Rowing Woes on Lake Mälaren

“We were thinking of rowing to that island.” YK says, pointing across the lake.

“No … you cannot, I think.” The Dutch man holds his hand above his eyes. “It is private.”

“Oh …” I see a small one in the distance. “How about that one?” I say.

“That one is too far away.”

We’ll see about that. YK, Lorenzo, Joe, and me climb into the boat. YK rows.

The place where sky and water meet are ribboned with indigo and orange. The water reflects its palette like glass, perfect enough to walk on, reaching into the sunset. As we row, ripples cover the surface. They glide beyond where we can see.

Sunset Ripple Lake Malaren

“What time is it?” Joe asks me.

“22:45,” I say.


Paddle Sunset Lake Malaren

It’s not technically the longest day of the year. That was the 21st June: 3 days ago. Midsommar’s Eve is cherished in Scandinavia. I’m not too sure what everyone is celebrating. Some people say it’s the summer solstice. Others say St. John the Baptist’s Day. Either way, Swedes don’t need any encouragement to schnapp a holiday away.

The lake house we left has been getting smaller for some time. We look at our destination.

“I don’t think we are any closer.” Joe says.

“Mmm …” YK smirks then rows furiously, eyes popping like a maniac. “We must—” Puff “—get there!” Puff. After a few strokes he stops and laughs. “Seriously guys, it’s as small now as it was when we started. Shall we turn round?”

“No!” I say, “It’s not that far—look! We’re nearly halfway.”

“Whaat!?” Lorenzo, who for the last few minutes has been muttering away practicing an Irish accent with a hood pulled over his eyes, now sits bolt upright, looks to the island and back at us and exclaims, “No, guys! Why would we turn around?”

“OK.” YK tilts his head in acknowledgement and starts rowing again.

Twenty minutes later, the leaves on the trees and the rocks around the island become visible. We slow.

“Eurgh …” YK studies the terrain. “If we go close then the rocks might make a hole in the boat. We don’t know if there’s anywhere to moor it too.”

We all look on. I bite my lips. Lorenzo stares blankly. Then …

“OK.” We’re in agreement. Joe laughs at our determination to row so far. There’s a risky wobble as him and YK swap as rower.

Postcard Lake Malaren

Lake Malaren Evening Sunset from BoatA Stockholm factory we made out in the distance on the way is now shrouded in dusk. I breathe in as the breeze plays with my hair, and the cool of night descends around us. Whether we got there or not, spending time on the waters of Lake Mälaren was worth it.

Check out YK and Lorenzo’s latest single, Surviving, featuring Joe Cleere. It’s pretty epic, and very popular with the Swedes. (Purchase)

If you like ‘Surviving’, check out Sondr’s ‘Tropical Tunes’ Spotify playlist!

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It’s Midsommar: The biggest party of the Swedish year!

Boat Malare Ekero Sweden MidsommarAnd I’m a gate crasher.

“Hej! YK, Lorenzo, I have name places for you!”

Our two friends smile. “Oh, thank you. You shouldn’t have. This is great.”

The red faced host turns to us. “And you?”

“I’m Joe.” Joe holds out his hand.

“J … Joe!?”

“—Yo,” I cut in, knowing the ‘J’ sound isn’t familiar to the Swedish tongue. Unfortunately, ‘Yo’ means ‘Yeah’ in Swedish.

“Yo!?” The woman’s flower wreath falls over her eyes as she descends into a laughing fit. “What kind of name is this!?” she manages to wheeze. “Yo!?” She claps her knees and her eyes ball.

“Like Yoseph,” I say. Her floral dress threatens to split.

After a moment, she calms down. “Uh. Okej … And you?” She turns to me.


“Well that I can understand!” she cries, giving me a hug. “Not like Yo!” She screws up her round face again and walks away, muttering, “Yo … Yo?”

Midsommar Lake Malare

I zip to the homemade bar and pour myself a wineglass of schnapps. At 40%, it burns going down, but I’d be breaking tradition if I drank anything else at a Swedish Midsommar fest. It’s actually quite tasty; To the untrained drinker, it could be a fruity sting of strong white wine.

Lake House Midsommar Malare Sweden

Oar Lake Malare Midsommar Sweden EkeroWe are on a lake house’s decking, overlooking the edge of Mälaren, Sweden’s third biggest freshwater lake. YK and Lorenzo are music producers, songwriters, and artists (Sondr). Their manager happened to clinch a private island for them for a week of songwriting, and we were lucky enough to be offered a visit. Their escapades led them to make friends with the locals, who insisted they join them for their Midsommar party. I just rowed us across the water to get here. After arriving in one piece, I’m feeling pretty badass (and a bit toasted).

The woman’s husband comes up to me.

“You need some of this.” He flicks a yellow cream tube at me and nods at my legs.

I glance down. Nice. 7 mosquito bites, fat like swollen bruises.

“Thanks,” I say.

YK and Lorenzo join us.Midsommar Lake Malare Sweden

“So, you live here?” I say to the man. He looks down at me, tanned wrinkles of 60-year-old skin crinkling as he smiles.

“Yes.” He says. He squints at YK and Lorenzo. “What do you think of the Brexit then? Silly British yes?”

