Stockholm’s Archipelago

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Archipelago – ar·chi·pel·a·go. noun \ˌär-kə-ˈpe-lə-ˌgō,

  1. An expanse of water with many scattered islands
  2. group of islands

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There aren’t that many true archipelagos; Stockholm’s archipelago is the real deal.  It has more than 30,000 islands!  I guess it’s not all the surprising.  Stockholm itself is made up of 14 islands that are connected by 50 bridges on Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea.  It’s definitely a maritime city.  When we visited in March, I took a boat tour of the area, but it was too cold to really enjoy the outer islands in the Baltic.

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For Stockholm’s residents, the archipelago is a easy escape and their holiday retreat.  There’s an island for everyone.  Partiers, those looking for peace and quiet, sunbathers, woodsy hikers, campers, B&Bers, luxury hotel lovers…there’s an island for everyone. The archipelago is easily accessible via ferry.  There are two main ferry companies.  One with larger, faster boats (Cinderella Båtarna), the other (Waxholmsbolaget) with charming smaller boats that make it feel less like a commute and more like a pleasure cruise.

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We took the Waxholmsbolaget boat to Vaxholm.  The journey was half the fun.  The boats are adorable with wood interiors and brass details.  It’s the perfect place for a picnic.  We sat outside and watched the hustle and bustle recede.  I was worried about not hearing our stop.  The boat docks, people disembark and it pulls away with remarkable speed.  I shouldn’t have been, locals (who all speak great English) volunteered to let us know when we got close.

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The Cinderella boat back was larger and a bit faster, but didn’t have quite the charm.  My advice, take either one.  You can’t go wrong.

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Stockholm’s archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It consists of 20,000-50,000 islands off the coast of Sweden that offer a buffer to the Baltic Sea.  “Skärgården,” as the area is known to the Swedes, was formed by glaciers that carved out and deposited granite that protrudes from the water.  As a result, it is full of reefs and shallows The islands get progressively less rocky, sandier and smaller with fewer trees the further you get from Stockholm.

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Vaxholm  is an idyllic archipelago town with well-preserved wooden villas from the turn of the 19th century.  Everything about it says cottage cute. It has nice restaurants (especially if you like fresh fish), a wonderful bakery, charming cafés, and way cooler shopping than your average resort town.  I wanted to decorate with and wear things from just about every shop.

DSC_0234DSC_0247DSC_0232Although you can rent bikes, we spent an afternoon doing a big walking tour of the area.  There are plenty of trails, sidewalks and quiet streets.  We tried to get away from the business district to get a look at how people live there.  Even without the cute shops, restaurants and hotels, it was very picturesque.  I loved the brightly colored houses and cute gardens.  We saw backyard meals, people walking their dogs, mowing their lawns and cleaning out their garages.

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The have a decent sized marina and with the essential nearby farm stand and ice-cream stand.  Across the narrow strait is the historic Vaxholm Fortress.  From the shore, you can see several small islands with adorable but solitary houses and a dock.  Vauxholm is the last easily accessible place in the archipelago by car from Stockholm and is even accessible by bus.  In fact, it is the most populated archipelago town and people live there year-round.  Tiger Wood’s ex-wife Elin Nordegren grew up there.  Don’t worry through, there’s no hustle and bustle, it’s perfectly tranquil.

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Millennium Trilogy Walking Tour Of Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm – Part One

I read and loved Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (so did the rest of my book club in Charlotte, ladies this one is for you).   In Stockholm, you can take the Stockholm City Museum’s popular and award-winning Stieg Larsson Millennium Tour (available in several languages).  It is also possible to  do a self-guided tour with a Millennium Map sold the City Museum for 40 SEK ($5).

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

The City Museum (at the entry to Sodermalm)

Heading out in search of sites from the books and movies seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out Södermalm, a fantastic neighborhood in Stockholm where many of the book’s scenes are based.  Sodermalm has always been the working-class, even bohemian part of the city.  Although gentrified, it retains a unique character.  Old wooden cottages and 20th century stone houses line its narrow cobblestoned streets.  Steig Larsson lived there and he had his characters live there too, at least the heroes do.  The villains live elsewhere.

Fiskargatan 9 – New Apartment Home of Lisbeth Salander

With her ill-gotten gains, Lisbeth Salander purchased a 21-room suite on the top floor of the upscale building Fiskargatan, 9 for 25 million kronor ($3,850,00 or  2,808,000  Euros).  It is in an exclusive and discreet neighborhood.  She chose the apartment for its light and excellent views over Gamla Stan, Djurgården Island and the Bay of Saltsjön.   Built in 1910, its green metal roof, making it easy to spot.

In The Girl Who Played with Fire, Salander moves in to this apartment.  She went to IKEAfurnished only three of its rooms.

The name on the door to Salander’s apartment is a nod to Sweden’s famous children’s book character, Pippi Longstocking’s town “Villerkulla”.  The buzzer to her apartment was labeled “V. Kulla.”  Stieg Larsson was inspired by the idea of a grown up Pippi Langstrump (Pippi Longstocking) who gets things done on her own when creating the character of Lisbeth Salander.  This is clearly a nod to another famous Swedish author.

Transit Stop: Slussen T-bana

Lundagatan – First apartment of Lisbeth Salander

Unlike most of the locations in the books, the number of Lisbeth Salander’s flat on Lundagaten is never named.  She had a miserable upbringing in her mother’s public housing flat on Lundagatan.  At 18 Lisbeth Salander, aided by her guardian, Holger Palmgren, purchased it for her mother.  From the books, we know it is located on Lundagatan street near Högalid church and is close to the #66 bus stop.  Some have speculated that it is number 38.  In the Girl Who Played With Fire, Salander moves to her new apartment at Kargatan 9.  She allows Miriam Wu to use the flat. When Salander lived there, it was unorganized and not very clean.  Miriam Wu cleans it up and decorates.

Transit Stop: Zinkensdamm T-bana

The Lunda Bridge (Lundabron)

This a bridge that connects Lundagatan, where Lisbeth Salander’s first apartment is located, and Bellmansgatan, the street where Mikael Blomkvist’s apartment is located.  It is significant because it was the fastest way between them.

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From the Lundabron, you can walk via Monteliusvagen, a quarter-mile promenade overlooking Lake Malaren and the Old Town, to Mikael Blomquist’s apartment.   From the path you can also see the courthouse where Mikael stands on the steps after being found guilty of libel across the water.

Bellmansgatan 1 – Mikael Blomvist’s Apartment

It is located on Mariaberget Hill in the historic Söder district.  Many of the buildings in this area were built after a fire in 1759.   Blomkvist’s apartment is in a luxury building located in a desirable neighborhood.  You can recognize it by its gothic and neo-gothic spires, mid-air walkway and castle-like details.

It has views of Riddarfjärden bay, the Saltsjon bay and Stockholm’s old town Gamla Stan.  From the books, we know that Blomkvist bought the flat in the 1980s.  In the book the entrance to his apartment is the front door of the building. In reality, it is accessed directly from the elevated walkway.

Don’t expect an undiscovered spot; it may well be Stockholm’s most well-known address.  Fans from all over the world come see and photograph this building.

Subway Stop: Gamla Stan T-bana

More from Sodermalm tomorrow…