Dalarna, or Dalecarlia in English, is the province seen by many Swedes as the typical image of Sweden. With its ancient villages with traditionally decorated wooden cottages, handicraft shops and sweeping vistas of lakes and forests from various heights, it is loved by most. By the great Lake Siljan in the middle of the province lies the village of Tällberg which is perhaps the most famous of these villages. Midsummer celebrations are huge here amongst the flower meadows, but those who come in winter are also rewarded. We decided to check it out between Christmas and New Year and were not disappointed.
Farms turned cosy hotels
Tällberg is a small village, but so famous it has managed to keep its own 1914 railway station on the Stockholm to Mora line. This conveniently makes a stop at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport too, so getting here could not be easier. The station and village supermarket is on a hill above the older parts of the village, so booking a taxi in advance is advisable, especially in winter, unless you fancy a bit of a countryside walk to your hotel.
Lake Siljan has lots of pretty villages around it, connected by country roads. In a junction lies the centre of Tällberg with its cluster of famous hotels and art studios. We had booked a well-known hotel called Åkerblads, which opened as a hotel in 1911. Owned by the same family for generations, the place started life as the oldest farm in the village and has kept its traditional style. Many hotels and houses have also been built in this style in later days. What it means is that they have a main building around a sheltered inner yard with plenty of small out houses. Many of these small houses were used to store food, which is why they were built raised slightly off the ground to keep animals out. Several of these bigger farm style houses also have their Midsummer Maypoles standing all year round, to be decorated for the huge celebrations in June.
Åkerblads and other hotels have been expanded throughout the years. I have a painting at home by my late father’s aunt, so I know people have come here since the dawn of tourism to paint and recuperate, but Tällberg is like the rest of the world in that it has seen more visitors in later years with the increase of car travel, and with the international Tällberg Foundation in an annual summer week since 2005. Winter is a lot less hectic than summer, but you would still be wise to book your hotel in advance if you want to stay in the village itself, especially around Christmas and New Year. Those are traditional holidays in a village oozing traditions, and with roots from the 1320s. Several have indoor pools if the weather turns bad, many have good views and restaurants, and all are so cosy with open fires and traditionally decorated nooks and crannies everywhere that you might not want to leave their snugs or great farmhouse halls with their Christmas decorations in December.
Lake Siljan is the result of a meteorite impact in Devonian times, which eventually left the south-western part of the huge crater water filled. It is Sweden’s sixth largest lake, and a walk down to its shores was a must to us, even in the quiet of mid winter. There is no guarantee of snow in the south of Sweden in winter, but this far north you should at least have some. We had lots! Moreover, it was a really cold winter so dressing in layers and remembering hats and gloves was a must as you can see from these very wintery pictures.
Tällberg means “Pine Hill” and the views down to the lake from those forested hills are magnificent. The best way to appreciate it is to walk to the highest part of the village and keep turning your head back towards the lake. At the top you can have a look around the Heritage farm which shows historical local buildings. There are also a lot of other traditional houses and small alleyways here, along with villas built when famous Swedish artists and composers came here regularly.
Everywhere had “Hemslöjd shops” when I was little, but in Dalecarlia they are still in abundance. The word simply means “handicraft” and most things in these shops are made locally. Our favourite quickly became Mases på Tällberg high up in the village, with its mix of handicraft, cards and toys (weekends only). Also be sure to visit Café Mittibyn which has a shop on the ground floor, and a café with great lake views and waffles on the first. This is also where the village chapel is, with regular services. A sunny summers day its meadow-like garden must be a very special place to get married in.
Tällberg is a fantastic village. There is not a lot to do in winter, but that is the perfect excuse for long walks, popping in to glass blowers, ceramic studios and silversmiths. Whilst in summer you can go boating, fishing, swimming and trekking, now you can enjoy spa treatments and candlelit dinners, followed by a round of board games by the fire. Few holidays have given such relaxation for the soul.