EXPLORING THE GÖTA CANAL

A unique way of connecting people

Swap four wheels for two and explore Sweden’s oldest communication channel

Throughout history, Sweden has always been a country quick to embrace new ways of helping people communicate with one another. Today, staying in touch is relatively easy, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Skype. In the past, however, keeping people connected was a lot more difficult. It took ingenuity, risk and a whole lot of manpower. But the results were often spectacular and enduring. Come along as we swap four wheels for two and explore Sweden’s oldest and most ambitious way of keeping people connected – the Göta Canal.


Bringing Sweden closer together

500 years ago, a Swedish bishop called Hans Brask proposed building a canal across Sweden that would link Gothenburg in the West and Stockholm in the East. Not only would this ambitious waterway open up valuable trade routes across the country, it would also help people from different parts of Sweden feel connected with each other.

Built between 1810 and 1832, the Göta Canal was one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in Sweden. When completed, it measured 190 km and took almost 60,000 men to construct – incredibly, these hardy souls dug a staggering 87 km of the canal by hand! It’s little wonder this manmade marvel of engineering has since been named Swedish construction of the Millennium. Throughout the 19th century, the Göta Canal remained an important trade route. Today, however, it is better known as one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions. And one of the best ways of experiencing its picturesque twists and turns is not with rudder in hand but from the saddle of a bicycle.

On your way

Once you’ve parked the car and taken the bikes from their holders, it’s time to change gear and leave the motoring world behind for a while. Along the sides of the Göta Canal you’ll find 87km of old towpaths, which now provide the perfect route for a lazy day’s cycling without a care in the world or a car in sight. Along the canal there are picnic areas, cafés, art projects, period buildings and historic monuments. But the star attraction is the canal itself and the glorious Swedish countryside that surrounds it. So let’s push off and see some of the attractions you can encounter along the way.

Sjötorp

This picturesque little port is located next to an idyllic beach, which makes it the perfect spot to linger a while and soak up the special atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. For history enthusiasts there is a stone table where, on the 23rd September 1822, it is believed King Karl XIV Johan, who was king of both Sweden and Norway, celebrated the inauguration of the canal’s western section with a spot of breakfast.

More history can be found a few locks further on in the unique form of a stone lock-keeper’s house that dates from around 1810. Here, you will also find a large rune stone shaped like a juniper bush, which is over a thousand years old. The sensation that you are always surrounded by historical monuments to Sweden’s past is one of the unique things about travelling down the Göta Canal.

In 2007, to celebrate the canal’s 175-year jubilee, a large sculpture called ‘Water Steps’ by the artist Bengt Olson was unveiled in Sjötorp. The sculpture was a tribute to the people who excavated the Göta Canal between 1810–1832.

Töreboda

One of the next stops on the route is the little town of Töreboda, which you enter via the guest harbour where you’ll find a campsite with wooden cabins and an open-air swimming pool. From Töreboda, you can take a trip on Lina – Sweden’s smallest ferry. Lina began life as the hobby of a retired train driver who rowed passengers back and forth in a skiff (a light rowing boat, typically designed for one person). In the 1940s, the Töreboda community took over the running of the ferry and preserved this very special mode of public transport as a charming tribute to the past.

As you leave Töreboda you cross over the canal via Rotkilen’s roller bridge. From here, you can look forward to 5 km of level and tranquil cycling through beautiful pastoral landscape before you reach the next bridge at Jonsboda.

Vassbacken

After cycling from Jonsboda you arrive at Vassbacken, which resembles an oasis in the middle of the countryside. Vassbacken was once an important transshipment point, but today you will find a café, campsite and a hostel. The old posthouse in Vassbacken has been transformed into a little museum run by the Local History Association.


The journey’s end

After Vassbacken, only 5 km remain until you reach Tåtorp, which is the final stop on the route. This final stretch of the journey is quite unlike anything else you will have experienced on your journey. The landscape is characterized by lush forests and rolling hills, tall ferns line the banks of the canal and delicious blueberries and lingonberries can be found in abundance.

At any point on your journey, you might also be fortunate enough to see one of the three large white canal boats that cruise the stretch of water between Stockholm and Gothenburg. These three ships – M/S Juno, Wilhelm and Diana – were specifically built to travel on the Göta Canal, and the oldest dates back to 1874. All ships have received heritage status, so keep your eyes peeled and you may find yourself gazing at a stunning piece of Swedish nautical history.

The Göta Canal is a wonderfully unique way of experiencing both Sweden and the Swedish summer. All you need is your Volvo, your bike, a bike rack and a sense of adventure. Happy cycling!

Volvo Cars Bike Holders

Taking a bike along for the ride can add a whole new dimension to a road trip or family holiday. And as people’s interest in cycling, and passion for off-road adventure grows, so does the need for bike holders that will get you and your bike where you want to go – safely, securely and in style.