This mini adventure began in typical wild spin fashion, running at high speed through the crowds of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town. We didn’t leave enough time after visiting the Vasamuseet to ferry back from Djurgården, collect our bags from the hotel and get down to the ferry wharf and set sail on our next adventure. So here we were, victims again of our misconception that we can fit a fat itinerary into a thin afternoon, sweating and side-stepping the leisurely tourists of Central Stockholm.
But this is a story about the archipelago. We walked onto the gangplank with a minute to spare.
The Stockholm Archipelago is made up of approximately 30,000 islands, so as the ferry left the city in its whitewash, we began to float past rocky islands of varying sizes. Some are little more than a jagged outcrop used as a resting place for gulls, others are the size of a private property – and indeed that’s what they are – a pine-clad oasis for a summer home, Swedish flag swinging in the breeze.
Our destination was Svartsö (pronounced svar-chya), a journey that takes just over an hour and a half on the Cinderella boat from Stockholm’s Strandvägen ferry terminal. We sat on the back deck in the late afternoon Swedish summer sun. The kind that doesn’t set each evening for very long at all.
When we docked at Alsvik, Svartsö’s little wooden ferry terminal, we picked up our bags and looked left and right. Where to go? We were relying on Sweden’s law of Allemansrätt, which means the right of public access – basically that you can camp anywhere in the country, even on private property (!) for one night only and provided you are not in view of a main house. Only then did it dawn on us – the general store before us was closed and we weren’t sure what time the one restaurant on the island would close. Which would be fine if we had any water or food. But we didn’t. It was just after 7pm.
We carried our gear over the rocky south west road that was flanked by forest on one side and houses on the island’s edge on the other, ducking into the growth every 50 metres or so to try and scout a good spot. And thank you Sweden we found one quite fast. Our own private beach in fact, with a tent-sized piece of land behind just for us. We put the tent up faster than ever and traced our way back to the ferry terminal and beyond, hungry and annoyed at ourselves for not packing food and water. Would the one restaurant be open? It was now almost 8pm.
And it was. And it was beautiful, with the signature ochre wooden building with balcony wrapping around the sea side, white walls within – modern rustic and amazing. Our waitress seated us on the balcony. Open until midnight, she said. Food served until 10pm, she said. ‘Sparkling water?’ she asked. Wine list she presented. Welcome to Svartsö Krog and your greatly exceeded expectations (full post on Svartsö Krog here).
With full bellies and happy little (relieved) hearts, we sauntered back to our campsite, stopping by the jetty to admire the gorgeous warm light – still fading well after 10pm. We perched on a rock ledge on our private camping beach and watched the twilight over the water – almost meditatively. You know how you are often anticipating life with an unspoken internal monologue of ‘when I xxx, I’ll be happy’, well an evening in nature on the Swedish archipelago with my fiance Skymie (nickname- he’s really Phil) at my side, and I felt I had arrived at that place of complete blissful contentedness. So we stayed up with the midnight sun to make it last.
In the morning we were woken by the wind swishing the water before our tent. We got changed and walked back through the forest and along the path towards the ferry terminal to the only general store, which has a cafe out front along the waters edge. We bought snacks and drinks to do some walking around the island (having learned our lesson from yesterday..tsk tsk). And for breakfast, we ate Vaniljfläta (vanilla twist pastry) and Kardemummbulle (you guessed it, cardamon swirl pastry) while sipping on coffees and juice in the sun.
The general store also has an information counter, and we asked about walks around the island, and set off with a map and a vague idea of where we would go. Svartsö is around 7km squared, much of which is forest and private land for summer homes, so we started to wander along the dirt road, along the edge of green farms, round lakes and through forest of thin pines. We did need to be alert during our walk, as ticks are common on the islands and I have so much hair! At one stage we were studying the map and a smiling white-haired local woman stopped to help us and told us about where we could go for lunch, to see the small fishing harbour and visit the little local hotel. Later we saw her serenely picking flowers and tasting wild berries.
After exploring the fields of wildflowers and admiring all the auburn summer cabins, we stopped for lunch at Svartsögrillen – a food truck serving burgers (including a veggie burger!), fries and some Swedish baked goodies.
We fell completely in love with Svartsö. Even one night felt like such an adventure into the heart of Sweden’s summer lifestyle. We also decided we weren’t leaving without one more quick drink at the Svartsö Krog to toast a beautiful little trip into the archipelago.
That evening we caught the ferry back to Stockholm. During the night, I woke to close the curtains in our hotel room (it is, after all, light most of the night) and I saw something dark on the crease of the bedspread where I had stood up. On closer inspection, I saw it was a tick. My worries had been justified. It must have been crawling around in my hair for hours. Poor Skymie had to give me a full head check at 4am, and despite my hair and scalp being clear…let’s just say I didn’t sleep so well that night. But would I do it again?
In a heartbeat.
Tip: It can be hard to find information in English on the archipelago islands and ferry times, so head to the big information centre in the heart of Stockholm – they’ll point you in the direction of an island that suits your needs.
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