June 25th, 2020
Sweden is officially called the Kingdom of Sweden. It is the largest and most populous of the Nordic countries and borders Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge. Sweden is the fifth largest country in Europe. It is about twice the size of Great Britain or roughly the size of the state of California. The capital and largest city is Stockholm.
Sweden has a total population of 10.4 million; 87% of Swedes live in urban areas, which cover 1.5% of the entire land area. The highest concentration is in the central and southern half of the country.
The climate is in general mild for its northerly latitude due to significant maritime influence. In spite of the high latitude, Sweden often has warm continental summers, being located in between the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea, and vast Russia. The general climate and environment vary significantly from the south and north due to the vast latitudinal difference, and much of Sweden has reliably cold and snowy winters. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, while the north is heavily forested and includes a portion of the Scandinavian Mountains.
Germanic peoples have inhabited Sweden since prehistoric times, emerging into history as the Geats and Swedes and constituting the sea peoples known as the Norsemen. An independent Swedish state emerged during the early 12th century. After the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century killed about a third of the Scandinavian population, the dominance of the Hanseatic League in Northern Europe threatened Scandinavia economically and politically. This led to the forming of the Scandinavian Kalmar Union in 1397, which Sweden left in 1523. When Sweden became involved in the Thirty Years’ War on the Protestant side, an expansion of its territories began and eventually the Swedish Empire was formed. This became one of the great powers of Europe until the early 18th century. Swedish territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were gradually lost during the 18th and 19th centuries, ending with the annexation of present-day Finland by Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814 when Norway was militarily forced into a personal union, which peacefully dissolved in 1905. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, maintaining an official policy of neutrality in foreign affairs. In 2014, Sweden celebrated 200 years of peace, breaking even Switzerland’s record for peace. Sweden was formally neutral through both world wars and the Cold War, although Sweden has since 2009 openly moved towards cooperation with NATO. In 2022 Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership and were formally invited to join at the NATO.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy, with legislative power vested in the 349 member Riksdag. It is a unitary state, currently divided into 21 counties and 290 municipalities. Sweden maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. It has the world’s eleventh-highest per capita income and ranks very highly in quality of life, health, education, protection of civil liberties, economic competitiveness, income equality, gender equality, prosperity and human development. Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995 but rejected Eurozone membership following a referendum.
The national flag of Sweden consists of a yellow or gold Nordic cross on a field of light blue. The Nordic cross design traditionally represents Christianity.
Currency: Swedish Kroners – 1 kroner = $0.095 USD – $0.12 CDN so about ten kroners to a dollar
Diesel: about 26.50 kroners a litre – comes out to nearly $10 USD a gallon!
Most popular beer: Mariestads –a nice lager
EU license plate letter: S
We arrived in Sweden before 9 am, paid the bridge/tunnel toll of about a whopping $133 USD (there were passport control booths in some lanes and people were stopping at but our lane had no one in it, so we just blew through – which made sense: we’re still in the EU after all). We then made our way to a viewpoint to have a look at the bridge we’d just crossed.
We got some diesel outside Malmo and carried on. We had planned to go to Gothenburg to see the wooden homes but Fran read it’s only one street and that there are three well preserved towns with way more buildings so we went north east instead of north from Malmo and made it to Eksjo for a stroll by early afternoon. It was going to be cooler today in Copenhagen but here in Eksjo, it was high 20’s C / 80’s F again.
We walked around the small town to see the buildings/homes and then stopped in for a cold drink before returning to Minou.
We had parked in a large parking lot, so when we got back we decided to move on but before doing that Doug gave Fran a short manual driving lesson – she’s apprehensive about driving stick especially when you have to stop and start a lot with the curvy roads, roundabouts and hills we expect to encounter in Norway but she needs to know how to get going and how to drive some in case of emergency.
After ten minutes or so she’d had enough so as not to have either of us get impatient and we continued northeast towards Stockholm. We stopped at a lovely rest area near Tranas for the night. There are picnic tables, rubbish bins, bathrooms and a cassette toilet dump. It’s a nice distance from the main road, which is not a busy freeway, just a two lane highway and then we WhatsApp’ed with the grandkids cause it’s their 9th birthday tomorrow.
