Reading material for those who love the camping life

Text and photo: Olav Barhaugen
Caravan and Caravan magazine, No. 3 June 2019

In Oosterveg: Camping in Astrid Lindgren's host

Sweden is a favorite holiday destination for us Norwegians. Most often it is the west coast and the border regions that are visited, while the east coast is an unknown chapter for many of us. We therefore traveled the farthest south and east of Sweden to see what Astrid Lindgren's host had to offer.

Västervik Resort is one of Sweden's largest and most popular campsites. Here you will find about 900 sites for camping whether you come with a tent, caravan or motorhome. In addition, 166 cabins in all variants come from the small single rooms of 10 m2 to large family apartments of 80 m2. We chose a cozy log cabin with 4 beds and cozy location on the water's edge. There has been activity here since 1933 when some private individuals established a bathing place here. Since then, it has evolved from simple camping to today's complete resort with amenities and activities for all tastes. The place appeared to be very well run and tidy. There are many activities for young and old, including shows and concerts. Besides bathing in the sea, there is a large indoor water park on site.

walking distance

In the center of Västervik it is just 3 km. If you do not want to take your own car there is a good bus connection, but also good to walk or cycle. The town has about 22000 inhabitants, while the total in the municipality is 37000. The old town is at the far north, and has a nice settlement. In the area around the inner harbor there are large squares and several nice eateries. Further behind we find today's city center with shops and other activities. In Västervik there are also many different events throughout the summer. One of the most famous is the show festival which has been organized in the ruins of Slottsholmen since 1966. Hansi Schwarz from Hootenanny Singers was one of the driving forces behind the festival, and stood as an organizer from 1978 until his death in 2013.

Abba

Another member of the Hootenanny Singers was Björn Ulvaeus who later became world famous with ABBA. He grew up in Västervik, and has always had a close relationship with the city, although he now lives a little north of Stockholm. He bought the old restaurant building at Slottsholmen a few years ago, a stone's throw from where the festival of the festival is arranged. The building was demolished, and in 2017 a new magnificent building was completed. Here there are both self-catering apartments and hotel suites of different sizes. In addition to a concert venue and a restaurant serving dishes inspired by Björn's upbringing in Västervik and traveling around the world. Together with the menu you get a booklet with Björn's own stories about each dish.

Tjust Archipelago

Västervik is located in the middle of what is called Tjust Archipelago. It extends over 6-7 miles from north of Oskarshamn and up towards Norrköping. There are many ways to experience the archipelago, even without your own boat. From the port of Västervik there are scheduled boats to several of the islands, and archipelago cruises are also arranged with guiding and landing on some islands. There are also great opportunities for kayaking, and if you do not have your own kayak there are many who rent out. You can either paddle on day trips, or bring a tent and sleeping bag and spend the night in nature. In some of the islands there is also the possibility of simple accommodation either in hostels or in private.

We chose to experience the archipelago from the mail boat, one of the archipelago's most important life nerves.

It is run by Solidö Archipelago taxi by Bengt Andersson and his wife Sussi. They live on the island of Solidö with their children, where they also farm. There are residents on several of the islands in the archipelago, and although many have their own boats it is an added safety to have Bengt and Sussi nearby. They run daily routes with mail and goods, and also take other transport assignments. In addition, they run sick transport. Bengt was born and raised in the archipelago, and knows both the area and those who live there. When the ice settles, he uses a cushion boat, which makes the islanders mobile even when nature is not playing.

Post boat

In the summer there are many summer guests on the islands. There are many cottages, but also former settlements that have become resorts. Hasselö is the largest island, and had around 1900 inhabitants around 300. Today there are around 20 permanent residents, and the archipelago gathering point. In total, there are less than 50 permanent residents in the archipelago. The mail boat calls at all places with permanent residents, and in the summer there are many boxes of mail to be delivered.

On the jetties, both residents and summer guests stand waiting for a chat with the neighbors. It's a laid back atmosphere, and people like to chat with a neighboring journalist. They tell about a varied everyday life where nature and weather often rule. In the summer it is a mild and good climate, but winter can be demanding. Many of the residents are pensioners, but some work as craftsmen or with other small production. And we also met someone who worked from home office via the internet. Agriculture is also a bit off, but Sussi and Bengt are the only animals to have farm animals. A trip by the mail boat not only gave us a great nature experience, but also an insight into how it is possible to live on an island out in the archipelago.

Vimmerby and Astrid Lindgren

The last stop on our Sweden trip was Vimmerby. This is where Astrid Lindgren grew up, and the city has two attractions associated with the popular author. It is the amusement park Astrid Lindgren's World and Astrid Lindgren's Näs, which was her childhood home. This is where she gained inspiration for her writing, and the Children in Bullarebyn are largely based on her own childhood experiences.

The farm Näs was the vicarage in Vimmerby, and Astrid's father was the farm manager. The family lived in a small red house behind the main building. Astrid took over the house in the 60's and put it back in the state it was when she grew up there until she moved to Stockholm 19 years old. She even lived there for periods when she visited Vimmerby. The house is still used by her family, but is also open for guided tours.

The old parsonage building has been rebuilt as a knowledge center where we learn about Astrid Lindgren's strong political and social involvement. Astrid's life and writing are presented in a newly built pavilion. Through a walk in this pavilion we become better acquainted with Astrid Lindgren through various installations with both objects, pictures, and live films. Certainly a place to visit to learn more about this colorful lady who is far more than Pippi Longstocking and Emil in Lönneberga.

Astrid Lindgren's World

Just beyond Näs is the 180.000 m2 park Astrid Lindgren's World. It was established as early as 1981 by some private individuals in Vimmerby, and was then just a few miniature houses that would represent Katthult, Emil in Lönneberga's home. Then several houses were built, and the plant was named Sagobyn. Since then it has been expanded several times and now appears as a complete theme park where you can wander through all the environments you know from Astrid Lindgren's books.

Here we find Villa Villekulla, Bråkmakargatan, Katthult, Saltkråkan and several famous places. In most places there are regular performances where we can meet both Emil, Pippi, Karlsson on the roof, Ronja Røverdatter and all the well-known characters we have read or seen on film. An experience too small and large, but it is an advantage of a certain knowledge of Astrid Lindgren's books to fully benefit from a visit to the park.

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