Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Vänersborg - Monday, 29 August

Lake Vänern is Sweden's largest lake and the third largest in Europe (after Ladoga and Onega lakes in Russia). We were due to spend much of today crossing it, with a stop to visit a castle. However, all passengers were summoned to a meeting after breakfast where it was announced that, after much careful thought, the captain had decided that the weather conditions were such that he did not think that the passengers should remain on board the ship for the crossing. Rain and wind would have made it too choppy for safety and comfort. Therefore, we were to be bussed around the lake.

First of all, we walked alongside the canal for a km or so to Sjötorp and spent some time in a canal museum. There were reconstructed parts of a captain's bridge and living accommodation of how boats using the canal would have been in years gone by.

We boarded our coach here and drove for about an hour to Läckö Slott (castle), although first we had a leisurely lunch at the adjacent restaurant. It was salmon caught from Lake Vänern and it was so good.

We had an English-speaking guide for the castle. Originally built as a fortified castle in 1298 as a few houses surrounded by a wall, it was added to and built upwards at various times in its history. It is now a national monument. It looks so unlike any castle in Britain.

Leaving the castle, we drove for only a short distance before stopping for coffee and cakes at a cafe at Spiken, on Lake Vänern. This was a very leisurely stop as we had to allow sufficient time to enable our ship to reach our overnight stop at Vänersborg. It was all very pleasant. Our drive then continued and we reached Vänersborg at 7pm and the ship appeared 15 minutes later. It was actually quite a tiring day but really very well managed as a last minute alternative.

It was "the Captain's Dinner" this evening. Most people dressed up a little bit. We reach the end of our journey on the water tomorrow.

It has been another interesting day today, despite a lot of rain, but with one major disappointment. After breakfast the Captain announced that, because of the forecast of bad weather and strong winds, the passengers would not cross Lake Vänern (the largest lake in Sweden and the fourth largest in Europe) in the boat, but instead would cover the day's itinerary travelling around the lake by coach. So, after a (optional) three kilometre walk along the towpath ahead of the boat to a Canal Museum at Sjötorp, the official end of the Göta Canal where it joins Lake Vanern, we all clambered onto the coach which was waiting for us. A lovely salmon lunch was laid on for us at the restaurant at
Läckö Slott (Castle), followed by a guided tour of the castle as scheduled. Another lovely castle, in a beautiful lakeside setting, dating back to the thirteenth century with baroque and Renaissance additions, lovingly restored in the 1920s. We then rejoined the coach and continued to Vanerborg to meet the boat at the end of its journey across the lake, with an "afternoon coffee" stop on the way. Everyone was very relieved to see Diana emerge from the lock across the water, with a blast of her horn. It had apparently been a very bumpy crossing, and the captain's decision was justified. A shame to have spent 4 hours in a coach instead of relaxing cruising, but we were back with the boat in time for the Captain's dinner, which had only had to be delayed by 30 minutes. We were privileged to be joined at our table for the last part of the meal by the second officer, who does in fact captain Diana and the other two Göta Canal boats himself. A very interesting man, who is retired from merchant shipping. Our captain proper is a ferry captain in real life, who captains this boat once a year as a holiday! There's a lot of love in the company! After dinner there was an invitation to have a tour of the kitchen, which Geoff will report on. I preferred to come up on deck to write this, given that this is our last evening. It is quite chilly, but clear. We are moored here at Vänersborg for the night.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Hajstorp on the Göta Kanal - Sunday, 28 August

Leaving Motala at 7.30am, we very soon entered Lake Vättern, the second largest lake in Sweden. It was vast. We went about 6km southwards and moored in the town of Vadstena, right next to the moated castle.

Our first visit, led by a local guide, was to the 14th century convent church of St. Bridget (Birgitta) and its adjacent buildings. Bridget never lived to see it built. She had quite an interesting life, though. Born in 1303, she married at 16, had some six children and her husband died relatively young. She then decided the contemplative life was for her and wanted to found the convent. She needed the pope's consent so travelled to Rome. Unfortunately, he was in Avignon so she stayed in Rome to wait for him. She waited for twenty years. The pope then gave her the consent she wanted and she conveyed this and the plans for the building of the convent to those she remained in Vadstena. However, Bridget died in Rome in 1373.

In the church were two medieval triptychs, both very intricate.

Returning to the castle, we went in and explored the various rooms. The castle building itself was constructed and added to over several centuries.

We then crossed Lake Vättern, about 20km, to Karlsborg, through a short stretch of narrow canal into another lake (whose name I don't know at the moment). We went north to enter a lock on the canal at Forsvik, where a welcome committee greeted us — a merry band of singers clutching fresh flowers and playing hymns on accordions and brass, a tradition started in 1915 by the late Henry Kindbom. His family continues to bless every ship that passes by.

Rain set in during the evening. The canal was extremely narrow in places. We came to a fork, where the right fork was the original canal, which is no longer used by boats such as ours as the bend is too sharp. We went to the left which is now the main route. However, we were able to see, a little way up the old route, a stone obelisk which marks the highest point on the canal at 91.5m.

We passed by a tiny ferry, for foot passengers only.

We have moored for the night at Hajstorp, immediately above the Thomas Telford lock. He was brought in to advise on the construction of the canal.

Another stunning location this morning. The boat set off at 7.30 and arrived after breakfast at Vadnesta, and moored right beside the moated medieval castle. I am aware that I am running out of superlatives trying to describe these places, but they really are all so lovely and beautifully cared for. The whole of the Göta Canal is of course reliant on its visitors, so I suppose that keeping everything smart and clean is important. It is all picture perfect. We first visited the church and monastery of St Birgitta, travelling through the quiet, Sunday morning town on one of those little tourist trains (with Geoff running/walking almost alongside - everyone has got used to him by now!). Once again an hour was simply not enough to take it all in. Birgitta (1303-1373) was clearly a very feisty, determined lady and we shall delve more into her life story. She founded the original order, but of course the buildings have undergone many changes since then. One of the things which we have found interesting is the way old buildings have been reconstructed incorporating as much of the original as has been discovered. The same was true of the castle, which we visited next having returned on foot via the lakeside walk - and beaten the little train back. Again, the oldest parts dated back to the thirteenth century. A number of huge rooms are used for weddings and other celebrations and must make a lovely setting. There are rooms/halls on three floors - loads of stone stairs - including on the third floor, added, I think, in the 16th century, a suite of furnished rooms. The high ceilinged chapel had wonderful acoustics. There is a Swedish girl rock singer amongst the passengers. I encouraged, and bravely joined her, to start singing Amazing Grace (I suggested it just in the hope that it was a hymn she might know) and six or so other passengers joined in as we sang the first verse together! It was a lovely, special moment. We sailed on at midday. This is definitely a place I would like to revisit. There was a very nice looking, grassy Camperstop right by the castle which we have made a note of for future reference. We have noted several already along the canal. Lunch (delicious as ever, and today the closest we will get to Swedish meatballs - a meat patty with the traditional accompaniments of mashed potatoes, creamy gravy and lingonberry sauce) was followed by yet another peaceful afternoon's cruising through wide and narrow parts of the canal, across lakes and through locks and swing bridges. At Forsvik lock we were greeted by the Kindbom family. It had been explained to us that they are a religious group who have made a tradition of greeting the boats with music as they come through the lock since 1926. They do this at least twice a week during the season. Our tour manager said that, although not everyone would share their views, she hoped all would respect their sincerity and goodwill. As we arrived we were greeted with "How great Thou art", accompanied by brass instruments and accordions, followed by Swedish hymns as we rose in the lock. They presented flowers to our tour manager, and she in her turn presented them with a gift of biscuits. We left the lock to .... Amazing Grace. Quite a crowd had gathered to watch around the locks, and it was very moving. We docked at Hojstorp at 9.30. We are in the middle of nowhere, moored at the top of Thomas Telford Lock, built in 1822. TT was an adviser when the canal was built.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Motala on the Göta Kanal - Saturday, 27 August

We had an excursion this morning straight from the boat. We walked maybe 1km to the church and ruined cloister at Vreta, which dates back to around 1100. This was the very first nunnery in Sweden. There wasn't really very much left of the nunnery but the inside of the church was interesting. In particular, there is a chapel with coffins bearing the remains of various members of the Scottish Douglas family, believed to be mercenaries who fought in the Thirty Years War. It really is difficult to over estimate the effects of that period of upheaval in the heart of Europe. Although the main theatre of the war was what is now Germany, the Scots were in the pay of the King of Sweden.