We have reached out to two friends who live here in Sweden. Desirée is a young lady we met in Nicaragua when we were at the beach and she lives and works in Stockholm so we’ve just arranged to meet her for dinner on Monday night. We think we’ll do the city pass again to visit Stockholm like we did in London so we figure Monday and Tuesday in the city. Like in Copenhagen, we cannot drive in the city’s low emissions zone so we will park south of the city and take the subway in – turns out it’s about 3 stops from where Desirée lives so that worked out well.
Our other friend, Debbie, lives about 350 km away from Stockholm in Hagfors. Debbie and Doug went through engineering together back at UBC and have kept in touch all these years. She is actually of Danish descent but after graduation took a job here in Sweden, met her hubby and has been here ever since. We will go visit her on Wednesday.
While Sweden is the largest of the Nordic countries, most of the attractions that interest us are here in the south with one exception way up north which we will access from Norway so we could be out of Sweden by next weekend!
Sunday morning was another lovely bright sunny day and after some chores, we drove north east to the south side of Stockholm to a parking lot in the neighbourhood of Farsta. The drive here was mostly freeway and the scenery was reminiscent of driving through Northern Ontario – trees, more trees, some rock and several lakes.
Stockholm is the capital and largest city in Sweden as well as the largest urban area in Scandinavia. Approximately 980,000 people live in the city, with 1.6 million in the suburbs, and 2.4 million in the great metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Malaren flows into the Baltic Sea. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252.
After the Ice Age, around 8000 BC, there were already many people living in what is today the Stockholm area, but as temperatures dropped, inhabitants moved south. Thousands of years later, as the ground thawed, the climate became tolerable and the lands became fertile, people began to migrate back to the North. At the intersection of the Baltic Sea and Lake Malaren, is an archipelago site where the Old Town of Stockholm was first built from about 1000 CE by the Vikings. They had a positive trade impact on the area because of the trade routes they created.
For several hundred years, Stockholm was the capital of Finland which then was a part of Sweden.
The city was the host of the summer Olympics in 1912.
The place we’ve chosen to park is pay parking lot that costs 30 KR a day (about $3USD) and you pay at the machine with a credit card. Luckily, we had no issues with our US credit card! We got parked in the shade because it was getting very warm in the sun – nearing 30C / high 80’sF and as we have no AC in the coach, we needed it to cool off for the evening.
We took a stroll to check out the nearby beach on the lake – while it was rather busy, it wasn’t quite enticing enough for us to take a dip. Swedes (and other Nordic peoples) don’t get long summers or long days they grab every second of sunlight they can get!
We then wandered over to the nearby mall for two reasons: AC and maybe a hardware store could provide Doug with a few things he’s been looking for. While we enjoyed the coolness, he found none of the things he wanted but we did pick up a few little things we could use.
After a nice cool walk through just about the whole mall, we stopped and got a chocolate shake before walking back to Minou. The spot we coveted was now taken by a different car but Minou had cooled off nicely in the shade in our absence. We did move out from under the trees so as to allow our panels to get sun.
Doug got online and bought us a city pass for Stockholm for two days and we relaxed the rest of the afternoon.
The night was rather warm but cooled off some well after midnight. We have ordered small fans for delivery to Debbie’s later this week. Then around 5am the nearby commuter train began and that did not allow us to sleep much longer.
We left Minou safely in the parking lot and took the commuter train into the city after morning tea. Nice trains but have to say the Copenhagen one was nicer 😉
We arrived as planned to use our pass to get tickets for the “under the bridges” boat tour of the area. It departed at 11 so we had time to go get some food and thought we’d get back early to get in line and get good seats. We found a place called “Eggs” and had yummy buns with scrambled eggs and bacon.
To our surprise, the lineup for the boat had already started at 10:30 and we joined in. We did manage to get seats near a window that opened and the boat was not even 2/3 full even after picking up others from a second location.
The tour was over two hours long and this was the route:
We went under several bridges and through a lock.
Here in Stockholm the Baltic Sea meets the Lake Malaren (as mentioned above) and the levels are higher in the lake, hence the need for a lock.
