Sweden.se writer Christine Demsteader spent her summer holiday exploring the length and breadth of Sweden. On the road she met many tourists who shared their experiences of the country.
Christine Demsteader is based in Stockholm, but now she has seen a bit more of Sweden as well. Photo: Private
My two-month journey began in Kiruna, Sweden’s most northerly city, above the Arctic Circle. In a few years time space tourists will be rocketed to the skies from the Esrange Space Center there. On an outing to the spaceport I passed the famous Icehotel. And no, in summer there is no ice, only a hotel.
With a tough schedule to keep, I never made it to the village of Abisko or the heights of the hiking trail Kungsleden. Celina Wettstein did. I met the student from Bern, Switzerland, while traveling from Gällivare to Jokkmokk.
Wettstein had spent a week there hiking 19 miles (30 kilometers) a day. "To see the midnight sun is something special and everything is made easy for hikers with well planned paths," she said.
Captivated by the landscape, Wettstein explained how it differs from her home territory. "The mountains are soft and flat. It’s funny that a mountain can be 200 meters high; that’s more of a hill to me. But the north is amazingly scenic — vast and full of lakes and forests."
Celine Wettstein seemed happy with her holiday in northern Sweden, despite the fact that our mountains are somewhat lower than the Swiss ones. Photo: Christine Demsteader
Swapping sand for Sami culture
In Jokkmokk I met Denise and Barry Platt from Hertfordshire, UK, who were holidaying at various stops on Inlandsbanan, the Inland Railway between Gällivare and Kristinehamn.
"I wanted to learn more about the Sami culture," Linda said. "In Arvidsjaur we visited the Sami village Lappstaden, and it was fascinating to see how the huts — kåtorna — are still used by passing families today."
This was a very different kind of holiday from what the Platts are used to. "It’s a change from the beaches of Greece," Barry said jokingly. "Sweden isn’t the first place I would have thought of visiting, but seeing reindeer in their natural habitat was the highlight for me. And the weather hasn’t been that bad either."
Wooden horses to classic cars
From Jokkmokk I headed to Dalarna, a treasured heartland and home to the red-painted wooden horses, dalahästar, that have come to be a symbol of Sweden.
Simon Venhuizen from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, was making his fifth visit to Rättvik, in time for the town’s Classic Car Week, which brings together motor enthusiasts from all over the country and beyond. A surprisingly large number of Swedes seem to have a weak spot for 1950s-style American cars. Venhuizen first fell for Sweden when he hitchhiked through the country in the 1980s: "It’s the people, the nature and the atmosphere that keeps me coming back," he said.
"Sweden is very multicultural. There’s something new to find in every province — the dialect, the history and customs."
Venhuizen is also a fan of Göteborg, where he usually spends a few days before taking the plane back to the Netherlands. "I call it the Swedish Manhattan," he said. "It’s a friendly, modern city and less reserved, though maybe not as beautiful as Stockholm."
The day trippers
When I had come as far south as Lund and went on a guided tour of the magnificent 12th-century cathedral, I met Greek friends Dimitri Manelliss and Evangelia Kordonouri. They had a surprising complaint about the weather:
"I’m a bit disappointed," Kordonouri said. "It was 32 degrees Celsius when we left Athens and I was hoping for some cooler weather.
"Sweden is very different from Greece in many ways, so for me this trip is all about discovering Swedish history and society."
Believe it or not, but the Swedish summer was slightly too hot for Greeks Dimitri and Evangelia! Photo: Christine Demsteader
Manelliss and Kordonouri had decided to base themselves in Stockholm to take day trips. Manelliss shared some traveling advice: "I’ve found that many Swedes stay in Sweden for their holidays, so you need to book transport in advance."
"We were supposed to go Östersund today, but the train was fully booked. I want to visit the Great Lake (Storsjön). I hear there’s a monster there."
I told them that I had made a stop in Östersund on my way south, and was sorry to inform them that despite a scooter safari on the Great Lake, I — like most — hadn’t caught sight of the legendary creature. I did, however, come up close and personal with a moose named Helge in Orrviken, a village just outside Östersund.
An island retreat
I continued my travels by sea to the island of Gotland. By the harbor in the medieval town of Visby I met Shunsuke and Kanako Kunieda from Tokyo, Japan.
The Kuniedas have moved to Sweden from Japan and are eager to discover their new country. Photo: Christine Demsteader
The couple moved to Malmö two years ago, and have since tried to see as much of Sweden as possible. This is their first trip to Gotland. ”We have visited the ancient ruins and now we’re going to hire a bike to see more of the island,” Shunsuke said.
"It’s a great way to see nature. I like the way the Swedes show respect in the outdoors. You are free to explore as long as you take care of the surroundings. It’s a nice attitude."
When I summed up my journey, I realized that of all the places I visited, Gotland was a personal highlight. But my biggest discovery was that there is far more of Sweden to see than eight weeks will allow.
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Christine Demsteader is a British freelance journalist who managed to live in Stockholm for seven years without seeing much more of Sweden. Until now. During the course of her trip she has tried many new things: fly-fishing in Tärnaby, sailing in Karlskrona and abseiling in Gotland.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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