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About Me

Found 14 results

  1. Last night was our final night in Kiruna, so we decided to go out for an evening walk to see the Christmas lights in the town centre. The big Christmas tree looked pretty in the dark... ...and Tim looked quite regal in the ice throne We walked past the display of snow sculptures. It was actually a bit easier to make our some of the shapes in the dark. Once we'd done a circuit of the town centre, we headed back to our apartment for the night. We're flying back home from Narvik tomorrow, so the main aim of today was to travel back from Sweden to Norway. Our train wasn't until the afternoon though, so we were able to have a leisurely start to the morning. We'd just finished breakfast and were considering starting to pack, when I looked out the window of our apartment in Kiruna and was amazed to get a glimpse of some polar stratospheric clouds, just like the ones we'd seen in Abisko earlier in the week! We didn't have to check out of the apartment until 11, so we quickly pulled on our warm clothes and boots and ran outside to have a look. We walked along the main road from our apartment, trying to find a place from which we would have an unobstructed view. The clouds were the most amazing colours. Tim managed to capture them more accurately by making his camera darker. We walked down a rather slippery pavement, towards the park we'd discovered yesterday. From there we had the clearest views, without any buildings in the way... ...and the clouds looked beautiful above the snowy landscape. I could have stayed and stared at them all day Unfortunately, however, we had to return to the apartment to pack up our things and check out. Our train to Narvik wasn't departing until 14.51, so once we'd successfully checked out we had some time to kill in Kiruna. As we walked back into the town centre, the sun was rising and there were some beautiful pink colours in the sky There's a small indoor shopping centre in Kiruna, so that was our first stop. It had a cafe, where we got two rather strong Americanos From there we moved on to Kiruna's English pub (bizarrely, Kiruna has an English pub called The Bishop's Arms!!), where we were able to get lunch. I had a burger, while Tim had fish and chips. It was really dark in the pub (loads of places in Sweden seem to be really badly lit!) so we then moved back to the slightly brighter cafe for another coffee and some cake It was while we were having the coffee and cake that I got a rather disturbing text from Swedish Railways about our train When Google-translated, this informed us that due to a "nature incident" the train line to Narvik was closed. Oh dear We made our way towards the station, hoping for the best. It was still really snowy everywhere but the snow was flattened down and much easier to pull our cases on than it had been the day when we arrived It was much easier walking downhill from the town to the station, as opposed to uphill from the station to the town As we got close to the station, we passed a hill with an illuminated ski run which I hadn't even noticed on the day we arrived. When we got to the station the train to Narvik was sitting on the platform, so we boarded it and hoped for the best. It departed promptly, without any announcements about the line being closed. In the absence of announcements, I checked the Swedish trains website and found a message said that the "nature incident" had now been resolved and the line was opened again. Phew!! It was a big relief that we were going to make it to our destination; I don't know whether they would have put on a rail replacement bus if the train couldn't run, but if they didn't I think it would have cost more than our life savings to take a taxi We eventually made it to Narvik only 15 minutes or so behind schedule. It looked like it had been snowing quite heavily here and there was lots of fresh snow everywhere. Pulling our suitcases up Narvik's steep streets in the fresh snow was not the most fun we've ever had! Everywhere did look beautiful in the snow though And it was actually easier to walk on this snow than on the ice which had been here when we caught the train on Sunday. As we're just staying one night in Narvik this time and departing for the airport first thing tomorrow morning, I'd booked us into a small hotel rather than re-book the Airbnb apartment we stayed in at the start of the holiday. 895 Norwegian Krone (around £78) got us this tiny room which just about has enough space for both of us and our suitcases We do have free breakfast included in the morning though (which we intend to eat as much of as possible to get our money's worth!) and from our window we can see out across the whole of Narvik. Tomorrow will be a very long day of travelling, with two flights and about 9 hours to kill in Oslo airport, which I don't think will be worthy of a blog! But we've had a fantastic holiday, exploring a completely different part of Lapland and seeing some really amazing clouds, and I think it's definitely been worth the journey
  2. There was lots of snow outside when we woke up in Kiruna this morning The house across the road from where we're staying also had some rather spectacular icicles! It had been pretty much dark when we arrived in Kiruna yesterday, so we were looking forward to seeing the town in the daylight. As we set off in the direction of the town centre, we passed some absolutely enormous piles of snow It didn't take us long to reach the town centre. We found some large snow-covered rocks... ...some pretty Christmas decorations... ...and a whole load more snow It's hard to make them out in the photos because everything is so white, but there were also some snow sculptures... ...and some ice sculptures. I really liked these presents made out of snow We didn't know a lot about Kiruna before we came here, choosing to stay here for a couple of nights mainly because it was the end of the railway line and somewhere I managed to find affordable accommodation, but it's actually a really pretty little town. With a population of around 17,000 people, it's the northernmost town in Sweden. The iron-ore mine here is apparently the largest one in the world, producing 90% of all the iron in Europe. Extraction has been going on here since around 1900 and has made Kiruna a prosperous place. However, the mine is now so extensive that it is starting to cause the town to subside The authorities have therefore decided to demolish the town centre and relocate it to a safer site, 2 miles to the east of its current location. It sounds rather dramatic, but it isn't all happening at once; buildings are being moved gradually, with the aim that the whole town centre will have been moved by 2035. The entire relocation process is being financed by the mine, with residents whose homes have to be sacrificed being compensated for 125% of the price. The most historic buildings in the town will be carefully dismantled and rebuilt in the new location. These include Kiruna's iconic wooden church, which we caught sight of while we were strolling around. The church was built in 1912 and is one of the largest wooden buildings in Sweden. Its unusual shape is because it was designed to represent the shape of a traditional Sami tent. Once we'd passed the church, we caught sight of a rather strange sight; a model rocket by the side of the road. Apparently there is a rocket research centre located outside the town. Across the road we found the entrance to the local park, marked by a large block of ice. We had a walk around the park, which was home to some unusual sculptures, like this rather cross-looking owl. There were also some really interesting photos on display of the early settlers in Kiruna. After we'd been around the park, we walked back up past the church, towards the town centre again. We found an icy throne... ...which I couldn't resist having a sit in As we rounded a corner we saw something which I really didn't expect to find in such a remote corner of the world On our way back towards the apartment, we also saw something else we didn't expect to see; a huge container by the side of the road, full of snow. A man with a digger was collecting snow... ...and depositing it in a big pile further down the road. Next thing we know, a lorry arrives with an empty container. The empty container is deposited... ...and the digger immediately starts filling it with snow. In the meantime, the lorry is picking up the full container of snow. It was so heavy that the front wheels of the lorry lifted off the ground as it was picking it up! The lorry then drove off with the snow, presumably to dispose of it somewhere outside the town. It was a really interesting insight into everyday life here; it's hard to imagine having so much snow that you need industrial machinery to remove it! It's been quite cloudy again today, but once we got back to the apartment the sky was turning a beautiful shade of blue for sunset
