We’re stuck. Not in the ground, but in this area of Sweden. It’s an area called Östergötland southwest of Stockholm. The reason ? Our fridge has packed up, well just about. We’ve been having problems with it since Belgium and it’s taken 4 separate engineers and a lot of troubleshooting to try and work out what the problem is. The fridge works intermittently and the freezer works a bit better but it’s not right either. We rely on it because we self-cater most of the time, and our budget would be busted if we ate out all the time. We’ve tried to boost it with shop-bought ice, but found there was a nation-wide ice shortage because of the drought and forest fires.
Apparently they’ve had the hottest July since records began, 260 years ago, so it’s been a continuation on the hot and sticky theme in this leg of our travels. As it happens there is a nationwide ban on outside fires too due to the risk of wildfires. and judging by the number of public firepits we see, the Swedes love a barbecue. I don’t seem to cope well with anything above 28 degrees, I can’t think straight and become quite grumpy. The dogs also don’t enjoy it too much, and though we do our best to keep them cool, they lie around lethargically most of the day, keeping still to avoid generating any more heat. I know how they feel, when its too hot to do anything, the best tactic is to do nothing.
Anyway, back to the fridge. We got a quote in Germany to replace the whole thing but it was above the threshold of the warranty insurance by a significant amount. Now we have been advised by a Swedish engineer that if we replace the gas pipes it will solve the problem.This is within the threshold, but the risk is that if it doesn’t fix the problem, we’ll be sorting it out with our own cash, plus further delay. So fingers crossed it does. The part was due to arrive in 1-2 days but has taken 4+ now and it’s looking like it could be a 10 day delay in total.
This is less than ideal, especially just after the clutch issue. But there is not much we can do – we just have to adapt and make the best of it that we can. Our original plan was to be in Norway by the beginning of August. Now that this is shot out of the water, it looks like we’ll be spending a large part of September there, to see everything we want to see, but also because travelling is slow going there by all accounts due to the terrain. Perhaps this will be a good thing, as I hear that there are a lot of motorhomes up there at the moment and we might have a bit more of the place to ourselves. The other upside is that the delay is forcing us to slow down to such an extent, that we can truly say we are now doing ‘slow travelling’. There is something to be said for focusing on one area and seeing everything it has to offer. It gives you good impression of the real place, as opposed to just skimming through briefly.
Due to it being peak season, we’ve been struggling a bit more than usual to find places to stay. We’ve had a day or two of going from pillar to post and finding that places we wanted to stay are full, which has been a bit frustrating. One day we got to an pleasingly empty lakeside spot, only to find that there was a blue-green algae bloom – hence the lack of crowds! Labradors don’t understand about toxic algae and we only noticed just in time before Bodger launched himself in, all of us having hurried obliviously past the notices in Swedish on our way down to the lake.
Right now we’re in Motala, a pleasant harbour town near the humongous lake Vättern. We’re staying put for 3 nights here as we want to rest up before trying to make up for lost time. If all goes to plan, we’ll be hammering up the motorway to North Sweden before crossing over into North Norway.
Let’s face it, there are worse places to kill a few days in than Sweden. We really like it, it feels relaxed and there is water everywhere you look. Sweden has 100,000 lakes and Bodger and Tim have been doing their best to swim in them all ! Everyone speaks really good English. There is very much an outdoorsy lifestyle here. Every lake, riverside and coastline seems to have a clutch of marinas full of boats. People also cycle a lot and we’ve noticed more than a few people training for cross-country skiing on inline skates and poles.
There are tons of motorhomes and caravans too. Surprisingly few service points though, even at official motorhome parking areas. The other day we visited the Swedish Air Force museum, which was excellent. That evening there was a classic car rally there, and we wandered around admiring the huge American 1950’s Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Buicks, as well as some gorgeous old Inspector Morse-style Jags.
Our top spots in Sweden so far are:
- The amazing and very long Øresund Bridge which links Denmark and Sweden
- Beautiful and laid back Rydebäck beach and the coastline south of Helsingborg
- The picturesque town of Söderköping on the Göta canal which has a renowned ice cream parlour called Smultronstället
- Lake Tåkern Bird Sanctuary, with a striking, architect designed visitor centre and bird-watching tower where you can watch Marsh Harriers swooping about just a few meters away.
Thankfully the high temperatures are abating at last, so we can think a bit straighter and get out a bit more now. Please keep your fingers crossed for the fridge!