This is the first part of my blog series about Sweden. In this article, I’ll take you to the small town of Gränna, which is located in the Småland region in southern Sweden. More precisely, the town is situated by Lake Vattern, the second largest lake in Sweden. The origin of the white-red striped candy canes, or “polkagris” in Swedish, lies in Gränna. It is a candy cane village. Moreover, it is the birthplace of Salomon August Andrée, a brave explorer who wanted to go the North Pole with a hot air balloon. How that expedition went, you can read further in the article.
The story behind the candy canes
The white-red striped candy canes are popular sweets, especially during the Christmas period. In America, these candy canes are even used in the Christmas tree for decoration. Nevertheless, the origin of the candy cane is not in America (as is sometimes thought) but in the Swedish town of Gränna. The original recipe comes from Amalia Eriksson, a Swedish woman who became a widow after her husband died. When her daughter caught a cold, Amalia made a “medicine” herself, mixing peppermint oil with sugar and vinegar. And so, the “polkagris” was born. In 1859, Amalia got the permission to sell her peppermint sweets, which was not usual at that time. She opened a shop in Gränna and the sweets became a delicacy in the region and far beyond. Amalia would be one of the first female entrepreneurs in Sweden. A courageous woman!
Like a kid in a candy store
Now, more than 150 years later, “polkagris” is still being produced in Gränna… and not just the white-red candy cane with peppermint taste. More and more candy makers settled along the Brahegatan (the main street in Gränna) and invented lots of varieties of the classic candy cane. In most candy stores, you can watch how the candy is made. For me, Polkapojkarna stood out because of the rustic interior of the shop and the friendliness of the staff. Moreover, they offer a lot of special varieties. They produce candy canes with Coca Cola flavor, but also bold flavors such as Aperol Spritz and Mojito.
Andrées Polarexpedition: with a hot air balloon to the North Pole
Salomon August Andrée, a Swedish technician born in Gränna, was a real adventurer. He got the idea to travel to the North Pole with a hot air balloon and built a new balloon to complete the expedition. The hot air balloon was called ‘Ornen’ or ‘the Eagle’.
Although the media was very skeptical about the expedition, Andrée continued to believe in it. Together with two other men, he started the expedition in July 1897. They left from Spitsbergen, but things went wrong very soon. They lost a few ropes which were very important to determine the flight direction and height and besides, they had to deal with an unfavorable wind. The Eagle came down, somewhere near Spitsbergen. The expedition was supposed to be a adventurous journey but unfortunately, it became a tough survival on ice. They moved on with a sled and hunted polar bears to survive. In October, they reached the ice cold Kvitøya, an uninhabited island in the Arctic Ocean. In 1930, the bodies of the three men were found there, as well as their material.
In Gränna, there is situated a museum where you can learn more about this courageous expedition. The material that was found, including clothes and diaries, is exhibited. Very fascinating! The entrance fee for an adult is 70 SEK, which is about 6,70 euros.
Gränna is located by Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake. From the main street, it is only a short walk to the port of Gränna, from where you can take a ferry to the island of Visingsö. There is a camping nearby.