  3. As there didn't promise to be a lot happening in Abisko for New Year's Eve, we were booked to visit the nearby Aurora Sky Station for the evening. This is a mountain-top viewing platform, located on a mountain near to Abisko Turiststation, and it's supposed to be a great place for seeing the northern lights. The only way up is via a chairlift and, unfortunately, Abisko had been experiencing strong winds all day, which meant that it wasn't safe for the chairlift to run. A bit disappointing, but I guess that just means we'll have to come back another year and try again On nights when the chairlift is cancelled, there is an alternative programme at Abisko Turiststation instead, so we were picked up by a shuttle service to participate in that instead. We arrived at the Turiststation at around 20.50. The activities weren't due to start until 21.00 and the number of layers we were wearing meant that it was really hot inside, so we decided to wait outside for a while. The Christmas decorations were pretty At 9pm we were ticked off the list and then invited into what I can only describe as a large wooden teepee, with a big fire burning in the middle. We sat here briefly, before being offered the opportunity to go on a northern lights walking tour. We didn't ultimately end up seeing any northern lights, but it was still a fun experience Our guide led us down a series of snowy paths for about half an hour, towards the shore of lake Torneträsk. We definitely wouldn't have walked so far in the dark on our own. The sky wasn't as cloudy as it had been earlier in the day and so we were able to see an amazing quantity of stars, although unfortunately it wasn't possible to capture the night sky with our phone cameras. Eventually we walked back up to the teepee, where there was free gluehwein and hot chocolate on offer There was also dried reindeer meat, but I gave that a miss It was definitely a different way to spend New Year's Eve When we woke up in Abisko this morning, we were in the middle of a blizzard. We were travelling to Kiruna today, but our train wasn't until 12.26, so we had time for a final walk around the village in the snow And there was a lot of snow; it didn't take long until we were both covered in it It was really beautiful to be walking through the snow on New Year's Day though We needed to check out of our hostel around 11, so after a while we had to turn around and go retrieve our suitcases. The station is only a few hundred metres from where we were staying, but it turns out that pulling your suitcase through fresh snow is hard work! We had a while to wait at the station for our train. The platform looked deserted in the snow. The trains in Sweden appear to run on time even during blizzards though There was a nice heated waiting room at the station but some of us were a bit warm after pulling our suitcases through the snow The train arrived promptly and soon we were on a journey through a snowy wilderness. It was snowing so much that a lot of the view was obscured, but every so often I could make out the shapes of mountains in the distance. It's hard to make out in the pictures, but for a while the train travelled alongside lake Torneträsk. As we moved away from the lake and got closer towards Kiruna, the weather seemed to improve a bit and the views became a bit clearer Soon we arrived in Kiruna itself. It looked like there were lots of wagons of iron ore here, waiting to go to Narvik, and in the background behind them we could just make out what I'm guessing is the mine. The station is a couple of kilometres outside the main centre of Kiruna, so there was more snow to pull our cases through. Everywhere looked really pretty though We weren't able to check into our apartment until 3pm, so we had a bit of time to explore. Everything was closed up today for New Year's Day, but we found a main street with a supermarket without too many difficulties Plus we got to see some really beautiful colours in the sunset. Then it was time to check in. This is definitely the most spacious accommodation of our trip In addition to a living room, we have a bedroom... ...and a huge kitchen/dining area. We were actually really lucky with the hostel in Abisko and were the only people staying in it for the past two nights, but it's definitely nice to have a bit more space to spread out this evening
  4. We went out for a walk to the lake in the dark last night, but it was so cloudy that we couldn't even see any stars, never mind the northern lights We were outside for about an hour or so, during which time we walked down to the lakeside and then along part of the path towards Abisko Turiststation. It was snowing all the time, and the snowflakes looked really pretty in the darkness. The unusual street lights which we'd seen earlier in the day were actually really good at night, projecting light downwards so that we could see the path, and not causing lots of light pollution. We might not have seen the northern lights last night, but when we stepped outside our apartment this morning we saw something even rarer in the sky. These, we later learned, were polar stratospheric clouds, and we'd never seen anything quite like them before. Our phone cameras weren't able to capture all the colours, but they were really beautiful; all the colours of the rainbow We were really lucky to have seen them, because the rest of the sky was quite overcast today. As we walked towards Abisko Turiststation, the top of the mountain was obscured by the clouds again. Although, when we turned around once more, we did get another glimpse of the special clouds You can perhaps get a slightly better impression of the rainbow colours in this photo We didn't have a firm plan for the day, but we were hoping to explore a bit more of the national park. We headed off through the wooden walkway again... ...and this time followed a different trail, which we hoped would give us a view of the canyon from the opposite direction. When we'd been at the canyon viewpoint yesterday, we'd seen a bridge across the canyon lower down but hadn't been able to figure out how to get to it. Today we found it and were able to stand in the middle, looking down the length of the canyon. The views were really beautiful There weren't many other people around today either, so we had them pretty much to ourselves We did meet two other people as we were on our way back up from the bridge to the viewpoint we visited yesterday though. The woman started speaking to us in Swedish, before explaining to us in English that there were two moose up ahead! They were quite a distance away and camouflaged by trees, so you're going to have to play spot the moose with the photos It was really cool to see them and they were absolutely huge animals! Once the moose had moved on, we made a quick stop at the viewpoint where we'd taken photos yesterday, to have another look at the ice. Then we followed a track which took us under the main road, then alongside the river which flows through into the canyon. The views of the canyon were really impressive on this side too... ...and we could see the power of the water beneath the ice. The wind was really strong by this point and it was snowing quite heavily. We didn't want to walk too far, so we decided to follow one of the marked trails through the woods for a while, and then turn back. There does seem to be quite a good system of marked walking trails here, although I haven't been able to figure out where to get a proper map that shows where they all go. They are numbered and colour-coded though, with strips of colour wrapped around the trees so that you know you're going in the right direction. We couldn't exactly see polar clouds at this point... ...but there were still some pretty colours in the sky. The trees were really pretty too... ...although it's still surprising me how different the trees are here to in Finnish Lapland. Once we'd walked for half an hour or so, we turned around and headed back the way we'd come. On the way back, there was just time for a final look at the canyon It was already starting to look like twilight as we walked back towards our apartment. When we got as far as the station, we were passed by another one of the iron ore trains to Narvik. From there it wasn't far to walk to Abisko's shop, where we wanted to stock up on supplies. We're travelling to Kiruna tomorrow, but with it being New Year's Day we're not sure whether any shops will be open when we get there. One of the things we needed to stock up on was chocolate; luckily we managed to find some Ritter Sport among all these sweets Then it was back to the apartment for some much-needed food and a rest before we head out again this evening for another attempt to see the northern lights. Not sure we're going to have any success, as I think it's still going to be overcast, but we can't complain when we have seen such beautiful clouds today
