Swedish Summer – Exploring the Island of Utö in the Rain

Swedish Summer – Exploring the Island of Utö in the Rain
By Ekaterina Larsson

I love traveling! Needless to even say this, as I would not have started this magazine otherwise! So one of the hardest parts for me in this COVID-19 world is the inability to travel.  I know, I live in Sweden, we did not have a lockdown, but still – most Swedish people are good at sticking to recommendations. As a good Swedish citizen, I also stayed at home, worked from home since March this year end even now – four months later.

My traveling bug got me into exploring hiking paths around Stockholm, together with my family. We found some amazing places, and with the good weather and blossoming trees, lilac, roses and poppies, it was truly a blessing to bathe in the gifts of nature!

Well into the month of July, we have already visited the island of Sandhamn, some beaches around Vaxholm and Enköping, we even found a beach with sand dunes and crystal-clear blue water in Stockholm. So yes, we have been to the beach a few times and got some suntan (from our garden too) since the Swedish summer bestowed us with about three weeks of lovely beach weather.

Lucky for us, for the dates I booked for exploring the island of Utö, the forecast showed rain. Well, what can you do, you have to go with the Swedish summer! We packed the car, drove to the ferry from Årsta bryggan and crossed the sea for about an hour to the island of Utö and Gruvbyn (The Miners’ Village). 

 

Utö Harbour at Gruvbyn

Image: Ekaterina Larsson

My first impression was that it was very relaxed and had this special summer feeling. It was mostly Swedes there, who went to enjoy summer and not show off (which was more the feeling I got in Sandhamn). As we were walking to Utö Wärdshus to check in,

I saw a few Swedish ladies laying out a white tablecloth on the table outside their rented red stuga (cottage), arranging wine glasses and flowers and just raising a toast for the summer. Or perhaps it was someone’s birthday? You could hear everywhere a happy chatter, bikes swishing back and forth, people walking around with their towels – just this really Swedish summer feeling!

Utö Värdshus

 

We took the key to our simple room with a sea view and decided to go out and explore.

Utö was a miner’s island in the old days and has the oldest iron-ore mines in Sweden – from the 1100s. The first thing I saw was a wagon filled with stones and a sign explaining about Bromsar-pojkarna in the old days. They were Breaking boys – the wagons with iron ore were sent down the hill to the harbor. Young boys – around 8-9 years old, would ride on top of the wagon, then jump down and hit the breaks to stop it.

I had no idea! From what I gather, they were not very well paid – just one meal per day, nor were the miners. Makes me happy that work conditions and regulations in Sweden are much better nowadays!

 

Wagon from the iron ore mines

The road took us down to the harbor, past a shop selling fresh fish, past the Bakery, ICA, Nya Dannekrogen restaurant, a bike rental places and many boats docked into the bay. Some people were partying on the boats already.

We decided to walk up to the 200 year old windmill, perched on top of the hill and one of the landmarks on the island. The windmill was closed but there was a beautiful view over the bay Mysingen.

My daughter was fascinated by all the white snails on the ground and was moving them to the grass to protect them from people stepping on them. There was a yellow house nearby, Kvarnvillan. I was fantasizing that it probably used to be the milliner’s residence but found no reference to that. It is part of the hotel now – Utö Värdshus. We went back to our room for a short rest before dinner.

 

Utö windmill

Dinner was at the restaurant of the hotel, and I was very specific that we wanted a window seat. I knew it would rain so best to watch the rain from the cozy inside. And the view over the sea. The food was delicious – I had lamb, my husband oxfile, a table near us were splashing on oysters and black caviar.

I think this COVID-19 just enhanced people’s desire to just enjoy life. Even if you have a lot of money, what would you do with them if you are just locked inside sitting at home? 

 

Lamb dish Utö Värdshus

 

We managed to see a lovely exhibition by Viktoria Tikhomirova and my daughter named one of the paintings, two girls next to each other in daning clothes. She named it Twins.

 

Twins by Viktoria Tikhomirova

The rain came, of course, then stopped and tricked us into walking down by the harbor. I was just admiring some canoes and it started raining again. Needless to say we got soaked by the time we got to the hotel. Oh, well, what can you do – it is the Swedish summer! I was all about done with that day, tucked in bed and watched some BBC crime series.

The next day I woke up early determined to manage to bike around the whole island before the rain came at 12.00. Easier said than done as my daughter likes to sleep in the morning. I laid out breakfast on the balcony, made instant coffee and then was ready to go to the bike rental. They can always catch up with me, right? After I kicked about at the harbor for 15 min I decided to just get my bike and start biking. First to Sprängbryggan and then to the bay on the other side of the island – Vänsviken.

Sprängbryggan – the church

Biking is such a freedom for me! I enjoyed to bike on the path along the sea, the boats, the breeze, the cute church in the distance.

I turned left on the the path through the woods and to the sea on the other side of the island. Managed to scare a couple with my bike bell. The guy asked me where I was going. “To the sea”, I said. He looked a bit confused but smiled. Along the sea shore on these islands it can be very confusing as some of these jetties are private properties. Oh, well, I parked my bike and walked on the smooth oval rocks to the sea. Sat there for a while just enjoying the view and the silence.

Vänsviken Utö

My husband and daughter joined me and then we biked back to the village. A few drops of rain came. But I had a goal – to get to the most Northern tip of the island – Kroka, because I had seen a beach on the map – Södra Sandvik. As I biked through meadows strewn with flowers and sheep, the rain became stronger and my daughter started complaining. And she was the only one with a proper raincoat on! I think seeing a dead toad on the road made her feel better.

I got to the end of the road – there was a military area with a barrier. But I saw a beautiful bay with poppies and lilies and oval rocks beyond them with the sea splashing over. Just lovely!

On the way to Kroka

 

We had a nice lunch after that (hamburgers!) and boarded the ferry back in the pouring rain. 

I always think about the next time I will come to the next place. The next time I come, if the weather allows it, I would like to stay in a tent. I know, I am probably romanticizing the whole thing.

But we could try for one night. We did buy a tent after all. I would explore and swim in all the nice beaches on the island. Then I will bike all the way down to Ålö and explore the hidden nooks and caves around. May be some peddling a canoe around?

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Biking around the island is a perfect way to explore!

 

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