More extensive Swedish wanderings20th June 2019
The summer of 2017 was packed with many things, and included among these were two Scandinavian excursions, bookending a period of emotional angst that preceded my undertaking a career break. It was the second of these that took me to Sweden, and it usefully covered up what was happening in my work life from those in whom I did not wish to confide any of the ongoing drama. The trip also offered as much to my inner explorer as it did to my emotional well-being, and there was much to occupy the former, both familiar and unfamiliar.
Arrival and Acclimatisation
My departure for Stockholm came near the end of the first week of my career break, and even that space allowed me to collect myself a little after a trying few months. What I was not to realise was just how much time away from working was needed, but that lay in the future. That the grey skies largely prevailed was of not concern to me, given my other needs.
In fact, my arrival in Sweden was accompanied by the same kind of weather, but it remained dry, which was more important than having sunshine. At the airport, I got a travel card and loaded it with enough credit to last a week, so I could travel on buses, trams and trains within Stockholm county without worrying about having change or buying tickets. It was a system that would come into its own for my explorations.
Its first use was in getting me to my hotel in Lidingö with a change in Stockholm’s central railway station, a place that I had last been just over seven years before then. My train journey came to an end at Ropsten, so I then continued on foot, though there was a tram service if I wanted it. Sometimes, finding one’s bearings takes precedence, even if I had luggage with me.
A busy road bridge loomed overhead as I made use of a lower counterpart for pedestrians and cyclists that lay beside that used by trams. My added burden ensured unhurried progress as I sampled the surroundings under grey skies before making landfall again and proceeding uphill to reach my destination near Millesgården.
That was sweaty work, but it was not the end of my strolling for the day. Before any such continuation, I needed to check in at my hotel and settle into my room. Apart from the need to find my bearings within the building, that happened without incident, and I was again out of doors. Being unladen this time around meant that I could walk a little quicker and try out other routes.
The major itinerary of the day took me from the hotel to the heart of the city and, having seen the length of the stroll, it convinced me of the sense of getting around by train and tram. Before that lesson was learned, I dropped down to the tram stop to find a cycle trail that would take me back to the heart of the city for some rambling not done since my first encounter in 2010. It processed around port installations before venturing inland to pass Stockholm stadium, the half point of my urban hike.
My goal was to reach Mäster Samuelsgatan, where Kartbutiken’s shop is to be found. However, it was closed by the time that I reached it, and a call into a branch of Akadamibokhandeln happened instead. While there was a section featuring books in English and walking maps were to be found, I delayed any purchases until the next day and continued exploring. In any event, most books on sale were published in Swedish, as might be expected.
Even though dull skies curtailed photographic designs, I still wanted to revisit sights not seen for more than seven years. That meant a visit to Stockholm’s City Hall, from which good views of Riddarholmen are to be enjoyed. The sun may have tried to break through the cloud cover, another day was needed to see Gamla Stan at its best, so I went back to my hotel by train and tram.
From a City Centre to a Royal Palace
The combination of unfinished business from the preceding evening and the promise of sunnier weather was enough to draw me back towards the city centre again, even if there was a cloudy start to the day, and it remained thus as I crossed the bridge to the train station. A short train ride took to me to either Karlaplan or Östermalmstorg (it could have been any one of these but faded recollections mean that I cannot tell which it was) from where I headed to Humlegården and passed the Kungliga Biblioteket before I left it to continue to Mäster Samuelsgatan to make a visit to Kartbutiken.
The sun may have been lighting my surroundings well by now, but I still spent time in that map and travel guide shop as planned. In fact, what I found came close to the spread of subjects that you would expect from a Stanfords store in England. Consequently, I lingered a while, and I seem to remember coming away with a map that was to come in very useful for the trip’s long hike along the Sörmlandsleden.
That was to be two days away, so I again made my way to the city hall to see how the Riddarholmen would appear in midday sunshine. The answer was that it was better lit than on the previous evening, but with more shadows. Evening lighting appeared to be the answer, and the time until then found good use for a short excursion through the local archipelago.