  5. Having arrived in Abisko in the dark last night, we were excited to see it in the daylight this morning As expected, it's quite a small place, with a handful of buildings along a main street. The hostel we're staying in is quite small (only four rooms), but we passed a couple of bigger guesthouses as we walked along the street. One of the attractions of Abisko is that it is situated on Lake Torneträsk and we soon found a path which led us down to the lake shore. As you can probably tell from the photo, it was snowing lightly and so we acquired a sprinkling of snow on us as we walked along As we approached some boat houses and covered up boats, we knew we were getting close to the lake. Lake Torneträsk is the sixth biggest lake in Sweden, with a surface area of 130 square miles. We saw a group of people with sticks getting ready to walk on the ice. It didn't look 100% frozen to us though or, at least, the ice wasn't completely covered in snow like the frozen lake we have walked on in the past in Finland, so we didn't fancy standing on it. We got close to the edge though and it was really pretty We enjoyed the views of the lake for a while and then walked back up towards the village. In the distance we could see the tall building of the railway station, where we had arrived yesterday evening. We were looking for a path which would take us to the settlement of Abisko Turiststation, which we passed through on the train yesterday shortly before we arrived here. There were no signs at first, but we followed a small road past these houses in what seemed like the correct general direction. The road led us up towards the railway line, where we were just on time to see a passenger train on its way to Narvik. Shortly after here we saw a sign pointing towards the Abisko National Park, which is what we were looking for. It was still snowing quite heavily at this point. We followed a snowy path, which was initially lit by normal street lamps. As we progressed further along it, it was lit by these smaller, more tasteful lamps instead. It's only about 2km from where we're staying to the national park. One thing which struck us as we followed the path was how different the trees are to Finnish Lapland. Finland is full of conifers, whereas the trees here all seemed to be deciduous. We also realised after a while that we had a view of the frozen lake in the distance Before too long we passed a sign which indicated that we were getting close to our destination. There's supposed to be a big mountain here with a chairlift, but the weather was so cloudy that we could barely make out the base of it. It had more or less stopped snowing now, but I had accumulated rather a lot of snow in my hair Abisko is the start of the Kungsleden hiking trail, which runs from here for 440 km to a place called Hemavan. This wooden construction marks the beginning of the trail. We certainly weren't going to walk that far, but we did want to do a little walk to see a frozen canyon which I'd read about online. We followed a signposted trail along the side of the canyon, at first not able to get much of a view. Soon we were able to look down and see water below us... ...and then the view opened up and we were able to see down the length of the whole canyon. The best views were yet to come though As we rounded a corner, we were able to see down towards a pool of water which definitely wasn't going to freeze any time soon, because we could see fast water flowing into it from behind the rocks. We could also see a huge block of frozen ice which a group of people were attempting to climb Definitely not a winter activity that we'll be attempting! We walked further along and came to another viewing platform. From here we had an amazing view of the icy canyon... ...and of the people trying to climb the ice wall! It was a really beautiful place We followed the path a little further, but the walk didn't seem to be circular so in the end we had to turn around and come back. The weather had begun to clear up a bit now though and by the time we'd retraced our steps, the cloud had moved enough for us to see the mountain which had been completely obscured when we'd arrived. As we turned to walk back to the village of Abisko, we realised we could also now see further out across the lake... ...and it most definitely was not completely frozen We're rather glad we didn't decide to try walking on it now We made it back to Abisko while it was still daylight. We decided to explore the local shop, which is situated with a petrol station beside the main highway which passes through the village. I had been a bit worried about this in advance, because when I'd googled the name of the shop (Godisfabriken) it seemed to be primarily a sweet shop. We'd brought a supply of our own pasta and cup-a-soups with us in our suitcases just in case it wasn't possible to buy any savoury food here But, luckily, that turned out not to be a problem; although half of the shop was indeed given over to an enormous display of pick and mix, the other half was fitted out more like a normal supermarket and so we were able to buy some pizza, as well as ingredients for a bolognese Once we got back to the hostel with our provisions, we realised that the view had now cleared enough for us to be able to see the blue water of the lake from outside our door. It's been a really fun day, and although I think it will probably be too cloudy tonight for us to see any northern lights, we're going to try going out for a walk down to (but not onto!) the lake in the dark later
  6. One of the main things which had convinced me to book flights to Narvik earlier in the year was the fact that it is the terminus station for a railway line known as the Ofotbanen. The train line was built between Sweden and the Norwegian coast in the late 19th century, to enable iron ore being mined in the Swedish town of Kiruna to be transported to the ice-free port of Narvik. Iron ore is still transported on the line today, but there are also two passenger trains per day which run between Norway and Sweden. This means that flying to Narvik is actually quite an easy way to get to Swedish Lapland. The journey itself is supposed to be really scenic, most notably between Narvik and a station called Riksgränsen, which is located at the Swedish border. We'd therefore decided to catch the first train of the day, to ensure that we saw the scenery in daylight When I opened the curtains in Narvik this morning, I saw to my surprise that it was raining The rain had stopped by the time we'd packed up and checked out of the apartment, but it had interesting consequences for the condition of the roads. It was really hard to tell which bits of the road were wet and slushy and which bits were more icy and slippery. Luckily our Yaktrax seem able to cope with all surfaces and we made it to the station without falling over! I'd already bought the tickets in advance online and we had reserved seats, so all we needed to do was wait on the platform for the train to arrive. There were actually some nice views of the fjord from the platform. The train was due to depart at 10.48 and it arrived promptly. There were some groups of Chinese tourists, but overall it wasn't too busy and we were soon on our way towards Sweden As the train pulled out of Narvik, we got a view of a bridge across the fjord which I think we crossed on the airport bus in the dark the night when we arrived. By chance we were sitting on the best side of the train for views The photos are all a bit blurry as they were taken through the glass of the train window, but we travelled along the fjord for miles. As we got further on, it became increasingly narrow... ...until eventually we got close to the end of it. By this stage, the scenery was becoming increasingly mountainous. Finally we passed the end of the fjord. The train took us right across the top of it... ...and then we were properly inland. On the sides of some of the mountains I could see frozen streams. We were getting close to the Swedish border now. We had decided to get off the train at the border station of Riksgränsen, where we were hoping to get lunch and kill some time before catching the second train of the day on to Abisko. We could have stayed on this current train all the way to Abisko, but we would have ended up getting there three hours before we were able to check into our accommodation and, as research suggests that there aren't very many amenities in Abisko (a village with a population of 85 people), that didn't feel like a good plan. Having researched various destinations along the route, Riksgränsen had sounded the most promising place in terms of restaurants and cafes. The guidebook had described it as Sweden's best ski resort and recommended it as a day trip from Narvik. First impressions when we got off the train in Riksgränsen were that it looked a bit small. It was scenic though, with lots of snowy hills. And we were now in Sweden, which was exciting We started walking down to explore the village. Google maps suggested that there would be a restaurant up this road but, when we got there, we found it was all closed up. Trying a different direction, we passed this bus shelter completely buried in the snow There didn't seem to be very many people in Riksgränsen and so far we hadn't seen a single restaurant which was open. We did find a shop, and Tim asked the staff for directions to a cafe. They told us that everywhere in Riksgränsen was closed and that the nearest open establishment was in a neighbouring village They described the village as being 15 minutes away, but the only way to get there was to walk down the main road which they said was a) slippery and b) dangerous because lorries drive along it quite fast. When I looked it up on Google maps, Google suggested it would be more like a 40 minute walk than 15 minutes anyway, so we quickly ruled that out as an option. We could see ski lifts on the hills above the village, but those weren't operational either. The girls