Friday 29/7, the many stops before Vetlanda
After an afternoon and evening with the Striders (Meeting Classic Strider) and a very deep sleep in Gränna we woke up to another hot and sunny day. The goal for today was our BnB in Vetlanda with a few carefully selected stops along the way. With the "many" and above all long stops, there was unfortunately no opportunity for so many Mercedes-related photo sessions.
The amazing Vireda kyrka with an equally amazing, but younger, Mercedes Ponton in the foreground
When you travel around the Swedish countryside, there is honestly not much to see. Forests, fields and an occasional farm and now and then a depopulated village/small town, clinically clean of coffee shops and other things that might make it worth a stop. There are of course exceptions, but in my opinion, they are not very many. Nature is absolutely beautiful, but after a while it becomes rather monotonous. My tip is therefore to look up the sights in advance, and they are usually located where you don't drive past by "mistake". Åsen's village is such an attraction that just must be visited and that you can't find otherwise.
Today's round trip, from Gränna by Lake Vättern, to Vetlanda
The village churches can be worth seeing and I usually stop by if there is some time to spare. If nothing else to donate a penny, light a candle and contemplate for a while about loved ones you miss. Brought buns and coffee are also usually served. Hence the many pictures of churches that you can see in my travel stories. But most of the churches follow the same architecture, whitewashed and "Lutheran" both outside and inside. However, Småland turned out to have many, very beautiful small churches.
Vireda and Haurida churches
On our way to Åsen's village, we made an unplanned stop at what turned out to be perhaps the most beautiful and different village church we had seen so far, Vireda church.
You can read more in Church of Sweden's information about the church and Wikipedia's Swedish article. The texts are in Swedish so use the translate functionality in your browser. In short it can be said that the wooden church 's oldest parts are from around 1344. The wall paintings you can see in the picture gallery are from the first part of the 16th century and the ceiling paintings from the 18th century. During a restoration 1906-07 (the Wiki article is incorrect), the murals were whitewashed and were provided with painted Art Nouveau decor but were brought out again during a restoration 1938.
A black beauty from 1957 and a parish house from 1670
Nearby Haurida Church (see Church of Sweden's information about the church and Wikipedia's Swedish article) was almost as special. The wooden church was probably built at the end of the 13th century or at the beginning of the 14th century and the stone parts were added during the late Middle Ages. The wooden paneling of the interior ceiling was added and painted with beautiful angel motifs and Bible texts in 1760.
You may be familiar with the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty and how time stood still while the castle was covered in growing dog roses? Almost the same thing happened in Åsens by (in English "the ridge's village"). See the village's About-page or Wikipedia's Swedish article.
Hard work in Åsens by, in the "good old days"
Walking through Åsens by today, you see a landscape as it looked on the Småland countryside at the turn of the 20th century. People have lived and worked in Åsen since the Bronze Age. As the winds of change blew across the Swedish countryside, things stayed the same in Åsens By. Factories were built in the towns and people moved there in search of jobs and better living conditions or emigrated to America. Since less people worked with agriculture, the Swedish government carried out two major land reforms at the end of the 19th century. Small fields and plots of land became a thing of the past.
The Ponton, seen through the windows of Vireda kyrka
But not in Åsens by. Why is a matter of debate. Farming continued as it always had, with horses and manpower. The last inhabitant of the village, Auntie Tekla, died in 1989, and begun to regrow and the houses were falling into disrepair. Thanks to an inventory of cultural monuments in the early 1990ies, the village was preserved for future generations to tell the story of the people who lived and worked here.
How Åsens by looks today
We walked around and looked at the houses with their old furnishings and paraphernalia, the animals, the gardens and dreamed ourselves back to bygone times. A delicious organic, and affordable, lunch was served. All ingredients came from the village and the surrounding area. In short, well worth a visit!
Next stop was Kleva Gruva, Kleva Mine. You can read more about it in the mine's homepage (available in Swedish, English and German) as well as in wikipedia's Swedish article. In short, it can be said that it is a site discovered in 1691 from which copper and nickel have been extracted until 1920.
The nature around it is like an enchanted forest as is the site itself. A tour inside the mine is a must. You can go yourself as well as there are guided tours. We spent maybe 1 hour in the mine, but if you want to do everything without stress, you need 2-3 hours. There are plenty of historical descriptions, explanations, maps and sketches posted in the mine. Large parts of the mine are without lighting, so you have to borrow a strong flashlight, in addition to rubber boots and a helmet (warm and durable clothes are recommended...).
Once inside the mountain, you can really feel the beat of history, and how hard the miners must have toiled. Before the horizontal passage to the deposits was created, only a long, steep staircase led the 80m up to the sunlight at the top of the mountain. Apparently, you were not allowed to leave the mine without taking 60kg of ore with you. I myself couldn't even lift the stone bumble that was lying there and weighed exactly that.
One of the houses at the B&B in Vetlanda, with the Ponton in front of course!
The miners took that weight on their backs, and climbed up the ladder, a ladder I was out of breath walking up. And today's ladder is most likely more comfortable and easier to climb than the one they had available back then. And then they had extremely hard work behind them. I asked the man who ran the area, a German, what the average life expectancy of the miners was, and the answer was "about 30 to 32 years". Everything was not better before…
From Kleva Gruva it was not far to Kvarndammens B&B in Vetlanda where we were to stay a few nights. Some wine, beer and dinner were procured and enjoyed, after the daily hand washing of the car, at Kvarndammen (the mill pond).
The next part of our trip can be found here, Searching my roots in Småland, part 2.
The small pond Kvarndammen in Vetlanda