Just before school started, we took one last mini-vacation with our daughters to our stateís top tourist attraction, the Wisconsin Dells. This place is known as the water park capital of the world, but we went for the reason the area became popular in the first place: the unique beauty of the glacier-carved rock formations that stretch for miles along that part of the Wisconsin River.
We pre-booked a two-hour boat tour through the Upper Dells, and while we waited for our turn to board the boat, I was surprised to hear so many different languages being spoken around me. We could have been among international tourists in New York or Paris, yet here we were in a relatively remote location in central Wisconsin; it was fascinating to realize people from so many different countries knew about ó and traveled to ó this special place in my humble home state.
Of course I listened for any signs of Swedish being spoken, or a similar Scandinavian language. I never did ó at least not there. It wasnít until the next day when we were headed out of town that we encountered something Scandinavian.
We saw a sign on the side of the road that led us to what turned out to be a very special place. I jumped out of the car and looked around: It was a small campus of barns and outbuildings, a dining hall and sleeping cottages ó a bed and breakfast. Run by Ole and Lena. Well, itís run by Anita Nelson and her family, but Ole and Lenaís Scandinavian humor and charm is woven throughout the grounds of this 130-year-old farmstead the Nelsons call Thunder Valley Inn.
It didnít take long to see that itís not just a place to sleep and eat a good breakfast (and the reviews indicate they are indeed good), but there are also Sunday smorgasbords the public can enjoy, folk music and games on the lawn, a gift shop full of Scandinavian items for sale, and to my girls' delight, a small petting zoo.
We regretted that we didnít stay here the night before. But we do have fond memories of our short visit with Anita and her warm Scandinavian hospitality (and the kitten we adopted will certainly always be a reminder Ö ). It could be that was our only visit because Ole and Lena are ó in their words ó "getting old," and are hoping to sell the property. Maybe another Scandinavian will pick up where the Nelsons left off and maintain it as a bed and breakfast.
That would be underbart!
For more info, see thundervalleyinn.com
Amanda Olson Robison