in the shop explained that the skiing season hasn't started here yet because, despite the fact that there's lots of snow, there isn't enough daylight. The fact that a ski resort would be closed in December had never occurred to us when we booked this trip We didn't have any options but to walk back up to the train station and wait for our train to Abisko. The station didn't exactly have a lot of facilities. We were able to buy bread, cake and crisps at the shop and have a picnic lunch in the snow; not quite what we'd been hoping for for lunch, but better than nothing We also had some wine in Tim's suitcase (which we'd brought with us because Abisko is too small to have its own alcohol shop) and that livened the picnic up We were lucky that it wasn't actually very cold today; I think the temperature must have been above zero, because we could hear snow melting from the station roof. It was warm enough for Tim to take his coat off anyway I suppose it's fair enough that they don't ski here in December, because there really wasn't a lot of daylight. By 2pm, it was already looking like twilight. By the time Tim went down to the shop again to get some more supplies, it was properly dark. Everywhere looked very pretty in the darkness though. By 3pm it may as well have been the middle of the night! Every so often while we were waiting, freight trains came past bearing the logo of LKAB, the Swedish mining company. The trains were enormous, with so many carriages that it took several minutes for each one to pass. Needless to say, we were incredibly pleased when it was finally time for our train to arrive. This train had sleeper carriages which were continuing on all the way to Stockholm. Perhaps that's an idea for a future holiday! Our journey to Abisko only took around 45 minutes. There are actually two stations in Abisko - Abisko Turiststation, which is the site of a youth hostel, and Abisko Östra, which is the station for the main village. We were getting off at Abisko Östra. Abisko is a very popular winter destination and so, when I was booking accommodation here, options were extremely limited. There were no available apartments or hotels, so I booked us into a small hostel where we would have a bedroom to ourselves, plus use of a shared kitchen and bathrooms. The prices here are reminiscent of Icelandic prices, and so our stay here is costing £98 per night. As you can see from the photo, the room we're getting for that price is a bit on the small size It's warm and comfy though and all the shared facilities seem clean. Best of all, the owners messaged me days in advance with the check-in instructions, including the code we needed to get our keys out of the key safe, so Abisko is already winning over Narvik in that respect! The area around Abisko is supposed to be beautiful, so we are looking forward to exploring it in the daylight tomorrow
  7. The weather forecast originally hadn't been too bad for today, but when we opened the curtains this morning it was pouring with rain. We didn't have to check out of the hotel until midday, so we made the most of the hotel's breakfast buffet before setting out for a slightly damp walk around Malmö. Our first stop was Lilla Torg (Little Square) where we had stopped for a drink last night. From the there we made our way towards the town library, which our friend Kalle had drawn our attention to last night. It was even more impressive in the daylight and we couldn't believe how large and grand it was just for a normal library! The rain was intermittent so we decided to chance another walk through the park. We passed some of the sights from the previous day again, like the windmill. We also found some new sights, like this statute of a boy with geese. But luckily there weren't any geese on the lakes in the parks; only ducks! Soon it was time to walk back into the town towards our hotel so that we could pick up our stuff. We were planning to go straight from the hotel to the train station and travel back to Copenhagen, but as we walked towards the station we caught sight of the harbour area, which we hadn't had chance to explore yet. When we turned around we had a really good view of the tall hotel building whose bar we had visited yesterday evening. We walked along the seafront for a while. I particularly liked this little lighthouse After about twenty minutes or so we got to the end of the pathway and could see nothing put the open sea behind us. We turned around to walk back to the main train station. When we arrived at the station, the good news was that the line appeared to have been repaired since yesterday and it looked like all the trains to Denmark ought to be running as normal. There was a train scheduled for 12.33 and we had about ten minutes to spare, which was just enough to buy the tickets in the machine and find the platform. We had just got down the escalator to the platform, however, when there was a sudden announcement saying that the 12.33 to Copenhagen was cancelled. Oh no! The trains are supposed to run every twenty minutes, so we decided to hang around for the 12.53 and see whether that one was running. I was really hoping that we weren't going to end up on a rail replacement bus again! Thankfully, when it got to 12.53 the train did arrive, and though it was extremely busy with two train's worth of people trying to cram in, we even managed to get seats. Soon we were speeding on our way to Denmark The journey was extremely quick and we were already at Copenhagen airport within twenty minutes, then in Copenhagen itself ten minutes later. No one was interested in checking passports on the way back to Denmark, which I guess made things quicker. You could get a bit of a view of the sea from the train window as we went across the bridge, but the train was moving so fast that it just came out as a blur when I tried to take a photo. The weather seemed to be a little bit brighter in Copenhagen, which was good. I wanted to try and see some of the parts of the city that we hadn't had chance to explore on Saturday, so we crossed a bridge across the harbour which took us to the Christianshavn district. As we began to walk through Christianshavn, we caught sight of this church with a very interesting tower. It reminded us both of a helterskelter! It turned out to be the Church of Our Saviour, which was originally built in 1682 but didn't get its spire until 1752. It was about 2pm by this point and we were absolutely starving, so we started looking out for places to eat. There didn't seem to be a lot of choice in this part of town, but eventually we came across a restaurant where the prices didn't look too extortionate, by Danish standards at least! Tim decided to order a taster board of several different beers, and I had a nice glass of wine. I ordered lasagne for my main course, but when it arrived I was rather surprised. It looked more like a wrap then any lasagne I'd ever seen before! It turned out that it was a wrap, coated in breadcrumbs and stuffed with mince and - slightly oddly - some ricotta cheese. It was all sitting in a tomato sauce, and finished off with some tortillas. It sounds a bit strange but it was actually quite a nice combination, though very filling. Unfortunately while we were eating lunch, the Danish weather seemed to take a bit of a turn for the worse. It rained on and off for the rest of the afternoon, though mostly not very heavily. We walked out of Christianshavn across the main bridge, which took us past the exchange and parliament buildings which we had seen on Saturday. I wanted to see some of the parks in Copenhagen which we hadn't had time to visit on Saturday. First of all we went to Kongens Have (The King's Garden), which was beside the pretty Rosenborg castle. We emerged from the park next to the national art museum, which had quite a grand building. Behind the museum there is was another long park with a lake. We got caught in a bit of a downpour there, but the weather began to brighten up a bit again when we came out the far end of it at beside Kastellet. Kastellet is an unusual star-shaped fortress, which we had passed a couple of times on our way to see the Little Mermaid statue. The fortifications are surrounded by a wide moat and huge green embankments. We crossed a bridge and went in through one of the gates to see what was inside. I was expecting that there might be some sort of castle, but what we found instead were rows and rows of red houses. These were terraces built in the seventeenth century as barracks for the soldiers who were stationed here. We climbed up onto the green ramparts and had a stroll around. There was a lovely view of the English church which we had seen the other day. We could also see the imposing dome of the marble church in the distance. And of course, we had lots of views of the red houses The rain was starting to get a bit worse again by this point and it was time to set off for the airport and our flight back to Luton. We got to the airport a bit early, so were able to make use of the free wi-fi there to do this blog We've had a lovely weekend in Denmark and Sweden and it definitely feels like longer than two days ago since we left the UK. Both of the cities that we've visited have been beautiful but have felt incredibly expensive compared to Slovakia!!
