This morning we set off to drive along the Eastern side of Lake Vanern, the third largest inland lake in Europe, we'd read. Though our hotel here in Karlstad is perfectly comfortable and convenient, the view isn't exactly wonderful.
So, we set out along the road to Kristinehamn and beyond, making our first stop in Mariestad, a lakeside town where we parked by the harbour. Though we'd taken the road which appeared on our map to run alongside the lake, had we seen water at all? Apart from a quick glimpse of a kind of creek and a bridge over the Gota canal, not really. High trees lined both sides of the road and it was hard to imagine that all that water was so close.
Mariestad proved a short distraction from our main objective. It was market day and the stalls selling spring flowers and Easter bits and pieces caught our eye immediately with the bright colours and bustling crowds of people. Whilst there, we popped into the tourist office and accepted the offer of an English language walking guide to the old town and set off to take a look at some remarkable old buildings.
In stark contrast to many of the other pavements we've walked since being here, these paths were completely clear of grit. In fact, we admired the smooth surface provided for prams and wheelchair users and the total lack of obstacles and other hazards.
The secret lay just around the corner. The road sweepers were in town and working hard at sweeping up all the grit and gravel which had accumulated during the winter. This must be quite some task.
Stepping inside the cathedral, we found the light and airy space quite surprising and the contrast between the heavily decorated and the rather plainer areas very pleasing. One small motif continued throughout - the stylised wheatsheaf motif was to be found on the woodwork, each pew end and also in the stained glass of the windows.
By now it was lunchtime and we still had not seen much of that huge lake. We walked along the last stretch of the recommended route and came across a fine view.
OK. Enough to convince us that the lake really did exist, but perhaps not enough to satisfy our wish to see more of it. We continued our drive south and headed towards Lidkoping and on to another recommended place, according to our guidebook.
Lacko Slott was described as a "fairytale castle on the lake" and though it wasn't quite as we'd imagined, this description was correct. Sadly, it being only April, the place was deserted except for a few workmen and won't open to visitors for another month or two. But we managed a walk around and a short explore of the area around it, including a walk to the lakeside.