Sweden is like Russia – just cleaner, like Scotland – just more colourful and like Switzerland – just flatter.
It’s unbelievable how much crossing that bridge from Denmark has changed. Gone were the horrible Eporio-nouveau infrastructure, grim people, dull roads and hay-roofed houses:)
We’re into the real Scandinavia and the Country of frozen Socialism.
I woke up near a small town of Ängelholm where I stayed at a camp site with… you guessed it, benches, tables, fireplaces, rubbish bins and free showers and toilets. You are probably reading this in your fancy condo somewhere in London or New York may not quite understand the importance of these things but once you hit the road believe me, you will see the difference between capitalist US/UK and Sweden.
I walked down to the beach, I knew it will be the last beach I am going to see in quite a while as I shall be going up North via mid-country and won’t see the waves for a while. And here we are, the signs of a social state: There are amnesties to make your stay by the sea enjoyable. What would we have in England? That’s right, the sign saying “No barbecues, no ball games, no kites, no… nothing”. Here we have a life saving device, a rubbish bin, a clean barbecue, another rubbish bin in case you missed the first one and a table. Come and enjoy the nature of Sweden! All paid for by the taxpayer.
And so I said a goodbye to the Baltic and set my way up North towards Stockholm via small towns in the middle of the country’s South. It is there where I realised that the world we live in is changing. All… ALL of the towns I have been to were full of lovely Swedish people. They were sitting in towns’ centre squares listening to music off their mobile phones and chatting in a Swedish dialect called Arabic. Obviously they did not need to go to work and were seemingly feeling just fine. Ah, these cute Swedes!
This picture repeated itself in three or four towns I’ve visited. It gave me this reassuring feeling of what Europe is doing is right, these people are encouraged to add value to the society and will no doubt solve the problem of Europe’s ageing population and lack of qualified work force. Well done, Sweden!
Anyway, let’s enjoy Sweden while it’s still here:)
I would highly advise you to drop off main roads of Sweden – they are dead boring! Exceptionally well made they are restricted to 120kph and in 300km I have seen police in unmarked Volvos get people at least four times… so it’s not worth it. You aren’t going to see Sweden fast but I can guarantee you that you will see a much more beautiful Sweden if you don’t take those main roads. Lose 30% of time and be exposed to the beauty of Swedish countryside!
Sweden – like Russia just tidier!
Wherever I went I could not get rid of a feeling that I have seen these houses before! You will see similar… no, same, houses in Western parts of Russia, near Moscow where the Soviets built them for writers and composers of the era. Sunken in beautiful landscapes among trees and lakes it is difficult to take photos of them because of how well they blend with nature of the area.
The Swedes have this gift of making their houses part of nature, not supersede it. But it makes photographer’s life a little hell:)
I really liked the little natural stone houses… or are those ice storage? I know that in Russia they used to have ice storage – they would will these little houses with snow and ice all winter and it would stay there most of the summer. What these are for I am not sure, a local girl told me this may be an old family burial place but I doubt that.
Everything in rural Sweden is well-connected by graded roads. I don’t know how much unpaved road there is in Britain, probably 10 miles. Here they are everywhere and they’re in a very good shape! Smaller villages are marked with yellow road signs and those will take you into the iconic graded roads of Sweden. This is where you realise that going fast on the autobahns just isn’t a Swedish thing. Sweden is here – on the gravel road of Scandinavian forests. Marked with “M” they will make you wanna race your car, remember the Colin McRae rally game!
Speaking of cars. They have this rule in Scandinavia that one must keep their headlights on at all times. Why? I have not got a clue, maybe to show local elks how far the progress took the humanity. But the thing is that because they use the lights at all times they wear out… and only one of the lights in old cars works… I think Swedes keep driving like that until their world plunges into darkness… and then they switch over to using fog lights… and then they sell the car:)
Another funny thing I noticed is that mostly it’s the left-hand side light that lives longer, why? Only Swedes and Swedish elks know!
