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  • Day1

    Även om det är flera dagar tills vi ska resa så har resfebern börjat så smått. I dag är det söndag och vi reser inte förrän på torsdag. Det är mycket tänkande för att packa rätt saker som dessutom ska få plats i resväskan, en utmaning när vi kommer att vara borta nästan fyra veckor!

  • Day417

    Today we said goodbye to Norway and hello again to Sweden, where we plan to spend the next month. We were sad to leave the beautiful country that had become our favourite of the tour so far, but Sweden is by no means unscenic and it soon began to work charms on us, lifting our mood. The low lying land held so many accessible lakes barely hidden behind curtains of forest.

    We'd been gradually running down our supplies of food in the extremely expensive Norway, so one of our first jobs was to visit a supermarket. A lesson constantly being reinforced as we travel, is how much our opinions are based on context. Coming from the UK, you wouldn't think food in Sweden was particularly cheap, but coming from Norway, we were elated to once again walk around the shop without feeling we were walking on eggshells (that we couldn't afford)!

    The last time we were in Sweden we'd stayed next to Vättern; the 2nd largest lake. This time, Will had found a spot on the north shore of Vänern, the largest lake in Sweden and the EU. It is also the third largest lake in Europe with an area of 5,650 square kilometres. We approached it via the large town of Karlstad, but soon left the urban streets and came to a single track gravel road that wound round tall pines and past pretty wooden holiday homes. Reaching the lake, we saw a few small timber piers with wooden or plastic boats moored to them. To our relief we found a clearing large enough to park a few cars and the van at the end. It was a gorgeous glade, protected from the wind and waves by a headland, with an area specifically allocated for swimming. Lichens, berry bushes and heathers grew under the trees and tall green reeds swayed in the shallows. Vicky and Poppy paddled while Will got out the snorkel, fins and mask.

    We stayed 2 nights so had plenty of time the following day to take the canoe out. The weather was just right; dry, not too hot and not too cold. We paddled over to a nearby uninhabited island, pulled the boat on shore and clambered up the slippy rocks to a spongy surface of deep light green lichen and heather, where we found a couple of large stones to perch on and have a picnic. We stayed well clear of the vast expanse of open water because the wind had whipped up whitecaps that we didn't want to mess with. Instead we explored the shoreline within our cove, protected by a few islands, a headland and some handy rocks. There were many wooden holiday chalets that looked as if they were owned by individuals as opposed to a rental company. Some had pipes pumping water from the lake and all had outdoor decking to sit and take in the fresh air and scenery. The area was obviously well used and lots of small boats were stationed on the rocks or in the reeds.

    Will dropped Vicky back then spent a happy few hours fishing from the canoe without a single bite. Sweden does not require you to have a license to fish on its five largest lakes. In the evening the sun was casting a warm glow on the water and we both made use of the swimming area. It was a little chilly for Vicky to start with but once we acclimatised the water felt glorious. Afterwards, it was warm enough to lay out and air dry on the smooth rocks that had spent all day absorbing the sun's heat. Perfect!
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  • Day442

    We tried not to travel too far today because we didn't want to find ourselves at the ferry crossing to Denmark. We had a small breakfast because we knew we'd soon pass through the town of Jönköping and planned to have a Max burger for lunch. Every country we have visited so far has had MacDonalds and Burger King outlets. When we entered Sweden, we saw that they had competition - Max! We've avoided these international burger retailers for years but Max seemed to be a uniquely Swedish experience and so we decided to dip our toes in and try it. Handily there was a menu board outside so we knew what we wanted by the time we got in. Many of the options had a strange mix of English and Swedish; 'Lyxshake' for example. Vicky ordered in Swedish and was pleasantly surprised when the person taking the order replied in Swedish (normally people decide that our grasp of their language is so poor that it will be easier for everyone if they use English). In fact, the whole conversation was carried out in Swedish, Vicky using her intuition over linguistic expertise to work out what was being asked. What's more, we got what we wanted without pointing - result! We took our tray of two burgers, fries and milkshakes to a high, wipe-clean table that hadn't been wiped clean and sat with them under the glow of a light shaded by a large dome of orange perspex that Will hit his head on. The food was ok, the fries cut from potato with the skin intact at either end but our tongues tingled from the sugar and presevatives. We are glad we tried it once, even at i er £10 each, but this Max experience wouldn't be changing our habit of avoiding these type of food retailers.

