The Göta Canal - a journey through Sweden
The Göta Canal has been haunting our travel wish list for a long time. Ever since I read a report about this waterway in Sweden, which connects Gothenburg with Stockholm, I once wanted to drive it myself. And if so, then this should happen aboard the historic river steamer Juno, the world's oldest registered passenger ship.
The Juno was built by 1874 at the Motala shipyard in Sweden. There where she leaves the Lake Vättern today on her journeys over the Göta Canal. From there she continues her way via locks towards Borensberg. My dream comes true in early June. We ship after our overnight stay in the Radisson Blu Riverside Hotel in Gothenburg at the Packhuskajen. From there we set off for a four-day river adventure on the Göta Canal.
Passengers from all over the world travel with us on the Göta Canal
Together with passengers from all over the world - they come from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, England and the USA - we move into our tiny but comfortably furnished cabins for the next three nights. In our cabin on deck A, the top deck of the Juno, we find two bunk beds, where I squeeze into the lower bed next to the vanity and Petar chooses the upper bed. After initial doubts, we sleep amazingly well in it during the three nights on board. The fresh air that we get on the way certainly contributes to the rest.
The cabins aboard the Juno
We follow the recommendation of the crew and pack everything necessary for the journey and stow it in the small cabinets that are available to us. We can even charge our mobile phone and use the very good wireless network on board. This is one of the few concessions to modern times on board the Juno. The cabin has a washing facility that is sufficient for brushing and cat washing. Showers and toilets are shared by all passengers. It's a bit like traveling in a train compartment. Except that here and now the ground fluctuates slightly more. The cabins are a bit bigger than the ones on ours Houseboat in Holland.
The cabins are actually only intended for overnight stays. Unfortunately we didn't take enough warm clothes with us for the trip. Sweden and the trip on the Göta Canal in spring can be windy, and the temperatures in June are apparently below those of "normal" years, as we are assured several times. Therefore, we are always looking for the warmth of our cabin. There we warm up and let the beautiful landscapes and villages slide past us along the Göta Canal. We admire them through the open cabin door. This is how we are protected from the wind. Our warmer-dressed fellow passengers sit on the Juno deck with blankets. Alternatively, Juno passengers can use the library as a lounge during the journey. However, it does not offer space for everyone. The dining room is only open during meal times.
The Göta Canal - historical waterway between Gothenburg and Stockholm
As is the case with historical paths, they are a bit older. And then something can no longer work so well. On our trip it was the first lock in Lilla Edet. Our captain Albert Hakansson is a real fur seal who is actually already retired. He only steers the Juno through the lakes of Sweden and the Göta Canal during the summer months. He is considerate of the right of way for a container ship. When we want to enter the lock with our river steamer, it suddenly says: "Nothing works anymore!" The lock gate can no longer be opened. And as it is: something like this always happens shortly before the weekend. Murphy's Law!
The lock needs to be repaired
Repairing a broken lock gate on Friday afternoon turns out to be not as easy as originally thought, so we can only continue with almost nine hours late. This is the travel program, which we have received from the shipping company for our tour on the Göta Canal, once more no longer comply. Wherever we should go sightseeing and hiking, we arrive in the middle of the night - or what is left of it just before Midsummer in Sweden.
You have to be flexible on the Göta Canal
The nights are short here at the Göta Canal in early June. In any case, most passengers in these places are in bed. However, our crew knows how to handle it well and quickly organizes great excursions, which bring us closer to the Göta Canal and the lakes that cross the Juno in a very pleasant way. Katharina, who is responsible for the entertainment program, conjures up new ideas and places to visit and makes the journey a pure pleasure.
The lock staircase on the Göta Canal
We particularly like the lock staircase at Sjötorp. Here the Juno has to take in fresh water and climb eight locks. This gives us passengers the opportunity to visit the Göta Canal Museum in Sjötorp, to watch the crew at work in the locks and to walk along the Göta Canal to the 8 lock, where we can board the boat again. A nice and comfortable stay, which brings us closer to life on the canal.
What the lock keeper does
We watch the lockkeeper wheel from lock to lock to prepare for Juno as he opens bridges so that the boat can pass underneath and chat with hikers and cyclists along the canal. Leisurely we walk along the canal and take us back to the times when this was still an important trade route from the west to the east coast of Sweden.
