Here is her midsummer night’s dream …
Marstrand, Sweden appears to be full of chalk white houses dotted with vermillion red boathouses glimmering in the sun. The red colors emerge through the sea of monotone white like an avant-garde painting.
You can arrive pretty fast via the city of Gothenburg, which is the gateway to the Western Islands of Sweden. Rent a car, put the top down and drive on the open road and soon you will discover this seaside village that gets quite a bit of attention in the summer from the local sailing community and tourists.
Swedes Let Their Blonde Hair Down
And like a midsummer night’s dream, you can have memories from a recent midsummer party where you celebrate the summer solstice by eating traditional Swedish grub: copious amounts of pickled herring (inlagd sill), fresh boiled potatoes, cheese pie and bread. Even eating caviar from a tube! You can also drink copious amounts of Schnapps (here they call it “snaps”), that clear brandy that gets distilled from fermented local fruit and where the alcohol percent is close to 40%! Afterward, go with your new group of friends and frolic around the maypole, a European folk festival tradition in the park, where they play silly games, like running with an egg on a spoon and tell jokes, and repeat tongue-twisters about farting Finns! All the while, a live band will play local music in the background! Then afterwards, you can go with your new friends to someone’s beach house and eat fresh strawberry cake, have a BBQ and engage in more snaps-fuelled tongue-twisters to get ready for skinny dipping late into the night.
Sounds like Swedish fun!
Remember, this is the land of the midnight sun. Where the sun can shine for up to 22 hours a day in the summer and they certainly want to celebrate since they know the dead of winter is coming.
While in Marstrand, you can also visit the local art museum, the Strandverket Art Museum. They had a lively exhibit inside of an old fort while I was there. It is located by the south entrance to the Marstrand harbor. The building itself was quite fascinating, dating back to the mid 1800’s and provides a great viewing platform on the roof. Marstrand is also famous for its 17th century fortress, seen here, towering over the wall-to-wall monochrome canvas in the background.
Next Up: Smogen’s Boardwalk
From Marstrand, drive to Smogen, another 1.5 hour drive, where you can stroll Sweden’s longest boardwalk (brygge) of the old town, take photos, shop, and eat the traditional Swedish dish of its sweet, rose-colored shrimp sandwiches with boiled egg slices and mayonnaise. The dockside patios are jammed packed and overflowing here in the summer with many boats in the canals.
Smogen has the feel of a lazy summer afternoon.
In Smogen, I waited to board a cruise boat, the NAR Skargarden, that would take me through the channel canal system and drop me in Fjällbacka, but you could also take the drive to Fjällbacka.
However, the canal system, which took about three hours from Smogen to Fjällbacka was a great way to see the massive amount of oil-rich Norwegians and Swedes playing in their massive sailing world. They make their great migration of expensive sail and speed boats along this stretch of water-filled canals wringing every drop from summer’s receding tide. The canal space is very tight for all the traffic and a few times our cruise boat hit the sides of the canal, but everyone on board got a kick out of watching the whole thing happen live!
Eco-Friendly Weather Islands (Vaderoarna)
Soon I got dropped off in Fjällbacka and lingered on the pier for the ferry boat to take me to the remote Weather Islands (Vaderoarna). While waiting there, I was mesmerized by large jelly fish that clung close to the pier.
The Weather Islands are located in the Kosterhavets National Park and are a few hundred islands in the outermost islands of Sweden on the western seaboard. Upon arrival, I found the Weather Islands to be quiet and low key. I loved the solitude of my surroundings when I landed at the Vaderoarna’s Guesthouse!
The owner, Pia, petite and pretty, smiles and greets me at her pier telling me about the guesthouse’s eco and sustainability choices, where she uses plants on the Islands for cooking in the restaurant and has a year-round fishing and Langoustine license for food. The guesthouse pier even has the set up for outside boiling seafood and many sailors come into the small harbor to join them for dinner. The langoustine bisque and fresh fish with tiny boiled potatoes in a creamy sauce I ate was one of the most delicious meals I had while in Sweden.
The owner says that they use an eco-power plant, and that Vaderoarnas is a self-sufficient island. It is a simple life, but one they love and apparently everyone else, as it is booked out for New Year till 2024!
I soon dropped my gear in the newly-built simple Vaderoarna’s Guesthouse bungalows. They also have a guesthouse of about 10 rooms with shared baths. They even have a large hot tub to soothe your aching bones from the road. I took off to explore the island and its iconic lighthouse seen from coming into the harbor. These windswept, granite islands out here were where the former sea pilots who helped captains navigate ships in and out of the harbor used to live.
Later that night, I walked out on the granite rocks to witness the orange splash of color that the 10:55 p.m. sunset would give. When the light finally left, I went back to my guest bungalow, trying to figure out how to block out the light for a good night’s sleep in the summer time.
Fjällbacka– The Proverbial Son Returns Home
The following morning, I returned back to Fjällbacka, the prettiest of all the islands I visited in western Sweden. It is a picturesque, seaside village previously famous for being the town that Ingrid Bergman’s holiday residence was near (her ex-husband owned one of the nearby islands and her son still returns here every year).
If you arrive at the pier, you will see the clapperboard fisherman huts and cottages beneath an imposing granite cliff, where many summer homes are for rent. You don’t have to look far along the public pier to find the tourist office, who also give daily walking tours (mostly centered around Bergman) on the island that you certainly will enjoy.
A road trip to West Sweden will not disappoint!
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