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Published: September 3rd 2009
Goteborg is pronounced; 'Yut-te-boy' apparently
Motorhome News from Europe 24.
Sweden June 2005
Goteborg (taking the time to smell the roses), to Stockholm and beyond
Gothenborg, as we know it, is one of those places you pass through when you arrive in Sweden by ferry; but we had been led to believe there is more to this western port. The city was just a fifteen minute tram ride from our camp and with the promise of a bright sunny day, we set forth to find out more.
In Swedish, Goteborg is pronounced; ‘Yut-te-boy’ apparently, so you might guess that we are going to struggle just a wee bit with the language. That’s only a minor problem for seasoned travellers like us of course, particularly, as in Norway, the younger locals all speak good English! There are not a lot of ‘sights’ to see in this, Sweden’s second city, but it truly bristles with stunning architecture. Grand merchant’s houses with beautiful facades, influenced by trading links with the Far East and the Swedish East India Company, adorn every broad airy street across the whole city; four, five and six storey, balconied, Neo-classical buildings, set amongst beautiful parkland. Neat people stroll the streets
Tradgardsforeningens Park by the river
We'll long remember the sweet scented Rose Garden Cafe.
in the sunshine and relax with their newspapers in smart cafes at tables overflowing onto the street, and mums and dads wheel pushchairs through the parks. We’ll long remember the sweet scented rose garden café in the Tradgardsforeningens Park by the river, with its tropical glasshouse on the lines of our long-lost Crystal Palace. Our cottage back home could well be getting a new secret rose garden sometime in the future! Ten out of ten here too, for the free internet at the University Library from which you received our last newsletter.
Just now and again we strike it lucky. A short detour south off route 49 beyond the E20 at Skara as we headed east towards Karlsborg on Lake Vattern, led us to a fantastic bird site. Lake Hornborga is home to ten thousand migrating cranes during March and April, stopping off to feast on potatoes left in the ground after the schnapps harvest, on their way north to their breeding grounds. They fly in from Spain and just a few stop to breed here. We were lucky enough to see three pairs with young on the wetlands which teemed with birds: osprey, marsh harrier, hundreds of greylag
the impressive onion-towered church at Varnhem where very early Swedish kings were buried
geese, nesting black tern and black headed gulls, and stunning displaying ruffs which we had not seen before. Here too, we met Jan Lundegren who leads the Baltic Sea Region Wetland Development project, ‘Birds’ for the member countries, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia and Lithuania. He’s an agronomist and a keen birder who has found his ideal job. A most interesting guy, he gave us a one-hour lesson on the geology, history and natural history of the area! Jan had stopped off to see the birds on his way to the office following a meeting in Germany the day before and before he left us, he told us about the impressive onion-towered church at Varnhem where very early Swedish kings were buried when this now tiny village, was the capital of Sweden.
North of the 49 here, the narrow road weaves through hilly countryside of Lake District proportions, fields of sheep’s parsley like lace tablecloths in the afternoon sun, a few arable farms and squeaky smart villages, their houses surrounded by spacious manicured gardens amidst broad leaf woods, logs piled high in wait for another hard winter. It would be all too easy to drive past on the main
Lake Farnebofjarden (have you got your teeth in mother?)
Imagine, if you will, our view from Smiley across the lake in the early evening after dinner.
road and miss all this. This country is so green. The mighty oaks, avenues of lime, elm and alder, luxuriant grass meadows, moss covered dry-stone walls; forest, more forest and yet more forest on every horizon.
The same applies to Tiveden National Park. Created a National Park in 1938 to enable the forest to naturally revert, it is but a short way off the main road to Stockholm north of Karlsborg. We made an overnight stop there to give us the chance of a hike through the silent ancient pine forest early the following morning. This area houses a world famous ‘outdoor survival school’ and we soon learned how easy it would be to get lost! We expected to see Ray Mears pop up behind a moose at any moment, but he must have been making one of his survival programmes somewhere else. Fortunately, we found the well-marked trail through the high granite outcrops on uneven rocky tracks bound with tree roots like writhing snakes. Deep green moss graced the huge boulders lining the path and reindeer lichen, firm to the touch as silver coral, made a beautiful foil for the emerald green ferns. It’s just 10,000 years since the
....home to ten thousand migrating cranes during March and April
ice sheet receded here and there is little soil to support plant-life and many trees have fallen, slowly decaying, their roots torn from the ground. This, the blanket of pine needles and decaying vegetation from bilberry, scrubby salix, the mosses and the lichen, is all that provides the nutrients for tomorrow’s trees.
