Lake Vänern is Sweden's largest lake and the third largest in Europe (after Ladoga and Onega lakes in Russia). We were due to spend much of today crossing it, with a stop to visit a castle. However, all passengers were summoned to a meeting after breakfast where it was announced that, after much careful thought, the captain had decided that the weather conditions were such that he did not think that the passengers should remain on board the ship for the crossing. Rain and wind would have made it too choppy for safety and comfort. Therefore, we were to be bussed around the lake.
First of all, we walked alongside the canal for a km or so to Sjötorp and spent some time in a canal museum. There were reconstructed parts of a captain's bridge and living accommodation of how boats using the canal would have been in years gone by.
We boarded our coach here and drove for about an hour to Läckö Slott (castle), although first we had a leisurely lunch at the adjacent restaurant. It was salmon caught from Lake Vänern and it was so good.
We had an English-speaking guide for the castle. Originally built as a fortified castle in 1298 as a few houses surrounded by a wall, it was added to and built upwards at various times in its history. It is now a national monument. It looks so unlike any castle in Britain.
Leaving the castle, we drove for only a short distance before stopping for coffee and cakes at a cafe at Spiken, on Lake Vänern. This was a very leisurely stop as we had to allow sufficient time to enable our ship to reach our overnight stop at Vänersborg. It was all very pleasant. Our drive then continued and we reached Vänersborg at 7pm and the ship appeared 15 minutes later. It was actually quite a tiring day but really very well managed as a last minute alternative.
It was "the Captain's Dinner" this evening. Most people dressed up a little bit. We reach the end of our journey on the water tomorrow.
It has been another interesting day today, despite a lot of rain, but with one major disappointment. After breakfast the Captain announced that, because of the forecast of bad weather and strong winds, the passengers would not cross Lake Vänern (the largest lake in Sweden and the fourth largest in Europe) in the boat, but instead would cover the day's itinerary travelling around the lake by coach. So, after a (optional) three kilometre walk along the towpath ahead of the boat to a Canal Museum at Sjötorp, the official end of the Göta Canal where it joins Lake Vanern, we all clambered onto the coach which was waiting for us. A lovely salmon lunch was laid on for us at the restaurant at
Läckö Slott (Castle), followed by a guided tour of the castle as scheduled. Another lovely castle, in a beautiful lakeside setting, dating back to the thirteenth century with baroque and Renaissance additions, lovingly restored in the 1920s. We then rejoined the coach and continued to Vanerborg to meet the boat at the end of its journey across the lake, with an "afternoon coffee" stop on the way. Everyone was very relieved to see Diana emerge from the lock across the water, with a blast of her horn. It had apparently been a very bumpy crossing, and the captain's decision was justified. A shame to have spent 4 hours in a coach instead of relaxing cruising, but we were back with the boat in time for the Captain's dinner, which had only had to be delayed by 30 minutes. We were privileged to be joined at our table for the last part of the meal by the second officer, who does in fact captain Diana and the other two Göta Canal boats himself. A very interesting man, who is retired from merchant shipping. Our captain proper is a ferry captain in real life, who captains this boat once a year as a holiday! There's a lot of love in the company! After dinner there was an invitation to have a tour of the kitchen, which Geoff will report on. I preferred to come up on deck to write this, given that this is our last evening. It is quite chilly, but clear. We are moored here at Vänersborg for the night.