We wore headphones for an audio tour and were given facts about the city and various locations and buildings were pointed out and explained. It was enjoyable to be on the water and we are glad we did a tour this way.
Upon disembarking we jumped on the hop on hop off bus (also included in our pass) to get to the island where there were a few museums we wanted to see. First stop the Vasa Museum.
The Vasa ship is a Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628. It was built on the King’s orders as part of his military expansion. It was richly decorated in carvings telling the stories of the royal family as a symbol of the king’s ambitions for the country. She was one of the mostly powerfully armed vessels in the world. The ship was 52.5 m / 172’ tall, 69.m / 226’ long; had a crew of 145 sailors and 300 sailors, 64 guns. However it was dangerously unstable with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. It sank on its maiden voyage 1300 m / 1400 yard from shore after encountering a wind stronger than a breeze. Her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century and the ship was forgotten until the late 1950’s when it was located again. The ship was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961.
It’s hard to get a shot of the entire ship as it’s so big but here’s the best we got:
Here’s a shot of a model of the ship:
We spent about 45 minutes here and Doug was very happy as he had hoped we see this ship.
Next stop was the Museum of Spirts which was small and rather disappointing.
pic of absolut
Absolut Vodka: Made in Sweden and introduced to the US in 1979. The name had been used a century before by the Vodka King “LO Smith”. Smith gain a reputation for his fuesl oil-free vodka which he first marketed as Tiodubbelt Renadt as ten fold purified and later as Absolut – absolutely pure vodka. The LO Smith seal appears on every bottle of Absolut Vodka bottle sold. It is often considered the world’s most widely distributed portrait.
The brand was purchased from the Swedish state in 2008 for €5.63 million by the French group Pernod Ricard. It is one of the largest brands of spirits in the world and is sold in 126 countries
The one museum not covered by our pass was the ABBA museum – Doug is a big fan of their music. It was interesting and we began using the audio guide from the QR code but it was way too much information. The sign boards in the museum were enough. There were plenty of costumes, stories, info and music to be enjoyed.
ABBA: you all know them: a world famous Swedish band formed in 1972 and one of the most famous and successful musical groups of all time with record sales and countless nominations and awards. Its members were Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (take first letter of each name and what do you get?). They had many chart topping songs from 1974-83 and again in 2021.
Their worldwide fame began in 1974 when they won the Eurovision Song Contest with their song “Waterloo”. Their life on the road resulted in their personal lives suffering and they separated in 1982. In 1999 their music was adapted into the musical we’ve all seen: “Mamma Mia!” and is still in the top ten longest running productions.
It was now after 4pm and we had one more stop to make before catching the train back to meet up with Desirée for dinner at six.
This was Skansen – an open air museum – it’s a replica of life in Sweden in the 19th century – reminded us a bit of Kings Landing in Fredericton or Upper Canada Village and Williamsburg in the US. Lots of old time buildings, things like iron mongers, bakeries, glass blowing. It was not really something we would have paid extra for and it was so hot by this time in the afternoon – it had reached 31C / 88 F and Fran was dragging.
We hopped back on the bus and made our way to a train station and after some confusion about where the track was to our destination, we boarded and made it with time to spare. We found the restaurant and were a bit early but this allowed us to snag a table.
The restaurant was Italian pizza and Deirée said it was quite popular. They only have two tables inside and about six outside but there is a grassy area where a lot of people were sitting enjoying pizza or gelato.
Desirée arrived on time on her bicycle and we enjoyed some catch up time and a nice meal.
We were only 3km from Minou so rather than pay for the train back only two stops we walked back and happily, despite Minou having had no windows open all day (we did leave the three roof vents open) she was not too warm inside and after opening the windows she cooled down some more. It was still about 25C / 77F when we went to bed and so it was a very warm sleep, again awoken by the early trains.
