0 804

On our visit to Ostersund, Sweden, we experienced a extraordinary treat when Ostersund’s tourism office arranged for us to visit a Swede by the name of Sunne Haggmark, who won the Sweden Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2001. Moose Garden cooperates with Studiefrämjandet in Östersund . His Moose Garden is a short drive away from town, and we drove beside the beautiful lake, keeping our eyes open for the Ostersund Monster said by legend to reside in Lake Frosen. Along the way we noticed a nice campground for RVs set among a grove of trees that bordered the lake and also took note of a snack shop and miniature golf course that we planned to return to later for ice cream and a round of golf. Just as we got to the 10 km. point, we turned right and followed a small road that came to a dead end at the front door of Sunne’s two story house and Moose Garden.
Sunne emerged from the house with a welcoming smile as well as an excellent command of the English language. He immediately escorted us over to a small pen, and to our surprise we looked down into the large brown eyes of an infant moose. Sunne informed us that the young moose’s mother had been killed and he had rescued the calf, as he had done with a number of other orphaned moose young over the years. He will be raising it on a bottle until the youngster was old enough to eat on his own and join the rest of the herd that inhabited Moose Garden. Sunne handed us a large bottle that he had for the baby moose and asked if we wanted to try our hand at feeding it. We were both delighted at the opportunity not only to feed the little fellow, but also to be able to say back home to disbelievers that we had actually bottle-fed a real, live moose and lived to tell the tale! Sunne explained that moose are always born as twins. He had found this baby and his twin, but the twin would not take to sucking the bottle and did not survive. He said that he had to work hard to get an infant moose to suck a bottle at first, but once they learn how they do well. Sunne feeds the infants milk and then gets them to start eating on their own with a gruel mixture that he concocted himself. At about one month the youngster will begin to try grass and can go out into the pasture with the other moose Sunne has raised.

After finishing the bottle-feeding, Sunne said he wanted to take us to the pasture to meet his herd. We walked around his house and up a hill to a lush green meadow bordered by large trees. Out in the middle grazed a herd of what looked like eight moose of various sizes. Sunne opened the gate and motioned for us to follow him inside. We had always heard that you did not want to bother a moose, as they can be very dangerous, so we hesitated and asked Sunne about whether it was safe for us to go out into the pasture near the herd. He laughed and said, “You are safer than if you were going into a bunch of lap dogs.” When the moose saw Sunne they immediately stopped grazing and began to go to him. We were overwhelmed at being this close to real moose. Within minutes we were patting different ones in the herd as we listened to Sunne tell about each one and how he originally got into providing a home for orphaned moose.

Sunne had been raised on a farm with all different kinds of animals and had wanted for many years to get out of his administrative job and into farming again. A friend in South Sweden called him one day and said he had two orphaned moose and wanted Sunne to have. When he went to see them, he could not resist keeping them and applied for a license that would enable him to raise them on his land. Sunne said at first the neighbors objected to his having the moose, as they too believed they would be in danger. Once the neighbors saw how well-kept and tame the moose were, these friends became very supportive. Sunne makes sure of all the proper health certifications from the state veterinarian are maintained and up to date at all times, as much for the health of the animals as for himself and the neighboring countryside.
Still in a state of awe at the fact that we had actually been interacting with real, live moose, we returned to Sunne’s house and he continued to tell us about his moose venture and Moose Gardens. He gets visitors from all over the world and finds that people are always amazed at the gentleness of these large animals, usually only seen in the wild. Sunne actually milks the moose cows and gets about a liter of milk a day from them. The milk is high in fat and makes wonderful cheese. Sunni says he had been experimenting with making moose milkshakes using forest berries and ice, but he would not give out his recipe. He says they are delicious and in high demand!

