A Travellerspoint blog

Day 40 Stockholm to Ruda in the South of Sweden

Monday 28th May

We started the day early at our hostel Zinkensdamm. We caught a taxi to the rail station, to then catch our bus to Bromma Airport to pick up our rental car from Avis. Tony wanted to save money by hauling all our bags by foot to the underground, get on the train to the rail station can then catch the bus to the airport, but we made him see we didn't need to save a couple of dollars and this would be a more appropriate and comfortable trip. He likes saving every penny! He has more Scottish in him than his sister, I think. It was colder and cloudy today for our 4 1/2 hourdrive to Ruda. Tony was quite sick with a heavy cold so he chose to sit in the back with Des, while Kristen drove and I did the map reading. All the while, Tony map read from the back, checking I was not leading us astray!!!! That was actually fairly infuriating just quitely (Tony, I wonder if you are reading this?) Sweden is very easy to travel through by road and the maps were simple to understand. Much easier than travelling in England we discovered, when we later, went on to there. The only problem we encountered during the drive south, was trying to find the actual cottage we were to stay at for the next 5 nights. Tony was in contact with the owner and there were definitely some communication problems, where we drove straight past him and later turned around and drove back to see him waving to us from the side of the road. That same man had been doing that when we past him the first time but the communication problem was the discription of him and where he would be. Finally, we met him and he showed us to the cottage was just on the main road, up from his house. It was still on his very huge property. As he walked us in, and before we got inside, he said how glad he was that none of us were too tall. Tony is almost 6 ft and is the tallest of the 4 of us. We took no notice of that comment until we got inside the 1850's cottage. All doors where about 5 ft 10 high I suppose, so Tony had to bend down or hit his head, when he wasn't thinking. This dear wee cottage was on the road to Ruda and about half way between Hogsby and our Grandfather's ancestral home of Botterum. Each village being about 10 minutes drive away from the cottage. This was a great place for us to stay to soak up the area where our Grandfather Carl was born and lived in his early years. This was before he decided to get work on a ship at the age of 15 that eventually, took him to New Zealand. He was 18 when he jumped ship in Wellington in the late 1800s where he became an illegal alien.

It was getting cold when we decided to head into Ruda to get some dinner that night. Only 1 shop was open in this tiny village so we stupidly thought there would be somewhere else further on to get food. Tony had stayed behind due to feeling ill so Kris, Des and I had driven into the unknown by ourselves. We should have gone into that shop really but it was just part of the service station so thats why we kept going. They must have a supermarket nearby. NO - WRONG! This area is very isolated and it is not Stockholm OK. We should have headed the other way and gone back to Hogsby, which we had passed through before. There was a supermarket there, we discovered the next day. Meanwhile, Tony had gone to bed sick. We went on further and then decided we would head back to Hogsby and as Des turned around in a gravel drive and got back on the road, with me sitting in the front, I told him the car, on my side felt strange and there was a weird noise to which he said "No it felt OK to him", so he kept driving until he and Kristen both felt it. By this stage, we were in the woods and it was darker in there. Des pulled over on to a parking area to discover I was actually right, (yes a woman! )... and the car had had a tyre blow out. This is a hire car of course which already had a huge crack in the windscreen that Avis had told us was absolutely fine and not to worry about it.
It only was completely over the passenger side of the window - right through the middle at eyelevel and heading towards the driver's side. So now this pathetic car has had a blow out - in the middle of no where! Des looked for the spare tyre. Easily changed - no problem. No spare tyre! Just a tyre repair kit would you believe. How can you repair a huge hole like that? You can't. Luckily Kris had her cell phone and all the Avis documentation was in the car so she called the 0800 number to get help. This was about 7pm by this stage. Of course they told us to fix it with the tyre repair kit. NO WE TOLD THEM IT IS A HOLE THAT CANT JUST BE FIXED LIKE THAT (you morons). Oh well, we will have to send a tow truck to you and that will be about an hour away. Yep, it was. We are in the forest, its darker here and getting darker and my thought was there may be Bears out there who will have had us for their dinner by the time the tow truck came and I was scared. Kris thought this a real hoot and reminded me of it "occassionally" after that. I had seen those bears creating new bears at Skansen the day before. I knew how big these guys were! It was cold and we got back into the car to wait hopefully safe from the Bears. Maybe this is where we could have sung the bloody ABBA songs Tony wanted us to sing! No thanks this was not that much fun out here. 1 hour later the tow truck arrived and thank goodness, he spoke English well. He piled Des and I in the front with him and Kristen got to sit in the car on the back of the truck. We took her home to Tony and Des and I went with the towie in to Oskasham a 1/2 hour drive away to get a new tyre fitted. Meanwhile Avis had closed for the night and had only OKed the cost of the tow truck but not the cost of the new tyre. Luckily, we had our Visa card with us to pay for it. Over a month later, we have not been reimbursed, so we hope they come to the party there, It cost over 2,000.00 SEK (about $400 NZ) to us. The very friendly and helpful towie escorted us back to Hogsby and we drove the rest of the way back to our cottage in Ruda in pitch dark and driving on the other side of the road too, at about 9.30pm. Interesting it was completely dark by this time further south. Still no dinner and Kris and Tony asleep by the time we got home. Kris jumped up and made us some dinner out of what we had taken down from Stockholm so that was really kind of her. It had been a 3 hour trip all up that evening and it was cold and we were tired. Our narrow single beds were warm and comfy in our traditional little wooden, red cottage with its white windows. These houses look so beautiful in the green countryside and just about every house is this colour. The colour has a preservative in it for the wood in the harsh winter snowy climate. Even our Grandfather's house was the same and it has been standing for centuries now.