While we were off the boat, it made its way up a staircase of locks. We were then on the boat for most of the day except for another staircase where it was fascinating to watch the boat make its leisurely way upwards.

We are moored tonight in Motala, a sizeable town. Here, there is a motor museum which we have visited this evening. Lots of interesting exhibits, memorabilia, etc. and there was also a separate collection of old radios and televisions. Very well worth visiting.

Our mooring last night was at the bottom of the Berg sequence of locks, fifteen locks in all starting with a staircase of seven. The view from the top of the staircase watching the Diana ascend, with the lake in the background, and the sun shining from a blue sky, was quite spectacular.

We left the boat to make her way through all the locks, and walked on along the towpath and then away from the canal on the road for about half a mile to the old convent church of Vreta, with its adjacent neat ruins, a clear footprint, of the convent. The convent, and parts of the church dated from the 11th century. The church is now an active, beautifully maintained, parish church, and is only open to the public at weekends. A lovely steward was on duty, and coffee, tea, cold drinks and homemade biscuits were laid out for any visitors who might come along! The church was wonderful, and there were many fascinating layers of history to be discovered. Our hour there passed all too quickly. We then walked back to rejoin the boat as she reached the top of the locks - two and a half hours after she had set off from the bottom lock.

Another relaxing afternoon of scenic cruising followed, all in perfect weather with a light breeze, and including crossing Lake Boren and navigating another staircase, this time of five locks. It was interrupted only for lunch, afternoon tea, and then an early dinner at 6 pm. It's a hard life!

The food has been very enjoyable. It is a set menu - the small space on board makes offering a choice unrealistic - and is, as far as we can tell, Swedish cuisine. The menu is presented in Swedish, English and German, and sometimes we have to resort to translating the other two languages to get the meaning of a strange English translation. Today, for example, the starter at lunch was "minced elk cubicle with cranberry chutney". After a few guesses, (and wondering whether it was a misprint!) we established that it was Minced Elk Column. The minced Elk was wrapped in a little pancake, and arranged so that it stood up. No matter that all but mine had toppled over in the course of serving. It was delicious.

During supper we arrived at Motala, "the capital of the Göta Canal", and this evening have visited the Motala Motor Museum, just a stone's throw from where the boat is moored. With a large and very varied collection of vintage cars and motorbikes, and collections of old radios and typewriters, G was in his element and our Canadian friends became nostalgic when they came across a motorbike like the one they had travelled on, camping en route, to Stockholm from Scotland in 1960.

About the MS Diana
MS Diana, one of the three similar boats operated by the Göta Canal Co, is not a big boat, and is the youngest of the three, built in 1931. It is 31.66m long and has 28 cabins on three decks. They are small cabins, all wood with brass trimmings. Most of them have bunk beds. Think slightly smaller than railway sleeper compartments and that will give an idea of their size. Ours is a little larger and has two narrow single beds (which are very comfortable). Each cabin has a wash basin but no en suite. On each deck are loos and a couple of showers. The idea is "to experience travel as it would have been enjoyed" in the early days of the canal, and by the likes of Hans Christian Anderson. I suspect that it is a similar experience to travelling on the Orient Express, but at a very leisurely pace and with added access to fresh air! On the middle deck is the dining room, and a small lounge area, in one corner of which is the ship's library, with a selection of books about Sweden and the canal, mainly in Swedish but some in German and English. A short flight of steep carpeted stairs goes down from there to the bottom deck (where our cabin is), one of eleven. There are also a few small cabins on the middle deck. There is a walkway around the middle deck and, at the bow end, an almost vertical set of steps up to what is called the shelter deck (best to come down backwards). It is open, and there are plenty of comfortable wicker chairs and tables up there. Because it is covered by a strong awning, it is a lovely place to be whatever the weather, rain or blazing sun, and there are blankets on every chair for "snuggling into" if required. The supposedly poshest cabins, about twelve of them, are also on this deck, but have bunks. The captain's bridge is at the stern end.

Berg, near Linköping, on the Göta Kanal - Friday, 26 August

After breakfast this morning, a local English-speaking guide took us around the ruin of a fortified small castle only a few yards from the boat. It was fascinating and very much tied up with the Swedish monarchy during the 15th and 16th centuries about we, of course, knew nothing. Personally, I'm atrocious at British history, let alone that of other countries. Having said that, I'm learning a little about the Thirty Years War (in a way) by re-reading "1632" by Eric Flint. If you want a serious study of this period then this book probably isn't for you.

At Mem, we entered the Göta Kanal. The weather today started sunny and clear and stayed that way all day, getting quite hot - up to around 30C, apparently.  The boat moored at Söderköping, a lovely town which obviously attracts a lot of visitors. The town was hosting a medieval couple of days and so there were many people around wearing period clothing. There were also many stalls selling leather, wooden and decorative goods with an emphasis on what might have been for sale in medieval times. It is an annual event.

The boat was stopping at Söderköping for a couple of hours. I took a walk up the canal towpath for about 2km. There were a number of locks along the way and I just waited for the boat to come along. I'd taken my Kindle with me to occupy me whilst waiting and dangled my feet in the water of a lock to cool them. I climbed back on board and the boat continued its journey. The canal is very attractive, certainly at this stage. It passes through farming country, mainly arable but we saw a few cattle and horses. There have been a few more locks and also a few swing bridges where roads cross the canal. There was also a lift bridge, carrying a railway.

The journey hasn't been all canal. There have been a few large lakes with the canal joining them up. I assume that the lakes were there before the canal was built. We have moored tonight at Berg, a small village near the town of Linköping.

We have got to know a number of our fellow travellers. At lunch and dinner, we sit at the same table which is shared with four other English-speakers. They are an elderly couple who live in Halifax, Nova Scotia although they are Scottish. They have lived in Canada since 1965. The other pair are sisters, older than us, both widowed. One has been a teacher and has led quite a normal life. The other worked for the Red Cross all over the world and is quite an intrepid traveller.

For breakfast, we sit anywhere. We shared a table this morning with a German couple from Leipzig.

The passengers on our deck seem to be early risers - there was no going back to sleep after 6,30. But it was no great problem, and meant that getting up and breakfasting could be done without rush. We were docked at Stegeberg, an island in a beautiful setting, and just by the ruins of Stegeberg Fortress, which dates from the early Middle Ages, and was built to guard the inlet. We had an excellent guide to take us through the ruins and grounds, who filled us in on the history and royal family intrigues up to the 17th century when it fell into disuse. It was an idyllic spot, in beautiful morning weather.

At 10 we were off, with a relaxing morning's cruising ahead of us. At Mem, just before lunch, we entered the Göta canal itself, and then docked at Söderköping for a couple of hours, with plenty of time to explore the medieval  town. We were a little surprised as we left the boat to see an unusual proportion of rather hippy types, and a lot of people including children in what I at first thought were ethnic hippy style clothes, and then realised were medieval costumes. We discovered that it is the annual Viking/medieval fair today and through the weekend, which clearly takes over the whole town. It was an amazing spectacle. We wandered through the numerous stalls and visited the church, before returning to the ship. For me this was a return for the afternoon - I was wilting in the 31 degree heat - but G set off to walk along the towpath ahead of the ship for the next 4 kilometres, while we went through 8 locks, and would be picked up at the last one. I managed to snaffle a couple of mini waffles with strawberry and cream from the afternoon tea offering to welcome him back on board.
The next part of the canal is rural, varying in width, sometimes not much wider than the boat, and often so shallow that the boat scrapes the bottom. There are locks and lift bridges, and for the whole of this stretch, from Söderköping to Norsholm, a young man in a car accompanied us, driving along the wide towpath, closing locks behind us, overtaking us, setting up the next lock, and repeating the process. He and one of the girls in the crew worked really hard all afternoon and into the evening, and made a terrific team.

There have been lots of opportunities already for very interesting conversations with fellow passengers. There are at least seven nationalities on board -  Swedish, Norwegian, German, Finnish, Danish, Canadian, English. One thing  that is very interesting is the interest they all take in British politics. A Finnish lady I was talking to this afternoon had stayed up all night listening to the results of the referendum. People want to know what we think about Brexit. They are genuinely upset.

