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An Englishwoman lost in Scandinavia

Stockholm summertime

SWEDEN | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [219] | Scholarship Entry

In my opinion, Sweden is one of Europe’s hidden gems.

One day last summer, I made my first visit to Stockholm; my sister and I were eighteen, and we were visiting my best friend there. Following excursions to exciting cultural sites such as the ABBA museum, and a few blurry nights out, we decided to escape the city for a few days and retreat to my friend’s summerhouse on an island in Stockholm’s archipelago. No internet. No phones. No cars. Holiday visitors made do with mini motorbikes – essentially bicycles with an engine strapped on. It was rustic bliss.

When we first disembarked the ferry from the mainland, the three of us piled onto this tiny bike – my friend drove, with my sister and I crammed into a wooden box attached to the front with our bags, and clung on for dear life for the ten minute journey to the house. An entertaining image now, but at the time, my life was flashing before my eyes. And not for the last time on that trip!

Our first evening was delightful. After arriving at the house and unpacking, we decided to take the bike down to the sea. There was no beach – instead, the trees gave away to slippery rock leading into the water, and a large wooden deck. We spent the late afternoon and early evening by the freezing Baltic Sea, first easing our way into the water, only to lose patience and fling ourselves in instead. The sight of jellyfish quickly drove us back to the safety of the deck, where we sat, drying and watching the sunset. It was absolutely beautiful – the sky was streaked pink, orange and purple above the black tree line, and the still water reflected a mirror image. Only to be ruined by my friend remarking, “Doesn’t it look like the eye of Sauron?”

The next day, we decided to do it all again. Unfortunately, my friend made the mistake of asking, “Would one of you like to try driving the bike?”

Well, who wouldn’t be tempted by that? I think I made it two whole minutes before I forgot to steer and drove the bike (and my poor passengers up front) off the dirt road and into a prickly hedgerow. The image of my sister, flung from the box and sprawled in the greenery, looking up at me, eyes wide and betrayed, will stay with me for a long, long time. This was, of course, the moment the first human being we had seen in twenty-four hours decided to walk by. He did not seem to think much of three girls pulling a motorbike from a hedge; he simply smiled at us and said, “Oops!” Thanks, mate.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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