A tiny village with one of the oldest working grain mills in Sweden.
After I’d had my fill of Gränna, the Swedish polkagris candy town, I took a short bus ride to the nearby village of Röttle. You won’t find this tiny village on many tourist itineraries, but it hides a curiosity: one of the oldest grain mills in Sweden, which is still occasionally active. During the warmer months (June to August) the mill is opened for demonstration and tourist purposes and you can actually buy the flour ground there. I was lucky enough to be around in July 2019 during my solo travels through Scandinavia, so I got to see it at work.
The village of Röttle was built next to waterfall on the eastern side of lake Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake. The Röttleån river had been used for its power for centuries, and Röttle was in fact an industrial village back in the day. Nowadays most of the water from the river runs through the hydropower plant in Gränna, so the once wild Röttleån river is little more than a tame stream at this point, particularly during the summer months.
In the 17th century one of the counts from Visingsö island started a huge industrial undertaking in Röttle, as he financed the building of a paper mill, a weaving mill, weapon forges, a powder mill, a hammer mill and a drilling mill, which produced barrels for muskets. The paper mill and the drill mill kept for a while after his death, and the drill mill was redesigned into a grain mill. It became known as the Rasmus kvarn (kvarn = mill) and operated until 1920, when the hydropower plant took away most of its water. In fact, with 3 water wheels and 3 millstones it used to be one of the main mills in the area and was often the only one who could supply the population with flour during times of drought or war.
The mill was renovated in the 1970s as historical heritage and today it is an interesting example of once common machinery. When I was there, it was operated and maintained by a very dedicated man, who knew it inside out. Since I was the only visitor at the time, we struck up a proper conversation about grain milling technology and after he found out I’m a mechanical engineer he showed me pretty much every inch of the mill.
I got to watch every step of the process as he added fresh grain and we had an interesting discussion about why industrially ground flour tastes so different and what happens with the grains when ground by different materials. He told me all about how they used to move the heavy millstones and how they were lubricated with pig or preferably even bear fat. He also claimed that the Rasmus kvarn was probably the oldest grain mill in Sweden still in working condition, although it can no longer run at full power, because there’s never enough water flow.
Besides the Rasmus kvarn, there’s also another, older mill in Röttle, but it is no longer operational. It’s called the Jerusalems kvarn and dates back to the Middle Ages, which makes it one of the oldest still preserved secular buildings in Sweden. I’m not entirely sure if I found it, as the mill guy told me to follow the road towards the lake and look for a distinct red building on the western side of the river, but there was a millstone before a red building I found, so I decided that was it. If anyone knows, please let me know in the comments! 🙂
Getting there: There is a local bus from Gränna to the Gyllene Uttern hotel, but you’ll still need to walk to walk for about 15 minutes to half an hour to reach the Rasmus mill. The man at the mill showed me a shortcut through the woods to the bus station, which started at the back of the mill, but I almost got lost twice and it was pretty steep, so I’m not entirely sure I recommend taking it. If I remember correctly, the ticket for the Rasmus kvarn was about 10€, although I gave him 20€ to help ensure that this quaint piece of history stays alive. A bag of flour was also like 1 or 2€, but since I was travelling I wasn’t able to buy it. Also, be forewarned that besides the mills Röttle is a very tiny village with no amenities, so take care not to annoy the locals too much.