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Published: July 17th 2009
An apology is in order. The Danes aren't alone in Scandinavia in their capacity to charge. The rest of Scandinavia is right there with them, although we have concluded that Sweden offered a little more for our money than the others have so far. The prices are not really unexpected but they do make you blanch a little. And what is the Australian GST? A pissy little 10% was it? Try whacking 25% on everything you buy, or at least everything that we seem to have bought to date.
We decided to make this run up and around Scandinavia because we had a month between one Frankfurt visit and the next. We realised that this would not be enough time but thought that we could have a taste that might whet our appetites for a future, longer visit or put us off some parts altogether. So far, it hasn't done much to put us off though. Just might have to make sure we have compiled a good bank and are pretty fit for the next t trip.
The first thing to strike me about Sweden is that the farmers have very similar taste in house paint but a slightly
Planes On Sticks
This is much more common than you would think. Not just planes but all sorts of paraphernalia
different taste in design from those in Denmark - and I am accused of not paying attention to detail!. The paint, we are told, is called “Falun” Red. It is a dull, deep red colour common to the barns you see in American movies. “Falun” is the name of a copper mine in Sweden (I think). No connection yet? Well it seems that the paint either is or was a by-product of the copper mining process. It is either very cheap, considered the height of high fashion in house paint, there is a rule about it or it has some wonderful preservative quality for wood. In rural areas the coverage is 90% - and I might be underselling there. Even in the more urban areas coverage is very strong. Gives a nice uniformity to the place. Pleasing to the eye if they take the time to add a little white trim..
Those sheds - and, in addition to tractors, I am a little into sheds - that you see in American movies, that are even called 'American Barns' in the advertising material, they were born and bred around here. The Danish and Swedish designs are just a little different.
The Danes might like things to look much the same as their neighbours where the Swedes, just occasionally, go for something a little different. A change in the roof line there or a door in a different position. That sort of thing. Same colour normally but maybe Falun Red hasn't quite the coverage here it enjoys in Denmark.
It is, of course, not just sheds. Houses also enjoy a high level of uniformity or perhaps commonality in design. More difference has crept in here though. I put this down to strange city ways and the fickleness of women who are bound to have more influence in house design than that of sheds.
Entering Sweden we proceeded over another massive bridge and through a substantial tunnel with another hefty toll and moved towards Malmo. This is Sweden's second largest city and we were a little interested in it for no more substantial reason than that it is mentioned in all of the Kurt Wallander books. After spending a slothful week on the beach at Nyborg though and considering the size of Scandinavia, we decided to skip Malmo as well as Ystad (where Kurt lives and is a police detective)
And if the water level comes up 2 meters?
and head directly for Stockholm. On this drive, neatly ordered farms give way, after a time, to neatly ordered forests and then to less neatly ordered forests. The road took us up the middle of the country and missed the busier, and possibly neater, coastal areas.
Stockholm has the reputation of being the 'Venice of the North'. It is based around water, being built on islands with plenty of bridges and waterways. These are probably great for boat travellers. Not so good if you are on foot. Which bridge did we come over to get here? Which island are we on? How do we get to that one over there with the railway station?
The city has a nice feel to it. Certainly, tries to look after tourists but it is just as clearly not there just for the tourists. The locals are obviously very comfortable with the way it operates. We were planning to take a bicycle tour for a couple of hours but the rain and clear threat of even heavier rain put us off and convinced us that seeing Stockholm from the water was a better option for a couple of hours. The boat trip
There is so much we could learn from the Europeans in livening up our cities
under all of the bridges was a useful and interesting way of getting a quick view of the place. The bike tour would have given us more depth about a smaller area but that was not to be on this trip. We supplemented the boat with much walking and, yet again, happened on the royal palace as they were changing the guard. Not so serious this mob. The smiles on the faces of the guards may indicate that even they find it all a bit ridiculous - or maybe they were just happy to be standing about in the rain in pretty uniforms.
The deal on the hotel in Stockholm was a good one. A studio apartment cheaper than most, with cooking facilities and with a very good breakfast included. The place, 'StayAt Kista', was out in the boonies about 10km from the centre of town and was parked on top of a large shopping mall. It was also close to the metro station and, all in all, very convenient. Walking around the mall, as we did, you are immediately struck by the variety in the current Swedish population. That 6', blonde haired, blue-eyed gene pool is currently being
Just imagine being a Swede without water views. Luckily, there can't be many of them.
enhanced by squads of Indians and Africans. Not so many people from SE Asia but still well represented. Not just out at Kista of course but there seemed to be a a more highly mixed population out here. Better food for sale out here too. Felt just a little like Darwin.
Given that we currently have a vehicle and there is a lot of country to see, we decided to make this a road trip and, basically, just keep rolling along, stopping every now and then to look at things of interest. The basic plan, and it was certainly basic, was to head north, hit the coast, turn right (or west for the pedants), hit the coast and then head south until we hit Frankfurt again. First stop on the road north was Umea on the Baltic coast. A large town, but cold and wet on the day we were there. A lot of holidaying Swedes and others seemed to be in the area but I think the weather forced all except the fishers inside. Nothing keeps them inside of course. In streams, on beaches and hanging off rocks there is always someone fishing for something. They must catch
a few but there is not a lot of evidence of it as far as we could see.
We wanted to go inland for a while and visit some places that looked interesting but simply didn't have the time if we were also to make it around the rest of the coast. Stopped for a little while at Haparanda/Tornio. Haparanda is on the Swedish side, Tornio on the Finnish. They, yet again, have shops there. We couldn't leave Sweden without actually walking through an Ikea - so we did, and bought a coffee pot. Also went to another store where we bought a Trangia. A purchase that has been a long time coming but is already proving its worth.
