Starting the summer holidays

8 July – Umeå – Majors/Malax

Two days ago I left Skelleftehamn with my car full of things: clothes, camera equipment, rubber boots, a cooling box, tent, sleeping bag and much more. At lunch time I arrived at Annika’s home in Umeå.

Annika and I have four weeks of holidays together. Normally we use to head north, but this time we had decided to travel to a place, that is hardly known to us: Southern Sweden! We want to visit friends at places like Åbo, Bjärnum, Oskarshamn, Sparsör, Vetlanda, and Falun. I have been in Vetlanda many years before, all other places are completely unknown to us.

Yesterday we packed Annika’s VW Golf. Although the car is smaller than mine our whole luggage fitted in easily, even my optional items as a snorkel mask or the large telephoto lens.

While all travel destinations lie south we started heading east. At 10:30 vi arrived at the ferry terminal in Holmsund, 20 km from Umeå and waited for the ferry to Finland. At 17:30 Finnish time we arrived in Vaasa.

Wait a moment – Finland? On the way to Southern Sweden? Well, we extended our trip a bit, first to make it a perfect round trip but first of all to visit a blog friend in Åbo, which is the Swedish word for Turku in Southern Finland. Turku, that’s round 350 km in the south, but our first stop was much nearer.

When we had used the same ferry in April we’d met Stefan from Malax. He did not only have time to meet us but we were also invited to stay overnight in his cozy summer cottage by the lake Majorsträsket. A beautiful place! We had a great evening together with a lot of talking, grilling sausages and going to the sauna.

Later in the evening he said goodbye and soon Annika and I went to bed. Later in the night I had to go to the toilet, a small hut with an earth closet. It was much darker than it uses to be in Skelleftehamn but still it was quite light.

Now we had breakfast, did the dishes and the article is written. We’ll pack our stuff into the car and continue our trip, now really heading south.

I wrote this article a bit in a hurry – we want to continue to Åbo/Turku today. We want to take it easy and arrive not too late. So please ignore the mistakes. Hear you soon …

Day 3 – a day in Turku

10 July, Turku

Our second (and last) Finnish stay is Turku, about 300 km south of Majors, our last stay. Here we meet Karen and Family. Karen is an active blog author and it’s the first time that we meet her in real life.

Annika and I arrive in the afternoon and have a nice and relaxed evening. The only thing we have to do is to put up our tent in the garden. The garden is small but our tent fits.

Karen and the children have summer holidays, but the daughter is away. Her husband has to work, so it’s Karen and her two sons with whom we spend the next day.

After breakfast we take the vesibussi – the water bus, part of the public transport system. We take the normal bus into town and walk along the river Aura until we reach the pier for the small boat.

I love to explore a new town by boat or ship. The weather is warm and sunny and Turku looks beautiful which its combination of new houses and old castle – old sailing ship, restaurant raft and modern racing yachts.

We take the boat to the island Runsala were we take a long walk. We cannot access the whole island because of a music festival a week ago. The area is still fenced, but there are many other ways and paths leading back to the boat stop. I really admire the tall leaf trees with their huge barky trunks, especially the oak trees. We do not have such home in Västerbotten.

We take the boat back to town and the bus to the china restaurant Yangtze. Great, delicious food and some dishes I never tasted before. Recommendation!

Later that day we take the car to Vähä-Joumo, a nice bathing place with a sandy beach, a bathing raft and – most important of all – a Finnish sauna. Countless times we jump into the water, swim to the platform and back or warm up in the sauna.

It is quite late when we finally return to our host’s home, where we eat dinner – fresh bread with a huuuge bowl of salad – and talk until Annika and I crawl into the tent again were we quickly fall asleep.

Thank you Karen, Vidal and children for a nice stay! It was great meeting you and you’re warmly welcome in Västerbotten on the other side of the Baltic Sea.

Karen’s blog: Suomalainen Päiväkirja | Live aus Turku (German)

Day 4 – a day on the ferry

11 July, Turku—Stockholm—Jogersö

After our side trip to Finland we are sitting in the car and waiting to be allowed to drive on the car ferry Amorella, that connects Turku with Stockholm. Soon we enter the car deck.

