To really understand Sweden, you must see its beautiful archipelagos. This is historically a sea-faring nation, and the country’s nautical heritage stems from centuries of travel between the thousands of islands along both the East and West coasts. The islands range from literally a few feet wide to well-over a mile. Sometimes just a single house occupies a tiny island of a hundred or so yards. Other islands are home to a whole village or even several villages with year round inhabitants. The waterways between the islands range from massive expanses of water, to just a narrow path which your boat can barely make through.
This past week I was thrilled that my brother Ian and sister Mika brought their respective families to visit Sweden and me and Natalia. We don’t own a boat, so we did the next best thing to get out into Stockholm’s archipelago: My brother and sister each chipped in and rented a water taxi, which our families piled into for a day trip to the islands. The water taxi was a fun little wooden boat which could barely fit the eleven of us. We attached our young daughter Aurora’s baby carriage to the roof and the water taxi driver played Abba over his sound system as he drove all of us (including my Mother-in-Law Maria) out to sea.
We visited the island of Grinda, which is about an hour’s boat trip into the Stockholm archipelago. There we had lunch at a restaurant in the center of the island, and went for a little walk around the island before cruising back to the mainland. The weather was picture perfect, a blessing following a June where the weather had been the rainiest in 100 years. The land on the island reminds me of the coast of Maine and New Hampshire, or the coast of Washington state or Alaska: rocky shores with pine forests growing to the edge of a beach, and sometimes hills gently sloping to the water. But there are differences: The Baltic Sea has no tides, unlike the Atlantic ocean, so there is less of an ebb and flow of water. And there are no lobster pots, which can colorfully brighten the coast of Maine.
From the water taxi I was able to see the archipelago by sea. The following weekend I got to see the archipelago from hill tops which border it. On Saturday I drove to Skuleskogens National Park, which is a five hour drive north by car from Stockholm, north of the city of Sundsvall. There I was able to see the ‘High Coast’ (Höga Kusten) archipelago from the heights of the mountains in the national park. My brother and his wife Ginny and son Will and daughter Sophie went on a ten mile hike through Skuleskogens National Park. The park was just glorious, and I am attaching photos of the wooden planks that allow hikers to get through moss beds, the slot canyon that we had to traverse, the picnic we took along the edge of the High Coast archipelago.
The weekend in Skuleskogens National park was too short. I drove back to Stockholm pledging to return as soon as I can, hopefully to share the park again soon with family and friends.
The natural surroundings in Sweden are, simply put, awesome. If you love the outdoors, the glorious topography of this country gives you everything you would want, from fern forests to lava created natural boulder gardens to dark pine tree expanses that makes you feel like it is evening in the light of day.
I hope the photos I share with you give you a sense of this. On this day I say “Skål!” to Sweden’s awesome archipelagos.