Tag Archives: Travel

Things to do in Gävleborg, Sweden: Hamra National Park and Bortom Åa, one of the UNESCO decorated farmhouses.

In an enchanting corner of the county of Gävleborg, near the border with Dalarna are two hidden gems: The Hamra National Park and Bortom Åa, a Hälsingland decorated farmhouse and designated UNESCO Heritage Site. The north of Sweden is beautiful and particularly rich in culture, folklore and tradition. Carl von Linné, the famous biologist, described Hälsingland as a microcosm because of the variety of different habitats found within its borders. There are lakes, rivers, wetlands, forests and mountains to explore, a fabulous coastline with sandy beaches and the enchanting islands of the archipelago. Hälsingland is in Gävleborg county in Norrland (North Sweden) and sits about mid-way up the country, less than 3 hours from Stockholm.

Hamra National Park
This corner of Sweden is bear country and Hamra has one of the densest bear populations in the country as it provides the perfect habitat for their populations to flourish. Hamra National Park is special; it is covered by ancient woodland that has never been managed. This is unusual in Sweden and it is estimated that some of the trees are over 400 years old. There is a very special feeling to ancient places and it is a rare privilege in Europe to walk in such ancient woodland, surrounded by thick carpets of moss and tall spruce trees. The park is well organised for visitors and offers a selection of different walking trails of varying lengths through its different environments. Almost half the park is wetland with a

Wetlands at Hamra National Park
Hamra Tarn

mixture of forest lakes, streams, marshes, fens and small islands with pine trees. These areas are accessible via wooden walk ways that give a visitor access to a unique habitat usually out-of-bounds to people. The Svartå River runs through the park and is home to otters, fresh mussels and the pretty white-throated dipper. The wetlands attract a variety of different birds and in spring Cranes come to the lakes to mate and in April you can hear the mating calls of the black grouse. Bears live here all year round; however they are notoriously shy and if you really want to go bear watching one of the best ways to see them is to visit the Vargas Wilderness Lodge, run by Sweden Wildlife, and use one of their hides (www.swedenwildlife.se).

Bortom Åa – A UNESCO Heritage Site
Hidden away on the borderland between Dalarna and Hälsingland, a few kilometres west of Hamra, is the forest village of Fågelsjö, the home of Bortom Åa one of the 7 UNESCO Hälsingegårdar heritage sites. The farmstead (Hälsingegårdar) is the oldest in the village and was first established when the Finns came to the area in the 1600s. Bortom Åa means “beyond the river” and its name comes from its location, as it sits on the opposite side of the river to the rest of the village.

Bortom aa - one of Sweden's decorated farmhouses
Festivities room at Bortom aa – one of Sweden’s decorated farmhouses

The setting is idyllic and there is camping and boating facilities, as well as a cafe and shop at the farm, but it is the original farmhouse that has been designated a UNESCO heritage site. The farm was owned by the same family for 7 generations before being left to the local council for preservation. The main building was built in 1818 and it is beautifully preserved, the original wallpaper and ornately painted walls still in perfect condition.  The farm has an interesting and eccentric history. In 1910 the family built a new modern house opposite the original and when they moved out of the old house, they took nothing with them; they simply walked out and locked the door, leaving the old house intact. This is fascinating to see, the entire house is preserved complete with furniture, decorations, ornaments, toys, clothes and household items. The rest of the farmstead is well-preserved too and provides a rare look at rural life and its traditional working practices; there are the original workers quarters, the gun smithy, the bake house, storehouses, threshing barns, cow sheds and stables. The stories associated with the farm and family are fascinating too and the guided tours are excellent. A visit to Bortom Åa gives one a glimpse into the past in a way that no traditional museum ever can.

For more information on these two fascinating destinations visit:
Bortom Åa:  www.fagelsjo.nu and for an information sheet in English click here .
For more information on Hamra National Park, including directions click here .

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Umeå – European Capital of Culture 2014

Umeå is this year’s European Capital of Culture. Situated in the northern County of Västerbotten in Sweden, it is the largest city in the north and offers a great introduction to the region. Where else can it be -40 C in winter and +30 C in summer? It’s the land of the midnight sun, has eight seasons and catches the rays of the northern lights.

Umeå is a lovely city with traditional wooden buildings, birch lined streets and river walks. It has a vibrant arts and music scene, excellent museums and a sculpture park. This year, as the capital of culture it has a non-stop programme of events celebrating its Swedish and Lappish (Sápmi) heritage. Umeå is part of Sápmi – the lands of the Sámi people – Europe’s only indigenous people and the 2014 celebrations revolve around the 8 Sámi seasons. The pace picks up this autumn with an arts festival showcasing Swedish, Sámi and international artists; a contemporary circus festival; and a Food festival where you can discover regional delicacies such as salmon (Lax), fermented herrings, reindeer, smoked fish, wild mushrooms, cloudberries, lingonberries and the famous Västerbotten Cheese. As winter arrives celebrations move inside with a Jazz festival, a Film festival and the launch of new operatic and theatre productions.

The Västerbottens museum specialises in exhibitions based around Swedish and Sámi culture. Enjoy the fantastic photography of Sune Jonsson who has photographed the lives of the people in the region for over 40 years or the fascinating exhibition on Lappish (Sápmi) rock art. The Gammlia is their open air museum which has a collection of traditional Swedish and Lappish dwellings that give a glimpse into the regions traditional lifestyles.

The Bildmuseet is the new modern art museum that shows innovative contemporary exhibitions of art, photography, architecture and design. This year it is showcasing eight Sámi artists, one for each Sámi season. It has a fabulous location beside the river Ume and a delightful cafe looking out across the river. In winter gaze out over the frozen river and snow clad trees and in summer soak up the sun on its terrace beside the river.

Umeå is surrounded by beautiful countryside and is a great base for outdoor pursuits, both the Tavelsjöleden and Umeleden trails start within the city boundary. The coast is less than half an hour away and there are numerous nature reserves to explore such as Grössjön, Strömbäck-Kont and the Sävar River valley. Once the snow arrives there is skiing, skating and dog sledging to enjoy. For the true arctic experience head further north to Luleå and Kiruna and then on to the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park to see the northern lights at their most spectacular.

Information:

Visiting Umeå:  www.visitumea.se
Everything you need to know about Umeå in 2014. Its year as the European Capital of Culture:  www.umea2014.se
Programme highlights of events by Sápmi season: http://umea2014.se/en/8-seasons/
2014 Programme Calendar:  http://umea2014.se/en/event/
Umeå Food Festival:  http://umeasmakfestival.se/
Umeå Jazz Festival:  www.umeajazzfestival.se
Bildmuseet:  http://www.bildmuseet.umu.se/en/
Västerbottens museum:  http://www.vbm.se/en/home.html
Sculpture Park: Umedalen Skulptur:  www.umedalenskulptur.se

All photography has been kindly provided by Visit Umeå.

Northern Lights over Umea
Northern Lights: Photographic credits & copyright: Visit Umea