This was my first trip abroad in my Motorhome and took place in 2003; the total distance covered on this little journey was 6500miles, “all on the wrong side of the road”. A little bit hairy to start with until I got used to it, but since then I have driven more miles on the continent than I have in the UK; so now it has become second nature to me.
To get to the above countries I had to first drive through France, Belgium, Germany, Holland and Denmark, all very interesting in their own right and worth much longer visits, some of which I have done in the years since. But I did spend a couple of nights at Copenhagen while passing through Denmark, as I decided that I had to go and have a look at the famous Mermaid statue, but it was not as large as I was expecting it to be, “quite small really”.
One arrival in Sweden I met up with the motorhome group of which I am a member, spending a week on a camp site at Klippan a small town about the size of Waterlooville in the south of the country, not too far from the ferry or bridge over from Helsingor in Denmark to Helsingborg in Sweden. The week’s stop coincided with mid-summers day which is celebrated much more there than it is in the UK, the festivities are over several days when large crosses are erected in the town squares and parks which are then covered with all types of greenery; in the evening the towns folk gathered around with music singing and dancing. I cannot help thinking how much nicer it would be if we celebrated it, rather than Halloween “an American import” which is nearly upon us as I sit typing this story.
While there we had a couple of organised coach trips, the first was a sight-seeing tour of the local area visiting lovely little fishing ports, I especially remember the Swedish ice cream delicious! I’m sure I ate far too much of it, it’s one of my weaknesses. Moving on we went to a small fishing hamlet where close by on a hill were a ring of stones called Ales Stenar similar to those at Stonehenge, if I remember rightly the formation was more boat shaped, it has been four years since I made this trip and the old grey cells are not what they used to be. We also visited a little cottage in the country nestling in a delightful garden with wall to wall traditional flowers and plants including hostas and not a slug or snail in sight as the weather is too cold, it turned out to be a cottage industry making their traditional Swedish celebration cakes, which are made from eggs, sugar and potato flour, they are spun with the resulting mixture which looks like a honeycomb of meringue though not as sweet.
The other coach trip was to a Swedish restaurant which speciality was the Smorgasbord, the sight of the magnificent array of food was awe-inspiring, it took us three to four hours to work our way through it, starting with fresh and smoked fish, then cold meats including reindeer, all this was self service and go up to help yourself as many times as you liked. Followed by hot meat balls with various salads and vegetables with more if you wanted. Next onto the puds, first was the cold then the hot followed, (if you still had any room left)! a massive array of cheeses, biscuits with mints sweets and grapes; if that was not enough some of the cake we had seen being made on the other coach trip. So if you are feeling peckish and someone offers to take you out for a Smorgasbord GO! You will not need any more food for a week. I honestly think it was the best and most varied meal I have ever eaten.
On leaving Klippan my aim was to head North, up through the centre of Sweden and over the Arctic Circle, then on up into Lapland before entering Norway on my way to Nordkapp to see the midnight sun. As the hours of light increased the further I went, I tended to drive longer distances each day, over five hundred miles on one day, but boy are the roads boring, alright if you like pine trees for miles on end. One day the road just ended and became dirt track just as if some one had dug it up, I felt sorry for the following van it just disappeared in a cloud of dust; this went on for about twenty miles. On stopping for a rest we asked a local “what had happened to the road”? – he pointed to this hill in the distance and said there it is, “they had dug it up” but had not got round to relaying it. I must admit it was not all pine trees, there were some nice lakes and rivers where I would have stopped for a bit of fishing had there not been another motorhome travelling up with me.
We crossed the Arctic Circle at Jokkmokk which is not too far from the border with Finland. It was possible to travel for hours without seeing another vehicle and a traffic jam was when Reindeer were blocking the road plus the odd Elk.
The trees were thinning out by now making the journey more interesting, don’t get me wrong I always enjoy my journeys whatever the terrain or country, it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry. I am so lucky to be able to make the journeys that I do and it’s thanks to God that I have the health and ability to do it all. But it would be nice to have a partner to share it; I see so much beauty around me but am unable to discuss it at the time which is sad in a way. Still that’s enough about me on with the journey North.
It was then on through Finland and into Norway which I shall write about next time.
Thanks for reading my ramblings.
From St George’s News Archives, first published New Year 2008.
To be continued.