Sweden, Denmark

London to Latvia (and everything in between) - Part 6

Date April 2010
Posted September 2011
Voyaging through Scandinavia
The ferry cabin swam back into my conciousness to the sounds of even louder thudding. The whole room was resonating with the sound of the ships engines which had slowed to idle; meanwhile outside in the corridor people were hurrying past. The absence of alarms or water swilling underneath the door confirmed that we must be entering port, so I shook siologen awake and began getting my kit together. Up on deck that cool Baltic air met us once again but now the surroundings were different: we had reached Stockholm.

Vasteras Powerplant, Vasteras, Sweden (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

By the time we found the car deck it was almost empty, the grey Astra sitting alone. Remarkably siologen claimed to be fit to drive and so he piloted us off the vessel and onto the quayside where our insurance kicked back in and we caught up with a queue of traffic passing through border control. The only obstacles now to our entry into Sweden were two stocky female border guards.

Naturally they weren't impressed and a root through the boot of the car did little to improve things. We told them we were climbers touring Europe (hence the rope) and then just shrugged - what else could we do? They wouldn't send us back to Estonia, surely? We hoped not anyway as the Estonians hadn't exactly welcomed us in first time around. Before I had time to contemplate the logistics of stealing a lifeboat and rowing back to the UK the two bruisers wearily handed back the passports and waved us in.

Vasteras Powerplant, Vasteras, Sweden (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

Once more the capital could only be spared a little time. We breezed out of the suburbs heading roughly westward to the town of Vasteras, intent on seeing what remained of the old power plant there. As you've probably gathered by now we're generally game for anything remotely interesting looking, and what could fuel our curiosity more than the prospect of climbing around amongst pipework, conveyors and vintage control rooms? On arrival we found a load of buildings had been demolished, including one vast-sized one that had presumably been a turbine hall. Inside the remains there were a lot of auction tags - maybe this place didn't have a lot of time left.

Later we emerged from the little time capsule and returned to the car and then to Stockholm. Our availability allowed for the exploration of one or two drains, the eating of more steak and then it was off out into the countryside in search of something a little more unusual. Eventually we were as close as the satnav would take us, and since the GPS said we were less than 1km from our next destination we decided it was probably adequate progress for one day. Reluctantly we settled into our first night back in the car. The next morning we awoke in a small village carpark and fired up the GPS again. It turned out that we could follow a track most of the way to the first reservkraftstation. If you're wondering what such a thing is, then allow siologen to enlighten you:

"Reservekraftstations [backup power stations] are a solely Swedish anomaly. A mix of an underground rail station, a Cold War Bomb shelter and a simple train tunnel. They were built as bomb proof 'gap fillers' in the electrified rail system that Sweden relied upon. Being only a 'Baltic Sea' away from former Soviet States like Estonia and Latvia, they stood as replacements in the supply of railway electricity, should another, less hidden aspect of the system be knocked out, during the Cold War. We had the privileged of seeing three."

Reservkraftstations, locations unspecified, Sweden (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

Sweden is a big country and the reservkraftstations of whose whereabouts we were aware were scattered across a fair portion of it. Entry was not guaranteed - whilst Swedish photographer Benkar had been kind enough to write down some grid references he couldn't say whether they'd still be accessible.

Fifteen minutes later and we stood before a fortress-like opening into the mountainside guarded by a suspiciously new and expensive looking galvanised steel fence, complete with a man-sized gate that was securely locked. Beyond the mesh we could see that two huge internal blast doors had been rolled aside, the rusting railway track between them disappearing into darkness. Before I could wonder too much about why this plant was clearly being kept accessible siologen reported back that he'd found a hole in the cage. We squeezed through and prepared torches. What was inside, neither of us really had any idea.

Reservkraftstations, locations unspecified, Sweden (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

The railway track led inside a main room with a platform built on one side. This was where mobile rotary converters would've been rolled in and powered up. A distant hum suggested the plant may still be wired up to the grid, as did the row of pristine insulators and switchgear. Thinking no more of it we climbed a ladder up into the ventilation room where a series of fans sat idle. The ladders continued on up, emerging in a huge rock-blown shaft which presumably doubled as an escape route. Following the ladder we arrived at the top where more mesh greeted us, beyond which was the thick vegetation of a forest.

As I began a closer examination of the ventilation gear siologen disappeared off below where he found a row of heavy levers which he preceeded to start messing with. One dull clunk produced no results, as did the second. The third produced more fascinating results: the fans sparked into life, enveloping me in a cloud of rust. At this point, annoyed and covered in dust, I descended the ladder and barked at siologen to stop messing about. And then he threw the fourth lever...

Reservkraftstations, locations unspecified, Sweden (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

At once the room was filled with a green glow. Rows of bulbs along each wall warmed into life until the whole room was illuminated like some kind of Bond film set. Clearly this particular reservkraftstation had only been mothballed, and so had been kept in working order.

On our way down through Sweden we stopped at two other stations. Unfortunately both had suffered in the years since their closure but nonetheless their structural design and lack of electric lighting ensured they were anything but boring to explore. There were similarities between all three stations but the overall layouts were different, this being most obvious in the ventilation/escape shaft arrangements which naturally had to comply with the surrounding environment.

Reservkraftstations, locations unspecified, Sweden (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

By midnight we had returned to the road one last time and found the southernmost extent of Sweden. Here we were met with the obligation to pay nearly 40 Euros for the priviledge of using the Oresund crossing over to Denmark. In such fashion we waved goodbye to Sweden, an amazing country which both of us resolved to return to before the year was out. Unfortunately Denmark couldn't be spared much attention, save for a fleeting drive through the centre of Copenhagen, a quick look at the old Carlsbery brewery and a sneer at the food prices. Next up was our second and final ferry crossing - a brief sailing that would deposit us back on German soil.

Oresund bridge/tunnel, on the way out, Sweden (2010) courtesy of adventuretwo.net

Big thanks again to Benkar for the leads and to siologen for doing most of the driving. Apparently the stalwarts of the Former Swedish Society Against the Former Soviets (the FSSAFS, or Fisaphs) prevent us from revealing exactly where the bunkers are. "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr Bond! I expect you to die!"
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