A happy, rainy day in Orsa

Jan 15th, 2022 | By | Category: Featured articles

16.1.2022 – First published 14.6.2009 by Mervi and Vesa

We started our trip to Orsa in a rainy and stormy Malmö and unfortunately the rain never stopped during our visit. It was a long drive – about 8 hours on slippery roads. The closer Orsa we came the more convinced we were that this landscape is exactly as everybody’s picture of Sweden – forrests, rivers and lakes, untouched nature everywhere. There was not much traffic and it seemed to me that we were the only Swedes (well, actually we are Finns) on the road – the others were from Germany and Netherlands plus one car from France.

We arrived in Orsa in the afternoon so it was too late to go to Grönklitt. Well, we ate a good dinner and went to bed early hoping that we would wake up in a sunny Orsa. Our hope was in vain – it kept raining small, transparent polar bears!

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Next morning was THE day! Pernilla Thalin – nowadays known as ‘Wilbär’s mom’ – came to meet us at the gate and we started our tour in the Bear Park. First we passed the wolves’ enclosure but didn’t see any animals there because the enclosure is really huge! Pernilla told us that they are waiting for a wolf from Berlin but not a white one so I guess the wolf comes from TierpaThen we came to the lynx’ enclosure and met a beutiful lynx called Einstein. He has a wife, too, but she preferred not to show today. After admiring Mr Einstein we continued rapidly to the polar bears’ enclosure.

There’s a wonderful exhibition hall with windows towards the enclosure so it’s a very good spot to observe Wilbär and Ewa. We didn’t mind staying indoors! Unfortunately Ewa wasn’t feeling well today due to diarhoea and that’s why she was staying in a smaller enclosure so the keepers could have an eye on her all the time and see if the medication was helping. It was quite clear that none of our bear friends liked this arrangement. Ewa was walking all the time – she reminded me of Knuti’s ‘hungermarsch’ and Wilbär stayed first on the other side of the enclosure looking for Ewa.

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Maybe the sight of Pernilla made him finally come towards us. Oh, what a moment it was! This was the first time we saw Wilbär live! I almost burst into tears when I saw him coming closer and closer….He’s such a beautiful bear. I think he’s big for his age compared to Knuti at the same age but of course, Wilbär still is ‘een kleenet Kind’. Now I must tell you that his name is Wilbär – it hasn’t been changed. The readers of a newspaper wanted to call him Wille because it’s easier for a Swede to pronounce and write than Wilbär.

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Wilbär came to meet us but was all the time casting glances towards the little enclosure where Ewa was staying. They seem to go very well together and enjoy each other’s company even though there are days when they hardly have anything to do with each other. Maybe it’s the knowledge that there’s is a friend around that makes them feel secure and comfortable.

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Pernilla told us about Wilbär’s arrival to Orsa. It was, of course, a big event when famous polar bear came. She was very glad that staff from Wilhelma stayed in Orsa for four days to give her and the other keepers valuable information about Wilbär. When I saw Pernilla and Wilbär ‘talking’ to each other I was sure this had been love at first sight! I loved the way she called Wilbär ‘hjärtat’ or ‘sötnos’ – my sweetheart and my beautiful boy. Needless to say it all reminded me of another bear keeper in Berlin….

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This photo is here just to give you the idea of why it was so difficult to take photos!

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Wilbär was walking around a little but decided then to take a nap so we continued our tour to Ewa. By the way – some visitors have been worried about the stones. What if Wilbär start throwing stones and breaks a window???

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Ewa is a very beautiful girl but today she wasn’t happy at all because she was ill and she obviously missed the company of Wilbär. I asked Pernilla if she was a dominant type and she said Ewa is very determined but not at all bossy. There’s never any competition about food for example.

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Then Pernilla told us something I found very touching. On the left of this small enclosure there’s a ‘nursery’ ready for Ewa and her cub/s! It’s specially designed for a bear mama and her babies – with a webcam. There’s also already a room for the keepers where they are able to keep an eye on the nursery all the time – day and night. Isn’t that marvellous!! Of course – we can’t expect any cubs until earliest in 2011 – probably later but everything’s ready for them. I say already: Welcome to the Polar World, little friends!

