Monday, 2 July 2007

Sweden - The Road Trip (part 2)

We arrived in Stockholm late on Friday afternoon to meet up with Jon and Beatta. Marcus went to school with and lived with Jon's family for a year or so when he was young. We parked the husbil bedside his apartment block and thought it would be ok. A few hours later there was a 300 kronor fine attached to the windshield. Oh well. We stayed there for the night anyway. The next day we headed into the city. Stockholm is a confusing array of small islands... It's really hard to get your bearings, luckily we had guides (Jon and Beatta). We went to a lovely little coffee shop in the city and then onto a great lookout spot over the city.

As I really wanted to see some of the Swedish animals we all went to one of the largest open air musuems in Europe called Skansen. Fanatastic. We managed to see almost all of the animals. I was especially impressed with the size of Elk, I think I could comfortably walk upright under it and not touch it's belly! They are massive. We also saw the brown bears, wolves, deer and other random animals. There were also historical bulidings and we particularly like the painted horses.

After all that walking around we decided to head to the pub. Not just any pub, we headed into the gamla stan (old town) to find a particular pub. We met up with some more of Marcus' friends. The old town has wonderful cobblestone streets and ancient buildings. During a time of civil unrest the square was a place of a massive battle. There is even a cannonball lodged in one of the walls. I'm sorry I just had to put the speed bump sign in, please read... And then we left Stockholm, we will be back. many thanks to Jon and Beatta for their hospitality

To break up the drive back to Gothenberg and to make a visit on the way we stopped in Karlstad to visit Jonathon and his family. His beautiful family live out by the lake in absolutely stunning settings. We had dinner on the canal, and it was freezing, luckily restaurants provide blankets, another excellent idea. The sunset over the lake was spectacular, one of the best I've ever seen. Mind you when I say sunset it was 11:30pm and the sun doesn't really set, it just sort of hides for a few minutes and then comes back up. We only stayed for the night and then headed through the wildflower filled fields back to Gothenberg. And then we had to say goodbye to the beloved 'husbil'.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Sweden - The Road Trip (part 1)

On Monday morning after a few initial hiccups, we set out in the campervan or husbil. Our first destination was Malmö, with a brief stop at the beach at Tylösand. This beach was packed with sun loving Swedes, I was the only person wearing a hat for kilometres. I love their idea of lifesavers, an old fashion life preserver hung on a white post. The beach looked lovely, though the smell was of something potentially from the toilet block located near by. I was also educated in the ways of 'half specials', these miniature style hot dogs piled with powdered mashed potatoes, gherkin relish, mustard and sauce. Interesting to say the least.

Our first night was stopped in a camp ground in Limhamn on the outskirts of Malmö called Sibbarp. We aren't so familiar with camp grounds but this one we thought was great. It was on the water and beside the bridge that goes all the way to Denmark. Pretty amazing, the bridge becomes a tunnel about halfway and in total it is about 30 kilometres. We were lucky we were watching the signs as our exit was the last one before the bridge, we quite easily may have ended up in Denmark. But we didn't. We had a little fun navigating the automatic petrol stations though. Somehow or another we got charged 3 times for our petrol, there wasn't much information in Swedish let alone English, not that I was much help. We spent the next day wandering around Malmö. We went on the canal tour around the town and had lunch in the lilla torget or the little square. Then we moved on to the neighbouring university town of Lund. Beautiful old city. We managed to find the church, the main university campus and a lovely coffee shop on the stor torget, the big square.

I managed to navigated us out of Lund and onto Ålmhult the birthplace of IKEA. Sad I know but fun. We camped outside the town at the lake and were promptly visited by a family of ducklings. They may have been babies but they weren't shy, I think their mum was pimping them out to each campsite in order to get food. The lake we camped on was beautiful and icy cold. The sunset was amazing. So peaceful. We headed out in the morning full of excitement to see the IKEA museum, Hotel and Restaurant. Well we were a little disappointed as the museum didn't open for the summer season for another 3 days... We weren't going to wait around for that. So we shopped in the first IKEA instead. We headed off with our purchases and after an 11am hot dog towards the Glasriket (Glass Kingdom) district of Småland. We stopped off at Boda of the Kosta Boda glass brand, even though they are separate towns, they have joined forces. Boda is not quite what I would call a hub of activity. I think there were only about another 3 cars in the town and the glass blowing warehouse was closed for renovations. They did have a small display of amazing glass work though. Just mad the things they can do. With no shopping and no glass blowing demos we headed off to Orrefors. We looked through one the stores and around the area for a bit and then tried to get on a tour only to discover that they finished up for the afternoon half and hour ago. Not having much luck with this tour thing. The staff in the Orrefors store put a DVD about it all for us, it was informative but not quite the same as standing beside a furnace. Did manage to do a little shopping though, retail therapy perhaps. Revived from the shopping frenzy we piled back in the husbil and headed for Öland. We crossed a 7km bridge to Öland to a world of stone fences, cows and many wooden windmills.

Sweden offers many different landscapes and Öland did not disappoint. We supposed that Öland must be a windy place as it had so many windmills. The old one are not longer in use, but the guide suggests that you can play out your Don Quixote fantasies with abandon here, they weren't kidding. We stayed on the island at what they call a beach, not so nice. Plus it was a bit cold, didn't help, oh and the wind chill. We cooked our first dinner of prepacked meatballs, and powdered mashed potatoes with all the trimmings! It did taste good, even though I couldn't read what was in it or how to cook it! We explored what Öland had to offer the next day. We stopped at a few windmills, the church, the ruined castle and the royal summer house. I guess I prefer my castles with their roof on, but it was interesting none the less. Oh and another fun thing is that you can buy strawberries (jordgubbar - translation is actually old earth man?) just about anywhere. Side of the road, middle of town, train stations etc.

Back across the long bridge back to the mainland Sweden to a town called Kalmar. It has a wonderful old castle that dates back to the 11th century. It was one of the highly fought after areas in Scandinavia, lots of battles, prisoners and royalty all in the same place. It was also the birthplace of the Scandinavian Union founded by Queen Margaret I. We wandered through the castle, unfortunately you aren't allowed to take photos, learning a lot about the history of the castle and the surrounding lands. They also had a two prisons, men's and women's. The punishments at the time were also described. I'm happy I didn't live there 6oo years ago, that's all. Not that we would be in jail of course.

Kalmar was also the home of a little food education for me. I discovered that instead of fries or chips with burgers, you get mashed potato! It looks like ice cream, you get scoops in a little dish and then cover it with mustard and sauce. Strange customs. After a somewhat filling meal we hit the road north towards Linköping. We discovered the the old town there and lucky for us there was a chocolate shop! We bought some of Marcus' favourite chocolate bars Plopp (yes plopp) and a few others to sample for cheap. Marcus decided to chase down the poor guy dressed as the olden days policeman for a photo.

Onto the church, one of the most ornate and beautiful in Sweden. There was actually a service going on in one of the wings of the church and the hymns made the church really spiritual and eerie. Initially we didn't realise that the service was on, that's why it was eerie. The church has a copper roof and is well known for that.

We had lunch in the stor target and over the last two weeks Swedish high school kids and university students have been graduating and it's called Studenten. They spread the graduation over a few weeks otherwise the cities would be clogged with trucks and tractors towing trailers of drunk screaming kids wearing white. They parade around the main city streets in these trucks decorate with birch trees and signs about their class and how excited they are to be unemployed! The people line the streets and shout back at the kids. It took us 20 minutes to get out of the town, and it's not a big town either.