Driving through Kronberg County is driving through a microcosm of what Sweden is famous for. On both sides of the road, you regularly pass wide lakes, and you pass through tall forests of evergreen trees. In patches of flat land, farms with Burgundy buildings dot the landscape, with well tilled fields only a few feet from the road. From time to time, rarely this far south, you pass through canyons of tall black granite.
During golden hour in particular, the views are beautiful, as the warm light fills the lakes and fields.
Växjö gives the impression of being larger than it actually is. With a population of under 70,000 people, it is smaller than Halmstad, but the combination of the large lake in the town center, the sports arena and a sizeable shopping district gives it the impression of being a much larger location.
Priding itself on its environmental credentials, Växjö calls itself the Greenest City in Europe and has done so since 2007.
The city is clean, well maintained and has numerous shops, wide plaza streets and as spring has arrived, a great deal of outside seating.
Sites & Culture
Of particular note, the Glass Street, officially called Sandgärdsgatan, runs along the south end of the main shopping area and has a number of statues and other sculptures heavily featuring locally made glass, one of Växjö primary exports and something they are extremely proud of.
It was built near the Linnaeus University in the year 1900 as a
morning (wedding) gift. In the middle of a university campus, it is an
unusual sight. Used as a hotel for guests, it is a faux-castle, a single
tower jutting up from the top of a hill.
The surrounding park and views over the river make it a lovely spot,
if you can ignore the nearby new build university buildings. Worth a
five minute detour.
A strange building, down a side road from Teleborgsvägen, the strange
water tower is in the middle of a field. Blocked one way by a private
road, its not easy to get to by car.
The shape of the water tower amplifies noise underneath it leading to
its name the Echo Temple. Small noises are amplified and echos are
clear. Its an interesting spot to visit if you are nearby and can find
your way there.
Not far from Växjö town, there is the Bergkvara castle ruin.
Surrounded on three sides by water, the only access it to park nearby
and go through the private grounds of a large manor house (They allow
this, but ask you keep to the pathways)
The ruins are first mentioned in 1355, it was described as decayed by
the mid 18th century, the owners having built the manor (also called
Bergkvara) nearby and moved into that the castle slowly fell to the ruin
it is now.
Much smaller than the nearby Kronobergs Slottsruin, you are able to go inside the square building at any time of year.
To the north of Växjö is Kronoberg Slottsruin, a reasonably large castle ruin on an island in lake accessible only via bridge.
There is a large parking lot, and a cafe and toilet (open summer
months only) as well as a summer ferry across the lake. During the
summer there is access to the central courtyard of the castle, but the
rest of the year, visitors should content themselves with outside views.
After the original stone building here was destroyed in the
Dano-Swedish war, it was rebuilt as as fortified castle in 1472. For its
first few hundred years, the castle was a key strategic location, as it
was on the Swedish/Danish border.
The castle was neglected from the mid17th Century onwards and
decayed, though its heavy stone walls have largely remained intact at
There is a small island in front of the castle, connected via bridge
to the mainland and via drawbridge to the castle itself. Even in sprint,
this is a popular picnic location with locals and gives good views of
the castle sides.
Just north of Linnéparken is the Cathedral of Växjö. Of medieval
origin, it is heavily reconstructed in the 19th and 20th centurys,
leaving little of its medieval origins visible.
It’s twin spires give it an unusual and striking appearance and it is well worth a viewing.
Culture & Museums
Comparatively small, only a single floor, the Art Museum, there are generally two exhibitions on. The first was “About A Brexit, No I Mean a Breakup“ a strange look at the lifecycle of a relationship, featuring a 20 hour dance routine in a bacon costume to the tune of “I want you back”. This was originally performed live and live-streamed before being put on loop in the museum.
The second was “Elegant on Västerportsvägen” a series of over a hundred paintings done by a single artist, blending styles of painting.
Worth visiting with free entrance, but it won’t take too much of your day to see it all.
Perhaps the most famous museum in Växjö, the Emigrants House documents the departure of almost a third of the Swedish population to the US and Canada at the start of the 20th Century. By 1930, Chicago was the second largest Swedish city, with only Stockholm having a greater number of Swedes. It was also interesting to learn that a potato famine was responsible for much of the migration, similar to the Irish emigration. There are models and some few items of emigrants, but primarily the story is told in text and images, with a small model street to view.
There is a room dedicated to Vilhelm Moberg, famous for his Swedish novels about the emigration, and there is always a temporary exhibit, at the time on the dangers and influence of Propaganda.
Finally, there is a good sized auditorium, where a number of talks are given throughout the year.
The Småland Museum is the oldest county museum in Sweden, built in 1792 and tells the history of the region. There is a scale model of how Växjö once looked, as well as a walk through of traditional tools and items from the home. Norway’s Outdoor Museum takes the idea quite a lot further, but it is worth a look. Additionally there is room, with working loom (which you can use under supervision) along with a number of antique carpets that were locally woven.
