Belkinge county is in the south of Sweden and is one of Sweden's best places for summer. The largest city is Karlskrona, home to the last naval base in Sweden as well as castles, museums and restaurants. Off the coast of Blekinge is the archipelago with summer homes, fortresses and Thai food.
A small island, a short distance off the southern tip of Karlskrona, Aspö is part of the archipelago and home to under five hundred, though this population swells in the summer months. With an hourly car ferry from the mainland, Aspö is well served. A single ICA sits on the island offering basic necessities year-round with a few cafes, a restaurant in the Fortress and many artist's galleries opening in the summer months.
The car portion of the ferry is often very full, with people arriving in their cars an hour ahead of the scheduled arrival, and then parking them in a queue and wandering off.
Sights & Culture
On the ferry route out to Aspö, you pass the Godnatts fästningstorn, one of several towers built on islands. The size of the rock Godnatts perches on is small enough a passerby would be forgiven for assuming the tower rises out of the water. In fact, the islet is enough a basement level has been carved out for the Fortress.
The tower was erected in approximately 1850 and was out of date before it was completed.
The wooden roof is known as a fredstak, or peace ceiling, in that it is removed and replaced with heavy artillery during times of conflict.
Restored before the turn of the millennium, the Fortress is now used for tours and the occasional art exhibit.
Though three hundred years old, the Fortress has not seen any combat. It has a surprisingly modern look considering its age, with slightly sloping walls and a more pebbled construction.
The Fortress sits on its own island, which is protected landward by a moat. During the summer months, you can explore the Fortress and dine at the restaurant, during the other ten months of the year, you are free to walk around some of the outsides until the land ends in water. It is an impressive building and more deserving of the name fortress or castle than many of the buildings claiming that title in Sweden.
Towards the end of the 18th Century, Ellenabben Fortress was constructed and was ready to use in 1904. Ostensibly to replace the older Drottningskärs Kastell, it was armed with six guns, moved from warships to this Fortress.
Surrounded by a wire fence, this building is much more tightly controlled in terms of access than Drottningskärs though some are fortunate enough to gain access. The Fortress was in active use, for training soldiers in anti-aircraft activities until the 1940s, with the building being decommissioned in 1959.
Also called Central Command E2 for the Ellenabben Guns.
An even more recent development than the Ellenabben Fortress, Nya Ellenabben was built as a Nuclear Defence bunker and is occasionally open to the public to view. When it is not an open day, it is merely a pair of metal doors in the ground, hiding the four stories of secrets. All but one of the guns has been decommissioned. The remaining emplacement, without ammunition, is fully functional and controlled by the underground bunker.
Nearby, a small radar battery can be seen and a small plaque with information on the location.
The Mission House is just off the main ring road and on route to Nya Ellenabben. A small wood house for the mission.
Museums & Galleries
Museum för rörligt kustartilleri
Only open in the summer, the Artillery Museum is towards the west coast of Aspö.
Restaurants & Bars
Nina's Thai Food
A food truck, set in someone's back garden, Nina's is just past the ICA and on the way to the Drottningskärs Fortress. Offering a few daily dishes, Nina's is perhaps the only place to get food that is not the ICA supermarket on the island outside of the summer months.
Karlskrona is the seat of Karlskrona Municipality, Blekinge County, Sweden with 66,675 inhabitants in 2018. It is also the capital of Blekinge County. Karlskrona is known as Sweden's only baroque city and is host to Sweden's remaining naval base and the headquarters of the Swedish Coast Guard.
Unlike much of Sweden who has a matching falu red colour for their wooden homes, Karlskrona has a more Danish style, in keeping with its history as a Danish border area, with the houses in a variety of pastel colours. Many are older, particularly in the more industrial sectors, but remain in good condition and as homes. This is unlike other districts, who turn their old town into a museum-like Gamle Gävle or a quaint tourist area like Haga in Gothenburg.
As you go further north in Karlskrona the area becomes more residential, business and industry thrive by the port. The residential neighbourhoods are full of homes crowded on small islets onto the water.
Karlskrona is also the home of Sweden's coast guard, and I had the chance to see them preparing for the day by the ferry terminal, as well as seeing one of their larger boats at sunset.
Karlskrona is a very summer city, meaning many of the attractions and museums are only open in the summer months from the middle of June to the end of August. This means the archipelago ferries run a shorter service as well.
As one of the main defensive points for Sweden, and Denmark before it, Karlskrona has a long and proud naval history, and it shows everywhere. Scattered through the water are defensive towers, protecting the city from every direction.
Sights & Culture
A historic building at the entrance of Stumholmen island, the home of the maritime museum. It is an off-yellow colour and has a famed ice cream parlour on its ground floor.
