North Wales meets Hawaii Five O

We have kept to the coast and the sun has stayed with us and then some. We hoped for some sunshine whilst we were up here but we have been totally spoiled with blue skies and the thermometer reading over 24 degrees and up to 28 degrees all week. The good weather and our love for the area have combined to mean we have stayed a week longer here than we planned or expected.

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We finally found where the Moose hang out ūüôā

The South East coast in Sweden is, be their own admission, overlooked for tourism. Considering its the worlds biggest archipelago, with over 30,000 islands, skerries and islets, it’s amazing to us that the tourists don’t flock here. To be fair the main attraction is the sea, islands, more sea and then some more islands. But if you like those things, as we do, then it’s a pretty amazing place.

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The views most of the time are very like this

The majority of visitors come in by boat or yacht, there are marinas large and small on every cove. Talking marina here is much less than talking them at home, here more a small harbour with maybe a cafe, basic facilities and space for half a dozen boats. That said some very exclusive and expensive vessels pull in for a night or two.

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Another night – another harbour

We pottered down as far as Monsteras, saw it was flat with plenty of cycle paths so we pitched up for a couple of days. The village itself had a church, a few shops, a Wok’n’Go kiosk and not much else. It’s major claim to fame apparently is its links to the writer of the hymn “How Great thou art”, Carl Boberg. Other than that it was just small town with an impressive cobbled main street, pleasant enough to walk around for an hour.

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Monsteras to Okno

We found our favourite ever Tourist Information centre in Monsteras, they didn’t just give us leaflets, they gave us a whole goody bag – a bag (obviously), pens, soft drinks, sweets, water, bottle opener, trolley coin and of course a ton of literature. Little things, but they make all the difference so first impressions were great.

Based on this we took their tip of visiting Pataholm. I was reasonably sure it was 7 or 8 miles, I must have mis-read something though as it was 16 miles each way! Long hot cycle ride so we were hoping for something pretty special when we arrived.

To be totally honest Pataholm wasn’t jaw droppingly amazing – it was just 10 or 12 very cute cottages on a cobbled street. ¬†With only 20 residents it was never going to be a massive town but it was once a market town for the area and they have beautifully preserved the buildings turning them into cafes and craft shops. ¬†pataholm

Pataholm 

It seemed safer to let Iain chose the next destination, we cycled straight down to Okno, a small island liked to the mainland by a causeway. As with everywhere we have been in Sweden the local children were congregated around a diving platform – as soon as the sun shines the Swedish youngsters appear to head for the water, fun for them and very entertaining for the holiday-makers to watch :).

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National past-time of Swedish youngsters

The island of Oland was down on the list for at least a night. We drove over on the imaginatively named Oland Bridge (6km / 3 mile and toll free – bargain). On arrival we were both a bit under-whelmed, the roads run along the middle of the island only glimpsing the sea. We stopped off to have a look at some of the famous windmills, and both agreed not to go any further along the island road. With it being a roasting day and the weekend coming up traffic was queuing back over the bridge – all in all it wasn’t going to be for us.

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Oland Windmill – one of many

Instead we aimed for Sandholm – a little spot of nothing in the far South East. The two guys who run the marina here kindly offered Iain the use of a kayak! ¬†No instructions, no nothing just a life jacket and in. My heart stopped several times before he left dry land – as he paddled away the harbour-master and a couple of sunbathers were loudly humming the theme tune from “Jaws” – gives you loads of confidence then!

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Next stop Finland??

However it has to be said that within a few minutes “Jaws” had been replaced by “Hawaii¬†Five O” humming. Several trips around the harbour, and no fish, people or other boats were harmed in the taking of these photos. The only downside is Iain now wants a kayak, confident he won’t injure himself on the kayak – it’s the getting it on and off the van roof that will cause the damage (to him, the roof and the kayak!)

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Eat your heart out Steve McGarrett

Call it what you will but we are struggling to move on from Sandhamn. The harbour consists of a few guest moorings and several spots for motorhomes. there is a cafe, a supermarket 10 minutes away and a nature reserve which stretches down the peninsular. Whilst there are a good few boats and motorhomes here its very peaceful. The main activities here are fishing and sunbathing РI have joined in with the latter were Iain has been out partaking of the former. 

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Fishing in the last of the evening sunshine at 9pm

Last night most people were still sat outside at 10 pm watching the sunset, a few drinks were passed around and we were invited over by some Swedish people for a drink and a chat about travelling. All in all it suts us well here, we should be moving on but just paid for another night so we are here for a bit longer.