Also he told us that moose dropping are absolutely sterile. Because moose are browsers (eating from bush tops) instead of grazers, the droppings are pure cellulose. He led us into his kitchen where we saw moose dropping beads strung near the ceiling, like cranberry strings on a Christmas tree. By using a blender, Sunne had devised an amazingly unique way of making paper out of these pellets. He presented us with a copy of an American dollar bill on actual moose paper!
He has been invited by the government of Tanzania to work on a project of using giraffe droppings in the same way as they are also pure and sterile. The Tanzanian government hopes this can be an economic help to its people who might make a small business from giraffe paper. We found Sunne to be a very generous and kind-hearted man, willing to help nature and mankind in any way he could. He is also working with the Russian government over ways to improve Russia’s tourism through an attraction similar to Moose Garden.

Any visitor to the Ostersund area of Sweden will find a side trip to Moose Garden and its keeper Sunne a must adventure that few people have ever experienced.

0 799

We wanted to see a part of Sweden’s interior, which most Americans, who cruise to coastal cities, don’t see. We chose SAS to fly into Ostersund, the gateway to ski country, right in the middle of Sweden, near the border with Norway. Flying into Ostersund you think you are over the ocean because the beautiful Lake Storjon is so big. You’ll land at the suburb Froson, a large island, named for Freja, the Swedish Viking fertility goddess. This island was an important assembly site and place of sacrifice during the Pre-Bronze Age, over 2,000 years ago.

Ostersund is a city of 60,000 residents. ThisCounty of Hackas was settled over 2,000 years ago and Christianized about one thousand years ago. Ask at the Tourism Department in the City Center about a trail that leads to an Iron Age Viking burial ground and another to a fourteenth century farmhouse, which the same family has occupied for all those centuries!
When you are in Ostersund do not miss the Jamtli Folk Museum, an interactive, living history experience for children and adults. Ingamar Morsch, Director of Marketing, gave us a wonderful tour. At the beginning he told us to choose whether to go to the lower level by sliding through the circular slide inside the famous little lake monster’s caricature or taking the elevator with funny distortion mirrors! What an innovative and fun way to begin an incredible learning experience! The price (60 Swedish kroners …less than six dollars… for adults; children to age 17 are free,) is a bargain, and you can ask at the desk for a pass to JamtliOstersund, Swedenreturn the second day free. Season passes are 250 Kr. for a family. If possible you should allow two days to enjoy it all
The indoor displays are housed in a modern building completed in 2000. You’ll marvel at our walk through history from the earliest Nordic times. In the many interactive displays children can dress in period costumes and role play different businesses and ways of everyday life from the past: bartering, fishing, farming, loading wagons, buying, selling, building, petting a real (stuffed) bear, riding in a wagon, and much more.

History Is Fun at Jamtli Historyland

You’ll learn Viking history through a film about an incredible tapestry from about 900 – 1100 AD. This rare find is explained and then you can see it in actuality. At the Viking history displays children can dress in authentic costumes and practice the way of life of both men and women of a millennium ago. Some historic explanations are dioramas with hologram actors. We particularly liked the Viking sword fight.
Another section is a natural history with the wildlife of the Nordic area carefully preserved by taxidermy. Children can actually feel the fur and pet them. There is a superb slide show of the glass impressions of photographer Nils Thomasson, who photographed the Sami people’s way of life in the early 1900’s. It is particularly impressive to see the pioneer lifestyle of 1700’s, a woman’s world of hard work in the home, and a man’s world of hard work outside the home, just to subsist in this climate.

Children Love the Real Farm Area

When you leave the building to wander the open-air part of the museum, you find yourself on a large farm, with 60 houses and buildings, divided into sections showing the way of life in each period of history. There is a real barn with hay and carved wooden life-sized animals for the kids to pretend to curry, feed, milk, etc. There is also a petting area of live farm animals. The outdoor space is a great gathering place for families to enjoy the sun and picnics and an excellent restaurant open all year. In the Lansmueum building is a collection of Sami, or First People’s, cultural artifacts.

