Stories from my travels around the world


Around the Great Lakes of Sweden

Lake Vättern
Hover over the thumbnails to see the photos in full size.

Around the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes
Around the Great Lakes

Area: The Lakes of Vänern and Vättern and the area surrounding them.

This area contains a lot of historical landmark but also different landscape. The deep and dark forest of Tiveden was for long a time a forest you would keep away from, due to pirates, thieves, trolls and other dangerous creatures. In the old days this was described as the border to the wild and unreliably people of the north.

The area around Lake Vättern also has a lot of important historical sites like Alvastra Kloster, Visingsö and Vadstena. Göta Kanal the long waterway through Sweden with lots of channels and locks uses both of the lakes.

If you want to visit some islands; Visingsö in Vättern and Djurö National Park in Vänern are good choices.

Interesting points to see in the area are:

  • Vadstena: A beautiful little town with lots of history. Kungsgården for example which is the oldest preserved Royal building in Sweden, from the 11th century. You can also visit the impressive looking Vadstena Castle.
  • Alvastra kloster: Monastery founded by the only Swedish saint Birgitta.
  • Omberg: With remarkably nature and nice view from tower at the top.
  • Tåkern: The most important bird reserve of Sweden.
  • The National Parks of: Djurö (in Lake Vänern), Tiveden and Tresticklan.
  • Göta Kanal: the channel waterway across Sweden at Motala - Borensberg.
  • Vreta Kloster: A beautiful monastery.
  • Kaga: a lovely little church known for its beautiful frescos.
  • Gränna: with the Polkagrisar (typical Swedish red and white twisted candy).
  • Rök: Swedens most famous Rune Stone.
  • Rogslösa: With a door like you have never seen before.
  • The ruins of Brahehus
  • Visingsö: An island with a history. Location of the first Royal Castle.
  • Click on the map to go to the destination pages.

    Welcome to the Great Lakes area!


    Welcome to the Great Lakes area! I've been to this part of Sweden three times now and my most recent trip was in May 2005. I had some wonderful days here!

    Above I wrote a quick overview about this part of Sweden. On the rest of this page I will write a bit more about all these places I've visited so far, so you will get a bit of an impression what this area of Sweden is like. I hope you will enjoy this page! And maybe even come visit some day!

    Vreta Kloster

    Vreta Kloster
    Vreta Kloster

    Let me start my tour in Östergötland on the east side of Lake Vättern. First stop is the Vreta Kloster or Vreta Monastery. At Vreta, just outside of he city of Linköping, you can visit the Vreta Church and Convent. In Swedish it is called Vreta Kloster ( kloster = abbey, monastery; convent). The church dominates the surrounding landscape, located on a little hill overlooking the landscape. While travelling towards Vreta from the city of Linköping, I could see the church long before I got there. Maybe the church isn't that impressive on the outside, but it is certainly has a charm to it and is worth a visit.

    The surrounding area of the church and convent has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Vreta itself is mentioned in documents for the first time in the 12th century. The church is one of the most interesting in Sweden, with many medieval works of art. Next to the church you can still see the foundations of the conventual buildings and the cloister. During my visit they were working on this area, so unfortunately I couldn't take a look at it. Still intact is the convent house from the 13th century.

    Vreta Kloster
    Vreta Kloster

    The best part of the church at Vreta is the inside. It even has a little museum with many medieval works of art! I really enjoyed looking around here. I've added a few photos to this tip so you can have a bit of an impression of Vreta Kloster.

    Some interesting things to see are of course the museum, but also the burial-chapel of the Dougles family (1663), the pulpit (middle of 17th century) with some wonderful carvings, the burial chapel of the Stenkil family (early 12th century).

    Vreta Kloster is open to the public:
    Weekdays: 7:15 - 16:00

    From mid June - mid August:
    Weekdays: 7:15 - 18

    From beginning May - end August:
    Weekdays: 7:15 - 18 and weekends 10:00 - 18:00

    Vreta Kloster is located 11km / 7mi northwest of Linköping, on the road to Motala.