We headed back by train into the city to see a few more sites today. This time we took the train to the central station and got some brekkie at Mickey Dee’s before 10 am (when they stop serving we learned yesterday). We walked over to see the Royal Palace on the outside:
Then the “Great Church” which was under renovation on most of the outside
Our City Pass included entry into this church so we took advantage and walked around the medieval church which they say is mostly untouched other than maintenance. It was quite lovely and had some unique parts to it:
St George & the Dragon (above) – the Legend tells of a terrible dragon that demanded human offerings from the town of Selene as its price for not destroying the town. The day the King’s daughter was to be sacrified, St. George came riding by. On condition that the town’s heathen inhabitants convereted to Christianity, he killed the dragon. The statue is a well preserved ensemble unequalled among its kind and carved out of oak. Some details were made of elk antlers and horsehair. It was consecrated in 1489 as an altar for the shrine to St. George.
The 7 Branched Candlestick is made of bronze with a height of 3.7 m and was probably made in the Netherlands in the 13th century and has been in this cathedral for more than 600 years.
The silver altar is made of both silver and ebony and was donated to the Cathedral in the 1650’s to commemorate the peace treaty in Westphalia after the Thirty Years War.
The Royal Pews are only used by members of the Royal Family when attending official ceremonies here. They were designed in 1684 and inspired by works of Bernini.
The pulpit dates back to 1700 and the text in Hebrew reads: I am the name with which God presents himself to Moses in the burning bush.
The Organ was built in 1960 and has 3 stop; the façade was created in 1789.
After using the free restrooms (not always free here in Europe so take them when you can!) we walked over to the Nobel Prize Museum. This too was included in our pass and it wasn’t at all what we expected. Half the exhibits were centered on the Nobel Prize Dinner! They had plates and table settings on display with lots of photographs – not a great deal on Alfred Nobel himself which was weird ‘cause he was a Swede after all.
But what we did get there successfully was our normal souvenir from country. It seemed unique to Sweden to get a Nobel Prize one.
So we’d about done what we wanted to in the city and had one final place to visit: the Skyview (also included in our pass) but it’s not in the downtown core and we are so glad we did. We had to take the train to get there (here you get a train ticket good for 75 minutes so we hoped we could get back on to get back to Minou before it expired). We walked the few blocks over and after some confusion found the entrance.
It’s a large round building (largest spherical building in the world) with a double glass gondola track that goes up one side of the building – not in a straight line but following the curvature of the building – the only one of its kind as well.
The Skyview was built on the Avicii Arena in 2010 after extensive roof reinforcement using 42 tons of steel and mounting a further 70 tons of rains to the outside to the arena. Specially designed glass gondolas (4.5 m / 15’ in diameter each) were built by a Swedish ski lift manufacturer and it is the only one of its kind in the world. The track’s length is 100 m / 328’. The view from the top, 130 metres up, gives one a 360º view of the city skyline. The Arena itself was built in 1989 as an ice hockey venue
The “experience” includes up to 16 people lasts 25 minutes starting with a short film then you go into the gondola.
The ride takes you up to the top almost to the middle of the building. Here you spend a few minutes admiring the views of Stockholm. You cannot get out and wander around as the surface is a sphere!
Then you ride back down the curvature of the building to the bottom.
Here’s Fran video going down – it’s about 4 and half minutes long.
We returned to the train station and got back in with 9 minutes to spare on our ticket. Upon returning to Minou we packed her up. Doug has wanted to get Minou an oil change soon as we’d rather not be in northern Norway when it’s needed. We met a fellow on yesterday’s boat trip that gave him some names and both we and he tried to call with no success. Unfortunately, the route that our GPS took us was into Stockholm so we have to hope we don’t get “noticed” and fined. Neither of us thought to check the route when we put in the Speedy Auto Service station in as it was outside the city…..
It was not easy to find the Speedy as the sign for the business was inside!
Luckily they could take us first thing tomorrow but it was not cheap. We figured it would be even more in Norway so we took the appointment. Fran had found a place on park4night where were could spend the night but upon arriving there (it was a golf course parking lot) it didn’t seem like a good idea and there was NO shade. Today’s it’s up in the low 30’s again and hot! She found another place about 4 km / 2.9 mi away that was a parking lot for some trails in the woods so we figured there should be trees. There was but there also was not a lot of room left. We did manage to get into a spot and decided to grab our chairs and sit across the road in the trees where we could still see Minour and she cooled off with the vents and windows open.