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 Sunset over Sandhamn Hamn

Allsangsmandag

We agreed to take the East coast route down so had a stopover at Vasteras, one of the bigger towns in Sweden, before we hit the coast. The entertainment for the day and evening was provided by a snazzy zip-wire come wake boarding school outside the front window. Think water skiing on a board but being pulled by a zip-wire rather than a boat – amazing people doing amazing things on a bit of wood and a wire, we would have paid for the view but luckily it came in with our parking spot.

On route down we needed LPG, first obstacle we faced was none of the garages sell it – fail to us, we forgot to check availability and found that there were only 30 suppliers in the whole country. We found one at Falun, closed on Sunday, so instead went for Eskilstuna where lucky for us we found a gas supplier – who happily tried to ¬†top us up, only to find the tank wouldn’t totally fill.

When we stopped off at the marina Iain rang the LPG  system  suppliers in the UK, who spent half an hour telling him how to fix the problem Рseemingly we have at some stage over-filled the tanks. After freaking out the motorhome next door and a yacht in front of us with  several large emissions of gas we hope we are fixed Рand have enough gas left for the next 2 weeks until we test refilling in Germany.

It would seem repetitive to mention the roads and how quiet they were, but again they were – Sweden is empty. it’s all lakes and forest. We drove over the bridge on Hjalmaren Lake – over 480 square kilometres and 58 km long or lake – that is the same size as Andorra. Standing on the road side we could see false horizons but not a soul on the lake in any direction. One of the most magical things about Sweden is the sense of space amongst all the amazing views.

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Hjalmaren Lake

The holiday season in Sweden is incredibly short, it starts mid June and ends mid August. Just 2 months then tourist stuff starts either closing up or reducing hours. At the moment most things seem to be open until 9pm-10pm at night, that includes anything from big shops to little ice-cream stalls. The vast majority of people on holidays here are Swedish, we have seen very few other nationalities. In the last four days we have seen one Dutch and three German vans – whereas in Norway we were seeing that many Dutch and Germans every hour.

We did meet an amazing English lady last night. She is sem-retired and touring Sweden and Finland. She is on her own, driving a 4×4 with a canoe on the roof and that’s it. She sleeps in the back of the car and uses public loos and showers, cooks with a small stove outside her car and camps out in the woods on her own. A very gentle lady, polite, well spoken, retirement age – the biggest thing was she is doing it – no moans that she doesn’t have a motorhome or can’t afford hotels, just enjoying it the best she can. We were both a bit humbled by¬†her story and more than a little impressed.

As the weather has turned to Swedish summer we have had a couple of days parked up in Valdemarsvik, as is now our usual on the local marina. We cycled up a former railway track to the next town but other than that we have spent our time just sitting and watching the yachts come and go, topping up our tans and generally watching the world go by.

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Today’s view from our window Valdemarsvik marina

Last night¬†we were treated to the peculiar Swedish phenomenon of Allsangsmandag. It is said here you have not experienced a Swedish summer if you have not been to an Allsang, they are mad about them. The concept is the same be it on national television or in every village and town in the country. Half the town turn up with picnic chairs and sit around a stage ¬†set up in a 40ft truck. There is a pop-group with celebrity guests, some ¬†singing of traditional Swedish songs, then members of the audience get up and sing with the bands to modern chart stuff – but the best bit is the audience are given song books with the words to join in with the bands on several songs. The majority of songs were of course Swedish but a fair few English ones in there – we were awesome and did the British proud :). If Allsang isn’t on British tv in 12 months I will eat my hat – it’s going to catch on, hopefully!

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You can’t beat a bit of Allsangsmandag!

The other strange obsession here is ‘Loppis’ – flea market, garage sale, boot sale – call it what you will, you cannot fail to come across one. In the back of regular shops, outside supermarkets, in peoples gardens they. It’s not what they sell that is remarkable, its the number of them. ¬†Here on the harbour ¬†there were ¬†four Loppis huts, a Loppis in the corner of the bakery and even in the loos one of the small storage rooms had been converted into a self serve Loppis. The GDP of Sweden must be impacted by selling junk as we have never seen so many people doing it anywhere else.

Tomorrow a bit further South, keeping to coast and hopefully keeping with the sunshine.

China

 We came across this little moho the other week, their trip detail on the van puts ours to shame!