World-Renowned Parenting/ Child-Care Program

The museum, partly funded by the government, has a wonderful innovative concept to help families. In Sweden when a baby is born the mother gets a year and a half off work at 80 percent pay, and the father gets several months’ family leave too. The year-round, free pre-school, interactive learning center is set up for children to learn the things their moms and dads do by play-acting modern life and also the ways of other periods of history. The parents come to the playschool to learn and inter-act with the children and with other parents, which makes the lonely job of stay-at-home parents becomes a social activity. Parents learn from teachers and from each other, make new friends, have help with the care of their children, get lessons in parenting and help with psychological problems facing young families today. The director of the program, Britt-Marie Borgstrom, was invited to Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, to explain this award-winning concept. She toured the US and was contracted to set up a similar program in Chicago. This open preschool activity center is now the model for others around the world because of its great success in helping build stronger families.

King Gustavus III Founded Ostersund

King Gustavus III founded Ostersund, but his love for stage acting prompted him to complete the theater before the church! Ostersund has a lovely city center and a very helpful Tourism Office, which can help you not to miss any of the attractions the area offers. The lake has wonderful recreation, boating, fishing, swimming, and camping, even ice-fishing, or diving if you are brave enough. With many lovely places to stay and numerous good places to eat, you can find one to fit your budget. Any time of year Ostersund is a beautiful stop for your holidays and is an easy drive to the favorite ski areas of Sweden.

0 520

A real monster? The people of Ostersund, Sweden, 370 miles Northwest of Stockholm, believe so. The city is situated on the vast and beautiful Lake Storsjon, which is a picturesque recreation spot for camping, water sports, and fishing in summer, and a great location for ice-skating in winter. The lovely lake community of Froson is across the bridge from Ostersund. One of the favorite pastimes all around the lake is trying to get a glimpse of the resident monster, which the locals have named “Storsjoodjuret.”
The first recorded sighting of the Lake Monster was in 1635 when Parson Mogens Pedersen wrote in the church register that a group of witches by the lake conjured up the monster by a magic rune stone spell! Legend tells that Vikings had long ago used this site as a place for animal and human sacrifice in ancient, pagan fertility rites. In the twelfth century, after the area became Christian, Froso Kyrka was built on the site to sanctify the unholy ground. Visitors can see a Viking Rune Stone at the church near the bridge . But sightings of the monster have persisted through over 360 years since the Parson made his registry notations.
In the 1890’s King Oscar II of Sweden, who was quite interested in science, set up funds for the Company to Capture the Great Lake Monster. Pigs and live calves were used as bait in traps, but the company reported no success. A book about the monster was published in 1899, another in 1950, and in recent years Ulla Oscarsson wrote the only other book about the mysterious, elusive Monster of Lake Storsjon.
By 1987 there had been nearly 500 officially reported sightings of the Monster, mainly during the warm tourist season. But, of course, the lake is frozen solid in the winter months with no holes for the monster to come up. Some say they saw an eel about ten feet long and three feet wide. Others say it is a gray-brown serpent at least 46 feet long with a small, dog-like head and humps. Many have seen a wavy pattern in the water with big humps appearing. In July 1996 a group of tourists were able to capture 30 seconds on video out of a sighting they said lasted at least three minutes. However, the video is from a long distance and is not clear in details. The many different sightings and varying reports have led local authorities to conclude they must have a group of these unknown monsters in residence.
Authorities deduce that the animal is not a member of the seal family, because they are not seen in winter. Swedish folklore explains that the lake monsters migrate to the Gulf of Bothnia for the winter. Some folk even claim to have seen them, moving on land between the area lakes in summer. Authorities believe many more than the 500 who officially reported sightings have actually seen the monster but were afraid of sounding peculiar. Eyewitnesses say the creature is certainly not a fish. It has been concluded that it must be some form of huge, unknown eel, serpent or chameleon.
In 1986, on the 200th anniversary of Ostersund, the County of Jamtland decided to pass a law to protect the Great Lake Monsters, their nests, spawn, or eggs, should they ever be found. Under the Nature Conservancy Law anyone destroying or harming these will be prosecuted. In 1987 Jamtli Historyland County Museum, under the direction of Sten Rentzhog, started to promote the monster for tourism and it was christened, “Frojo” and now greets families who come to the museum. Children can enter a whimsical replica monster’s mouth and slide down inside Storsjoodjuret to the museum displays.

From witches’ to a child’s play acting…Frojo embodies the Halloween spirit!

