On Tour i Glasriket - so much more than glass - Glasriket

We traveled to Glasriket in Småland with our motorhome in November 2021 expecting to find glass, and of course we did, but the trip ended with us discovering so much more. Småland's Kingdom of Glass offers glass art, but also beautiful nature, compelling history and countless exciting surprises.

We started the journey of discovery in Kosta, where we spent the night with the motorhome at Kosta Lodge. Even though it was already dark when we arrived, we felt warmly welcomed here. The light from the beautifully lit cottages reflected in the water and made the black surface sparkle like a starry sky. A camper couple we met happily cheered and shouted excitedly that they were on their way to the jacuzzi. We ourselves unloaded our electric bikes and started our glass kingdom tour by discovering Kosta in the evening.

"The glass kingdom we were faced with now turned out to have developed into something new and even more creative."

Peter studies Glass Art by Kjell Engman at Kosta Art Gallery.

Fascinating glass art

The fact that Glasriket offers glass in different forms goes without saying, but we were still surprised. A few decades ago, it was common to take the car to Småland to buy utility glass for the kitchen cabinets, and maybe that was the image we had with us. However, the glass kingdom we encountered now turned out to have developed into something new and perhaps even more creative.

It is still about glass, but above all about artistic creation. In today's society, it is difficult to compete with mass-produced utility glass made in low-wage countries. On the other hand, you can compete with artistry and design, and the Småland glass kingdom does that with flying colours.

We started our glass journey with a visit to Kosta Art Gallery, which opened our eyes to how creative and innovative glass art can be. Here we dreamed ourselves away among Bertil Vallien's magical boats, Kjell Engman's fairytale balloons and Lena Bergström's unruly anemones. Afterwards, we walked over to the Kosta Art Hotel, a hotel decorated with glass art, and had a drink in the shimmering blue and imagination-provoking environment of the Glass Bar.

If you want to experience the soul of the Glass Kingdom, however, it is not enough to see Kosta. By doing a "glass round", and zigzagging between some of the mills, you get a little more insight into the work of the various glass artists. Perhaps you are most attracted to the animal motifs at Målerås glassworks, the imaginative works at Orranäs glassworks or the more stylish products at Skrufs glassworks. Among other things, we were fascinated by the special glass creations at Mickejohan's art glass. Micke Johansson is not only a skilled glassblower and glass artist, he has also developed completely new techniques, which he is the only one in the world to master.

On our glass tour, we also visited The Glass Factory in Boda, where you can both see glassblowers at work and take part in exhibitions about the history of the glass craft. To finally connect our own glass experience, we booked ourselves into a workshop at Kosta Glascenter to try glassblowing ourselves. Even though we looked at many glassblowers, it was an aha experience to try it ourselves. It is certainly challenging, but with guidance the visit ends with you holding your own blown bowl or vase in your hand.

At Målerå's glassworks, animals and nature are a source of inspiration, which is reflected in the range.

Nature experiences beyond the ordinary

Although glass is a large and important part of the Kingdom of Glass, the area offers much more. Above all, you should not miss experiencing the enchanted and deep wilderness in Småland's interior. Here the forest is dense, the lakes are mirror-bright and the rivers roar. Wildlife abounds, and it's no wonder the area attracts hunters, fishermen and hikers.

We stayed one night at Vidinge farm, which serves as a perfect starting point for those who want to go out into nature with the dog, by bike, or perhaps to pick berries or mushrooms. Here you can also go on adventures in the Alsterån with a "packraft", a kind of inflatable lightweight canoe. It wasn't a canoe adventure for us this time, but we're already thinking about coming back for an exciting trip on the river this spring or summer.

Although we didn't have time to experience the Småland forests from a rushing stream, we got the chance to see them at high speed from above. Europe's longest zipline is here in the Kingdom of Glass, in Little Rock Lake at Klavreström. Rushing through the treetops is an adventure that we can warmly recommend to anyone who likes to get drunk with an adrenaline rush. In addition, we can recommend spotting wild animals during a trip to one of the area's safari parks. We did a tour of Kosta Safaripark, where we could see many wild animals from a short distance. We were also able to get up close and personal with a moose, which was obviously not the least bit afraid of our mobile home.  

