Trips in 2013: Norrland.

Day 1 (Saturday).

To pick up where I left off, we left Kalmar on Saturday morning and headed north to Stockholm, a distance of about 410 kilometres. Once there we checked into our hotel and then we headed downtown for a couple of hours. The weather was lovely and the city was as beautiful as ever... I really want to go to Stockholm more often, once a year isn't nearly enough.

In the evening we had dinner at the hotel with our fellow travellers. As you might recall this trip was an arranged bus tour and I've been on a handful of those before, most recently the one to Spain last summer. While I certainly don't love all those hours spent on buses I think it's a convenient way of travelling to a new place for the first time - you get to see the highlights and don't have to do a whole lot of planning yourself. A common myth is that only the elderly go on these kinds of trips, but that hasn't been the case for me in the past. However, this time around, maybe because it was a trip within Sweden, all of our fellow travellers were like 75. All of them, except this one woman who travelled with her mother. That was quite a letdown, not because we had expected to make any friends for life on this trip or anything, but it would have been nice if someone had been closer to 40 than 80 you know? Needless to say, we decided early on to keep to ourselves as much as possible.

Day 2 (Sunday).

On Sunday morning we left the capital behind and headed north to Örnsköldsvik, about 530 kilometres away. The highlight of the day was crossing the magnificent Höga Kusten Bridge. We reached our destination in the early evening, checked into our hotel and rather than join our fellow travellers for dinner we went for a walk around the city centre and had dinner on our own in the harbour.

Day 3 (Monday).

This was the only time we were to spend more than one night at the same hotel, and Monday was dedicated to exploring The High Coast area. While the rest of the group went on an outing organized by the bus company (that you had to pay extra for) we rented a car and drove around on our own, taking in the unique scenery. Among other things we enjoyed the beautiful view from the mountain above Örnsköldsvik, visited the two quaint little fishing villages of Skeppsmalen and Bönhamn, went for a walk on the cliffs around the Skag lighthouse, visited the round church in Själavad and learned more about the High Coast area at the visitor centre of the Skule Forest nature reserve. This is definitely an area I wish to revisit some day.

Day 4 (Tuesday).

On Tuesday we left our hotel in Örnsköldsvik and continued our journey north to the little town of Arvidsjaur, 380 kilometres away. We got there in the late afternoon and once we'd checked into our hotel (the nicest one so far, complete with a warm indoor pool) we travelled another hour to the Båtsuoj Sámi centre where we got to learn about the Sámi culture and way of life and enjoy some traditional Sámi food for dinner. Oh, and see some reindeers of course. Something we didn't see much of were mosquitoes - everyone warned us that Norrland is filled with mosquitoes bigger than you've ever seen, but as it turns out they're mostly gone by August. We didn't put on mosquito repellent a single time during this trip. So if you want to explore Norrland free from those awful creatures, August (or later) is the time to go.

Day 5 (Wednesday).

Before noon on Wednesday we went for a walk around Arvidsjaur. We visited the town's pretty church and the most famous attraction - the Sámi village called Lappstaden. It has never been a permanent settlement but is a so called church village where the Sámi would stay when they came into town to attend church, since they had to travel such long distances to do so. The traditional huts date back to the late 18th century but are still used by their owners during Storstämningshelgen, a Sámi festival that takes place during the last weekend of August.

In the early afternoon it was time to leave Arvidsjaur and head south again, this time by train rather than by bus. We travelled on the Inland Railway Line down to Östersund, a distance of about 450 kilometres. It was a long journey of about eight hours, but the view made up for it. I wish I'd been able to take more photos from the train to show you how beautiful it was (the same goes for the time we spent on the bus, but I obviously couldn't take any good photos through the window while we were in motion). Every once in a while the train made longer stops so we could buy food and snacks (there is no restaurant onboard the train).

By the time we reached Östersund it was already nine o'clock in the evening. Our bus picked us up at the station and took us straight to the hotel where we had a (very) late dinner. Per and I opted out of dessert because it was getting so late (and waiting until the whole group had finished dinner and been served dessert would have taken another hour). When we went to pay for our drinks the waitress kindly asked if we wanted to bring our dessert up to our room instead, an offer we obviously didn't turn down :)

This was actually the nicest hotel we stayed at so it's unfortunate that we got to spend the shortest amount of time there.

Days 6 & 7 (Thursday & Friday).

On Thursday we left Östersund already at eight in the morning and travelled the 560 kilometres south to Stockholm. At this point we were getting quite tired of travelling so it was a relief when we finally reached Stockholm in the evening and got to check into our hotel (the same one that we stayed at during the first night). Per and I headed downtown to have dinner with my good friend Jenny who we hadn't seen in almost a year.

On Friday it was time to go back home to Kalmar again. We came home feeling quite exhausted and to be honest not at all up for going back to work on Monday (although of course I can't think of any circumstances under which I had been excited to go back, ugh).

In conclusion...

We've both greatly enjoyed seeing more of the vast and wild land that we live in and hope to go back to Norrland within the not too distant future. We have travelled a distance of about 2,700 kilometres through 12 of Sweden's 25 provinces, 9 of which I had never been to before. Here's a map of our journey with the stops we made:

Above all this trip has showed me that Norrland isn't as inaccessible as I used to think. It has become a real place rather than just some far away place I've heard about in geography class. Norrland might not be all that different from the rest of the country in certain ways, but in many important ways it is. The air is fresher, the nature is grander, the landscapes are wider, the pace is slower. I am so grateful that I finally got the chance to experience (a part of) it for myself.

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