XIII: Bohuslän: Lysekil

Lysekil, Västra Götaland Län, Sweden

Previous: XII: Bohuslän: Smögen

Next: XIV: Uppsala and the drive home


Lysekil is another small sea town in Bohuslän, much larger than Smögen (pop. 7,600), but still pretty tiny. It is located in about 50 km from Smögen, so we chose it as our destination for the next day. Turned out it is pretty similar to Smögen anyway.

Our second night at Smögen Camping was not as peaceful as the first one. First, some young guys sat around with beer and a boombox pretty much right by our window. They actually turned out to be pretty nice. At 10 pm sharp they got up, collected all their trash, and some of them went to bed while others drove away in a taxi with “Gothenburg” written on it. That’s a long drive from Gothenburg, mind you. Thus, our opinion of Swedish youth improved a lot, but then in the middle of the night a few drunk girls barged into our block, and kept making a lot of noise, talking and showering, for quite some time. Anyway we still had a nice enough sleep.

1. First things first, we drove to Smögen and got some breakfast at the same Ekelöfs restaurant. Parking in entire Smögen is pretty much limited to two parking lots, so they have parking meters. The charge is very cheap though.

Generally, it seems that parking in the center of even small Swedish towns is always tolled, while Finnish towns with population of less than 20,000 or so just limit parking time (requiring a parking clock). Parking clock is still occasionally used in Sweden but it’s much less common. Of course it might be that I just happened to pick towns with tolled parking in Sweden, and others are different.

Most parking meters around Sweden seems to be of unified design, easy to use even without knowing Swedish. Just stick your bank card in, push some time buttons until the display shows desired departure time and toll, and push the big green button. A big annoyance though is that they are often out of order. In fact after our uneventful trip to Lysekil, we drove to a public parking lot (one that my navigator program knew), and found that one of its parking meters didn’t work at all, and another ate my bank card, then seemed to lock up, and returned it only after a few minutes or so, costing me some nerve cells. Logically if parking meters don’t work, the parking should revert to free use, but I drove to another parking lot on the opposite side of (admittedly tiny) town just to be on the safe side.

2. Okay, excuse me this parking digression. So here’s Lysekil. It is located on a tip of a quite long and thin peninsula. You can walk from its western to its eastern shore in fifteen minutes or so. This is the western shore, facing the sea. Not a lot of people here.

3. Wooden deck chairs look very cool, but the weather was a bit too chilly to lounge around.

4. Volleyball field near the quay.

5. Walking from the quay to the city.

6. Lysekil, unlike Smögen, has a few streets of actual apartment buildings. Ground floor is occupied by various family businesses. Hairdresser Nils Nilsson, Dentist Anders Andersson, Lawyer Erik Eriksson. It’s very cute; it feels like they are all one big family here and know each other (which they probably do).

7. Unlike Smögen, Lysekil’s economy is based on more than just tourism and fishing. In particular, it has the largest oil refinery in Sweden, just outside the city. We never actually saw it and we would have never guessed that such an idyllic location has an enterprise traditonally associated with severe pollution. There is even an old railway line connecting Lysekil with the rest of Sweden’s rail network, but it seems to have fallen into disuse.

8. The main street. Kungsgatan or Drottninggatan, something like that.

9. A small park.

10. Lysekil actually has a pretty big and beautiful church.

11. A ship head figure under some roof.

12. Cozy-looking local hotel.

13. Lysekil is where we decided to try to fish for some crabs. There are lots of small crabs in cracks and seaweeds near the coast. Crabs eat virtually anything (I think), so we took a few shrimps from our breakfast at Ekelöfs in Smögen to use as bait. Our first attempts were not very successful. We chose a place with a significant surf, and tied a shrimp to the end of a long slippery seaweed. When we threw it into the water, some crabs did appear in a minute or two, but the shrimp slipped out right then. It sank among the seaweeds, and eventually some bits and pieces of shrimp, presumably eaten by someone, drifted away. We tied the next shrimp more securely, and had more success. Still, crabs slipped away very easily in surf when we tried to drag them from the water. We did manage to pull out one, but it fell down on a wet rock and scurried away with surprising speed.

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17. NOOO IT’S MY SHRIMP.

18. Eventually we relocated to a quiet place by a pier. Someone has already left a clothespin tied to a piece of rope there, which made securing the bait much simpler. We were easily able to pull out a few crabs. If you hold them by the sides of their very hard carapace, they can’t reach you with their claws (or do anything at all).

