On the last day of our 4-day cruise, the sun rose around 4 am while we were crossing Lake Vänern. At that time we were fast asleep in our cabin. Augusta had quite a different experience as described in her diary:
”As there was no cabin available except for that of the mate, which only had space for one person, I had to spend my night on deck. As it was a divinely beautiful evening, I complied with a rather good countenance.
The fate also benefited me this time; I was to get company on deck. The clock was barely 11 when a bump that shook the whole vessel proclaimed that we had run aground in the middle of Vänern. All passengers who had already been in their cabins and hammocks for a while now became visible, one after another, dressed up in the most bizarre toilets. The ladies were complaining loudly and Mr. Cassel and I, who in addition to the captain had been the only ones on deck, were now surrounded by a host of groggy and scared people who, unabashed in their curious costumes, formed the most ridiculous groups.
After six hours of being stationary, we began to go forward.”
By the 4th day of our cruise, we were already accustomed to bumps when Juno hit some sand at the bottom of the canal. But the night we spent on Lake Vänern was peaceful and I am sure our cabins were a lot more luxurious than those on Augusta’s steamboat.
”At noon, we arrived at Trollhättan. The weather was beautiful but the heat was suffocating. My company seemed absorbed by the deepest admiration of our Lord’s sovereignty as they took in the magnificent nature scene which meets the traveler’s eyes. I alone stood mute and numb (I sadly admit) in front of the imposing Toppö falls, which elicited countless exclamations of admiration from the other visitors. I had heard so much praise about Trollhättan that I, as usual, imagined something that in no way corresponded with reality. I saw nothing but an, indeed, quite respectable mass of water burst under my feet.
I had imagined something I had once or twice read in travel descriptions: a fall, cascading from somewhere high above my head, in which I could see the sun’s rays refract into all the colors of the rainbow. In other words, I had imagined something that did not exist and, as a matter of fact, was highly unreasonable. I might as well have stood on the iron bridge in Norrköping, taking in the same view, although in miniature.”
Having read Augusta’s descriptions, I was curious about what we would see. The waterfall that didn’t impress Augusta is only “turned on” during Trollhättan’s yearly water festival. But what impressed us were the old locks from 1800 that are now converted into a park. They resembled a gorge, with small waterfalls and rhododendron bushes clinging to the cliff sides. The system of locks that Augusta used, and which was built in 1844, was also included in the park – lined with walkways and meadows.
Juno had to use the newest set of locks – state of the art system and designed for commercial traffic. The locks were very deep and the walls looked like canvases of modern art created by scraped-off paint from the hulls of boats passing through the locks. At the bottom of one of the locks, and confined within the tall stone walls, our captain treated us to a soulful trumpet solo of a Swedish folk song – very moving!
”At night we arrived in the beautiful, stately Gothenburg.”
That is all that Augusta wrote about Gothenburg. To approach the city by boat was to us a great experience as Gothenburg has the largest and busiest port in Sweden. By 4 pm, we had reached our final destination.
What a memorable journey this had been! We wholeheartedly agreed with Augusta that the journey on Göta Canal is ”…one of the most beautiful and pleasant trips one can make.
Kerstin and I had talked about taking a very early morning walk in Motala. We didn’t realize that by 7 am we would already be out on Lake Vättern, Sweden’s second largest lake. When I opened the cabin door, the breeze caught my nightgown and the air was crisp. The view was beautiful, a cobalt-blue sky meeting the deep blue water at the horizon, and the sun reflecting the ripples in the wake of Juno. Here and there, the waves had whitecaps.
On deck, we needed our big wool shawls. Inside the dining room it was cozy and while we crossed Lake Vättern we enjoyed an unhurried breakfast. Soon we arrived at Karlsborg. Here we were greeted by our cousin Tina and aunt Eva, who had sent us a package of antique nightgowns, old lace, and an 1850s Paisley shawl.
We had cut the shawl into two pieces so each of us would get one – and we did wear them this morning. While the rest of our fellow travelers went on a tour of Karlsborg’s fort, we headed for the fort’s coffee shop. In our 1840s dresses and bonnets, we looked a little out of place among the soldiers stationed at the fort and wearing green camouflage uniforms.
After this little excursion, it was time to get back on Göta Canal again. Our first challenge would be the lock and bridge at Forsvik. The lock is Göta Canal’s oldest lock; both the lock and the bridge were built in 1813. Without knowing all the details of unseasonable low water levels combined with the curvature of the canal right before the lock, we realized that maneuvering Juno into the canal would be a challenge. The log fenders hanging over Juno’s sides were getting squeezed and splintered against the sides of the canal but they sure did the job in the tight curve Juno was to pass through. All this maneuvering really made us appreciate the expertise and experience of the captains (we had two!) and the crew.
Forsvik is also home to a religious family who has for 3 generations greeted the canal boats with music, flowers, and blessings. As expected, there they were with guitars and accordions, flags of many nationalities, and bouquets of wild flowers for Juno’s hostesses. The hymns they were singing were familiar and most of us passengers sang along.
After Forsvik, we entered Billströmmen, a current in the canal surrounded by pools of water and lily ponds. We then entered the most beautiful part of Göta Canal: Spetsnäskanalen, built in 1824. The forest surrounding the canal could have been the inspiration for children’s story-books about gnomes and trolls.
The canal lead us out into Lake Viken. Having the highest altitude – 91.8 meter over the ocean – it serves as the reservoir for the Göta Canal. One more lock after this lake (Lock Tåtorp) and we would start going down the locks instead of climbing up as we had done for the first 3 days.
The rest of the canal between Lake Viken and Lake Vänern was also spectacularly beautiful and we had the opportunity to walk along the canal.
Our final destination this day was Sjötorp where we visited the Canal Museum
Once aboard again, we settled down for a nice IPA on deck while Juno headed out on Lake Vänern – the largest lake in Sweden and the 3rd largest in Europe. The weather was favorable and we would cross the lake while sound asleep in our cozy little cabin.