We go up the stairs until we reach the upper deck. The journey takes eleven hours. While we wait for the departure another large ferry leaves Turku.

At 8:43 the ferry leaves. We drive through the Turku Archipelago that consists of more than 20000 islands and skerries. The large islands are wooded. Impressive wooden villas are hiding between the trees and small huts that look like carved are by the sea.

After a while we reach more open water. The islands nearby are smaller skerries, some wooded, some rocky.

While the islands pass by there’s a lot of entertainment inside. Bingo – minigolf – dance band – face painting for kids and much more.

At lunch time we enjoy the extensive buffet on board. Here is an expert of the menu. Although it’s Finnish some of the words like paprikaa or palsternakkaa are understandable.

The ferry makes a stopover in Mariehamn, capital of Åland. Here several ferries meet. They connect Åland with Sweden, Finland and Estonia.

Åland is an autonomous territory. Although it lies under Finnish sovereignty it is Swedish-speaking. At the terminal nine flags are fluttering in the wind. From left to right it’s:

Sweden, Norway, Greenland, EU, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Denmark, Finland and Åland.

After the stopover we continue our journey to Sweden. Sometimes it’s cloudy, sometimes it’s sunny and we can sit or lie on the top deck. There’s a small wooden platform right in front of the huge chimney that is perfect for sunbathing. We say goodbye to the islands of Åland and an open water passage lies before us.

After a while we see the first rocky skerry, the first trees, the first houses. We have reached the Stockholm Archipelago, that consists of ca. 24000 islands. We are back in Sweden and slowly we are approaching Stockholm.

Before we dock in Södermalm, we have to leave the top deck to enter our car. It’s Annika who is going to drive. I’m too scared to drive in Stockholm.

Our plan is to leave the greater Stockholm area as fast as possible and look for a campsite. Annika masters the chaos on the road behind the ferry terminal, where’s a big pushing and shoving. Priority rules? Who cares …! She masters the huge four-lane motorway, too.

South of Södertälje the traffic decreases. Now it’s only one hour left to Oxelösund where we want to look for a place to stay. We drive to the island Jogersö and arrive six minutes after the reception of the campsite has closed. Luckily the receptionist is still there and we are allowed to come in. All small cabins are occupied but there’s always place for a tent. So we put up our tent, eat bread and cheese and finally I have to take a bath in the sea before going to sleep.

When we lie in our sleeping bags ready to fall asleep it starts to rain. Just gemütlich!

 

 

Day 5 – Götaland

12 July, Jogersö—Gränna—Bjärnum

It always seems to be the third night in a tent, when I got used to the camping mat and sleep very well. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to a real bed. Annika and I dry the sleeping bags and the tent in the sun and have breakfast. Half past nine we start our journey farther south. We have to drive 413 km, mostly on the E4, the very same European route, that connects UmeåSkellefteå, Piteå and Luleå.

Here it connects Nyköping, Norrköping, Linköping and Jönköping. While å stands for river, köping means market town.

We stop in Gränna, a town by the lake Vättern which is Sweden’s second largest lake. Here’s a large campsite, a lovingly designed minigolf course, a ferry to the island Visingsö and – most important for us now: several restaurants and ice cream shops. Children are wading in the water, grown up are sunbathing on the public benches, the place is touristic but not crowded.

There are nice bathing places along the coast of the Vättern, so we bath twice, first in Röttle, then near Sjöbergen. Since the Vättern is so large you can think that you bath in the North Sea or Baltic Sea – until you taste the water. It’s fresh, not brackish or salty.

Röttle has another attraction besides its bathing place: there were severals water mills. Here we stroll around for a while.

After our long break we continue our car trip southwards. We cross the border to Skåne, the southernmost part of Sweden. In the evening we arrive in Bjärnum.

You see the light behind the front window of the house? That’s our place for the next days.

A word to the title of the article: Sweden is divided into three parts: Norrland in the north, Svealand in the middle and Götaland in the south. The population density in Götaland and Svealand is more than ten times as high as in Norrland.

