Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Another Oak Story
Visingsö is a 14 km long, 3km wide island in the southern half of the lake Vättern in Sweden, 30 km north of Jönköping and 6 km west of Gränna. According to legend, a giant named Vist created the island by throwing a turf of grass into the lake so that his wife, full from a large picnic lunch, could use it to step over the lake.
The main tourist attraction is the Ekskogen, a 360 hectare oak forest, the largest in Sweden. It's origins became known in 1980 when the Swedish navy received a letter informing them that the wood that they had ordered was now ready. Naval authorities checked their records and sure enough they found a record from 1829. The Swedish parliament had perceived a (very distant) threat to the country's defense: ships were built from oak, but oak trees take 150 years to grow and mature. Construction needs were making use of most of the country's oak forests and so the anticipated need for replacement ships in the 1990's called for the immediate planting of 20 000 young oak trees on the island. Of course ships are no longer made of wood, so the strategically important timber is not required. However, the forest is now considered "a priceless source of wonder, relaxation, and contemplation."