  8. Yesterday had been such a bright and sunny day that we went to bed hoping against hope that the weather forecasters had got it wrong and that it wasn't actually going to pour with rain this morning. When the alarm went off at 07.30 this morning though we didn't even need to open the blinds to find out what the weather was like; we could hear the rain beating down on the pavement outside. Oh dear! We went downstairs to make the most of the breakfast buffet in our very expensive hotel, and when we re-emerged around 08.30 it looked like the rain had started to ease off a bit. We didn't have to check out of the hotel until 11.00, so we decided to leave our bags behind and venture out for a stroll. The town hall square was certainly a lot quieter than yesterday, albeit a bit damp. As was much of the rest of the city centre. We walked towards the colourful houses at Nyhavn and happily it was indeed quieter here on a Sunday morning too. There was a tiny bit of blue sky starting to become visible as well, which cheered us up We were able to admire some of the buildings that we hadn't even noticed yesterday with all the crowds. After Nyhavn we continued to walk along the waterfront, our main aim being the statue of the Little Mermaid. It was coming up to 09.30 by this point - surely it ought to be quieter at this time? Erm, no. This was the scene beside the statue, where four coaches seemed to have stopped simultaneously. We could see a large cruise liner in the distance, so suspect that was partly to blame for the crowds. With a bit of patience we did both manage to get closer to the statue this time, though After that it was time for a swift walk back towards the hotel so that we could check out and begin our journey to Sweden. When we originally planned the holiday we had decided to spend one night in Copenhagen and one night in Malmö in Sweden. The two cities are only about 40km apart and joined by the Öresund Bridge. The journey from one city to the other should be quite short and painless. The emphasis is on "should". For a start, matters have been complicated by last year's migrant crisis in Europe. Previously it was possible to travel directly from Copenhagen's central station to Malmö without showing a passport. Since January 2016, however, the Swedish government has introduced new rules which means that you are required to show photo ID when travelling into Sweden. Some of the companies who were originally operating trains on the route have now stopped, because they were unable to introduce the checks in a practical way, and when travelling from Copenhagen you need to disembark from the train at Copenhagen airport in order to show your ID. Anyway, we knew from our experiences yesterday that getting a train between Copenhagen and the airport is a pretty simple undertaking, so off we went. There are some special Swedish machines at the front of the central station where you can buy a ticket to Malmö, charged in Swedish Krone rather than Danish ones. The tickets cost 110 SEK each, which is about £10 and seemed like comparatively good value. There was a train to the aiport due at 11.20 on platform six, so we headed off to the platform to wait. We had been sitting there for a while when we started hearing announcements over the loudspeakers which we couldn't fully understand, but which seemed to have something to do with the airport train. The standard of English in Copenhagen is amazing, but they seemed to have chosen a person with a very strange accent to make the train announcements! When we had heard it for the third or fourth time, Tim managed to decipher that there was something wrong with the electrics on the railway and so there were no trains running to the airport. Passengers were advised to travel on the metro instead. Travelling on the metro sounds all well and good, but the metro in Copenhagen is a bit odd, in that it doesn't have a stop under the main train station. We consulted the map in our guidebook but as far as we could ascertain, the nearest metro stop was about 2km away, at the end of the long pedestrianised shopping street. Happily the weather was quite dry at this point and so we had a pleasant walk back across the city. We were a bit unsure as to whether we would need to buy a new ticket to travel on the metro rather than on a train, but Tim spoke to one of the personnel at the metro station and he reassured us that our existing tickets were fine. That was good at least The first metro which came looked as packed as the Tube so we decided to give it a miss, but the second one when it came was a bit emptier and we even managed to get a seat. The journey to the airport didn't take long but was a bit surreal, because unlike on the London Underground, in Copenhagen the metro tunnels are illuminated so you can see exactly where you're going. It was when we arrived at the airport some time after midday that we began to realise the full import of what had happened with the trains. It turned out that the electrical problem had been caused by thunder and lightning earlier this morning and there were currently no trains running across the bridge to Sweden at all. A rail replacement bus was running instead, and we were advised to go outside and join the queue for it. We went outside to look for the queue... and found that it was like nothing we'd ever seen before in our lives! The only thing I can compare it to is queuing for a rollercoaster at Alton Towers, although it lacked the helpful signs which inform you that you have an hour to wait for such-and-such a position in the queue. Basically it was enormous, snaking around so many corners that it was difficult to tell exactly how many people where in it. There must have been thousands though! Over the course of the next hour we moved slowly up the queue, getting gradually closer to the rail replacement buses. They had a continuous supply of buses arriving at the airport so they were clearly trying their best, but there was such a high volume of people wanting to travel to Sweden and the airport security staff had to check everybody's photo ID before they were allowed to get onto the bus. We made it in the end and were finally on our way across the bridge The journey didn't take very long but the views were fantastic as we made our way towards Malmö. About halfway across there was a small sign announcing that we were now in Sweden, and then when we got to the end of the bridge the coach had to pull over for a Swedish policeman to get onboard and check everybody's passports again. When the coach pulled up in a large car park and everyone started to disembark, we assumed we must be in the centre of Malmö. We eventually figured out, however, that the bus had deposited us outside a small suburban station called Hyllie and that from there we had to take a local train into the main part of Malmö. Luckily one came straight away and only took about 10 minutes to reach the central station Our first impressions of Malmö were that it was very pretty. As we stepped out of the station, the first thing we saw was the river, which has some attractive stone bridges over it. Some of the buildings in the town centre looked very old. There were some unusual statues too. We stopped at a nice Italian restaurant for lunch, where we had a pizza each and a bottle of water. That came to 264 SEK which translates to above £24. Not exactly a bargain, but definitely cheaper than in Copenhagen After lunch we decided to track down our hotel, which the map indicated wasn't located far from where we had eaten. It turned out that we had slightly overestimated the size of Malmö, so we accidentally walked too far and found ourselves in the main square, before having to double back and find that the hotel was actually only a hundred metres from where we had had lunch. The hotel itself seems really nice. It's a proper old-fashioned hotel room - a lot more spacious that the one in Copenhagen - and we've ended up paying 864 SEK which is about £78. Again, more than we would usually want to pay but it's in a really good location in the centre of town and that includes breakfast for both of us as well. It definitely feels like better value than we got in Denmark. After a brief stop in the hotel it was time to head out again and explore some more of the town. We went back to the main square to admire some more of the builings. Not far from the square is Sankt Petri Church, which has an enormous red brick tower. We walked around the church to take photos from different angles... ...and I was really enjoying being on holiday, until I caught sight of a rather familiar purple logo! We walked back in the direction of the train station... ..and back across the river. The guidebook had said something about a castle, so we really wanted to try and find that. When we located it, we decided that it didn't compare very well with the castle at Spiš It may have looked more impressive in the seventeenth century, though. And it did have a very cool windmill in its grounds. There was actually quite an extensive park behind the castle and we had a good walk in it. Some time after 5pm we realised that the sky had started to look a bit less blue. By 5.30 the heavens had well and truly opened and we got completely drenched as we made our way back to the train station to meet an Esperanto friend, Kalle, who lives in a nearby town. Kalle took us to quite a posh hotel, which has a bar and restaurant on the 25th floor. From there we had an amazing view out across Malmö. If the weather had been a bit better we should have been able to get a good view of Copenhagen too. As it was, we had to settle for just a view of the bridge The view was brilliant but the drinks were very expensive, so we moved on to some cheaper places in the older part of town. It was a fun evening, interspersed by a few more heavy rain showers. Here's hoping things will have dried up again by the morning!
