The story of Kolarbyn

Sven Råberg in Kolarbyn

Sven Råberg (1918-2005) built a forest hut and several charcoal stacks in Kolarbyn

The story goes that Kolarbyn has been a site for charcoal burning for hundreds of years. Until the 1950’s when charcoal burning was replaced by more modern methods, poor workers were sent out in the forest to log trees and to produce charcoal. The charcoal was an important ingredient in the process of producing iron, which was the main industry in Sweden during a long period. The logging and charcoal workers often had to work in the forests during the cold winters, and to keep warm they often constructed insulated huts. These huts were typically constructed by thin poles and covered in soil. They had a fire heated stove at one end and two or more berths where they could lay down and get some well deserved rest between their long working hours.

At the site where Kolarbyn is located there have been several generations of huts throughout the centuries. No one knows how many and for how long, but the site is ideal since there is a lake, a stream and a fresh water spring nearby. Although the huts that we use now are only 20 years or so, they are still constructed in the same traditional style as our ancestors once built them.

So, what’s charcoal used for?

Fresh wood contains water, even dry wood does. But charcoal is basically wood without water. To get the water out of the wood you need to heat it up without burning the wood completely. That’s what you do in a charcoal stack.

If you set fire to a pile of wood that you have covered with soil the fire gets limited access to oxygen and the wood does not burn entirely. The wood turns black and becomes light and dry. That is charcoal. The good thing about charcoal is that when it is burnt  it produces much more heat than regular wood. Wood contains too much water that cools the fire. The heat from charcoal was essential to melt the iron ore in order to separate the iron from the other minerals, the waste products.

Charcoal was used in the traditional iron production during hundreds of years. Some people estimate that you need 1000kg of wood, turned it in to charcoal to produce 1kg of iron. That means a lot of forest was harvested for the iron industry, and that a lot more workers were needed in the forest than in the iron factory and the forge.

The birth of an eco-lodge

Kolarbyn Ecolodge, as we see it today, was reestablished during the winter of 1996 as enthusiastic villagers from Skinnskatteberg decided to build a collection of traditional forest huts by the shore of lake Skärsjön. One hut was already there, and there were remains of some older ones. Their idea was to create a place for people interested in charcoal burning to practice their techniques in the way it had been practiced in the region for centuries. The forest huts and the charcoal burning site enabled practical knowledge as well as it’s belonging cultural traditions and folklore to be passed on to future generations.

 

Thousands of visitors from over 75 countries

Magic happened in 2004. In the summer of 2004 the daily operation of Kolarbyn was passed on to Marcus Eldh who soon launched Kolarbyn as an ecolodge open for bookings from the public. Marcus established a cooperation with the Swedish Tourist Association (STF) as a way to reach out to nature lovers in Sweden as well as abroad.

Since then Kolarbyn Ecolodge has seen thousands of visitors from all over the world. Guests have arrived from over 75 countries such as Uganda, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Uruguay and even North Korea and Burma, although most visitors are Swedish or from nearby European countries.

The ecolodge has rapidly gained a reputation abroad, included in several books, featured in travel magazines and newspapers worldwide and seen by millions of people on TV in various countries.

During 2010 Kolarbyn Ecolodge was passed on to the current owner Andreas Ahlsén and his company Svea Adventure, but Kolarbyn is still an important part of the WildSweden concept.

 

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