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Travels in Sweden & Norway Summer 2016 PDF Printable Version E-mail


Travels in
 Sweden and Norway Summer 2016

 
Margaret Williamson
December 2016

 
(continued from Travels in Poland Summer 2016)

NORTH THROUGH SWEDEN TO NORWAY AND BACK INTO SWEDEN
 
Karlsborg Fort and Paratroop Base
 
On the recommendation of the nice man who filled our LPG bottles at Kemgas in Jonkoping, we broke the journey up the west side of Lake Vattern at Karlsborg to visit its fort. It proved to be an uninspiring 19th C military base, outdated by the time it was finished. Now it has shops, a restaurant and museum aimed at visitors, so we didn't pay for the guided tour.
 
The large free car park (which banned overnighting) was a useful place for lunch, before wandering across the road to see why an American WW2 transport plane had been renovated and parked there. Barry had flown in just such a DC-3 troop-carrier while in Hong Kong on National Service! This DC-3 (brought here by sea across the Baltic) stands outside the Swedish paratrooper training and parade ground, established in 1952. Sweden may have been neutral in WW2 but the Cold War had no opt-out clause.

Click: MagBazPictures of Karlsborg Fortress

The Inland Road (E45, the Inlandsvagen)
 
Only two roads run north-south the length of Sweden: the coast road in the east along the Gulf of Bothnia and our road, the Inlandsvagen. As the name suggests, this remarkable highway runs right up the middle of the country for a thousand miles or more, from the shores of Lake Vanern to the Finnish border at Karesuando, crossing the Polar Circle to the south of Jokkmokk. Its average height is above 300 m (1,000 ft), undulating as it crosses river valleys or swings around lakes. We have travelled this route in both directions and never tire of the endless natural beauty of its forests, rivers and lakes (100,000 of them).
 
After joining the E45 at Filipstad, we are headed ever-north, against the tide of Swedish motorhomes and Norwegian caravans returning home by mid-August. There is little other traffic – a few logging trucks and an occasional long-distance bus (Swedish Buss) also carrying goods (Swedish Gods). This essential transport is thus called Bussgods and we pray to them, particularly as they overtake us at speed! Leaving urban temptations behind (the last Lidl and McDonalds were in Ostersund), we travel through swathes of forest, punctuated by clearings with settlements of wooden cottages and farmsteads. These are usually painted in Falun Red (made from the Falun copper mine's waste, a good preservative), while the delightful whitewood Lutheran churches use shades of pale grey and salmon in their calm interiors.
 
The Great Bear of Sveg
 
The crossroads town of Sveg has traffic lights, two supermarkets (ICA and Coop, as usual), a Dollar Store (always worth a look), a fuel station, an expensive but well equipped campsite, a fine church, its clock tower under repair by a team of brave steeplejacks – and the world's largest wooden bear, the emblem of the town and the County of Jamtland.
 
When we first met this woodblock model of Ursa Arctica, the brown bear that roams these parts, it was possible to climb inside, like a Trojan horse, and the interior was supplied with water and electricity. By our second visit to Sveg, the trapdoor was padlocked but the bear still stood proud. Today he (or she?) is starting to droop, its head propped up by ugly metal supports and the surrounding area fenced off. Very sad – our own Paddington has aged better, though he does have a wobbly leg.
 
Dorotea
 
We reached Sweden's vast northern province of Lapland at the little town of Dorotea, in the county of Vasterboten (West Bothnia).  Fredrika Dorotea Vilhelmina, wife of Swedish King Gustav IV Adolf (reigned 1792 – 1809), gave each of her names to a settlement in this area, the last vestiges of an almost defunct monarchy which once ruled over Norway, Finland and parts of Russia.
 
Dorotea is home to the Polar Caravan Company (the factory also has a small but fascinating caravan museum with free entry) and the town is especially caravan/motorhome-friendly, with generous free parking, as well as a Dutch-run campsite. Doro Camping has its own simple halt on the Inlandsbanan, the 1300-km railway line that links the towns and villages  between Mora and Gallivare, with a daily train in each direction from June to August – a two-day ride with an overnight in Ostersund, or more stops with a 2-week rail pass for a more leisurely journey. Pitched near the track, we watched the single-carriage train pass our window at around 10.15 am (northbound) and 6 pm (southbound), glad to know it was safe to cross the line for a stroll through the woods and along the river between these times!
 
At the Hotel Dorotea we enjoyed an excellent weekday lunch buffet – a thoroughly enjoyable Swedish custom, with a fixed price for a self-service feast. On this occasion, the main dish was a creamy pasta bake with onions, cheese and bacon, along with all kinds of salads and vegetables, bread and butter, fruit juices, chocolate mousse with cream, coffee and biscuits. All for 95 SEK each, and as much as you can eat – which was plenty, as we'd spent the morning cycling a gravel road from Lovberga up the side of Flasjo Lake and back, before driving on to Dorotea!

Click: MagBazPictures of Lovberga Camping

That ride took us past 'Siberian Adventures', a husky farm and campsite offering summer horse riding and winter sled-dog tours. We saw a couple of hunting dogs and no less than 70 Siberian huskies, bred for pulling sledges in teams of six. Claudia, the kind owner, made us coffee and told of the snow from November to April – half the year! Lovely site, shame about the 9 km of dirt road from the E45.
 
My final memory of Dorotea was of two small groups of 'refugee-immigrants' huddled idly outside the town's cafι. The Swedish government has scattered these new arrivals in remote places, even placing some in the mountain village of Are: the country's premier ski resort with guaranteed snow from December to May. How will they fare?
 
Farewell, Marianne
 
News that Leonard Cohen's muse, the inspiration for songs like 'Bird on a Wire' and 'So Long Marianne' when they lived together on the Greek island of Hydra, has died in her native Norway, aged 81. This takes me straight back to Durham University Folk Club, circa 1967, when these were favourite songs sung by bearded students with guitars and a pint of real ale. Yeah, that's the way it was in those days! When my Mum gave me a record player for my 21st birthday, the first two LPs I bought with the record tokens I got were by Leonard Cohen and Elvis Presley! I had the privilege of watching Leonard perform at Sheffield City Hall in the 1970s (thanks Peter), dressed in black and brilliant (him, not me!) A final letter from Leonard was read to Marianne in hospital (and to us on BBC Radio 4), ending 'See you down the road, endless love'. Full text in the Guardian - and the Irish Times (thanks John).
 