Day 6 – Finjasjön

13 July, Hovdala and Finja

When we leave the car at the parking place of the castle Hovdala slott the first think I see and hear are the bees at the beehives. The bees are lucky, they have their own huge flower field, where red poppy, blue cornflowers, white oxeye daisies and many other flowers bloom.

We take some ice cream at the café and start our promenade. We want to go north to the lake Finjasjön, walk along the lake and head south again. It’s quite easy to get lost, because there are zillions of paths, tracks and small roads. Many of them are marked but not necessarily at the important points. Therefore we randomly follow some tracks or roads, trying to use a local paper map and the sun for orientation.

We follow some signs to the Trädhuset – the tree house, a café build on a high wooden platform between the trees. First all people sit outside but that changes with the incoming thunderstorm. It’s raining hard and Annika and I consider how to get back to the car. We don’t have rain clothes with us.

We are lucky, the thunderstorm is moving away and soon the sun is shining again. We walk back, this time using the smartphone for navigation. Although it’s barely 20 °C the air feels damp and hot. With the digital guidning we are soon back at the car, just before it starts raining again.

Since it is raining we cancel our bathing plans. Instead we had north where we take another promenade and visit the Finja Church. Finja itself is a small locality with 600 inhabitants. The church however had great importance in the middle age. It was build in the 12th century and some of the old chalk paintings are created round 1140.

We were lucky that the church was open and we even got a guided tour. The guide mentioned that this church comes from the end of the viking time, long before the existence of nations like Denmark or Sweden.

The weather was still showery, so we decided to postpone bathing and drive back to our hosts house.

 

 

 

Day 9 – Ystad and Österlen

16 July – Bjärnum—Ystad—Mälarhusen

After some wonderful relaxing days in Bjärnum Annika and I continue our tour through Southern Sweden. Today we will reach Ystad, our southernmost destination on our journey. From Ystad to Kilpisjärvi in the north it’s almost 2000 km by car.

From Bjärnum to Ystad however it’s less than two hours. Ystad is a beautiful medieval town. We strolled through the streets and alleys and I only took some snapshots because we looked for a place for lunch.

We found a restaurant near the boat harbour where we ate fish and looked at the sea, the small sailing boats and the big ferries. From Ystad you can take the ferry to Bornholm (Denmark) and Świnoujście (Poland).

Next stop: Ales stenar (Ale’s Stones), a megalithic monument east of Ystad. It consists of 59 large boulders formed in a shape of a boat, probably 1400 years old.

Next stop: Sandhammaren. Dunes, a long sandy beach and the clear Baltic Sea invites us to take a bath. Or two. Summer holidays.

We decide to look for an overnight stay. We pass a small wooden sign by car. It says “Stuga for 2” – cabin for two. We are lucky. Although it’s main season the stuga is free and we can stay for a night. It’s in Mälarhusen in the corner of a garden, incredible cozy and the beach is not far away.

We take the car to the next ICA to buy food. After a dinner with pasta and salad we take another promenade along the beach. At the horizon we spot land – the Danish island Bornholm. Finally a reason to fetch the tripod and the huge 150-600mm telephoto lens from the car and make a photo of Bornholm, where I have been more than 40 years ago.

Day 11 and 12 – Figeholm and Kalmar

18–19 July

Three days Annika and I stay with our Friends Astrid and Hein in Figeholm in the historical province Småland. The first two days we make day excursions.

Astrid recommends to visit Stensjö By, an untouched village with houses from the 18th and 19th century, surrounded by an old cultural landscape. We stroll around the wooden houses, where chicken are picking and scratching for food and follow two of the round trails along dry-stone walls or the typical braided fences.

From Stensjö by it’s not far away to Figeholm, where we take a stop (and ice cream). A small channel branches from the sea. It looks like a “gracht” in the Netherlands and makes the town look a bit Dutch.

Home again we take a long bath in the lake Frisksjön right behind Astrid’s and Hein’s house together with their children. The photo from the water lilies is taken while swimming.

In the evening I take some photos of another building on the property. It is the old residential building but it has gone to rack. At least it is not in danger of collapsing and I can enter it. Hein, who is a professional carpenter wants to rebuild that house, probably a large-scale project … .