Finally there is a number of pre-historic items relating to early settlers in the area such as bow and arrows, flint and maps for grave sites.
Linked to the Småland Museum, and sharing a ticket with with it and the Emigrants House, is the glass museum, perhaps the pride of Växjö. The ground floor is dedicated to the practical, the glassworks produced by the region over the years. Interestingly items used in the manufacture of the glass are used for display. Banners are hung from suspended glass blowing tubes, items are stood on disused trolleys. Its a subtle touch, but makes a real difference
Upstairs there is much more artwork made of glass. Artists creating strange and beautiful creations using glass as their medium.
Parks & Gardens
Almost exactly five kilometres in circumference, just to the south of the Cathedral and still quite central to the town is Växjösjön lake. There is a restaurant on the north shore, and a walking and running track surrounds it. On a good day it is popular and has a lovely view.
Between Växjösjön and the Cathedral is Linnéparken, a small park with children's area, and a number of plants and sculptures. It runs down the lake edge until it reaches the swimming pool.
Restaurants & Bars
There are a number of good places to eat in Växjö, many Swedish
chains have a presence as well as a good number of entirely local
A small Mexican off of the main shopping area, the menu is small but
good and the spiciness dialled back, but this is Sweden, but the service
An upmarket Italian, serving very good pasta. They have a communal table for casual diners as well as more typical seating.
Kafé de luxe
A hipster venue, with an old world vibe. The menu is limited but
good, and the tables have folding wooden seating which have a certain
charm. Its got a raised external patio overlooking glass street and
often has live music.
Stopping in Ryd town is likely a matter of necessity rather than desire for a traveller. It is a tiny village with a population of under 1,500. Despite this, it has three distinct pizza restaurants, an ICA and two Godis shops. There appear to be no other restaurants, cafes or bars nearby.
Whilst it is the nearest population center to the Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö mosse it is not a base for tourists looking to visit.
Sights & Culture
Bilkyrkogården Kyrkö mosse
The Car Graveyard in Kyrkö bog is a peculiar place by any definition. Åke Danielsson, who was called " Åke of the bog “ lived and worked, breaking peat on the bog and ran a strange car scrapyard as a sideline in the bog where he all the cars. When he left the bog in 1991 (having abandoned the business some ten years before) the cars were left abandoned, but protected from removal by a business licence and over time they have slowly come to ruin.
Left unattended, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of wrecks ranging from almost whole to completely rusted away. It is not a place for rushing or for unattended children as there are rusted edges and sharp corners everywhere
Many campaigners have pushed for their removal due to the environmental impact of cars rusting and petroleum leaking into the soil, but this has not been actioned.
Instead, the Car Graveyard has become a little known, but strangely popular tourist attraction. There is an eerie silence in the forest area, and along the pathways and further into the bog, you see the remains of cars and trucks, slowly returning to nature.
The forest is thick enough that there is not a great deal of light, so patches of sun illuminate the cars sporadically. The peat breaking hut ant the hut Åke lived in are still there, in better shape than many of the cars. The toilet he used consisted of old oil barrels built into a small shed with a hood as a roof, which also remains.
It remains, for now, as a monument to Åke of the bog and the strangeness of modern life.
Älmhult is a peculiar place. As the birthplace of IKEA, it has slowly been subsumed but the company it created. The town is not very big any more, but the Ikea campus on the other side of the train tracks (and the huge Stena factory) dominate the landscape.
A lot of the town was closed late on Sunday when I stopped in, but there are a range of restaurants of various price points and behind the town hall there is an engraved stone for the King, not listed on google maps, and only found via Pokemon Go’s portals.
Not a particularly vibrant seeming place, and it gives the impression that the train tracks that separate it from the IKEA museum, also keep the tourists on the IKEA side of town rather than coming across whilst they visit.
Museums & Galleries
IKEA’s original building in Älmhult has been refurbished into a sleek 3 floor museum of IKEA’s history, with the IKEA motel facing it across the carpark.
The motel was originally built to facilitate people coming to IKEA from further away as the shopping experience was a guided one. IKEA prioritised hiring and training housewives for its consultants as they worked on the principal no one knew the home better and could articulate the needs more clearly.
Aside from a fascinating run through IKEA’s history from a single store in Älmhult to the global mega-brand it is today, we also get insight into the change in identity, slowly consolidating into the blue and yellow we know today from the viking hats and moose used across the world at various points in its history.
The top floor contained the exhibition relating to Human Shelter, a documentary co-funded by Ikea looking into what makes a home, from the shacks floating on the rivers of Nigeria, to the tiny mobile homes of the Saami to the refugee camps the exhibition shows highlights from the films projected into representative spaces of the rooms shown.
There is also a small IKEA store selling a number of unique items unavailable in any mainstream IKEA, and a restaurant offering not just the famous meatballs and hotdogs (the history of both being covered in the museum) but also an additional four meatball types to try.
Approximately 110 kilometres around, the Utvandraleden, or Emigrants Trail is a picturesque hike giving you a chance to see some of the sights of Vilhelm Moberg’s quadrilogy of tales abut the Swedish farmers and labourers who headed out to the United States in search of a better life.
