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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE


SWEDEN | Saturday, 15 August 2009 | Views [576] | Comments [1]

Em making Sami bread at Skansen, in the attire (+ the tourist things such as the camera).

Em making Sami bread at Skansen, in the attire (+ the tourist things such as the camera).

August 9th

Day 30 of our trip. After making use of our internet at the campground, including updating our maps for our GPS so we now have maps to Eastern Europe as well, we got on the road to cross the Oresund bridge from Zealand (Denmark) to Malmo, Sweden. This alone was a highlight. We had seen the planning and construction of this crossing on a TV programme while in Ireland. From the Denmark side, firstly you pass through a tunnel, and then surface onto a man-made island. From there you make the rest of the journey on a huge suspension bridge. It was a fun experience, but suprisingly we both thought the bridge crossing 2 days earlier was a bit more spectacular. The toll on this bridge was more spectacular however – 38 Euros!!

We decided not to stop into Malmo, instead we drove further north to Helsinborg, a small city on the South-West coast of Sweden. The camp ground was on the seaside in a fairly industrial looking port-town. We arrived early afternoon, and ate lunch, then relaxed for the afternoon, reading our books with a glass of really nice German wine. We went down to the beach for a swim, but there was not much beach, just grass and rocks, and there was a chilly breeze, so we chickened out and went back to Sven, and sat in our chairs and read. It was the first time we have really been in a campground early enough to relax, and it was very nice. After dinner we made use of the internet again, and booked our ferry from Sweden to Finland. We also skyped with our friends in the UK, James and Julie, who are coming to stay with us for 2 weeks in the second half of September. Unfortunately as the evening wore on and the sun went down we noticed that our lights were very dim, and the water pump was very sluggish, so we had problems with our battery / electronics again. We decided that we would wait until daylight to see if we could fix the problem.

August 10th

After a run which was not very fun, running through the industrial part of town which ran along the seaside, we got back to the van. I looked at the battery and noticed that a wire from the charger had come off so it was not attached to the battery. I reattached the wire, and we were both confident that the problem had been solved.

We left the campground just after 9:30am, and after stopping in at the bank to get some Swedish Kroner, we went to the supermarket to get a few supplies, then continued on our journey North to Jonkoping where we stopped near a small lake for a lunch break. We made plans for the next couple of days and decided we would head a little further north to a small town Hjo, on Lake Vattern. This lake looks small on a map, but we guessed it is probably twice the size of Lake Taupo, - pretty big really. The landscape has finally changed today, the first big change of the whole trip. It has changed from endless wheat fields to Scandinavian forest, full of fir trees and beech trees, with lichen-covered rocks. There are some fields, with wooden houses and sheds all painted deep red with white window frames. There are yellow 'Moose' warning signs on the roads! We are now always on the lookout to see moose. We arrived at the lovely, old, tiny town of Hjo, and the campground was on the lake front. After setting up camp we got on our bikes and rode around the village. We stopped in at the info centre and they told us about a local bike trail, so we went and did that as well. We were supposed to end up at a small lake, but did not quite get there. Nevertheless it was very nice to get out and about, into some forest. We got back to Sven to find that even though we had had power for a couple of hours, there was still no charge in the battery. After we had dinner and did some more trip planning we checked the battery and still no change. Unfortunately it was not just a detached wire. We decided not to use any power in case the battery was okay, it was something else, so went to bed as it was getting quite dark.

August 11th

Today marks one month of being on the road in Sven. We are now in our ninth country, so we are happy with our progress. We woke to rain falling for the first time in almost 2 weeks, and that was enough to put us off a morning run. After getting ready and packing up our campsite we found out that there was no one in Hjo that would be able to help us until after lunch so we decided to head north to a larger town, Orebro. The trip to Orebro was nice, driving along the road through old forest on one side, with Lake Vattern on the other for most of the way. Em was on the look out for moose but unsuccessful. When we got to Orebro the first couple of places were not able to help us but recommended us on, until we got to the third place, who were able tohave a look straight away. We were there for nearly 2 hours, including lunch, but they got everything sorted. It was a relatively easy fix, and they also found out that the extra battery is not charging when we are driving, and we got that sorted as well, so now hopefully we will not have any more problems and continue to have running water. When the mechanics stopped for lunch, they shut us into the garage, and were amused when we put up the table and cooked soup for our lunch in the van, in the scenic setting of the workshop.