The next day Annika and I drive to Kalmar, a beautiful town on the sea with roots in the middle age. We park by the sea and walk to the cathedral which is open.

After lunch we walk to the old water tower, which contains private flats nowadays. From here we head to the castle grounds, where there is a variety of old trees. I love especially the huge leaf trees and admire them; we don’t have such in Northern Sweden.

Soon we approach the “main attraction”, Kalmar Castle, one of the best-preserved renaissance castles in Europe. Beautiful in the sun!

We go along the castle moat until we reach the sea. Here’s a long bathing jetty – what a pity that we do not have our bathing clothes with us.

We are quite eager to bath, but we decide to choose another place. Just some kilometres east in the Baltic Sea there’s the island Öland. It is 137 km long and has almost 26000 inhabitants. From Kalmar there’s a 6 km long bridge to the island. It takes us just a quarter-hour to reach Öland and another ten minutes to reach the bathing place Präskviksbadet in Lökenäs. Finally we kan take a refreshing bath at the small sandy beach, while we look on the coastal line of the main land.

Day 13 – sailing

20 July – Figeholm and Baltic Sea

Saturday, the last day in Figaholm. Hein and Astrid take Annika and me for sailing. First we motor out of the skerries then they the sails are raised and we sail – first between the larger wooded islands, then between the smaller islets and rocky skerries. We anchor in front of an island and have lunch – several kilos of shrimps. Then we continue our cruise, this time farther away from land where the wind is stronger and the waves higher. We can see the island Öland in the distance. After several turns we reach the skärgård (archipelago) again and Hein and Astrid manage to sail back the whole way, even though the wind is very calm and constantly changes direction.

Ten hours later we are back on land – me with cold, wet feet (I wore sandals) and sunburnt, but richer in experience. Thank you, Astrid and Hein for the sailing trip.

Day 14 – Eksjö

21 July – from Figeholm to Sparsör

After the days in Figeholm we have another “transport day”, where we drive to Sparsör,  3½ hours car drive west. Here we’ll visit our friends Annika and Jonas. After they visited us already two times, this is the long overdue return visit.

We make a short stop in Vimmerby, Astrid Lindgren’s birth place. We do not pay to enter “Astrid Lindgrens Näs” where you can see her birth house, we just take a short look in the shop.

We make a longer stop in Eksjö, a beautiful  locality in Småland and one of the few places in Southern Sweden where I have been before – 12 years ago with friends from Munich. A must: Lennarts Konditori, the confectionery!

In Jönköping we cross our own travel route, then we continue west until we stand in front of Annika’s and Jonas’ house where we are warmly welcomed. Here we’ll stay the next days and I will increase my laziness. That’s the reason, why the last few blog articles have become shorter.

 

Day 15–18 – Meanwhile in Sparsör …

22–25 July – Sparsör, Öresjö and Borås

It’s already Friday, Annika and I have been in Sparsör near Borås since Sunday afternoon and I have been extraordinary lazy. Today it’s going to be the hottest day yet with temperatures round 30 °C or above, so my laziness will definitely continue and the most exhausting action will be going to the bath place nearby.

23 July – hiking round the Öresjö

The weather is still cloudy and not so warm. Perfect hiking weather. When we have to climb the hill Örekullen we sweet anyway. The way is steep. We meet sheep in a forest by the lake and a sow with her two piglets. When we are at the south tip, we have some lunch and take a bath in the bay of Almenäs.

Later this day we drive to the city Borås and eat extremely delicious tapas and dessert in the fantastic restaurant La Copita.

25 July – a very warm day

-40 ° C I seek, +40 °C i flee. Luckily it’s not as hot as in Germany¹, but even temperatures round 30 °C are too warm for me to feel comfortable. Fortunately there are many bathing places around, one of them in walking distance. I am bathing and snorkelling. I see schools of fish and hundreds of river mussels underwater, but also a half meter long pike. Anyway the pike is much too fast to be photographed.

Later the evening we drive to Borås another time. A vivid town, especially when there’s a live concert on the town square and a dance band (far away from playing live …) playing in the city park. The air is cooler, but still round 25 °C and even the statues seem to seek refreshment in the water of the river Viskan.

