Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Closing the loop

It’s been a while. In the last installment  I was at Riksgränsen in Northern Sweden, exactly one week ago, thinking about how exactly to get out...

Yes, I made a mistake when booking my ticket for the SJ night train to Stockholm - a mobile ticket can only be sent to a Swedish or Danish mobile (not UK or Norwegian - take note as it’s not that clear on the SJ website, you will need an e-ticket instead). For a while, it looked like I was stuck. Luckily Patrik at Riksgränsen Resort was very helpful in getting me a printed e-ticket. This went some way to make up for the miserable night I spent sleeping out. The weather turned and I found myself in sub-zero temperatures with snow blowing sideways at me.  Camping eh. Rough with the smooth and all that, but it was a really bad night's sleep. I was glad to get up in the morning. Relieved even.

The overnight rail journey from Riksgränsen to Sweden’s capital aboard an SJ sleeper train takes some 21hours and covers just under 1000miles - although there’s not much to see once you start heading south into Sweden’s dense forests north. Once clear of the Abisko national park I caught up on sleep - for my good , and for the benefit of anyone unfortunate enough to have to speak with me. I did take note of the mining town of Kiruna, whose freight trains trains hauling iron ore from the mines to the sea at Narvik were the single biggest barrier to sleep the night before... 

Despite the lack of a view, this journey is a winner if only because of the price! Given the distance covered and the money saved on a night’s accommodation, it’s a really cheap and effortless way to get from Stockholm (lots of well-priced international flights) to the North of Norway. And the Arctic Circle line across Lapland from Abisko to Narvik is jaw-dropping.

I woke up in Stockholm, feeling confused. After Lofoten and Lapland, being back in a Capital city comes as a bit of a shock. But the "Venice of the North" is vibrant, cultured and beautiful. I soon got into the swing of things. This ancient city is built on a series of islands so you're constantly surrounded by water and beautiful architecture. I was lucky enough to meet up with several friends during my visit, and Stockholm has plenty for social types to enjoy. Whether you're looking for a fairly-priced lunch in the old town, a coffee with a view in the culture house, or a cheeky pint on the South Side, there's no shortage of choice here. It's got efficient (if slightly hard-to-understand) public transport too, so getting around was no hassle. I loved it - I stayed two extra days than I first planned, that's how much I loved it!

Dusk in the city centre

 Unusual street art in Stockholm's centre

 Relaxing with friends by the waterside in Gåshaga, Stockholm

After a lot of moving around with awkward heavy bags, it was great to be surrounded by friends in a friendly place, but sooner or later the time comes to move on. I had decided to travel overnight by Swe-Bus to Oslo on Saturday. This had pros and cons. Pros - cheap, efficient, free wi-fi, friendly helpful driver. Cons - bus like a sauna, smelly next-door-neighbour, 1 hours sleep. Although I did get to watch "Searching for Sugar Man" (can't recommend this docufilm enough).

6am was a bit early to be in Oslo, but I did get a rare treat. The often-crowded Karl Johans gate (the main shopping street in Oslo's centre) was deserted. It was eery, but cool, wandering around - a bit reminiscent of 28 Days Later. No zombies here although Norwegians often enjoy a drink on a Saturday night! Many folk visit church on a Sunday morning, so I didn't have to wait that long before the devout and the recovering alike came out to enjoy the glorious sunshine. I spent the afternoon relaxing up on the walls of Akershus Fortress, which offers a great view of the city.

And that was that. Following a lift home from the boss (as in the Company Director, not Springsteen - he was in Stockholm...), my journey was complete. I've seen some amazing sights, met some great people, had good times and less good times - both just as important in my opinion - and I've scratched the surface of this spectacular country. And been to Sweden!

Rest assured, there's plenty more to come. Now just to work out where FlyDrive Norway is off to next. I think we'll head East...

No comments:

Post a Comment