Plan your visit now and shed those musty winter thoughts. On paths that wind o’er rock and marsh, where the wind blows in from Dogger Bank, carrying the smell of seaweed and adventure.
This was Swedish songwriter Evert Taube’s invitation to Sweden’s west coast.
With fresh, hot shrimp, new-caught fish delightfully prepared and a glass of chilled white wine, we embark upon a brief journey of exploration of the Sotenäs Peninsula, Bohuslän, just over half-way between Oslo and Gothenburg.
We’re sitting at our ease on the terrace of Bella Gästis in Hunnebostrand, and enjoy the view of the marina as the sun spreads its golden glow over the naked cliffs before dipping down into the Skagerrak Sea.
Our hosts explain that every day they serve a new fish dish made from fresh local ingredients. Today’s menu includes fried bleke with chopped egg and horseradish. The Kungshavn center trains chefs specializing in fish and shellfish. Students come from all over Sweden, and after they have completed their studies they will be able to develop new seafood-based business ideas.
“You must come back in the autumn when lobster plays the starring role,” says my host, adding that the Swedish Lobster Academy in Hunnebostrand organizes guided tours, lobster safaris and lobster suppers.
In the neighboring village of Bovallstrand you will find Bryggkafeet, one of the many inns that are taking part in the Västsvensk Mersmak project, which was started in 2000 to further the collaboration between restaurants and the farming and fishing industries and provide visitors and locals alike with a variety of culinary delights.
Evert Taube’s Bohuslän
There is a concert on at Villa Gästis tonight, and Evert Taube’s songs are on the program. The songwriter was born at Vinga Lighthouse, a little to the south, and he made his debut as a singer in Smögen in February 1918, when he sang “Alt uti blåa kläder” and “Karl Alfred and Ellinor”.
Taube is supposed to have inspired to write the song about Karl Alfred and Ellinor one stormy night at Vinga when a sailor told of his adventures in Port Adeleide, Australia. Evert Taube visited Port Adeleide himself as a cabin boy, and a decade later the song was written in Smögen.
It is said that Taube always had the sharp rocks, wind-swept pine trees, hawthorns and heathers of Bohuslän in his thoughts when he was off on his travels, and he longed to return to the light summer nights.
If you bring children with you to the Swedish west-coast next summer, it will be a summer journey of discovery. There are a lot of “winners” for children of all ages there. Island hopping is popular.
With a little boat you can easily get from Smögen to Hållö, a beautiful nature reserve facing the open sea, with sheltered coves that are perfect for bathing, flat rocks, potholes and plenty of nooks and crannies for energetic children to explore.
We recommend a canal trip on the Soten Kanal, which was built nearly 80 years ago by more than 200 unemployed stonemasons, and which is reckoned to be a monument to the stonemason’s craftsmanship. The idyllic canal was intended to be an alternative waterway for the nearby Soten Sea. Evert Taube has described this stretch of water in the dramatic verses of the “Blue Bird of Hull”.
The highpoint for both adults and children is a day trip to Nordens Ark. Nordens Ark is built on the animals terms, and the aim is to take care of endangered species from all over the world, so that they can breed and subsequently be returned to their original habitats.
Nordens Ark really is child-friendly, with fun pathways, play areas and competitions.
It is also lovely to stroll along the quayside in Smögen, watch the people go by, admire the boats in all shapes and sizes, and it your fill of fresh shrimp. You are not alone in Smögen on a summer’s day, but there are pathways which lead to secluded spaces, with rocky knolls and coves and views of the sea.
Facts about Sotenäs
Sotenäs has just under 10,000 permanent residents scattered between a dozen villages and farming areas. Fish processing and tourism are the most important business sectors.
Smögen is situated around 90 kilometers south of Strömstad. Oslo is 200 km away, and its 150 km to Gothenburg.
Sotenäs Peninsula has 8 campsites. Around 20 places offer accommodation, ranging from youth hostels and Bed & Breakfast to 4-star hotel standard. There is also a wide range of restaurants, inns and cafes.
Sotenäs Golf Club is one of western Sweden’s best 27-hole courses. Riding, sailing school, bicycle hire, boat hire, organized boat tours and fishing trips, seal safaris and diving center. More than 20 bathing beaches/coves.
Local history museums, arts and crafts galleries, maritime antiques fairs and auctions. Stonemason museum and sculpture park in Hunnebostrand. Folk evenings and jazz concerts. Every August international performers come to Kungshavn for a tradjazz festival. The fish auction in Smögen is a colorful and ear-splitting experience.
Several nature reserves. Soteleden is a 70 km long walking route through varied terrain along the coastline. It passes through beechwoods and over expanses of rolling heather. Several shorter walking routes. Nordens Ark featuring a variety of endangered species.
Summer on the Swedish Coast! written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): From Smogen