We drove a little further from there, and ended up in another small town Kungsor, at another lovely campground on a lake side. Again we had waterfront views, and were able to relax in the afternoon. The campground had kayaks available for hire so we got out on the lake at about 6:30pm. The man at the camp ground told us we might see beavers up the river if we were lucky. It was a beautiful evening, the sun was out, there was no wind around, and it was serenely quiet. From our campground we headed up a nearby river, and paddled for about 40 minutes, before we spotted our first beaver! They are quite big – the size of a medium dog. It was really fun, we followed the beaver along, but got too close and it splashed us with it's tail and went underwater. It was about 10 minutes before we spotted another one. We thought we found their mounded dams near the banks, where they would live, and soon after that we spotted quite a few. It was very cool to see them in the wild. We spent about half an hour with them, before having to turn around to get back to the campsite.
Once we got back we just relaxed in the van.

August 12th

After getting up relatively early we went for a nice run along the river bank. When we got back we skyped with our friend Jodi in Palmy, before leaving the campground at around 11am. From the campsite we drove east towards Stockholm. On the way we stopped at Mariefred where we wandered around the small village there. It was a nice old town, but nothing spectacular and we seemed to be the only people around who would not have been in their retirement. After a snack there (bratwurst on a bun, with ketchup, mustard, and... two scoops of mashed potato on top!) and a big ice cream each, we got back on the road to Stockholm via a supermarket to get a couple of things. By this stage it was 4pm, and we knew we would be striking peak hour traffic. Unfortunately after spending 1 ½ hours crawling in traffic to get to our campsite, we found out that it closed 3 years ago! However we were directed to another campsite. To get here we went through the middle of Stockholm centre city and were still in peak hour, which was not a great experience. When we finally made it an hour later (for an 8km trip) we found out that it was more of a carpark under a roaring motorway bridge, rather than a campground. We did not really like the look of this, and when I saw a rat run past the van, we left there as well. Finally, after another 30 minutes we were third time lucky and found a nice campground, which was close to a tube station. They were full but squeezed us in, which we were happy about. It was raining when we arrived – we were exhausted, so had dinner and mucked around till bed time.

August 13th

We caught the train into the city centre at about 8:30am, which took 20 minutes.We walked to the ferry, which we caught to Djurgarden – one of the city islands. Stockholm is a city built over 14 islands, so it is connected with trains, ferries, buses and trams. It has glittering waterways and the islands have lots of trees on them – it looks similar to Sydney harbour, but without the skyscrapers. There were two main attractions on Djurgarden for us, the Vasa Museum and Skansen Open Air Museum of Sweden. Our first stop was the Vasa Museum. This is a museum dedicated to one item, an incredible ship called the Vasa which sunk in 1628. It was built to go to war for Sweden against Poland. However 30 minutes into it's maiden voyage it sunk in Stockholm harbour. It is a really impressive timber boat, which looks like a ship out of a pirate story book. It was rediscovered and refloated in the 1970's and was placed into a musuem, after being sprayed with water and polymer daily for 17 years to dry it out slowly! It is 95% original, with only a few parts needing replacing. The Baltic sea is a mixture of fresh and salt water, so it is not very salty. Because of this the shipworm cannot survive, which is the thing which would normally eat the wood, so it has been preserved very well. As well as the boat there was clothing, cooking implements, cannons, and human skeletons (which had been analysed to give information about each person). It was very interesting, and well worth a visit. We were in there for over 2 hours, before moving on. Our next stop was Skansen, which is a 'miniture Sweden' and the worlds first open air museum, opened in 1891. Here we spent the rest of our day. It was brilliant. There were buildings from all over Sweden from different eras that had been relocated, including Sami villages (Sami are the indigenous people who live in Lapland and herd reindeer), old farmsteads, flax / linen mills, a blacksmith, potter, baker, and many others. The people in all the buildings were dressed accordingly, and were carrying out typical daily work, and chatting to visitors about what they were doing. There were also Scandinavian animals including wolves, wolverines, lynxes, moose, and brown bears. We spent more than four hours there, but could have spent longer. The animals were amazing, although we did not see the wolverines or lynxes unfortunately. Em happily joined the five year olds and made traditional Sami bread in one of the huts. Unfortunately at about 5pm big black clouds rolled in and there was a thunder storm. We had not bought our raincoats (the rest of the day was glorious sunshine), but most things in the park were closing. After waiting in the very nice souvenir shop for the rain to ease, we caught the bus and then train to the campground, where we relaxed after a busy day.