  9. Today was our third and final day and it was going to be a full one. We'd learned the day before that the McDonald's breakfast (which we eat every now and again on holiday as a treat) are only served until 10:00, so we had to vacate the ship about twelve hours before flying home. That was fine, though; Stockholm is bigger than we originally thought, not least because of Djurgården, an island on the city's east, which was originally the royal game park. The sun was shining, which meant that we, for once, had a lovely blue sky behind our photos: and shimmery reflections on the water: We knew we were on the right track once the imposing Nordic Museum appeared: And so we walked around for a bit enjoying the greenery and scenery, and found the Estonia Monument. The Estonia was a ship which sank in 1994, leading to the deaths of 852 people. The main attraction is Skansen, an open-air museum of life as it was a century ago. We were pleased to find it exactly where we expected it to be: And so in we went. We saw flowerbeds in the village: And two little huts by an allotment: The postmaster's house appeared into view. He and his wife lived here with their six children: A tunnel of trees made for welcome shade: As did the summerhouse: Before long a windmill sprang out of nowhere: Over the following hour or so we saw several animals, including sheep, cows, and pigs: And more animals in the zoo, including brown bears, and wolves: And once that was done we were nearly back to the start. We saw a Sami tent: Plus some huts: And what may have been a church: After that we strolled to the end of the island before crossing a bridge and beginning the scenic walk back to the main bit of town. We had plenty of time to find food and then head to the airport, though not without a shock when there were too many people for the bus. Fortunately, the bus company seemed to know this would happen and had a second one following five minutes behind. As it happened, we could've waited for the timetabled next one anyway; our plane was delayed. Stockholm was fun. We were particularly spoilt for weather on that last day. So far, it's our favourite Scandinavian capital, although we haven't tried Copenhagen yet. We'll be heading there in August!
  10. It was hard to tell what the weather was like when we woke up this morning and looked out of our porthole, but when we ventured outside we were pleased to see it was sunny. We set off into the town centre in search of breakfast. Breakfast proved rather difficult to find, but we did find an enormous church, not far from the train station. Having explored Stockholm's old town last night, we decided to spend this morning concentrating on the newer town. The city of Stockholm is built on 14 small islands, so pretty much everywhere you go there is a view of water. In addition to a few ducks and swans, at one point we even saw a heron by the water's edge! The Swedish parliament building is called Riksdaghuset and it's a rather imposing complex of buildings. The front of the building in particular is really attractive. We hadn't realised yesterday, but the parliament is actually located just around the corner from the royal palace. Below the parliament garden there is a pretty little garden with fountains and oddly square trees. We continued our way through the town and found the opera house, which we had walked past yesterday when looking for food. Just around the corner from there is Sankt Jacobs kyrka. It's a stunning church, in a bright terracotta colour. Behind the church is another little park. This one had some beautiful planters full of tulips. The day had really warmed up by this point, so we were able to stroll around without jumpers on. We came out into another main square, which seemed surprisingly busy. It turned out there was a brass band playing, of all things, "What shall we do with a drunken sailor"!! From there we walked to the slightly more peaceful library, which is situated in its own park. We have no idea who this statue was of... ...but the tulips were amazing. Back in the main town, we found the theatre. We could hear some loud drums in the distance, and soon we were passed by a military marching band. We went back to the boat for a brief rest, before setting out again to walk around a different part of the waterfront. From here we had a great view back towards the parliament. We could also see the red church in the background. As we walked further around the waterfront we also had a view back towards the old town... ...and towards a new part of town we hadn't visited yet. We found ourselves crossing a bridge onto the island of Skeppsholmen, which is where Stockholm meets the Baltic sea. As a result, there were quite a few boats, including a large cruise ship which we managed to strategically avoid getting in our photos! There a few interesting buildings on the island. This building with the turrets is Admirality House... ...while this unusual round building appears to be a church. We crossed another bridge and found ourselves on the tiny island of Kastellholmen. This island had two castle-like buildings. First of all this one, at ground level... ...and then this one, which was up a bit of a hill. We were quite tired by this point, so started walking back in the main town to find something to eat. We chanced upon an Italian restaurant, where we were able to sit outside and eat spaghetti bolognaise As we made our way back towards to the boat, I was feeling suitably relaxed and not thinking about work at all.... until we turned a corner and Tim saw this We've had a great day today in Stockholm and it feels like there is still plenty left to see tomorrow
  11. After the slightly traumatic start to trip to Bergen for the last bank holiday, I was a little bit nervous about what might go wrong with our journey to Stockholm, but this bank holiday everything seems to be going a lot more smoothly We were flying from Stansted to Stockholm Skavsta at 08.30 this morning, so left home at 4am to make sure that we were at the airport with plenty of time, even if there was another system failure! Stansted was extremely busy when we arrived but we were helped by not having any luggage to check in, and ended up getting through security with 90 minutes to spare before our flight was due to take off. Plenty of time for breakfast. In the end our flight was a bit late taking off, because there was some sort of delay with the Ryanair catering facilities. We arrived in Sweden around midday and were relieved to find that it wasn't raining. The weather forecast had been a bit mixed for Saturday in particular, and after having a slightly damp weekend in Norway earlier in the month, we were hoping for a bit more sunshine this time around. It wasn't exactly sunny in Sweden, but at least it was dry! Stockholm Skavsta is a typical Ryanair airport, in that it is nowhere near Stockholm. Well, it's about 65 miles to the southwest of Stockholm, near a place called Nyköping. Luckily there is bus service that meets the Ryanair flights and takes passengers directly into the centre of Stockholm. The journey took about 90 minutes and cost as much as some of Ryanair's flights, but it turned out to be quite a fun journey as we travelled through the densely forested Swedish countryside. Every so often I caught sight of deer wandering in and out of the trees, which was unexpected. Our first aim when we got to central Stockholm was to find somewhere to get some lunch. We found a possible restaurant fairly quickly, but then realised that we couldn't remember the exchange rate between sterling and Swedish krone (we were a bit confused by having memorised the exchange rate for Norwegian krone a few weeks ago) and so weren't completely sure how expensive the meals were. We walked around for a while to compare prices between different restaurants, and eventually settled for some bacon cheeseburgers, which I think set us back