Few get ‘personal’ tour
of World Heritage site
Emma Larsson, right, was such a sport to hold still for this shot next to the “guest book” where the names of royal visitors to the mine are inscribed in rock and lined with gold leaf. Photo by Bjorn Palenius. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
Part III of a series
OUR GUIDE DOWN almost 200 feet into the Falu Gruva mine, three hours northwest of Stockholm, Sweden, was Emma Larsson, 26.
My companion and translator, Bjorn Palenius and I were so fortunate to be with her on a Tuesday two weeks before the high season began: our group had only six guests, four of whom spoke only German, so they could understand very little of what Larsson was saying in English. It was as if she was giving us an exclusive, personal tour.
Once the high season begins, tours are scheduled every 15 minutes, Larsson told us, and can include up to 32 guests in each group.
LARSSON, A NATIVE OF FALUN, spent much of her childhood on the grounds of what is today a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site.
The main museum building at Falu Gruva houses a collection worth spending hours reviewing. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
Her father, she said, was a maintenance electrician at the facility, and she accompanied him to the mine on many occasions.
One of the striking differences between the Swedes we met and the many Americans I know is that Swedish folk have a far greater knowledge and understanding of their history than most in the U.S. do.
Larsson explained that one of the main functions of the Falu Gruva site is educational: during the off season, like the day we visited, the site is humming with school classes, groups of about 30 young children getting their mandatory history lesson at the mine and the museums.
Swedes regard their kings and queens with affection, and it is, indeed, well earned.
Ever since the Enlightenment, the role of the royals has been to take care of the people, as governments everywhere should, and one can see in the history of the mine, the Swedish government, and the people, the origins of its contemporary Social-Democratic model of citizenship.
Emma Larsson epitomizes this. She said she “always” wanted to work at the mine (clearly she was too late to be a miner; operations ceased when she was just an infant), but there are still other job opportunities for her there – like being a tour guide.
The minimum age for employment is 18, so Larsson applied in 2005 and began working at Falu Gruva while still in high school.
She has clearly rehearsed her tour many, many times.
But, her destiny took her on a detour.
The relatively new visitor entrance to Falu Gruva houses the globe depicting mining activities around the world, the reception desk and a gift shop. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
Larsson continued her education – as I recommend every youngster should do – by spending about three years abroad.
She lived for awhile in France, she said, and then spent more than two years in Australia, first in Brisbane and then in the Western Territory.
That must have been where she learned to speak near flawless English, though she did not pick up the Ozzie accent.
She is graceful, charming, and patient … the very qualities that make for a perfect guide.
Larsson is also a full time student, majoring in business administration. “I hope to run this place, some day,” she said, with a smile. It is quite conceivable that, one day, she will.