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Stockholm County Coat of Arms

Jul 2017

vasa (personal-name) + holm Swedish islet.

Population - 4,857.

Stockholm County Coat of Arms

Funny word archipelago and if you say it often enough, it even starts to sound funny [ahr-kuh-pel-uh-goh].

Its components have their roots in Ancient Greek but 'chief sea' doesn't really mean much[1] so the Greeks never combined them. The Italians compounded things in the 16th century to refer to any body of water with a load of islands in it then the Greeks borrowed it back.

There's another full circle being done, out into the Stockholm archipelago, which is world famous, in Sweden. If you're in and around the 'Venice of Scandinavia' then you're duty bound to do a boat trip out to it, the archipelago, and Vaxholm is the most popular island destination for the day-tripper.

The return trip takes nearly two hours and the minimum two hours on the island is dictated by the time of the next fast ferry back. It's too early for a curry but there's still plenty of time for a reminder of Northumbria and an optimistic pitch for a grisly thriller set in and around an archipelago[2].

[1] Apart from all the islands in the Aegean, which is what they were getting at, probably.
[2] Sounding funny yet?

All things nautical have been embraced within the outward hour and disembarking at Vaxholm, on the starboard side, it's thought to look a lot like Amble in Northumberland.

Vaxholm Marina Amble Harbour Village

Some of the locals here might have links to the longboating  looters back in the 8th century but it's not thought those cultural exchanges were responsible for the mutual, modern-day tradition of trading knick-knacks.

As a strategic location into the islands to the south, King  Gustav Vasa named that toon back in the 1540s when he built a  castle on the smaller island of Vaxholmen. There's been a settlement here ever since although most of what you can see is, at the earliest, early 19th century.

Vaxholm Fästnings Museum

If you've already forked out a small fortune for a  Stockholm City Pass, they'll let you in the  fortress for 'free'.

Before all of that, however, you'll have to make your way here and while  Waxholmsbolaget might be a bit of a mouthful, it's just the name of the operator that gets you from Stockholm and back.

Some are faster than others by cutting out some of the, quite frankly unnecessary, island stops and you'll find them on the city's quayside[1]. You pay once you set sail along with five hundred other passengers who are all also hoping the card machine miraculously works.

Stockholm - Strandvägen Near Stockholm - Statoil

It's not overly scenic for the first fifteen minutes of the hour-or-so long voyage but this is still Stockholm, remember, and you can drive to Vaxholm in just half an hour. That means the bus is an option but it's no cheaper and there's no sense of the 30,000 islands, they claim.

[1] They don't actually leave from there but it's the only suitable snap and it looks a little like Strömkajen, which is where you really need to be.

The larger lumps of hardened lava, it's thought, have hotels but the smaller ones are mostly privately owned. Swedes still flock to these in July, paying a premium for modest, wooden cabins in which to holiday.

Near Stockholm - Nacka Östra

Feel free to hop off at the occasional stop, Sweden's Right of Public Access Rights, or,  Allemansrätt if you'd rather, mean you're free to explore as long as you don't encroach too much on the punters who have chosen to sit in a gazebo for a fortnight.

This may lack the mountainous backdrop of Scotland's Inner Hebrides, say, but this is just about in the Baltic Sea. You can still spot dolphins around the Isle of Mull in January but here in the Baltic in winter, you'll be trailing in the wake of an icebreaker, probably.

Meanwhile, back in Vaxholm, tourists and locals alike are catered for along the pedestrianised Hamngatan where the main activities look to be mooching and munching.

Vaxholm - Hamngatan Vaxholm - Hamngatan

The old Town Hall overlooks a pleasant public square and is now home to the Tourist Information.

Vaxholm - Town Hall Vaxholm - Torget

A quick look at one of their maps[1] suggests that's Vaxholm centre just about covered but that fast ferry back to Stockholm isn't for another couple of hours.

The island of Vaxholm is less than one square mile in area but there are a couple of 'trails' marked on that 'map' so let's go for a wander.

[1] More of a leaflet, really.

Some rocks below a school on Norrbergsgatan don't even warrant a photograph and Hamngatan is now wide enough for buses so you'll have to watch your  Green Cross Code™s.

Those buses are heading over one of the two bridges, which both lead back to Stockholm in their own roundabout way, and other highlights include a graveyard and a football ground.

Vaxholm Cemetery Vaxholm - Vaxö IP

IFK Vaxholm plays in the 6th tier of the Swedish Football League so they're on a par with  Blyth Spartans. If that conjures up images of a cold and wet Wednesday night with the wind whipping in off the North Sea, just imagine that wind blowing in off the Baltic, brrr!

The ground's capacity is around a thousand, which means the atmosphere on match days is much the same as it is back in the graveyard, probably.

Kungsgatan leads you back to the centre via a utilitarian-looking church that's likely to be  Lutheran and early 1800s, probably.

Vaxholms kyrka (church)

It replaced what's now the red, wooden belltower, not shown, that's nearly 100 years older and, every Sunday, you can still hear the peals ringing.

Just next door, it's the pilau zinging at the, yes, Best of India restaurant, which couldn't be any more out of place if it was on the moon.

Vaxholm - Best of India

There doesn't look to be any Rudolph in the Rogan Josh and is that really £3 for a single  papadam?

It's a short hop back down Hamngatan where, because it's way too early for a curry, there's a little time left before the ferry.

That can be killed in the inviting looking Waxholms Hotell either at the traditional bar or sat in their well-known, in Sweden anyway,  fine-dining restaurant.

Hotel "Waxholms hotell"

Looking at the name, is it Waxholm or Vaxholm. Wallander or Vallander? You can ponder this further when presented with the bill for half of a pint and a small cup of Sauvignon.

Should have just asked for a glass of vatten, which is how it's thought to be pronounced, and not watten as in...

Watten absolute bloomin' liberty!

Outside of the small town centre, things are largely fancy-residential and holiday homes. You may have got a feeling for this on your wander but there's a much better sense of it from the ferry.

Vaxholm - Rosenbergsgatan Lidingö - Gåshaga

The island of Lidingö is the 3rd wealthiest area in and around Stockholm and the ferry will plop you at Gåshaga although there weren't too many takers on this trip. Half of ABBA lived on it at some point although probably not in the glassed gentrification that could just about be anywhere.

Still, it's handy if you work at  Bonver Logistics AB and whatever it is they do with their big chimney.

Looks from here to be the front for a Money, Money, Money laundering operation all overseen by an executive with a glass eye and 'abandonment issues', the incinerator used to dispose of the mounting body of evidence around an increasingly inventive series of gruesome murders all with links to an orphanage, or something.

So much so, Lidingögistics is being pitched to a Scandi-production company as you read. It's been a while since they made a good one so BBC4 will be all over it.