Attractive short legged Swedish horse species

Typical Swedish rural home

Pretty little outdoor restaurant located
beside the Gota Canal in Borensberg

What's this! Some unknown Swedish relative?

The Gota Hotel beside the Gota Canal which
entirely crosses Sweden from east to west

Vadstena Slott (castle) built in 1545 

"Boats on the moats" surrounding Vadstena Castle

Heading out for a bit of cruising at 10pm at night!!

Our ferry passed many small chateaux like this 

Stockholm Archipelago has numerous islands


Cruise liners, a common sight on Stockholm Harbour


Sombre stone fortifications to protect Old Stockholm

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22nd May 2007
I'm writing this some six days after the event so you can see that I am considerably behind in my correspondence. Anyhow it was a beautiful day as Lynn farewelled Oland Island and we set off to drive about 315 kms to a town called Vadstena which is roughly in the middle of Sweden. The roads are still quite flat. We haven't seen a hill since leaving Australia. The United Arab Emirates is as flat as you can get, Belgium and Denmark are also quite flat and so is Sweden. We don't expect to encounter a hill before Norway. Amazing isn't it? The flat terrain, our smallish car and the rather low speed limits all combine to give us wonderfully low fuel consumption which is just as well given that gas is around $2.30 a litre.

Incidentally, for those members of the Nambucca Wine Club reading this newsletter, I've found the perfect location for our next meeting. It's a small town called Pukeberg in south eastern Sweden!!

Nothing particularly exciting happened today but the sun shone brightly, the traffic was minimal and the scenery was wonderfully serene. About half the day was spent travelling through thick dark green pine forests intermingled with lots of contrasting birch trees with mottled bark and bright lime leaves. Not much wildlife around but we've seen a deer and a hare to date.

Canola farm on Oland Island

The balance of our day was spend driving through a checkerboard of vivid green pastures and bright golden canola fields.

Along the way we saw a sign advertising the Tonkin Golfbollmuseum. We didn't have time for a diversion to check it out but we noted the website address of for later investigation. Alas the website was no help at all and doesn't seem to have anything to do with old golf balls as we'd imagined. If any reader can throw light on this puzzle I'd welcome your comments.

Eventually we reached Vadstena where we are lodging in a very old converted stone abbey beside a massive lake.

23rd May 2007
We're bound for the Swedish capitol city of Stockholm where we'll take a three day break. This will be welcome because I've been seedy for the last couple of days and now there's no doubt that I've caught a cold.

We pass by lake after lake surrounded by birch trees as well as some particularly lovely small villages on the banks of gurgling streams. At lunchtime we stopped at a picnic spot in the middle of brilliant gold canola flowers stretching as far as the eye could see.

Pressing on towards Stockholm it becomes necessary to join a freeway and the traffic gets thicker and thicker. Soon after reaching Stockholm proper the traffic becomes absolute chaos and almost grid-locked. We're forced into stop, start and crawl mode for at least an hour whilst we slowly edge our way across town. Stockholm is comprised of a mass of islands and we have chosen to stay on Lidingo Island which about 30 - 40 minutes out of downtown on the OTHER side of Stockholm. Our TomTom navigator does a terrific job of guiding our journey but some intersections are such a jumble that it's very easy to misinterpret the spoken directions. I made two turning errors which got us into trouble and almost resulted in an accident. I eventually saved the day by doing this amazing U turn in a position you'd never believe but it it was a godsend provided there were no surveillance cameras nearby!!

View from our balcony in "Hotel J" just outside Stockholm

We eventually reached the "Hotell J" at Gashaga. It's basically a  restaurant with only 12 guest rooms located out of the downtown melee and plonk in the middle of a marina complex on Lidingo island. It has been decorated with all kinds of symbols and memorabilia to salute the old J Class yachts and  America's Cup regattas in general. If you're interested (and I know some of my readers are), the Hotell J website is viewable by clicking this link  I'm feeling sicker and it's somewhat a relief to know we'll be staying put for the next three nights.

