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Boats on the Gota Canal Part 1: From Stockholm to the Canal View Slideshow Part 2: Climbing up into Sweden Part 3: Across the middle of Sweden

2013: Stockholm to Gothenburg

The Gta Canal - Telford's Swedish Connection

Part 4: Heading down to Gothenburg

Diana leaves a lock

 

Now we were ready to start the steep 300-ft descent towards Gothenburg. As the ship started down the first flight of locks we took the opportunity to have a gentle walk along the towpath.

 

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Tarzan stands at the bows ready to throw the line ashore
The Jump-ashore Johnny signals the distance from the lower gates
The bow rope is tightened so that the ship can't drift back towards the cill
We're ahead of the ship as we walk along the towpath
We'll catch up at the next lock

At the old shipyard at Sjtorp is a museum with a number of old boats in the water and a collection of canal artifacts together with a mock-up of  an old cargo ship in the workshop building. While we were in the museum, the Diana waited in the lock to receive some essential services (waste pump-out, and a tank full of fresh water).

 

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Boats outside the Sjtorp museum
Boats outside the Sjtorp museum
A magnificent old engine stands outside the museum entrance
It was SO tempting to try out this old signal horn
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A tool for lifting stone blocks
Ancient diving equipment
Debbie takes the wheel of the replica cargo ship ...
... which is complete down to even the occupant of the heads!

We joined the ship at the next lock, ready to cross Lake Vnern which is Sweden's largest lake and Europe's third-largest (we had already crossed the two larger ones, Ladoga and Onega, on our Russian trips - as well as the sixth largest, Vttern, the day before - so now I suppose we will have to visit Finland and Estonia for the 4th and 5th). Luckily the weather was still extremely good, for this huge lake can become quite rough in bad weather.

After a 3-hour trip across the head of the lake we could see an amazing castle in the distance. Like something from a storybook, this fairytale castle had an absolutely splendid outlook across the water, and we were delighted to realise that this was our next destination. Its mooring jetty was only a few feet long but the ship was brought to a halt against the jetty so that the crew could lash a boarding plank to the bows and let us disembark.

 

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The Diana leaves the lock after a servicing and heads towards the next one which leads on to the lake that can be seen in the background
A very short jetty ...
... but it is just long enough that we can all get off at the bow
We are going to visit this fabulous castle

We were given two hours to explore the 13th century castle of Lck, but it was so fascinating that we would have welcomed at least an extra hour to explore on our own. The guided tour was excellent but unfortunately I was not allowed to take any pictures inside the castle, although I could take pictures in the grounds and in the chapel. All too soon the ship was heard blowing its whistle, summoning us to depart, and we had to hurry back on board.

 

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The castle is like something out of a fairytale
The master bedroom of the castle had an en-suite outside toilet!
The chapel, with its private gallery
It is only a small chapel but it is incredibly ornate
 There are beautiful carvings on the ends of the pews

Leaving the castle, we zig-zagged an incredibly intricate course amongst the islands towards the main part of the lake. Crossing the rest of Lake Vnern took the remainder of the afternoon and the whole evening so it was almost midnight by the time we docked above the Trollhatten flight,

 

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It is hard too see where there could be a route through the small islands
Debbie dances a hornpipe on the front deck as an aid to navigation
The narrow twisting route is shown by the smallest of markers
This old lighthouse shows the route for boats approaching from the lake

The falls of Trollhatten were the biggest obstacle to the construction of the Gota Canal. With a sheer drop of over 100 feet across a granite cliff-face, as well as sundry smaller drops, they had completely defeated the Swedish engineers for many years but eventually, by the year 1800, they managed to blast away the chambers for two narrow staircases of locks. These were very successful but were something of a bottleneck for traffic as well as being too small for the ships that wanted to reach Lake Vnern so with Teford's help a larger pair of staircases was built in parallel with the originals; they were opened in 1844 and remained in use until just a few years ago.