After meeting Ewa outside we were allowed to follow Pernilla to the ‘polar bear room’ or rather rooms because there are four rooms where the bears have their meals and also have their click training. The visitors can see this all through a window but we were standing inside. When Ewa came in I could have touched her through the bars! Well, since I want to keep my fingers I didn’t !! Wow, I felt so ‘VIPPY’! I’ve never been so close to a polar bear and I guess I never will again. Thank you, Pernilla, for this wonderful moment! – I hope I can put together a little video to show you how it was.

I must tell you that the cinnamon buns aren’t the usual ‘diet’ for Wilbär. It was due to special circumstances that he got them and on that day a journalist happened to be there….

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Now it was time for Pernilla to work so we said ‘hej då’ but we should meet again later. We decided to go to the Värdshus for coffee and to write some post cards.

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On our way we passed the children’s park and look what the polar ship is called!!

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After our ‘drying session’ we went to visit the Bear Park. These bears live in a forrest – yes, I mean it, a forrest! I tried to count how many bears and cubs I saw but lost the count. Here are brown bears and Kamtjatka bears. There are also plans to get some Kodiak bears here but so far nothing’s settled. The Orsa Bear Park is though number one on the list if some Kodiak bears are moving…

Oh, I almost forgot….when we were walking towards the Bear Park we suddenly saw a beautiful red fox sitting on the stairs of the old souvenir shop! I first thought it was a decoration but then I saw he was moving. Before I had time to pick up my camera he/she disappeared under the cottage. I guess this fox has a private metro between his enclosure and the shop!

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The funny thing in this part of Sweden is that there’s a good (?) chance to meet bears even outside the park. Pernilla told us that just the day before a bear mama with three cubs had been seen crossing the road between Orsa and Grönklitt! I told her that whenever I’m collecting berries or mushrooms in a Finnish forrest I’m always trying to make as much noice as possible to ‘warn’ the bears. Pernilla laughed and said she’s always trying to keep very quiet and hoping to see a bear! These words came from the mouth of a girl born in Stockholm!!

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If there wasn’t that hence in the background you would think these bears are living in the wilderness.

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Next to the bears there’s the enclosure of the Sibirian tigers. What majestetic animals they are! There’s a ‘visitors’ bridge’ where you can have a good look at these beauties but we had already climbed enough. Grönklitt is situated on a mountain so there’s quite a lot of climbing. If you come here, don’t forget to put on your most comfortable shoes – I think hiking boots would be most suitable.

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The wiew from the bears’ visitors’ spot is magnificent! The lake Siljan, the forrests and the mountains are breathtakingly beautiful – even seen in a pouring rain!

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As I already wrote Grönklitt is a mountain and it’s also a famous ski resort. The skiers are a bit sour now that the keepers in the Polar World have a more efficient snow gun than the ‘keepers’ of the slalom hills!

Pernilla’s dream is to build a snow mountain (in the autumn when there are minus grades) that makes it possible for Ewa and Wilbär to slide to the water. The other end of the lake won’t freeze because of heavy streams so there will be open water even during the winter. Oh boy, I can hardly wait to see the photos and videos…..

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When we came back to the Polar World Wilbär was still napping but when I called ‘Wilbär schatzele’ he raised his head! I’m sure he understood what I said. Thank you, Velvet, for the lessons in Schwäbisch! Shortly after Pernilla came with a bucket of apples and then our Wilbär definitely woke up!

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Due to the bad weather there were not so many visitors but many Germans and Dutsch had found their way here anyway. Wilbär came to say hello to us all and it looked like he was very glad to see us there. Since I was wearing my Knuti cap, Vesa had his Knutitours cap and I was carrying my things in a bad with Berlin written on it many Germans started to talk with us. They were mighty surprised when we told that the Berlin Zoo is almost the ‘home zoo’ for us!

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Thank you for the apples! I could do with some more…..

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No more apples, no Ewa….. What shall I do next? I won’t go swimming today. I don’t think I need a bath since I’ve been having a shower all day….

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Hello Pernilla! Might one suggest you bring more apples next time????

Seeing these two together made me sure that this has been love at first sight. I loved the way Pernilla called Wilbär ‘hjärtat’ or ‘sötnos’ (my sweetheart, my beautiful boy). It all reminded me of a certain bear keeper in Berlin…

When I said to Pernilla ‘You’ve really got the best job in the world’ she couldn’t but agree!

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I do love my garden! You know, folks, I’m growing blueberries and raspberries here. Of course, there are just flowers at the moment but soon I’ll be eating lots of vitamines….I really don’t know how the berries will taste but I’m sure they are yammy!

