Exploring Uppland in Fourteen Hours or Sweden Natural, Sweden Agricultural, Sweden Historical
Iva, the Czech postdoc at SLU, offered me to join her, her husband and his parents who were visiting for a week for a trip to an island somewhere northwest of Uppsala. I liked the idea of the trip because of getting to the Baltic Sea seashore. However, I would have experienced much much more in only half a day!
We made the trip by Czech car Skoda Fabia and listened to some Czech music (Jaromir Nohavica, Raduza and many more). Our first stop was a quite small town (about 4500 inhabitants) of Östhammar. It was only little bit more than an hour drive from Uppsala, all way long we were passing tiny villages, fields with gold shining cereals and bright green forests.
Beginning of Östhammar’s dates back to 1368 when it gained its city status. The town can be proud of it castle from mid-1400’s, while its town hall was built centuries later (1651). During its long history, the town was burnt once and as it was rebuilt, it was moved closer to the sea at the same time. The fishing of herring played an important role in Östhammar’s economy for centuries.
It was only a short stop, yet we could admire the town hall, some of the town’s narrows streets, browse stands of locals selling anything from pies to woodcarving to winter shoes and mitten. Tomas, Iva’s husband, who seemed to be quite fluent in Swedish bought a vegetable pie for us.
After only 20 minutes of driving we stopped again. However, for a longer period of time, so I had enough time for a stroll in Öregrund, another small town (1600 inhabitants) by the coast of the Baltic Sea. Here we separated, so I kept exploring on my own for a while. Before doing so, I was given a piece of the vegetable pie from Östhammar that I enjoyed at the seashore.
Some kind of a festival took place there, so it was quite crowded. There were lots of stands in the little square, however I did not like their merchandise so much, since it was mainly stupid, plastic Chinese toys. Nevertheless, bit further from the center of shopping rush I could enjoy town’s little, red wooden houses, sea bays and boulders by the coast.
The first inhabitants, who came from Östhammar, settled in the town in late 1400’s. In 17th century, in the times of industrial revolution, Öregrund became an import port for exporting iron. Yet, fishing remained the only industry. Öregrund is one of the best kept wooden towns in Uppland, so nowadays it is a favorite place for tourists. If you, however, visit it off the season, everything is closed, even the tourist information.
It took really short time to get to an island and then we kept driving to Gräsö gård, a reserve next to the seashore. I enjoyed our short walk there a lot, since it was only us in the vast forest. The only companions, who joined us for a while were local cows feeding themselves. To me it was a true wilderness: a narrow vanishing pathway lined with old trees covered in lichen, and blueberry bushes led us through. Our refreshment were wild raspberries.
We drove to the north of the island, where Tomas had to face a parking problem (most of the property was private there and lots of people came to swim, ride boats or have a pick-nick). At the seashore it was significantly windier and we waited here for a little boat to another island, Örskär. Waiting was not boring at all, because I was surrounded with such a beautiful scenery!
The boat to Örskär:
From the rocky beach of Örskär island, whose large part is a nature reserve rich of unusual flowers such as wild orchids, we hiked to a lighthouse, Örskär fyr. The beacon was one of the first built in Sweden and originally it was wooden. After it was burned down, it was rebuilt and finally electrified in 1954.
Next to the lighthouse there was a cozy cafe, whose interior was decorated with genuine items such as an old radio or a weather-record diary from 1982. We had coffee and popsicle there and than, finally, we set out to reach the top of the beacon. It turned out to be easier than I would ever expect, because there was no staircase but a narrow tiled road going up instead.
The gallery of the lighthouse was an incredibly windy place. However the view of Sweden we got from there was breathtaking:
Back on the ground, we decided to have a short walk along the coast. I made use of it and tried the coldness of the sea. Yet, I was not so brave as Tomas, who swam there.
We took a boat back to Gräsö island and drove back to the south of the island to take the ferry back to the mainland of Sweden. Our next stop was a village called Forsmark. In Swedish this kind of village is called bruk and these village are of quite some importance to history of Sweden.
“Bruks” or Walloon villages were built in 1500’s, when iron ore was mined a lot. A typical “bruk” had a manor of an owner of a mine, a school, a church and little houses of workers. Worker houses looked all the same in that particular village.
Forsmark “bruk’s” history goes as back as 1570’s and near the village there is located the only one nuclear plant of Sweden.
The biggest Walloon village is called Lövstabruk and we drove through it on our way to Fågelsundet. Lövstabruk’s houses looked very differently than what I had seen before: they were much smaller and nicely yellow. Lövstabruk was also had gateways at both end of the village and its manor was huge and luxurious.
From Lövstabruk located inland it was only half an hour to get back to the shores of Baltic Sea and to Hållnäs peninsula, where a fishing village of the name Fågelsundet.
Although fishing has decreased, the boathouses there are very well preserved and so is the cook house.
The boathouses were of course wooden and red. They were so small and still a huge part of every little house was used to park a boat!
In the neighborhood of the fishing village there is a nature reserve, where we had a short walk to get to the coast once again. By the time of the last walk of the day it was already 9pm, but it was still so much light in the forest! The boulders we were balancing on had a very unusual pattern on them:
Moreover, in the evening the sky turned into colors I had never seen before. Clouds were kinda grey while the sky was ablaze with light shades of blue, pink and violet. The vast area was immersed in silence, only fishing seagulls and fidgety waves proved there was some live there.
Even though I enjoyed every single minute of the diverse trip, these very last minutes before our departure back to Uppsala, were not only a great ending of the day but also a very special moment and my most enjoyable time in Sweden.
While sitting in the car, almost two hours long drive ahead, I was just overjoyed. At the same time I was rather falling asleep and I surely did not expect anything great to come. From all of the sudden, Tomas stopped the car suddenly because of an elk running across the road. He said he had never been so close to it and I missed it! I just accepted I would have been too lucky to have the same experience after only five weeks in Sweden in comparison to his two years, and kilometers and weeks of traveling. Yet, the day was supposed to be perfect. Only few kilometers later, there was another one, again crossing the road in forest. This time I seized the chance and saw it in its full beauty, the huge majestic male elk, slowly disappearing in the darkness.
So so much happened in only one day and I could have been to many wonderful places. I am glad my nice Czech companions and guides in the same, showed me these beautiful places. Many thanks also go to the country: Today I finally fell in love with Sweden deeply!