Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sweden

Sweden is big. Not just the sheer size of it but everything. The roads are big and wide, the houses are big and the plots of land around it are big too. Swedes don't like to be cramped. Part of this is probably because they spend a lot of time inside in the long Swedish winter. But it's more than just that. Sweden is relaxed and too many people in a small space is just not relaxed. So the houses are big, the rooms are big; even the sheds are big. Sweden was just like it was all those years ago: relaxing. Yet there is plenty to do: 500,000 km2 of lakes, 95,000 natural pools, 2400 kilometres of coastline, sun-warmed cliffs, blueberry forests and a network of beautiful winding roads to connect it all. I like Sweden, always have.



The Swedes like camping, which in my book is the best way to go about if you love the outdoors. Campsites are everywhere in Sweden, some 500 of them. Having been on the German Autobahn for almost 1000 km, Denmark was already much better but Sweden is where it all changed. Sweden is big. The roads are wide and not real busy, Swedes drive 100x better than the high strung Germans do and are much more civilised which makes all the difference. Being back in Sweden felt good, very good.

The Scandinavian part of our trip had started properly when we rolled off the ferry into Sweden. I know Denmark is part of Scandinavia too but for some reason it just doesn't give me that Scandinavian feeling. First stop was for petrol, as we already had 280 km on the current tank, and then found the GPS would not load the map of Sweden…! I thought I had fixed the GPS issues in Germany, and in my defence it had worked fine all day yesterday, but now the problems started again. Of course these sort of things only show up at the end of a long day when there are still quite a few kms to go…

With the GPS out of action we had to rely on an old fashioned roadmap, which we didn't have1 Luckily we could sort of remember where we had to go, as we had been here many years ago. We did get there without the GPS and, not un-importantly, the Våxtorp Natur Camping was still there too. It had in fact more than doubled in size! The same friendly lady still owns the campground and welcomed us as friendly as ever. We found a great spot right next to the lake, pitched the tents and Mike cooked us a meal! 

The GPS problems turned out to be unrelated to the issues we had before. It was the Serbia and/or Slovenia map, which caused the whole thing to freeze. As the maps are loaded in alphabetical order and Sweden comes after Slovenia, that didn't load at all. 

A Swedish army truck, converted into a go-anywhere camper by a Dutchman!
Despite the like for 'big' the Swedes don't drive huge American SUVs. The fuel prices, US$ 2,20 a litre, will have something to do with that. On a European level though they do drive big cars. The caravans they pull are big too. Motorhomes don't seem that popular as in the other European countries, the Swedes will most likely find them too small… :-) Camping-wise that is great for us. Why? Because we don't have to put up with all those rattling little diesels every morning. For those of you who haven't been in Europe recently, most of the motorhomes there are based on large box-vans powered by small over-stressed turbo charged diesels from Fiat or Mercedes. They start up with the sound of a cement mixer filled with metal bars. lovely. As they warm up the rattles subdue a bit but I for one would not want to drive one as I feel there are limits to what you can ask your neighbours to put up with. Strangely enough Germany is very strict on truck noise and the rest of Europe is catching up on that as well, a good initiative as trucks in this part of the world are now as quiet as a normal passenger car. Vans apparently don't have to comply to the same standards and make as much noise as tractors. Lucky then that the Swedes in general do not like diesels in their cars and don't seem to like campervans much :-)

As Våxtorp is a nice place, we stayed an extra day. The tent was right next to a tranquil lake, the campground despite being quite full was quiet and we simply enjoyed the views in beautiful weather. This is what you do it all for, this is why you don't stay at home but go on a holiday, or a trip :-) Mike slept in for the first time in weeks. The seat on his Yamaha isn't that comfortable and 1200 km in two days didn't help… Mind you, before we had the Rukka Cosmic trousers with their build-in seat pad, he wouldn't have been able to do this at all!

The last night in Våxtorp was a thunder and lightning show, which came to pouring rain at 6 am… at 8.30 nothing had changed and the forecast was… well, nice if you're a fish. Another problem that raised its ugly head was a toothache… mine. Luckily Ibuprofen is still sold here in 400mg tablets and big boxes, did I say the Swedes think big :-) It kept the toothache sort of bearable through the weekend.

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