Island fortress

A long time ago, before even IKEA was created, the boundaries between countries in this area were quite different. Norway and Denmark vied for ownership of the region, and as the lines shifted castles and fortresses were built and attacked and built again. There are the two smallish fortresses now within the city of Göteborg, one up at Marstrand, another along the river and one further inland. I’d heard a bit about this last one and was curious to compare it to the others I’d seen. The chance presented itself a few weeks ago, which was how I found myself attempting to climb Medieval walls and completely failing.

Bohus Fortress

Bohus Fortress

Bohus Fortress lies about 20 minutes out of town by bus, and the first sight I had of it was the tall, round tower that rises above the thick walls. Even at a distance it’s impressive, and as we approached the walls loomed above us. The fortress is set on an island that is reached by two bridges on either end, and though the island had once been covered by the town that surrounded the fortress, the hills and small valley now consist of trees, grass, a bit of wilderness and a visitor’s centre. The fortress is now a museum and would usually have been open for visitors if we had visited in summer. Unfortunately it’s now closed, so our visit was restricted to peering up the walls, attempting a bit of climbing and exploring the island. A small locked door on one side showed an echoing, dripping passageway, still lit by lights from some sort of event.

View over the river

View over the river

Climbing over a fence brought us to scatterings of mushrooms and views over the swampy river and what had once been the town. At all times the walls peered down at us impenetrably, and we decided that once summer returned we’d make another attempt at the defenses.

An elderly lady lays a brief siege

An elderly lady lays a brief siege

I should perhaps mention at this time, for the sake of my mother, that Bohus Fortress was built by Norwegians and was never captured. There are still Norwegian flags at the site in case anyone was at risk of forgetting this.

...though not technically Norwegian now

…though not technically Norwegian now

As clouds began to cover up the brief blue skies, we headed over the bridge that lead to the town of Kungälv which we had never visited before. It turned out to be very lovely, our first few impressions being of narrow cobblestone streets, old-fashioned two storey houses and small, young families walking their dogs/children.

Old street in Kungälv

Old street in Kungälv

A look at a map promised some sort of historical landmark in the centre of town so we followed the old street, beneath the shadow of the hill on the right, past houses, shops and then suddenly a shopping area. By this time, however, we were both feeling quite hungry and so decided to leave the mysterious landmark for now and instead focus on dinner. Although it was only around 16:30 the dark comes quickly way up here and the urge to settle down with a plate of something tasty was growing strong. We decided on an Italian place back where we’d started and so a short bus trip later found us settling down to pasta and pizza, while I hoped that my bright pink gumboots weren’t too conspicuous for a restaurant.
Dinner finished, and gumboots unremarked upon, we arrived at the stop just in time for the next bus to Göteborg, looking forward to the next time we could visit this very nice little town sitting in the shadow of a fortress.

The waiting walls

The waiting walls

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Giant lakes and coming home

This last weekend we finally left Göteborg for further Swedish adventures. A long but comfortable bus ride took us to Linköping, an old town with more of a feel of the market towns I’d seen in France, than I’ve seen so far in Göteborg. Winding cobbled streets led to a market square, or Stora Torget, full of stalls selling lingonberries, open air bars and herds of parked bicycles.
Market place in Vadstena

Some research (Google translate and my partner) revealed that the köping part has something to do with markets, and when you see the area around Vättern (a really, really big lake), scattered with köpings a pattern develops, a sort of line from east to west around the lake. Further research (my mum) revealed that Linköping had been around since Viking times, on the route from the east coast to the west. Just outside of town is Göta Kanal, about 200 years old and stretching from Stockholm to Göteborg. Which means you can now cross Sweden on the water, though it being a canal full of locks, it would take some time. Quicker than sailing around the long way though, those poor Vikings, a few centuries too late…

Vättern

The main reason for the trek inland was to visit a friend of my partner, who kindly showed us around his new town. Vadstena is even smaller than Linköping but I much preferred it. It had the same cobbled streets, happy crowds and old buildings as the other town, but had more charm. It also had a castle. A proper one, with a moat, towers, turrets and a basement. Exploring it was a lot of fun, experiencing the cold and dankness of the lower floors, where the soldiers were billeted and canons were kept versus the relatively light and airy upper floors, with tapestries, high windows and painted walls. As was pointed out by our host, it was no Versailles, but it was proud and simple, and not as dour as it could have been.

Vadstena Castle

After leaving the castle (via a bridge over the moat, did I mention there was a moat?) we had lunch, delicious and Swedish, and wandered some more. The wandering took in Sankt Birgit Kyrka, an ancient church, quite large and grand and containing possibly the remains of Sankt Birgit as well as unknown others, though one assumes they also are holy in some way. As with the cathedral in Linköping, the building seemed timeless and not overbearing. They towered, and I imagined generations living in their shadows, staring up at their towers thinking in awe of the deity for whom it was built.

Sankt Birgit Kyrka

Our wanderings lead us back to our friend’s house, then his car and after some slightly too fast driving watching the clock, the bus station, where we jumped onto the packed bus to take us home. And it did feel like coming home. When the landscape became familiar and I recognised the Liseberg Wheel I was surprised by the feeling of homecoming, it’s only been two weeks today but I suppose people do like to put down roots when they can. Part of me feels a bit disloyal to Australia, but when I think of the highway going up to the hills, the beach and the calling of magpies and black cockatoos, the same feeling creeps in.

Other than adventures to giant lakes, the last week or so has been mostly taken up by the everyday stuff involved in setting up a new home, and waiting for the gears of bureaucracy to get moving. I’ve settled into a schedule of sorts, from running in the forest, shopping if needed, looking after the house and sorting out travel and work. The only very interesting things have been purchasing my new bike (excitement!) and last night when the extra luggage we’d arranged to be shipped over (finally) arrived. The apartment is now looking considerably more cosy and I can feel myself settling in further.

The weather has now cleared and I imagining how green and quiet the forest must be, I think it’s time for a run.