Cruising the Stockholm archipelago
Evening blog fans and welcome one of the best days of our lives! We spent our Sunday cruising the Stockholm archipelago on the SS Waxholm III and it was AWESOME. We covered over 150km on our 12 hour cruise, stopping at a few of the islands for a quick look around (see map below). As luck would have it, the weather was on our side – it was sunny, warm (that’s Sweden’s version of warm: 21C), with no ocean swell and just enough of a gentle breeze to ensure we didn’t over-heat (Ha! Ha!). We were also very fortunate to get a day when the cruise boat was virtually empty; they had 53 passengers on board a vessel that can cary 120 people. An almost private cruise – yay!
The cruise set off from Nybrokajen, past the Stranvaagen and some of the islands and buildings we walked around yesterday. Stockholm really is a gorgeous city – or at least it is in summer, we might have a completely different opinion if it was mid-winter! (Winter temperatures around here hover around 0C to -5C, with lots of snow and rain; sunrise in winter is as late as 9:00am and sunset as early as 3:00pm. Yikes!)
Not long out of Stockholm we passed through the Baggensstäket (translation = Baggen Strait). This strait was the primary southern trade route into Stockholm for many centuries and is still an important access point for boats sailing through the archipelago. The channel has been regularly dredged since the 16th century to ensure it remains deep and wide enough for sea-faring traffic. Interestingly it is the narrowest strait in the Stockholm archipelago; at times we could literally see into the gardens of the homes on either side of the strait. It was all very picturesque.
Once through the Baggensstäket we sailed South-West for another 2 hours, past numerous wooded islets and inhabited islands. Many of the islands had farms on them, with this part of the archipelago being sheltered enough to sustain grasslands and forests. Around noon we pulled in at our first island stop of the day: Kymmendo. This small island is owned by one farming family who raise sheep and let out rooms to summer holiday-makers. Though small and obscure, the island receives a steady stream of visitors due to the fact that August Strindberg, a famous Swedish author (famous in Sweden anyway), stayed here during his summer holidays and wrote a novel based on his experiences and the people of the island (“Natives of Hemsö”, published in 1887). Having never heard of the author or the novel, we weren’t as excited as some of the Swedes on board about visiting Kymmendo, but we were quite excited to hear that the earliest recorded inhabitants of the island were the Mortenssons – perhaps a distant relative of Shane’s?
We really enjoyed our walk around the island. It was so lush and green, and the black-faced sheep they farm were huge compared to the plain white ones we have back home. Shane even had thoughts of going for a quick swim in the ocean until he stuck a toe in the water and just about lost it to frost bite.
From Kymmendo we sailed due North to the islet of Bullero, with lunch served along the way. The tiny island of Bullero is a nature reserve with just a pier, a camping ground and a couple of summer cabins on it. It was lovely to see one of these unspoiled islands, more or less in its natural state. Bullero is one of the outer islands of the Stockholm archipelago and was a good example of how barren these more exposed islands can be, compared to the sheltered ones closer in. With no protection from the winds, the outer islands had far fewer trees on them and many were just rocky outcrops. We had great fun climbing over the rocks, checking out the island of Bullero.
Finally, from Bullero we sailed another hour or so North towards Sandhamn. This island is home to about 100 permanent residents, but in summer the population swells to over 2,000 as people move to their summer cottages for the holidays. The island is only about 50km from Stockholm city and has been a very popular holiday spot for people from the city since the 19th century. The village itself was so cute, with tiny lanes between brightly coloured wooden houses and summer flowers everywhere – it was like something from a post card. We would love to come back to Stockholm one summer and rent a cottage on an island like Sandhamn for a week or so and just enjoy the laid back holiday atmosphere and beautiful scenery.
Once we left Sandhamn they served us dinner and we settled in for the cruise back into Stockholm. The views along the way were just magnificent, as the sun began to set. It was a long day (12 hours in total), but an awesome one. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. We love Stockholm!