0 636

As we enterer the city of Stockholm, Sweden, from the airport we looked to our right, just across the water near the Parliament Buildings and this sight made us gasp. We yelled for the Taxi driver to stop and call emergency quickly. This horrible man stood on the raft calmly watching these many hands of drowning people bobbing up and down and the poor, old man appeared not to know what to do and was WAY too thoughtful in his decision.

Our taxi driver laughed and said, “Look again! Some artist is having fun with our visitors!” The unbelievably life-like (death-like) statue is continually looking at the “drowning victims!”

0 747

Seven hundred and fifty years ago Birger-Jarl, the far-sighted governor credited with founding the city of Stockholm in 1252, was determined to develop the city into an important harbor. This great 750th Anniversary Year is full of celebration with many activities for residents and tourists and a perfect time to visit. You should begin your stay with a city tour. There are several companies offering excellent tours in any language you need. We were fortunate enough to find Hakan Jacobsson for our personal driver.(call 46 0 831 9400). A Stockholm native, Jacobsson is known as one of the best guides in the business, and we certainly agree! He seemed to delight in showing us his beautiful city, telling its interesting history, and pointing out the best sites.
Stockholm encompasses seventeen islands, some of which run together today, having been filled in for more building space. If you are on your own, you will want to purchase the Stockholm Card to gain free entrance to seventy museums and attractions and travel on all Stockholm Transport buses, commuter trains, subways, boat sightseeing tours, free street parking at city parking meters. You can purchase these from Stockholm tourism offices and at the transport stations upon arrival. Be aware that museums are closed on Mondays. On other days the closing hours are early: at three, four, or five P.M., so set your sightseeing to start early. Most are open at 9 AM.

You’ll find city guides and brochures readily available in many languages, so youcan plan your days to fit your interests, but there are several MUSTS for all visitors. One is the magnificent Storkyrkan Cathedral (Nicolai Kirka) founded as a Catholic Cathedral in the thirteenth century but has, since the Reformation, been Lutheran. You’ll see the official pews of the King and Queen and other royalty and the amazing sculpture of St. George and the Dragon.

Leaving the Cathedral, you can enter Old Town off of Slotts Backen, where you’ll find narrow, cobbled streets with many souvenir shops. Nearby is the Royal Palace, Kung Liga Slots built in 1760, where you can walk into the huge courtyard and even talk with the guards! Within the Royal Palace you can find the Treasure Chamber with the regalia of royalty, as well as other wonderful museums.

As you traverse the streets of Stockholm, you’ll notice one of the most prominent buildings is the City Hall. Built between 1911 and 1923 out of red brick that gives it the look and feeling of antiquity, the building has The Blue Hall, which is nearly as large as a football field. This is where the King hosts the annual banquet for Nobel Prize winners. Go up into the tower for an excellent view of the city.

As you investigate and enjoy the many wonderful places in Stockholm, you’ll want to see the Locks that move small craft from Lake Malaren down to the Baltic Sea. Also venture to the quiet Sodermalm, the Southern district which was Workers’ Island, where many artists work and live now. You’ll find another excellent view of the city and photo opportunity at the point called Fjallgatan.

But the wonderful sites in Stockholm are not all old. You’ll want to include some time to shop in the ultra modern Sergels Torg Glass Mall, which has a large portion underground in a unique inside-outside design, completed by a huge fountain. It is a short walk south of the City Center where you’ll cross the stately bridge to see the impressive Parliament Buildings.
Djurgarden, a forested island with a lake around it, was once the Royal Hunting grounds. There you’ll want to visit the Zoo. You’ll also enjoy sight-seeing in Deer Park, a MUST for residents and visitors each weekend. There is always something fun going on, and each week attractions are different, always fun, always fascinating. The Island is closed to cars on the weekend and is a great family place to stroll with children or lovers and watch the crowds, eat in wonderful places, and enjoy life.

