508km (316 miles) S of Stockholm

For many Swedes who sailed to America, Karlshamn was the last they saw of the old country before heading to a new life in the wilds of the Dakotas or such. Long a rival of Karlskrona, this old port city has often been a battleground between the Danes and the Swedes. In 1658, the Swedish king, Karl X Gustav, a cousin of his predecessor, Queen Christina, decided to found a naval port here, and the great city architect Erik Dahlberg drew up plans to defend the city from attack. After defeating the forces of Fredrik III of Denmark, Karl entered into the Peace of Roskilde, which on February 26, 1658, granted Sweden control of the province of Skåne as well as Blekinge.

In time, the port proved difficult to defend, and the big naval plans envisioned for it were abandoned. The last garrison at Frisholmen came to an end in 1864. In the 19th century, the town became a den of thieves and smugglers, its economy based on the production of liquor, snuff, tobacco, and playing cards.

From its lowly beginnings as a small fishing village, Karlshamn developed because of its location in a deep, well-sheltered bay at the mouth of the Mieån River, where it flows into the Baltic. On the border of Skåne, Karlshamn is actually in Sweden's smallest province of Blekinge. A rival tourist officer in a neighboring town once told us, "Go to Karlskrona, not Karlshamn -- there's nothing to see in Karlshamn." Well, that isn't exactly true: It's true that it's a fairly sleepy town, but it's also one that invites you to wander its old cobblestone streets, and it's a good stopover for those traveling from Kristianstad in the west to Kalmar in the north on the road to Stockholm.