Lynn takes our Bridal Suite for a test drive

Cyclists pass our hotel on a picnic outing

We spent two lovely days in Tallberg, Sweden

All you can eat Cake Buffet for just 45 Kronor or
20 Kr for Kids and totally gratis for sparrows!

Lynn thinks all her Christmases have come at once

This sparrow was so full he could hardly move!

Our first views of Norway were very sombre

I expected to be waylaid by a family of Trolls at any
moment. I could really feel them watching me!!

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27th May 2007
I'm feeling a little more improved this morning. Weatherwise it's a fantastic sunny day. Frankly we've been sooooo lucky in Sweden. We really need to catch our breath however so the  idea is to have a fairly quiet exploration day and get back to our hotel by mid afternoon at the latest. We set off following tiny skinny roads which follow around the huge lake. There's little traffic so we can just idle along at 30 to 40 kph through lush, thick green pastures filled with thousands of large dandelion flowers which make a stunning green and gold carpet stretching over acres and acres of farmland and roadside verges. Fat clean cows with silky coats chomp happily through this veritable feast as well they might.

Around lunchtime we enter the town of Rattsvik (pop around 5,000), with the task of finding some lunch. This is always difficult because Swedish words are worse than double dutch and rarely contain a Latin, French or English root to aid our guesswork. This makes for a culinary lottery which can have dire outcomes. On top of this we haven't been all that thrilled about the typical Swedish bill of fare which has little variety, is over salted and invariably cooked to within an inch of its life. Yes, that's right. Even your scribe can't handle the amount of salt in the food which will probably amaze members of his family.

We saw a Konditiri (patisserie, cake shop, coffee shop) and mainly walked in to this very busy shop just check out the typically eye catching range of incredible cakes and pastries. And there they were of course. Lynn also spotted a long chest high shelf overflowing with large cakes, knives and cake spatulas. People were going at the cakes hammer and tong and just helping themselves. Are these free samples or what?

We accosted someone who seemed likely to speak English (almost everyone can) and they explained that this was the Sunday "Tart Buffe" (cake buffet). For 45 Kronor you get all the cake you can eat, bowls of whipped vanilla cream and a bottomless coffee cup. We calculate this to be only about $9 which is amazing given that hitherto we have been paying around $4 for single slices of the same types of cakes but with no whipped cream and no coffee. With a little nudge from Lynn we decide to go for it. Actually it was more of a shove than a nudge!

Well we were reasonable restrained under the circumstances but not really circumspect enough. As we walked out of the Konditori Lynn said, "That would have to be the most disgusting thing I've ever done!" Later in the car she said, When you mention this in the newsletter you could say we ended up feeling "ratshit in Rattvik". I don't think she expected me to take her suggestion literally.

We are already aware that our hotel is the only place in our neck of the woods open for dinner on Sunday nights. And we are already aware that you can't get out of there for under $100 per person or $150 per person if you have a drop of wine with your meal. On the other hand we're sick to death hotel room "picnics" comprising bread rolls, ham and salami so for tonight's picnic we pick up a can of ravioli in the supermarket. I reckon that if we boil enough jugs of water we can progressively warm the ravioli in our bathroom sink given an hour of patience. And so it later proved. And it didn't taste too bad either, especially when washed down with a couple of glasses of decent Chateau Cardboard from our travelling cellar.

I know.... I know. Some of you are going to ask why does food keep popping up in these newsletters? The fact of the matter is that one faces the meal challenge three times per day and often with bizarre or hilarious outcomes. It's an unavoidable and often interesting part of the travelling experience. Furthermore, as least 50% of our newsletter subscribers are seriously into good food, good wine or both so I'm hoping they don't find these diversionary culinary tales too boring.

28th May 2007
Today we have a longish drive to the Norwegian frontier and then it's on into Norway for the next 11 days. Unfortunately it's a grey day with frequent showers so it's not much good for scenery or photography.

We almost have the road to ourselves and we're driving along listening to our MP3 player. All the local radio stations play either rock music or continuous talk, talk talk. No classical or middle of the road music anywhere. Anticipating this as a result of other driving tours in foreign countries, we recently bought a tiny pocket-size MP3 player and a tiny transmitter device. The transmitter allows us to play MP3 content through the car's radio instead being just restricted to an ear-piece. In preparation for the trip I loaded 35 of my CD's into the MP3 player + 5 full length novels (enacted or read by professional actors) + a heap of podcasts from ABC Radio National such as Phillip Adams' interviews on "Late Night Live" Dr Karl's little science gems, The Law Report and many others. A rough estimate is that we have well over 100 hours of music, books and documentaries in a package not much bigger than a match box. This has only used up 11 gigabytes of our player's 20 gigabyte capacity!!

The MP3 player has performed completely up to expectations and has been a great boon on our many long drives. I'm just totally gob-smacked by today's incredible technologies but must admit that I'm finding it increasingly hard to keep up with some of it as my brain cells keep getting older and slower. Enough reminiscing.... let's resume our journey.

As we rise up into Norway we are struck by the sombre nature of our surroundings. The lakes are dark, black and oily looking and many trees have yet to display any leaves. The sky is dark grey and lowering and the combination of these factors definitely has a depressing effect on our mood. It's very much like a scene out of "Lord of the Rings" and we expect to see some Norwegian trolls at any moment!!

There's another negative. The occasional farmhouses or small villages we pass through are very down-market versions of what we encountered right throughout Sweden. There's lots of broken down equipment scattered around the properties, intermixed with empty white fertilizer bags, chemical drums, building rubbish and suchlike. One often sees similar situations in Australia and we've seen it in less prosperous parts of Canada and the USA too. However we never saw it in Sweden and given Norway's economic prosperity we just did not expect it in this country. Another surprise is that whereas there was absolutely zero roadside litter in Sweden, sadly it's a different situation over the border in Norway where the culverts contain many discarded beverage containers and food wrappers. How can people be so insensitive to their surroundings? It saddens me big time.

We reach our hotel in Roros about 7.30pm. Yes, it's yet another super heated hotel room and we have to throw open the windows to gain some relief. Although the heating systems seem to be off I think all these buildings are designed to trap the heat during the day to make it easier on the heating system during winter. I also suspect that retained heat built up over winter leaks out of the walls and ceiling right through summer. So, although the quality of hotel rooms throughout our entire tour have been excellent on the whole, the heat has been a real bummer. We're just lucky that in every case it has been possible to open an external window or door and this provides some relief after an hour or so.

Much more to follow in due course..... for now I badly need a break !