Archive for the ‘Stockholm’s archipelago’ Category

Sunset on the archipelago as seen from the ferry from Ljustero.

Sunset on the archipelago as seen on the ferry from Ljusterö.

This time of year, sunsets don’t last for the hours that they do in the summer. But they are no less beautiful, particularly so when you are out in the archipelago and  have all that Baltic water picking up on and reflecting the colors. The sunsets  seem to take on a magical glow.

Or maybe it’s just that living with so much winter dark makes me appreciate the light more?


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A cafe at Wira bruk.

The Kaffe Stuga at Wira bruk.

On Sunday, Robert and I again took a road trip out of town, this time with our friends MB and Rich. When we first moved here, we took a lot of these mini excursions, but it has been a year since we rented a car. So it somehow felt rather luxurious to this former drive every day American to be in a car again.

Like Saturday, the day was perfect and our first stop was Wira bruk, a historical town just north east of Stockholm. From 1635 until 1948, Wira bruk made most of the Swedish army’s swords, rapiers and bayonets. While the iron works are no longer in operation, the buildings feel as if the workers could have just left yesterday.

One of the old buildings at Wira bruk.

One of the old buildings at Wira bruk.

The next stop was for brunch, right on the Baltic at Furusunds Vardhus. We ate outside and lingered over our meal – which was very good, enjoying the sunshine. Next we caught two ferries to Blido and did a mini tour, again stopping to pick and eat a few blueberries before making our way back to the city.

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A charmingly Swedish scene at Hästedegård-brygga on Ljustero.

A charmingly Swedish scene at Hästedegård on Ljusterö.

Saturday, Robert and I decided we needed to get out of town. We have been having some gorgeously sunny fall weather, so we rented a car and drove to the  northern end of Stockholm’s archipelago. It was interesting to drive instead of boat to the archipelago, but it was a great way to get there. The island of Ljusterö is one of the largest islands on the archipelago, so the best way to explore it was by car and then by foot. We took a  car ferry across to Ljusterö. (For those of you who have not been here, the transport system between islands is amazing. Large drive-on car ferries are free and for the island we went to, they ran every half hour until 11pm, at which time they ran ran every hour. It is a very convenient way to island hop by car.)

Kayaking on Östra-Lagnö

Kayaking on Östra-Lagnö

Some of the leaves are just beginning to turn – the birch leaves are becoming yellow and the maple red. And it is starting to smell like autumn too – that earthy, decomposing sort of smell. Mushrooms were everywhere – but we dared not eat them without knowing which were poisonous. We did sample lots of forest blueberries, however. It was perfect to be out hiking in the woods and hanging on the rocks and docks by the harbors. Temperatures were close to 70 * F (20*C) and this kind of weather is rare this time of year.

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The gorgeous striped rocks on one of the many beaches at Uto. Photo copyright Robert Corkery 2009.

One of the miniature rock islands located off of Utö. Photo copyright Robert Corkery 2009.

There’s no better way to explore Stockholm’s archipelago than by kayak. There are so many islands – somewhere around 24,000 – that you can easily hope from one to the next.  And thanks to Allemansrätten, you are also free to stop and picnic or camp.

One of my favorite trips was a few years ago with our friends Annelie, Jaakko, Durk and Naomi. The six of us  rented kayaks on Utö, then paddled our way out to an island about an hour south. Robert and I intended to camp and had our gear packed into the kayak with us. And our friends were just going to spend the day paddling with us. But soon they were having such a great time that they all wanted to spend the night too. So the four of them paddled back to Utö and spontaneously bought tents, sleeping bags and some other gear so as to stay with us.

Meanwhile, Robert and I scouted out a deserted island to camp out on. After we located a spot of our own with a gorgeous beach, we text messaged our GPS coordinates to our friends. They then joined us there and we had a fantastic evening, everyone pitching in to cook dinner, share drinks and make a fire. Conversations by the fire covered every topic and went in every direction: I was the only American, Robert the only Aussie and there was one Finn and three South Africans.

The night was gorgeous and special. As it was early July, the sunset lasted for hours. And the next day we swam and hung out on our own private beach, then moved on to the next island. It was a magical experience.

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Another gorgeous sunset on the archipelago.

On Friday, we boated to a small island on the archipelago and set up for a long evening with friends. There were eight of us and we spread out a pot luck BBQ on the rocks, everyone chipping in to help with the preparations. The day was gorgeous and warm and truly just perfect. It’s so wonderfully Robinson Crusoe-like to be able to just tie up your boat and stake out your space on an island – being able to do this is one of the things I love most about living here, in fact. As a resident of Sweden, it’s actually my right to be able to do this.

Hanging out on the rocks with Judy, Rich, MB and Marilyn.

Hanging out on the rocks with Judy, Rich, MB and Marilyn.

It’s all thanks to allemansrätt or the right of public access. Part of the Swedish constitution,  allemansrätt gives everyone the right to access, walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on the land. You can do all of this most anywhere except within sight of someone’s home. Basically, allemansrätt means that everyone has the right to enjoy nature. It’s so wonderfully Swedish to have the enjoyment of nature as a right.

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Alléviken: The ancient striped rock (gneiss) on the beach at Utö.

When I moved to Stockholm, a surprising number of people asked if I would be living anywhere near Zurich. They honestly confused Sweden for Switzerland. At the time, I smugly felt superior in my geography knowledge and told them to look on a map. But I also thought it was rather funny that I was moving to a place that so many Americans did not seem to know about. Then after living here for a while, I thought it was rather sad that people did not know how beautiful Stockholm and its archipelago was. But now in a perverse way, I’m also happy as I would prefer that the archipelago stay in the same pristine, non-developed state that it is now.

The forests, beaches and rocks are so lovely that it’s easy to imagine what this island looked like 100 or even 1,000 years ago. As we rode along the quiet forest paths on our bikes, we were pretty much on our own, although we did see a deer and her fawn at one point. And we also had the beach to ourselves even though it was a sunny day in July. But perhaps best of all, we only had to cycle a a few kilometers back into town to be able to hang out by the harbor and have a beer while we listened to live music. I feel so fortunate that I get to experience this magical place.


Along one of the many forest paths in Utö.


Hanging out at the Seglarbaren on Utö.

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Hanging out on the beach at  Alléviken in Uto. Just another picnic in paradise!

Hanging out on the beach at Alléviken in Utö. Just another picnic in paradise!

Getting away from it all in Stockholm is easy. You just go to the archipelago. From the city, you can be at one of the inner archipelago islands in about 15 minutes. On Sunday, we took the somewhat more distant option and traveled to Utö. This island is located at the southern end of the archipelago and if you go directly from the city, it’s a three-hour boat ride. Instead, we opted for the “planes. trains and automobiles” school of travel.  Leaving early in the morning, we took the subway to the above-ground train called the Pendeltåg, then transferred to a bus that pulled us directly up in front of the ferry which we took to the island. Once there, we then rented bikes directly next to the harbor. You have to love the efficiency of the Stockholm transportation system!

In true get away from it all style, there’s not been a lot of development on any of the islands. On Utö, there’s a grocery, a couple of  cafe/restaurants, a hotel or two and a few small shops. But that’s about it. Otherwise, there are beautiful forests, rocks and beaches to explore and we did just that for the day.

Our group included  four Americans, two Italians and one Australian. And we all agreed that it felt like we spent the day in paradise. Now we just need to find a way to get our own summer houses on the island.

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