Karlskrona Nedre Lighthouse
On the southwestern edge of Stumholmen, the Karlskorma Nedre Lighthouse is shorter than you'd expect for a lighthouse, standing less tall than the trees around it. It was built in 1918 and is still in use.
On the south-eastern tip of Stumholmen, the Bastion Kungshall stands proudly. With canons from different periods still lining the low stone wall, the building behind is not as well protected as you would expect. Two hundred years of peace have perhaps made Sweden a little complacent.
An occasional venue for Theatre, it is more commonly used as a point of interest.
Facing Kronobageriet across the water, the Östersjöskolan is an impressive looking school that could easily be mistaken for a museum or country manor.
A square primarily used for parking now lies within the fortified town of Karlskrona. If you pay attention, you can see the outline of the original Bastion.
Monument to Admiral Hans Wachtmeister
Admiral General of the Swedish Navy, and appointed governor of Blekinge and Kalmar when the Naval base at Karlskrona was opened, the statue to him faces Stumholmen and the maritime museum.
The Provincial Governors House
The Bastion is a large stone wall on the edge of the water with a small park in front of it.
Sprungen ur boken
Just after Rosenbom and before you reach Bastion Aurora, you'll see a small statue of a child leaping out of a book.
Also called Gubben Rosenbom, (Old Man Rosenbom) is a wooden statue who has stood outside the Karlskrona Admiralty Church for hundreds of years.
The original is now just inside the church doors to keep him safe from the weather with a replacement standing outside since 1956. The statue is a poor-box and carries a sign saying:
I humbly beg of you, even though my voice may be weak, come and put a penny in but first, lift my hat. Blessed are those that care for the poor.
The Admiralty Church, also known as Ulrica Pia in honour of Queen Ulrike Eleonora, is a small wooden building, set behind Bastion Aurora and playing host to Rosenbom.
The church was consecrated on 20th September 1685 and is Sweden's largest wood church. It is painted in traditional Swedish falu red.
Erected in 1699, it is positioned so that it sits centred and framed when one stands looking along Sodra Kungsgatan from Stortorget. Originally intended to improve working efficiency at the shipyard by informing the city of the time it sits on the spot chosen for the permanent church to replace the wooden Admiralty Church.
The permanent church was never built, and the Admiralty Church remains. It was not until 1909 that the belfry of the Clock Tower was used as the Admiralty Church's belfry.
The home of the shipbuilding corps, just before the entrance to the port area is a large building with a statue of a sailor and ships wheel out front. The building was where young boys were recruited and trained in seamanship, after some time they would move to serve on Swedish vessels, eventually becoming skilled sailors.
The building is still in use, but primarily as office space to various companies.
One of the more recognisable buildings in Karlskrona, Fredrikskyrkan is in the central square, Stortorget and has the somewhat typical square double spire at the front. Architected by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, it is a baroque church inspired by Italian architecture. It was inaugurated in 1744 and was named after King Fredrik the First.
Although not significant compared to some Churches, even in Sweden, it dominates the square due to its central location and the ample pedestrian space around it.
The Swedish Church offers a film on the restoration of the church.
The main square of Karlskrona is situated at the nexus of the main streets. With Fredrikskyrkan on the east and the City hall on the West, the central square has a statue and is the regular venue for a market.
On the edge of Stortorget, the Trinity Church is much smaller than Fredrikskyrkan but is older and more attractive in appearance. Inaugurated in 1709 it was architected initially by Nicodemus Tessin the Younger but was entirely destroyed in a fire in 1790, and the reconstruction followed the designs of Olof Tempelman. The new dome was neo-classical, and the internal paintings are designed to fool the eye and increase the sense of scale.
Vattenborgen was built-in 1861 as a water reservoir due to the cities problems maintaining adequate supplies of freshwater which was piped down from Lyckeby. With the construction of a station in Tyska bryggareberget, the Vattenborgen was decommissioned and was used as a Restaurant, pizzeria and sausage kiosk for many years before finally becoming home to The Kulenovic Collection of art.
One of the most famous examples of outdoor art in Karlskrona, Erik Höglund's Statue of Woman Selling Fish is in Fisktorget, one of the harbours where Karlskonas many ferries originate. The statue is a tribute to former inhabitants of the city mainly the fishermen.
The Fish Market has been a vital entry point for trade and goods since the founding of the city in the seventeenth century. Its currently one of the main ferry ports for Karlskrona offering resident and tourists a route to the islands in the archipelago.
Several impressive works of art line the docks and the view of the bay surrounded by colourful houses is worth the walk.
Five Finger Dock is one of the historical docks of Karlskrona and has been in continuous use for three centuries. Named due to the shape of the pier which resembles five fingers. The marina is not open to the public and is located behind the city walls. Protected by vigilant security guards, one of whom politely came out to ask if I had taken any photos and to prove that I had not.