A Steady Job and a Sorry Sight on the way to Sorsele
 
Continuing ever-north up the E45 Inland Road, there was plenty to see. I've heard British motorhomers dismiss this part of the world with comments like 'When you've seen one tree, you've seen them all' – a case of literally not seeing the wood for the trees! In fact, this time we've met only one British registered vehicle (a caravan at Hann Muenden) since leaving Harwich. They are missing a lot!
 
Between Dorotea and Storuman, we drove through busy Vilhelmina, then passed an amazing one-man vehicle planting snow-poles at regular intervals along the verge of the E45 - a steady job if ever there was one, presumably turning round at some point to return marking the other side. Further along, a white-line-painting vehicle was working its way south along a newly surfaced stretch. I hoped a sudden heavy rainstorm wouldn't wash the paint away, as we pulled into Vojma rest area for coffee by a fishing camp until the weather relented. A large model salmon leaps above the river, here.
 
Further along the E45 (now dubbed Via Lappia) we were sobered by the sight of a southbound motorhome lying on its side in the ditch, contents spilling across the carriageway. The shocked occupants appeared unharmed and a couple of local cars had stopped to assist, so we continued on our way, passing a breakdown truck and a police car on their way to the scene. They must have come from Sorsele, a small town with a railway museum at its Inlandsbanan station, and our next campsite. It was raining again and we'd seen enough excitement for one day!
 
By the Pite River
 
From Sorsele, both the Inland Road and Railway swing east to the larger town of Arvidsjaur, then turn north towards the Arctic Circle and Jokkmokk. Near Moskosel (a village with another little railway station museum that we visited last year) it was a delight to see our first reindeer of the year – a young blue-collared female crossing our road. Also passed a machine mowing the grass verge of the E45, perhaps to discourage the reindeer from grazing there? It is certainly a high-maintenance highway year-round and an incredible achievement.
 
We stopped for lunch in a well-furnished rest area by the broad Pite River, about 60 miles before Jokkmokk, then walked over the old bridge and along a track into the forest. Tucked away in small clearings were a couple of motorhomes, with space for more, and we remembered camping here many years ago in the Four Winds. How could we resist? Soon found a magical place to park for the night, lulled to sleep by the river rushing down on its way to Pitea on the Gulf of Bothnia.

Click: MagBazPictures of River Pitea Free Camping

To the Polar Circle and a Cycle Ride into Jokkmokk
 
Next morning we reached the Polar Circle (cafι/gift shop, free car park, photo opportunity and paying Stellplatz), settled in and bought a reindeer sticker (I know!) It was wonderfully peaceful, the season almost over, with the Overnatting area (a lovely word) to ourselves until a pair of Italian motorhomes arrived in the late evening - and left early, to avoid paying. At least they didn't get a hook-up, as paying guests are issued with a ceramic fuse to fit in the box (at your own risk!)
 
We cycled downhill into Jokkmokk (17 km return) and treated ourselves to the all-you can-eat lunch at a little restaurant called Buffe Tradet on the main street. 90 SEK each for vegetable soup, bread & butter, very tender pork steaks with pepper sauce, roast potatoes, salads, juice and coffee. No pudding, thankfully, as it was an uphill ride back.
 
The Swedish Sami capital of Jokkmokk (meaning 'River Bend') developed from their winter quarters into a permanent settlement and trading post. We've visited the excellent Ajtte Museum here previously, so this time we looked at the octagonal wooden Lappkyrka, which was freely open with an audio commentary in various languages. Inaugurated in 1889, on the site of a 17thC church, the new parish church was rebuilt in the 1970s after a fire. The interior was beautifully calm, painted in pale pastel shades of grey and salmon. The wood for building it came free of charge, courtesy of the Royal Forests. The Crown certainly has plenty to spare!

Click: MagBazPictures of Jokkmokk Sami Church

To Sweden's Northernmost Village (and Campsite) at the Finnish Border

 
Ever-north from the Polar Circle, both the Inland Road and Inland Railway pass the dramatic hydro-electric dams on the Lule River system. Traffic was slowed by a long stretch of unfinished road works, giving the few tourists chance to photograph wandering reindeer, until tarmac was regained by in the massive Vattenfall power station at Porjus. We took the free guided underground tour last year, so this time we just drove over the dam wall to see the extent of the place (including a golf course!)
 
On through an area dubbed 'Laponia, World Heritage Site', looking much like the rest of Lapland with sparse trees and even sparser settlements, we reached the iron and copper mining town of Gallivare, where the waterlogged campsite was as unwelcoming as the staff. Declining to stay, we took the opportunity to stock up with diesel and shopping at the large mall on the way out of town. The Inland Railway terminates in Gallivare but our E45 Inland Road continues for another 130 miles to the border village of Karesuando, Sweden's Northernmost, on the Muonio River.
 
Breaking the journey at a friendly fishing camp on the Vittangi River, we finally reached the end of the E45, our companion for the last 2 weeks! Karesuando is a remote Sami village, with a couple of shops, school, community centre and library, Tourist Office on the bridge to Finland, small museum and a very simple campsite opposite the church. There is a wonderful frontier 'there be dragons' feeling to this remote settlement on the tundra.
 
On arrival we found the Tourist Info closed (open Mon-Fri only), so couldn't take advantage of their WiFi. The Arctic Terns we saw nesting on the bridge in July 2015 had already flown, though it is less than 3 weeks later in the season. At the lovely wooden church (built in 1905) a Sami wedding was taking place and we watched the colourful congregation emerge, wearing traditional Sami costume, now reserved for such events and festivals. The museum was closed, because the staff (indeed, the whole village) were at the wedding!