“Well, I don’t know much about it.” YK shuffles. “I wasn’t allowed to vote.”

“If you want freedom, you have to move forward!” The man raises his glass and sways towards the dark red planked walls.

“Actually, if you want freedom, your opinion has to count for something.” I say. “You have to have a voice.”

He looks at me again. He tilts his head. “Wow. You are very British.” He says. “But it’s good.” He scratches his chin. “Now I hear another opinion.”

We jump into discussion.

YK and Lorenzo decide they need to get something from the car and tiptoe away.

Behind me, I hear Joe entering into debate with an Irish born pharmaceutical worker. I smile. The sun will barely set, and neither will this topic of conversation. We need more schnapps to get us through this one.


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Ideas Island Ekero Malare Sweden

What you’ll find in Gamla Linköping …

Gamla Linkoping BuildingIn the 50’s, the Swedes picked up wooden buildings from one evolving city and dropped them in what became known as Gamla Linköping. Gamla Linköping means ‘Old Linköping’. It is an open air museum just outside Linköping city, 2.8km (a 36-minute walk) south west of Linköping Central Station, to be exact. Inspired by Stockholm’s Skansen and conceived to preserve old buildings condemned in favour of growing industries, Gamla Linköping became a haven for history and was designed in exact copy of its original site. Buildings that weren’t moved in one chunk were dismantled and rebuilt in Gamla Linköping, and today, the cobbled pavements and colour splashed structures take you back to the days when women spun wool and men hoed earth.

Gamla Linkoping Street

Gamla Linkoping Handelsbod

In Gamla Linköping’s centre, we find a table in Dahlsbergs Café’s outdoor area. The chaffinch community flutters to life.

Male Chaffinch Gamla Linkoping Sweden
Male Chaffinch (Photo: Becky Lawton)
Chaffinch Dahlsbergs Cafe Gamla Linkoping
Male and Female Chaffinch (Photo: BL)

“Eww! There’s poo on the chair.”

“Sit on this one.”

“Eurgh! There’s poo on that one too!”

“So … maybe we shouldn’t sit under the tree?”

Bird and Teacup
Female Chaffinch (Photo: BL)

The birds fill the air like confetti. They land on the tables, perch in used teacups, and splash in the fountain. You wouldn’t think they know people are here. Even though they’re bold, customers can’t help chuckling at their antics and marvelling at their painted feathers. But when you want to move, they get out of your way.

After claiming a cleaner table (I still need to antibacterialise some chair backs), my in-laws drink pretty lattes, and I pick at a blueberry muffin. It’s a spongey, dense treat.

Dahlsbergs is an old style tea room, which does a selection of drinks and both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s always got a buzz of customers, but I’ve never been left without a seat.

We gander round Flärd, a perfumed heaven of handmade soaps and fabrics; ogle in Kanevad, a wood-carving studio sharing remarkable skill; and puzzle over busy, old-school machinery in Grafiska museet, a working printing museum.

Near the entrance to the woods, we find Knyppelbod. It’s full of vintage quirks. I entertain myself with deer heads and hand-played music boxes until I find a tribute to V (from V for Vendetta, which me and Joe watched the other day), and I just have to get a kinda creepy snap.

We amble home through the woods I got lost in before, but unlike at night, it’s a vibrantly green, dappled oasis.

Go to Gamla Linköping for some rustic charm. It’s a 13-minute ride on buses 3, 12, 51, or 540 from Linköping Central Station. You’ll find everything you never realised you wanted, and you’ll meet plenty of character—mainly in the birds that dance at Dahlsberg Café. Just take some antibac gel and some tissues.

Chaffinch on plate Dahlsbergs Linkoping
Cheeky Chaffinch (Photo: BL)

Many of these photos were taken by Becky Lawton. Follow her on Instagram.

Aside from visiting, I learned about the history of Gamla Linköping that I share in this post from its website.

Vintage Bicycle Gamla Linkoping

Gamla Linkoping Gardens

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Peony and Daisies Gamla Linkoping
Photo: Becky Lawton
White Peony Gamla Linkoping
Photo: Becky Lawton

The Saab Aircraft Museum, Flygvapenmuseum

Flyvapenmuseum LinköpingIf you’re a Saab fan (you’ll know—you’ll be utterly fanatical), you’ll love a visit to the Saab Aircraft Museum. Continue reading “The Saab Aircraft Museum, Flygvapenmuseum”

Only in Denmark

If there’s something that never fails to bring a moment of wonderfulness to any day, it’s someone doing something bizarre but acting like it’s normal. In Sweden, I’ve enjoyed a cyclist riding the pavements with a 3 metre pole balanced on his shoulders and a nonchalant expression on his face. I’ve seen a wild child zooming the footpaths on a full size quad bike, terrorising buggy pushing mothers … but I’m sure that what I’m seeing now only happens in Denmark. Continue reading “Only in Denmark”

Creative City: Copenhagen

The instant you step off the train, you know that there’s something about Copenhagen. From the clock that sings in the same key as Greensleeves (E minor—apparently), to the buildings that look borrowed from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, it’s no surprise that Copenhagen is an international cultural capital where creativity seems to just dance out of the pavement. Continue reading “Creative City: Copenhagen”