    Moving on, we ended up at the end of a gravel track in a wonderful pine forest grove on the sandy shore of Långasjön lake. There was another van and caravan there when we arrived and a few cars came and went, but we were by ourselves in the peace and quiet most of the time. There was a compost toilet, bin, one of the flat bottomed rescue boats and a ladder as we've often seen in places up here where the water is likely to freeze over. A wooden jetty had been hauled on shore now that the summer had passed. Unlike the expansive Lake Vättern, we could see accross to the opposite shore of 'Long Lake' and on the first morning we took a walk along the soft narrow woodland path that skirted the bank. The wind that swayed the tops of the tall pines was strong but not cold. Will took our mushroom book with him and began to identify some of the many funghi that had sprung up. There were lots of a big brown sort that was deadly poisonous but we couldn't find any chanterelles to forage. We suppose the more experienced locals had already collected the most obvious ones. There were however still many billberries and lingonberries in some parts of the forest and after Will had picked a bowl full, he boiled them up and made a jar of jam!
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  • Day138

    So the number one thing to do here in Malmo was a bridge.. that takes you out of Malmo..

    Maybe not the best advertisement

    We came to Malmo in between Stockholm and Stockholm as it is Swedens third biggest city and the ability to visit Copenhagen. So I suppose in that respect the bridge was the best thing for us to do here too!

    Apart from the bridge we saw the old town which pales in comparison to Stockholm. But, Malmo does have some beautiful parks, where we had a picnic and a good walk on the first day we arrived. We even stumbled across a windmill.

    Possibly the best find of the day was the English Shop where they stock everything English at a high price.. including an interesting description of marmite :)

    From here back to Stockholm now to pick up Hannah and Luke 😁
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  • Day421

    We drove the short distance between our stopover and the farm that would be our home for the next two weeks. Jan-ols Gården was reached via a gravel track off the main road. We parked beside the riding school ring and jumped out to meet Mikaela who was there to greet us. Walking up to the house there was a field of small ponies on our right and a field with the larger ponies and horses on our left. The goats were in their field at the bottom of the hill.

    We met Salomé then Mikael, both WWOOFers from France who had been at Jan-ols Gården for a number of weeks (Mikael was on his second placement there). In the house we were introduced to Tobbe, Mikaela's partner, their Saluki Charlie and Afghan Hound Howie. We later met Olivia, (Tobbe's daughter) and the two house cats, one of which was an extremely affectionate Rag Doll called Luva. Vicky felt wonderful being around so many animals and Will loved having new people to chat to!

    That afternoon we drove the short way to Olivia's house that the family was in the process of renovating to make it fit to live in. Poppy sat out under the shade of a tree while we shifted a huge pile of branches and small trees and created a stack ready for a bonfire. We enjoyed the work until near the end when we discovered 2 Adders who appeared to have made a home out of our assigned project! We switched to removing the electric fence from the posts surrounding the field and returned, hoping they'd moved house!

    After a while Tobbe's parents came over and introduced themselves, before picking a bucket of rasberries for the family and WWOOFers. They chatted with us for a while, with Tobbe's Dad Roger, using 'Svenglish' (a cross between Swedish and English!) We enjoyed feeling part of a team again.

    We returned to the farm in the afternoon and ate lunch in a relaxed and jovial atmosphere. Later we walked back to Olivia's house and finished shifting the wood and dismantling the electric fence so that a sturdy wire mesh could be erected to protect the goats from wolves roaming the surrounding forest.

    Back at the farm we put the goats on leads and led them from the field to the stable. When we say we 'led' the goats, what we actually did was to hang on to their leads while they pulled us towards any tasty looking foliage. They were a lot stronger than expected and we sometimes felt we were being drawn and quartered, but it was lots of fun, especially when the kids came running in after them and we had to round up the stragglers by picking up the little balls of soft fur and carrying them in!

