Sweden in Photos: The Countryside

My Generation

Back again with Swedish photos and a look at their national nature policy. What's it like if anyone can walk on your property at any time?

Published on: September 10, 2012

Back again with more photos from Sweden! I hope you don't mind…just trying to sort and share. Today, a look at an early morning hike. Next week: our final farm tour.

If we learned nothing else from our time in Sweden, it is that Swedes enjoy their great outdoors. Strolling down streets in Stockholm, every single restaurant had tables and chairs out along the sidewalk. The Swedes held the Congress itself not in the city, but in a countryside hotel retreat. And the main conference room featured a giant wall of windows behind the stage, so even though you were trapped inside…you could still see trees, lake and sky. The Congress itself was themed, "Solutions for a Green Future."

The sun crept above the Swedish countryside, enveloping cows, fog and all.
The sun crept above the Swedish countryside, enveloping cows, fog and all.

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We also heard a lot during the entirety of our trip about a national Swedish law that says, in effect, every Swede has the right to be in the forest. They can walk onto any forest property and pick mushrooms, pick blueberries, hike, and whatever they want to do. The Swedes are proud of their forests. And yet, I kept thinking about how that would work here in the U.S. No trespassing? No trash? Nobody leaves the gate open and lets the cows out?

One night, I was able to dine with Swedish ag journalist Gunilla Ander. Among the wonderful conversation we had (she was an exchange student in Decorah, Iowa! What are the odds? I told her about the eagles.), I also got to ask her about this right-to-be-in-the-forest law. She smiled wisely, laughed and said, yes, it is wonderful but there are actually problems with it. Forest land is generally privately owned, and some by farmers. People do sometimes leave trash behind, and in the most extreme example, commercial tours come through and leave trash (rare, but it happens).

I asked Gunilla, too, about liability – like, say, someone breaks an ankle and sues the landowner. Because, you know, I'm from the U.S. and we have this tendency to sue each other here. She said that would not happen in Sweden because they don't have the "industry" we have in the U.S. Amen to that.

Gunilla works for a magazine published by a farm organization in Sweden, which I believe would be comparable to FarmWeek/Illinois Farm Bureau. She shared that the farmers in their organization don't like the law and, in what I imagine to be similar to IFB annual meeting, discuss problems with the law each year.

Yet, having said that, we sure enjoyed our time in Sweden's great outdoors. In particular, one morning a large group went on a 5 a.m. hike through the forest to see Viking ruins. We missed that one. So four of us got a map from the man who led the original hike and we went out on our own. I'm not gonna lie, I was not optimistic about our ability to find a couple big rocks under some oak trees in a cattle pasture, after we'd hiked through the forest, around the bend and passed the house with the barking dog. It was sort of like those directions I occasionally get from farmers that always, always end with: "You can't miss it." Because actually, you can!

But my comrades were relentlessly optimistic so I knew it would be fun whether we found the ruins or not. As it turns out, it was both. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. And now, I share a slice of what we saw with you.The Swedish forest really was amazing.

Catch up on the rest of my Swedish adventure here:

Farm Girl Goes to Sweden

Our Swedish Melting Pot

10 Things I've Learned About Sweden

Sweden in Photos, Part One

Sweden in Photos, the Farms

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