Forty kilometres north of Jönköping, the lakeside town of GRÄNNA is associated with the unlikely combination of pears and a gung-ho nineteenth-century Swedish balloonist. In late spring, the hills around Gränna are a confetti of pear blossom, Per Brahe (see below) having encouraged the planting of pear orchards hereabouts; the Gränna pear is one of the best-known varieties in the country today. Approaching from the south, the beautiful Gränna Valley sweeps down to your left, with the hills to the right, most notably the crest of Grännaberget, which provides a majestic foil to some superb views over Lake Vättern and its island, Visingsö. On a hot summer’s day, the trip here from Jönköping has something of the atmosphere of the French Riviera, evoked in particular by the winding roads, red-tiled roofs and the profusion of flowers in the old cottage gardens – not to mention the equal profusion of Porsche and Mercedes cars.
Per Brahe, one of Sweden’s first counts, built the town in the mid-seventeenth century, using the symmetry, regularity and spaciousness of planning that he had learnt while governor of Finland. The charming main street, Brahegatan, was subsequently widened and remodelled, allowing the houses fronting it to have gardens, while the other main roads were designed so Brahe could look straight down them as he stood at the windows of his now-ruined castle, Brahehus. The gardens along Brahegatan remain mostly intact, and until the 1920s, there were no additions to the original street layout. Even now, there’s very much a village feel to the little town.