Gota Canal Day 10: Karlsborg & Forsvik


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Karlsborg Fortress stands on the western shore of Lake Vattern in inland Sweden and was one of the largest fortresses in Europe at 250-acres (100 hectares). The idea was concentrate the Swedish forces in a central location and allow the enemy to move across the land, be tired out by small-scale skirmishes and eventually be defeated in a concentrated attack while they suffered from long supply lines. Construction of the fortress began in 1819, but it was already outdated before completion, due to advances in artillery that rendered its thick limestone walls less capable of withstanding an enemy attack.

On our tenth day along the Gota Canal, we passed Karlsborg Fortress by water and continued on to a berth at Forsvik. We then returned by bike to tour Karlsborg Fortress, stopping en route at a satellite fortification, Vaberget Fortress. On our way back to Dirona we visited Forsviks Bruk, an old industrial complex converted into an excellent multi-building museum that showcases the area’s manufacturing and industrial history.

Below are trip highlights from August 12, 2019 in the Gota Canal, Sweden. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

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Vadstena Castle
A final view to Vadstena Castle as we depart.
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Fairway
Exiting the boat-lined fairway leading from Vadstena Gasthamn.
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Lake Vattern
Lake Vattern is the second largest lake in Sweden and the sixth largest in Europe and conditions can get rough when the wind is up. The wind is blowing 22 knots from the south and we’re pitching 5.2° and rolling 10° in the beam waves.
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Karlsborg Fortress
The view northwest to a portion of Karlsborg Fortress as we approach from the south. The fortress is vast, encompassing 250 acres (100 hectares) of land on the Vannas peninsula. We plan to visit by bicycle later today.
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Karlsborg Bridge
We arrived at the Karlsborg Bridge shortly before the Gota Canal bridge and lock openings start at 9am and waited for a short time with another boat to pass through. Today is an easy one on the canal—we’ll only pass through this one bridge, and no locks.
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Forsvik
Moored for the night on a lovely private berth at Forsvik. We’ve got the bikes out for a ride around the area, including a visit Karlsborg Fortress.
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Forsvik Lock
Watching a boat lock through at Forsvik Lock near our berth. We’ll be passing through tomorrow morning.
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Forsvik Gasthamn
Looking back from the Forsvik lock to Dirona moored at Forsvik Gasthamn. Most of the berths are on the left—we’re on a smaller berth to the right. Power and water isn’t available where we are, but the location is more private in a nicer park-like setting.
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Vaberget Fortress
On our bike ride to Karlsborg, we stopped at the ruins of Vaberget Fortress, completed in 1904 to protect Karlsborg Fortress from a land attack. We got a little expected rain on the way, so we’re wearing rain gear.
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Vaberget North Fort
Vaberget Fortress consisted of two forts with three batteries each. Here we are exploring the north fort, a smaller copy of the main south fort.
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Vaberget South Fort
The larger Vaberget South Fort incorporated the existing bedrock for part of its walls and could accommodate 220 men. We were hoping for a nice view east to Karlsborg from the fort, but access is no longer allowed and trees blocked the view from outside.
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Bicycle Path
Our route to Karlsborg from Vaberget Fortress looked like we were going to end up pedalling on a busy highway, but fortunately we found a relatively new bicycle path instead.
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Crow
We had lunch on the patio canal-side at Kanalkiosken i Karlsborg and got a great close-up of a crow looking for a handout. Actually, it didn’t really need a handout, this big tough bird was more than willing to steal food directly from our plates if we weren’t vigilant.
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Gothic Arch
Jennifer pedalling through the Gothic Arch, the main entrance into Karlsborg Fortress. A traffic light blocks vehicle traffic through the single-lane road so pedestrians and cyclists can pass through.

Construction of the fortress began in 1819 and it wasn’t completed until 90 years later. The idea was concentrate the Swedish forces in a central location and allow the enemy to move across the land, be tired out by small-scale skirmishes and eventually be defeated in a concentrated attack. while they suffered from long supply lines.

Karlsborg was one of the largest fortresses in Europe, but was already outdated before it was complete, due to advances in artillery that rendered its thick limestone walls less capable of withstanding an enemy attack.

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Reduit
View to one half of the 2,224ft (678m) Reduit, the longest building in Europe when it was completed in 1866, with 287 loopholes (gun slits). The tower in the distance is the Garrison Church at the center of the building.
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Museum Entrance
The entrance tunnel in the Reduit leading to the Karlsborg Fortress Museum.
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Karlsborg Fortress Model
Model of the 250-acres (100 hectares) fortress in the Karlsborg Fortress Museum with the 2,224ft (678m) Reduit at the bottom. We passed along the eastern edge of the fortress, at the top of the photo, en route from Vadstena to Forsvik. We enjoyed the museum and it’s varied displays detailed the history of the fortress and also of Vaberget that we’d visited earlier in the day.
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Garrison Church
The Garrison Church, consecrated in 1869, is unusual in being a second-floor church. In the event of a war, parliament would be moved to Karlsborg and the church would serve as a parliamentary assembly hall.
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Life Regiment Hussars
Portions of Karlsborg Fortress are still in military use today, including the headquarters for the famous fighting force of the Life Regiment Hussars. The Hussars, established 1536 by order of King Gustav I of Sweden (Gustav Vasa), are one of Europe’s most victorious regiments and among the world’s oldest still-active.
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Garrison Hospital
The Garrison Hospital, completed in 1881.
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King’s Residence
The King’s Residence, built in 1823 as accommodations for King Karl XIV Johan when he visited the fortress, now is a private home.
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DC-3 Munin
The Swedish Parachute Ranger School is one of several specialized units that are a part of the Life Regiment Hussars. This DC-3, nicknamed Munin, on display outside the fortress took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944 and later was used to conduct parachuter training.
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Garrison Hotel
The Garrison Hotel, completed in 1884.
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Forsviks Bruk
Arriving back into Forsvik from our bike ride to Karlsborg, we passed the old industrial complex of Forsviks Bruk powered by the waterfall flowing from Lake Viken into Lake Vattern. The water-powered sawmill built here in the early 1400s was the first known sawmill documented in written history.
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Forsvik Museum
The old industrial buildings at Forsviks Bruk have been converted into an excellent museum detailing the area’s manufacturing and industrial history.
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Forsviks Fenix Motor
In the 1800s, Forsviks Bruk produced farm machinery, pumps, valves, pipes, fire hydrants, engines, wood pulp machines and castings of various kinds. The foundry also produced many iron products for the construction of the Gota Canal—we started to notice the Forsvik name on equipment as we continued our journey.
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Powerhouse
The power source at Forsviks Bruk was changed from water to steam in the late 1800s
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Forsvik Control Center
On our way back to the Dirona, we stopped at the Forsvik Control Center to talk to the lock keeper. This is the control room where they control the Forsvik lock and bridge and two other bridges in the area.
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View from Control Center
The view from the Forsvik Control Center looking east. Dirona is visible in the distance at the far left.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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2 comments on “Gota Canal Day 10: Karlsborg & Forsvik
  1. John S. says:

    Karlsborg Fortress is amazing, both for its size and for its immediate obsolescence. A bigger version of a fort near our summer house, Fort Adams in Newport, that never saw battle and now serves mostly as a site for music festivals.

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