Last week, I was sitting down to write another post, with not really much to say. This was not a writer’s block; it had been a week full of lectures, 2 assignments had been due in, and there was nothing much to write home about, quite literally. And then, while I was considering writing about how I had invested in a toaster and some new headphones, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse from a friend of mine:
So my weekend plans had completely changed from sitting in my flat planning another assignment, to exploring Southern Sweden! I would embark on my travels with Johannes, a German who has a knack for photography; Philipp, our German driver who was fuelled by cans of Coke Zero for the entire trip in order to keep the car on the road; and Kévin, a French guy who it later turned out doesn’t like cheese. (Take from that what you want!)
And so at 8 o’clock on Friday morning, I was picked up in the wagon by the rest of the gallivanting gang (which, upon reflection, sounds like a great name for a book). In true manly fashion, we threw the map on the floor and picked some vague route and formulated some sort of plan for the next 2 days. We would drive through the Swedish countryside, stop off at Växjö for lunch, and then explore Kalmar, Öland and Karlskrona, and everything in between, on what would turn out to be a round trip of over 1000 km. We had a youth hostel booked in Kalmar so this would be our resting place.
Without further ado we set off, with nothing more than a toothbrush and a pack of Sherbet Lemons! (Yes, that is from Johnny English, and in truth we didn’t have sherbet lemons, just lots of cans of Coca Cola to keep up the caffeine levels!).
After stopping off on numerous occasions to explore the vast lakes of Skåne and the accompanying woodlands, we arrived in the city of Växjö for lunch, and quickly found a place to refuel – a pizzeria/kebab house, and it was kebab meat and chips (or fries if you are that way inclined) all round! It was here that I taught my fellow travellers the meaning of some unique English concepts like banter and, more importantly, squeaky-bum-time, which produced a chorus of laughter. (Matt Dean – I thought you’d love this!)
One of the main attractions in this area, alongside the city’s Cathedral, is the Kronoberg Castle ruins, which gave us a great opportunity to take lots of photographs and the views did not disappoint.
In contrast, the next 3 hours were very dull viewing, with an endless expanse of trees as far as the eye could see. No wonder forestry is Sweden’s largest export! This initiated the sarcastic line “Ooh a lake!” whenever such grandeur of the landscape appeared amidst the mundane woodland. With Philipp on probably his 5th Coca Cola at this point in time, we pressed on and arrived in Kalmar in the late afternoon.
When we arrived in Kalmar, we explored the Baltic coastline and could see the distant Öland island. We also took some time to look at – and play with the cannons and chase rabbits around – the beautiful setting that is Kalmar castle.
Realising that time had quickly alluded us and that the temperature was rapidly dropping, we checked into our hostel. Our room was the classic 2 bunk-bed situation, and with a limited array of amenities, we immediately ventured back into the city in search of a nearby watering hole (or I should say sports bar). Despite paying what is equivalent to £6 for a pint of cider, it was a cool place to go for a drink, and Kévin soon re-established French stereotypes by suggesting we share a bottle of wine. Declining his offer, we settled into the cosy lounge area of the bar and watched Växjö win at Ice Hockey, and they are now my adopted Ice Hockey Team to support. Once the match had finished, we tried to find a student bar for some more reasonable prices and well, students!
Within 10 minutes or so we found such a bar (called Student Pub, which wasn’t exactly original) and were soon enjoying the student prices and the drunken renditions of Afroman’s Because I Got High! I also managed to practice my Swedish with some of the locals and, towards the end of the evening, I met a guy who was from Portsmouth, and a Swedish girl who had worked in Richmond for a year and had also developed a Californian accent – strange!
After the bar closed in the early hours of the morning, we headed back to our hostel and soon fell asleep. The next day would consist of exploring the forests and beaches on the island of Öland, visiting Karlskrona and the maritime museum, and a very long (but interesting) car journey home.
After having a great night out in Kalmar, we woke up early on the Saturday morning and drove over the Kalmar Strait to Öland, the second largest Swedish island, but which is home to only 25,000 people. Rural Sweden at it’s best! The Swedish royal family often reside on the island during the summer, at a place called Solliden Palace, so if the island’s good enough for the royal family to live on, it must be worth a visit!
Once we had driven over the Öland Bridge onto the island, we immediately hunted down the nearest ICA! (one of the major supermarket brands for those of you living outside of Sweden). We were so hungry that as soon as we stepped outside of the shop we started eating what we had bought, prompting the line “You boys are hungry!” from an elderly woman passing by. Indeed we were!
After stocking up on some much needed food, we drove to the Borgholm Castle ruins. Borgholm Castle was a key fortress during the Kalmar War between Sweden and Denmark in the early 17th century, and was turned into a ruin when a fire ensued in 1806. Unfortunately the site was shut to visitors as it is only open during the summer months, but we walked around the perimeter and took some photographs.
We then spent most of the late morning and early afternoon exploring the Trollskogen nature reserve which lies on the northern tip of the island. Trekking through the vast areas of woodland and strolling down the beach was a great way to spend the day, and it was my first experience of the Baltic Sea. Like young teenagers on their summer holidays, we started indulging in the classic game of stone skimming, which then naturally evolved into the “how far can I throw this stone?” game. Philipp then took this a step further by shot-putting some very large rocks into the sea. Aside from the fun and games, the beach also provided another great opportunity to take some photographs, in particular of the Swiks shipwreck from 1926:
For the rest of the afternoon, we walked around the city of Karlskrona, which was a 2 hour drive away from Öland. In Karlskrona, we looked around the boats of the maritime museum, and walked past the statue of Karl XI and the Armed Forces naval base (Försvarsmakten Marinbasen), pictured below:
We left Karlskrona at around 7pm, and after the long journey home, we were back in Lund around 10pm. I was absolutely exhausted but it was great to explore the southern Sweden! Since our road trip, I have been thrown back into the proverbial academic circus, with a presentation and an assignment both due last week and this week I have 2 Swedish exams. However, on Friday night, I went to a traditional Swedish sittning at one of the nations, which involved a delicious three course meal (with a free drink I must add), some ambitious singing of traditional Swedish songs, and a free club night!
I also have a lot planned for the coming weeks. My sister is coming to visit for Halloween (her birthday!) and I will be going to Stockholm with some friends in early November. I am still working on that photo slideshow which I hope to upload soon.
Also, I am happy to say that I passed my Swedish speaking exam this afternoon!
Until next time….