We crossed Lake Asplangen, then, during supper, waited in the Lock at Norsholm watching several trains on the main Malmo Stockholm line cross in front of us before the the bridge could be lifted for us to go through into Lake Roxen.

Now, at 9.30, we are crossing the lake at a good speed. It feels very windy sitting out on deck, but it's very welcome after all the heat today. We dock for the night at Berg, on the other side of the lake, sometime after 10.

Friday, 26 August 2016

The ship Diana, on the Göta Kanal - Thursday, 25 August

This morning, we went by taxi to the quayside on the island in Stockholm where Gamla Stan is. Unfortunately, the taxi driver was unable to get us as far as we wanted to go as some roads were closed and the traffic was chaotic. He was most apologetic. The reason was due to a state visit by the US vice-president, Joe Biden. So we got out and walked the couple of hundred yards or so.

Our destination was a boat on the quayside, the Diana. It is not a big boat. It was built in 1931. It is 31.66m long and has 28 cabins on three decks. They are small cabins. A lot of them have bunk beds. Think railway sleeper compartments and that will give an idea of their size. Ours is a little larger and has two single beds (which are very comfortable). Each cabin has a wash basin but certainly no en suite. On each deck are loos and a couple of showers.

On the middle deck is the dining room, in one corner of which is the ship's library, comprising a selection of books about Sweden and the canal, mainly in Swedish but some in German and English. There is a walkway around the middle deck and, at the bow end, an almost vertical set of steps up to what is called the shelter deck. There is seating up there and it is under cover. However, we can't walk all the way round as the captain's bridge is at the stern end.

We set off from Stockholm this morning and will be travelling for six days along the Göta Kanal, arriving in Göteborg (Gothenburg) next week. We had a stop for one and a half hours this afternoon at the coastal village of Trosa, the old part of which was rather quaint. We cast off again at 6.30pm and we are due to moor for the night at Stegeborg around 1.30am. We are out in the Baltic at the moment and don't actually enter the canal until the middle of tomorrow morning. It is quite choppy and I'm feeling just a little bit queasy!

G dutifully booked a taxi to take us to pick up the boat! We still had a little way to walk because the centre of Stockholm was clogged because of a "State Visit" we believe it was Joe Biden, the US vice president. Our taxi driver was very apologetic and tried all sorts of different routes, but ended up having to drop us as near as he could. Having boarded MS Diana, built in the 1930's, unpacked in our neat little cabin, and been welcomed with coffee, pastries and fresh fruit platter, we settled down on deck to enjoy the first day's cruising through the Stockholm Archipelago and Lake Malaran to the Baltic, and then down the coast through small rocky islands until we stopped at 5pm at Trosa. The total relaxation was interrupted only by an excellent two course lunch. There is a set table plan, which we will stick to, and we are seated with four others - retired sisters from the London area, and a couple originally from Scotland but living in Canada for the last thirty years - the  only other passengers whose first language is English. They will be excellent lunch and dinner companions for the next few days. The boat is not quite full; we are 43 passengers with a capacity of 48.

At Trosa we had an hour and a half to explore at our own pace, and a Heritage trail of about 2 Kilometres to follow if we wished, which we did. A picture postcard little town, with a number of old buildings, most of which now seem to be hotels and restaurants. And a welcome leg stretch.

A welcoming glass of bubbly, an excellent three course dinner and a spell sitting out on deck, and it is time to turn in. We don't dock at our next stop until 1.15am, and the sea has been a bit choppy. This is where I think we are fortunate to be on the Main Deck, which is the bottom deck, and has much less roll. It is, however, quite warm. There does not seem to be much breeze coming through the open porthole!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Clarion Hotel Sign, Stockholm - Wednesday, 24 August

There is now to be a total change for the next week. We have left the camper van in what we hope will be secure parking. We then caught the fast train service into central Stockholm - it took only twenty minutes. Tickets are bought from a machine. The single adult fare is 280SEK and we nearly bought two but thankfully didn't rush. On closer inspection, during the summer a ticket can be bought by two people travelling together for only 300SEK, a massive saving.

Arriving at Stockholm station, our hotel, the Clarion Sign, was only a few minutes walk away and we are on the fifth floor. It is very modern and mainly glass. I took a walk this afternoon to see where the next part of our Scandinavian odyssey will start tomorrow. It took me through the Gamla Stan (old town) and by the royal palace.

We have been out for a pizza this evening at a restaurant called Giro on Sveavägan and it was excellent. I'll say nothing about the cost of the two glasses of red wine - it was very nice but back home we'd have expected the whole bottle for the same price. On the way back to our hotel, we passed by the Adolf Fredrik Church, a very large building in gardens. Lights were on inside so we went in and caught the last five minutes of an organ recital.

Now for the next bit of the adventure. We spent time this morning repacking for the next eight nights, reorganising things in the camper, cleaning and tidying. Parking was pretty straightforward - although we circled several times trying to find the entrance to the car park - and the Arlanda Express whisked us into the centre of Stockholm. There was a nice little perk, discovered quite by accident. A summer special offer, expiring in 4 days time, meant that instead of paying 280 kroner each for a single ticket we paid 300 for two singles. And we could have taken up to 8 children with us free!

Tonight we are at the Clarion Hotel Sign, which was only a short walk from the station. It is probably the trendiest hotel we have ever  stayed in, and has a full blown spa on the top (8th) floor, with a smart rooftop pool with view over the Stockholm rooftops. It being very hot, the terrace around the pool was jam-packed with tanned, oiled bright young things sunbathing. Not a scene I cared to join! And G did not like any aspect of it - especially the height! We retired happily to our nice cool air-conditioned room and a cup of tea.

G went out for a walk to check out how long it would take us to walk to where the boat is docked tomorrow morning. We are  to be there at 9. Half an hour, he reckons. At 8.30 in the morning? Carrying a rucksack? Me? I don't think so!

Knowing that we will be having Swedish meals for the next few days, I  fancied a pizza tonight. A bit
of research turned up Giro Pizzeria Napolitana, rated #23 of 2507 restaurants in Stockholm.by TripAdvisor. It seemed worth a try, and so it was. They serve only pizzas, and very good they are.
On our way back to the Hotel we caught the last part of a free organ recital in Adolf Fredriks Kyrka, part of a week long series. Stockholm is every bit as pleasant as we remembered it. It was March when we were here before, so it has been lovely to see it on a very summery evening, with the pavement cafes, restaurants and grassy squares buzzing.

While we are on the Göta Kanal we may not have any internet access. Use of mobile phones on board the MS Diana is definitely frowned upon! So all may go quiet until we re-emerge in Göteborg next week but I shall continue to write anyway ready to post when I can.

Having mentioned the trendy hotel, I forgot to mention something which amused us. It being a very warm night, when the waitress at the Pizzeria asked where we would like to sit I replied "wherever is coolest". Without hesitating, she said, "Well, by the window - everyone will see you there"!  "Cool" had only one possible meaning for her!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Wäsby Golfklubb, Upplands Väsby - Tuesday, 23 August

Our night was very peaceful but there was noise around 8am over the nearby road. It was an articulated lorry and trailer shunting about. I assumed it had come on to this road due to a satnav error. However, I went over to see what it was about. It was a Swedish registered lorry but the driver was Dutch. He was delivering a house for assembly on a site nearby but access was limited. Therefore, he unhitched the trailer, left it and went off with half the house. Then he came back, switched trailers and went with the other half. He drives to the UK at certain times of the year delivering flowers from nurseries in The Netherlands.

We drove first to the small town of Heby in search of a tourist office (and their wifi) but couldn't find it. Therefore, we went on to Uppsala which was our main destination today. Satnav directed us to where Pocket Earth told us the tourist office should be but it wasn't. Making enquiries in a travel agency, it moved about three years ago to near the rail station.

Uppsala is a university city, evidenced by the number of bicycles. For a city, there didn't seem to be much traffic.