If you enjoy quieter nature experiences, and perhaps also want to learn more about how to protect the environment, we can recommend a visit to Ödevata gårdhotell. The committed owner couple, Malin and Magnus, are passionate about saving the world, and the fact is that a visit here helps one feel hope for the future. On the farm, we learned both how an aquaponic cultivation works, and how to produce and use biochar. But, of course, it's also fine to come here just to relax, enjoy nature, bask by the lake or perhaps go on a leisurely canoe ride on the mirror-like water.

In the footsteps of the Emigrants and Vilhelm Moberg

With the new film adaptation of Vilhelm Moberg's classic emigrant epic, the story of Karl-Oskar and Kristina is once again on everyone's lips, which also makes the Kingdom of Glass an even more exciting and current destination. It was here that the 16 people in the story started their journey towards America.

During a tour of the area, you can for example visit Klasatorpet, which served as the protagonists' homestead "Korpamoen" in the first film, and Åkerby crossroads, where the journey to America began. You can also visit the famous Duvemåla, where today there is a farm with a cafe open in summer.

Vilhelm Moberg himself grew up in a simple soldier's barracks in the area, and there is now a memorial stone on the site that tells about the author's early upbringing. A short distance from here is Moshultamåla's old school, where the young Vilhelm once upon a time learned to read and write. That he became interested in books and writing, and chose to tell about this hard time in Sweden's history, we can of course be happy for today. Thanks to his immortal work, another generation of Swedes can now learn about that period in history, when around 1.3 million Swedes chose to leave Sweden due to poverty and concern for the future.

in Vilhelm Moberg's footsteps.

Surprises that bring joy

Glasriket offers glass art, beautiful nature and emigrant history, but this is also an area where you can discover food and drink, crafts, history and surprises that bring pure joy.

For example, you might want to visit the Lessebo hand paper mill, where paper is still made in the traditional way today with Dutchmen, kyp and forming frames. The mill invites you to guided tours, but also arranges workshops where you can try making your own paper yourself, which is both a calming and interesting experience.

Lessebo Hand paper mill

If you like history, you can also make a trip to Granhult's church, which can boast of being Sweden's oldest wooden church. This small building has, against all odds, survived since the 13th century, and today you can peek inside to see the ancient paintings on the ceiling and walls. Afterwards, it's a good idea to enjoy a coffee at Tadah coffee roastery in Lenhovda. Special coffee is made here according to the "slow roast" artisanal method, and there is even a small nostalgia museum here.

If you like charming cafés, you shouldn't miss pastry shop Fenix in Emmaboda either. At this nostalgia café, you can choose to settle down in the 50s, 60s or 70s section. Perhaps the funnest part is that you soon end up in conversation with the other guests, about which of the various objects you recognize and have a relationship with. After the visit here, you can walk a few hundred meters to the shop Emmaboda art, where you will find one of Sweden's largest selection of works of art.

Another fascinating place in the Kingdom of Glass is the James Bond Museum in Nybro, which is actually the world's only James Bond museum. The man behind this impressive collection of film paraphernalia is today, along with his other names, James Bond, and it all started with the disappearance of his father. Despite the serious background, the museum today offers a lot of joy and nostalgia, both for die-hard James Bond fans and for anyone who has ever happened to see one or two of these classic films.

Last but not least, we would like to recommend the small shop "Margaretha's doll cabinet" in Kosta, which invites you to an enchanted fairy tale world filled with teddy bears, dolls and charming doll cabinet environments. The store attracts both children and collectors from near and far. Here you can also hand in your broken loved one to the Doll & Teddy Doctor or stay over in the Teddy Bear Pension - a second place where everything goes in the direction of the teddy bears.

The Kingdom of Glass can certainly be visited for its fascinating glass art, but we also left here with memories of adventurous nature experiences, charming café environments and exciting historical sites. We can only state that the Kingdom of Glass is much more than glass - and that we will be back soon.

Helena and Peter Bergström