Smiley was in desperate need of a wash and polish during the week after many hours of off-road driving getting to some of the parks. These un-surfaced roads can get pretty mucky after a good downpour - and we’ve had one or two of those. The roads in general are extremely good and un-crowded and all drivers are extremely courteous and unhurried. But then, there aren’t many roads and with a population of just 9 million and all this space (this is Europe’s third largest country after France and Spain), there’s plenty of room to spread them all out! 4 million of those people live within a few miles of Malmo, Gothenborg, or our next stop, Stockholm. Some of the road junctions are a bit of a mystery. We came across one with so many traffic lights I was not sure where to go. I could see
nine green lights. That’s one for straight on, one for turn right, one for turn left, one for up and one for down and one for backwards, but I still don’t know what the rest were for!
Finally, we arrived on the Baltic coast at Stockholm late on Friday evening and Janice started planning for our flying visit to the capital. We don’t stay long in cities - just long enough to get the flavour and add a bit of culture to our lives. Stockholm enjoys its space. There are 24,000 islands here making it a just competitor for Venice, and the shimmering water creates dazzling skylines in every direction, beautiful buildings, parks and spire-topped terraces. The Swedes love their space; their houses are all well spread out, the streets are broad and airy; and everyone has a seat on the clean and light Metro, quietly and efficiently getting the job done in a ‘feel safe’ environment. It was warm on the day of our visit but we’re told that Lake Malaren which feeds into the Baltic here, freezes over in the winter and people can skate to work! I suspect that the small population has something to do
with the weather and the long dark winters, though if I had to choose a Capital to live in, Stockholm would be worthy of considerable consideration. Traffic jams are unheard of; there is no litter and no beggars.
There’s a museum for everything in Stockholm of course; some in staggeringly beautiful buildings, but after a ‘sightseeing cruise’ and a stroll through the old town, Gamla Stan, we headed past the sunbathers gathered in the park to the Vasa Museum and yet another fantastic boat. The Vasa was built in 1628 and, as it left the harbour on its maiden trial before going into battle against Poland, it fired its 64 canons in salute - then promptly keeled over and sank! Many attempts were made to re-float it but it was not until 1961 that the Navy finally hauled it from the bottom of the harbour, all in one piece! At 67metres long, it’s an impressive sight. 90% of it is original, preserved evidently by the brackish waters of the Baltic.
Lupins grow beside the roads at this time of the year, accompanied by thrift, purple cranes bill, red campion and sticky catchfly. Marsh Hawksbeard and Goatsbeard
The Vasa Museum
One step (or more) up from the Mary Rose!
were growing in bright yellow swathes by the path on our walk across the marshes at Lake Hjalstaviken a bit further north and Yellow Irises there reminded us of Ireland in Spring. An Osprey treated us to a diving display there; not the piercing dive of a kingfisher or a gannet, but with a huge splash as it entered the water, feet first; unlucky on this occasion, the fish living to tell the tale! This magnificent bird has a wingspan of over five feet. There were several Swedish ‘birders’ there with their telescopes, drawn to the lake by reports of the great white egret; a rarity here, this was about 1000 miles north of its range, doubtless due to a sat-nav error.
A hundred or so miles north of Stockholm, we visited Sweden’s fourth largest city, Upsalla. It was Sunday and a rather special, peaceful experience. Churchgoers in their Sunday finery were leaving the Cathedral taking the time to chat in groups in the sunshine, there were numerous lady clerics, families picnicking by the river; lively street cafés and a youthful air; a touch of Cambridge perchance, without the magnificence of the colleges.
Monday. Lake Farnebofjarden (‘Have you
got your teeth in mother?’) - Gysinge. 120miles NW of Stockholm.
Imagine, if you will, our view from Smiley across the lake in the early evening after dinner. There’s a willow warbler singing its heart out, a black throated diver just fifty metres from the shore and the mellow evening light is shining on the forest of pines on the far shore. Our neighbour has just taken his boat out for a spot of fishing on the still waters, there’s a pleasant cooling breeze coming off the lake and the sun will be there, smiling over us until well after eleven o’clock. Earlier we watched five ospreys soaring over the water; a truly memorable experience; and a mother goosander fishing in the fast flowing river with her thirteen young. It sure beats work!
Our week ended along the Voxman river inland from Soderhamn on Sweden’s east coast where we were greeted by the site owner, a big man with the huge beard and the smile of a giant. There were canoes and climbing walls beside the fast flowing water, but the Swedish holidaymakers had yet to break loose and crowd us out. It was Midsummer night and the crowds
would start to arrive for the holiday.
Sweet dreams then, as we contemplate this weekend’s celebrations.
David and Janice
The Grey Haired Nomads
Other birds this week: Female Capercaillie & young, spotted, pied and red-breasted flycatcher, tree pipit, bullfinch, long tailed tit, lesser-spotted, great-spotted and black woodpecker.
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