19. We released all of them again of course. It’s not as if you can bring home a pet crab from Sweden. When the shrimp got severely disintegrated, we threw its remains into the water and watched a larger crab catch it, fight away a few hungry fishes, then disappear into seaweeds.

20. Man that crab catching was exhausting. Gotta get a glass of wine.

21. The major attractions of Lysekil are its sea life museum and boat tours (where you can supposedly see seals), but we didn’t have enough money for that either (a common theme towards the end of our trip), so we just went for a walk on the coast, on the tip of the Lysekil peninsula.

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24. These walled-up caves used to house something in WWII, or so the nearby sign says.

25. Skagerrak looks exactly the same in Lysekil as it does in Smögen.

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30. We chose a different route for our trip back to Smögen Camping, via Road 161 and Gullmarsfjorden ferry. Gullmarsfjorden (Gullmarn) is a deep gulf to the east of Lysekil. It is claimed to be the only genuine fjord in Sweden. Of course it looks nothing like Norway fjords, lacking mountains rising right from the water, but it’s still pretty long, narrow, and deep. And it has a road ferry crossing over it.

Road ferries are occasionally found on the less important roads of Finland and Sweden. Both countries have about 50 of such ferry lines each, I believe. There used to be more of them, but now it’s usually more economical to just build a bridge than bother with ferries. Ferries are still used on some lakes, straits, and to get to various smaller islands.

Road ferries have very little in common with huge Viking Line or Tallink-Silja ships. They usually look like a floating platform, with a bridge elevated over car deck on thin pillars. Their capacity may range from a few cars to about a hundred or so. Using a road ferry is trivial: drive to the waiting area, wait for a ferry to come if it’s not already present (there is a “Call Ferry” button just in case), roll on, wait for a ferry to cross the water body, roll off, drive away. The crossing is usually short enough (a few minutes) that you don’t need to leave your car, and ferries don’t have any passenger facilities, usually not even a toilet. No interaction with any personnel is required either. All ferries which are considered a part of road network are completely free to use both in Finland and Sweden. (There may be some exceptions. A notable one is Finnish ferries to Åland Islands. Ferries hopping between Archipelago Sea islands are free, but try to go a bit westwards and you need to get a ticket.)

Some ferry crossings leave you wondering why does the state even bother to finance this ferry, due to either very low traffic, or easily available detour. Gullmarfjord ferry crossing is actually the second largest in Sweden by traffic volume, but it would be absolutely trivial to just drive around the fjord. The detour would be only 25 km or so. It could be actually faster than waiting for a ferry.

I don’t know much about road ferries in countries other than Finland and Sweden, and I wonder how common they are elsewhere. Norway definitely has even more ferries, due to its cruel and unusual geography. Norway ferries are never free though. (In fact even bridges and tunnels in Norway are often tolled as well.) Russia usually doesn’t bother to make any kind of crossing at all unless absolutely necessary. There is the infamous Crimea ferry of course, and I think you have to use a ferry to get to Yakutsk (the coldest city in Siberia) from the rest of the road network. In our region there is a small and dilapidated ferry crossing in the town of Voznesenye. I know of at least two former ferry crossings on the Karelian Isthmus, but these were shut down long ago.

31. Speaking about Sweden and Finland again, some ferries operate on demand, but larger ones have schedules. Gullmarn ferries depart once every 20 minutes, in daytime at least. The actual ships are named Gullbritt (built in 1995, Alexandria, Egypt, yeah that seems pretty far) and Saturnus (built in 2014, Uusikaupunki, Finland). We ended up crossing on Gullbritt.

32. Here it is, unloading cars. The crossing is quite busy as it’s the shortest way to get to Lysekil from pretty much anywhere but Smögen or Norway. Still, no one would die if they had to drive just 25 km more.

33. Crossing in progress. The woman on the right actually walked on board of the ferry on foot. A car dropped her off on the Lysekil side, and she stayed at a bus stop after crossing.

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35. Passing Saturnus. Gullmarsfjorden doesn’t look particularly exciting for a place named “fjord”.

36. About to roll off. Gullmarn ferry was a big detour for us, but then, we got to use a road ferry for the first time ever (I didn’t have any experience with Finnish road ferries at the moment.) We ate in Smögen again and drove to camping.

After our third and the last night at the camping, we were supposed to cross Sweden once again to the city of Uppsala, the final point of our expedition. After Uppsala the only things left to do were to go to Stockholm, to take a ferry back to Finland, and to drive all the way back to St. Petersburg. To be continued.

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