August 14th

We were up earlier than the day before and in town just after 8:30am. Our first stop was the Olympic stadium, which hosted the 1912 Olympics. Unfortunately we could not get into the iron gates, so we just had to admire the red brick stadium and bronze sporting statues from a distance. After tubing back into old town, Gamla Stan, we had a coffee and some morning tea in a little cafe on a cobbled street, to wait until the 10am opening of the Royal Palace. We did a tour of the royal palace, which has 608 rooms in total (the most rooms of any royal palace in the world). We were in there for nearly 2 hours, and probably saw about 100 rooms (all that are open to the public). It was amazing, and really was just like what you see in the movies, with massive chandeliers, gilded carvings around cornices and windows, intricate artworks painted on the ceilings and walls, and very extravagant furnishings (for example a solid silver throne). We left just before 12pm, when the crowds started to gather to watch the changing of the guard. On our way into the centre city, we noticed a large military brass band playing, and marching towards the palace, so we waited and watched them. They were part of the changing of the guard ceremony. We wandered around the central city which was not all that exciting (just modern shopping complexes), then had a smorgasbord for lunch (as they came from Sweden, or the word did anyway). After lunch we explored the streets of Gamla Stan, which really was packed with tourists eating ice creams. We didn't partake in icecream today, as we were so full from lunch! From there we headed to Sodermalm, the 'artistic and alternative' part of Stockholm. Although we were not there for long, it did not seem like anything out of the ordinary. Afterwards we walked through more of Stockholm, on our way to a shop to buy a beautiful woolen blanket we had seen and liked the day before. On our way there, black clouds started to roll in, then the thunder and lightning came, just like the day before. However this thunder storm also bought hail stones the size of marbles. We had learnt our lesson, and put our raincoats on, but still needed the shelter of a tree, because the hail was quite painful. It lasted for about 10 minutes, leaving the ground white and car alarms going off everywhere. Although it was still pouring with rain we made it to the shop, bought our blanket, then caught the tram and train back to the campground. Because we had filled ourselves up at the smörgåsbord, which we had at about 2 in the afternoon, we only needed toast for dinner.

August 15th

It was the earliest start of our trip today. We were up at 4:45am, and left the campground just after 5am. The sun was up and it was a beautiful sunny day. We made it without problems to the ferry terminal, and checked in. The ferry that we would board to go to Finland pulled in at about 6:15am, they unloaded it, and loaded us all on by 6:45am - very impressive. This was a large ferry: 200m long, 12 decks, a swimming pool, 450 rooms, and it can carry 2000 people, 400 cars and 50 trucks. We said goodbye to Sweden and left on time at 7:10am. We sailed for more than the first 3 hours through waters that reminded me of the sounds around the top of the South Island, but the landscape was not as hilly. There was no wind, the sun was shining, it was beautiful. Because the trip was 12 hours long we had booked a sleeper room, so dropped our stuff off, and wandered around the boat, before having a coffee and some pastries for morning tea. The cabin decks were like a fancy hotel – we had swipe cards for the room, there were nice carpets, wooden doors, and gold door handles. After moning tea we wandered around some more, before going to our room to watch the TV and use our computer. Em had a little sleep, and once she woke up we went back up to the restaurant deck and had a great buffet lunch. The time on the ferry seemed to fly by really, and after watching some TV and using the internet available onboard we were near Turku, Finland, and it was time to go back to our vehicles. The ferry crossing was much better than I expected. We could not have had better weather - sunny, with hardly any wind. We were surrounded by islands for a surprisingly large amount of time as well, which must offer a lot of protection from the open sea. We were really happy to have chosen to do it during the day, rather than an overnight sailing, so we could see the sights. We left the ferry shortly after docking, and drove 10km to our campground at Ruissalo, near Turku. We got there at about 8pm (Finland time, as we crossed another time zone on the way from Sweden), so had an easy dinner and a walk down along the seashore before reading and going to bed.

Sweden was a really enjoyable country. It was the first major change of scenery we had seen in Europe (so far in our trip) and we wished we could have spent more time there. Stockholm has so much to do (e.g. loads of museums), but as a city generally, is not a place I would rush back to. Sweden had lots of outdoors things to offer, including great wildlife, which we only touched on by going DIY beaver spotting. I imagine brown bear spotting is a very popular, but much harder, activity that tourists do. Any trip to Sweden should allow time to explore 'outback' Sweden, because it is fantastic.



Thanks Maneesh for such an interesting story,we are really enjoying hearing about your travels. We think of you both all the time. all is well here and have almost settled down after Wongaburro.
All our love

  G&G Aug 23, 2009 8:51 AM

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