As it was convenient, we had a look round the cathedral which, apparently, is the largest church in Scandinavia. It was certainly big. The wall paintings were attractive, although a couple looked rather Laura Ashley. In the cathedral was the tomb of Emanuel Swedenborg. I had heard of him but Amanda hadn't. I knew he was the founder of Swedenborgism (or ... borgianism) but couldn't remember what that was. Sad really.

We then went to find the tourist office where the wifi was super fast. On the way we visited The English Shop which sells foody things from the UK, albeit at higher prices. We just bought a tube of Colmans English Mustard. We thought a city break here would be worth doing.

We stopped for lunch on the edge of woodland a few miles out of Uppsala. A
A path going into the woods had a sign for the Upplandsleden, presumably a walking trail.

We set the satnav for Sigtuna, a small town which we liked the look of and was mentioned in Lonely Planet. There was a camper stop at the marina but it had no electric so we went on to another that has, which is where we are now. It is a golf club with ten places for camper vans. There are decent shower facilities and even a restaurant. There has been a golf tournament going on with a barbecue (until rain brought it to an end) and live music. It's 9.40 now and all is quiet.

This is my second try at my blog today. I stupidly updated the app I use for documents this morning, and it has decided that the document of my whole blog so far, plus today's, stored on my iPad, is invalid. Gone completely! Hmm. When it works, it's great, but ...

So, here goes again .... this morning. would you believe, in the middle of nowhere, we heard voices at 7.30! A peek over the blinds and through the trees revealed a huge articulated lorry stopped in the road. G trekked through the wood to see whether we were somehow in his way, but no. The driver was Dutch, delivering a house, as you do in these parts, but couldn't take his lorry the whole way. This was the last straight stretch of road before his destination, so he was uncoupling the back half, and would come back for it once the other half load was delivered. All this he duly did! He said that he often drives in England, delivering flowers. We have been taken with the willingness of people to chat in English. The younger ones often speak with an American accent, either from travelling or from watching American films.  I am feeling ashamed that I was so critical of the author of Living Danishly. Although we are getting much better at interpreting the written word in Swedish, the spoken word is another matter. The pronunciation doesn't appear to bear any resemblance to its written counterpart.

Today was set aside for Uppsala, and it was a lovely surprise for me. Very definitely a university city, with even more bicycles than Oxford or Cambridge and a great feel to it, made even better, as always, by the gorgeous sunshine. We enjoyed the impressive cathedral, and then contented ourselves with wandering through the streets soaking up the atmosphere. G's attention was caught by 'The English Shop' where we were able to buy a tube of Colman's mustard to pep up the rather tasteless beef slices we have been buying for lunchtime sandwiches (because they are marginally tastier than the tasteless ham we have found - it is all wafer thin).

Tonight's site needed to be within striking distance of where we are leaving the camper tomorrow for the duration of our Göta Kanal Cruise. We first drove to Sigtuna, where there were places for campervans in the harbour, but as expected there was no electric hookup. The town was pretty and very smart, and we drove past the old part, with its ancient ruined church tower, and onwards to our other possibility.

We certainly manage to ring the changes. Here we are at a very attractive golf course at Upplands Visby, between Stockholm and Arlanda airport. The surroundings are very pleasant, and wooded again. There are 10 designated spaces for campervans, and all the facilities, including a nice looking restaurant. It was not a usual day here - there was a big John Deere event with all sorts of John Deere vehicles on show and whizzing around the place, and the car parks have all been overflowing. A party in a marquee has now finished, and all is very quiet, although there are still some cars around. It seems we will be the only campervan here tonight. And it is nice to have a break from the midges! I expect they'll be back as soon as we hit water again.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

In a road loop, north east of Heby - Monday, 22 August

We were very sorry to leave the excellent site at Färnebofjärdens. It was just about perfect, although the showers were a bit odd (I can only speak for the men's, of course). There were two showers next to each other. There was a plastic curtain and then a little outer area where the clothes hooks and coin machines were. Then, there were individual curtains to pull across the shower cubicle. No great amount of privacy. It wasn't a problem; the arrangement just seemed a little bit odd.

We drove a few miles to Gysinge where there was a nicely arranged visitor centre giving interesting (and just enough) information about the Färnebofjärdens National Park, its flora and fauna. I collected all manner of leaflets about it and the other national parks.

We then drove over two bridges spanning quite wide rivers on to a large forested island whose name, of any, I don't know. Looking at the map, though, it's shape is remarkably like that of India. We stopped at what seemed to be the hub, where there were a couple of loos, information boards and numerous walking trails. We did a circular one of 1km through the woodland. It skirted by a river at one point and was quite magical.

We rather had time to kill today. There was nothing particular to do. We didn't want to be too close to Uppsala as that is where we need to be tomorrow night. We pulled off a road and had a leisurely lunch in the sunshine. We thought about stopping there for the night but it was only about 3pm and the air was full of something like dandelion seeds being blown about. So we ambled on. We had identified a camp site not too far away but were quite happy to have a "wild camp". There was a possible spot by a lake so we drove about three miles down a single track rough road but it wasn't really suitable. Driving then past the camp site, we didn't really like the look of it (too big, for a start), we we went in search of the perfect wild camp. A longish loop road looked promising on the map but proved not to be. Along that same road, though, we have settled on a disused grassy track. Nothing will come along it as it is a loop off the nearby road. We obviously wanted to avoid stopping on a track which, to all intents and purposes was unused but then a vehicle appears apparently from nowhere (usually as it is someone's driveway).

A last few minutes on the wooden swing gazing out over the lake on a decidedly warm, sunny morning and it was time to leave it behind.

We stopped briefly at the Färnebofjärdens Nature Reserve Visitor Centre, and then drove onwards through the Reserve enjoying the beauty of it all - over bridges that crossed tumbling rapids surrounded by forest. We stopped at the entrance to the Reserve, where several trails were marked, and walked the shortest one. Now, here was a walk through dense, rough woodland I could enjoy! It was well way-marked, and I knew in advance that it was under a mile long and would bring us back to where we started. Even the combination of quite long plank bridges, untried shoes and no walking poles didn't faze me. And I actually managed to keep up with G, who is a little wary on paths like these which are a tangle of raised roots, since the time he tripped on one and tore his hamstring.

The rest of the day was spent in a very relaxed manner, driving through lovely wooded countryside, stopping occasionally, first for lunch, then in the hope of finding a suitable 'wild camp'. I had threatened G with skinny dipping if we found a nice isolated spot by a lake, but none was forthcoming to his relief. He is not a fan of cold water! We eventually stopped here at about 5.30, in a grassy space separated from the road by trees. We have had to batten down the hatches to keep all the insects out, but not more than a dozen cars have passed in the last 5 hours, so hopefully it will be a quiet night.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Färnebofjärdens camp site, north west of Uppsala - Sunday, 21 August

There is forest either side and behind the site. This morning, before breakfast, I went off discovering. Immediately outside the site entrance, there was a path into the forest. After a few yards, it forked. I took the left fork and a clear path followed parallel to the road although out of sight of it. It emerged among some red painted buildings in a clearing. Outside one of them were some simple tables and bench seats. There was no-one around and I wondered if this was some sort of summer retreat or camp. I crossed the road and found a very wide track going back parallel to the road going back on the other side, although at a lower level. The road carries very little traffic and I met no-one.

Paul and Sheila left to continue their travels and we exchanged email addresses. Paul maintains a website, a real labour of love, detailing their annual trips in their camper van since 2003. The address is http://langford-associates.com. I have dipped into it and their 2015 trip to Finland looks as if it may be useful for when we get there in early September as we haven't planned anything and it's useful to have some recommended camp sites.

Around lunchtime, I walked to the neighbouring village of Österfärnebro, about 1.5 miles each way, as there is a little supermarket there. The main thing needed was milk. I was thirsty so bought a litre carton of lingonberry juice drink. Lingonberry sauce is traditionally served with the favourite Swedish meal of meatballs. The drink tasted very similar to cranberry juice.

After a lazy afternoon reading The Sunday Times, a walk was called for. I followed a waymarked trail for some way, over duckboards (as parts were boggy, being close to the lake) and through forest. The trail was indicated by an orange line on a map from the site reception and, on the ground, by orange paint on trees. It was impossible to get lost as the path was so clear and there was always an orange splash within sight.  The forest was so quiet and still. If I'd had time to walk the complete trail, after 5km I would have reached the village of Gysinge. Here, there is a national park information centre which we plan to visit tomorrow. Some of the duckboards were lethal and I measured my length on one that was sloping a bit. Slightly dirty trousers and my dignity dented but otherwise no harm done.