The Juno passes a total of 58 locks on its way from west to east. There are even some that are opened by hand, such as the lock at Tatorp. Every now and then we have to wait for bridges to rise in front of us so that we can pass through. It always amazes me how short the queues for cars at the road-river crossings are. Sweden is a sparsely populated country. I noticed that on our road trip through Smaland. This is even clearer here on the Göta Canal further north.
The two largest lakes in Sweden
On our boat trip through Sweden we drive over two of the largest lakes in the country: the Vänernsee in the west and Lake Vättern, whose south shore we had met at Jönköping. The second we cross at night, after Katharina had warned us at dinner that the crossing could become rough. Well equipped with pills for seasickness I let myself be lulled to sleep by the waves of the lake. Petar, who had stubbornly refused to take pills, sometimes has to cling convulsively to his bed above me, so as not to get out of bed in the sea. How good that I chose the cuddly berth next to the vanity.
Monastery Vreta, Birka and Drottningholm Castle on the way to Stockholm
Shortly after Ljungsbro we get off at one of the locks and walk to the Vreta monastery, which is not far from the Göta Canal. While the Juno continues to the lock staircase of Berg, we look at the romantic monastery with its cloister and the church, in which the bishop is excitedly expected by the community. We do not want to disturb you for long and we continue to Berg, where Juno is waiting for us at the bottom of the locks.
The best ice cream in Sweden
From here we cross the lake Roxen - this time with calm sea - and cross between Norsholm and Mem the last piece of the 190 km long Götakanals. In Söderköping we make a promise that we will be one of our hostesses on our Tour through Smaland We will try the ice cream shop at the lock of the place where the Juno will pick up fresh water for the last time during our trip.
This is actually as good as it had announced to us. Really Italian and "with real milk", the ice cream shop owner assures us. If you want, you can take a walk through the town with Katharina. We decide to use the beautiful evening light for photography and can take the Juno in the evening sun. A few kilometers later we leave the Göta Canal and continue on towards Slätbaken Lake towards Stockholm.
Back on schedule
In the meantime, as the captain proudly explains, we have made up for the lost time at the first lock at Lilla Edet and are exactly on schedule. We are very happy about that and give us enough time to visit the Viking settlement in Birka, which is part of the 8. to 10. Was the most important trading center of the Vikings in Sweden in the 19th century. Birka is located on an island in Lake Mälaren west of Stockholm. We look at the reconstructed houses of the Vikings and the museum, which shows how the Vikings lived at that time.
On our way to Stockholm we make a detour to the castle Drottningholm, the residence of the Swedish royal family. The castle is located on the shores of Lake Mälaren and the Juno turns a loop in front of it. If you want to visit the castle, but must book a trip from Stockholm, because we do not stop here.
About Lake Mälaren
A little sad, we follow the route of the Juno through the last locks, which separate the Lake Mälaren with its fresh water from the salt water of the Baltic Sea. An exciting journey that has taken us back in time has come to an end. Four enjoyable days on board and ashore showed us Sweden from an extraordinary perspective. We especially enjoyed traveling with the historic riverboat Juno, which demanded a lot of flexibility from us. In the beginning, when our little cabin took some getting used to, it developed into a nest in which we felt comfortable.
Arrival in Stockholm
The other passengers we had got to know each other better in the four days, and the farewell on the wharf of Gamla Stan in Stockholm fell hard. But most of all, we had come to appreciate the good care provided by the crew of the Juno, who made the trip a pure pleasure for us and made a great effort to improve our well-being. One thing came to our head during our trip to the river: a trip on the Göta Canal is not a journey to certain destinations, but a journey on which the route is the destination - crossing Sweden on the historic waterway between Gothenburg and Stockholm.
In Petar's video you can see us on ours River cruise on the Göta Canal consequences.
If you drive the city on the Göta Canal Gothenburg in a day Nina-Kristin has some tips for you to explore. Our tips for a day in Stockholm help everyone starting their journey on the Göta Canal in Stockholm.
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Source: On-site research. We would like to thank Strömma for inviting us to her Classic Canal Cruise. Our opinion remains our own.
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Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline