© Simon Bayliss 2008-2018

Sweden & Scandinavia

From its capital Stockholm to the wonderful areas of Norland and Jamtland (Jämtland) to the fascinating island of Gotland with its the exquisite town of Visby, Sweden is some much more the clichéd pop groups and Volvo cars. Its people and culture will envelope any visitor and is a photographers paradise.

The very beautiful Nordic country of Sweden lies to the north of continental Europe on the Scandinavian Peninsular (with Norway and Finland being the other two countries occupying the peninsular. Sweden, a constitutional monarchy, is the 3rd largest country of the EU and with only 9+ million people means it has one of the lowest population densities with about 85% of its population living in urban areas.

Buildings & Structures

From its capital Stockholm to the wonderful areas of Norland and Jamtland (Jämtland) to the fascinating island of Gotland with its the exquisite town of Visby, Sweden is some much more the clichéd pop groups and Volvo cars. Its people and culture will envelope any visitor and is a photographers paradise. The very beautiful Nordic country of Sweden lies to the north of continental Europe on the Scandinavian Peninsular (with Norway and Finland being the other two countries occupying the peninsular. Sweden, a constitutional monarchy, is the 3rd largest country of the EU and with only 9+ million people means it has one of the lowest population densities with about 85% of its population living in urban areas. * NOTE... a few of these images where taken futher north in Norway, on a photographic roadtrip to NordKapp.

Gotland

The much visited Swedish island of Gotland is an amazing destination located in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Latvia with a population of around 60,000. The county Gotlands län is made up of the main island and several smaller ones including Fårön, Gotska Sandön, and Karlsö. One highlight (of many) is the walled capital of Visby... truly picture postcard stuff. Gotland is easily reached by plane or there is a car ferry running from mainland Sweden (Nynäshamn or Oskarshamn) to Gotland.

Nature

Sweden is synonymous with nature both in its beauty and the way the Swede appreciate it. It is a country passionately in tune with the environment in which it lives. With its northern latitudes, the country experiences some extremes in climate especially in the colder months with much of the country experience sub-zero temperatures and short daylight hours. Up north this is especially true for the region above the arctic circle which experiences periods when the sun does not rise in winter, or sets in summer. These extremes enable some truly remarkable elements of nature.

Seasons

With long winters to endure, it is no surprise that summers is a time for celebration for Swedes and other Scandinavians. While summers are especially pretty, it is the northern winter and shoulder months that this antipodean found most remarkable; after all, our summers are specular and our winters are very mild be comparison. To experience a Scandinavian winter is truly remarkable as one gets to experience real seasons and measurable seasonal change that turns on a daily basis once the change starts. More remarkable are how elements of daily life blend into these changes, and appear perfectly set within their surroundings, no matter the season.

Stockholm & Skansen

The capital of Sweden, Stockholm, is an architecturally and culturally beautiful place set at the point where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea and its central district is set on 14 islands. Stockholm also includes the archipelago (Skärgård) that spreads out 60+ km into the Baltic Sea. A most unique and beautiful city that should be high on anyone’s list of travel destinations. Around 30% of Stockholm is greenways and parklands and these provide a natural beauty that belies its size. There is plenty to offer like Gamla Stan (The Old City), Södermalm, Skansen, and wonderful villages like Vaxholm. A walk around Stockholm soon reveals the secret to its layout in that it is made of a series of islands which in turn is part of the large archipelago (skärgård) which are numbered at 24,000. Around the city, some highlights include the rustic and beautiful Gamla Stan (Old town), the Royal Palace, eclectic Södermalm, and Djurgården which is a highlight of any trip to Stockholm. On the island of Djurgården is Skansen, the wonderful outdoor museum. Most cities and countries have them but very few deliver as well as Skansen; in fact the word commonly used as a European noun that means outdoor museum. Its creator, Artur Hazelius, was observant enough to see that the industrial revolution of the 1800’s was to the detriment of rural life and as such there was a need for cultural preservation of the traditions of Sweden and hence the concept of Skansen was born. A highlight of any tour of Sweden (Sverige) is to visit the very beautiful city of Stockholm and a visiting the famous open air museum is a great way to get an insight into the culture and history of the Swedish people. It is especially helpful if one is to tour other areas of Sweden (Sverige) like Gotland, Sundsvall, and other areas in north and western Sweden. The open-air museum on Djurgården, one of the many islands that make up Stockholm (the capital of Sweden), is an excellent display and preservation of tradition 19th century Swedish life. Traditional dressed craftsmen and residents occupy their period surroundings with great authenticity. It is one of those places that all people have fond memories of and is such an integral and ongoing part of Swedish life even being one of the hubs of televised summer concerts. Early in the 19th century, before the open-air museum, Djurgården was just a wooded island and merchant by the name John Burgman built himself a summerhouse and beautiful garden at the top of the hill that afforded spectacular views of Stockholm. The place was given the name Skansen as it was next to a little fortress; in Swedish known as a ‘Skans”.

Timbers & Textures

For a photographer, the textures of natural materials are wonderful to capture in times of light, contrasts, and hues. Include those elements with their surroundings and they become even more poignant. Timber is a much-used building material in Sweden and has been for centuries and add some color (the iconic red, and to a lesser extent the yellow) and these structures take on another dimension, which over time become richer and deeper in terms of photographic subjects. Add the changing of the seasons, and another dimension becomes evident.

To Nordkapp

So, how far north in mainland Europe can you drive? Nordkapp in the Norwegian Finmark region which, at 71°10′21″N, is promoted to be the most northern point you can reach on the European Mainland, but actually the most northern point is Knivskjellodden which stretches a further 1.4km north, but to reach that it is a long hike on foot. Like most iconic destinations, it is as much about the journey and driving to Nordkapp is certainly one of the most majestic drives in Europe. This journey starts in Riksgränsen (Sweden), just west of the magnificent Abisko Nation Park in Lapland, Northern Sweden and descens the mountain range towards Narvik in Norway before heading north past the Fjordland to Alta. The remote and beautiful landscape of the region unfolds on the drive along the Stokkedalsveien between to Skiadi then across to Russenes on the shores of the Porsangerfjorden. The trip north along the Porsangerfjorden is along a specular coastal road to the north of the peninsular and then it is underwater crossing to the island of Mahkaravju via the 6.9km Nordkapptunnelen (North Cape Tunnel). Once on the island, it is a short drive to the main town of Honningsvåg and a further 30+kms to Nordkapp.