After a non-cooked dinner (too hot to think about turning on the stove!) it began to get cloudy and the temperature actually dropped quite quickly from 31 down to 23C! That was going to make it easier for sleeping. However, we checked the forecast and there was an 80% chance of rain so that meant closing the roof vents as we have no covers (and we’ve never seen any other motorhomes or trailers with them) to stop the rain from coming in. We closed the windows to halfway and slept pretty well.
We arrived at Speedy just before they opened while it was sprinkling (it never did rain overnight but began about 6 this morning).
By 10:30 we were on the road again heading westward towards Debbie’s house in Hagsfor about 100km / 60 mi before the Norwegian border. It was still overcast but the rain let up by this time.
We know Debbie from Doug’s UBC days; as you know he’s a civil engineer and Debbie went into metallurgical engineering. After graduation she took a job in northern Sweden and later moved to Hagfors where she met Tomas; they have two grown children.
Debbie and Tomas welcomed us with open arms and we spent a couple of hours catching up over beer and dinner. Most of our Amazon order had arrived (including a couple of rechargeable fans- yeah!). They had a big place in their driveway for us to park and set us up with power.
Thursday morning Tomas took us to play “boules” with his club. This is really called pétanque which is a French game similar to British lawn bowling or Italian bocce ball. You play on a lightly graveled strip, throw a small ball called a Jack, and then each play throws up to 3 metal balls trying to get the closest to the target.
Tomas showed us how to play and we practiced for a while before joining in the league and being split into teams. Fran’s team beat Doug’s team in one round and Tomas won his game as well.
We returned to the house where Debbie had finished her morning’s work at home (she is retiring in about two years and Tomas has been retired for two) and we had a lovely lunch. We took care of some chores (laundry, washing the rig etc. before being taken for a drive around the town while running a couple of errands.
We went up to a lookout and saw how much forest and how many lakes were surrounding us. You see them on the GPS or a map while driving by there are SO many trees the views of the lake are blocked or obscured.
We returned to the house for a lovely bbq and enjoyed the day’s long evening. Due to the warmth of the nights lately, we have to leave the windows and vents open so that means lots of light gets in which is not conducive to sleeping so we have taken to wearing eye shades. Tonight we tried out our fans and they helped circulate the air as there was no breeze. We think this was a good buy!
Sidebar: a good number of homes in Sweden are wooden (they have SO much forest) and painted red – this comes from Falu – a waste byproduct, made from leftover rocks and ores containing iron. Over time, the iron weathers to form iron oxide, which is the base for the unique pigment. That’s then washed, dried and burned. The heat transforms it from an earthy yellow to a brilliant red color. The dry pigment is then ground, and mixed with water, flour and linseed oil to produce the paint.
We awoke to cloudy skies on Friday but it’s still rather warm. After showers and a lovely breakfast with our hosts we parted ways: we drove towards Norway, they drove southwest for a weekend getaway to celebrate their 30th anniversary. It was a pleasure to see them and we were spoiled by our hosts these past couple of days.
Our first stop almost immediately was to drop off a return to Amazon, then to stop at a sporting goods store so that Doug could purchase some hiking shoes (we did not pack ours) and he wants to do a long solo hike in Norway) and then groceries. We also topped up the tank and then drove to cross the border:
No immigration, no customs, no COVID check. Yeah, we’re in and no one has asked us to declare all the beer etc. we’ve brought in.
We drove 1142 km / 708 miles crossing Sweden.
Fun facts about Sweden:
- It has twice the population of Norway with over 10,000,000 people
- Swedes love to recycle and so much so that they import waste from Norway
- More than half the country is covered in forest
- Sweden once had a pirate king: Eric XIII
- Swedish workers take a break twice daily; these breaks are called “fika” (like our old coffee breaks)
- The Swedes invented nicotine replacement gum
- The very first pacemaker surgery took place in Stockholm
- Mid summer is celebrated with boiled potatoes…..with dill
- A Swedish astronomer, Anders Celsuis, invented the centigrade system
- Sweden is the fourth largest country in Europe by land area
- It’s the third largest exporter of music in the world: ABBA, Ace of Base, the Cardigans (US and UK are first and second)
- It’s a member of the EU and Schengen but has kept its own currency
- The Swedes LOVE moose
- There are more McDonald’s per capita than anywhere else in the world!