Sunday, July 3, 2011

Discover Sweden - Marks Municipality

View from Slottsberget, Öresten

I will begin a series of attractions in Marks Kommun, my home municipality. This is an attempt to an introduction to that series and might be edited later on. Future posts will include photos and more specific details about areas.

The word Mark means borderland or border forest. The municipality of Marks Kommun is situated in the South-Western end of Västra Götaland in the West of Sweden and was created in 1971 by combining two market towns and six tier municipalities. It's regional centre became Kinna.

Main Villages
The earliest villages were established along the rivers and streams of Viskan, Surtan and Häggån and ancient graves can be found around these areas. The regional centre, Kinna, is the largest of the villages and the name comes from the word kinn, which means hillside (since it's situated between two hills). Most notable of Kinna are the white wooden estates from the early 19th century for suppliers of raw material like wool, cotton and yarn for spinning and weaving. The material was distributed to the women in crofts and farms in the are, whom made fabrics that the trader bought back and sold forth to merchants and peddlers. The weaving and trading of fabrics around Mark are still famous and has given the region the nickname "Textile Kingdom." 

The village of Skene is situated just West of Kinna and also along the river Viskan. The name is most likely a combination of the words skadh and vini, which would mean stream and pasture. On a small hill called Nycklaberget overlooking the village is a place called Galgbacken from 1682, which used to be an execution site where people were hanged, beheaded or burned for their crimes.

Örby lies East of Kinna and the name comes from the word ör which means gravel, and by which means village. Although Öresten doesn't technically belong to Örby anymore, is used to be part of the parish. Öresten used to be an important (and the largest in Västergötland) foothold for the war against the Danes and was mentioned the first time in Swedish history in 1366. The castle, which is situated on the hill of Slottsberget (Castle Mountain) fell in the hands of the Danes the same year. Although the castle was destroyed three times during its many battles, it was rebuild twice, which wasn't all that popular among the countryfolk as it was a general opinion that Öresten was the main reason for the many troops that burned and destroyed what came in their way. The countryfolk gathered 100 oxes to buy the castle, just to destroy it. The year was 1521 and Öresten was destroyed for the third and last time. Today it's a beautiful area for strolling among leafy forests and the stream of Slottsån (Castle Stream) and from the top of the hill is a gorgeous view of the surrounding forests, fields and waters. A few stones still remain from the ruins of the castle as well as the remains of the moat.

Mark is characterized by wide forests, valleys, hundereds of lakes and streams and is an excellent area for exploring the wilds. The Courier Trail is a perfect way to discover the area and is said to have been ridden by postal couriers 600-700 years ago. Several nature reserves provide a closeup with nature. My personal favourite is Hyltenäs Kulle (Hyltenäs Hill) which used to be the site of a large hunting lodge belonging to the merchant George Seaton. The lodge was burned to the ground in 1923 but the basement's narrow passages are still there and makes an exciting playground for children and adventurous adults. Today the hill is a popular picnic area that provides excellent view of the surrounding forests and lakes with a rich birdlife. The forests mostly consists of hazel, birch and mountain ash and a lime alley that was planted during George Seaton's time leads into the nature reserve. Other plants that were once cultivated but now grow wilde include privet, spiraea, sycamore maple and chestnut. Hiking tracks have been created around the hill and down to the lake.

Other reserves includes Lekvad Nature Reserve in Berghem, along the river Viskan. It provides charming views of mighty tree formations on the steep slopes and a thick vegetation. Sea lampreys and salmon trout have their spawning grounds past the mill canal. Seven Streams in Torestorp is a splitting of the Torestorpsån River into seven streams. A footpath follows babbling brooks and leafy greenery. The area is considered to be the mostbeautiful in spring, when it's covered with wood anemones and the water volume is at its greatest.
Björkesbacka Nature Reserve lies east of Örby and it great for seeing how people lived in the area with its old buildings, rich flora and fauna. Although the buildings aren't open to the public it still gives a good opportunity for a glimpse in the past. A trail, that is accessible to all (including disabled), takes you through the area. It's planned that Björkesbacka will continue to retain the character of the old working forest home in the 1900s. Meadows will be cut with scythes and pastures will be grazed by sheep and Highland cattle.

Links and Contact Information

Mark's Tourist Office:
Marks Turistbyrå
Boråsvägen 40
511 80 Kinna
Tele. +46 (0)320 21 72 70
Fax +46 (0)320 148 82

Open Monday-Friday 10.00-16.00. In summer (June 13-August 20) 10.00-18.99, Saturdays 10.00-15.00. Also on Sundays during July from 10.00-15.00.

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