Nearby you can take a drive through Ostermalm to see the posh neighborhoods of fine houses, apartments, and Embassy Row mansions. Unfortunately, the only ugly one is the American Embassy with its barbed wire and forbidding appearance.
Also on Djurgarden, you MUST visit the Vasa Ship Museum, Stockholm’s treasure of a museum.The Ship Vasa was built in 1628 by King Gustavus Adolphus II. Not being a ship-builder but an egotistical king, he designed it with too shallow ballast, too tall mast, and too narrow hull. On her virgin voyage, while hundreds of celebrants watched and waved good-bye, she capsized only 300 meters from shore. A few years later, in 1664, the cannons were retrieved, but the ship remained submerged and covered over by sand and silt until the 1950’s, when a Swedish Naval history expert, Anders Fransen, decided to recover it. The tedious and expensive work took nearly a decade and was accomplished in 1961and proved vastly worth the effort, as the ship’s contents had been so perfectly preserved by the sand, mud, and brackish waters, which had been her tomb for 333 years. In 1990 King Karl XVI Gustaf celebrated the opening of the museum, and visitors today can literally walk through the incredible naval history.

Stockholm’s beauty is vast and intriguing and you’ll want to make your stay as long as possible. We certainly want to return again and again!


0 790

Ostersund, Sweden’s airport is in the suburb Froson, a large island, named for Forja, a German fertility goddess. This island was an important assembly site and place of sacrifice during the Pre-Bronze Age, over 2,000 years ago. This island was Christianized about one thousand years ago. You can follow a trail that leads to an Iron Age Viking burial ground and another to a fourteenth century farmhouse, which the same family has occupied for all those centuries!
Your first stop should be at the Frostornet Tower. On a clear day you can see all the way to Norway. Enjoy some delicious Swedish coffee or lunch in the lovely snack bar there. If you ascend by elevator and rue the fact that the glass enclosure keeps you warm but interfere with your photos, use the stairs to descend, and you’ll get some marvelous photo shots.


See Froson Kyrke

In the middle and highest point of the island was a historic tree, which was at one time the place of sacrifice for ancient religious rites. Historians deduce that nine of many kinds of animals, including humans, were sacrificed here every nine years in the pre-Christian era. In the twelfth century, when Sweden had become a Christian kingdom, Froson Kyrke was built to sanctify the effects of pagan fertility rites. The church is still there, reconstructed several times after fires. An intricate, wooden bell tower is from the 1700’s. Of note is a thirteenth century burial stone carved with a Viking man and ancient inscription.


Sommarhagen, Home of Composer

Visit the lovely Sommarhagen, home of composer and music critic, WilhelmPeterson-Bergen. A bachelor, he found it necessary to be married to his music. His harsh critiques made him unpopular at first in Stockholm, but with his beautiful compositions he gained fame and popularity through the first quarter of the twentieth century and was highly acclaimed before his death. His mother was his first music teacher and funded his education and early career. She left the money for this summer home, which he built in her memory. A beautiful diamond-shaped red window in the living room captures the setting sunlight in a way that creates a warm glow on the hearth, which Wilhelm said is “Mother’s eye.” The house was designed and decorated under Wilhelm’s careful instructions and poetic, artistic insights. The windows frame the natural landscapes, which he considered his paintings and his inspiration. His most famous compositions are his collection of lyrical piano pieces and his five operas, one of which is performed by local people every summer at Froson Church where he is buried.

Northern Sweden’s only rune stone is next to the bridge to Ostersund at Hornsberg Church. As you cross the lake search for Storjo, the monster of the lake, famed from many sitings since 1635. In winter you can cross the frozen lake to Ostersund by skis, skates, or driving on the ice, more than three meters (yards) thick! Of course there is the bridges for cars and also a separate bicycle/walking bridge.


Near Sweden’s Largest Ski Area

From Froson/Ostersund you are an easy drive to the town of Are, named for its “wonderful, healthy air,” when it was discovered by enthusiastic, health-conscious tourists in the early twentieth century. With Sweden’s largest ski area, it is a popular site for winter sports, and of course, lighted slopes since it is dark here for three months. However, between seasons you will hardly even be able to buy a cup of coffee because everyone leaves for a warmer holiday.