Click: MagBazPictures of Karesuando Town

Click: MagBazPictures of Karesuando Camping
 
Campsites in Sweden (exchange rate approx 11 SEK=£1)
 
Karlskrona Ferry Port – Free parking on rough gravel area on right after leaving the port, where we joined a few other motorhomes.
 
Lovsjobadens Camping, Hyltena, Nr Jonkoping – 230 SEK, shower 5 SEK, free WiFi at Reception only.
 
Munkeberg Camping, Filipstad – 200 SEK, free showers, free WiFi at Reception only.
 
Svegs Camping, Sveg – 280 SEK, excellent free showers, good free WiFi throughout.
 
Flasjostrands Camping, Lovberga – 190 SEK (cash only), shower 10 SEK, no internet.
 
Doro Camping, Dorotea – 210 SEK, free showers (no privacy), good free WiFi throughout.
 
Sorsele Camping, Sorsele – 215 SEK, free showers, free WiFi (very weak).
 
Free camping in forest by Pite River, near Pite Ecopark Rest Area on the Inlandsvagen – WC and chemical toilet emptying in Rest Area.
 
Polar Circle Cafι and Parking, nr Jokkmokk – 100 SEK inc electric hook-up, WC, water and chemical toilet emptying. An atmospheric spot, right on the Arctic Circle 5 miles south of Jokkmokk.
 
Trollsparvens Camping, Vittangi – 180 SEK, free showers, no internet. A simple camp by the Vittangi River, 130 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
 
Sandlovs Camping, Karesuando – 200 SEK, free non-private shower, no kitchen or laundry, no internet. Overpriced (one year ago it was a more realistic 150 SEK!) but it sits right by the bridge over the Muonio River border into Finland.
 
A BRIEF ENCOUNTER WITH FINLAND's NORTHERN ARM
 
Just across the Muonio River we join another well-known highway, E8, which links Tornio at the head of the Gulf of Bothnia in Finland with our next goal: Tromso in Norway. The Norwegian border lies less than 100 miles northwest, via Finland's highest road.
 
World War II Museum and German Trenches
 
The Finnish E8 clings to the shore of the Muonio River, the Swedish/Finnish border, following its every meander, with no roads on the Swedish side. Remember, Finland uses Euros, a totally inscrutable language, and is an hour ahead of Sweden/Norway.
 
About 12 miles along we stop at the Lapland War Museum & Cafe to investigate the Jarama Fortifications (a WW2 German defensive position). The museum is open mid-June to end-September, entry €6.50, closed Sunday & Monday - this being Sunday! No matter, it's free to park and walk round outdoors, climbing the wooden stairs and boardwalks. The partly restored German trenches, huts and gun emplacements built along the German defence line in the autumn of 1944 overlooked a pass along the river border with neutral Sweden. The dugout huts, each sleeping 9 or 10 men, were reinforced with corrugated iron roofs to withstand shrapnel and were furnished with wooden bunks and a small wood-burning stove. Imagine the temperatures up here, where it drops to minus 30° C in winter.

ClickMagBazPictures of the Jarama Fortifications

Over the Pass to Lunch in Kilpisjarvi and down to the Norwegian Coast
 
Finland's highest road pass (1,880 ft or 570 m) crosses bleak Arctic tundra. The spindly birch trees already show signs of Ruska (autumn) and a man in a van is planting wooden snow-poles along the way, in a much simpler operation than the automated vehicle seen doing the job in Sweden.
 
After tiny huddles of Sami houses comes the frontier town of Kilpisjarvi, heralded by an excellent Information Centre that we visited last year. Today we shop at the supermarket (including croissants at the bakery) and call at the campsite on the way out of town – not to camp but to enjoy their extensive buffet lunch, served all day in the restaurant overlooking the lake for €14.90 pp. There are salads, soup, three different meat and fish dishes, jelly & cream, cakes, biscuits, juices and coffee – and a herd of reindeer roaming through the camp for our entertainment.

INTO NORWAY

From Finnish Kilpisjarvi, it is downhill all the way, past the Norwegian Customs Post and on to the coast of Norway at Skibotn, the scenery growing more dramatic by the mile. The E8 follows an old trading route, along which goods were brought down to Skibotn Market on reindeer sleds in wintertime. The Germans built a cart track along the Norwegian section during WW2 but it was not sealed for traffic until much later.

ClickMagBazPictures of Camping at Skibotn

Cycling in North Troms
 
Along the E8 towards Tromso, we found a quiet little campsite at the foot of Ramfjord. We have a fantastic view of the fjord, bounded by steep wooded sides and snow-flecked mountains. Oystercatchers stand on the little jetty in front of our pitch and a dipper is splashing along the water's edge. Our fellow campers, from Latvia and Russia, catch huge fish; a Finnish girl is gathering shellfish on the tidal shore. The gents' shower is out of action but the sign says to use the Sauna (pronounced Sa-oo-na), helpfully adding that it is 'the red & white building'. All the site cabins are red & white! Asking the warden when the campsite closes, she answered 'When nobody comes'. This is our kind of place.
 
It proved a great base for cycling on virtually traffic-free roads, the weather warm enough for shorts. Our first ride (40 km) was round the south coast of Ramfjord to Andersdal, then inland to the end of the bitumen at Finnjord farm. The rolling coast road included one well-lit tunnel 600 metres long – unavoidable in Norway!
 
A longer cycle ride (52 km) started from Nordkjostboten, where we left the motorhome parked at the shopping centre at the junction of E6 and E8. We rode north on the old Tromso road alongside the fjord, wonderfully quiet as traffic now takes the E8 inland. After lunch at a roadside picnic table topped with a bicycle, we rode on past an occasional farm, scattered houses, a well-tended cemetery (no church) and a small lighthouse. Turning back at Laksvatn village, with a school but no shop or cafι, we enjoyed the magnificent scenery all over again. 

