Sweden is well known for its glass and most of the producers are based in the forests of Småland, chosen for its abundant supply of fuel for the furnaces. The region is now known as the Glass Kingdom and you could spend days visiting all the factories with their inevitable shops and cafes.
Instead, we chose to visit just one, Kosta Boda. Founded in 1742 it is now Sweden’s oldest glassworks still producing hand-blown glass. As with all of these things, some of their glass is beautiful and some is absolutely hideous – it seems that the more expensive it is, the more hideous it is. There was a separate section of the shop dedicated to their ‘designer’ stuff such as giant lipsticks for £1700. Presumably somebody buys that sort of thing – each to their own.
Inspired by the Swedish love of candlelight, we bought two chunky tealight holders. The fact that they were on sale and about the cheapest thing in a pretty expensive shop had nothing to do with it. And big, heavy lumps of glass are the obvious thing to buy when you are travelling in a motorhome in a country where it doesn’t really get dark enough to enjoy tealights, aren’t they?
We had read that Kosta Boda had an excellent glass museum, but were told when we got there that there was no longer any glass, just descriptions. Um, I would have thought that a glass museum without any glass is a bit like… well, something else that is missing the obvious ingredient, pointless anyway. Instead, we drove to Växjö where we could visit their glass museum (with glass, no less!) and the House of Emigrants museum.
In the mid-1800s, crop failures and mass starvation led to the emigration of nearly one sixth of Sweden’s population, mostly to the US. The museum attempts to provide an overview of the circumstances which led to this emigration, conditions that the emigrants faced both on the journey and once they arrived and the communities they built in the US. I say attempts – the displays are very disjointed and the translations, which are printed on separate cards stuck to each display, often ran out mid-sentence. The museum is obviously geared towards US visitors – the translations are marked with a US flag, but it turns out that we are both multi-lingual and could understand the American perfectly well.
The glass museum had some great displays of glass from the 1600s to the modern era (hideous Kosta Boda again), one of the best being a beautiful engraved blue glass bowl and the rather primitive-looking engraving tools used to produce it.
Interesting fact – the Linnared glassworks produces 96,000,000 Absolut vodka bottles a year. That’s 96 million. Yes, 96 million.