Something that had been missed in 2010 was the presence of boat tours (it might have been that they had finished for the day by the time when I arrived from Södertälje or I just overlooked their presence), so I decided to explore what these offered. In a way, this reminded me of the short excursion around Oslofjord that I had sampled in June, and that may have made me more partial to the idea on that afternoon in Stockholm. What took my fancy was a return sailing to Drottningholm, where a royal palace is to be found. Along the way, I discovered that banknotes that I held over from my previous encounter were out of date and could not be used, but that was no dark spot on what otherwise was a blissful journey.
Since the characteristic shoreside view needs a morning approach to make the most of it for photographic capture, it just as well that Drottningholms Slott is situated in pleasing grounds. One quandary that I had was if I would have enough time to explore the place enough to do it justice before the last boat back to the city centre. In the event, there were no such problems and I had plenty of time to wander about to my heart’s content without needing to resort to alternative public transport options.
There was an evening left for city centre wandering on my return from Drottningholm, and glorious sunshine lit the place fabulously. All I needed to do was set off strolling on foot and the city plan was engrained in my memory after being there in 2010, so I was not about to get lost. It was a matter of revisiting old sights and collecting new ones as I pottered around islands like Kungsholmen, Riddarholmen, Stadsholmen and Skeppsholmen. All of that sustained me until the light failed, and I then went back to the hotel for the night, having earned a good deal of satisfaction.
Strolling from Island to Island
Sunday morning began with some wandering about the island where my hotel was located. Handily, there was a nature reserve to be found only a short tram ride away, and the sunshine offered enough encouragement to get me exploring. In some ways, this included elements of aimless wandering, though that is not the whole story, even if weathered recollections make it appear thus.
Others had much the same inclination, but there was ample space for all of us, with solitude on offer during most of my ambling. A forest trail took me towards the shore of Kottlasjön, a pretty lake I was to shadow until I turned north on the way towards Ekholmsnässjön. Much of this was along part of the Lindingöloppet, a 30 km looped walking trail, but there was not so much to see of the lake itself and the sky was filling with clouds. That eventually limited photography, but I still continued towards Gåshaga, though road walking was my lot thereafter. Still, there were brighter interludes and I got to see some passing shipping like the departing ferry from Gåshaga Brygga before returning to my hotel by tram.
All that building cloud brought rain, and there was a midday shower that convinced to get a raincoat that became less useful than I had feared, for that was the only wetting of the day. Sunny skies full of broken cloud cover was what I mainly enjoyed for the rest of the day. That applied as I crossed Ladugårdsgärdet to reach the bridge linking it with Djurgården. It may be an island with a ferry service, but I entered and left it using handy bridges while enjoying the greenery in between these. After leaving, there were plenty of sightings of the place on offer as I continued towards the city centre.
After more city centre explorations, I moved onto Södermalm with a view to reaching Björkhagen since it is the northern end of the Sörmlandsleden, a trail that I was to follow north from Tyresta National Park the following day, and the green space that surrounded it. In the event, I never did get that far, and it might have avoided a later quandary had I done so, but that is history now. The declining light showed me it was time to return to me hotel for the night after a day that became laden with rambling.
A Day of Lakeland Hiking along the Sörmlandsleden
My overseas trips always feature at least one hike, and my time in Stockholm was no different. Complementing all the city strolling was a day spent along the section of the Sörmlandsleden between Tyresta National Park and the outskirts of Stockholm. Getting to the national park involved rail and bus travel, with the latter being a one-way trip that added a sense of commitment to my endeavour.
While the transport changeover at Hansen had been made more pleasant by the proximity of lakes like Övre Rudasjön, the surroundings easily felt more rural in the national park itself. In fact, there was a hint of the agrarian about the starting point for my walk, with hens pottering about freely near what looked like a farmstead.
These surroundings were left after me to enter woodland that brought a certain sense of forest bathing to my day. Signs declared that any fallen trees were left where they fell for the benefit of nature, though I was to find that pathways were excluded from this practice, so there was to be no added element of bushwhacking or any sense of negotiating an obstacle course. All in all, this was to be a gentler if lengthy stroll.