    You can read all about this place on my Vreta Kloster page

    Locks at the Göta Canal at Berg

    Locks at the Göta Canal at Berg
    Locks at the Göta Canal at Berg

    Not far away from Vreta Kloster is the little village of Berg and the famous Göta Canal. At Berg you can find the Carl Johan flight of locks with no less than 7 levels. These locks raise or lower the boats 18.8 metres between Lake Roxen and the Berg guest-harbour. In total there are eleven locks in Berg.

    The Göta Canal is a 190 km long canal and it is one of the largest civil engineering projects in Sweden. The canal stretches from Mem at the east coast to Sjötorp on Lake Vänern and has in total 58 locks. The canal was built between 1810 and 1832. Most of the canal was excavated by hand using iron-shod wooden spades. The Canal used to be a very important transport route for both goods and passengers. Not anymore these days though, it has now become a well known tourist attraction.

    Göta Canal
    Göta Canal

    During the summer season it can get quite busy with tourists here at Berg, but on this nice sunny afternoon so early in the season it was a great place to make a quick stop. The locks are quite impressive, seeing so many in a row. And the boats in the distance give a little romantic touch to the place. It made me dream away for a while, while enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face. But most of all I liked the landscape surrounding this part of the Göta Canal. On either side of the canal here at Berg there are the old towpaths, ideal for a lovely stroll along the canal.

    When I left Berg to continue my trip through Östergötland I decided not to take the main road, but take a more off the beaten path trail. I ended up on one of those lovely winding roads beside the canal, a joy to travel on when you are not in a hurry. For me this was the perfect ending of a very nice day.

    Berg is located north of the city of Linköping, at the westside of Lake Roxen.

    You can read all about this place on my Berg page

    Kaga church: a little gem!

    Kaga Church
    Kaga Church

    My original plan was to visit the little church of Risinge, which is famous for its beautiful fresco's. Unfortunately this early in the season (early May) the S:ta Maria Church in Risinge isn't open to the public, so you can imagine my disappointment. But I stumbled upon some good news while doing research for this trip! I discovered that the little church of Kaga was decorated by the same painter as the Risinge church. So without hesitation I added Kaga to my travelplans. And I can say I wasn't disappointed! This church is a little gem!

    the Kaga church was built by King Sverker (d. 1156) on the old pagan cult site of Allguvi. On the outside it is a small white church, quite elegant with it's high tower. On the inside you will be surprised by the painted valves giving this little church a special atmosphere. The church itself dates back to 1156, but most likely there has been a church previous to this one. The present spire was added later to the church, most probably in the 15th century.

    Kaga church and is one of the best preserved churches in Östergötland from the Middle Ages.

    For more information about the Risinge Church take a look at this website (only in Swedish): S:ta Maria Church in Risinge

    Frescos in the Kaga Church
    Frescos in the Kaga Church

    The most striking part of this little church at Kaga is its frescos and these frescos are the reason why I went here. And I am so happy that I did that! I can't remember how much time I spend in this little church, looking up and around me, being amazed by it all. Wondering who made these frescos and trying to figure out the story behind them. I actually went back a second time, and I think I spend just as much time here the second time around. My excuse was that my camera wasn't working well the first time around, so I just HAD to get back here again another time. But maybe the truth is that I just wanted to see it another time around ;-)

    The church frescos are from two epochs: late Romanesque and late Gothic times. The frescos of the nave are made by a successor to the artist named the Risinge-master, who is named after his most important work: the frescos in the Risinge Old Church. These frescos are dated to the period around or just after the mid 15th-century. The paintings in the chancel are made by the master himself.

    In the photo you can see the fresco on the arch to the belfry room. This is just one of the many photos I took here. You can see more of these frescos and explanations about them on my Kaga page.

    Berg is located north of the city of Linköping, at the westside of Lake Roxen.

    Read more about this little church on my Kaga page

    Read more on page 2 about the Great Lakes area.....

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