The stationary travel blog

Group one’s summary will be at the end again 🙂

We’ve been in Sweden over a week now and have mainly been settling in to life here. Kate has done several work shifts while I’m at home with Saoirse. We haven’t ventured too far as Kate only had single days off and learning a new system through google translate is bloody tiring. Also, to be fair to Saoirse, she needs to get an opportunity to get moving after the time spent driving.

So, what have we seen/learned of Sweden so far? Well, we’re based in a small town called Smedby that is 8km outside a city of 60,000 called Kalmar. Kalmar was voted summer town of the year recently so seems like we’ve hit the jackpot with regard to location. To be honest, we didn’t think there would be a lot here as the main attractions that are talked about in guidebooks, etc aren’t here but there is loads to see and we’re looking forward to getting out there when we’ve a run of days off together – starting this weekend with a trip to the island of Oland with Kate’s parents! More on that next week.

But even if we’re not driving blankety-blank miles in a van across multiple borders, there’s been some cool things about settling in to ‘live’ in a new country and culture for a bit. I think I speak for the three of us when I say that we’ve been impressed by Sweden and the Swedes so far. Top of the list is that the Swedes are, generally, a friendly bunch. It has made getting around the place and settling in super easy. From Kate’s work colleagues to the people working in shops/ on the bus that have to decipher my terrible Swedish, they couldn’t be more welcoming. There is a government-run Swedish course online setup for immigrants and I hope to get into that in my spare time. It seems like it’d be a better base than google translate, which by the way is a great app to get nonetheless. The difficulty will be getting a chance to practice. Generally, people can switch between Swedish and perfect English in a split second and many have done this in response to me butchering their language. I’ve been appreciative of it though.

There’s some quirky things about the local’s tastes. I guess they wouldn’t be quirky if I grew up with it but they go mad for knackerbrod (think of ryvita but not soul-destroyingingly tasteless), shaving cheese off a massive block and fish in a jar.

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Pic. Swedish survival kit – Knackerbrod (Knackerbread, kid!), pickled fish in a jar, a massive round of cheese (this 1kg block was the smallest available in the shop, you can get ones that weigh several kgs) and a cheese slicer.

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Pic. Fika (Swedish word for coffee and cake). Kanelbulle (cinnamon buns) – Yum!

Another thing that’s stood out is that the liquor stores/off-licenses are government-run. The main supermarkets won’t sell much/any alcohol and if they do it will be low alcohol drinks – apart from Lidl, Lidl does whatever the hell it wants. The government run stores are called system bolaget (https://www.omsystembolaget.se/english/). The main aim of this system is to reduce alcohol-related problems by selling alcohol in a responsible way, without profit motive. There aren’t many about so this means that alcohol isn’t that accessible. We’ve been to our closest one here and it feels like you’re in a pharmacy rather than a shop. Supposedly, years ago you had to go up to the counter and ask for the alcohol as it was all kept behind the counter rather than being able to browse along the shelves. I wouldn’t have gotten far with my fake ID when I was 16! The system bolaget, also, has taken some serious steps to ensure their trade is fair for workers and environmentally friendly. All in all, pretty impressive stuff.

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Pic. Motorhead whiskey at the system bolaget. Price 666.

Anyway, back to Kalmar (https://www.kalmar.com/en). Kalmar is a coastal city in SE Sweden. Historically, it was a very important town and still has a castle, some of the old fortified walls, an impressive cathedral and cobblestone streets in the older part of town. It’s all nicely preserved and maintained and a good place for a stroll around.

Pic. Out and about in Kalmar

Apart from a rich history the town benefits from being close to the sea and has many swimming beaches and a marina. It’s really popular to get outdoors, especially, with the consistent good weather recently. There’s a steady stream of people out walking, running and cycling on the extensive shared use pathways.

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Pic. Kate and Saoirse ready for road on a cycling day trip.

So what does the life of a latte dad (Swedish nickname for a stay-at-home Dad) entail? Non-stop lattes of course!

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Pic. Enjoying a latte

At 4EURO or 6NZD, maybe not. Apart from the household chore stuff which I won’t bore you with there’s the hanging out with Saoirse. It’s pretty amazing seeing her picking up new skills. This past week she’s figured out how to climb steps, is making some big efforts towards communicating and exerting her independence. It is great to watch and I’m lucky to have the opportunity. I’ve purposefully kept things low-key on the days when Kate’s working so that Saoirse can have the time to move about and explore. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered, it’s that when you’re at home with a kid, it’s good to make sure that you still fit something into the day for yourself. So Saoirse and I go for a buggy run together most days. I’ve been working on it for number of months to find when is the best time to take her out and generally if she’s had a sleep and has a full belly, we’re ready to go. There’s a wooded area nearby which we run to and then do a nice loop through the forest before going the same way home. There’s always a stop at the playground on the way back so we both feel like we’ve gotten something out of it. The reaction of people when I’m out running with the buggy can be pretty funny at times but as said the Swedes are a nice bunch so it’s generally greeted with smiles and some thumbs up. It’s about 6km, which is short but keeps her interest and its better than getting no running in.

