SWEDISH RHAPSODY August 2009 Part 1
My father used to love a piece of popular music called ‘Swedish Rhapsody’, and he frequently played his record of the tune. Just a few weeks ago I heard the complete ‘Midsommarvaka (Swedish Rhapsody No. 1) Opus 19 by Hugo Alfven, and his Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 11, which depicts travelling through the Swedish archipelago, and suddenly my next travel adventure had a name!
Saturday 8th August
The rucksack was packed and I flew off to Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast for the first time. Ryanair seemed to have its normal policy of ‘nessun dorma’ (none shall sleep) on the flight, with constant announcements. However, my travelling companion was pleased to look down and see the town of Aalborg in Denmark where his grandmother lives. Flying in to Gothenburg gave us wonderful views of sparkling sunlit water, myriad forested islands and busy-looking vessels enjoying the Saturday morning summer sunshine.
first floor flowers
The plan was to travel leisurely by train across from the west to the east coast, then take to the water and travel north through the archipelago on some fascinating ships.
The city and restaurants were full of people and most seemed to have tickets for the evening’s 'Madonna' concert, but lunch was enjoyed in the sunshine in an Italian restaurant on Avenyn before we took the intercity train to the lake-side town of Jőnkoping.
The centre of Jonkoping is attractive and a walk through the parks brought us to the quayside and ‘restaurant row’.
SALTKRAKAN top deck
Ship deprivation for the last two days meant the pre-dinner drink had to be on the top deck of an ancient laid up ferry M/S SALTKRAKAN; dinner was in the quayside restaurant below, with the fish choice being prepared while we watched the arrival of a 1915 built lake steamer (converted to a motor ship) vessel NYA SKARGARDEN with wood decks and superstructure, topped with a tall slim funnel.
The Captain later showed us round the elegant little ship, the passengers having disembarked from their lake cruise. Everywhere was noise, music, gardens, flags, crowds and unusually warm weather – delightful.
Ships seen: Lasse Dahlquist, Nya Skargarden, and another lake motorship
Sunday 9th August
Next morning the town of Jonkoping appeared deserted on our walk around admiring the buildings, artwork, parks and ornate rococo fountains.
Jonkoping rococo fountain
But the sun continued to shine as we caught a train going east to Nassjo. There was time to tour that town before taking another train, this time to Mariannelund; then we had to take a bus further east through forests, calling at lake sides,camp sites, summer houses etc. until we finally arrived at Vastervik.
Overnight accommodation in Vastervik was in what turned out to be small and comfortable wooden garden sheds, set around a small garden with fruit trees and flowers.
En suite wasn't quite as expected, as it involved a short walk along the garden path back to the tiny 'house' for the bathroom/shower and kitchen facilities. The sheds did have electricity, candles and a fire extinguisher, and nice linen. Hmmm, something must have been lost in translation.
The highlight of the evening was the arrival of SAGA LEJON, our ship for the next day, when we were to sail north through the Swedish archipelago.
SAGA LEJON arrives
Crowds and dogs gathered as the ship came through the channel towards Västervik and we all admired this handsome little diesel-engined vessel of 991 tons, built in 1969 as M/S MALMŐ. Designed by the famous Knud E Hansen company’s Tage Wandborg, she started on the Copenhagen/Malmo run; her routes and owners changed over the years, until in March 2003 she was sold to Royal Stockholm Cruise Line, their logo now proudly displayed on the funnel, and at this point she was re-named SAGA LEJON.
We were also amused to see a member of the ship's crew climb out so she could meet her friends more quickly.
Dinner in a restaurant within sight of the ship completed the day.
Ships seen: M/S Saltkraken, Simson Bar & Kitchen (old ferry), Saga Lejon