¹ 42.6 °C were measured in Lingen yesterday, the hottest temperature in Germany ever measured. Even though a single hot day is no proof for the ongoing climate shift it is one of the many, many signs.

Day 19 – +30 °C

July 26 – Crea Diem Bokcafé in Od Kyrkby and Solviken bathing place

It’s really hot weather in Europe and so in Sweden (though not as extreme as e.g. in Germany). Time to focus on drinking lemonade in the shadow in the book café, not moving too much, trying to avoid the wasps, eating ice cream and of course taking long baths in the lake Ärtingen together with our friends and hosts Annika and Jonas.

And with this recipe the day becomes another nice one on Annika’s and my summer holiday.

Later that day – after an abundant dinner – we played music together. Clarinet, viola, double bass and piano. Sorry, no recordings and no photos neither.

Day 20–21 – Småland again

July 27–28 – Store Mosse National Park, Sävsjö and Vetlanda

After some hot yet relaxing days with Annika and Jonas in Sparsör near Fristad Annika and I take the car east again to visit L. in Vetlanda in Småland.

Småland is very well known because of Astrid Lindgren and her books. She grew up there and many of her stories take place in Småland as for example Emil of Lönneberga. We expected many tourists, especially German ones, but even Vimmerby, Astrid Lindgrens place of birth that we passed a week ago was not crowded at all.

We leave Sparsör and Fristad behind and take minor roads that lead east. It’s not easy to navigate. In contrary to Norrland, the Northern part of Sweden there are many ways in Southern Sweden – from big multi-lane roads to small, winding gravel paths that Google Maps try to avoid.

We make a stopover at the Store Mosse National Park, a huge bog that according to our guidebooks looks like as you were in Lapland. We disagree and think, that it looks quite different, but beautiful anyway.

We take a very late lunch in the Café Timjan mellan VärnamoVrigstad, then we want to continue non-stop to Vetlanda. Until we see the huge castle ruins on an island in a lake we pass by. It’s Eksjöhovgård, a hunting château from the 17th century. We stop the car and use the wooden bridge to have a closer look.

Shortly after 18 o’clock we arrive at the cosy house of L. in Vetlanda, where we stay for two nights. Just two photos of another castle ruins: Hultaby slott, which is in walking distance of L’s. house.

Day 23 – travelling north again

July 30 – Falun—Grövelsjön

Yesterday morning a guest room in Vetlanda in the forestal Småland – today evening a tenting place in Grövelsjön in Dalarna’s fells. We are travelling north again.

Yesterday we travelled from Vetlanda to Hosjö/Falun where we met Alex in real life the first time. It was just an overnight stay because we wanted to take a detour on our journey home that would take a bit of time.

Tuesday, seven o’clock. We say goodbye to Alex who has to leave for work. I take a bath in the lake Hösjön nearby. After breakfast Annika and I pack our things together and leave Alex’ cosy house behind.

As Alex recommended we follow tiny roads through Dalarna County – a county I’ve never visited before. As parts of Småland the scenery is extremely charming and looks a bit like “Sweden in a nutshell”.

In Leksand we reach the Siljan, Sweden’s seventh largest lake. We take the southern road to Mora via Sollerön, an island in the Siljan. Although the road is near to the lake it leads mostly through forest so that we can see the lake only from time to time. That’s quite typical for Swedish roads.

In Åsen we take a short stop to take pictures of the wooden chapel.

We follow the road 70 to Idre and turn right in the road to Grövelsjön. The trees become smaller and the mountains on the horizon higher. I’m glad to approach the fjäll, my favourite Swedish landscape. We make a last stopover at the church …

… then we arrive at our destination for today: Grövelsjön Fjällstation. This mountain station is operated by the STF – the Swedish Tourist Association. As we already have expected there are no rooms left, but we have a tent with us, that we set up in a sparse birch forest in the middle of other colourful tents. After dinner – pasta with pesto cooked in the common kitchen – Annika goes into the sauna while I take a short hike up the mountain. I do not reach the top of the Jakobshöjden, but at least the kalfjäll above the treeline.

