Words & Photography by Jacob Little
The slow, settling quietness of Vrango strikes when you get off the boat. 'Welcome to Vrango,' a little board says above a small map of this already quite clearly diminutive island. With any Scandinavian welcome, it's friendly and convivial, but proud. A short walk to my boat house accommodation 'Kajkanten' suggests that it has every right to be.
The journey to Vrango itself was organised and efficient, but not without a sense of escapism. Timely, regularly scheduled ferries from the port near Gothenburg leave for the many islands that make up the western archipelago of Sweden. Cruising past each of them in turn, the names get more Viking-esque and the cabins get more hidden, more wooden and much smaller. There's less here than it seems, but a serene, community led, gentle life pervades.
Settling into the pace of things was easy, with nothing to do but walk, enjoy the still water and visit the sauna, which my host at the boathouse Haken tended to with loving regularity. Kayaking is also a popular option, with hundreds of little coves that would be nearly impossible to visit on foot. On the very edge of the western side of the island, it was very apparent there was nothing out there until the eastern coast of Denmark, and watching sailing ships and cargo vessels passing quietly by towards the city of Gothenburg was a serene reminder that the rest of the world was gently floating by as the stillness of the archipelago took hold.
Being outdoors and living and breathing the landscape is the only real option here. It's all the better for it. The calmness is intoxicating and the Swedish emphasis on the good life is hard to beat. It's hospitable but rugged, with friendly-folk like sailor Haken living each day to the full with a charming simplicity and connection to the water. The crisp, clean air and the sharpness of the light adds to the serenity.
Indeed, a good way of living in itself is the priority here. Freshly caught seafood like the excellent shrimps served at Batebacken Cafe on the neighboring island of Styrso is testament to that. Full of taste, reasonably priced and elegant. Twinned with local Radanas lager while watching the boats come in is a lot of people's idea of a perfect way to spend an afternoon. It's certainly up there for me.
Whatever you think of Sweden and the trend for 'hygge,' it's difficult to deny the sense of true calmness and escapism here slows the pace of life down and re-arranges your priorities. I won't forget my trip to Vrango for a while, and will be itching to get back whenever I feel the need to reconnect with what really makes most people happy - the disconnection from everything that doesn't matter nearly as much as watching the ships sail slowly by.