about £15 each. That seemed slightly cheaper than Norway at least! Our next step was to check into the hotel. Or rather, the boat. We were booked to stay in the Rygerfjord Hotel, which is actually a boat, permanently moored on the shore of Lake Mälaren. Not having stayed on a boat before, I was a little bit unsure of what this was going to be like. It looked promising from the outside at least... ...and there were some nice views from beside the boat. When we got inside and checked in, we found that the room was..... compact! I'm really glad that we didn't have our suitcases with us because I think it would be a bit hit and miss whether the fitted through the door! The room is just wide enough for a (small) double bed, and a desk which is about the size of one you would have in a school. Three sides of the bed touch the wall. There is a little porthole though to let in some light and a high shelf that we can store things on. Plus there is a tiny little bathroom, where the shower is connected in a weird way to the sink, so that when I tried to wash my hands I accidentally sprayed water all over the floor. It's clean though and will be fine for just two nights Plus being on the water, it has the added novelty of rocking back and forwards slightly with the waves. I think this could be a rather disconcerting feeling if you were drunk, but given the price of alcohol in Sweden, this is not likely to be a problem Once we were settled in the room, we set out to explore Stockholm in more detail. It was late afternoon by this point, but the day had brightened up considerably and it was surprisingly warm, with bright blue sky in places. We decided to focus on Gamla Stan, the old town, which dates back to the thirteenth century in places and is home to Sweden's royal palace. We had a pretty walk along the waterfront to get to the bridge that would take us across the water and into the old town. The interesting church on the other side of the water is the Riddarholm church, where the Swedish monarchs have historically been buried. All the buildings along the waterfront seemed really pretty... ...although there are also some rather concrete bridges for trains and cars which span the water. As we walked through the old town, the buildings became increasingly grand, so we thought we must be in the right area for the royal palace. We started walking towards this church... ...which actually turned out to be Stockholm's cathedral. From there we turned a corner and found ourselves outside the palace. They seemed to be doing some repair work on some of the buildings, as they were hidden behind scaffolding, but the bits we could see looked impressive. Unfortunately my knowledge of the Swedish monarchy is limited to what I have read in German gossip magazines, so we weren't quite sure of the significance of the various monuments we came across to different kings. A lot of them seem to have been called Gustav! From the palace, we wandered through the streets of the old town for a bit and soon found ourselves in Stortorget, which is the oldest square in Stockholm. The fountain was slightly scary! Unfortunately by this stage of the evening, a lot of the square was in the shade so it was difficult to take good photos. As we began making our way back to the boat, we saw another large church spire on the horizon. As we got closer to it, I was surprised to see that the Swedish writing on the signs outside the church looked very... German! It turns out that this is Stockholm's German church, which was originally built in the middle ages due to the large number of German merchants and craftsmen living in Stockholm. We were pretty tired by this point, so went back to the hotel to write up the blog and have an early night. Stockholm seems like a really attractive city and it looks like the weather should mostly be okay tomorrow, so we're really looking forward to exploring more
  12. For some reason blinds in Sweden don't do a good job of keeping out the daylight. That somewhat defeats the point, especially in a country where the summertime daylight hours start so early. I get up with the sun, so for the third night in a row, I had four hours' sleep. Not that I'm really complaining, since it meant that I could get up and see the view. It's the same one I shared with Clare several hours later when we had breakfast: Isn't that fabulous? And we didn't have to leave until noon, so it meant that we were able to savour the view at leisure, before going on our final stroll and catching the train back to Gothenburg. One of my missions was to buy a copy of Asterix och hans tappra galler, the Swedish version of Asterix the Gaul. I have that in several languages already and I had read Asterix och britterna before we came on holiday, so it was natural to me to want to increase my collection by one. We therefore headed out from the train station with the aim of finding bookshops, with one in particular in mind. And food too; we hadn't eaten the previous evening, so our breakfast of a pastry and, um, garlic bread wasn't really filling a hole. We got to combine both activities, searching for something to eat and a bookshop. As luck would have it, we found both in the same place. Not the best luck, either. This was the shop I'd been looking for: It was closed for renovations. So close! Fortunately, my itty bitty Swedish was good enough to be able to read one of the signs in the window, explaining that the shop had moved. Phew! That still left the other mission. Neither of us will eat fish, which limits things in a seaside city. The burger we ate on Saturday made us both swear off them. And although the pizzas we'd had were very nice, three meals in a row is pushing things. Our options were clearly limited. Fortunately, I spotted an Indian restaurant not far from the out-of-bounds bookshop, and so off we headed. I should've suspected something was not quite right when the price was about £6 for a chicken tikka masala, including the rice, naan and drink! It turned out that this was a cheap-and-cheerful place, where you take a tray and the food is ladled onto your plate, like at school. I think this is probably the first time Clare has ever left a curry! We still had hours to kill and, having removed the taste of the curry via some chocolate purchased at a nearby 7-11 (the same trick we pulled on Saturday after the burger), we navigated ourselves to the bookshop. We found Tintin on display, which boded well, so headed downstairs, which was full of comics. There was even an Asterix one. It might not have been the first in the series, but I'll consider it mission accomplished. For some reason it was about a third the price that they sell for in the UK and France too - it's not often you could say that about Sweden! On Saturday we had walked as far as a huge park, the Slottsskogen [Castle Park], which we had decided we would visit when coming back. We still had hours left and so time wasn't a problem. The trees were tall and different colours: We found a small maze to explore: And there were several lakes, one of which featured a prominent jet: What we hadn't expected was to find animals in the park too. There were seals, penguins and even moose: This was all over the course of several hours, so we can't be blamed for taking a rest every now and again: Clare soon had us climbing: Which culminated with a view from above the trees: That left us with one more task: On Saturday we'd visited Esperanto-plasen. What we'd found out having Googled it afterwards is that a prominent Esperanto-related thing had escaped our notice, so we set off to find it: And that was Gothenburg, a perfectly delightful place to have visited. Somehow we squeezed an awful lot into our three days. One thing's for sure; we'll definitely be coming back to this beautiful, clean country. And, if we can, we'll be based in Ljungskile at that spectacular house that we stayed in over the second night.
