The Swedish polkagris candy town.
Gränna is a small town in the south of Sweden, famous for its red and white hard candy, which is in fact the historical predecessor of the American candy cane. The candy is called polkagris and dates back to 1859, when a local widow named Amalia Eriksson started making it to support her family. Amalia’s candy was a great success, which soon spread across Sweden and the world. While the original red-and-white version was peppermint flavoured, there are numerous colours and flavours for everyone today.
Since the candy is Gränna’s main attraction, there are many candy shops allover town, offering special bundle offers, candy-making workshops and tastings. You can see the polkagrisar being made by hand through the glass windows of workshops inside almost every shop, and it is a pretty interesting process. Each round candy stick is about 15 cm long, with characteristic colour twists along its length, although only the red and white ones are considered the true polkagrisar.
First off, sugar, water and vinegar are mixed and heated to 150°C. Afterwards the candy dough is put on a cooling table, where flavours and colorings are added to different parts of the dough. After it cools down a bit, the base dough with no colour is stretched until it becomes white, and formed into a loaf. The coloured bits are added as stripes on top and the whole loaf is then rolled, stretched and twisted until it looks just right. To ensure that each stick will be perfectly round, the candies are constantly rolling around on the cooling pad after they’re done. Once they harden, they are as hard as a rock and any additional corrections are impossible, so the process must be timed just right.
Besides the candy shops and Amalia hus, Gränna also has a local musuem called the Grenna museum, which details the story of a failed North Pole explorer from the town, as well as a church and a chocolaterie.
As you can imagine, Gränna is essentially a tourist trap. The whole town revolves around the polkagris candy and all the wooden houses have been renovated to look as adorable as possible. So, if anyone tells you that Gränna is an example of a traditional Swedish village, don’t be fooled. The streets are normally crowded with tourists, most places are on the expensive side and the area is extremely popular with Swedes as well. Because Gränna is located on the shores of lake Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake, the Swedes like to bring their mobile homes and camp in and around Gränna. However, they usually stay outside the city centre and the town is small enough that it doesn’t feel like a Disney park.
Impressions of Gränna
If you, like me, are not a fan of crowds and expensive cafes, I recommend taking the short hike up Gränna mountain. You can find the 243 steps to the top behind the church in a central park, and although the climb is short, it is also a bit steep. There’s a nice cafe on the top of the mountain, where I stopped for a mandatory fika (the Swedish coffee break tradition), some old traditional houses and a tall Tegnér view tower a bit further away.
The view from Gränna mountain
You’ll get a beautiful view of lake Vättern from the top, as well as a view of the historically important island Visingö, which you can also visit by ferry from Gränna.
Now, although Gränna is such a tourist trap, I felt it was worth a short visit nonetheless. I was there in July 2019 for a day trip from Jönköping and also visited the oldest working mill in Sweden in the nearby village of Röttle, so it was a pretty good day altogether. The town really is picturesque in its cute, over the top way and seeing how the candy is made live was pretty interesting. Also, because Gränna is so popular, it can be easily reached by frequent public transport from all larger towns nearby.
The details of Gränna
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