Posted by RitchieOE 15:16 Comments (0)

Day 39 Stockholm Day 2 Sunday 27th May

What a fabulous place

Another beautiful cloudless day at 27 degrees, so today its off on the boat again to the same island. Stockholm is built on an archipelago of 14 islands but the whole of Sweden actually has about 30,000 of islands. Hard to imagine this, except when you fly over it in daylight, as we did. You just look down on trees and lakes with islands in the middle. Very beautiful, all green and blue.

This time Tony had suggested we go to Skansen, which is a huge open air museum. It is to prepare us for southern Sweden as most of it is similar to Smaland, the area we will be going to. There are also 200 native animals here, so not only does it have a little old village, but it also a zoo. We spent hours here on this beautiful day, soaking up the culture and visiting all the old original buildings which mostly were brought to Skansen from Smaland, in southern Sweden. This area is where our Grandfathers house is. We saw a squirrel for the first time in our lives. How friendly they are especially if you have something to feed them. We saw swedes wearing traditional costumes and swedish folk dancing. We saw bears. It is spring so the bears were busy making more little bears. Its what they do on a warm sunday afternoon at Skansen. This wonderful attraction is set over the water and parts of it are high up over a lake. Here, we could see many people kayacking and boating in the warm weather. Sunshine is so wonderful for the Swedes as they spend so much time over the winter, in darkness. In spring, the days draw out and then they have so much daylight, as I said yesterday. It was dark at 11pm and light again at 2am at this time of the year. Of course, Sweden has a lot of snow in winter too but we are not seeing any remnants of that yet.

Before going to Skansen, we looked around Gamla Stan, the old town which has very different architecture to other parts of Europe we have just visited. Simplier styles with less decoration on the old buildings. Really pretty though. No evidence of Roman occupation here and it doesn't seem to be so old in Stockholm. We saw the changing of the guards ceremony outside the Palace apartments. This was quite a show with many guards on foot and many on horseback, some played brass instruments and drums as they rode their horses in the procession before the huge crowd. The performance went for about 3/4 hour over the cobbled square and was very precise, orderly and full of pagentry. The crowd constant was being told to stand behind the line on the cobbles to give them room to parade. Of course, I took many photos of this as it was a wonderful and memorable sight. Tony also pointed out the Houses of Parliament where our great great Grandfather was a member there back in the 1700's.

