Tuesday, 29 May 2012

T for Trollhättan

Until now, my ABC Wednesday posts, apart from following the alphabet, have been about quite random things. It occurred to me last week, that I might try to focus more specifically on Sweden in these posts. And why wait until the next round? Actually the letter T is as good as any to start, because…

Trollhättan is the Swedish town where once-upon-a-time I was born and bred. I lived my first 20 years there or in the vicinity of it.

The town is situated in the province of Västergötland in Sweden (about 100 km north of where I live now). Through the town runs the river Göta Älv (connecting Lake Vänern with Gothenburg [Göteborg] on the west coast).

Trollhättan is famous for its locks and waterfalls, which attract lots of tourists to the area each year.

For centuries, the falls at Trollhättan were an obstacle for boats travelling the river. A first set of locks was completed in 1800 …

… followed by a bigger set completed in 1916, which are the ones still in use.

Trollhättans slussar

The maximum dimensions for a boat to traverse the canal are:

  • Length: 88 m
  • Width: 13.20 m
  • Mast height: 27 m
  • Depth: 5.40 m

In the late 19th century, hydropower was developed in Trollhättan. The Swedish energy corporation Vattenfall ("waterfall") took its name from the falls in Trollhättan.

The waterfalls are shown to turists during the summer. In May, June and September only on Saturdays, in July and August every afternoon at 3 pm. It’s a spectacular view with 300,000 litres of water per second rushing by.


One weekend in July each year there is also a Waterfall Festival with more frequent showings of the Falls including night shows with lightning (see the first picture above).

Below is a video which shows the water being let on. The name of the town means Troll’s Hat (bonnet). The place is mentioned in literature from 1413. The “hat” is supposed to refer to the rocks at the falls. In local folklore people used to believe they saw trolls and elves dancing in the mist that arose from the falls. (Watch the video closely and you might catch a glimpse of them!)



Historically, Trollhättan housed a lot of industries, like NOHAB that produced railroad locomotives, and the main production site of Saab Automobile. Since the years when I used to live there, several of the old industries have closed down or gone through mergers with foreign companies etc though.

The town now has a new nickname: Trollywood, as it has become a center for Swedish film production. About half of the Swedish full-length films are produced there these days.

Personal notes

My parents moved to Trollhättan in 1955 shortly before I was born. My father got his first job as an engineer with Vattenfall (then a public utility) and he remained in their employ until his retirement.

We lived in a town flat until I was five, then moved to a village outside town. From 7th grade (junior high) I went by bus to a school on the outskirts of town. For ‘senior high’ I went to school in the town centre.

Fil:Polhemsgymnasiet i Trollhättan.jpg

At the age of 20 I moved away from home and went to live and study elsewhere.

When my dad retired from work in the early 90’s, my parents moved back to dad’s childhood home near Borås.

Actually I’ve not been back to Trollhättan after my parents moved away from there – which means not for 20 years. I may have passed through a couple of times, but not properly visited.

The photos above are all copied from official websites. In my own photo albums, I can’t find a single photo that properly shows “the town” (or the falls, or the locks). Back in my teens, I was obviously more interested in people than in landscapes and architecture!


  1. You use the English form, Gothenburg. Quick question: how many native-born English speakers have you met who are able to pronounce correctly the name "Gothenburg" in its Swedish version? (I've never met any.) :-)

    1. Quick answer to your quick question: One or two - but they've been living in this country for a long time! ;) Thanks for pointing it out, I just added the Swedish version of the name - Göteborg - within brackets. I've always been used to writing Gothenburg when I write in English.

  2. This is fascinating, especially watching the water come in. Sadly, not an elf to be found. But the name also befits the look of the place. In the first photo, I could not tell if that was water or fog, so I had decided it was fog. Wrong. It is a fairy tale place to be sure. Would you like to go back for a visit or not? It would be so different, would it be sad for you?

    1. Aside from the fact that I "don't travel well" now I wouldn't mind a short visit some time. I don't think I'd feel sad, just curious to see if some places look like I remember them or if there has been much change. If I'd go, I'd definitely want to go in the summer to enjoy the touristy side of it - the lock and the falls.

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  4. I enjoyed this "visit" to Sweden, and my favorite photos are the dramatic first one and the one with two sailboats going through the locks. Are you thinking of visiting this town again?

  5. Thank you for explaining about this interesting place!
    In German, we say Göteborg, not Gothenburg, and I suppose our pronounciation is quite similar to the Swedish one. I like the "Trollywood" nickname :-)

    1. Well, at least you Germans know the letters "ö" and "ä" ;)
      In Swedish, we pronounce both the first and the last G in Göteborg soft though, and the emphasis on the last syllable!

      Listen: http://www.forvo.com/word/G%C3%B6teborg/

    2. Until a few years ago, I had customers in Sweden. My contact's name there was Goran, and he taught me to pronounce his name properly; your "G" sounds like the German "J" :-)

  6. TERRIFIC idea and post
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  7. If I carry on spending that much time on every post IO read today I'll do nothing else! I, like Ginny, decided that it must be fog in the first photo until I went back and looked at it again in greater detail.

    What really absorbed my time, though, was the pronunciation of Göteborg and the website you mentioned.

    1. And I wasn't even going to bring that up at least until we get round to the letter G! ;)

  8. I agree with GB that this is a post needing some time to fully appreciate. The fact that the locks in use now are 96 years old is fascinating to me, especially after visiting Ottawa, Canada in February and exploring a few of the locks there. Scheduled times for the waterfall to be freed is a new concept to me. Also enjoyed learning a little of your personal history. Trollyhood? Hm... :)

  9. I have just re-visited the post because I forgot to say that in New Zealand the idea of running the water a few times a day for tourists is done in some places to great effect.

  10. i would like to see the waterfall festival and the night with lights would be beautiful. great idea to use the letters to let us visit Sweden.

  11. Thanks for this blog on Sweden and I hope you do more, it's a country I know little about. I can remember doing a report on Sweden in 7th grade, but the only thing I remember is that one of Napoleon's generals (Bernadotte, I think, became King).

    1. Ha, his connection to Napoleon had actually slipped my mind. He turned around after he became king I think (and became anti-Napoleon). We still have the Bernadotte family on the throne and the succession seems recently to have been secured by the birth of a daughter to our crown princess and her husband. Pricess Estelle was just recently baptized.

  12. What a pretty town. Love the waterfall in the first shot.

  13. Thanks for sharing a part of your childhood. Many years ago I had a penpal from Gothenburg.
    Here's my post T is for


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