24th May 2007
Today was supposed to be a total rest day but as the weather is so fine we decide to do a 5 hour ferry cruise from the jetty outside our hotel out through scores of islands to the outer edges of the Stockholm Archipeligo, withstanding my uncontrollable cough and thick head cold. Afterall, one must take advantage of good weather whenever it presents itself and especially when one is in Northern Europe.

The ferry was very large and the passengers were few. We spent the first couple of hours having a slow and leisurely lunch with a glass of vino in the very nice dining room whilst we watched the lovely scenery go by. I took a squillion photos and a few appear on this page.

By the end of the day however your scribe was in pretty poor shape and was glad to see the inside of our hotel room again.

25th May 2007
Every morning some 8 to 12 large cruise ships crept past our hotel heading for wharfs near downtown Stockholm. Then every evening the same great "wedding cakes" would slip by our window on a passage to their next port of call. Most were much bigger and higher than the one shown on this page..

Lynn took a ferry into downtown Stockholm whilst I split my day between coughing my heart out, sleeping and putting a few webpages together for this Scandinavian saga.

26th May 2007
We set off from the east coast and head north-west into the middle of Sweden again. Quite a bit of freeway driving today and little is particularly eye catching or photographic. However, as we get nearer to our destination we are again treated to a chain of lakes surrounded by birch and other deciduous trees all now brightly decked out in their new lime green spring foliage. It all  makes for very picturesque driving conditions. Late in the day we pass through the small town of Leksand and happen to notice some signs of a festival. We stopped the car and investigated. We found ourselves in the middle of an annual 3 day festival to celebrate medieval times and customs. There were hundreds of adults and children dressed in medieval costume, with medieval looking tents, weapons, forges, medieval food stalls etc. There were medieval orchestras, peasant dancing, horse races and jousting. I took lots of photos but the sun was very low with lots of shadows and not photographically ideal. Anyhow, a selection of these photos appears on the next page.

Finally it was on to the small lakeside village of Tallberg and Hotell Akerblads whose website is located here. We were impressed by the hotel and by the very friendly reception staff. This impression further blossomed when Manager Frederick informed us that we'd been upgraded from a so called "Junior Suite" to the Bridal Suite together with complimentary champagne, chocolates and fruit basket. A photo of the "bride" and the suite appears somewhere on the next webpage. Lynn and I are due to celebrate our 40th anniversary later this year so it all seemed very appropriate under the circumstances.

And..... there are signs that perhaps the worst of my cold symptoms may be behind me now... fingers crossed.

More Random Comments
Day and night are topsy turvy here in Northern Europe and this will become even more pronounced with the advance of Summer. With a fraction of difficulty it's possible to read a newspaper outside at 10pm. And you can resume your reading at 4.00am next day. Fortunately all our hotels have good blackout curtains at the window and (unlike Australia) they actually meet in the middle without causing a gap elsewhere!! Of course Winter season is the reverse side of this coin when daylight hours are in very short supply.

Our Toyota Corolla is a bitch. It has this stupid optional automatic or manual transmission and the auto side of things is far from good. In fact it's jerky, unpredictable and horrible. Furthermore there's no ignition key as such. One pushes the automatic door opener into a slot on the dashboard then does a series of  micro operations to get the car to start. Finally, there is no "Park" position on the gear shift gate. Consequently it's really important to pull on the hand brake when leaving the car.... something I'm not usually accustomed to doing if I'm on flat ground.

Speed Cameras are everywhere but they look different to ours and less noticeable. Our Tom Tom Navigator knows where most of them are and sounds a piercing alarm. However TomTom doesn't have absolutely all cameras plotted and given the slow maximum speeds in Sweden I'm expecting a fine or two will be retrospectively added to my rental car bill. Norway will be worse when we get there. The maximum is mainly 80 kph and every town is either 50 kph with some 30 kph zones thrown in for good measure. 

Hotel Guest Laundries don't exist and Laundromats don't seem to exist in Scandinavia either! So we're washing and drying our smalls ok in our hotel rooms. But jeans and heavy stuff are a different matter. So today Lynn threw herself at the feet of the housekeeping staff in our current hotel and was miraculously offered the use of the hotel's own laundry. Mind you, that's been a huge drama also but I won't bore you with the details. Ask Lynn to explain when she's recovered.

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