In eastern Sweden you’ll find a city called Norrkoping. You’ll not find it in most travel brochures of the country, though maybe you should.
What makes it so great, you ask? Well, it’s something of an underdog for one—and you know how I love a good underdog story . . .
Norrkoping got its start in the middle ages, though happening across an exact date seems to be iffy. There is mention of a twelfth century church in the area; but the city is not listed by name until the latter part of the thirteenth century.
Unfortunately, nothing remains of the city from its earliest beginnings. Thanks to various battles and the Northern Seven Years’ War (1563-1570), the entire southern part of Norrkoping burnt to the ground.
The city rebuilt itself as hub for the weapons and textile industries (which used the falls and rapids to power their mills). It grew and flourished to become Sweden’s second largest city.
Then there was the fire of 1655 . . . and the Great Northern War, wherein the city once again found itself little more than ash.
But once again it rebuilt itself—this time focusing on sugar and snuff.
Unfortunately (I hate to even say it), there were fires. That’s right, plural—one in 1822 and one in 1826.
Did they give up, call it quits, and otherwise throw in the towel? Nope. They banned wooden houses and set out to excel in the ship industry. Their perseverance paid off. They grew to become Sweden’s largest ship industry. Their cotton refinery and paper mill continued to grow as well; so much so that by the 1930s it was known as “Sweden’s Manchester.”
Of course, things once again began to decline mid-twentieth century. Factory after factory began shutting down, letting their employees go. In 1970, the Holmen paper mill—the one that had been there for over three centuries—closed it’s doors.
And so it was, Norrkoping began to reinvent itself once again.
Today it’s a center for learning, creative businesses, and culture.
It’s a lovely walk from the train station to the center of town, one that includes a stroll through Karl Johans park. If you were following Instagram while we were gone, you saw the fountain we walked past, on our way through (a fountain that happened to be filled with suds on that particular day) . . .
The park also includes a cactus display. But its no ordinary gathering of cacti; no, every year they replant as a new work of art. This year, if you looked high above, you could see images from the animal park (your tour guide did not get a photo; I’m a failure; profuse apologies).
Since we were only there for a couple days (actually, a day and a half, if you’d care to be specific), we focused on ‘The Industrial Landscape;’ which includes Knappingsborg—a charming district of wee shops and cafes . . .
We stepped through that walkway and entered a time when Norrkoping boasted a vibrant textile industry . . .
We explored the NASA exhibit, Arbetets museum (or The Museum of Work), and the Norrkoping City Museum. We had some good times at Arbetets, which included a lot of laughter and a tasty lunch in their café. But our absolute favorite was the Norrkoping City Museum . . .
We spent the rest of our stay sharing meals, Fika, and meandering about with our friends (my brother’s sister- and brother-in-law—our own private tour guides), learning of the city’s history, watching the yellow trams go by, and soaking in the parks and architecture . . .