  13. We stayed up late watching Eurovision last night and it was an amazing coincidence to be in Sweden when Sweden won The downside was that as a result we had somehow managed to be awake for 22 hours in a 24 hour period. Ouch! It was fascinating to stay up though and see what time it started to get dark in this part of the world (about half ten!). Due to a slight blind/curtain malfunction, Tim is able to attest that it was daylight again before 5am too. Our plan for today was to have a relaxing time exploring the surroundings of Ljungskile. We checked out of our accommodation by 09.30 and set off along a little footpath into the forest behind the hostel. It was like no forest we had ever been in before; the trees were enormous and there wasn't a single other soul around. We tried not to think about the episode of Wallander we'd seen where someone met a sticky end in a similar-looking forest! The ground was quite boggy in places - it looked like it had been raining recently - and at one point there was a special walkway over what looked like a swamp. We walked for about half an hour until we almost got to the top of the hill. Unfortunately once we were nearly at the summit we came across a bit of the path which was just too wet and muddy to be crossed, so we had to turn around and head back down again. It was a lovely walk though, and the weather was quite sunny and warm under the protection of the trees. We only appreciated quite how much protection the trees had given us once we had walked back down into the village; the wind was absolutely ferocious! We decided to walk along the edge of the coast in the opposite direction to the one we had gone in yesterday. It was rather cold in the wind but we had some lovely views out across the water and came across the Ljungskile church with its distinctive green roof. After about an hour we turned round and walked back into the town in order to warm up and get some lunch. Eating options in Ljungskile really are limited to two pizzerias, so we decided to try out the one we hadn't been to yesterday. It turned out to be superior to yesterdays, in that it served wine and the pizza bases were slightly nicer Both places have very extensive pizza menus, although I found it bizarre to see that banana seems to be a popular pizza topping in Sweden - yuk!! The prices were more reasonable than I had been expecting and we ended up paying 330 SEK (about £25) for two meals, two glasses of wine and two coffees. Sweden definitely seems to be more affordable than Norway. Although it isn't any easier to obtain alcohol and Ljungskile is too small to have its own government-run off licence. We popped into the local Co-op after lunch to pick up some supplies for breakfast tomorrow, before setting off on the coastal path around the fjord towards Ulvesund where we were staying for our second night. When were originally looking at accommodation in Ljungskile, we found a beautiful little house in Ulvesund that we really wanted to stay in, but it was only available for the Sunday night, hence we decided to stay in a different place each night. The walk was about 5km and the path was beautiful, taking us through another forest and down onto a beach before finally emerging onto the main road into the village. We soon spotted the familiar sight of the Ljungskile church, now on the opposite side of the water. It took us a little while to find the holiday home once we arrived in Ulvesund, but eventually we located it. When we got inside we weren't disappointed We relaxed for a while before going out for an evening stroll. Our intention was just to walk down towards the water and enjoy the view, but when we got to the shoreline we spotted a bridge across to the island of Ulvön. We couldn't resist walking across and exploring. There are some holiday cottages on the island but we didn't see another single person in the hour or so that we walked around the perimeter of the island. It was amazing As we crossed the bridge back towards the mainland it was just starting to spot with rain, so we headed back to the holiday house for an evening of coffee, chocolate and Wallander.
  14. We decided to make the most of our Bank Holiday weekends this year, and after heading to France for the first holiday weekend in May, we had a long weekend in Sweden booked for the second one. We got very cheap flights from Stansted to Gothenburg with Ryanair, and things turned out even better than we expected when the little airport miles from Gothenburg that Ryanair normally fly to was closed for repair works and our flight was rescheduled to the main Gothenburg Landvetter airport instead. Unfortunately at the point at which we booked the flights, it hadn't occurred to us quite how expensive accommodation in Sweden was going to be, so when I started looking for a hotel in central Gothenburg some weeks later it was a bit of a shock to find that there wasn't anything available in our budget at all! A bit of panic and some online research later, we discovered that accommodation got cheaper the further out from Gothenburg we went and eventually we found some affordable options in the small town of Ljungskile, about 65km north of Gothenburg. Phew, problem solved! After the debacle of nearly missing our flight to France a couple of weeks ago, I was more than a little nervous about whether we would get to Stansted on time this morning, a situation not helped by the fact that our 06.45 flight required getting up at 02.30, but this time everything actually went like clockwork. We were out so early that there was no traffic on the roads, we had a meet-and-greet parking service with absolutely no stress, and our biggest problem at the airport was that Wetherspoons was so full it was difficult to find a free table to have breakfast We left Stansted on time and arrived in Gothenburg just before 09.30. As the plane started its descent towards the city, we were treated to stunning views of the surrounding countryside: trees, trees and more trees! It looked pretty sunny, although the pilot announced that the temperature was a mere 7 degrees and there was definitely a rather chilly breeze as we stepped off the aeroplane. First impressions of Sweden were that it was almost too good to be true. The airport toilets were immaculate, the airport bus was sitting waiting right outside the terminal and the driver made helpful announcements in English and Swedish. There was even a moving graphic on the LED display inside the bus which showed where the vehicle currently was between all the stops! In the whole morning which we subsequently spent walking around Gothenburg, I don't think we saw a single piece of litter or dog mess on the pavements; a bit of a change from France! The journey into the city didn't take long and we were soon exploring Gothenburg. More by chance than design, almost immediately we found ourselves in one of the main squares, Gustaf Adolfs Torg, named after the Swedish king who founded Gothenburg. The square is home to the town hall... ...as well as a huge statue of Gustaf Adolf himself. From there we headed down to the city harbour. We were able to walk along the waterfront for about a mile or so, looking at all the boats, and it was really peaceful. We couldn't believe how few people were out and about in Gothenburg given that it was a Saturday morning! After a while we turned away from the sea and started to walk inwards back towards the main city. We found ourselves walking along one of Gothenburg's canals. There were interesting buildings on both sides of the water. Following the map in our guidebook, we thought we should now be in the right part of town to see the cathedral. We caught sight of this building across the road, but we weren't sure whether it was the cathedral or not. It seemed a bit... understated. It turned out it was the cathedral, though It looks a bit bigger when you go round the back! Walking past the cathedral, we came across the Kungsparken, a large park which follows the edge of one of the city's canals. It was beautifully green and we had a lovely stroll in the sunshine. Following the banks of the canal, we came to a church which actually looked more imposing than the cathedral. We also found the university. By this time we were walking out of the city towards the Slottskogen, Gothenburg's biggest park. It was quite a long walk, but we saw some interesting sights on the way. When we eventually got there, we found a map and realised just how enormous the park is. There was no way we could see everything in the time we had left before we needed to catch our train to Ljungskile, so we decided to come back and explore it properly on Monday and get some lunch now instead. Finding somewhere to have lunch turned out to be more problematic than we had expected, but eventually we found a bar which was serving burgers. They weren't the best burgers we had ever had in our lives, but they also weren't the most expensive (Helsinki still holds that record!!). We got a surprise as we walked back towards the station after lunch and saw this sign! We had no idea, but there is a square called Esperanto-platsen in the middle of Gothenburg! Our train to Ljungskile was at 14.40. Swedish trains proved to be comfortable and spacious, and less than an hour later we had arrived in Ljungskile. Our accommodation for tonight is a private room in a youth hostel. It didn't look far from the train station on the map, though we hadn't realised quite how uphill the walk was going to be. It was a tiring climb, but worth it when we finally got there and found this view We retired to our room for a brief nap before setting off to explore Ljungskile in the early evening. The town itself pretty much just consists of one street, with a handful of shops and two pizzerias. We crossed over the main road and headed down to the waterside. The views were beautiful, and we're looking forward to coming back for a longer walk tomorrow. We caught sight of our youth hostel up on the hill behind the town (it's the big yellow building). It was about 7pm by this point so we decided to investigate one of the pizzerias, before heading back to our room to watch Eurovision
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