In all, I've walked 12km today, according to my pedometer, which isn't bad, although I'm not sure how accurate it is.

We woke to greyness and mizzle, but the view was still beautiful in the mistiness. There was no need to move on, so we decided not to! A good chat with our neighbours this morning before they left was enjoyable and informative, they having travelled extensively through Europe in their camper-van. Paul has chronicled their journeys beautifully on his website, a labour of love, and his account of their time in Finland last year is particularly relevant for us.

I designated today a reading day, and spent some time dipping into the Sunday Times before returning to my current novel, 'The Versions of Us.' It needs concentration, and I keep losing the plot- or rather the three alternative plots which are woven together. I shall persevere.

Meanwhile G walked the three mile round trip to the nearest shop for milk and necessaries. The weather brightened, and a couple of people braved a swim in the lake this afternoon, but came out again pretty quickly! We contented ourselves with watching them whilst swinging gently on the large lakeside wooden swing!

I went with G for a short stroll through the woods before supper, turning back and leaving him to walk on when the path led us across a slippery wooden plank bridge. My decision was justified when he returned a bit later with a muddy bottom! The woods are full of wild mushrooms of all sorts - a treasure trove if you know the right ones to pick!

The campsite owners write in their tasteful  little brochure that in this  place, (
We woke to greyness and mizzle, but the view was still beautiful in the mistiness. There was no need to move on, so we decided not to! A good chat with our neighbours this morning before they left was enjoyable and informative, they having travelled extensively through Europe in their camper-van. Paul has chronicled their journeys beautifully on his website, a labour of love,and his account of their time in Finland last year is particularly relevant for us.

I designated today a reading day, and spent some time dipping into the Sunday Times before returning to my current novel, 'The Versions of Us.' It needs concentration, and I keep losing the plot- or rather the three alternative plots which are woven together. I shall persevere.

Meanwhile G walked the three mile round trip to the nearest shop for milk and necessaries.
The weather brightened, and a couple of people braved a swim in the lake this afternoon, but came out again pretty quickly! We contented ourselves with watching  them whilst swinging gently on the large lakeside wooden swing!

I went with G for a short stroll through the woods before supper, turning back and leaving him to walk on when the path led us across a slippery wooden plank bridge. My decision was justified when he returned a bit later with a muddy bottom! The woods are full of wild mushrooms of all sorts - a treasure trove if you know the right ones to pick!

The campsite owners write in their tasteful  little brochure that in this place, (Färnebofjärden
Camping) they found their little paradise. That is how it feels. It is incredibly quiet (only the sounds of nature most of the time) peaceful and relaxing, especially today when there are very few people left. The only downside is the flying insects, but they are unavoidable in the woody lakeside surroundings when it is so still.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Färnebofjärdens camp site, north west of Uppsala - Saturday, 20 August

First thing this morning we chatted to a Swedish couple about ferries to Finland and they thought a good idea might be to get a ferry first of all to the Finnish island of Åland (which lies much closer to Sweden than Finland) and then get another ferry from there to Turku in Finland. We shall look into it. We haven't booked anything yet.

We don't seem to have done much today except chasing around trying to find wifi! Towns visited without success were Hofors and Hedemora but we met with success in Avesta outside a Swedbank. The blog needs to be posted each day if possible and The Times downloaded.

After a late lunch stop, we began to think about where we might spend the night. There was a camp site nearby which we drove a mile down the road to have a look at. It would have been fine, I think, but I mentioned that there was another one about half an hour away that averaged 9.3/10 reviews so we headed for that. It was a lovely drive along winding forest roads. It is on the edge of the Färnebofjärden National Park and looks out over the large Färnebofjärden lake. Once again, we have struck lucky. It is a site that is idyllically placed and just has the essential facilities. It is by no means full as the Swedish summer season has finished. Apparently, the children go back to school the day after tomorrow.

I didn't mention that, yesterday, I had chatted to an English couple at the Kopparberget Copper Mine. They had an Auto-Sleeper Trooper (the one with the pop up roof) a 51 plate, with a Cotswold Motor Homes sticker in the back window. We bought our camper from the same firm. Quite a coincidence. Anyway, I thought no more of it but they are on our site tonight! A further coincidence is that, they having owned their camper from new, it was sold to them by the very same man at Cotswold that sold us ours. They are Paul and Sheila from Leicestershire. They are on a multi week tour of Sweden and have made several tours of Scandinavia over the last few years.

We really were in luck last night with our Greek feast. It seems that this was no regular event, but a special end of season party for the site regulars, which they were happy for other campers to join.

Today was an uneventful but nevertheless enjoyable day. An unrushed morning gave an opportunity to keep up with clothes washing, and to chat to a local couple, the wife Finnish, who gave us some very useful suggestions for our crossing to Finland in a few weeks time, which we will explore further. In search of internet access, we did some slightly random scenic driving, and dipped into the towns of Hofors and Hedemore. Both the Turistbyros were closed at weekends! In Avesta, classed as a city, we did find one open, but not until 1.56 and it closed at 2. I managed to download the paper, but there was clearly no room for negotiation and I was ushered out at 2 prompt. And the wifi was instantly switched off. Meanwhile Geoff was loitering outside Swedbank in the shopping arcade, which we have found useful before, I joined him and we both used their free wifi to complete the daily internet tasks.

We didn't hang around to explore Avesta. The old town looked attractive, but wasn't really old at all, We read up about the copper mining history - here the copper was used for the country's coinage - and then moved on, taking in an overdue lunch stop, for more scenic driving on the way to the Färnebofjärdens Nature Reserve. Here we found yet another idyllic lakeside campsite. As we pulled in we spotted the Autosleeper campervan from yesterday morning at the Copper Mine in Falun, and are parked next to them. They greeted us like old friends. They too had only come across one other British campervan in their travels. What's more, theirs was sold to them originally by the same person, Frank, from Cotswold Motorhomes in Cheltenham as we dealt with when we bought ours. Crazy coincidence!

The views across the lake this evening have been simply stunning, the water absolutely still and the reflections in it completely crystal clear. I have taken photos of "the view from my kitchen" as I cooked supper, but they just don't do it justice.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Edskens camp site, nr Hofors - Friday, 19 August

I slept very well and wasn't disturbed by traffic noise in the Biltema car park. We headed for the Kopparberget Copper Mine just outside Falun. This mine, at one time, supplied two thirds of the world's copper. In the 17th century, it was the biggest copper mine in the world. It has been worked for many centuries although closed in 1992. The workings and buildings can still be seen and there is a visitor centre. For an additional cost, there is a guided underground tour.

After lunch, we drove into Falun and visited the Stora Kopparbergs Kyrka, a late 14th century church which is Falun's oldest building. It was big and the painted vaulted ceilings and wooden carvings were impressive. We then went on to the Dalarnas Museum. Our visit was necessarily rushed as I messed up the parking automat and only got parking for twenty minutes (because I haven't reset my watch, which continues to show UK time). There was a display of Hagstrom electric guitars (as played by David Bowie and Frank Zappa). Also a collection of paintings by modern painters. There was quite a bit we'd have liked to return to see and Falun looked a place we'd like to see more of.

We identified a couple of camp sites close by to enable us to go back into town tomorrow. However, the first was full to overflowing as it was hosting a rock festival. The second was full because of the effect of the first. Therefore, we decided to place a little distance between us and Falun. After some torrential rain along the way, on the E16 just before the town of Hofors, we alighted upon Edskens camp site, on the edge of a large lake that bears the same name. Virtually all of the units here are largish touring caravans that are probably here for the season as the site is in a lovely position. However, they found a pitch for us. The facilities are good and they have a small on site restaurant where, tonight, they were offering a Greek buffet meal. We opted for that, it being our wedding anniversary. I think it was our first evening meal out on this trip. It was very good.

Once all the blinds are closed it doesn't really affect us where we are overnight - although last night my good night's sleep was helped by earplugs to dull the traffic noise and the noise of the rain. A mooch around Biltema before leaving produced a couple more useful purchases including a  pair of frying pans and some new chopping boards. We do get excited in these shops full of useful stuff! Very sad!

