Location, landscape and geography: stony soils, black island, high cliffs
The 1,347 km² Swedish Baltic Sea island Öland is located in the southwest of the 11,000 km² province Kalmar län. It is the second largest island of the country and is connected to the mainland by the Öland Bridge (“Ölandsbron”), which was built between 1968 and 1972 and is more than six kilometres long. Between the mainland and the island is the strait Kalmarsund with the rock island Blå Jungfrun, which is only 0.66 km² in size and sparsely covered with deciduous forest. The “Blue Virgin” has been regarded as a meeting place for witches in regional folklore since the Middle Ages, which is why seafarers often referred to it as Blåkulla blå (“Black Island”) and avoided it. Blå Jungfrun is also the name of the surrounding national park and Natura 2000 area, which covers almost 2 km². Öland itself presents itself as a flat plateau of limestone, sandstone and slate, which is an arid zone covered mainly with small trees and shrubs as well as grasses. An impressive natural monument on the west coast are the 120 limestone columns Byrums raukar near Byrum, which are up to four metres high. To the south is the heath landscape Stora Alvaret, which covers a good 56 hectares. The agricultural landscape of South Öland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covering about 560 km² and one third of the island. Öland currently has just under 26,000 inhabitants living in the two municipalities of Borgholm and Mörbylånga. In the municipality of Borgholm in the north of the island, which covers an area of about 681 km², there are currently just under 11,000 people living in 26 villages, hamlets and settlements. In Mörbylånga on the southern half of the island there are currently about 15,000 inhabitants in 20 villages on an area of just over 668 km².
History, present and future: burial grounds, menhirs, long-distance trade, Thing site
The existence of hunters on Öland is considered to have been established as early as 9,000 years ago. Arable farmers settled on the island in the Neolithic period about 6,000 years ago. The passage graves in Resmo, the oldest of the more than 13,000 archaeological sites, date from this period. In the Bronze Age, about 3,500 years ago, the inhabitants of that time traded with furs and skins in the Baltic Sea region. Metal objects from this period, some of them elaborately worked, have been found in large burial mounds, for example at Blå rör near Borgholm and on the cliffs of Köpings klint. Also typical of the entire island are the extensive burial grounds, among the largest of their kind being those at Gardstorp, Gettlinge, Klinta, Seby and Segerstad. The two limestone slabs of the Tingstad flisor in Stora Alvaret, each three metres high and 1.5 metres wide, formed a prehistoric Thing site. During the migration of peoples from the 4th to the 6th century, the Germanic tribe of the Warnen/Variner left the island. At that time the large castles of Gråborg and Eketorp (Mörbylånga) as well as Ismantorp near Rälla and Långlöt (Borgholm) were built. In the middle of the 8th century there was a settlement at Köpingsvik (Borgholm) with about 4,000 inhabitants. At the same time Öland is said to have belonged to the dominion of the legendary legendary figure “Sveakönig”. From the 14th to the 17th century Denmark and Sweden alternated as regents over the island. Until 1801, the whole of Öland was a royal hunting ground. The peasant population was forbidden to hunt and cut wood as well as to keep dogs and weapons. The Böda uprising of 1850 was put down militarily. To feed the growing population in the 19th century, moors were drained and turned into agricultural land. Nevertheless, many islanders emigrated to Denmark, Germany and the USA because of the poor economic situation. Today, fishing, agriculture and canning are the main industries. For the future, many residents place hope in tourism, which is slowly but steadily developing.
Art, culture and attractions: Castles, churches, mills, lighthouses, museums.
