After leaving Borås we traveled across Sweden’s rocky landscape to the east coast and headed north at Stochholm. The one day trip ended at our destination, Hudiksvall, in Hälsingland a historical province in Central Sweden. My husband has much family history in this area. We set out with the relatives to see the countryside and some of the homes his ancestors occupied.
This charming historic fishing village sits on a harbor of the Baltic. The harbor itself was still partially frozen while we were there but it was still just as beautiful. During the summer, this community is full of tourists. The fish houses of the harbor are no longer in use and now house numerous shops and an ice cream parlor.
Like many Swedish communities, the architecture is traditional and charming. A walk around town is a pleasure. We’re told the community has architectural standards to meet for all new buildings to keep the traditional style of the town.
The harbor is lovely and there is an overlook that used to house canons to protect the town from invaders. Churches are a great source of local history and we found them very willing to provide tours. In fact, our relatives called one church outside of town and instantly heard, “You have the two Americans who want to visit?” Apparently word had gotten around Americans were in town. Maybe it’s my bright red hair and hot pink Columbia jacket that gave it away?
Churches dating back to the 1600s dot the hilly landscape around the Hudiksvall countryside. My husband found many relative’s headstones and heard about the scandal caused when one relative, the church bell ringer and accountant, got a local women pregnant out of wedlock. That would get you fired back then. Ah those troublemakers of the past.
I also learned that what I would traditionally think of as a church bell tower were instead used as lookouts to scout for raiders and invaders. The bell tower was instead an elaborate separate structure made by a local craftsman.
Inside the churches, pews sit behind small doors with family names painted on them. Those who were more generous to the church of course got the pews to the front of the church.
Many churches have a pair of bridal crowns. One for a groom, one for a bride to be used in a traditional church wedding. One of the museums also had the traditional clothing that is still often used today. Guests also often partake in wearing traditional Swedish clothing.
Another occasion for traditional Swedish clothing is dancing the hambo. The couples dance originated in the late 19th century and Sweden hosts an annual world championship competition.
While in this part of the country the weather was in the upper 30s or lower 40s (Fahrenheit) but sunny. That meant the community and countryside was filled with people outside. Marie tells us it doesn’t matter the temperature outside they love the days when the sun is out. The park was filled with kids and families enjoying the day.
Food in Hudiksvall is quite familiar. As our friend Marie says, “No one goes out to eat Swedish food.” Our options ranged from Chinese to a Texas style steakhouse. We picked Italian, a couple of deep dish pizzas. I did find ordering food to be the biggest challenge not knowing the language. I often just guessed and hoped for the best.
I can only imagine the hustle and bustle of Hudiksvall during the tourist season. It’s a lovely town and we hope to return in a few years during Midsummer.
The Land of Red and White Houses
While in Hälsingland you’ll notice the number of homes that are red with white trim. They are very similar to the color palette of the traditional Midwestern barns in my area of South Dakota. I’d say 80% of the homes in this area are red and white.
The red paint, falu red is very good at preserving the wood and originates from the copper mines of Sweden. The earliest evidence of its use dates back to the 16th century and some of the homes we would visit date back that far also.
It is hard for me wrap my mind around generations of Swedes owning these properties and passing them down. One bridal bench we saw in the hallway of an ancestor home was from 1650. Amazing. So much tradition and history.
Historical homes would have been four large, long buildings attached in a square with an open courtyard in the center. This was strategic, like a fortress to protect the family for thieves and raiders. There would have been generations of the farm family, living within this large farm site at the same time. Today, it’s common to only have one section of the home left and the attached barn.
I can’t imagine the cost in keeping up with all the windows in these large homes. They really do a nice job though of keeping these centuries old structures in great shape. It’s history right in front of your eyes.
While in Hälsingland we also visited the Dellen Lake system. Meteoric impact craters have been filled over time with water creating two large lakes. We were visiting before the tourist season and didn’t get to dine at Avholmsberget overlooking the crater lakes, but next trip I’ll make sure we fit that in too.