Unlike many Swedish hikes, this one takes you through firmly settled lands, a lot of the hike is along dirt and gravel tracks that have been used by farmers for centuries if not longer. I did the hike on the Easter bank holiday weekend, and due to equipment failure or, more truthfully, personal failure to check the levels of gas in my camping stove, I only managed half the route and a total of 80km from Korrö to Korrö with the final stretch along main roads.
Starting at Korrö Vandrahem, a small craft village sat on Ronnebyån river, it has had a presence since the 16th century and has a reasonable parking lot where you can leave your car whilst you spend a few days hiking. The restaurant is excellent, recommend the Entrecote.
Head south from the car park and past the lake, under a tunnel and you enter the nature reserve, full of tall trees, lakes, rivers and marshland.
A tiny village, more like a hamlet, called Bro sits on the Ronnebyån River, with a lake and small waterfall. Even back in 1580, there were a number of mills operating on this river.
Between Vikholmen and Bastsjön, The Flåboda stone circle and picnic area has been there since somwhere between 500 BCE and 500 CE. More recently, the hill has been used to store timber and pulpwood, which were floated to the sawmill and pulpmill in Konga. The floating stopped in the 40s. There are picnic tables and a fire pit here.
Just off the road, in a fenced-in area, a series of barrows can be explored. Two larger barrows and numerous smaller ones scatter the field. The stone cist at the bottom of one barrow dates from 1500-500 BCE and archaeological finds show the area has been inhabited for over 5000 years.
Off to one side of the trail, a set of building foundations can be seen. Built in 1836 when Södra Sandsjö Church was consecrated by Bishop Esias Tegnér, the owner at the time, Lars Persson, received a medal from the Agricultural Academy for his new design of a corn-drying box. The whole property is now overgrown by forest.
Konga town is 500-1000m back from the main trail along the main road but has a petrol station with a small store. It is one of the only places on the trail where supplies can be bought, including phone charger cables.
An old arched stone road bridge built in the 1840s, just to the north of the east end of the bridge, a secluded clearing on the waterfront can be seen. This is a good place to camp with a hand made fire pit. The noise and lights from the road can be seen, but there is little better without paying for a campsite for quite some distance.
A couple of kilometres off the main trail, it is a geological site of interest. Excavation finds have shown that it was inhabited during the Stone Age.
With a history going back decades, Abrahamhults was once a dance hall bringing guests in the hundreds every weekend. Recently taken over by a dutch couple who are slowly adding to the facilities Abrahamhults offers sleeping accommodation in rooms and cottages with kitchenette. Shower and WC. Camping facilities, a restaurant and excellent fika.
A wooden wind shelter by the shore of Kinnen, with a fireplace and toilet.
A large lake offering swimming facilities in the summer as well as a campsite, water, toilet. Note, the water and toilet are only open in the summer months.
During the hike, you pass, flatsjön which was a border district between Sweden and Denmark until 1568. The coniferous forest area is known as "Ulvamon" ("ulv" means wolf).
A small hamlet on a fork in the road. there is a camping table with toilet and waste bin. Guides suggest there is a log-bog, but I was not able to find it. The word "Ramm" in Rammsjö originates from the Swedish word for raven. This village has eight-cornered houses east of the road.
Just past the road towards Runnamåla a set of barrows, easily mistaken for a stone pile can be seen, dating from the late Stone Age or the Bronze Age.
There is a campsite offering nice views over Lake Flaken with a wild shelter, toilet and fire-pit. It is further along than the map suggests, and I camped at a broken-down shack by the water's edge.
In 2019, I plan to see 12 new counties in Sweden that I've not previously visited.
2019 - Seeing Sweden
Starting in November 2017 and finishing in October 2018 I spent a long weekend, each month, seeing a new city in a foreign country. Calling it my 12 Cities in 12 Months challenge, I ended up seeing eight totally new countries out of the twelve. I also spent a few weeks driving through the alps as an Alpine Adventure adding Austria and Lichtenstein to my new countries visited in 2018 and then ended the year seeing Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
Having done all this, and bringing my total countries visited to 58, I realised I'd not seen nearly as much of my new home country of Sweden, despite being here almost three years. I've visited a reasonable number of the snowboarding locations near to Gothenburg (Åre, Branäs, Romme Alpine, Ulricehamn and Isaberg) and the big cities of Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö) but I've not seen much else that Sweden has to offer.
In 2019, I plan to see 12 new counties in Sweden that I've not previously visited. I've been to seven, and so by the end of 2019 there should be only two counties in Sweden I've not visited.
After my first trip, to Halland south of Gothenburg, I have already noticed a few differences to my international travel. The chains I've come to recognise in Gothenburg are also in these new cities, making it too easy to slip into comfortable locations. The lack of air travel means no restriction on wearing contact lenses and going to less cosmopolitan places should give me more chances to improve my Swedish.