Back in 1891, a fellow called Artur Hazelius saw that Sweden’s poor were not leaving anything behind them. It was as if they never existed. As the Industrial Revolution swept across the country, sawmills and factories were, in their turn, sweeping away the rural world. Cities grew and the architectural history of the countryside was in danger of vanishing.
Artur decided to collect structures to preserve them. He had houses, churches, mills, etc, taken apart piece by piece then, Lego-like, had them reassembled on a hill on Djurgården.
The area was already called Skansen at the time that Artur started his project. It was probably the name of a fort on the hill but no-one really knows.
We’ve been wanting to visit Skansen since before we arrived in Sweden. Of course, it’s been closed but it reopened last weekend. And today, finally, we visited.
It is the Worlds oldest open air museum. And, actually, it’s our fourth open air museum. Of course, we’d both visited Australiana Village back when we were younger (and it didn’t have the world ‘pioneer’ in the name) and there’s also the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton, West Sussex. Quite memorable was The Norsk Folkmuseum outside Oslo which we visited in 2001.
Skansen is 75 acres and I felt we walked them all, though, of course, we didn’t. Still, there was a lot of walking. And a lot of buildings. There were also quite a few other visitors. Given the size of Skansen, there is currently a plague limit of 5,000. While it felt like a lot of people walking around with us, it would have been closer to 500 today. Mind you, we all managed to stay at least the distance of a regular moose, as the tannoy insisted on advising us.
As well as this delightful announcement and many amazing buildings, there was also this wonderful arbour which Mirinda figured needed a bit of tarting up.
It was also very cold as can be seen from my attire. The wind was freezing, the strange polystyrene like snow fell occasionally, the sun came out briefly in order to tease us into a false sense of warmth. So, the walking wasn’t that bad given it kept us from icing up if we were stationary.
There was so much fascination at Skansen that I could write for reams. However, probably the most exciting discovery, was our first rune stones.
Like the majority of British parish churches, rune stones were once coloured and the first one we saw at Skansen had been painted in order to show what they would have looked like originally. It is called Ölstastenen.
The runes (running around the outside) read: “Björn, Ödulv, Gunnar, Holmdis erected this stone in memory of Ulv, Ginnlög’s husband. And Åsmund carved it.” It comes from Uppland.
There’s a few at Skansen and Mirinda was so delighted that she sent a Signal message to The Perfect Swedish Family with the discovery. Tommy wrote back to say there’s quite a few in our local area including one near the ICA Maxi not far from their house. Mirinda immediately declared we were going to find them all.
Later, at The Hairy Pig, Joseph told us that there’s a book, a sort of travel guide, that has all of the Swedish rune stones and where to find them. I have been tasked with finding a copy of the book.
The Hairy Pig was actually quite busy today. Which was very good to see. And Joseph’s playlist has changed a bit. There’s always good music and today was no exception. In fact, he told us that his Spotify playlists are very popular. He’s had 93 likes for his early evening playlist. (Search Spotify for ‘Hairy Pig early evening’ or ‘Hairy Pig after dinner’.)
Even Cornelis had a few slots on the list. When we asked Joseph about it, he admitted that he didn’t know, and they were obviously sneaked in by his wife.
Our late lunch/early dinner was, as usual, fantastic. The food at The Hairy Pig is brilliant. Mirinda has had almost everything on the menu and will have to start again. We also met the ex-baker who makes the pig biscuits that I have with my carpaccio entrée.
The walk to the restaurant was a bit wearing given we’d already walked all over Skansen and down the very steep hill to the exit and to the bus stop. Not to mention the ferry. Actually, I just mention the ferry because today, we were aboard the Clara, built in 2020 and feeling very new.
One of my favourite bits of travelling to Djurgården is the ferry ride. It’s no secret that I love boats and I love any opportunity to travel on one.
There were also a fair few buses. Sadly, we didn’t get a tram but, happily for Mirinda, there was no underground today.
Another favourite bit of travelling to Djurgården is a visit to the Viennese restaurant for fika. Not that it’s Viennese. But it does look Viennese which, after all, is all that counts. And the beer is very good.
All in all, we had a lovely day. We will definitely be returning to Skansen.