From frolicking ponies to inquisitive fish and a ghostly house, there’s plenty to sharpen your senses in the Swedish hideaway of Vasteras
A night spent underwater is not the ideal place to stay if you are remotely claustrophobic. "My work makes people question their perception about what is safe and secure, and when you experience fear, it sharpens your senses," explains Genberg. I can vouch for that.
That evening, we sat in deck chairs on the pontoon, eating a takeaway meal delivered from the mainland by boat and polishing off a bottle of Chablis. Two Polish seamen in a speedboat hovered for a while, no doubt attracted by the sight of a red light above what resembles a garden shed bobbing on the water. Apart from this, and an all-male crew on a Sigma shouting something undecipherable in Swedish, we were left alone to catch the magnificent sunset. Even craft heading for the nearby marina created just enough waves to gently rock the pontoon, so what happened later that night was a tad unexpected.
I awoke at 3am to find our room rocking sideways like a seesaw and, sure we were about to drown, scrambled up the aluminium ladder to the floor above and pushed my brow against one of the portholes. Utter darkness. I ventured outside on to the swaying platform but saw no sign of anything that could have caused such a commotion. Only the damp floor and some cutlery and candles scattered across the room confirmed that I had not experienced my first underwater nightmare.The next day, Genberg tells us it was probably the wake from the early morning ferry on its way to one of the islands on the lake. Ah, if only he’d said so earlier…
Less than 30km from Vasteras, beside another nature reserve, is Engsö Manor. This attracts many visitors looking for a supernatural experience, as there are regular sightings of ghosts. The stone manor house is no longer lived in but, even to a sceptic, the building seems exceedingly eerie. At the end of each step of the wide stone staircase are three white circles, thought to be painted in egg yolk in the 18th century to highlight the stairs in the dark, and also to keep out the gnomes, or "small people". Superstition has a big role to play in the everyday life of the area and one of the items on display at the manor house is the gold chain won, according to legend, by Count Sparre during a game of Nordic backgammon with the devil. Reputedly, Engsö catches fire every time this chain leaves the premises.