They also use these mother-of-all fig lights that they bolt onto cars – I really like that stuff, that’s like a boy’s dream! Makes me feel seven again!
Hooray, I stayed with a couple through the couch surfing thing! And the experience makes me talk politics and social economics again. Why is that the people who have nothing give most? Why is that the people who earn fortunes air-bnb their rooms and it’s the working class who are so keen to share their couch for free?!
I stayed at a classic Swedish house in Växjö and I really enjoyed my experience. I think once I get rich again I should definitely keep a spare room for couch surfers, I really hope that Air BnB don’t take over the world of free hospitality… which I doubt.
Växjö gave me a little break form the forest life and has shown what small Swedish towns look like… with their high streets, lovely tanned Swedes spending their days spitting at the town square so I decided that it’s best to hit the back roads again. Someone I met in Germany suggested that I go and see Eksjö so I decided that I shall take the smallest roads to get there and despite the rain that day I can say that that was the right decision!
Back are he colourful wooden houses, back are the log stacks and lodges, here are the gravel roads again to put my car to its limits and feel it drift in corners! Yay!
Back to the Back Roads of Sweden
The road to Eksjö was full of beautiful houses and little holiday villages, all empty and waiting for their Swedish guests to escape to for their annual 5-week holidays starting in just a few days and incorporating the famous mid-summer celebration with dancing around fires and boys meeting their girls and girls making their wishes…
I continued through the forests of Sweden and in one of the towns I foind a boat in the middle of a forest:)
That night Sweden lots to Italy in a football game and I arrived to Stockholm during the time of a national disaster, it’s not that football is big in Sweden anyway. Meet a Swede and he/she is more likely to be a member of a local hockey team (Hockey is by default Ice Hockey, you, people of countries without snow!;)
Eksjö was the end of my trip across the Southern part of the country. Next was Stockholm with its beautiful black roofs, astonishing architecture, insane city roads where you will lost even with a sat. nav and the most diverse city districts imaginable!
Don’t even think you can take a bite of this amazing city in a weekend or a week. I reckon it’d take you at least a month of just walking around 10 ours a day to full appreciate its diversity.
Many years ago I was in Bergen, Norway where I bough a Christmas decoration – a glass ball with a winter scene painted on it. The ball was massive but the most remarkable thing about it was the level of detail in its decoration. The more you look the more detail you notice in the winter landscape, in the characters painted on it – there is a seemingly endless level of complexity in that decoration. I can say the same thing about Stockholm – look at it for a vantage point and you’ll see beautiful islands, look closer and you’ll notice amazing building, look even closer and each house will reveal endless details of their roofs and facades with sculptures right atop of roofs and the architecture itself is amazing!
What’s also cool it that Stockholm is spread across many islands and every single one of them will have it’s “thing” – there is the touristy centre, a historical part in the west with Viking museums etc, there is a “hip” island which I would highly recommend you go to for Friday drinks (but be ready to end up in the realms of unknown, I warned you;).
There is an island in/around Stockholm for everyone! You just need to find out where you belong.
My trip started with a sunset – I was going to stay at the Vaxholm island which is part of they would call in England the Stockbroker’s Belt around London.
I noticed a rainbow above and I decided to go and chase it and maybe find the hidden sack of gold and I did indeed found it!
It is of course a coincidence that this was one of the most wealthy parks of the Stockholm archipelago:) So I guess the rainbow does indeed point at gold;)
I must say Vaxholm is a place of older people who escaped the buzz of younger Stockholm but what a lovely place that was! This again reminded me of posh suburbs near Moscow!
I roamed the beautiful harbour and took a ferry ride with the locals escaping the boring rain.
Lea was looking at the window through the blur of rain thinking of her home in Bavaria, the mountains, the cows and the hot Bavarian sun, snowy winters and skiing and of course the mountains… but all she could see here was the cold Scandinavian rain.
It was time for me to leave Stockholm, as much as I wanted to stay here for longer I had to continue my trip up North and hopefully find a descent place where they celebrate the mid-summer in a traditional way.