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Now Wilbär thought it was time to make his bed. You should have seen him carefully removing a stone from his bed! Who said polar bears aren’t intelligent?? Shame on you!

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And now ladies and gentlemen – I have some great news! Very soon there will be fish in our lake – salmon trouts – so Ewa and I can go fishing! Mind you – we have all the necessary permissions!!

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Now it was time to say goodbye to Wilbär and Pernilla. I’m happy to tell you that Wilbär is doing just fine in his new home and he really has a most loving and caring keeper!

It’s a long way to Orsa but I can highly recommed a trip there. You can see such a beautiful, untouched nature and of course, a visit in the Bear Park and the Polar World is something unforgettable! The park is open everyday summer and winter. Why not combine skiing and polar bears?

There are excellent camping places near the Polar World – in Orsa (16 km from Grönklitt) and in Mora (about 32 km from Grönklitt). You can also hire a cottage in Grönklitt but you’d better make your reservation in good time because the cottages are very popular. Of course, there are hotels as well. The fastest way to come to Orsa is, of course, flying. There’s an airport in Mora and there are direct flights from Stockholm.

In the Polar World you have always a chance to have a chat with the keepers and ask questions. Pernilla said that, of course, the keepers are there for the animals but also for the visitors. There are guided tours (in Swedish, English and German) every day. At half past one there’s an information session every day – if the weather is fine it’s kept outside the polar bears’ enclosure and with bad weather inside in the exhibition hall. For those with bad legs there’s a possibility to make a tour with Björn (what a proper name – Björn is bear in Swedish!) in a little ‘train’ which also can take wheel chairs.

It was such a wonderful day in spite of all raining! Too bad we couldn’t stay longer this time.

Pernilla, thank you so much for your time! You made our visit to something very special! Thank you Ewa and Wilbär – we love you!

Kära hälsningar från Mervi och Vesa/Greetings from Mervi and Vesa




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  1. Da sieht man mal, wie lange es den Park schon gibt.
    Ich erinnere mich noch, dass wir auch für Knut an
    einen Umzug nach Orsa nachdachten. Leider
    kam dann die Initiative, die Knut unbedingt
    in Berlin behalten wollte. So hatten Wilbär
    und später Ewa das große Los gezogen.

    Ich kann nicht verstehen, dass man noch
    züchtete, sogar Hope noch schwanger
    werden ließ und nun den Park schließt.
    Das alles ist völlig unverständlich 🙄
    und auch nicht gänzlich durch Corona
    erklärbar – eher scheint mir das als
    Grund vorgeschoben, um den Park
    jetzt schnell schließen zu können. 🙁

  2. Dear Mervi
    This report really shows what Orsa was all about.
    It is beyond belief that the fate of such an important wildlife park has no government involvement. There is a lot more we need to know.

  3. Dear Mervi!
    Thank you for publishing this vivid and detailed report once again!
    One can feel your enthusiasm for the landscape, this park and the animals housed in it, especially the bears, not to forget their loving and dedicated keepers, in every word and understands all the more your pain about the planned closure.

    I hope those responsible will reconsider their decision and find a way to preserve this refuge for the animals of the North! I´m keeping my fingers crossed.

    Hugs and paw waves
    Anke

  4. Liebe Mervi,

    wie schön, dass wir deinen Bericht von deinem Besuch 2009 heute nochmal lesen können,
    in dem du die außergewöhnlichen Eindrücke und Haltungsbedingungen eben jener nordischen Tiere in diesem
    wunderbaren Park so emphatisch schilderst.

    All das führt uns vor Augen, welcher unendlicher Verlust mit der drohenden Schließung bevorstehen würde.
    Hoffen wir, dass unsere Petition und auch der Protest Einheimischer hoffentlich mit Hilfe finanzieller Unterstützung sowie staatlicher Hilfe dieses Unheil abwenden möge.

    Herzliche Grüße und vielen Dank!
    Britta-Gudrun

  5. Dear Mervi!
    I can remember the time as you visited Orsa.
    I hope our petition will help to rescue this place.
    Hugs
    Ludmila

  6. Dear Mervi

    Why do you take possession of such a big beautiful country and then give it up at the first difficulties ?

    Thank you for the wonderful views in and over Orsa Park!!

    Hugs, Anita

  7. Thank you very much dear Mervi.
    I hope a solution will be found soon.
    Thank you for trying to help Wilbaer, Ewa and their friends.

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