People here, are so friendly and helpful. They nearly all, speak fluent English happily with you. They are lovely watching them in family groups. So caring and loving of their children. The trains and underground is fairly easy to manage and we are enjoying less people and traffic compared to Paris. Tomorrow,with Kristen and Tony we hear to southern sweden. We are so looking forward to this highlight our our OE experience.

Posted by RitchieOE 15:17 Comments (0)

Day 38 Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm and family celebrations.

We had a wonderful day in the sunshine and temperature up to 29 degrees today. Zinkensdann is clean and tidy and actually, even the bunks are comfy apart from the creak in the plywood above me when Des turned over during the night. After the first few times, I decided he wasn't going to crash down on me and kill me in my bed, so I got used to it. First time in bunks on our trip so far. Skinny 2ft 6 beds yes, but bunks, well they are a first. Showers and toilets are fine too and our communal breakfast preparation is actually just like those camping days we used to have when the children were young. Sharing leftovers with others in the dining room and seeing what others have left there in a box for everyone to use up, as they have moved on, makes it all quite fun really. Interesting what Europeans eat for breakfast also!

We said goodbye to Jean today and headed on to the underground into Slussen, to catch the boat to one of the hundreds of islands just across the harbour. Tony had our 3 days in Stockholm planned magnificently, so our first experience was to see the Vasa Museum. Vasa is a galleon, built for the King of the time, which sank on its maiden voyage. In the harbour, right where we had sailed across too. This happened before everyone's eyes as they watched this amazing ship sail away from the wharves. It sailed only 1500 metres and just had time to fire a salute from its cannons, before it was tipped over by a gust of wind. Water rushed into its cannon holes and the boat sank quickly to the muddy harbour floor, killing many on board. This happened in the 1600's and it had been in the mud at the bottom of the harbour since. In the late 1950's, some 300 years later, it was discovered and work began to pull it up from its muddy grave. When it was finally raised, in the 1960s, they discovered 30 bodies still in the ship and how well preserved the galleon had been in the mud. The ship then had a special museum on the dockside made to house it in its entireity. It is kept in a coldish and darkish environment to keep it preserved for all to see. There were so many items, found on the ship that are on display and some of those bodies found have been reconstructed in plastercasts and rebuilt up, to show what they would have looked like. We spent several hours looking at this amazing museum with wonderful films about all aspects of its demise and the return to the top and why it happened. It is a really good display that we will always remember.... well until we loose our minds that is.

Tony, Kris, Des and I then got on a train to visit one of our new found Cousins, Malin and her Husband, Burtil. They live 45 minutes north of Stockholm out in the country. She is 68 and her Son EriK 43 and daughter Emma 42 live nearby with their families. They all came to visit us so that was such a wonderful time for us. Malin and Burtil prepared a very traditional Swedish meal for us all starting with Herring, followed by Moose (elk) which is a real delicacy. Only 1 week in the year, can moose be hunted and only 1 moose per hunter aparently. So for us to dine on that moose was pretty special. With Swedish Schnapps to follow, along with several other dishes which all came out separately, we had a fabulous dinner. Erik and Emma's children (3 each) are similar ages and great friends.
Malin was the Granddaughter of our Grandfather's sister, who was several years older than him. Therefore Malin is actually another generation away from us in fact, although my brother Tony is not too much younger than her. Our Grandfather was actually 52 when he had his last child, our Mother, Elsa in 1919, that made the difference in our generation link with Malin.
What a wonderful, welcoming family and so accommodating. We were sad to leave by the end of the evening to catch our train back to Stockholm. Malin even gave me some of her dear little hand knitted socks for Jenna, our Grand daughter who is also related to her of course. Emma then drove us to the train station and we arrived back about 1 hour after dark - which was actually mid night by then. We will keep in contact now and already Erik is a face book friend.
What a day in this beautiful, clean and much quieter city where people drive carefully and are friendly and helpful, always with a smile and very softly spoken. We felt very comfortable here. Our Mum, Elsa always adored her Dad who actually died when she was only 10 in 1929. He had never been able to return to his homeland unfortunately. Mum always spoke lovingly of the man who looked after her as a little girl, while her Mother was off teaching in country schools. She used to say he was very quietly spoken and now I understand why. Every Swede we met was like that. Gentle people. We are loving that so much especially after France. We actually feel very "at home" here and can now understand why our Grandfather, Carl was happy in New Zealand as it has similarities and the people have a similar way about them.