The town of Falun, with numerous interesting possibilities on offer, was only a few miles up the road. First stop was the Copper Mine, a world heritage site, which only closed in 1992. It was the source of the colour that all the houses around here are painted. A huge site, with lots of different original buildings. It would have been easy to spend a whole day there, although neither of us was keen to go down the mine.

Having not spoken to any English people for 4+ weeks, we were surprised to come across a GB plate on a VW Autosleeper conversion in the car park. Not only that, it had a Cotswold Motorhomes sticker in the back like ours. G spoke to the couple who have done numerous Scandinavian holidays, and who recommended a Silver Mine not far away. We did some internet research on that and decided that, although it looked amazing, we didn't want to go down that one either.

We nearly decided to give the actual town of Falun a miss, but were very glad we didn't. We visited the old church, which was magnificent, with red brick vaulted ceiling. Lonely Planet mentioned its painted floral wall friezes, and there were also similar paintings around the ceiling arches. I have no idea how old they were, because the church history guide didn't mention them. They were rather reminiscent of Laura Ashley circa 1980, but were very attractive nonetheless.

Next was a very quick visit to the Dalarna Folkmuseum. Again, we didn't have time to do it justice. Of particular note was a 'taster' for the forthcoming "world's greatest Hagstrom exhibition' - famous guitars! The taster itself was pretty impressive. Hagstrom also make accordians, and the reason for the accordian playing at Tällberg became clear. The Dalarna area is apparently very famous for its accordians, having at one time had no fewer than five companies making them.

Thinking we might like to return to Falun tomorrow we set off in search of a nearby campsite. The first one was not just full but heaving - another music festival but this time definitely of the Rock variety. The second one was also full. So we gave up on Falun, and headed on in our original planned direction. G located a campsite sign on Pocket Earth, and it was very definitely third time lucky. This is a simple small site (about 40 pitches, but a lot of them  caravans here for the season) with some additional log cabins, in another lovely lakeside setting, with a small cafe/restaurant. We were informed that the chef was laying on a Greek Buffet if we were interested, and we could just turn up! We needed no persuading. It was superb!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Biltema car park, Borlänge - Thursday, 18 August

Today, we had something planned for the morning and another thing for the afternoon. First, we drove to the little town of Insjön. We visited the Clas Ohlson Museum. Now, I'd never heard of him, but his name is known in the UK, it seems. In 1918, he started in business on his own, selling DIY manuals and technical drawings. He had a bicycle repair shop and sold plans and materials by mail order for woodworking machines, kayaks, radio receivers, steam engines and grandfather clocks. Now, the name is known for large retail stores in several countries. I googled the name and there are Clas Ohlson stores in the UK, although some are currently closing as sales have been lower than expected. We went in the adjacent store and bought a few things, including a Multi-trimmer, which means that I will get a haircut maybe in the next couple of days!

Clas Ohlson museum

Amanda navigated us to an interesting place for our sandwich lunch. We swung off the main road, over a railway and along a track uphill for a mile or so. The camper didn't like it! At the end of the track, was a little car park at the entrance to a nature reserve. I wandered off into the woodland, where there was a well used path with others signed off it to various places.

After lunch, we motored to Borlänge, a largish town not far away. The town's famous son is the Swedish tenor, Jussi Björling (1911-1960). We visited the little museum that bears his name, which is very much a labour of love. During his life, he toured Europe and the USA and made many recordings of operatic songs. We bought a CD of some of his music.

Jussi Björling museum

A visit to Sweden wouldn't be complete without a visit to an IKEA store, which is what I did this evening. We may pop in tomorrow morning before we leave Borlänge. We are spending the night in the car park of a Biltema store in an area reserved for camper vans. There are decent loos in the store until 8pm and again at 7am. There is some traffic noise but for a free overnight stop we can't complain.

We bid a fond farewell to Tällberg and embarked on an urban day taking in a couple of museums which had attracted G's attention. First stop was the Clas Ohlson museum not far from Leksand. He started a mail order firm in the 1920's from which grew quite a little empire. His stores and catalogue cover household goods, camping equipment, games, bicycles and electrical equipment, all at very reasonable prices. Although we had never heard the name, we have since discovered that there has been a  Clas Ohlson store in Norwich, now closed. We enjoyed the museum, and then went across to the store , in search of a replacement  for the cheap Tesco frying pan that ended up in a rubbish bin a few weeks ago. Having discovered when I checked and paid our Barclaycard statement this morning that we have spent less this month than we usually do at home, we got a little carried away, and purchased a number of very useful bits and pieces, including two things that we have wished we had brought with us. The first is a multi-trimmer for Geoff's hair. He is getting agitated because it is growing too long already after his number 5 trim just before we left. I have never used one before, but it can't be too difficult, can it? The second is a salad spinner. You may laugh, but what spins salad can also spin hand-washed underwear and socks! And it is also a bowl shaped measuring jug, so fits the required multi-purpose standard admirably. We didn't find the right size frying pan though.
We moved on heading for our next stop in the town of Borlänge, but I diverted us in search of a nice rural  lunchstopspot. We headed up and up a narrow unmade road with no passing places, (and no other vehicles, fortunately) which got more and more bumpy, to find an isolated little parking place at the end, with a picnic table, and far reaching views.  G was able to enjoy a wooded leg stretch while I made the sandwiches. He informed me that my reward for finding the place was to drive back down again, but I didn't want to deny him the pleasure.

Our destination in Borlänge - which seemed a very pleasant large town in the sunshine - was the Jussi
Björling museum. I remember my mother speaking of him in the same breath as Caruso and Richard Tauber. As with this morning's museum, this was a lovingly put together and maintained tribute to a fascinating man. He was only 49 when he died in 1960,  but produced a huge number of recordings and gave an amazing number of concerts all over the world. I was inspired to buy a CD - avoiding Nessun Dorma, but including the Pearl Fishers duet.

It was 5.30 by the time we had shopped for basic provisions (bread, milk, eggs, chocolate?), and been distracted by Coconut Icecream, which came in two little half coconut shells and seems to have been produced in Spain for a Japanese market; and a freezer full has ended up in a German supermarket in Sweden! Delicious! They had to be consumed immediately of course, as we have no freezer. So, as time was getting on, we thought we'd suss out the town's Camperstop. Thus our urban day has ended fittingly in an out of town shopping centre next to a Biltema store. Instead of his habitual pre-supper ramble through the woods, G set out intrepidly  on an expedition to IKEA, nearby but the other side of a couple of busy roads.

He has just returned having, he says, broken into a cold sweat when he couldn't find his way out. So question - did he ever get lost on his early evening treks? Answer - just the once .....

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Tällberg, on Siljan - Wednesday, 17 August

Just a short outing from the site today. We drove the scenic route through a few villages to the next town, Leksand. It hosts a large festival each June when some 20,000 people come and dance around a maypole (presumably not at the same time). We had come, mainly, to see the church, parts of which were built in the 13th century. It has an onion shaped dome. Inside was blue painted seating and much gold leaf. The organ was impressive. There was a young man playing the organ, although in short bursts and once, either he or another man, sang something.

A traditional holiday "stuga" at Tällberg
We move on tomorrow.

The beautiful sunset last night didn't deliver, and it has been overcast and cool all day, but no rain. Feeling very relaxed and unpressured, we enjoyed a lazy morning, and then did a trip to the next town at the southern end of the lake, Leksand. Again, this was smart, and clearly has a lot going on culture-wise. There is a big cultural festival here for mid-summer, apparently the biggest in the country. The church, with its famous onion-shaped dome, was well worth a visit, in its lakeside setting, and beautifully maintained. Someone was playing the organ, which still has its 19th century facade, but the organ itself was replaced in the 1950s. There was also a (slightly) more modern organ in the chancel. The church was set out ready for a concert this evening.

We popped into the impressive Cultural Centre/Library/Museum, but were too late to spend any worthwhile time in the museum which had an exhibition of folk costumes.

There are signs around the village of preparations for this music festival, and it clearly is going to be heaving. There are temporary campsites being set up, and marquees appearing. We have not discovered exactly what sort of music festival it is. However we have been entertained, not too loudly, by more than one caravan awning full of people singing to an accordian accompaniment! Quite pleasant, if repetitive.

