Seafood safaris, murder mystery tales and kingsize prawn sandwiches, Sarah Marshall takes an alternative Scandi seaside break
Finding inspiration to write a postcard home from small Swedish fishing village Fjallbacka isn’t difficult.
Anyone lost for ideas need only glance at the elaborate, adjective-laden travel scripts pinned outside globally-themed rooms in the boutique Stora Hotellet Bryggan hotel.
Each letter was supposedly written by fictional character Captain Klassen, regaling tales of his adventures around the world. Given the breadth of his voyages - from Indonesia to Africa and the Americas - it’s somehow ironic that his words should wind up in a sleepy seaside town barely acknowledged on a world map.
But when hotel manager Susanne Maxvall invented the character, she was clearly tapping into a sense of nautical adventure that drenches Fjallbacka like the spray from the refreshing North Sea.
Set along a coastline of rough-hewn bluffs with an archipelago of 8,000 islands and skerries, Fjallbacka is the star attraction in the scenic Bohuslan region. An easy 1.5-hour drive from Sweden’s second city Gothenburg, it’s a favourite weekend haunt for nature-starved urbanites and also attracts tourists on a city and surf two-centre trip.
I’ve come here for an alternative seaside break, where fish ‘n’ chip shops take the form of seafood safaris and the only sticks of rock I’ll encounter are towering cairns atop the town’s dominating Vetteberget mountain.
Passing rows of classic clapboard houses, and buildings decorated with intricate designs known as snickargladje (carpenter’s joy), I head to the harbour where a bust of Ingrid Bergman is surrounded by wild flowers.
Along with seven other tourists, I join fisherman Ingemar Granquist on a boat trip to look for langoustines, a speciality in this region. Visitors can join seafood safaris throughout the year, although the delicacies on offer differ depending on the season. Langoustines can be fished from spring through to autumn, while the lobster season starts at the end of September.
Being out on the water is the best way to enjoy West Sweden’s coastline, drifting past lone lighthouses and isolated islets, arousing a childhood desire to scramble ashore, hoist up a flag and claim them as your own.
But idyllic island life isn’t restricted to this part of the coastline - even back in Gothenburg, where I wind up my weekend break, it’s possible to get out on the water and ferry hop between islands in the Gothenburg archipelago.
I base myself at the Gothia Towers hotel, a slick glass high-rise overlooking the Liseberg amusement park, where the rooftop Heaven 23 restaurant serves a piled-high open kingsize prawn sandwich that even the hungriest diner would struggle to scale.
It’s easy enough to get out of the town centre, and a short tram and very pleasant ferry ride later (see www.vasttrafik.se for ferry timetables) I’m in Styrso, one of the larger inhabited islands where visiting Swedes wistfully imagine they might own a summerhouse one day.
With cars prohibited, residents get about in golf carts or motorised scooters with sidecars, to carry luggage, wood blocks or even family members.
I climb to the top of Stora Ros, a vantage point with a superb panorama of the archipelago, where clusters of boulders arch from the water like semi-submerged turtles. I’ve no idea whether or not Captain Klassen has passed by here on his travels. But I somehow doubt he’d be lost for words.