Museums & Galleries
Located on Stumholmen, the Maritime Museum is spread through several buildings and set in a charming space.
Due to the Corona outbreak, the Maritime Museum was closed during my visit to Karlskrona. The Museums offers access to some of its collection digitally to encourage people to keep learning.
Even without going inside, you can walk the grounds and see several vessels, from older sailing ships to newer military ones.
Close to Fisktorget, Belking museum is a good-sized building, set with fake windows down one street. The museum was closed for the Corona outbreak.
Albinsson & Sjöberg Museums
Albinsson & Sjöberg is actually two museums. In the main building just off the street and facing the water is the Porcelain Museum, showcasing examples of porcelain from Karlskrona and elsewhere.
In a building just behind the porcelain, the museum is the car museum, with automobiles from different periods in history.
Both museums are only open in the high summer, though private tours can be arranged by calling the museum out of these times.
Parks & Gardens
The Troll Forest is found at the northern end of Dragsö, in the Dragsö Campsite. Follow the road all the way to the end of the island, past the pacifier tree, and you will start to see foot high trolls in the forest undergrowth. The forest is an excellent place to come with younger kids, who can explore the woods and find all of its residents.
Karlskrona's central park, the Hoglands Park is directly behind the main shopping mall and is quite spacious with a few pieces of art and a lot of cultivated flower beds. It is a place to walk and meet rather than play games or run.
A restaurant can be found at the north end of the park.
Halfway between Karlskrona centre and Lyckeby, Wämöparken spreads out over a few kilometres. There is a bus stop just outside the park, but for more options, it is a fifteen-minute walk from Bergåsa station.
The park offers nature walks of various lengths through some lovely terrain as well as a small zoo of farm animals—pigs, chickens and similar.
There is also a small open-air museum of historic buildings and usually a cafe, though in May 2020 it was being refurbished.
Restaurants & Bars
Centrally located on Rådhusgatan, Royal Thai is currently not offering buffet service due to Corona, but the menu is diverse, the portions large and the food is good.
Next door to Royal Thai, Nya Skafferiet also cancelled its buffet service but offers a set lunch menu for a reasonable price. A delicious plate of meats and cheeses, followed by quiche and salad was a lovely lunch.
A little outside of most foot traffic, Monmartre, is likely one of the better restaurants in Karlskrona. Offering several Italian favourites, they also have an excellent dessert menu.
Although the cinema is closed, Biobaren remains open, offering Karlskrona's finest burgers. Worth making time for.
Sights & Culture
Hidden in a field behind a shopping outlet, Lyckå Slottsruin is a small but impressive reminder of a Danish border castle. The ruin was renovated in 2014 to prevent further decay, although the renovations are somewhat obnoxiously modern.
Construction started in 1545, and the castle served as the main Danish military base in the area. When the nearby border town of Kristianopel was built in the 17th century, Lyckå was used as building materials. Still, its robust construction meant even bombarded with canons, much of the lower levels remain today.
A firepit and various cans show that the castle ruins are used, not just by interested amateur historians but by locals looking for somewhere to have a party. This availability of historical sights is frequent across Sweden, with priceless artefacts like Sigurd's Stone, only by a road for visitors to see.
Restaurants & Bars
Amiralen, the shopping mall and outlet near to Lyckå Slottsruin has an Asian buffet with a decent spread of options.
In 2019, I plan to see 12 new counties in Sweden that I've not previously visited.
2019 - Seeing Sweden
Starting in November 2017 and finishing in October 2018 I spent a long weekend, each month, seeing a new city in a foreign country. Calling it my 12 Cities in 12 Months challenge, I ended up seeing eight totally new countries out of the twelve. I also spent a few weeks driving through the alps as an Alpine Adventure adding Austria and Lichtenstein to my new countries visited in 2018 and then ended the year seeing Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
Having done all this, and bringing my total countries visited to 58, I realised I'd not seen nearly as much of my new home country of Sweden, despite being here almost three years. I've visited a reasonable number of the snowboarding locations near to Gothenburg (Åre, Branäs, Romme Alpine, Ulricehamn and Isaberg) and the big cities of Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö) but I've not seen much else that Sweden has to offer.
In 2019, I plan to see 12 new counties in Sweden that I've not previously visited. I've been to seven, and so by the end of 2019 there should be only two counties in Sweden I've not visited.
After my first trip, to Halland south of Gothenburg, I have already noticed a few differences to my international travel. The chains I've come to recognise in Gothenburg are also in these new cities, making it too easy to slip into comfortable locations. The lack of air travel means no restriction on wearing contact lenses and going to less cosmopolitan places should give me more chances to improve my Swedish.