THE BIG BIRTHDAY TRIP 2016 travel blog

Camping Askim Strand just outside Gothenburg John's birthday lunch

Cycle ride from campsite

Cycle ride from campsite

Birthday selfie

Cycle ride from campsite

The "Lipstick" Gothenburg

The Viking Sailing Ship/restaurant Gothenburg

Opera House Gothenburg

View from the Opera House

Smaland Ship Maritime Museum

Smart building opposite museum

Tradgardsforeninging Greenhouse

Island of Langsholsmen near campsite Stockholm

Bridge from Langsholmen, Stockholm

View from Langsholmen Island

Lupins at side of motorway

Camping Grinsby

Lake Stora Bor from campsite Grinsby

Lake Stora Bor

Lake Stora Bor evening sunset time 11.45pm

Motor boat out on lake

Motor boat out on lake

Motor boat out on lake

Motor boat out on lake

Lake Stora Bor from motorboat early evening

Lake Stora Bor from motorboat early evening

Watching sun go down on evening boat trip

Lake Stora Bor from motorboat early evening

Evening sunshine Lake Stora Bor

Watching sun go down on evening boat trip

Yes dear blog readers, the title of this diary entry was said many times by me with the accent of the Swedish Chef from the muppet show. John was not impressed.

And so we said a sad goodbye to our far too short stay in Denmark and crossed the Oresund Bridge to Malmo, Sweden, famous for ABBA and Ikea.

We followed the motorway up to Gothenburg heading for a campsite just outside the city at Askim Strand. The journey was nothing out of the ordinary but what we did notice was the banks of the motorway were full of Lupins in bloom, all different colours and hundreds of them, they were quite beautiful and made a boring journey a pleasure at times.

Being a Sunday and a Bank Holiday the following day, the campsite was heaving and there were only one or two pitches left. Fortunately we managed to pitch close to the beach with a nice sea view from our windows. Although sunny, it was a bit windy but pleasant enough.

As it was John’s big birthday the following day, he decided that he was happy to relax by the van and perhaps go for a cycle ride in the afternoon. We did celebrate the day with a special lunch, some champers and some BBQ steaks and a good (not out of a box, so that’s good for us) bottle of red.

The following day we caught a bus into Gothenburg. A pleasant city to walk around and some interesting sights and a great tram network. For good panoramic views, we took the tourist elevator up the tower of the Utkiken, known as the lipstick due to its red and white stripes. An unusual building designed by a Scottish architect, the building is mostly for office workers. The views from the top of the city and the Gota River were worth it.

As we were in the harbour, we took advantage of visiting the maritime museum, a series of thirteen vessels including the warship Smaland, making it the largest floating maritime museum in the world. We got a glimpse into how seaman lived during times of conflict and the technology used. Technology has come a long way in such a short space of time.

We visited the Tradgardsforeningen, a beautiful park with a smaller version of the Kew Gardens greenhouse with the flora of 5 continents. From there we walked to Haga, formerly a working class area now a cobbled road with craft shops and cafes. We stopped for a coffee and cake, our feet were worn out. When we caught the bus back to the campsite, we realised we needn’t have left the Haga area as the bus went past it. Still we had to walk off the cake.

We then set off for the long journey to Stockholm, just under 300 miles, it took us most of the day. We camped very close to the city, on the island of Langsholmens with the bridge just above our van. The site, little more than a car park with some portoloos and showers, was expensive at £30 a night, but surprisingly quiet. It was a good base to explore the city.

The following day, we took the metro to central station which was a short walk from the campsite. It was expensive for a return of only about 5 stops, about £12. Even more expensive and very disappointing was the Hop on and Hop off bus service which was a shocking £28 each for 24 hours. We found the bus stop having had two coffees and we were surprised to see two buses go straight past us and stop at another stop. The third one did the same and we ran to get on the very full bus with a rude driver (obviously a turnip!) who would not explain to us why it had stopped there. We managed to get a top deck seat but with no windows and just a canopy above us it was bloody cold. We worked out that we should have picked up headphones and John went down to get some so we could listen to the commentary. The bus took us round the busy roads and we passed the Royal Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the Opera House. Eventually the bus took us to the Viking Terminal which other than giving us some good views, was a bit boring. The bus then continued and we got off at Vasterlanggatan, a popular spot for tourists with cobbled stones, cafes and restaurants and shops. Being so cold from the bus we went into a Viennese style cafe and had hot chocolate and a cake each, cost £17!! We then climbed the 36 steps of the Marten Trotzigs Grand, the city’s narrowest street which is only 3ft wide. We then made our way to the Grand Palace and Houses of Parliament which we had passed on the bus. Stockholm certainly has some beautiful, majestic buildings and the Palace is one of the grandest. We walked around the courtyard and several rooms before finding the bus stop to continue our journey. We discovered by asking one of the Hop on and off bus representatives that there are several companies who operate this type of service and earlier we were obviously waiting at the wrong bus stop!! We found the correct bus stop to continue exploring the city but we must have waited over 30 minutes before a crowded bus came along. We decided not to get off the bus anymore as waiting around for a bus was not something we particularly wanted to do. As it was, this bus then took us out to the Cruise Terminal where there were several cruise ships docked and then we had to wait another 20 minutes before the bus went off again. We were at least able to listen to commentary which helped. We chose the bus Hop on and Hop off means of transport because both of us are suffering with leg injuries, me with my knee and John with his heel and neither of us wanted to have to walk too far. The Hobble On and Hobble off service as we liked to call it was a bit of a let down and left us not seeing the sights of Stockholm as we would have liked. On top of that we left the camera behind in the van so John used his iphone which was limiting. So in summary, we thought Stockholm a beautiful city, some magnificent buildings and we could understand why it is called “the Venice of the North” being built on 14 islands and where the Lake Malaren meets the Baltic Sea. Unfortunately, its not the easiest city to navigate, particularly after the ease of cycling around Copenhagen. As a result, we only saw some of the sights on the top deck of a bus. Making our way back to the camping ground, we had to navigate our way around Central Station to find the right train to take us back, its easier arriving than going home.

As with Copenhagen, one day is not enough to explore in detail, but having visited 3 cities in under a week we were a bit “citied out” and were keen to move towards Norway and enjoy some of the Swedish countryside along the way.

Our final stop in Sweden couldn’t have been more different from Stockholm. Camping Grinsby is set around the Lake Stora Bor and surrounded by pine trees with walking and cycling paths. Its about 80 miles from Oslo and was the ideal chilling place for us. In total we spent four nights there. The highlight of this beautiful spot was the hiring of a rowing boat with an engine so we could explore the lake. We chose our wedding anniversary day to do this. We took the boat out twice, first time we had a picnic lunch and explored all the hidden bays and islands. After supper we took the boat out again with a bottle of red and our chairs and sat on the rocks of a small island watching the sun go down supping our wine. It was idyllic and a lovely way to end the day. The sun didn't go down till 11.30

As with Denmark, Sweden was a whistle stop tour and a week is far too short. What we did note was the Swedes were not quite as laid back as the Danes and everything was a little more expensive. Although as we were shortly to find out, Norway is by far the most expensive.

NOTE: Diary entries that say for map purposes are only to keep the journey accurate on the map and don't contain any photos or text, so just go for the ones that have camera by side of entry, I'm sure you are all capable of working that out, but just in case............

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