ClickMagBazPictures of Cycling from Ramfjord
 
ClickMagBazPictures of Camping at Ramfjord

The campsite at Tromso is the exact (should I say polar?) opposite to Ramfjord. It is highly organised, impersonal and ridiculously expensive, with motorhomes parked in regimented rows, each with a small patch of plastic grass. We stayed one night only, for the express purpose of cycling over the magnificent bridge into and around the centre of Tromso (12 km return).
 
The bridge starts by the Arctic Cathedral, where we didn't join a coachload of cruise-ship visitors paying 40 NOK to look inside the concrete pyramid built in 1965. Far more impressive (and useful) is the 1-km long, 125-ft high bridge soaring over to the island on which the bustling university and tourist city of Tromso stands. The bridge has a separate lane each side of the traffic: one for pedestrians and one for cyclists, much appreciated!

Once across, we rode the waterfront past the moored Hurtigruten, the Mack Brewery (world's northernmost), and along Old Toll Booth Quay built in the 1830s. Among the attractions, there is a Polar Museum, celebrating explorers like Amundsen, and the Polaria Centre, a modern complex with aquarium, films, exhibitions, etc.  We just enjoyed remembering the day, 26 years ago, when catching the Hurtigruten ferry here in Tromso marked the end of a 2,000-mile, 35-day summer cycle ride from England (through the newly reunited Germany, Poland, Finland and Sweden, with a side visit to Leningrad-as-was). 

ClickMagBazPictures of Tromso

In the Tourist Office, seeking information on the ferry to Senja island, I was amused to hear an American (straight off the cruise liner) ask the assistant: 'My wife wants to spend some money. Where do you recommend … for gifts and such?' Norway would have no difficulty obliging her there! 

Senja Island

Senja, Norway's second largest island, with a population of under 8,000, is a well-kept secret. The dramatic coastal mountain scenery easily compares with the Lofoten and Vesteralen islands, yet it is much less busy. The clichι 'undiscovered gem' really does fit.
 
The 37-mile drive from Tromso Camping to Brensholmen, for the boat to Botnhamn on Senja, is a slow and interesting journey. To avoid the busy bridge and the centre of Tromso, we go through a free and well-lit 3.5-km underwater tunnel, descending 100 m below the sea. Then rd 862 (alias 'Norwegian Cycle Route No 1') leads across Tromso island, past its airport and over the graceful Sandnes Bridge (again with a cycle lane). The narrow road winds its way southwest, climbing across Kvaloya island and round the coast to Hillesoy and the tiny jetty where we join a queue for the noon ferry. It is 11.45 am. Our motorhome is squeezed on board with inches to spare, saving a 5-hour wait for the next boat, this being Saturday with a sparser timetable. In fact, this ferry will stop running in a fortnight's time (on 4 Sept) for the winter. Our smooth crossing to Senja takes one beautiful hour, out on deck photographing the wonderful fjordscape.

ClickMagBazPictures of the Ferry to Senja Island 
 
Just 8 miles south of Botnhamn harbour, we settle on a small campsite at Stonnesbotn right by the water's edge. The fine weather of early August is giving way to cold winds from the Arctic north and the only other campers are a Finnish couple with car and tent who spend their time in the warmth of the camp kitchen.
 
When the sun returns we take the road from Stonnesbotn to Gryllefjord, designated a National Tourist Route (aka Cycle Route No 1), following the north and west coast of Senja island. It is remarkably quiet and indescribably beautiful. We lose count of the tunnels along the way, each with a red button for cyclists to press before entering, to trigger a flashing light that warns vehicles of a another victim ahead. Unsurprisingly, given the tunnels and the steep climbs, we see very few cyclists – just two, in fact.
 
At Ersfjord Strand we have the beach to ourselves for a walk on the pristine sands. At Tungeneset where we stop for lunch there is a boardwalk across the horizontal granite rocks and down to the open sea, below the jagged Okshornan Mountain range. I can't believe the quietness and beauty of this road, snaking its way around fjords, over hills and through mountainsides! A long tunnel between Steinfjord and Skaland is actually closed by roadworks, with traffic led through in a convoy at specified times (11-11.30 am and 2.30-4.30 pm only)! Arriving at 1.30 pm, we were very lucky to be allowed through early behind a school bus! In the tiny village of Skaland the store sold Danish pastries, still hot from the oven, as well as everything from mousetraps and mittens to milk and meat!
 
Next stop is Bergsbotn Viewpoint, with a platform giving a breath-taking 360° panorama of sea and mountains, on our way up to the next tunnel. Emerging at a height of 1,000 ft/300 m, the road then drops down a 12% incline to sea level at Saetra! Here we turn off to Gryllefjord, to see where a ferry crosses to Andenes on the Vesteralen islands, but that is not our route this year. On the way back to Saetra we take a look at the little Troll Theme Park (closed) and Cafι (open). Two Italian motorhomes are installed on its car park but we decide not to join them, as the ground is sloping and it starts to rain.
 
We drive on, skirting the Anderdalen National Park, to a camp on the south coast of Senja, again at the water's edge. To end this magical day, a perfect half-moon rises to shine from a clear night sky. Tomorrow we will leave the island, across the bridge from Silsand to Finnsnes on the mainland, and it will all seem like a fairytale.

ClickMagBazPictures of the Senja Island 
 
The Battle for Narvik, 1940
 
Norwegian TV has just shown a gripping German film covering events in Hitler's Berlin Bunker in April 1945, while we are about to be graphically reminded of events around Narvik in April/May 1940.
 
South from Finnsnes we join the E6 near Lapphaugen, where there is a memorial to the site of a battle on 14 April 1940, described as 'the first defeat of Nazi Germany'. The Germans coming north from Narvik were turned back here by a Norwegian Resistance Unit, fighting in a blizzard at over 1,000 ft, though their victory was short-lived and Norway was to remain under German occupation for the next 5 years.
 
Continuing down the E6 we see other memorials signed 'Narvik 1940', including those to French and Polish troops who fell in the bitter fighting for control of the port and its supply of iron ore from Swedish Kiruna. In Narvik itself there is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, as well as the excellent Red Cross War Memorial Museum which we've visited previously. Hundreds of soldiers, sailors and airmen died in the battle for Narvik and the German saturation bombing of the town.
 
Heading south from Narvik, we stop at a fjord-side rest area with more information on 'Narvik 1940' and a monument to the Polish brigade who fought in this area with Norwegian and Allied forces. By one of those rare chances, I am approached by the Reed family from the UK (Andy, Ellen and their adult children, Kerry and Liam) and am moved to tears when I hear that Andy's father, Wilf, was killed in action near Ballangen in May 1940. Wilf was a father Andy never knew, being a young child when the battle raged.
 
The family are in Norway for the very first time to visit Wilf's grave in Ballangen Cemetery, some 30 miles by road southwest of Narvik, and to lay a wreath of poppies given by the Royal Welsh Regiment. As Ballangen lies on our route south, we go along to pay our respects at the war graves standing in a corner of the village cemetery, and take some photographs of the wreath-laying to send to the Reeds. We've visited many military cemeteries throughout Europe and beyond but this is a unique experience for us. It was a privilege to meet this dignified family, sharing something of their deep feelings.
 
For our photographs of memorial sites around Narvik and at the Ballangen cemetery: 

ClickMagBazPictures of the Battle for Narvik


South Down the E6
 

The end of August is turning cold, wet and windy as we drive down Norway's magnificent highway, with winter at our heels. The E6 clings to the edge of the land, negotiating tunnels, long (follow that lead-car) and short (sometimes unlit). It even involves a 30-minute ferry crossing from Skarberget to Bognes, where the fjord is too wide to bridge and the terrain too steep for a road round! Waiting to board, we spot an Arctic Fox.
 
South of Bognes, I check in at Tysfjord Turistcenter (a motel with camping) and spot a polar bear and a young brown bear in the foyer (stuffed, of course)! The kind Receptionist from Lithuania obliges with the camera.

ClickMagBazPictures of Margaret and the Bears
 
Campsites in Norway (exchange rate approx 10 NOK=£1)
 
Olderelv Camping, Skibotn - 280 NOK, showers 10 NOK, good free WiFi throughout.

Click: M
agBazPictures of Skibotn

 
Ramfjord Camping, Sorbotn – 200 NOK, free showers, no internet. Lovely location on fjord.

ClickMagBazPictures of Ramfjord Camping

ClickMagBazPictures of Cycling from Ramfjord
 
Tromso Camping, Tromso – 360 NOK, free showers, good free WiFi throughout. Way overpriced and very busy with youth groups in cabins. One night only!
 
Fjordbotn Camping, Stonnesbotn, Senja – 270 NOK, free showers, intermittent free WiFi throughout. Lovely location on fjord.
 
Tranoybotn Camping, Nr Vangsvik, Senja – 250 NOK, showers 10 NOK, good free WiFi throughout. Another lovely location on a fjord.
 
Soloy Camping & Boat Hire, Lavangen – 250 NOK, showers 10 NOK, good free WiFi throughout. Base for sea angling, with boats and equipment to hire.
 
Haersletta Camping, Traeldal, Nr Narvik – 250 NOK (cash only), non-private showers 10 NOK, no internet. Overpriced.
 
Tysfjord Turistcenter (Motel & camping), Bognes – 200 NOK, free non-private showers, free WiFi. Good value (same price as 5 years ago!) Free use of laundry with washing and drying machine.
 
Stromhaug Camping, Straumen – 220 NOK, showers 10 NOK, good free WiFi.
 
SEPTEMBER 2016 - RETURN TO SWEDEN
 
Into Sweden on the Silver Road
 
Continuing down Norway's wintery E6, better weather is forecast in the shelter of Sweden's inland forest. On reaching the Saltdal National Park Centre, we turn east on rd 77 towards the Norwegian/Swedish border. Over the next 14 miles, the road climbs up the valley from 495 ft/150 m to 2,013 ft/610 m at a deserted Customs post. There are large rest areas on each side of the frontier (with a 48-hr parking limit, though who is to enforce it?) but it's bleak up on the tundra and we continue on rd 95, the 'Silver Road', over its highest point (2,442 ft/740 m) 4 miles later. Hi-viz yellow snow poles already mark both verges.
 
Northern Lights at the Arctic Circle
 
22 miles into Sweden, we cross the Arctic Circle and prepare to leave the Polar region, over 3 weeks after entering it at Jokkmokk. But what's this? Pausing to photograph the sign, a campsite behind the little shop/cafι beckons: Camp Polcirkeln by a cold lake shore! Mostly permanent caravans and cabins, whose owners come for winter sports and snowmobile trails, but there are a few spaces for tourers and a service building. With no phone signal, no Wifi and no TV channels, this is the perfect place for a quiet night. The nearest town of any kind is Arjeplog, over 60 miles southeast!

ClickMagBazPictures of the Silver Road and Arctic Circle
 
It goes beyond perfect – stepping out to look at the stars at about midnight, we witness the Aurora Borealis for the very first time, despite many visits to these far northern regions. The clear sky is filled with curtain waves of silent green light swirling round overhead. It feels quite spooky and I wonder what early inhabitants made of this phenomenon: a good or bad omen, perhaps the Norse God Odin showing his displeasure? Sami people believed it was a magic arctic fox swishing its tail across the sky. More prosaically, we now understand that it is simply charged particles from the sun, drawn in by the earth's magnetic field and interacting with oxygen molecules in the upper atmosphere. If it had been nitrogen molecules, the colour would have been red. It is still a very humbling and unsettling experience and such a lucky chance, being in the right place at the right time on a cloudless night.
 
Arjeplog
 
The Polar Circle here lies within Arjeplog Municipality, covering 18,000 sq km with 8,727 lakes and 3,700 km of flowing rivers (wonder who counted them?) Silver was mined on these fells towards the Norwegian border from 1634 until 1810.
 
We continue southeast along the Silver Road, following the Hornavan river system (with Sweden's deepest lake) for about 65 miles through pristine spruce forest to the compact little town of Arjeplog (pop 2,200). Sami lived in the area for thousands of years before Swedish settlers arrived in the second half of the 18th C, to live from hunting, fishing, farming and forestry. Today it is also a centre for testing cars and automotive components in sub-zero temperatures, which tells of winter conditions up here at around 1,500 ft/440 m.
 
Arjeplog proves a welcome haven, with a choice of shops (ICA or Coop), fuel, tourist office in the old residential school building and even a spacious campsite – with a check-in at the Silverhatten Hotel near the ski run, 3 km from the camping! I take a look in the lovely wooden church of Sofia Magdalena, where a group is gathering. A woman in traditional Swedish dress, silver buckles on her shoes, tells me they are come 'to name my grandchild'. This beautiful pale pink church overlooking the lake was founded in 1641, the year of the first Sami Winter Market (still held annually in March).
 
I do not take a look in the Silver Museum as it is about to close (at 2 pm on Saturday) and does not open Sunday, so I miss the exhibition of Sami silver and other artefacts collected by the respected local physician, writer and artist, Einar Wallqvist (died 1985 aged 90). The tourist office keeps similar hours, in order to avoid what might be a busy period!

ClickMagBazPictures of Arjeplog
 
Land of the Silver Birch 
 
The Silver Road continues through classic Swedish scenery – silver birch now blazing gold against a backdrop of evergreens, a few reindeer trotting by - until it meets the E45 Inland Road near the town of Arvidsjaur. As we drive I remember a favourite Girl Guide campfire song from Canada 'Land of the Silver Birch' and think how easily emigrants from Scandinavia fitted into Northern America and Canada. Think of Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegon and the statue of the unknown Norwegian!
 

Land of the silver birch

Home of the beaver

Where still the mighty moose

Wanders at will

 

Refrain:

Blue lake and rocky shore

I will return once more

Boom diddy-ah da, boom diddy-ah da, boom diddy-ah da, eaa-aaa-aaa

 

High on a rocky ledge

I'll build my wigwam

Close to the water's edge

Silent and still

 

Refrain

 

My heart grows sick for thee

Here in the lowlands

I will return to thee

Hills of the north


Telegraph Road
 
Barry's favourite wilderness song by Dire Straits describes exactly how remote settlements like Arvidsjaur developed:
 

A long time ago came a man on a track

Walking thirty miles with a sack on his back

And he put down his load where he thought it was the best

He made a home in the wilderness


He built a cabin and a winter store

And he ploughed up the ground by the cold lake shore

And the other travellers came walking down the track

And they never went further, and they never went back


Then came the churches, then came the schools

Then came the lawyers, and then came the rules

Then came the trains and the trucks with their loads

And the dirty old track was the telegraph road 


Then came the mines, then came the ore

Then there was the hard times, then there was a war  …

 
Arvidsjaur
 
A large town for these parts (about 5,000 people), 1000 km north of Sweden's capital and 100 km south of the Arctic Circle at Jokkmokk. There is some industry and a wide range of shops (ICA, Coop, $-Store, even one specialising in frozen reindeer and elk meat) but it's sad to find a beggar sitting at each entrance.  Situated on the Inland Road and Silver Road, this is also a transport hub, with branch lines from its station on the Inland Railway and a small airport.
 
The highly organised campsite is about a mile from the centre and I make good use of the laundry wash & dry, getting to know a Norwegian camper who spends one whole day ironing in there! Not a hobby of mine.
 
In search of chemical toilet fluid for some time, we find a caravan dealer/workshop behind the station which sells the stuff in blue sachets, so hope they are more effective than the green liquid bought earlier in Gallivare.
 
The best discovery in Arvidsjaur was definitely the weekday lunch buffet at the Laponia Hotel, overlooking the lake and a pleasant walk from camp. For 90 SEK each (about £8), we enjoyed soup, fruit juice, chicken, salmon, veg and salads, ice cream, coffee & biscuits. It is such a leisurely and civilised way to dine out, self-service, all you can eat, and no tips expected.   

Historic Sawmill near Glommerstrask
 
At Glommerstrask, 25 miles southeast of Arvidsjaur, we leave the Silver Road to continue on its way from the Norwegian border to the Swedish coast at Skelleftea. Driving south on rd 365 for Lycksele and Asele, we soon turn right at a Rest Area sign. The track leads to the site of an old sawmill, an ideal spot for lunch and a walk.
 
To my great surprise there is a play area with swings and slide, WC, a fireplace and shelter, and a wooden cabin complete with table, chairs and guest book. The local angling club welcomes visitors to camp, picnic or fish (with a licence) in this peaceful riverside spot hidden in the forest. The sawmill dating from 1877 was in use until the 1940s, the most modern mill of its time in Sweden. A waterwheel on the river drove the saw, as well as the cables that pulled the timber to the mill.
 
We walk over the river dam (now reinforced with concrete) and follow a path up to the wooden house that was home to the mill foreman from 1915. It is still furnished and used as a holiday cottage, without benefit of electricity or running water, though there is no shortage of water in the area – our SatNav map is splashed with blue, showing more water than land along our route, with many an untamed river flowing to the Gulf of Bothnia.

ClickMagBazPictures of the Sawmill
 
World's Longest Cable car
 
Continuing down rd 365 to Lycksele, we pass under the Norsjo aerial tramway (13.2 km long, between Ortrask and Menstrask) which went into service as a tourist attraction in 1989. It's a section of the longest ropeway conveyor in the world at 96 km, built in the 1940s to transport buckets of ore. Until 1987 it was used to move millions of tons of copper, lead, zinc, sulphur and gold. Now it carries summer tourists high above the forest, with 3 km over lakes and streams: a 2-hour ride with the option of lunch on board. Not for me!
 
The Vildmarksvagen or Wilderness Road
 
On 11 September (9/11 – a date of chilling memory still) we arrive at Vilhelmina, a historic forestry town lying on the E45 Inland Road and the Inland Railway. It's one of three settlements in the area named after Fredrika Dorotea Vilhelmina, the wife of Sweden's King Gustav IV. Continuing north past Vilhelmina's timber church (1792), we soon turn left on the Wilderness Road, also signed for Kolgardens Camping, a favourite of ours, about a mile along.
 
Here I catch up with laundry, feed five pretty Siskins round our door and listen to the hour-long episode of the Archers in which Helen is found not guilty! A full moon shines over the lake, making a ladder of silver across the water.
 
Next day we begin an anticlockwise circuit of the Wilderness Road, which will climb from 390 m/1,285 ft at Vilhelmina to 876 m/2,890 ft at the highest point on the Stekenjokk Plateau. The loop eventually rejoins the E45 after 370 km/230 miles at Stromsund. Confusingly the first section of road 360, heading north alongside the western shores of Malgomajsjon lake, is also signed as the Sagavagen (Saga Road) – an old trading route over the mountains to Norway, along which travellers told each other stories to pass the time (compare with the pilgrims' Canterbury Tales).
 
Malgovik, the next village 10 miles along, is the site of Sweden's lowest recorded temperature: an unbelievable minus 53° C in December 1941. Imagine all these thousands of streams and forest lakes frozen solid, blanketed in snow and reflecting what little light glimmers here in deep mid-winter! Opposite the school is a rest area with an honesty box suggesting €5 or 50 SEK for overnight parking. There is a promise of electric hook-ups and toilet/shower to be installed in 2017.
 
At Stalon (just a name on the map, 28 miles later) the Wilderness Rd turns west, leaving the Saga Rd. Snowpoles now mark the verges and we read that the upper section (from Klimpfjall to Leipikvattnet) is normally closed from mid-October to early June.
 
We climb gradually westwards under a sunny blue sky, pausing to see the pretty Litsjoforsen waterfall. A few miles later a bridge crosses the broad stepped Trappstegsforsen falls at 570 m/1,890 ft, with a large car park and cafι (closed – the season is over). We photograph the impressive rapids, then continue 4 miles to Saxnas, which has a shop, camping and fuel. Just after crossing latitude 65° N, the Sami summer church village of Fatmomakke is signed on the right but we don't attempt the uphill lane as it's 7 km of gravel.
 
The next event is Klimpfjall (at 566 m/1,870 ft) with the Hotel Klimpfjallsgarden, camping, shop and fuel – the start of the section that is only open in summer, as the road now starts to climb above the tree line (at about 790 m/2,600 ft) to Stekenjokk, where it turns south across the barren Stekenjokk Plateau.
 
Shortly before the top we have lunch in the first of a couple of rough parking areas at the roadside, where a few reindeer are grazing on the windswept tundra. The highest point of the plateau, 83 miles from our start, is signed at 876 m/2,890 ft and small patches of snow rest in the hollows.
 
Descending, we regain the tree line, through stubby birches to low fir trees below. We pass a left turn for another Sami church village with camping at Ankarede, which we ignore. Just over the next bridge, crossing a weir, there is a rest area where I read the information boards at the trailhead for hiking into the Bjuralven Nature Reserve. You can also walk 2.5 miles/4 km each way to the entrance to Sweden's longest limestone cavern, the Korallgrottar, only discovered behind a waterfall in 1985. Those who wish to spend a day crawling through 6 km of the cave system must book in advance with a guide.
 
Continuing south past Stor Blasjon (= big blue lake) to Jormvattnet, I spot a 'Fiskecamp' on the right, a lovely little fishing camp on the shore of the Lill Jorm lake. We share it with a single German camper and his husky dog, in a van labelled Arctic Traveller. There are boats and tackle for hire, as well as a separate kitchen for preparing the day's catch, complete with knives, freezer and smoking oven. Edging round the large stuffed brown bear in Reception, a man tells us the camp will be full next weekend as the elk and game bird hunting season starts. We only came armed with bicycles!

ClickMagBazPictures of Paddington and the Big Brown Bear
 
On the hottest September day on record in England, and pretty good here in Sweden, we take a 20-mile cycle ride through rolling forest and lakes towards Gaddede. We do indeed pass a young huntsman and his father, both carrying rifles with telescopic sights, and their two dogs. They tell us they are hunting Moose (the American name for the Swedish 'Elg' or English Elk). Guess they watch too many American films.

ClickMagBazPictures of Camping Jormvattnet and Cycling

Next day, driving south the Wilderness gives way to the town of Gaddede, almost on the Norwegian border, complete with shops and bus stops! After restocking at the ICA we continue along the Wilderness Road, past the turn for Hallingsafallet Waterfall gushing into Northern Europe's longest water-filled canyon. Sadly, there seems to be no place to park a motorhome for the walk.
 
However, at Alanas (40 km/25 miles before meeting E45 at Stromsund) there is a generous car park signed 'Alanas Skansen' and we stop to investigate. It is not the usual open-air museum of bygone rural life, but a WW2 redoubt.The ticket office for guided summer tours is now closed, but there is a plan and arrows leading round the remains of the hillside site, one of several fortifications which the Swedes hastily erected in May 1940 when Norway was invaded by the Germans. It is something of a scramble up the overgrown paths to see the dugouts, ammunition store and gun posts that stood here, guarding the road to Gaddede (and thence to Norway) with a barricade and soldiers' station.

ClickMagBazPictures of the Alanas Fortifications
 
Our Wilderness Road loop ends on meeting the busy Inland Road at Stromsund (exactly 100 miles from Jormvattnet Fiskecamp), where we turn south. To complete the circle, it would be 130 km/80 miles north up E45 to Vilhelmina, making the total 500 km/312 miles, though only about 30 miles across the Stekenjokk Plateau could be described as real Wilderness or Treeless Tundra! Nor is it true Highlands, the maximum height on the road being only 876 m, or below 3,000 ft. It is heavily promoted in Sweden and, while it does not compare with the Arctic wilderness in the far north of Norway and Finland, it does make a good route between Sweden and Norway, or a leisurely detour from the E45 if driving north-south in Sweden. For more information, see the Wilderness Road website, and a Map of the Wilderness Road.