Posted by RitchieOE 21:56 Comments (0)

Paris to Stockholm

Day 37 25th May 2012

Goodbye Julien, Trafalgar and France and only a 2 1/2 hour flight from Paris to Stockholm to meet up with Tony (my Brother), Kristen (my Niece), and Tony's Sister - In - Law, Jean from Oz who had joined them for a few days before heading to France herself. We got a shuttle bus to the train station after our nice quick flight and then a taxi to Zinkensdamm (our Back Packer Lodge) A lovely friendly taxi driver who even told us how much the 6km trip would cost us, without us having to ask him. "220 Swedish Krona" he said. OMG WHAT We knew Sweden was almost as expensive as Switzerland, but 220 SEK to go just 6km! Then we divided that by 5 to give us the cost in NZ currency.Roughly $44, so it wasn't such a shock afterall. We couldn't have walked all that way with our luggage which of course, after 37 days had grown somewhat by then. Zinkensdamm is set in a beautiful leafy park like area in Stockholm and the day was sunny and welcoming for us first time travellers to Sweden, my Grandfather's home country. He had left when he was 15 years old in the late 1800's. This was to be my sojourn to my ancestral roots. Tony had come with Maree, (his Wife), 2 years before, so he was coming back to be our "Guide". Tony, Kristen and Jean were already there at Zinkensdamm and they had also been met by Maria, who Tony had met in Masterton previously. She and her family had lived in Masterton for 2 years and was now back in her hometown, 4 hours north of Stockholm. She had been helping Tony find any of our living relatives in Sweden. With her Swedish skills, she was an amazing help and had found we had at least 2 cousins for us to meet. That night, we had a picnic in the grounds of Zinkensdamm with Maria, Tony, Kris and Jean. It was fairly late by the time we had it, but as it was light until 11pm and only dark until 2am. we had plenty of daylight hours in which to do heaps in Sweden. Our backpackers was pretty basic with 4 bunkbeds but we did not have to share with anyone else so the room was just reserved for Des and I. Tony, Kris and Jean shared another room which was probably smaller than ours. We had to use the communal showers and toilets down the corridor so this was a little different for us too. Europeans as less inhibited than Kiwis are we noticed in the bathrooms. We were only the for 3 days and you soon get used to all that I guess.
I was a bit weird having to make meals again after a whole month not doing that. Making beds again was also strange. Amazing, how you get out of the habit of doing the usual things you do at home, when you go on holiday.
Stockholm roads were definitely quieter than Paris and this seems to be a nice friendly place to be. We went shopping for tonights picnic dinner and breakfasts for our next few days which cost us 206 SEK ($41 NZ) so that wasn't too bad in the end. After choosing some cheese we thought we would like and the cost for that was 175 SEK for the cheese alone , and I nearly keeled over and quietly told Des, our Swedish money will run out within the next couple of days for sure. Steering clear of that cheese, we found better deals in the shop, so we were OK about managing our money afterall. Everywhere else, I had never converted currency into NZ dollars as it all seemed fine, but here in Sweden it was quite different and I did it all the time - I couldn't help myself otherwise it looks like everything is 5 times as much.