There are many nice touches on this site, but one that we very much appreciated, and have made use of, is a trough of growing herbs, with a sign saying 'help yourself '.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Tällberg, on Siljan - Tuesday, 16 August

Drove into Rättvik as planned. It boasts the longest wooden pier in Sweden, the Långbryggan. It doesn't have the width or height of the seaside piers we tend to have in the UK. I'd describe it more as a moderately wide jetty. Having said that, it is 625m long and so quite impressive. There is a long beach stretching either side of the jetty (sorry, pier) with a large camping site facing on to the beach. The town is quite a resort.

Rättvik pier
We hunted down another gem of a place, the Tunnbrödsbageri, a bakery and shop, established in 1957, which is renowned for its crispbread (rather like Matzos) and Tunnbröd itself, which is a thin bread which is very popular in the region of Dalarna, where we are. It's cut into oblongs, maybe 8x6 inches and chapati-like in thickness and texture. Anyway, it's very nice.

We also bought some Swedish blue cheese, obviously something we never see back home.

We've decided to stay a third night here, it's so nice, with such a beautiful outlook across Siljan. Of course, we've been lucky with the weather. I'm looking at a lovely sunset as I write this. We wouldn't want to stay longer, anyway. Apparently, there is a big live music event about to happen and this site will then be very busy and loud.

A beautiful day today, hot and sunny but with a good cooling breeze. Just the way I like it, and such a luxurious feeling to wake up and know we are staying on in this gorgeous spot. There is even good wifi available outside the little reception hut, which is so efficient that I was able to download half a dozen Radio 4 podcasts as well as today's Times in super quick time.

We went back into Rattvik to explore the town properly. It is a lovely smart holiday town, with Sweden's longest pier, at 628 metres, which we walked along and back again. Two particular shops were mentioned in Lonely Planet, so we sought them out. The first, Frick's Konditori, had beautiful cakes, filled rolls and open sandwiches, and queues. We weren't tempted, but did enjoy looking! They had Princessetarte, a lurid green marzipan covered, bombe shaped affair which I remember featured in last season's Great British Bake Off. I seem to recall that it was described on the programme as a famous Swedish celebration cake. Actually, they did look wonderful, and I might have been tempted if you could buy a slice, but they were priced per whole cake. Not a good idea!

The second place was like stepping into a past age. Rattvik's Tunnbröd Bageri makes its own special unleavened breads of various sorts. We bought some soft flatbreads whose ingredients included potato, and a big bag of crisp flatbread seconds. We then went on to a normal supermarket for cheese, ham and pate to go with our purchases, and took our haul back to the site for a late lunch, and a lazy afternoon.

The sunset has left a proper red sky tonight, so let's hope that's a promise for tomorrow. We have booked yet another night here, and have been so fortunate in our timing. There is a music festival on the 'strand' this weekend and they are booked out from Thursday. It is like being on a mini-holiday in the middle of this alternative life we are living!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Tällberg, on Siljan - Monday, 15 August

Amanda braved the earth closet loo this morning. I used other facilities nearby, doing a four mile walk before breakfast around the end of the island.

We left Sollerön and drove up to the next town, Mora, hoping to find some wifi but our co-ordinates for tourist information took us to a bus station. The town's main claim to fame is having been the home of Anders Zorna, an artist who painted pictures of ladies without clothing. We then drove down the eastern side of Siljan for maybe twenty miles to Rattvik, where the tourist information office provided wifi and info about things to do locally. We plan to spend some time in the town tomorrow as it looked quite interesting (the sun was shining).

We went on a few miles to our planned overnight stop, a camp site at Tällberg, on the side of Siljan. We've booked for two nights. Tällberg itself is very picture postcardy. It is quite spread out and doesn't seem to be a village with any kind of centre. It has some 200 inhabitants and eight hotels. These, and the houses we saw as we drove down towards the water's edge, we're all very attractive. The site we're on isn't large and we weren't sure that we would get a space but we were in luck. In fact, the front row nearest the water was completely free so we bagged one of these. Sweden seems to have a short summer season which ends around the end of August so this will be good for us, hopefully.

I managed a circular walk of about three miles along the side of Siljan, much of it through woodland, finishing with a road walk and back along the waterside path before supper this evening.

Our overnight site was so beautiful that had it not been for the lack of facilities we would happily have stayed another night. We set off in the hope that we might find a site in a similar location somewhere around the lake.

Our first stop was at Mora, at the north end of the lake. We couldn't find the Tourist Office, and weren't impressed by what we could see of the busy town, so moved on round the lake to Rattvik. Here we had success, finding a TIO with wifi and lots of useful information. There is plenty of interest in the area. As a result we came straight to the site we are now settled at for a couple of nights. It is as perfect as can be for our needs. In Tällberg, right on the lake, and not big. It's a pretty smart place which, according to Lonely Planet, has eight upmarket hotels (but small and discreet) to its 200 residents. LP waxes lyrical, describing it as "tiny Tällberg ... cuteness personified with its smattering of gingerbread houses". A bit OTT, but it is very attractive. How wonderful to have a really nice, simple campsite in such a lovely place. We have  a pitch at the front with an uninterrupted view over the lake through the now familiar well spaced out silver birches and pines. I had a dip - a bit chilly - followed by a hot shower. Bliss! And G seems to have managed to cover 8 miles + in his pre-breakfast and pre-supper walks.

We are now watching the sun set over the lake. There's enough breeze for there to be small waves on the lake, and the sound of the  water lapping on the shore just completes the perfect setting. Glad we are booked for another night.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Kulåra Camping, Sollerön - Sunday, 14 August

I discovered this fellow on an early morning walk today.

Most of our driving today, which wasn't that far, was on the E45, a wide open road with forest on either side. The trees here tend to be more widely spaced than in the UK and so doesn't seem at all oppressive. It was really lovely, definitely nothing like anywhere in the UK but, although I've never been to Canada, I thought maybe British Columbia might be something like it. It wasn't a busy road.

We stopped in the next town along the way, Malung, although the tourist information office wasn't open. We found wifi outside a Swedbank and downloaded today's paper. Later, we stopped in a parking area for the Stogsmuseum. We're still not sure what a stog is - perhaps something to do with the forest. Anyway, we didn't pay the 60SEK to go in but just wandered around some craft stalls.

We thought the island of Sollerön looked a possibility for an overnight. It is reached by a bridge and is surrounded by a large body of water named Siljan. There are two campsites. The first one we came to, just over the bridge on to the island, was a big commercial site and didn't appeal. For a reduced price of 100SEK, we could have parked overnight in their Quickstop part of the car park (with hookup), but only from 6pm and it was then only 2pm. We went on to the other site, only a couple of miles further on. It is Kulåra Camping, a grassy area by the waterside. No hookup but water and basic earth closets. We moved form our first chosen spot as we were under a conifer tree and, now and again, a cone would drop on to the camper roof. It is very quiet with about six other units, all German. There are walks either way alongside the water in woodland. We have spent a peaceful evening, sitting outside the camper looking at the nearly full moon shining down on the water.

A  stop in Malung to download the Sunday Times and then it was just an hour's drive to reach the Lake Siljan area. The road, the E45 is simply stunning, stretching into the distance through lakes and big forested hills, with very little traffic. An unscheduled stop at the forestry museum, where there were all kinds of local craft stalls, and then on to Sollerön, an almost-island in the lake. The first campsite we stopped at was pretty packed so we continued a little further to a small lakeside site with minimal facilities. It is looked after on a voluntary basis by the villagers, and has fire pits and stone barbecues available, and a log store. There are two little sheds, each with a loo which is just a wooden bench with hole (with a little wooden cover like a saucepan lid) and a drop into a large plastic bag lined hole! The doors have graphic wood carvings attached to them to indicate male and female!!

I got my walking poles out, for the first time I'm ashamed to say, and we enjoyed a lovely lakeside walk and back through the woods, getting caught in the rain just in the last 5 minutes. Now, after supper, it is a lovely bright and peaceful evening, with just the crackle of a couple of wood fires.  We are one of half a dozen campervans spread out under the trees, with a view over the sunlit lake to the open hills opposite.

