So when we were putting together an itinery for our trip to Gothenburg and the tourism agency suggested cycling out to the archipelago and using the local ferries to island hop I was overjoyed. Sitting to the west of Gothenburg and its 800km of bicycle lanes is a series of sparsely inhabited islands.
The plan was for us to pick up hire bikes ride to the small ferry port of Saltholmen and catch the ferry to Vrango, meet up with a local hotelier there before a short hop to Styrso and the ferry back to Saltholmen. Chatting with Sofei our guide on the way to pick up the hire bikes she pointed out some of the sights of the city. Including the statue of Poseidon. There’s an interesting story about the fish he holds but I’ll let you discover it for yourself. Picking up the hybrid hire bikes was easy and Sophie gave us the time table of the ferries and set us on our way.
The cycling infrastructure in Gothenburg tries to offer two routes. One direct and a more touristy route. The direct route was scenic enough as we rode out through the suburbs with great directional signs pointing us in the right direction. The 7km or so to the port soon flew by and we arrived at the port with an hour to spare. After a quick coffee we waited as the ferry turned up on time and we boarded. Taking the bikes on the ferry was free and I mused yet again on the ease by which one can travel on two wheels in Gothenburg. Too often I hear excuses why cycling won’t work in the UK and time and time again I travel to Europe and see the so called problems overcome with ease. Not enough room is the common one but Gothenburg is hardly a “new town”. They’ve made the best of the space they’ve got and not prioritised cars. It works. Climate not right in the UK? Sorry I was in Sweden! Anyway rant over. Gothenburg and the surrounding area has it right.
A sort trip later we were on the Island of Vrango to meet our host Hakan Karlsten the owner of the new hotel and accommodation on the island Kajkanten. Hahan is true native of the island being a descendent of many generations of Master Pilots. Pilots were the guides who led visiting ships into the harbours safely through the treacherous rocks and currents. Vital to the economy and health of the community these were privileged positions.
Vrango is a nature reserve and cycling is banned apart from the main road which bisects the island. Everything is within easy walking distance and I could see how in summer the beaches come alive. The population increases form approx. 380 to 3-4000 a day in the busy summer months. Today was October though and things were quiet. Hakan led us on a stroll around and pointed out some of the historical interest. From the cemeteries where his ancestors lay to former gun positions and even some possible carving in the rocks. A beautiful flat engrossing island where we decided to alter our plans and spend a little longer there.
The hotel Kajkanten is a travellers dream. Modern detailed yet in keeping with the environment I could just imagine spending a winter there writing or just as easily as a short stopping point on a long cycle tour. With no cars on the island the peace was only broken by the occasional scooter or golf cart and even though it was a day with the flat light of an autumn day the beauty of the scenery was obvious. Watching the seabirds from the path was just as relaxing as I can ever find.
Taking the slow ferry back to Saltholmen allowed us to view a few more of the islands. All similar but slightly different. A world I was desperate to explore and find out more but not possible today. A ride back to Gothenburg and the airport bus was beckoning. We’d had a small taste of what the archipelago had to offer. I’m determined to go back and soon, and before this amazing area which feels designed for cycling gets discovered. At the moment I feel like I’m in on a secret.