On our 5th day in Sweden, we all made a point to get up early and take a mini road trip North to the famous Orsa Bearpark, the world's largest polar bear facility. We even saw mountain top snow outside in the parking lot. The bear park features large, natural enclosures with elevated viewing platforms and is home to Leopards, Kamtchatka Bears, Brown Bears, Wolverines, Amur Tigers, Lynx, Wolves, Red Foxes, and Eurasian Eagle Owls.
It was fun and worth the trip, however the large habitats make it much harder to see the animals. We only really got to see the tigers, brown bears
and polar bears (charmingly known as Isbjorn, or ice bears in Swedish).
Paths were steep and the walk was a bit rough on many of us--especially Sagezilla who is still healing from a month in a cast with a broken ankle. The Gronklitt area is a winter ski village, so the views from the top of Tiger Mountain were worth the trek.
We stopped for drinks and a snack break in the charming Toppstuga Cafe, and let everyone rest.
The kids have discovered the joys of Nogger--an exceedingly good Eskimo pie type ice cream on a stick that has a creamy hazelnut chocolate center inside the vanilla ice cream! It only took a day for the kids to master, "glass", the Swedish word for ice cream. Now, what's Swedish for Gramps is a push over for buying ice cream?
The Bearpark also featured excellent exhibits,
fun play structures
and educational hands on games like "help the magnetic polar bear with a handle find seals to eat"
and "clock how high you can jump compared to other mammals".
Of course, I'm partial to the odd ball shots you'll never see in the travel brochures. If it makes me laugh at the time, it's in. I was amused by the mysterious bike parts and cables running to the shack labeled "POWER FENCER".
It was also worth the trip to see the hilarious signage about leaving your dog in the car. Ya gotta love "Closed windows will be crushed by staff".
And who can resist saying "Gronklitt".
Here is our slide show. Double click on the photo
below for full screen options:
After Orsa Bearpark closed, we made a stop near Mora to visit the Dala Horse Factory. The custom of carving small wooden horses began with woodsmen in the 1600's, who whittled to pass the time in the evenings. They made toys while separated from their children, and horses were such an integral part of their lives that they were a popular theme.
The factory, and Dala horses decorated as we know them today, came into being in 1928, when two brothers who were 13 and 15 began to carve, hand paint and sell the horses. This factory is still run by descendants of those brothers, Nils and James Olsson.
Today Dala horses are not only a symbol of the Dalerna region, but have become synonymous with Sweden the world over.
The kids were thrilled to paint their own. Sagezilla made an amazingly detailed, accurate copy of the traditional painting style on hers and Du-Jay made his own, unique style.
Both were fabulous! We were amused to learn that one of the painters who has worked here 10 years, lives in Chicago and comes to Sweden every summer to work.
Maybe in a few years we'll send Sagezilla back with her as an apprentice painter.
I loved all the color, patterns, and great photo ops this small workshop offered and couldn't stop taking pixs.
We ended in the gift shop where the kids picked green and black Dala Horses as their big trip souvenirs and got them personalized.
I got a tiny, silver Dala Horse charm for a necklace.
Here's our Dala Horse Factory slide show. Double click on the photo below for full screen options: