Pine forest, lakes and red wooden houses

That’s Southern Sweden in a ….pine cone….

We started our Sweden adventure in Malmo as it’s the first place you get to when going over the very expensive Copenhagen toll bridge.  Blogs can often just highlight all the best bits of the trip and make it sound like every day is amazing, when in reality you have several not so good days thrown in there too. This day was taken up with spending far too long trying to find somewhere to empty the van toilet, interrupting someone breaking into a car, stressing at how much money food shopping costs, driving around for 40 minutes trying to find somewhere to park the van, and getting bad anxiety about leaving the van in a city where car break-ins are high!! All this only left us with about 2 hours to wander around Malmo. There are couple of nice places to visit but wouldn’t feel the need to go back. The highlight was an amazing falafel wrap. They love middle eastern food in Sweden.

The next day in Lund, however, was much better. Half an hour away from Malmo, it’s a small city with a big university presence. It a lovely place to walk around with some gorgeous old buildings. There’s also a really great botanical gardens, and our personal highlight, it’s a great city for vegans! We had some vegan ice cream and found lots of good vegan products in the shops.

We then drove up to an island on the west coast called Tjorn, which was our favourite part of Sweden. It’s a rugged island with rock boulders everywhere, lovely clear blue waters and wooden houses squeezed in and around the rocks. We had a great day walking a loop around a smaller island off Tjorn called Djorn (there’s a lot of Islands in Sweden).

We spent that night parked in a marina and the next day had an amazing view from the kitchen window watching boats being transported into the marina.

From Tjorn we travelled across the country stopping in Jonkoping. Its not a standard tourist stop but its where Icky (my brother) did an Erasmus year so we wanted to go check it out. Just outside Jonkoping we visited Habo Church – an amazingly colourful wooden church – it felt like you were inside a boat. Jonkoping is sat on a huge lake with a sandy beach and fresh air coming off the hills which makes it feel like you’re at the sea. In Icky’s honour we went into town and had a few beers (which is a very rare thing on this trip as our budget prevents us from doing it too often).

After Jonkoping we continued east towards the Stockholm archipelago. Via a small town on the lake called Grana which is famous for its red and white mint sweets. The whole town is crazy about red and white stripes. The driving in this part of Sweden is pretty predictable, pine forests interspersed with lakes and rivers.

Orno was our archipelago island of choice, we took our bikes on the ferry and had a day exploring. It was fun but hard work. Very undulating ground, a new bike which has sticky brakes, bizarre gears and I’m generally rubbish at cycling. Whereas Graham, who has cycled every day to work for the past five years was having a lovely if not rather slow time waiting for me. The island was predictably made up of pine forests and lakes but as a nice change we also went through some woodlands with oak and birch trees. We spent a long lunch snoozing on the beach resting our legs which was lush.

The day after we went into Stockholm which we did not do justice. The hard thing about this trip is finding the balance between seeing lots of places in a time frame or seeing less places but in more detail. As we are not really city people and generally much prefer a day walking in nature, we only really give cities one day, but Stockholm was huge and required more. It’s on the list of places to go back to one day when our budget is less tight and we can actually eat, drink, visit museums and go on boat trips. We did however have a great day wandering around. We stared in the SoFo district which is up on a hill on the other side of the river and gives great views onto the city centre. The old town is gorgeous with endless tiny lanes but it is very touristy. We walked through the formal palace grounds and had our pack lunch in a park by the water with a very hungry duck who kept sitting on my lap trying to steal my crisps! We also really enjoyed walking around Skeppsholmen island which had lots of beautiful old tugboats moored up, each one had a little info board outside describing the boats history.

Our following day was spent in Upsala, a university city just out of Stockholm. We accidently went there on one of their busiest days of the year, 30th April, when the whole town and especially the university students celebrate the arrival of Spring. The day starts with a raft race down the river, literally everyone in Upsala seems to go to watch – the streets were full with people, food stands and balloon stalls. Then everyone goes to the parks for picnics, followed by watching the choir sing in the afternoon. All the university students wear captain hats and throw them up in the air at 3pm before the choir sing. Then in the evening they have bonfires and fireworks. Though we missed most of these activities, and between driving only had a few hours there, it is was fun to soak up the atmosphere.

Our last stop in central Sweden was Lake Run in the Dalarna region. We got an amazing spot for Scooby by the lake and spent a very Swedish day walking in the forests, kayaking in the lake and having a fire in the evening.

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