Posted by RitchieOE 15:20 Comments (0)

Day 36

Day 12 of French tour Paris

Smog in the morning then clearing to be a hot and sunny day 12 - 31 degrees at night. We started the day with a group photo in front of the Eiffel Tower which unfortunately, was mostly in smog. We then had another tour of the sites of Paris, by bus and eventually got out at La Louvre. There we had 3 whole hours to enjoy by ourselves seeing the sites of Paris. Julien asked us to meet back at the Louve for our tour after that. We headed out into the street, eager to see the sites we had only seen on the passing bus today and at the beginning of the tour. We could see the Arc de Triomph not too far away and down one of the other sites we wanted to see the Champs Elyesees so off we walked. Well we walked and we walked and the sun got hotter and hotter and we had no water with us to quench our thirst and the time was ticking by. Half way along the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomph didn't really seem to be getting any closer. We were starting to think it was just a mirage and we needed water....... and Des kept looking at his watch and saying over and over again, " We'll never make it back for our tour of La Louvre!" Shut up Des.... by then I'm getting totally dehydrated and absolutely pissed off with Des but we kept going cos it was just down the road. Des started up again, so I curtly told him, "We will get a bus back" Having no idea really if this was possible, I was even more determined to reach the place I wanted to see. I was not turning back then for all the tea in china. Eventually, we made it with about 1 hour to go before we had to be back at the Louvre. By then, I hated Des and he hated me with an absolute passion! I have never felt like that about him before.This is the year of our 40th wedding anniversary so at least that was a first anyway. Yes, readers, we had got there.... exhausted... me bawling my eyes out behind my sunglasses and neither of us speaking to each other. What a great memory we have of the Arc de Triomph and the Champs Elysees! I just sat and looked at it, neither of us acknowleging it or each other. We were still a distance from it and I was beyond trying to work out how to get across the extremely busy roundabout between me and the monument. I would have been run over then, for sure had I have tried. We found a bus and a lovely kind bus driver who was not Parisian thank God, who took us almost all the way back to La Louvre and actually got out at his last stop and showed us the quick way back and we were there in plenty of time. He must have guessed how we were feeling I think.

Julien met us all for the tour of the Louvre, another additional extra charged attraction. He rushed us all around it quickly, stopping a some important works of art. It was a let down to have only seen a few of the more important statues and paintings. We did see Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa in this amazing gallery and we missed the Tutenkahmen exhibition. Not on the agenda obviously. I would have loved to have seen that as I never got over to Melbourne to see it last year. The Louvre is certainly a place to spend a day (maybe without Julien) I feel. Still we did experience the Uffizi Gallery in Florence with a much better guide.We at least, had a good taste of European artworks. It was a huge place to walk around after that stressful walk earlier anyway.

A 1 hour rest back at the Hotel then off to our final dinner and a walking tour through Montmartre to a restuarant but before that, up on the cable car to the highest point of Paris where the Basilica du Sacre Coeur stands. What a wonderful cathedral and the view from it was astonishing. Unfortunately, right then, a man was beaten up right in front of us. Thrown to the ground at the foot of the steps to this beautiful and sacred Cathedral when he then was kicked in the head with everyone looking on and no one coming to his aide. There was lots of people up there too. Even Julien did nothing to intervene! I looked at Julien, expecting him to help but he just watched. At this point, I couldn't help myself and my instant reaction was to step forward and scream at the man's assailants in a voice that came out of me, that I didn't know I had. That seem to scare them and they all ran away including the beaten man. Julien just shrugged it off with a "he is an overstayer in our country!" He just walked off totally unaffected by what had just happened right in front of us. This left me shaken and very upset as we walked on through Montmarte to our Restuarant, for our final dinner in France.
We enjoyed our dinner and music that night as the sun went down on gay Paree. We enjoyed our walk back down the hill to the waiting bus outside the Moulon Rouge.I got some final night photos of the windmill that is the Moulon Rouge.

OK this tour was not as good as our Cosmos tour through Italy, but we certainly had some great momentos of France through it. Final packing at 11.30pm and off to sleep for the last night in France. A 6am start to go to the airport, bound for Sweden, we had decided we don't need to go back to France. For us, France is great but the French spoil it. Not all of them of course. It is a pity though because the country has so much to offer tourists and the experiences could be so much better if they were a more welcoming people.

Posted by RitchieOE 20:03 Comments (0)

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