Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Chotu Motu's midsummer adventure

In the land of Absolut. And Ikea. Yes, Falsie, and Bergman. Abi, no, haven't forgotten, and the welfare state. A~, ok ok, and ABBA. Everyone happy now? Can I go on with the post? Thank you!

Midsummer day. The sun will not make an appearance this year, says Radio Sweden. Such luck we bring from the small island. The city has pretty much shut down; everyone has left for the countryside to dance around the maypole[1].

M: Islands! That's where we should go today!

C: Yeah, sounds nice

M: What better way to spend the day than at the archipelago?

C: This same archipelago that you didn't know existed until yesterday afternoon?

M: Oh c'mon, I knew about the Stockholm archipelago. Just didn't know this one has over 20,000 islands.

C: Yeah, where you come from an archipelago has only one island. The archipelago of Sri Lanka! There, right on your backyard.

M: Enough! You think we can take over a little island and call it my own?

C: Yes, but only if you have a cool-looking flag. Do you have one?

M: Shut up. Run along and find out ferry timings now. Go.

So we landed in front of the Grand Hotel[2] early in the morning looking for a ferry to take us into the archipelago. We ruled out the islands of Vaxholm and Grinda as that's where everyone else seemed to be going. Gallno (pronounced Yellna) is where we are going, we decided. According to the guidebook, it is an oddly shaped island in the central archipelago with about 30 inhabitants, thick pine forests, and small bays. Sounded just like the place I wanted to spend my day in.

We found our ferry and got on. Just to prove to us that Swedes aren't really Germans, the boat left 32 seconds later than it was supposed to. We soon left the island of Gamla Stan (which houses the understated Royal Palace in picture below) behind and headed straight east alongside the large (and hip) island of Sodermalm. Trigger-happy Motu randomly shot pictures of Sodermalm and a couple of luxury cruise liners and parked there. Not more than twenty minutes after we had left the Grand Hotel, Stockholm disappeared from view and I turned around to face the open waters.

M: Dude! These are islands!

C: Really? I would never have known

M: I didn't know they were this close

C: Well, I don't think we will even get to open water, that's way after Gallno

M: Okey. These islands are too cool. Look, look, this is like Kirrin Island

C: Yes, Kirrin Island has a Swedish flag like that. On top of light house, right?

M: No, I meant I now see how one can own an island. These are so small that one can afford them

C: I cannot afford one and will never be able to if that's where you are heading. Anyway who wants to live here all the time?

M: The point of owning an island is not to live there all the time. It will be our summer home. Two months a year we can come here. How cool!

C: Summer home? She wants an island now! What am I to do?

M: Hey, why are we stopping here? There is no stop here as per the timetable

C: Its a request stop. See, those people put that mast-like thing up. That's how it is in Gallno too. We have to flag down a ferry when we want to get back

M: What? We could be stranded in the island for days! No ferry would stop for us. Why didn't you tell me this before?

C: Well, you have a choice. You can get down at Vaxholm with all the tourists and be safe and boring. I will go to Gallno by myself

Vaxholm. Hotels, cottages, restaurants, one proper tourist trap it looked like from the boat. Motu decided to risk being stranded and go to Gallno. Ferry gets to Gallno finally. Chotu Motu are the only people to get dropped here. A small, red-and-white waiting room welcomes us to the island of Gallno. A couple of houses by the water, a dirt trail leading to the village which is about a mile from here, and cultivated land on either side. Nope, no idea what they do with all this farmland in the winter.

The walk up to the village proved to be lovely. For a while, the only sound other than our fooststeps was that of the occassional ferry passing by the island. As we neared the village, a few houses with neat hedges, German shepherds, and cute little gardens started making their appearance - we seemed to be transported inside a proper Hans Anderson story. A mother and daughter (in full Red Riding Hood costume) said hello and passed us by. The mother was carrying what looked like a pie of some sort.

M: Friendly people these Swedes eh?

