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Dalsland - the hidden pearl

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In a competition for Sweden's least known province, Dalsland would certainly be among the finalists and even most likely take first place. It doesn’t help that Dalsland is so often confused with Sweden’s most famous province ’Dalarna’. Measured in surface area, Dalsland is Sweden’s fourth smallest province and the roughly fifty thousand inhabitants would comfortably fit into the†country’s largest football stadium. You can drive through it in just over one hour by car and keeping to the main road you would never guess the magic that Dalsland has to offer just off the beaten track.

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Romantic images of nature and daily life in Sweden’s countryside are etched deeply into the hearts of Swedes from a young age. Through books and songs they hear about provinces like Bohuslän, Värmland and Småland. While Sweden’s greatest authors and songwriters used these provinces as settings for their fantastic tales. Dalsland seemed to be overlooked. Yet this anonymity could also simply be part of what has kept Dalsland so very Dalsland. And things are changing too. Dalsland’s secrets are just being discovered.

 

Renowned Swedish historian, Dick Harrison, recently published his book ’Dalslands Historia’ (The History of Dalsland), describing the area’s importance in the creation of the state of Sweden. Dalsland could in many ways, according to Harrison, be the cradle of the nation. This was where the border with Norway was established and on a global scale Dalsland was a technological pioneer in the iron industry during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As the iron industry moved elsewhere, the manufacture of paper took its place and in this too, Dalsland became a world leader. Oats grown on the flat plains of Dalsland were exported in enormous quantities during the 19th century to power the large number of hungry horses that drew the many stagecoaches through the streets of London. Later, hard times struck and Swedes emigrated to America in droves. During this period Dalsland lost more of its inhabitants per capita, through this emigration, than any other province. The area’s history is both rich and fascinating but, until now, its story just hasn’t been told.

 

With its diverse landscapes of thick forests, rolling hills and flatlands, Dalsland, which literally translates as ’land of valleys’, is best described as a miniature Sweden. No other province contains such variety. The bold craggy peaks contrast with deep lush valleys and its beautiful coastline along Lake Vänern.

 

The entire region is speckled with lakes; roughly 1000 of them. Dalsland has proportionally more than any other province. And through this calm, beautiful landscape flows a 250 kilometer long waterway connected by a system of canals and locks that runs from Norway, through Dalsland to Lake Vänern. Dalsland’s Canal, arguably one of the world’s most beautiful waterways, ultimately links Dalsland’s otherwise landlocked interior to Gothenburg, the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of the world.

 

Dalsland is now becoming known for its wildlife and nature but this is only part of what you can expect to find here. You will also discover a booming arts and crafts scene. There is no shortage of artists, musicians, blacksmiths and weavers keeping traditions alive as well as creating new styles and techniques. ’Åmåls Bluesfest’ the annual blues festival, the book convention ’Bokdagar i Dalsland’, the arts and crafts collective ’Not Quite’, Dalsland’s art trail ’Konstvandring i Dalsland’ and ’Halmens Hus’ the straw craft museum in Bengtsfors are just a selection of destinations that represent what goes on here.

 

Dalsland, the hidden pearl among Sweden’s provinces, is well worth discovering and taking some time to enjoy. With its natural beauty, vibrant culture and intriguing history, it truly is a province for both the body and soul.

Inspiration from Dalsland

A warm thank you to Dalslands Sparbank for their 2019 grant that made this website possible.

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