The island with two special characters unique to the Swedish alphabet and the most authentic homestead in the archipelago.
With roaming cows, random goods for sale in the kiosk and a sauna that operates predominantly on the honour system, it doesn’t get any more Swedish than Håskö. When I turned up during a kayaking excursion, gratefully accompanied by three Swedes, I was surprised to meet a larger-than-life fisherman drinking beers with his family and defaulting to Swedish because his ”international language” hadn’t yet woken up. But don’t let that put you off! The man in charge at Håskö has lived a life of travel (predominantly on a fishing boat as an electrician) and therefore gets unnecessarily excited about visitors who have come from anywhere other than Sweden. Should you meet him and he carries on in Swedish, don’t take it personally and just know that you’ll be the highlight of his day!
So when should you go to Håskö? When you start to smell because you haven’t showered in days, your water shoes have taken on an aroma all of their own, and your hair has had so much sea breeze that it’s no longer beach wavey cool - head to the sauna at Håskö! From having done this trip with veteran sauna users I learned that if you combine steamy hot rocks in an overly hot room, with a cannonball into the sea, and then up and out for a soapy lather, followed by another cannonball into the sea and finally back to the sauna - you have mastered the art of sauna-ing AND showering in the archipelago. Although saunas are Finnish in origin, Swedes have made them their own by building the same hot room, in much the same way, but heating it differently. According to our hero at Håskö (photographed above) a traditional Finnish sauna is heated to 100 degrees while Swedish ones usually go between 60 and 70 degrees. This makes them much more barable and therefore enjoyable for all of us who aren’t Finnish.
There is a real charm to Håskö, but you can’t go expecting it to be as quaint and as charming as Harstena or even Mon. Remember, it is one of the last remaining homesteads in the area and rather than being pleasantly dotted with picture-perfect summer homes, it’s an honest depiction of what life and working in traditional archipelago industry looks like. And if smoked fish ain’t your thang, enjoy an ice cream instead :D