Visitors to central Sweden can enjoy summer in Dalarna at a mountain pasture farm and country guesthouse with beautiful, simple traditions.
The northern light spills in through windows framed by crisp white muslin, dancing upward from a gleaming brass candlestick to follow the steam rising from our coffee. It’s time for morning fika, the customary Swedish break between meals.
Here, next to an imposing 17th-century hearth in one of the weathered log cabins of Karl Tövåsen’s fäbod, Tin Gumuns holds forth from a wooden chair draped with sheepskin. It is summer in Dalarna, a province northwest of Stockholm in Central Sweden, and she is content.
Summer in Dalarna is steeped in country tradition
Fäbod translates into “mountain farm.” For centuries, if you were a farmer your summer in Dalarna would be spent at the fäbod, where you brought your animals for grazing. Tin’s farm dates back to at least 1663. Every June 10 for over 350 years, cows, horses, sheep, and goats have been driven up the side of this mountain and given free range. Here they graze until mid-August and then are returned to their villages below.
Just under 200 years ago, the summer population at Karl Tövåsen’s fäbod numbered 101 cows, 21 horses and 363 sheep and goats, sent from 26 farms in five different villages. Today, the numbers are smaller: 10 cows, several horses and goats, a few pigs, and a couple dozen chickens.
It’s a good and simple life here during the summer in Dalarna
The Gumuns family carries on centuries-old traditions, rising early for the first milking at 5am before preparing for daily guests. A hundred years ago, tourists spending summer in Dalarna at hotels and guesthouses in nearby Rättvik, Vikarbyn and Sjurberg came up the mountain in horse-drawn carts to Karl Tövåsen’s fäbod for the day.
Today, visitors such as ourselves arrive for lunch or to purchase Tin’s artisanal butter and cheeses. They come to attend open-air church services or celebrate special occasions.
Summer in Dalarna is wholesome and richly flavored
Our fika sampling includes Tin’s vivid golden butter. “The cows are eating lots of flowers,” she tells us in Swedish, with our guide, Helena, translating, “so the butter is very colorful.”
Tin makes her butter daily, along with whey cheese the color of caramel. As well, she sets up sommarost (summer cheese flavored with cumin or garlic) in decorative round forms. Her helmjölkost (whole milk cheese) is matured in the cellar on a rough pine plank, developing a wild mold surface as it ages for six months; it has a pleasing peppery taste. A special round White Tövåsens is similar to Camembert in flavor. Raw milk “salad cheese” can be cut into quivering squares, tasting quite like what we call cottage cheese in the U.S., but without the curdled effect. By contrast, Tin’s cottage cheese is yellow and grainy, seasoned with garlic and chives. Using a flat wooden spatula, we plane both butter and cheese on crisp flatbread, snapping pieces off from a basket lined with loomed linen.
The rich patina of the past is illuminated by the light of summer in Dalarna
Happy summer sunbeams only partially interrupt the cabin’s lingering chill. We learn that as many as eight summer farm workers would share these quarters in the old days. It’s not hard to imagine the hearth being lit for warmth even in the light of the almost-midnight sun.
Our long table’s rough pine planks contrast with the cabin’s silvery log walls. The burnished sepia hues of our straight back chairs, painted with graceful kurbits and faux burl designs, create a symphony of texture beyond our voices and words. In this moment we are suspended, much as those who were seated here over the centuries must have shared their daily repast.
Summer in Dalarna can be spent at a lovely country bed and breakfast
Later, we travel down the mountain and drive a few minutes east. Aside a narrow lane in nearby Nittsjö, our accommodations at family-owned and operated Solgårdskrogen are part of a “Dalagård.” This is a type of country compound commonly found in the Dalarna region.
Comprised of 6 buildings, all painted in traditional Falun red, Solgårdskrogen (literally “The Sun Garden”) is operated by Kalle Bjurenstedt and his wife Maggan, along with son Jonathan (chef) and his wife Genevieve (sommelier).
The Bjurenstedts, who acquired the property in 2015, envisioned an opportunity to provide a traditional countryside experience with a focus on local food. Guest accommodations are upstairs in the compound’s largest house. Breakfast is served on the airy back porch which overlooks the adjacent fields.
Double rooms are decorated with the simple Scandinavian innocence we have come to cherish: hand-painted floral designs, whitewashed pastel colors, gleaming pine floors, individual wood stoves, and cloud-like duvets.
One of the buildings is a “hårbre” on stilts from the 1600s. Another cottage dating from the 1920s is lived in by the younger Bjurenstedts.
Still another, dating from the 19th century, boasts an upstairs room with outstanding examples of painted kurbits paneling and furniture, along with fine windows of leaded glass.
Summer in Dalarna is spent outdoors as much as possible
The outdoor kitchen at Solgårdskrogen is flanked by a warming house reminiscent of a Laplander’s hut. Inside, there is a circular bench and table surrounding an open fireplace. We realize that in Sweden, the outdoors is just as much for living as it is for looking.
In the cooking tent, an enormous Italian wood-fired grill is used to prepare elegant three-course meals to be shared at community tables under bright yellow umbrellas.
But tonight, Jonathan is serving up outstanding burgers from locally-raised beef. These are perfectly paired with one of Solgårdskrogen’s featured wines. We are unashamed when he offers a second helping.
Summer in Dalarna is meant to be appreciated
The next morning we have a tight schedule, but Kalle wants us to take a detour. “You cannot leave without a photo from this particular spot,” he insists. “The view is everything that Dalarna is all about, I promise.” As we pile into our vehicle, our faces betray the worry that we’ll miss our train. But Kalle floors it and we fly down the road following in his dust, racing past fields of hay bales wrapped in white, which look ever so much like a giant has playfully scattered his marshmallows.
Halting in a quick u-turn on a gravel pull-out, we pile out again, wondering why all the fuss. It takes a few steps, but then we gasp. Kalle is right: the view is everything summer in Dalarna is meant to be.
Tips and Practicalities:
Both Solgårdskrogen and Karl Tövåsen’s Fäbod are located northwest of Rättvik off Highway 70. From Stockholm, take the SJ Railways InterCity train 14 at 7:45am to Borlange, and change to Tågkompaniet Regional Train 8140 to Rättvik, arriving at 11:10. In Rättvik, the Visit Dalarna Tourist Office is located at Riksvägen 40, Tel. +46 (0)248-79 72 00. Email: [email protected].
Karl Tövåsen’s Fäbod operates from June 15 to August 19, closed on Midsummer, open on Sundays for pre-booked tours only. During the rest of the year, you may find Tin at her Västbjörka Dairy, Åsvägen 93, in Vikarbyn (west of Rättvik on Highway 70). Tel. +46 0248-207 23 • Mobile: +46 070-232 65 25. E-mail: [email protected] (summer) [email protected] (winter). Get to know Tin on her blog: Fäbodkullan.
Solgårdskrogen is located in the village of Nittsjö, outside of Rättvik at Börsgatu 11. Two people in a double room including breakfast: 895SEK (about $110USD). One person in a double room including breakfast 650SEK (about $81USD). To request a booking please call Jonathan Bjurenstedt: 073 524 16 02 or email [email protected]
Disclosure: We were the guests of Visit Dalarna, Solgårdskrogen, and Karl Tövåsen’s fäbod as part of a larger press trip with TBEX.