On a Swedish Island

In the dog days of summer DonQui finds himself in Stockholm. He likes the Swedish capital. It is nicely compact with a great mix of old and modern.

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Having been to Stockholm a few times before, DonQui decides to spend some time on one of the islands in the huge, picturesque Stockholm archipelago. After a bit of searching on the internet he settles on Grinda. It is far enough away from Stockholm to have a sense of remoteness and offers a mix of camping, cabins, hotel and restaurant.

As regular readers will know, DonQui is a bit of an urban donkey. The outdoors is all well and fine as long as there is a good pub or eatery at the end of the trail. He feels relatively reassured by the fact that the Grinda Wärdshus restaurant has a good reputation. Duchess is even more reassured by the offering of proper rooms as well as camping options.

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Navigating the ferry system took some organisation. DonQui was informed by the kindly man at the Strömkajen quay in central Stockholm that all he needed to do was turn up and pay on board. No reservations required or even accepted. All went swimmingly well apart from the fact that the weather decided to turn positively autumnal. The boat left precisely on time and had plenty of space. The two hour journey from Stockholm to Grinda is comfortable and gives great views of the archipelago as it winds its way from island to island.

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DonQui had booked a cabin on Grinda and was assured that bedding and towels could be hired on arrival. Unfortunately on arrival there is no-one and nothing to greet him other than the trees and a cool gentle rain. Trotting up the forest trail he comes upon a hut which is locked up tight at 5pm even thought the sign says open until 6. A small box holds the keys to his cabin along with a rather hopeless hand-drawn map.

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By the time DonQui finds the cabin, a rustic little place nestled amongst the pine and birch trees, Duchess is muttering about finding more suitable accommodation. Apparently unable to get his hands on any bedding, DonQui is inclined to agree.

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A further trek through the forest brings DonQui to a clearing overlooked by the promised Wardhaus refuge. He notes that those with more cash than he are arriving by helicopter rather than boat.

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Although it is still technically summer, a warm fire takes the chill off the evening. After a particularly fine dinner and the offer of a comfortable room in one of the outbuildings DonQui begins to feel quite at home.

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The island is truly beautiful with excellent trails through the boreal forest with its atmospheric ice-age moss and lichen covered rocks. It is nearly impossible to wander through it without stories of trolls, elves and fairies immediately coming to mind.

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The landscape reminds DonQui of central Canada where he grew up, although the water is salt rather than fresh.

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At the end of August/early September there is a decided end-of-season feel to the island. With very few humans to be seen this increases the sense of tranquility. However, the places to buy supplies are shut up with ‘closed for the season’ signs. DonQui had not been warned of this in advance and he felt his vision of a campfire dinner in front of his cabin rapidly diminishing.

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Never mind. At lunch-time he heads for the little dock where a café by the water beckons. The chalk-board sign is promising and he looks forward to a beer and light snack as the sun has replaced the rain of the previous day.

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Unfortunately a chain and lock proclaim the place firmly closed for the season.

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DonQui is not deterred by the lack of amenities. He could have had these had he remained in Stockholm. The tranquility offered by the late August off-season more than compensates.

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Long walks through the woods, discovering beautiful isolated places is why DonQui came to Grinda in the first place.

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The clear blue-black water of the Baltic Sea looks rather cold. DonQui quickly banishes any ideas of having a swim, deciding instead that the water is best admired from a respectful distance.

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DonQui looks rather worried as he is transported from the water’s edge to a place of safety where he will not risk getting his hooves wet in the frigid sea.

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Although the clouds pushing in from the west temporarily banish the blue skies, for most of his stay on the island the sun manages to break through to warm the cool northern air.

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When the sun goes down the temperature drops rapidly but the views from the shelter of the restaurant are quite spectacular.

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The food on offer in the restaurant is excellent. The cheeses from sheep and cattle that graze in the meadow below are particularly welcome. The wine selection is pretty good too although (this being Sweden) the prices make DonQui’s eyes water.

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His drink of choice over the next few days is the rather excellent Swedish Sleepy Bulldog beer. True to its name a half pint seems to put him in the mood for a brief nap.

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Three days later, DonQui boards the boat back to Stockholm having had a truly enjoyable time. In retrospect he is glad that he stayed on Grinda when it was technically off-season even if it was late August. The lack of amenities were more than made up by the feeling that he had the island almost to himself.

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