August 24, 2019
While researching what to do in Stockholm, I came across a day trip to Mariefred that involved a steamboat and a steam train. I thought it would be a fun thing to do, but soon realized that my travel dates were not considered “summer season.” Luckily for me, after additional research I found that the trip was still running on Saturdays; my last day in Stockholm fell on a Saturday.
I emailed back and forth with the society running the trip to get tickets but was told several times that tickets weren’t available online and would be purchased onboard the boat on the day of travel. Of course, this made me nervous so I made my way down to the boat dock extra early. As early as I was, I was the tenth person in line. What made me even more nervous was that I could see that several of them had tickets or printouts in their hands. Had I gotten bad intel?
As I stood in the queue, I watched as several crewmembers readied the boat; then the captain toddled by – well, actually, teetered by might be a better term. I was nervous and yet comforted by the fact he appeared to be about 90 years of age. His advanced age meant he had years of captaining under his belt, but he was so tiny and stooped over, I feared he wouldn’t get up the stairs to the captain’s bridge. In the end, he shuffled his way up the steps and did a fine job navigating the waters.
Finally, they allowed us on the boat. I tentatively asked if I needed a ticket to board and was waved on with a “buy a ticket later, before you get off.” I made my way up to the upper level to select a seat. I chose one along the side toward the bow on the starboard side. Unfortunately, while it was on the sunny side as we were moored, it was on the shady side (read this as the colder side) throughout the trip.
My seatmate to the left was a Swede who worked in insurance during the week but was a nature photography hobbyist on the weekend. His camera gear was extreme and his backpack holding his gear was larger than both of my bags for my two-month trip put together. Throughout the boat ride, he would be carrying on a conversation and then whip out one of the cameras, click away, and then go back to the conversation. His photographs were pretty spectacular. He was actually interested in the two little lenses I have for my iPhone. I was flattered.
To my right was a family (father, mother and 13-year-old daughter) from Nice, France. They were going to Mariefred to start an “active” holiday of biking, kayaking, hiking, and wild camping. Mom and dad were totally excited, the daughter, not so much. Her father was beside himself the entire boat ride trying to get her interested in the scenery and not whatever was so engaging on her iPhone (probably anything other than scenery). The group was quite entertaining.
So, what about the steamboat? The S/S Mariefred has run the same route from Stockholm to Mariefred, Sweden since April 1903. The stoker in the engine room transforms 2.8 tons of lake water per hour into steam; this, of course, takes a lot of effort from the two coal-stoked boilers on board. It’s impressive that the boat hasn’t undergone many changes since its first trip.
The trip along Lake Mälaren from Stockholm to Mariefred takes 3 ½ hours. The scenery is beautiful. There are lots of summer homes and villas, islands, birds, and other boaters to view.
There’s also a lot of time to chat with fellow passengers – you just hope everyone gets along. Luckily the passengers in our little area had lots to talk about, including how cold we were. We each ended up wearing any and all clothing we had with us since we were on the chillier side of the boat, particularly when we lost the blue sky and the clouds turned dark. With about an hour left of our journey, the sun returned and the air got a bit warmer. Thank goodness.
As the chill left our bones, we rounded a corner and got our first glimpses of Mariefred.
So, why travel to Mariefred? Well, first of all, it’s a really cute 17th-century town with lots of cafes, shops, churches, and colorful houses. Secondly, it’s the home of Gripsholm Castle, built in the 16th and 17th-century from stones and other materials salvaged from a 15th-century monastery. Thirdly, it’s the starting point of a ride on a 100-year-old steam train. What more could you ask for?! Partway through the boat ride, I had finally purchased my ticket for rides on the steamboat, steam train, and then a return to Stockholm on the fast train.
Docking in Mariefred, I got my first look at Gripsholm Castle and one of the eleven steam locomotives operated by a volunteer organization.
Since I had a timed ticket for the steam train, my time was limited in Mariefred. I took a quick walk through the town and then made my way out to the castle. It was quite impressive and a favorite of Kings and Queens up through the 18th century.
Since it was Saturday, there were several weddings happening inside the castle and its church. I didn’t really have time to walk through what is said to be an impressive picture gallery, so I satisfied my castle lust by walking the grounds.
On my way back into town, I stopped off at a café and indulged in a traditional lunch of Swedish meatballs and gravy, lingonberries, pickled cucumber, and mashed potatoes. It was so, so good.
As I was finishing up lunch, the steam train pulled into the station. I watched as volunteers uncoupled the engine from the passenger cars, diverted it onto another set of tracks and then moved it back into position in front of the passenger cars, ready to head out on our trip. While the train runs between Mariefred and Taxinge, I was only taking it as far as Läggeste, so I could catch the train back to Stockholm.
The insides of the passenger cars have been very well maintained and retain their old character. We sat on the sideboards with the windows open so we could catch the breeze and lean out for pictures. The kids in my car were very excited when we started moving slowly out of the station. I was a bit excited as well – there’s something about an old-fashioned train ride that brings out child-like qualities.
We passed fields, farmhouses, station houses, and the deer park.
Around every bend, I hung out the window trying to capture a shot of the ends of the train coming and going (I wasn’t very successful). But it was all very fun.
All too soon, we arrived at the station where I had to hop off.
The only problem was, there weren’t any signs with information as to how to find the Stockholm-bound train. I noticed a family from my train car heading off in the direction of a hill leading to a bridge, so I scampered after them and asked if they knew the way to the train. I was invited to join them as they too were headed to Stockholm. It all felt a bit weird that there weren’t any signs, but at the top of the hill, there was a train platform. It was empty and a bit creepy, but it had a sign that read Läggeste, so I figured I hadn’t been led astray.
I felt much better when a train came into sight, and it had a little sign in the window that said “Stockholm.”
The remainder of my trip was comfortable and quick. Within 45 minutes, we pulled into Stockholm’s central train station. I hadn’t actually made my way through the train system, but I followed the signs with the picture of a tram/metro and eventually came to T-Centralen, and the rest was easy. I found the T-14 line and made my way back to the apartment, just like I knew what I was doing. Fake it until you make it!
What a great day and a wonderful way to end my short time in Stockholm.