Pic. Buggy and backpack adventures and Saoirse enjoying her reward at the playground.

OK group one. We’ve been a week in Sweden and are all impressed by the place so far. The locals are friendly and our nearest city has a lot of interesting stuff going on. Kate’s found working here is good although the new system and language is fairly draining too. From this weekend the travel blog will involve some travel as Kate is off and her parents are over but it’s been good for us to settle into our new place this week and give Saoirse some time to practice her new skills.

The road(s) to Sweden

“Teamwork makes the dream work”

Timothy, Paul (2012). Paul’s stag night.

Group one’s summary will be at the bottom again.

 

Pic. Our 60s style home in Sweden

So we’ve arrived in Sweden after what feels like whirlwind few days in Ireland and the UK. Kate started work yesterday and Saoirse and I are staying fairly local as I don’t think she wants more driving in the van just yet. We started at Kate’s parent’s house near Leicester and have driven to a town called Kalmar in the East of Sweden (1383km with two ferries). The first day was getting to the ferry which was an overnight sailing. We’d great plans of getting onto the ferry when they started boarding so that we could get Saoirse ready for bed in the cabin early but we didn’t board until nearly 10pm when they’d said 7pm so that went out the window. The ferry was great though and it was the perfect way to do the crossing.

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Pic. Saoirse enjoying the view on the Harwich to Hoek Van Holland ferry.

So when we landed in Holland we had a quick rock, paper, scissors to see who was driving first – Kate won/lost depending on how you view the prospect of driving a 3mx6m brick on the wrong side of the road after a poor night’s sleep. First stop Gouda. Home of cheese and… that was enough for us anyway. It was good to start the journey off but not commit to too long a distance before swapping driver’s and letting Saoirse stretch out. One of the most striking things in Holland (and Germany, Denmark and Sweden) are the number of people biking or walking to places in cities – and the lack of traffic on the roads even at what would be considered rush hour times. The infrastructure and attitude of motorists was great to see and shows what could be achieved with some investment and change of attitude/ policy. There was a video on the guardian site recently that spoke about not making helmets compulsory in the UK and using the continent as an example. It’s comparing apples and oranges. If there were protected bike lanes like on the continent more people would be out biking and I (an advocate for wearing helmets) would not feel strange without wearing one. Anyway, rant over 🙂 Gouda was awesome with a beautiful town square and of course we bought some cheese.

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Pic. Gouda cheese. Yum!

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Pic. More cheese – the blue one is lavender. Tasted better than I’d expected.

So back in the van with the plan to get all the way to Bremen by the end of the day but our camper is not going to be traveling in the outside lane of an autobahn anytime soon so we decided to cut the drive short and camp in Osnabruck. Unfortunately, we hadn’t checked our gas bottles before leaving as the company installing the system was to fill them. So, instead of a cooked pasta dinner we had cheese and crackers. Even though I’d made dinner I offered to do the wash up this time. After Saoirse stayed up the night before for the ferry, she decided that there was too much going on when she was asleep so reckoned that shifting her bed time from 7pm to 10pm would be awesome. Awesome isn’t the word Kate and I used. We even uttered the R word, “Routine”, but quickly back-pedaled and decided our ‘take it as it comes’ approach was worth sticking with.

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Pic. Saoirse enjoying her new bed time and hanging out with Mom and Dad.

Off to Bremen the following day and a stop at a motorhome parking ground. Bremen is a great city to spend some time in so while we had thought that we’d drive further, we decided to stay the night and have an explore. There’s a lovely square with some very impressive buildings dating back hundreds of years and the old part of town with its little laneways, cafes and shops was perfect for a walk around. We ate some schnitzel, drank a hefe and swam in the river to cool off before heading back to our motorhome. I thought ducking under the water and popping up to surprise Saoirse would be funny but a swamp monster popping out of the murky river water was terrifying. Poor girl, we won’t be repeating that anytime soon!

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Pic. Impressive building in the centre of Bremen

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Pic. Cooling off with a hefe… and water for the bubs

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Pic. Shops in the old part of town

As our first day had taken us two days we decided we needed to make up some ground and made our way to a small coastal town in Denmark called Praesto via a short ferry from Germany. We were able to park the motorhome up on the marina and get water and electricity. Really peaceful and we brought the average age of the camp area down by a decade or so. Saoirse loved the attention.