Probably the most important sights on the sparsely populated island are the many historical buildings, some of which are still complete, others only in ruins. Among the oldest buildings are the approximately 20 Iron Age castles, of which 16 can still be visited today. In addition to the castles mentioned above, the castles of Bårby, Träby, Triberga and Sandby near Gårdby (Mörbylånga), as well as Hässleby are well-known and popular destinations for interested tourists. The historic windmills on Öland are also frequently used as photo motifs. From the once approx. 2,000 mills in the 19th century today still 400 are preserved. The windmills in Lerkaka, Störlinge, Sandviks Kvarn, Strandtorp and Jordhamn (Borgholm), some of which have been reconstructed true to the original, are particularly worth seeing. The island’s guests also like to visit the time-honoured churches. Impressive and monumental sacred buildings can be found in Gärdslösa, Långlöt, Högby, Källa and Egby in Borgholm and Resmo in Mörbylånga. Also visible from afar are the lighthouses “Långe Erik” on the island of Stora off the northern tip of Öland and “Långe Jan” at Gräsgårds on the southern tip. Numerous artefacts from the island’s long history can be admired as exhibits in the Öland Museum of Art and Cultural History in Himmelsberga and in Borgholm Town Museum. Both museums also have permanent exhibitions on Öland’s rural culture. In Skedemosse (Borgholm), the history of the bog of the same name, which was drained in the 19th century, is explored. A great pleasure for the whole family is a ride on the museum train “Böda Skogsjärnväg” through the eco-park Böda at the northern tip of Öland.
Parks, gardens and green spaces: Sheep and birds, Neptune’s fields and enchanted forest
Since its opening in 1974, the 30,000 m² amusement and animal park “Ölands Djur & Nöjespark” near Färjestaden and Möllstorp in Borgholm has been well visited, especially during the summer months. In one of Sweden’s five largest amusement parks, visitors will find a zoo with about 100 animals as well as numerous rides, holiday homes, a restaurant and the modernly designed fun pool “Pirat Island”. The ubiquitous sheep of Öland can be seen in the shepherd’s meadows in Ottenby in the south, where a large royal shepherd’s barn and stud farm were located in the mid-16th century. Nearby is the fertile cultivated landscape of Mörbylångadalen, where cereals, potatoes, onions and even strawberries are still grown on a large scale. Some 250 species of birds such as ducks, geese, swallows and hawks can be seen at Stora Frö near Beijershamn and Färjestaden in Mörbylånga. Informative is the geological garden including rock path in Degerhamn, where a barbecue area with benches and tables invites you to linger. The Möckelmossen rest area near Resmo and Stenåsa offers a great view of the sea and the heath. Among the most beautiful of Öland’s 75 nature reserves are Trollskogen (“Enchanted Forest”) at Böda Ecopark, the boulder field of Neptuni åkrar (“Neptune’s Fields”) at Byxelkrok and the rugged Alvar landscape around Vickleby in Mörbylånga.
Festivals, celebrations and folklore: harvest thanksgiving, pumpkins and bonfires at the beginning of autumn
As an agricultural island, Öland traditionally celebrates the harvest festival extensively and exuberantly. In Sweden and on the island, the name for this popular event after the end of the annual growing season is “Mickelsfest” or “Mickelsmäss”. When the harvest has finally been harvested and the cattle have been brought back to the stables in time for the onset of winter, the farmers can breathe a sigh of relief, pause and take a well-deserved break. On Öland, the celebrations of Thanksgiving are also known as “Skördefest”. First announced on a large scale in 1997, the festival has since attracted over 100,000 visitors to Öland every year on the last weekend in September. Now the largest harvest festival in Sweden, it has been graced in the past by such prominent guests as Swedish Crown Princess Viktoria and former Minister of State Göran Persson. The 900 different activities in the villages include exhibitions, fairs, markets, festivals and concerts. The pumpkin, which is placed on a bale of straw, also serves as a symbol to indicate the location of an event. In many studios and galleries, for example, vernissages and installations are held, and culinary delicacies are offered on the farms and in the barns. Lush lighting and large fires illuminate the beginning of autumn and create a cosy atmosphere.