Forest bathing already got a mention, but there was another wetter form available if anyone was so inclined. This was because I was wandering through a lake-studded landscape and the length of my endeavour ensured a similarly long list of lakes that included Bylsjön, Årsjötjärnen, Årsjön, Tyresö-Flaten, Albysjön, Alkärret, Kolardammarna, Öringesjön, Strålsjön, Sandasjön, Ulvsjön, Söderbysjön and Dammtorpssjön. Looking at the names now makes me wonder if I had passed so many lakes on foot during a single day, and that may have been the case.
As I passed from lake to lake, the peace and quiet was striking. After all, it was a Monday, so the weekend had passed, and it was coming towards the end of summer. Having wandered around a city over the weekend, country walking was going to be quieter but, away from lakes, camping grounds and conurbations like Nyfors and Öringe, I was to have more than enough time and space for myself. There even were wilder interludes like the sudden appearance of a snake scurrying across a path at close quarters that awoke me from my reverie.
Even with those extra folk out and about in the evening, their presence hardly made an imprint on the ambience. The same applied to my reaction when my GPS receiver started to act strangely. It felt as if it was trying to tell me that I was walking too far, but that was not how I was feeling at the time. Fatefully, I decided to switch off the device and resolve to depend on a paper map and any waymarks for as long as was needed.
As the evening wore on, thoughts of leaving the trail early were entertained before being rejected. After Öringe, my surroundings regained a wilder feel, and that is how it remained as the time to sunset ever reduced. Human encounters were occasional and hardly intrusive. Conurbations were near yet felt so far away.
Eventually, dusk came upon me and I needed my head torch, though picking out flashes of red paint on tree bark in the gloaming became an ever more challenging pursuit. My GPS receiver was missed, but I still got to the golf course near Dammtorpssjön without too much difficulty. It was on the way from there until the end of the walk that fatigue and scepticism finally caught up with me.
The result was the descent of a sense of uncertainty despite the present of street lights; they looked so out of place that their presence threw me a bit. Even so, I remained largely on track until one final junction, where a well-lit sign with an actual map was overlooked in favour of a signpost that sent me along a track to a dark roadside near another outdoors centre. After a little exploration, I started on my way back to the hotel by bus before continuing the rest of the way by rail.
A Fleeting Encounter with Gothenburg
The preceding night’s wrong turn must have weighed on my mind, for I returned to the scene the next morning. A daytime visit set this to rights, even if time did not allow for more complete closure of whatever was rumbling in my mind. That had to be left behind me.
The reason for the aforementioned time limitation was my wanting to visit Gothenburg on a day trip from Stockholm. High-speed train travel made short work of the crossing, even if the later departure time reduced my time in Sweden’s second most populous city to less than two hours. On the way, there was much window gazing and the quiet ambience allowed for some reading too.
Even so, there was enough time for me to get my bearings and find some nearby leafier parts. These may not be as accessible as Stockholm, but I have spied some tempting green spaces on maps since then, and there is an offshore archipelago. Making use of such possibilities will need a return visit given the time that I allowed myself. In any case, the added warm sunshine left me with some pleasing photos, so they will suffice until then.
Continuing a Career Break
My time in Sweden was coming to a close, so I went back to Stockholm for one more night. The return train journey was just as peaceful as its outbound counterpart, and there was no need to rush the next morning because of the timing of my flight back to Manchester. It helped that there were luggage lockers at the central train station, and I popped out for one last visit to the city hall before making for the airport by train. It was time to leave Sweden for the rest of my career break, a longer journey specked with more outdoor wanderings that have yet to be related on here.
There was so much shuttling around Sweden’s capital by bus, train and tram that the individual journeys get too long to list. Instead, they appear in the main body of the narrative, and it is the return boat trip between Stockholm that gets a special mention. That needed the payment of a special fare while the city’s Access card was charged for seven days to pay for my land travel needs (they can be purchased at the airport).
The longer journeys are easier to list, and the return flight between Manchester and Stockholm was the longest of these. Travel to and from airports was by train, and the Arlanda Express did what I needed in Sweden. The services of SJ were used for the return train journey between Stockholm and Gothenburg, though MTR Express also operates the same route, albeit with different stops.
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