Water in town and island life: holiday photos

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Water in Norrköping and an island in the Baltic. Some holiday photos. Last week Mrs SC and I took our first holiday away from home in about 16 months. I don’t think we’ve ever gone so long before without travelling. Blame the coronavirus. As pandemic restrictions and recommendations are relaxing here, travel – at least within Sweden – becomes easier. Old friends from the north of Sweden, Staffan and Anna, invited us to share a holiday cottage for a week at Barösund on Kättilö.


We started out by taking the train across the country to the Baltic coast. Our first stop was Norrköping, once Sweden’s Manchester or Chicago, now post-industrial. We walked along the river, Motala ström, that rushes through the city. Wild water that once powered this industrial town still hurries from Lake Vättern down to the Baltic. A good place for reflections. The lady tapping her foot is working-class author Moa Martinsson.

Island life

Our final destination was an island off the coast, Kättilö in Gryt’s archipelago. That’s it in the centre of the map. The island is without shops or wi-fi. (I was rather expecting it to be without telephone coverage too, though I was wrong. And there’s a photo to prove it!) We had to stop off at the last town with a supermarket (Valdemarsvik, off the map) to stock up on perishables, and then take a boat from Fyrudden out to the island.

Once on the island we settled in. We spent a lot of the time exploring and enjoying the views of all the other islands. (Here at sunset on the first day, Staffan is pointing out something to Mrs SC.) We also spent time cooking. (Illustrated: me frying up a nutritious English breakfast) and drinking. The “perishables” included a good supply of various sorts of alcohol. In my glass: a caipirinha – rum and lime. Very refreshing. Cheers!

Almost all the buildings on the island seemed to be made of wood and painted red with white edgings. The old building in the gallery is the former customs house. For centuries, maybe up until Sweden joined the EU, there was a customs post on the island and customs officers lived there all the year round. They would board merchant ships on their way into the port at Norrköping to tax their imports. Staffan’s father was a customs officer stationed on the island and Staffan himself used to spend school holidays there.

Early morning photo walk

It was hot the whole of the week we spent on Kättilö. Really hot and a bit humid. Not being a great fan of open water, direct sun or sea bathing, I tried to stay off and out of the water, and in the shade. I didn’t always succeed. In the cooler parts of the day I was out and about with the camera. Obviously I didn’t take all the photos illustrating this post myself, but the selection in the next gallery is all mine. Taken on an early morning walk.

Harebells and a meadow backlit by the rising sun. Oaks and pines and grass. Dry stone walls and abandoned agricultural machinery. Conventional and bucolic. But I thought the abandoned space hopper, face down in the grass, and the can of oil standing ready to lubricate the dry stones of the wall were at least amusing.

In, on and over the water

Mrs SC and our hosts went off in a rowing boat one day. Here are a few of her photos from that trip. A picture of the island and the sound almost at water level as they rowed out. Then Anna swimming in deep water near a jetty that used to be used by the Swedish navy. Maybe they still use it. The water is deep enough under the cliff for a warship, a destroyer or a cruiser, to lie there at anchor, grey against the grey cliff face. Later some sea kayakers paddled by.

And then, another day, while Anna and Mrs SC were swimming off the little automated lighthouse, I took the two photos below. The one looking up the sound to the north-west, the other (with weird perspective) looking to the south-east. The second one is a panorama made by stitching two photos together in Photoshop. I think the colour difference has to do with where the sun was. I took the first at about 8:10 in the morning and the second, from more or less the same spot, about 10 minutes later. In the first the sun is behind me, in the second it’s just out of frame top left.


Not illustrated are some of the insects (and similar) that gladdened our days.

I regret not taking any pictures of the horseflies. There were plenty and they would zoom into the cottage through the open door, slam into the glass of a closed window then then carry on angrily buzzing and banging. Large, vicious, but no brighter than their small house-fly cousins. (By contrast I twice saw bumble bees buzz in, buzz around, then buzz off back out the way they came.) I got quite adept at catching the horseflies under a drinking glass, closing off the opening with a postcard and then releasing them into the wind outside. Far enough away so they wouldn’t immediately zoom back indoors.

The mosquitoes were old enemies. Swedish mosquitoes consider me a delicacy. If I’m around they tend not to bother anyone else. Or at least, suck other people’s blood only as a dessert course. The third evening, for some reason, was a rich mosquito evening.

Before we turned in I went around slapping down the mosquitoes I saw till I thought I’d emptied the room of them. But as soon as I turned out the light and lay down they’d start up their whining again. I think I was up mosquito hunting three times before I finally gave up. I covered my head and let them have my legs to snack on. In the morning, both my legs and Mrs SC’s were well bitten. Whereas her bites were little pink circles, mine came up in white blisters that then, over a few days, turned dark. At one point I looked like I’d been in a fight and been punched repeatedly with the point of an umbrella.

Ticks and sea mist

And then there were the ticks. Horrible little beige dots with legs and corkscrew jaws they screw down into your skin, drilling for blood. You can’t just pull them out, you have to get a grip and unscrew them.They are easier to find when they have drunk some of your blood as they swell up and change colour, but you want to get them before they do that. We had a fine little lasso device, which worked very well, but it wasn’t a pleasant task. No pictures of the ticks either.

And no pictures of the “eco-friendly” toilet constructed over a furnace. At one point, in the middle of the night and while I was trying to use it, flames erupted from the toilet bowl. Fortunately not while I was sitting on it.

Instead let me close with some cooler, misty evening islands. (Mrs SC was the photographer here.) Farewell!

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