Leisure, sports and activities: hiking, cycling, horse riding, sweets and boules
Öland is made for relaxed hiking thanks to its extensive landscapes without many mountains and slopes. The island’s beauty is best explored on foot along one of the many well-signposted routes. The Stora Alvar Trail (13 kilometres) from Karlevi to Frösslunda, the Örnkullen Trail (5.5 kilometres) by Lake Kritmossen and the Bårby-Källa Trail (6 kilometres) around Lake Möckelmossen are particularly recommended. The Gösslunda Trail (7 kilometres) at Resmo and Triberga, the trail from Tingstad Flisor to Penåsa (5 kilometres) and the Millersten Trail (7.2 kilometres) along a former railway embankment also offer beautiful scenery. The island also has a wide range of well-maintained cycle paths. The Ekopark trail (40 kilometres) through the Bödaskogen forest in Sveaskogs Ekopark, the Ölandsleden (Ölands Trail) network of 400 kilometres of minor roads with little traffic, and the green signposted Sverigeleden (Sweden Trail) from the Öland Bridge to Grankullavik in the north are particularly popular with visitors. A nice destination for a holiday with children is the “Karamellkokeri” (candy factory) in the former village school of Bredsättra on the east coast, where the colourful candy canes are still pulled by hand and home-baked cakes are also served. In Öland’s only indoor boules hall, the “Boulebahn” in Tjusby, there are nine lanes, a snack bar serving alcohol and a meeting room. Horse riders and horse lovers can take guided tours with the horses from “Western Adventures” in Smedby.
Gastronomy, nightlife and culinary delights: potatoes and fish fresh on the table
A typical dish for both Öland and Småland in southern Sweden is the potato dumpling “Kroppkakor”, which is filled with bacon and onions and served with lingonberry compote, cream and hot butter and can be bought in packets in many supermarkets. Another traditional and tasty dish is the delicate casserole “Janssons frestelse” (Jansson’s temptation) with anchovies, dill, potatoes, cream and onions, which used to be prepared in the ovens of the glass-blowing factories that were still hot in the evening. In addition to potatoes and cabbage, pulses such as peas and brown beans, which served as a cheap and durable food on sailing ships in the 18th century, are an important part of Swedish home cooking. Brown beans from certified organic farms have been recognised with a protected geographical indication since 2010 and, in addition to being canned, are also made into tasty bean chips. Of course, fresh fish straight from the sea or in smoked form should not be missing from any menu in Sweden, especially salmon and herring are available in the restaurants in numerous delicious variations. “Gravad Lax” (fermented salmon) with sweet mustard sauce and “Strömming-Smörgås” (herring bread) taste especially good after long hikes or cycling tours. There are currently around 60 bars, cafés and restaurants throughout Öland, with the most varied gastronomic choices in the larger towns of Borgholm, Färjestaden and Mörbylånga.
Economy, business and industry: Alum and lime were Öland’s “gold”.
Until the late 19th century, Öland was known throughout Sweden and Scandinavia as a place of origin and supplier of high-quality grey and red limestone as a building material. For example, Lund Cathedral in the southern Swedish province of Skåne was built with stone from the island at the beginning of the 12th century. From the 14th century onwards, lime burning began in large quantities, and the grinding of the stones with horses and oxen running in circles, which was still common at that time, was replaced from 1850 onwards by the new wind-driven scouring mills. These were still in operation until the early 1930s, and the only surviving Swedish scouring mill is in Jordhamn on the west coast of Öland. One of the last lime kilns heated with hard coal can be visited in the former fishing village and today’s open-air museum Bruddesta near Äleklinta and Borgholm. Also from the in the 18th and 19th century so important alum production on Öland especially around Degerhamn at the Kalmarsund only the closed quarries and factories are left until today. The naturally extracted alum salt was replaced by chemical production as a mordant for dyeing and tanning as well as in medicine already in the middle of the 19th century.
Transport, infrastructure and accessibility: by land, sea or air
You can get to Öland by car or rental car via the Öland Bridge between Kalmar and Färjestaden mentioned above. The bridge is also crossed by the regular buses of the “Silverlinjen” line, which connect Stockholm with Öland all year round. Swedish Railways (SJ) trains run several times a day from Gothenburg, Malmö and Stockholm to the town of Kalmar on the mainland opposite Öland. Harbours with moorings for boats and ships can be found in Byxelkrok, Böda, Källa, Sandvik, Kårehamn, Borgholm, Stora Rör, Bläsinge, Färjestaden, Mörbylånga, Degerhamn and Grönhögen. Private airfields are located at Byxelkrok, Borgholm and Sandvik. There are regular direct flights to Kalmar Airport from Stockholm-Bromma and Stockholm-Arlanda.