Our grasp of Swedish is limited, we have though taken to the local greeting. Everyone, be they four years old or 94 years old, uses the greeting of “Hej, Hej” – it’s a sunny expression that is always accompanied with a smile. As importantly we can pronounce it so it’s a winner all round.
We have ambled down through Sweden on more or less straight roads, mile after mile after mile of pink tarmac, through forests with the odd lake at the side of the road. Whilst its been single lane it hasn’t mattered as there was very little traffic.
Every so often a ‘one elk town’ came into view but within a nano second we were out the other side. We drove over 120 miles and it was possibly the least stressful piece of road we have yet to come across – the E45 is now our official favourite road! Parking up for the night has been a matter of the side of the road along with caravans, tents and even a Danish couple eating and sleeping in their yacht on a trailer.
Maybe not enough lakes?
On Thursday we planned to visit a small lake where we had read there was a quiet camping spot, when we arrived it was like hitting a mini-metropolis in the sticks. It took us a while to work out, three wooden buildings, several rough car-parks and lots of very tall painted wooden horses – along with one or two chickens.
He sat on the chicken because he couldn’t get a leg up on the horse!
We had arrived at the Grannas Olsson factory in Nusnas, famous as the home of the hand-made Dala wooden horses. The carving of wooden horses in the region dates back to the 17th century, and the same traditional methods of carving and decorating are still used. A walk through the factory showed everything really is done by hand from the original wooden blocks being carved, sanding of each horse, painting and laquering – you can watch every process taking place.
As the horses are carved by hand no two are exactly the same, well maybe one or two are as there were thousands of them in various stages of carving and painting along with several hundred herds for sale. Ranging from a few inches high to over 20 ft high you buy them at pretty much every size in a dazzling array of colours, or though red seems to be the most traditional.
One of the smaller Dala herds
We shyed away, :), from staying overnight as there wasn’t room to breathe in the car-parks and instead moved onto Mora. Iain had mentioned a couple of times the number of classic American cars on the road, by early afternoon they were outnumbering regular cars. We pulled into the teeny village of Vikarbyn and found a campsite, even on the campsite there seemed to be classic 1950’s cars everywhere. Chatting to some locals we discovered that we had hit “Cruise Week”, week 31 is traditionally the week when somewhere in the region of 2500 classic car enthusiasts from all over Sweden descend on Rattvik to cruise and show off their cars. Several hundred are registered for displays and events but the rest just turn up, take part and enjoy.
Thursday being their last night they put on a cruise display from Rattvik through several of the villages, we watched for over two hours and there was no sign of it ending. It was full on stuff – they don’t just drive the cars here they live the life! Cars are piled with bodies, the outfits scream 1950, a bit odd when the radio is blaring out a song you know you know but the lyrics are being sung in Swedish.
Several of the cars were staying on the campsite with us, with their retro caravans, all of whom shared their love of 1950’s music with us through the night until daybreak! Next morning we left the campsite, memorable as our first ever Baptist campsite – where New Testaments were hung on string in each toilet to encourage a bit of bible reading whilst you, you know what! Two very different sides of Sweden in one night :).
Next stop Falun, a small town with a massive copper mine, now Unesco listed as one of the important industrial sites in Sweden. The copper from the mine was used for the production of castle roofs, church steeples, coins, and household utensils all over Europe. It looked as interesting as a mine can (to me) but as we had done the Salt Mines in Poland we made do with a look at the outside only.
Entrance to the copper mines
We found a little campsite next to the lake on the edge of town and went off for an explore on our bikes. We were looking to visit Lugnet, the sports complex which is home to the Swedish National cross country skiing and ski jumping teams. Cycling to a ski jump wasn’t one of our well thought out plans, a 6 mile up hill ride, fair killed the both of us. The 2015 World Cup ski jumping was held here a few months ago and even in the middle of summer it’s a busy place with over 60 different sports practised at the centre.
The two ski jumps defy belief in the size of them, whilst we knew they were massive it”s only when you stand near them you sense the true scale – which I would describe as frightening. Anyone who thought Eddie the Eagle was a wimp wants to come and stand at the bottom of this jump let alone sit on the bar at the top.
Lugnet Ski Jumps