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Pic. Praesto – our stop for the night

After a run, dip in the sea, playground stop and touristy walk we were back in the van and Sweden bound. We were looking forward to getting the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo over the sea. A very impressive feat of engineering. We then spent a few hours walking around Malmo before hoping into the van and finding another motorhome stop for the night. We kept the fishing village theme going as we were keen on a fish dinner. This day was our 6 year wedding anniversary and we had a delicious fish meal out with Saoirse.

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Pic. Our 6th year wedding anniversary dinner

Onward to Kalmar and our home for the next four weeks. I’ll fill you in on here once we’re settled in and have a look around the place.

At least one person was a fan of getting a few tips from us camper-vanning novices so here some of the things we picked up on the way over.

1. The campercontact app. It shows you places to park for the night and service points. These overnight stops are a fraction of the price of campgrounds. https://www.campercontact.com/en

Also worth looking at are the motorhome stops books that some countries such as France, the UK and Sweden have. http://www.go-motorhoming-and-campervanning.com/touring-europe-with-a-campervan-or-motorhome.shtml

2. While I’m on the subject of apps, a quick shout out to Patrick Davey for suggesting OSMAnd – offline maps are priceless when your phone has decided it won’t roam anymore. We would’ve been lost (literally) without it. Also, having a nav person in the passenger seat meant the driver could concentrate on the road in front of them – great teamwork. https://osmand.net/

3. When you’re traveling with a kid a playground is a playground wherever you go and Saoirse certainly appreciated the swings, slides and crawling around the place. Also, breaking up the journey was good for her and us.

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Pic. Saoirse (and Kate) enjoyed the playgrounds along the road.

4. With the travel, Saoirse’s sleep pattern went out of whack. I don’t know if this is a tip as every kid is different – hence why I haven’t read any parenting books, but I suppose just working as a team as parents helped as Saoirse was sleeping while we were driving so there was plenty of sleep deprivation to add to our jet lag.

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Pic. Go the F**K to sleep. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_the_Fuck_to_Sleep

OK, group one. We are now in Sweden having driven 1,300+km and taken two ferries. The motorhome is great and we’ve stopped off in some interesting places such as Gouda, Bremen and Malmo. Saoirse managed the driving well with regular playground stops. Kate has started work and I’ll give an update on Sweden once we’re here for a while.

Packing up and getting on the road

Hello,

As promised we’ll try to keep a blog going for our trip.

I’m aware that people fall into different groups with blogs but I’ll try to cater for both main groups (as I see them).

Group 1: I’m busy, show me pictures and I’ll read a paragraph so don’t waffle on (I’m usually in this group so I thought it’d be nice to cater for like-minded people). I’ll have pictures throughout the blog and a summary paragraph at the end for you to scroll down to.

Group 2: Show me everything! You’ll get what group 1 gets and more.

So as you know, we’ve decided to take a family gap year to spend time with family and travel. Handing in our resignations meant we were committed to the plan. I reckon that if you’re thinking of doing something similar, don’t think too much about the decision (you’ll talk yourself out of it), but once you make the decision, start thinking (there’s a lot to organise!). It was stressful at times but with help from some great friends we got there. It’s sad to leave our Kiwi Whanau behind but we’ll be back.

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Pic 1. Saoirse helping with the packing

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Pic 2. Finding inventive ways to entertain Saoirse so we could get on with packing

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Pic 3. Our home packed away in a storage container

After a bit of back and forth, we decided that having a campervan would suit us best. With help from Kate’s parents we were able to pick up a great campervan from the UK that was here when we touched down. It’s four berth but a manageable size. Getting insurance for a motorhome without a UK licence (I’ve just got my NZ one now) was tricky but after days of ringing around we finally got a reasonable quote. TOP TIP: Once a van goes over 6m long and 3m high the ferries cost double so get one under this.

Pic 4. Our Fiat Chausson Welcome 9 motorhome

So we’re one day away from leaving for Sweden. It’s been a bit of a rushed visit UK and Ireland before we go but Kate’s job in Sweden starts on June 11th. It’s been great to see family and for them to see Saoirse. We lucked out and caught the few days of Irish summer that there will be this year.

Pic 5. Saoirse being sun smart in Ireland

Hey group 1. We’ve packed up everything in NZ. Pretty flat out with some long days but felt great to get onto the plane. Nice couple of days in a very hot Dubai before some great family times in Ireland and England. We’ve packed the campervan and are driving to Sweden tomorrow (Tuesday 5th June)! Woohooo