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Cruise on the Gota Canal

Submitted by Robert B.

The Juno, Classic Gota Canal Cruise

Imagine cruising on a small ship, built in the 1890s, with fewer than 50 people, on glassy smooth water, across the idyllic, pastoral countryside of Sweden. That is the Gota Canal cruise my wife and I went on in July 2019.

The Gota Canal, completed in 1832, follows a series of canals, rivers, and lakes connecting Gothenburg to Stockholm, across southern Sweden. Along the way are 58 locks which are traversed. The route also crosses Lakes Vanern and Vattern, the two largest lakes in Sweden. The canal system was once an important shipping route, but cannot handle the large container ships of today, and is maintained for pleasure craft and tourists. We saw sailboats with

German, Danish, and Finnish flags. Bicycling Along the Tow Paths

Three cruise ships service the Gota Canal routes, Juno, Diana, and Wilhem Tham, with varying itineraries, starting and finishing at either Stockholm or Gothenburg. Captain Albert Haakonson has been the skipper of the Juno for over 20 years. There were only about 40-50 people on the trip, about half Swedes and half Germans. We were the only native English speakers, but the crew all spoke perfect English. We had a ship's guide who arranged our daily activities. We had three gourmet meals a day, and plenty of drinks. There are several sitting areas on the upper decks, where it is delightful to watch the scenery. One warning, the cabins are quite small and hot during the day. You will spend most of the day in a lounge chair, or standing by the rail, or one of the inside dining rooms or library.

Houses Along the Gota Canal

Gothenburg: Our route began in Gothenburg, a classic Northern European city, built on a network of canals. The canal boat tours are a good way to see the city. We stayed at a hotel just across the square from the main train station. Many Swedes, including my relatives, emigrated to the US on steamships from Gothenburg in late 1800s/early 1900s.

Trollhattan Lock

The canal cruise route passes many smaller towns in Sweden, and there are stops at interesting historical sites, such as the old locks at Trollhatten, the fortress at Karlsborg, Carl Johan's staircase of locks, and the Viking trading town of Birka.

Trollhatten: The ship encounters our first locks here. It is fascinating to watch the crew work the ropes and guide the ship thru the locks. After the locks we all got off the ship for an hour to tour the small Gota Canal museum, and view the old locks which are no longer in use.

Inside the Lock at Trollhattan

Sunset on Lake Vanern, Sweden

Karlsborg Fortress: The Fortress was built in 1830, when the Swedes realized the government in Stockholm was vulnerable to Russian attacks. Parts of the fortress are still in use today, and photos inside were not allowed. The crew had a well deserved swim in Lake Vattern here.

The Juno through the Lock

Carl Johans Lock Staircase: It takes several hours for the ship to go thru the Carl Johans lock staircase at Berg, on Lake Roxen. We toured the Vreta Cloister here with our ship's guide, while the ship slowly went down the staircase of locks. The Cloister is from the 1100s, and was the first nunnery in Sweden. My wife managed to swim here in Lake Roxen.

Staircase of Locks

Viking Ships at Birka

Birka: Birka was an important trading center in the Viking era (800s AD). Today there is a Viking reenactor's village, and a museum. Birka is on Lake Malaren, and can only be reached by boat. Our ship stopped here for a guided tour.

Viking Village Life

Stockholm: The cruise ends at Stockholm, it is a short walk or taxi ride to your hotel. We walked 20 minutes in a downpour, but you're only young once. I plan to post another blog on Stockholm.

Dawn in the Archipelago

The Gota Canal cruises are not a Las Vegas Casino style cruise ship, but a more relaxed way to see small towns and pastoral countryside in the heartland of Scandinavia.

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