Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Arholma Nord och Kallt Krigen


This past weekend, B. and I headed out on an adventure to one of the island's in the Stockholm archipelago. Did you know that Stockholm had an archipelago? It is the largest archipelago in Sweden and one of the biggest in the Baltic sea. It stretches 60 km to the east of Stockholm and is made up of approximately 24,000 islands and islets (which is by the way a small island - I had to look that up). The village of Ytterby situated on Resarö island is one of the most famous villages in the archipelago as it is home to a quarry that contains many rare earth minerals. The village is famous for naming no fewer than 4 chemical elements - erbium, terbium, ytterbium and yttrium (once again, I came across this info on Wikipedia - it wasn't just lying around in my head). But we did not go to Resarö, we went to Arholma, which is situated in the North Archipelago.

To get to Arholma, we took two buses and a ferry from Uppsala, on the way back it wasn't so easy and we had to take a ferry, two buses, the subway and the train from Stockholm to get back (this trip totaled 5 hours vs. our 3 hour trip there). Upon our arrival in Arholma, we actually managed to go to the wrong hostel (who knew there would be two on such a small island) and were surprised to find a) no one in the office, since they didn't mention that it would be unmanned and b) that it was nowhere near the ocean since we had rented kayaks. We dropped off our stuff and proceeded to walk back to "town" to ask for some info only to pass another sign which named the hostel we were looking for, so we walked on to this hostel and then had to walk back 2 km to pick up our stuff and 2 km back to drop it off. We were slightly grouchy at this point.

Our real hostel was on the ocean, it was near the north of the Island. And to our surprise, it was actually on an old army battery (but more about this later). So, on to the kayaking. We walked down to the beach and put the kayaks in the water...later B. told me that he was surprised I even got in the water as the ocean was pretty rough (I asked why he didn't mention this before we left the shore!). We paddled to the southeast and ended up going down the inside of the Island, where it was supposed to be calmer. It was easy going to start as the wind was at our back and we pulled our kayaks up on an island to lie in the sun for awhile. We proceeded to paddle a bit farther and then it was time to turn back. OH MY GOD! I could barely get my kayak to move. It was so windy. B. estimates there were 60km/hr winds. The waves were splashing us but that wasn't really worrisome, the kayaks are pretty stable, it was just so frustrating. Needless to say, I am not the world's strongest paddler and my technique is not great, but I'm not a weakling either. B. offered to tow me but I thought that was a bit wimpy so instead we paddled separately and it took us nearly three times as long to get back to the hostel. I was not a happy camper.

But, things got better, we had a nice evening, and we walked into the "town" for dessert at the one restaurant in "town". On the way back it was getting dark and we came across numerous frogs on the road, and fairly big ones, so that was cool. The next morning it was raining, but since we had arranged to go on a tour of the battery (and it was inside the hill) it didn't bother us much. The tour was in Swedish so it was good practice for us, although we are not that familiar with terms of war in Swedish :) The guide did translate some things for us, but the Swedish version would take 5 minutes while the English version was one sentence. He did however, give us a private tour after the main tour was done and let us go up into the firing mechanism room of the 10.5 cm Bofors that was there (which no one else got to do).

So the short version of the tour is that this battery was constructed in 1965 but was not ready until 1968. It was built to be a last line of defense against a Russian attack during the Cold War. There were several other guns situated on islands along the coast and many of them could be fired from the Arholma base. There were over a hundred men posted at this base, although not all of them slept inside the hill, some slept in tents outside in the woods. The base was disbanded in the 90s and then the residents had to convince the government to keep it intact for use as a museum. It now runs four tours daily and people come from all over to see it...including off sailboats that pull into the bay. One of the funniest things we saw on the tour was a switch box with the words "Krig" -war and "Fred" - peace on it. Apparently, if the lever was on war, then the gun could be aimed back towards Sweden in case the Russians had made it to shore, whereas if the lever was on peace then it could only be fired out towards the sea.

Since the weather wasn't so nice on Saturday we left the island in the early afternoon but it was still a nice getaway. Here are some shots from our quick visit!
Photos from Arholma

The weather has now turned cool but hopefully it will turn back for S. and M.'s visit in a couple weeks...also for me who is stuck at home trying to fill my summer days!

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