according to the legend brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs, using a candle-lit wreath to light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible. She was one of the earliest Christian martyrs, and was killed by the Romans in 304 CE because of her religious beliefs. Before calendar reforms, her feast once coincided with the Winter Solstice,…

Read More