C: Yeah man. Everyone was super friendly when I was in the country last. You reckon we are the only brown people in this island?

M: For sure. Wait, what's that?

C: Some sort of a party. Maybe that's where they were headed. Midsummer party, I am sure.

M: You think they will let us join them?

C: Of course. Chal, we might get some good beer if nothing else

Midsummer party all right. By the only cafe / provision store in the village. The whole village, and a few townies, were singing and dancing around yes, the maypole. We got some strange looks at first but then they got used to us once we showed them that we can down beer nearly as fast as they could. Plus the language wasn't much of a problem, (Bill's useless statistic: 95% of Swedes speak English fluently) so it all went well.

We left after a while as the original idea was to spend this tranquil day walking through pine forests and not to end up in a bositerous party. Only issue was that we didn't know where to go.

C: Well, there's only one way. We will just follow this trail we have been following.

M: But who knows where it leads?

C: Doesn't the Rough Guide say that it leads to next island? Karklo, I think it was.

M: How can it lead into the next island if its really an island? I am not swimming for sure.

C: Hey, look at this.

C: This funky hiker person is walking over water, right?

M: I am not sure we can do that. Maybe a couple of thousand years ago...

C: No idiot. Maybe there's a bridge or something. Lets just follow this sign.

M: But it leads into the forest!

C: Isn't that the whole point of this trip?

So we followed our hiker friend for the next hour to whatever (or wherever) Branholmen was. The forest soon grew thicker shutting out most of the light, but our walking-on-water hiker didn't seem to care. It had rained the day before, and for the first time outside of home, the leaves were the same shade of green! Then, suddenly, for no reason, we started getting more light. The forest started thinning out and we could hear water, and a couple of minutes later, we were at a bay full of yachties.

(Please to note Bergmanesque scene in picture. Woman in picture surely going to commit suicide. MR, you happy now? Isn't this what you wanted?)

M: Okay, so we are in some bay. But weren't we going to Karklo?

C: Yes...but I don't see that island

M: There's some hajjar instructions here but its all in Swedish. Maybe we should ask one of these yacht people

C: No, see, that hiker guy is pointing that way. Lets just follow him

M: I know you are quite taken up with him and all but I am not sure following some guy who walks on water is going to lead us anywhere

C: How do you know if you haven't tried it?

M: Oh my God! You are turning religious on me now!

C: Whatever. I am going to follow this guy. You do what you want.

Another forest but this one wasn't anywhere as thick as the one we were on. Passed by a rock next to which was what seemed like a huge well. More explanations in Swedish here but could not make out anything except that it had to do something with the ice age. We continued on.

M: There! There's the island of Karklo!

C: Yes, we are there!

M: Not quite. There's about 50 metres of water in between

C: Hmm. There must be some way to get there

M: Why don't you ask your hiker friend?

An orange rowing boat. This time, the instructions are clear. You row to Karklo. Both boats cannot be on the same side for obvious reasons, so you row to the other side, tie the boat to your boat, row back to starting point, leave the boat here and row back to destination.

So, will Chotu Motu take up the challenge and row to Karklo? Or will they give up and turn back? Stay tuned for Part 2 of Chotu Motu's midsummer adventure.

[1] A wooden pole which is made to look like an inverted penis, as Emil, Bill's bum pal from the Great City of Lund, kindly explained to me.

[2] Yeah, the Nobel banquet one


Tabula Rasa said...


Twilight Fairy said...

aah.. brings back fond memories of doing similar stuff in Finland. I had a as well (now defunct - but revival planned).

30in2005 said...

"Just to prove to us that Swedes aren't really Germans, the boat left 32 seconds later than it was supposed to" - so true......Lol

Long post - has eaten away half my morning - I thank you Oh Wise One!

Veena said...

TR: ..trouper beams are gonna blind me!

Twilight fairy: Thanks for the link. Lovely pictures

30in2005: And that's only Part 1!

Tabula Rasa said...

abbaout time.