Parking area by Dutch Mountain restaurant, near Malung - Saturday, 13 August

We weren't sure what to do today, except that we were generally making our way eastwards. In a book I'd picked up a couple of days ago from the Morokulien information centre there was an article about the home of a famous writer who had lived nearby and in the reception of our last night's site I collected a leaflet about a week long literary and culture festival, which included a celebration of her work, in the nearby town of Sunne. She was referred to as being world famous but neither of us had heard of her. She was Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940), a writer and novelist who was the first Swede and the first woman to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Her best known work is The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, the story of Nils Holgersson, a farm boy who has adventures after being transformed into an elf. He and a gander on his parents' farm join a flock of geese on their way to Lapland in the far north. It has been translated into about sixty languages and filmed several times. It is a children's story that can be read on various levels. Her other books have had films based on them and one film launched the career of Greta Garbo. I'm not sure why I'd never heard of her and I'm sure someone out there will be suitably amazed.

We spent a couple of hours at Lagerlöf's house, Mårbacka, a few miles out of Sunne (although the house itself wasn't going to be open till later today for a guided tour in Swedish). Instead, we wandered around the gardens and in a couple of barns there were displays telling of Lagerlöf's life and career, together with the film and Hollywood connections. We also had lunch in the cafe.

Afterwards, we drove on to investigate a possible halt for the night, up a winding road which ended at what, in the winter, would have been a busy centre for skiing and cross-country skiing. The views from the top were far-reaching but it was all rather bleak and we decided to move on. After a pleasant enough drive, we have settled at a camper stop next to a restaurant. There are loos and picnic tables. We are the only camper van here (one that was here when we arrived moved off soon afterwards) but there is also a car and caravan. There have been a few comings and goings of cars but now, at 10.15pm, it is very quiet.

After all the rain yesterday today started off again with blue skies and sunshine, and the campsite was transformed and really lovely. We spent some time looking up some local possibilities and settled on a visit to Mårbacka, near Sunne, the home of the prolific Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf. Much to our embarrassment and the surprise of those at the house we had never heard of her. She died in 1940 requesting that the childhood home which she had repurchased and renovated be left as it was for people to visit. She was the first Swede and the first woman to win the Nobel prize for literature, and quite a phenomenal character. She is apparently known worldwide for her 'wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson' which was written for schoolchildren to both learn to read and learn about their country. It is about a naughty boy who is turned into an elf and travels the country with some geese, during which time through his adventures he becomes a reformed character. Not my usual reading genre, but I'm giving it a go. She is better loved in Sweden for her other works - novels, poetry, letters and autobiographical books. We were told that Swedish people don't like the Nils Holgersson stories because they had to read them at school. It was a beautiful place in its own right, and fascinating to learn about her life and works. We lunched in the cafe there.

We travelled on in the direction of Lake Siljan keeping a fairly open mind as to an overnight stop. We had read about a Nature Reserve called Hovfjallet which sounded interesting. After a long drive up a deserted road we arrived - it was a winter ski resort and looked very forlorn and deserted, and pretty depressing. We also encountered what I think were our first Swedish mozzies. With the scars from my first set of bites 3 weeks ago almost gone, I don't intend to go out of my way to attract more. So I let G explore a bit, and enjoy the far-reaching views before we descended again. By now the rain had set in again too, but we have found an acceptable free stopover in a Rastplatz just outside Malung.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Gräsmarkslägret campsite, Uddheden - Friday, 12 August

Not a lot to say about today. An early morning walk in the forest was superb. I thought I was alone but, almost out of nowhere, came a man on a sporting pony trap going at quite a pace.

Before we left, three coach loads of Korean tourists called at the information centre. It must be on their route to somewhere or other.

Most of our driving today was on minor forested roads, not all properly maintained. We stopped for lunch by the church in the village of Gunnarskog, overlooking a lake. We are on a lovely campsite in a forest clearing. It isn't at all crowded and is very quiet. The forest tracks round about are delightful. I photographed some fungi.

Three coach loads of Koreans arrived this morning, took photos, and departed before we left. It is clearly on the tourist route for them.

This was another stopover where it was difficult to drag ourselves away. But off we went late morning with light rain set in. More lovely lakes, forests and empty roads, and a late coffee stop and time to read the paper in a church car park with a lovely view. Which also became our lunch stop because we lingered so long. We reached our overnight destination, a nice wooded campsite at Uddheden mid afternoon and hunkered down for a while. It has turned quite chilly as well as damp. Warm jumpers were extracted from their hiding places. I am very glad to have my padded North Face slip-ons with me. They even manage to warm up cold feet. A hot shower was welcome. G donned full waterproofs and went out exploring and declared the surroundings lovely. Maybe tomorrow.....

After a good supper washed down with a glass of red wine he declared that he was feeling quite mellow - until the washing up needed doing!

Meanwhile, I had been busy trying to find a promising stop for tomorrow night. It would be a good three hours driving to reach the Lake Siljan area, and with plenty of time in hand we really aim to do only half that amount each day. But the area between here and there looks pretty empty on all the maps. Pocket Earth is not serving us so well in Sweden. There are more places marked on our road atlas than Pocket Earth has discovered. We plan to head for somewhere around halfway and see what turns up!

Looking forward to my bed!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Morokulien services, Norway/Sweden border - Thursday, 11 August

We left late, having got some clothes washing done and treated ourselves to possibly the best ever Danish pastries from the site shop. We set the sat nav for Charlottenberg, just over the border into Sweden with the intention of refuelling there. Diesel (and everything else) is cheaper in Sweden. It turned out to be a very pleasant route across country, passing through very few villages. We stopped by a lake for lunch. There was so little traffic - maybe a vehicle passed us by every five minutes or so. It was a undulating winding route, through forest (Norwegian Wood?) most of the way, quite lovely. For maybe ten miles after our lunch stop, the road clearly had been metalled but at some point stopped being maintained, so was rough and potholed in places.

We had been intending to stay overnight at a site a few miles into Sweden but, on reaching the border at 5pm, we espied a camper stop so turned round and went to it. It is a gem of a place. There is an information centre where we took advantage of free wifi (and will do so again before we leave in the morning), loos and showers (daytime only) but a separate loo open 24 hours. One of the ladies in the information centre took a photo of us either side of the border (which passes through the building). The name, Morokulien, is a made up word. A notice board explains that the word "was formed in a Swedish/Norwegian radio entertainment programme called "Across all borders" in 1959, with the purpose of raising money for refugees in the world. The name is a word game composed of both the Norwegian and Swedish word for "fun" - "Moro + kul + ien" (fun + fun + into one)."

Nearby is a peace monument built in 1914 in gratitude for 100 years of peace between Sweden and Norway. It precisely straddles the border.

This point also marks the start of the Finnskogleden, a 240km trail through "a varied terrain of forests, marshlands and waters". I think they mean lakes as there are a number along the route. It seems quite a remote route which I've already added to my mental list of walks to do.

As we didn't have to be off the site until 2pm, we spent a useful morning catching up on washing and getting it all dry in the brilliant sunshine! What a change in the weather! This site really is very impressive. It is only open during the summer, but certainly has a great feel to it, especially when the sun is shining. We would definitely recommend it. The small shop even had freshly baked Danish pastries, which we enjoyed with our coffee.

Our cross country route to the border was lovely, and just how I imagined Norway. Vistas of blue-green wooded hills as far as the eye could see. We went down some very rough unmetalled roads through forests and past lakes and found an idyllic lunch stop. We came across very little traffic. At one point we turned off to go into a small town and found an excellent supermarket where we spent our remaining Norwegian kroner on some treats.

It was about 5 by the time we reached the border at Morokulien, a made up name which I'm sure G will mention and explain further in his blog. We noticed a few campervans in a large lovely wooded car park so quickly turned off the road to investigate. It is another free Camperstop. There is a great information centre which actually straddles the border, with loos, free wifi and comfortable settees
open from 9 to 6, with showers as well for a small charge. And a loo outside the building open all night. It is also the beginning of a 150 mile trail. I think G was seriously wondering whether it might be possible to set off on it right now. Hmm! There are lovely walks in both directions, so he can explore further in the morning. There is also a Peace Statue here, straddling the border and erected in 1914 to mark 100 years of peace between Norway and Sweden, and a pagoda and bell given by South Korea in 2010. An amazing place altogether, and quite unexpected.