 

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The first (1800) staircase at Trollhatten
The second (1844) staircase at Trollhatten
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A bicentenary monument to the three lock systems ...
... stands in front of one of the original steamers
The interpretation board for the monument
 Interpretation of some other shipboard terms

After a walk around the Trollhatten old locks and museum we rejoined the ship for the descent of the absolutely amazing modern lock-flight. The newest locks, dating from 1916 but greatly modernised recently, have enormous chambers; after the first single lock the following staircase descends by over 100ft in just three locks! Surprisingly there are no risers (vertical cables) set into the walls, so that large descending boats use long ropes to the bollards while smaller or ascending boats must continually swap their ropes from one rung of the ladders to the next. Interestingly however there are safety lines along the whole length of the staircase, to which the jump-ashore Johnny must attach himself at all times.

 

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The view from the bridge as we enter the staircase. Note the river valley far below
A safety line runs the length of the flight and is set well back from the edge
The jump-ashore Johnny cannot fall into the deep locks
Here you can see how one huge lock has replaced an entire staircase
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To appreciate the scale of this massive lock, look at the people at the top left!
Looking back as we leave the lock. See how it has been carved into the cliff-face
The sides of the locks are bare rock, with vertical steel girders like our own K&A turf-sided locks
A number of small private boats were waiting to ascend the staircase

After leaving the massive Trollhatten staircase we were on the final run down the river to Gothenburg. The captain suggested to me that this would be an ideal time for me to have some fun steering the ship, so I took over the controls. At first I steered using the tiny joystick which is positioned just to the right of the wheel, but I found it most unsatisfactory because the control is fairly coarse and of course gives you no feedback at all; when I mentioned this to the captain he switched off the joystick and unlatched the wheel for me. This was more like it, I had a great time experimenting with the ship's handling characteristics as we cruised down the river at full speed, and all too soon (after about half an hour) the last lock came into view and the captain insisted on taking control again.

 

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We've used up a lot of wooden fenders. Are there any left?
Yes, we still have a good supply of new fenders
I am still wondering what this object was - about 1ft diameter with a short rope, placed on the lock-side
The bridge. Note the small joystick on a wooden plinth to the right of the wheel.

 

Finally we reached Gothenburg, and sadly had to leave the ship. It had been a fabulous trip, and one which I would wholeheartedly recommend to anybody, but for us it was not over yet. Instead of flying straight home from Gothenburg, we had booked seats on the next morning's express train back to Stockholm. This train is wonderfully comfortable and very fast and, as we watched the magnificent scenery flashing past the window, we found it much easier to place the canal itself into the context of the land through which it passed. We managed to spot the canal a few times, and then suddenly we were in Stockholm again.

 

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Stockholm; a vibrant city where old and strikingly-new seem happy to co-exist
At the open-air museum; here are a windmill and a Bolinder. I have created a page of other photos from the open-air museum
We catch a tram back to the hotel
The ornately-carved bows of the Vasa. I have created a page of other photos from the Vasa museum

We spent the afternoon at the wonderful open-air museum of Swedish Life (rather like our Black Country Museum if you know that) before catching a tram back to town for a superb end-of-trip meal. This was followed by a visit to the hotel's ice-bar - its walls, tables, and even the bar itself are made of ice - where we stood for half an hour in sub-zero temperatures drinking vodka cocktails from glasses that were themselves made from ice (no washing-up needed in this bar!). The next day we returned to the island where the museums are situated, and visited the Vasa museum (the Vasa was a 17th century warship that sank after just 15 minutes afloat in Stockholm harbour, and lay perfectly-preserved in the mud for 333 years) before setting off for the airport.

All that remained was to have a relaxing flight back to the UK - but it was not to be. It turned out that our plane tickets were for a flight that doesn't even exist at weekends, so we had to buy some new and very expensive last-minute tickets home; our travel agent refunded only some of the money by hiding behind the small print of their contract so we finished an otherwise-wonderful holiday feeling decidedly unhappy! Nonetheless, we loved Stockholm and will definitely make an effort to return there one day.

 

In the Ice Bar

 

 

Boats on the Gota Canal Part 1: From Stockholm to the Canal View Slideshow Part 2: Climbing up into Sweden Part 3: Across the middle of Sweden
Go to Allan's Page Our Home Page Holidays Home Page British Canals Page Go to Deb's Page

 

 

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