    Around 9:30pm the 6 of us shared a meal of pasta bolognaise in the large country kitchen and dining room before returning to the stables, giving the goats more warm water and carrying the kids to their separate pen with a bag of hay for the night, so the nannies would be ready for milking in the morning.
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  • Day430

    We have made a 15minute video of our time at Jan-Ols: https://youtu.be/MOIvfxdfOY0
    We hope you like it!

    14 months spent mostly by ourselves was a long time. By staying with Mikaela, Tobbe and Olivia at Jan-Ols Gården we'd hoped to gain some sense of what it was like to live as a family in Sweden, but we were also nervous about the fact we'd committed ourselves to spending so much time around people didn't know.

    Right from the beginning we knew we'd struck lucky with our choice of farm. The welcome we received was warm but relaxed so we began to feel at home very quickly. Mikaela and Tobbe didn't eat any carbs but bought in pasta, potatoes, bread and biscuits for us WWOOFers and we were encouraged just to help ourselves from the fridge and explore the cupboards in the spacious country kitchen come dining room to find out where everything was kept.

    Conversation was easy because most of the time we had a purpose to get a job done and were working alongside people to do it. Spending from 8am to about 10:30pm each day with the family, Salomé and Mikael, we got to know them quickly and fell easily into being around them.

    Mikaela directed the morning and evening work with the goats and horses. Because the work was so familiar to her, she wouldn't always explain tasks in depth but we became Salomé and Mikael's apprentices and could always ask Mikaela if we weren't sure. She was passionate about animal welfare and seemed to know everything there was to know about the horses and goats. With just a little encouragement she would talk in detail about their histories, characters and how she worked with them and kept them happy.

    Tobbe was on holiday from his job at the Kopparberg Brewery when we arrived and directed the work on the clearance and fence at Olivia's house. He also spent a lot of time working on his and other people's cars in his garage, a converted farm building at the back of the house. When he had a spare minute he would help with the jobs around the farm. Tobbe seemed quiet at first but we soon discovered he had a great sense of humour, was open, patient and thoughtful towards others, despite having a lot on his mind.

    We didn't see as much of Tobbe's daughter Olivia because she was out working for a ventilation company each weekday and would often visit her grandparents and Mum at the weekends. She would return from her day job and not even take time to change before beginning work on the farm. Like Tobbe she was open, with her own distinctive humour and would keep a caring eye out, taking time to help us if we looked lost or unsure. It was a pleasure to take her out in the canoe on the lake at sunset where she learned very quickly how to paddle well and relax, enjoying the view.

    Olivia had a super relationship with her Grandad Roger, who we worked with on many days, putting up fence posts around her house. Will and Roger, who was nearly 75, got on particularly well and we were tempted with his suggestion that we stay an extra 2 months, finish the fencing with him and learn Swedish while teaching him English! He helped Tobbe, Mikaela and Olivia out almost every day (apart from when important sports events were scheduled). Although we didn't see Tobbe's Mum more than once (when collecting rasberries for the family and WWOOFers) her presence was felt at home through the saucepan trivets, socks and wooly jumpers she'd knitted. Howie the Afghan hound even sported a pirate jumper she'd made specially! It gave us a warm feeling to see the close relationships they had and made us keen to make the most of our time with our own family when we return to the UK.

    The other WWOOFers only added to the feeling of family. Mikael was on his second visit and had been there the longest, so he knew a lot about the routines and how best to do the jobs, but he was easy going and funny. He returned home to France 8 days after we arrived but had plans to get a job in Sweden and we doubted it would be long before he would be back. We spent the most time with sprightly Salomé. At 19 she was the youngest in the group but determined, independent and hardworking. We don't know where she got the energy to run between jobs but we suspect it had something to do with the copious amounts of bread she loved to eat! Her English was excellent and leagues better than our French but she insisted we correct her slight misspronunciations and teach her new words. She claimed she'd fallen in love with Olivia (for her beautiful house in the forest and the land around it) and asked her to marry her, even presenting her with a ring made of plaited hay on the final day. She was a great person to be around! On the day she left, Julia arrived. She was taking time out between study and a job teaching Art in secondary school back in Germany. We spent two full days with Julia but the impression we got was of a warm, friendly person with an appetite to learn about the world and to help those in it.

