In Stockholm, on Djurgården island, there is an open-air museum that will take you back in time. I’m talking about Skansen, inaugurated by the ethnologist Artus Hazelius in 1891. In the museum there are houses brought here from the ancient Swedish villages, and even a corner of old Stockholm.
I am fascinated by all the places which still preserve a fairytale atmosphere, like Zansee Schans in the Netherlands or old Porvoo in Finland. I always feel like I’m stepping into a picture book, and in fact this is the link between all historical villages: they seem to belong to the world we imagine, rather than the one we know.
TRADITIONAL SHOPS AND OLD HOUSES
You can reach Djurgården island either by bus or by ferry from Slussen. Once inside the open-air museum, you will walk among the wooden houses and Swedish shops with narrow little doors. Inside, men and women wearing traditional costumes are busy working iron, blowing glass, baking bread or making candles, depending on the time of the year. Therefore you should visit Skansen in two different seasons, to get an idea of how different life could be in summer and winter. Life in the Nordic countries is deeply connected with nature depends on it.
Needless to say, my favorite stop is the bakery, where the fire dances into a large wood oven. Inside the shop, some girls wearing long gowns are making rye bread and Swedish sweets, whose scent escape the building and attracts visitors. Kanelbullar, the famous cinnamon buns, are addictive: once you’ve tried one, you start wanting more. And you will buy another one.
THE MEMORY OF OLD SWEDEN
In front of a red-roofed house, a smiling old lady wearing glasses is happily knitting. A girl comes out of a shop carrying a basket covered with a checkered napkin. Skansen was built to preserve the peasant traditions that were abandoned in the industrial revolution.
It was Hazelius the first to collect old tools and objects, which were displayed in a museum in Stockholm and then brought to the World’s Fair in Paris. Finally, he bought the land where Skansen was built. He even bought some traditional houses in Swedish villages and had them reassembled in the museum.
THE ANIMALS OF THE ZOO
Skansen also houses a zoo, children’s favorite attraction. Among trees, ponds and rocks live lynx, elks, reindeers and even seals and bears, who do not care about the visitors crowding the park. It is not easy to meet these animals in other countries, so the little ones have fun looking for them, hoping that they will come out of their hiding places. I will always remember the ducks on the frozen pond, in January, who seemed much more comfortable than me in the icy cold weather.
The museum has an entrance fee, which is included in the Stockholm Pass. The best time of the year to visit Skansen is definitely summer, when the days are long and warm. During the winter, the island is covered by a layer of snow and the museum closes very early. However, in December you can enjoy the traditional Swedish celebration of Santa Lucia’s day and the Swedish Christmas market in the village main square.
You can check the museum opening and closing hours and entrance fee at www.skansen.se/en.