Gävle, Sweden – of Coffee, Candy and Christmas, An Introduction

Take an hour long train just to see a goat? Only an idiot would do that.

My friends tell me I do idiotic things 😉

Then again, sometimes I’d much rather be stupid and happy than smart and sad, and so I resolved to check out the Gävle goat after watching a clip about it on Mock the Week.

Timing the trip required some effort, I had to check and see when the goat would be set up and then take a calculated risk on when I would go to see the goat.

Its just a goat, why put in so much effort, you ask (I see those judgy eyes you) 😉 Because, what was ordinarily an unfashionable seasonal decoration accrued to itself, over many years, a hilarious man-made must-see tradition. The very initial idea of townsfolks coming together to do something is admirable enough, but when a side story develops the story becomes even more interesting. Every year the townsfolk put up the goat for Christmas and every year someone tries to burn it down. What was there not to find funny about the story?

But Gävle (pronounced yev-le) is a lot more than that. The relatively small city of Gävle is the oldest city in the north of Sweden (Norrland) having been founded in 1446. It derived its name from the word gavel which means river bank in Old Swedish. The city was located next to a river called the Gavleån.

The city was an important export hub in the 15th century for copper and iron that was mined from the area and shipped out. It has since its founding been an important industrial location for Sweden, despite a policy in the 15th century of banning all trade except that from Stockholm.

As an aside, the city is also home to one of the best cafes/konditori that I have been to – Konditori Lido… amazing cakes and pastries in a authentic and traditional setting… sigh, why are they not in Stockholm…

While the city is today known for the goat, Gävle is able to boast of two other popular claims to fame, being the home of Gevalia Coffee and Läkerol.

Gevalia is the largest coffee roastry in Scandanavia and was founded in 1853. It belongs today to the international food brand Kraft Foods (the same firm that sells Kool Aid and Capri Sun). According to some sources, its house blend coffee is more popular than Starbucks’… that’s apparently a badge of honour, don’t ask me why…

The other famous brand to hail from here is Läkerol a type of pastille candy particularly popular in Scandanavia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore and Hong Kong. The original flavour – what else, licorice 😉 (we are in northern Europe). It’s almost like the mentos of the region, in fact so similar that this advertisement kind of reminds me of the mentos advertisements.

Join me as I cbeck out the Gävlebocken and learn more about coffee over the next couple of posts 🙂

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