Our host Mikaela at Jan-Ols Gården had recommended we visit the town of Nora and it seemed as good a place as any to hole up for a few days and rest after our exertions at the farm. We stocked up with the first shopping we'd done in 2 weeks and got on the road again.
Nora turned out to a great recommendation, it was a pretty little town with pastel coloured wooden board houses, cobbled streets and a white church steeple displaying black clockfaces with golden numerals under a pointed grey slate roof. The rain was heavy when we arrived at the large gravel car park just outside of town, beside a small peaty river running through a corridor of trees. We stayed in the van to keep dry but Vicky felt really low having left Jan-Ols. Luckily the following day was dry and we set off to explore Nora. Shuffling round a few second hand shops a Fair Trade shop and peering through the beautifully dressed windows of craft shops and art galleries really lifted our spirits.
We'd got out of the habit of going out to eat in Norway, but when we saw Nora Stadshotell's Dagens (daily) Menu board outside for 100SEK (around £10) we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get back in to the habit and sample a Swedish lunch. The pay up front buffet was set out in a grand but comfortable dining room at the front of the hotel. Tall windows overlooked Nora's main square and whitewashed walls were lit with golden chandeliers and decorated with the odd gilded oval mirror. We both chose the kålpudding (a sausage loaf with a bit of cabbage in), covered it in cream sauce and accompanied it with lingonberries and tatties. Will had a small beer from a selection available on tap and we rounded off with a cup of tea and jammy dodger. It was good value and nice to eat out again.
We'd heard from our WWOOF hosts that Nora was famous for its icecream so when we finally found NoraGlas we ordered two large cones with vanilla, hazelnut and the day's special of cherry icecream. Vicky's sweet tooth pushed her a step further and she had hers topped with chocolate fudge squares and two milk and white chocolate sticks. They were the best icecreams we'd had since Italy and it took us ages to finish them, even with the help of one of the watchful jackdaws who Vicky fed pieces of her cone by holding it out and allowing the bird to pluck it from her fingers in mid flight.
The following day, in an attempt to work off the icecream, we launched the canoe on the little river we were parked next to and headed downstream towards the lake. The tunnel of trees changed to tall bulrushes and the wind that blew in off the open water channelled waves up the otherwise flat surface of the river, so that they slapped against our hull. It was a little choppy as we paddled along the shore past the railway museum and bandstand, but when we headed into the wind and across the lake the waves died down in the lee of the tree covered bank opposite. Pretty holiday homes with large gardens of chopped wood and old windsurfers propped up against painted wooden benches lined the opposite shore. Silver tins that once contained candles lay abandoned on rocks and tree stumps on the waterline, perhaps from some sort of festival. The day was overcast and maybe we were still tired from working on the farm but we didn't get quite the same kick out of canoeing as we often do. It is possible that in the back of our minds we knew we were making our way out of Sweden, away from the great expanses of forest and lakes and back to cities and towns in the more densely populated central Europe.Read more