    As well as the people like us who were staying at Jan-Ols, there was a lively community of riders, some women who kept their horses at the farm and girls in their teens, who ensured the place rarely felt empty. Mikaela had everyone care for the horses and ponies they rode so every day at least a few, but usually about a dozen people were involved in mucking out the horses' and ponies' fields, feeding, riding and calling 'Hej Hej' when they passed us.

    We thrived on being part of the Jan-Ols Gården community, engaging with others and working alongside them. It felt good to be relied upon and for people to know who we were and why we were there. We were exhausted by the physical work, and being 'on call' for the long days but we got used to it quickly and the time to say goodbye seemed to come around too soon.

    After leaving we found for a few days that we had little motivation to do things and it felt strange being just the two of us and Poppy again. The experience had been good for our fitness but had also given us a really refreshing mental break.
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  • Day438

    Leaving Nora where we'd stayed for the last 3 nights, we put diesel in the tank and started south in search of van facilities. After 6 weeks in Sweden we'd given up hope of seeing wild Elk, but as is often the case, now that we'd stopped looking, we passed two of the huge beasts munching away happily in a field of wheat, beside the dual carriageway! We only saw them for a moment but it was exciting all the same!

    As we travelled and when we pulled in to our overnight restplace, signs that summer was over and autumn had arrived, availed us. Grass verges sported all sorts of brown, red, orange and cream coloured mushrooms, the forest floor was in full fungal bloom. Bracken whose green fronds had previously blended in to other foliage now stood out in gold and brown. The Silver Birches were the first to turn, their yellow leaves now glowing against the fading green of other deciduous trees. Orange red Rowan berries added warm splashes of colour to the canopy layer. We had the heating on most mornings now and outside white steam puffed from the vent, highlighted by the low rays of the sun that rose just before Vicky did.

    Stora Koviken restplace wasn't large but it had paths leading down over the carpet of pine needles to the rocky shore of Vättern Lake, the second largest in Sweden. We'd visited Vättern on our journey northwards back in June but had chosen to travel down along the less populated western side this time. Our vantage point was at the head of a U-shaped cove in which an island stood. The water was clear but cold enough for Will to don his wetsuit when he snorkeled out to and around the island. The cove lent the charm of a smaller lake to the vast expanse of water we knew lay beyond it, stetching out right to the horizon. Most of the time we were the only ones there and down on the bank it was very peaceful. We spent 2 nights here and Vicky edited a video and knitted while Will fished. He didn't catch anything but one of the nights we did enjoy the grilled Mackerel he'd caught and frozen in Norway.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Kingdom of Sweden, Schweden, Sweden, Swede, ስዊድን, Suecia, Swēoland, السويد, ܣܘܝܕ, İsveç, Schwedn, Швецыя, Швеция, Suwɛdi, সুইডেন, ཧྲུའི་ཏན།, Sveden, Švedska, Suècia, Svezia, Švédsko, Szwedzkô, Швеци, Sverige, སུའི་ཌན, Sweden nutome, Σουηδία, Svedio, Rootsi, Suedia, سوئد, Suweed, Ruotsi, Svøríki, Suède, An tSualainn, સ્વીડન, Suwedan, שוודיה, स्वीडन, Šwedska, Syèd, Svédország, Շվեդիա, Svedia, Swedia, Suesia, Svíþjóð, スウェーデン王国, შვეცია, Uswidi, ស៊ុយអែដ, ಸ್ವೀಡನ್, 스웨덴, سوید, Swedherwyk, Swideni, Zwede, Swédɛ, ສະວິເດັນ, Švedija, Suwedi, Zviedrija, Soedy, Шведска, സ്വീഡന്‍, Żvezja, ဆွီဒင်, Widen, स्विडेन, Zweden, Ruoččii, ସ୍ୱେଡେନ୍, Szwecja, Svessia, سویډن, Suécia, Suwidsuyu, Isvetzia, Svezzia, Swaden, Ruoŧŧa, Suêde, ස්වීඩනය, Iswidhan, Suedi, ஸ்வீடன், స్వీడన్, Шветсия, สวีเดน, Suwesya, Suēteni, Suwidan, Швеція, سویڈن, Svèsia, Thụy Điển, Svedän, שוועדן, Orílẹ́ède Swidini, 瑞典, i-Sweden

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