This week we had the opportunity to have an intensive course together with Finnish students from Multidimensional Tourism Institute, Lapland University Consortium. Since the course was focused on heritage management and interpretation, we had the chance to visit the World Heritage site of Falun Copper Mine.
The Falun Mine was once the biggest copper mine in Europe. It is said that it was discovered by a farmer whose billy goat once came home with coloured horns fro rooting in the ground on the spot of the mine. After it stopped operating in 1992 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is now used only as a tourist attraction. The minerals from the copper ore were also used as a source of red colour which led to the production of the typical red paint for the houses. The minerals in the paint also served for keeping the wood in good state. Nowadays the paint is only kept as a tradition.
The temperature in the mine stays around 5°C so in the winter it might be even warmer than outside . The legends say that as you go inside the mine, you should knock 3 times on the wooden wall to greet the Lady of the mine. Also, you shouldn’t whistle, spit or swear inside the mine so that you wouldn’t make her angry.
After guiding us through several paths and “rooms” we were taken to a so-called Christmas chamber where one of the biggest minerals of copper ore was once found. It was found around Christmas time and thus the place was named the Christmas chamber. Many famous and important people visited it and signed on the wall in gold, the oldest signature dating 1898 and the newest being from the current Prince Carl Philip and his wife Princess Sofia in 2015.
Legends also speak of a local man, the Fat Mats, who intruded into the mine after working hours in order to find his fiancé a special gift for their marriage. However, he probably made the Lady of the mine angry and never returned from it. Everyone thought he got cold feet and ran away before the wedding. Many years later, the miners found a dead body of a young stranger lying in the mine which no-one could identify, until one old lady came around and said that it was her fiancé who went missing decades ago. No one believed her until many of their friends said that it looks exactly like the young Mats and thus it is said that the minerals must have kept his skin young and preserved.
The site itself is opened for free and you can have a walk around the Great Pit and read about its history on information panels. However, I would strongly recommend experiencing the guided tour of the mine underground as the guides share some interesting stories and facts and it is a more authentic experience! The World Heritage is split into two parts, the second being the Old Master Miner’s Estate (Gamla Staberg) located a few kilometres from Falun.
(Title photo by Gloria Trevisiol)