There are no mountains home in Skelleftehamn, but after the sandy beaches of Österlen in Skåne and the mixed woodlands of Småland I feel home again when I see these landscapes. It’s still more than 630 km to Umeå and 750 to Skelleftehamn. But we do not plan to drive home yet – au contraire! Tomorrow we will travel to Norway.

 

Day 24–26 – a detour to Norway and travelling home

July 31 – August 1 – Grövelsjön, Röros, Flatruet, Ljungdalen, Stugun, Åsele

July 31

After a tent night in Grövelsjön (temperature minimum 5.7 °C) I take a morning stroll with several purposes: enjoying the fresh air, taking pictures and buying fresh bread for breakfast. My promenade starts at the “troll workshop” where guests are welcome to build their own wooden troll and place it beside the “troll trail”. From there I can spot some “wintry things”: a prohibition sign for scooters and red crosses marking the winter trail. I follow the red signs over a bog until I come to a road from where it isn’t far to Grövelsjön’s mountain bakery.

Annika and I have breakfast in the mountain lodge. Hm, the Brötchen are extremely delicious!

Actually I have planned to take a bath in the lake Guevteljaevrie nearby. The water was very clear but the car tires and metal scrap at the ground discouraged us.

You may realise that the name of the lake doesn’t look Swedish. You’re right. We are not only in Sweden but also in Laponia – the area of the Sámi people. Therefore towns, rivers, lakes and mountains have two names, a Sámi and a Swedish one. The Swedish name of Guevteljaevrie is Grövelsjön, as the village.

A small part of the lake is on Norwegian territory and Norway is our next destination, hardly 10 km away. Soon we are at the border.

We already met reindeers on the Swedish side, in Norway however they seem to be more numerous and they love to block roads.

In the lake Femund – Norways third largest lake – we catch up with the bathing. 13 °C in the water, much warmer in the sun. A nice place to relax.

Two and a half hours later we are in Røros. In this old mining town one could stay for days and write long articles. We however stay only for two hours. Just some snapshots:

After filling up the car we follow a small gravel road that leads us to a Norwegian mountain hut – a possible accommodation for the night. 2.5 km before the hut the road stops – at least for cars. Our luggage is chosen for travelling by car, not for hiking. So this hut that even may be fully booked is out of bounds. Will we find a shelter for the night?

#cliffhanger

August 1

Next morning we wake up in a bunk bed in our hostel in Funäsdalen. Of course we found an accommodation, not in Norway but in Sweden. After breakfast we pack our things – a daily routine – and start the next daily stage.

In Mittådalen we take a spontaneous stop. We have just crossed the river Mittån and spot a Sámi resort with souvenir shop. Beside the river there’s a kåta, a traditional Sámi hut. The word kåta is Swedish. The Sámi have several related languages and so their names for this type of dwelling vary: goahti, goahte, gábma, gåhte, gåhtie or gåetie.

We buy some souvenirs and continue. Soon we reach Flatruet, a place I’ve been especially looking forward to. Flatruet is a plateau above the tree line with a gorgeous view to all directions.

The last photo above shows the Helags massif with the Helags summit (1797metres above sea level).

I’ve been there in winter 2006 on a ski tour with J. and T. . It had been very stormy for two days and one of the huskies was so scared that she hid under the bed. We decided to abandon our ski tour. We skied to Ljungdalen where T. waited for a lift to Fjällnäs where he parked the car. Hours later he came back and we took the car over Flatruet. I had never experienced anything that looked as arctic as this snowy road leading through an infinite white void. Here’s a photo that I took from the car 12½ years ago:

That’s the reason why you should visit all Scandinavian places at least twice. In winter they are completely different than in summer.

Back to present: I hardly can tear my eyes away from Flatruet but we have to leave. It’s at least 400 km to Åsele, our today’s destination. Some more stops on the way – some of them caused by reindeers again.

In the evening we arrive in Åsele. Here we will visit M. and F. and stay overnight. Before dinner there’s time to cuddle some sheep.

Now we’re almost home. To Annika’s flat in Umeå it’s only 164 km and another 130 km to my house in Skelleftehamn. “Peanuts” compared with the long distance the last days.

Next day Annika will be home again and the day after me, too. What a wonderful journey!