It is late August 2015 and I am on my way home to Europe after 4 years of living abroad. My sister and I want to spend some time together and reconnect. Our favourite way to do this? A weekend break to visit a country neither of us have even been to of course! We don’t have a specific destination in mind but the end of August in Europe is a busy time to travel and options are limited. Yet somehow there are flight deals to Gothenburg in Sweden and it is only a 2 hour flight from London. With a fabulous reputation for food, culture and a medium chance of at least reasonable weather we’re sold. Unbeknownst to us however it happens to be the same weekend of a Metallica concert which is apparently why we can’t find a single hotel room or AirBnB in the entire city of Gothenburg. This however, fortuitously brings us to Vrango. Desperately scrolling through AirBnB I see an advert ‘Small cottage on Bird Island’, it looks small but quaint. I can see a view of a view of the sea, some deckchairs, hiking trails and some sleepy fishing villages. It seems like the perfect hiatus from the jam-packed city. Thankfully our soon-to-be-host Goran responds to my request immediately and it is on.
As long as you come with reasonable expectations of prices, Scandinavia is a travellers dream. Gothenburg airport is pristine, the transportation is extremely well organised and sticks to a strict schedule, not to mention English is spoken everywhere. It is a short hop, skip and a jump across the North Sea, a bus from the airport to city centre, tram ride to the Saltholmens ferry terminal and a boat ride to the Southernmost island of the Gothenburg archipelago. It has taken the good part of a day to travel from our home town to the island but the journey has been hassle free and smooth, which is much like the general vibe we get from our fellow Göteborg companions.
Vrango (pronounced Vron-ga) is teeny, tiny. No cars, just motorised three wheel motorbike-like vehicles. The houses are all distinctly similar, white with a red roof, in any other place this could be creepy cookie-cutter territory but here it is simple Swedish charm. The place is exactly as advertised, simple, just large enough for two people, and has everything you could need or want for a weekend stay. We feast on delights picked up earlier in Gothenburg, olives, fresh bread, radishes, avocado and cheese. I don’t know if this is typical Swedish fare but it tastes delicious and it is gobbled up while sitting outside on the deck chairs admiring the view of the water from our resting spot.
It seems like this is the kind of island where people watch the sunset as if it were a movie so no sooner has dinner been eaten we set off to see if we can catch the show. At a brisk pace we turn a corner to see the huge orange begin to submerge itself into the ocean framed by a sea of boat masts at the harbour. It is a clear day and so there is barely a cloud in sight to defuse the sunset so the entire horizon glows a magnificent golden yellow. Local Swedes sit out in their deck chairs, drinking beer, chitter chatting and there is the distant hum of a motor boat as it makes its way across the harbour, gently rippling the water whilst everything else is calm. Birds are tweeting their evening-songs and I instantly remember that we are on ‘Bird Island’.
The weekend is filed with multiple sublime delights. Vrango is beauty and simplicity rolled into one. It is a sweaty morning hike with the sun beating down on your back, catching glimpses of the ocean between the dense woodland trails. It is taking a nature wee and not worrying if anyone will see you because you haven’t seen a single other soul on your walk so far. It is dipping your toe in the water and watching it ripple obscuring the dense tangled ominous-looking Kelp forest that lies below. It is pink bicycles filled with budding flowers photographed in the evening light. It is treking through the bushes to get to a good sunset spot and finding the cutest little caterpillar on your yoga pants clinging on for dear life. It is long lazy afternoon naps, just because, you don’t ever need a reason to have those.
It is eating quiche made with delicious local cheeses whilst sipping on a cool glass of sparkling cider in the sun. It is tiny little red boat houses perched on a cliff top. It is sitting by the pier eating ice cream watching the ferries arrive and wishing you never had to leave.