After a furious effort to get rid of the Swedish kroner we had left, it was into Finland and back to the euro for a while. These countries are all very close and have many similarities. It is a source of mild surprise that there are always subtle differences. Falun Red is not so much the colour of choice for sheds and houses here. It is still there of course but it is not as dominant. Yellows and blues
He is everywhere.
also stand proudly.
Up to Rovaniemi, a town about 5 km from the Arctic Circle. A nice, well organised town that clearly gets a lot colder than it was while we were there. We walked around the town, along the river - there is so much water about here. They were in the middle of a festival of sorts. The rain, which wasn't that bad while we were there had dampened things but there were still a lot of people out and about.
A 'must see' in Rovaniemi is the Arktikum. This is a facility aimed at bringing us all quickly up to speed on all things 'Arctic'. A museum, Sami history and life, plants and animals, snow and the massive threat to the region of global warming. No doubters here and there is little concern over what is causing it. They are focused on the dramatic effect it is having in the region. Well worth the visit.
Crossing the Arctic Circle made us wonder why we, in the Northern Territory that is, don't make more of crossing the Tropic of Capricorn. None of your plaque and some kind of metal post on the side of the
Love the Eyes
but doesn't he/she look a little drunk?
road here. A full blown theme park complete with 4 service stations. Buses and people everywhere. We stopped, had a quick look and moved on.
Moving north from the Arctic Circle the country gradually changed. Trees were becoming shorter and the bush was thicker. Less agriculture and more land used for reindeer grazing. We had planned to get along further but had spent longer than we had anticipated at the Arktikum so Inari was to be a stopping place, provided we could find a place to stay.
Inari is a Sami village and contains the Siida Centre which is a Sami information centre and museum. This made the second highly informative and impressively presented museum in one day. You do get a little jaded with museums and similar facilities from time to time. Some old bones, a bit of old machinery, some clothing that has been dredged out of a cupboard and a bit of half hearted commentary, more often than not in a language you can barely understand tend to mean that you can be charged an admission and be aimed at the souvenir shop. The Siida Centre shows how it can be done.
they whack down kms in a day. All fire and hot tar. Surreal.
just buying a ticket we were greeted. A conversation about who we were, what we were interested in, what is available and how to see it all and you hardly noticed that you forked over the necessary 8 Euros per head - cheaper than most. The presentations were excellent with information provided in Sami and 4 other languages. An introductory display that very effectively placed the history and development of the different groups of Sami into the context of the times followed by a more extensive display that delivered an informative and interesting overview of Sami life. It is just possible that animal liberationists may have a tiny difficulty coping with the graphic descriptions of the marking of the ears of reindeer calves but they could only have been intrigued by the intricate ear marks that develop as the marks of grandparents are reflected in those of their grandchildren through the ages. Not a gentle people this mob but attuned to their environment. Some of the animal traps in the outdoor display looked very efficient as they would have had to have been..
Onwards north again next morning and the great debate continues - will we simply hang a
Reindeer in Rovaniemi
nice town to walk around but just a little chilly.
left when we get to the 'top' or do we go on to the 'real' top at a place called Nordkapp, which is just a little out of the way. Decision made we headed for Nordkapp. The stories about cost could not stand up against - we are here now so why not? And anyway it only took as about 600 kms out of our way.
To make this journey we needed to cross into Norway. We took a roundabout route so that we could go along a more scenic road - in the rain but that shouldn't matter. Crossed the border and, for the first time this trip were searched fairly thoroughly by the Norwegian Customs. This was not a problem. We had no contraband of any type. I suspect that this was the reason. Who travels to Norway without duty free grog or cigarettes? You could probably fund your holiday with the proceeds of a good sale.
An admission - to the extent that I have ever thought about it, I thought that the Arctic would be a pretty barren place. Of course, the only place that I have been in above the Arctic Circle was
Apparently the most northern Maccas in Europe and there goes one option for wifi
Barrow in Alaska and 'barren' is a kind description. It isn't all barren of course. There are farms and highly productive land in parts. But on the run to Nordkapp you get to see the 'real' Arctic. The one I had come to see. The trees get smaller and then disappear. The land becomes more spectacular. Ice or snow is available to be photographed high on the mountains and then, as you drive on, very much closer to your level, in midsummer. Wonderful stuff.
We hit Nordkapp late in the day, or it should have been. About 1630. Sun still high in the sky of course. Wind blowing a gale and still raining. Very substantial bridges and tunnels have been constructed to aid the traveller and those who live off the travellers. The toll on this road was around NOK200 each way and we paid another NOK430 to get into the actual North Cape - which is supposed to be the point in Europe closest to the Pole. (There is another point next door that is in fact some meters closer but you have to walk 18km to get there so this one will do). We could have bought
A theme park yet for a line on the map. Still pulls up the tourists.
T-shirts for all of our family and friends but they had the wrong latitude on them. They reckon it is 71 degrees, 10 minutes 21 seconds. My Magellan GPS disagrees by 5 seconds. Couldn't afford the T-shirts either without getting a job.
We now turn East and then South. Will find an internet connection somewhere. The northern most Maccas in the world is back at Rovaniemi. What will we do for free wifi without them? Burger King? More soon on the wonders of Norway but we have to stop long enough to write them and that is difficult with a deadline looming and us in scalded cat mode.
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