ClickMagBazPictures of the Wilderness Road
 
Hammerdal – Camping Route 45
 
23 miles south of Stromsund on the E45 lies Hammerdal, a small town we've often driven through without stopping as we travel along the Inlandsvagen. To our surprise (Serendipity at work again) we find it has a delightful and spacious campsite tucked away in the forest, an easy 15-minute walk from the centre. And (unique in our experience of Sweden) it is now owned and run by a welcoming English family, who took over from the previous Dutch owners. Julie & James moved here last spring, together with their two children and James's parents.
 
It's wonderful to find a peaceful friendly site with good facilities, including free WiFi. It has a river-fed pool for summer swimming or winter skating, and ski tracks in the forest where elk are to be seen (no luck so far!) A real hidden gem.


In addition to spacious places for motorhomes, caravans and tents, there are over a dozen fully-equipped cabins for hire. In summer the Reception Cafe offers full English breakfasts, so we'll have to come back! I'm making good use of the well-equipped kitchen, a laundry with automatic washing machine, and the usual facilities with free hot showers. The River Fyran borders the site, ideal for fly-fishing or kayaking in search of beavers, and there is plenty of space and play equipment for children.
 
Now it's autumn and we are making the most of time and space to walk in the golden woods foraging for berries; to make delicious deep purple blueberry/lingenberry jam; to cycle in and around the town, with its lakeside church and school; to sample the lunch-of-the-day at the bus station cafι, lovingly cooked by its Turkish owner who came from Ankara over 30 years ago; and to shop at the only store/post office, which sometimes has so many free samples on offer that lunch is not needed!

ClickMagBazPictures in and around Hammerdal
 
It's especially good to talk with James & Julie, the first native English speakers we've met for months, and we are learning a lot about life in Sweden through their experiences. A highlight was the invitation to join their family picnic, lighting a fire and cooking lunch by a tumbling river in the Ammeran Nature Reserve.
 
Above all, we shall remember the day that Barry's laptop crashed. I asked James if he knew of a computer shop to look at it (assuming a trip to Ostersund would be needed); his reply was 'bring it over, I might be able to fix it' – and he did, the same day! What a range of skills are evidenced here, where he and Julie are restoring their on-site house, as well as the campsite cabins and infrastructure.
 
We planned to stay for a couple of nights but are still here after a couple of weeks! Highly recommended for short or long stay - for a holiday or for travellers breaking their journey on the E45.

ClickMagBazPictures of Hammerdal Camping
 
Do you have a Cat?

Leaving Hammerdal, after partaking of the delicious Swedish custom of Fika (coffee and pastries) with James & Julie, it was 40 miles down a very wet E45 to Ostersund. The giant ICA Maxi supermarket on the way into the centre was our first destination.
 

As I load my trolley with long-forgotten delicacies such as a roast chicken and croissants, I am offered a sample of fresh fruit juice by an eager young student (it's a University city). I have a nice chat with him before moving on to the fruit & veg counter, where grapes and bananas are freely available to taste (another nice Swedish custom). Then I meet a lass trying to give away samples of a new cat food. 'Sorry, I don't have a cat' I say (with genuine sorrow). 'A dog?' she asks. 'No' (no regrets there). Finally she tries 'Do you know anyone with a cat?' What a pleasure to shop there, finding such friendliness among the groceries and leaving with a smile.
 

OCTOBER 2016

A Touch of Frost

The new month begins at the large campsite by Lake Siljan, a few minutes' walk from the centre of Rattvik. After a clear starry night we awake to thick frost on the grass and an outside temperature of minus 5°C, while James reports minus 8°C to the north in Hammerdal. Time to leave Sweden!


Frosty mornings are now the norm and we wrap up to walk into the town, where Barry buys two warm winter shirts in blue plaid. For some reason they have a pocket badge with a beaver and the word Woodstock. Rattvik has a railway station, boat trips on Lake Siljan in the summer and a wide variety of shops. The lake reflects wonderful sunsets, as well as the lights of the town tumbling down a hillside to the waterfront. The price of lovely wooden houses is temptingly low in the estate agent's window and it's a beautiful town … but then we think of the winter months, and maintaining all that woodwork!
 

A Frosty Reception and a Game of Cards

Heading ever-south now, with many campsites already closed, I phone a Swedish Caravan Club site that lies just off our route, near Gusselby on Lake Rasvalen. The warden says that there is a notice listing vacant pitches at Reception and she will be there the next morning, emphasising that our Camping Key Europe card must be dropped in the letter box on arrival 'for insurance purposes'. When we do arrive, she is in the office waiting – and insists on keeping the CKE card until we leave.

Venturing into the campsite kitchen, I find a clique of members baking buns for a party in the TV room; a man is mixing them, assisted by a group of women. In silence they grudgingly clear the area around one stove and sink, then turn their backs on me and talk in whispers (quite unnecessarily, as my Swedish is limited to
 Takk, or thank you). Not a single word or smile passes their lips, let alone the offer of a bun! The clue is in the name – Caravan Club! Strangers not welcome.

Leaving next morning, I ask the warden (who must be summoned by telephone) if membership of any other clubs qualify for the 40 SEK Swedish CC member discount. I produce a range of membership cards (British Caravan Club, Camping & Caravan Club, ACSI, Camping Card International and of course the CKE!) She carefully compares each card with a picture poster, reminiscent of trying to change western money in an Iron Curtain country bank in the good old Soviet days. Success – the Camping Card International qualifies, though strangely not the CKE!

High Winds on the Kattegat
 
On to the campsite at Trollhatten just off the E45, the route to Sweden's second city, the port of Gothenburg, on the west coast. The plan was to take the Stena Line ferry that crosses the Kattegat in about 3.5 hours to Frederikshavn on Denmark's Jutland Peninsula.
 
On the way to Trollhatten the wind got up, cold and icy from the north, reaching gale force by the time we made camp! Next morning as we drove on south to Gothenburg, chased by a fierce tail wind, we decided on an overland route to Denmark!
 
Pizzas at Varberg
 
Varberg, on Sweden's west coast between Gothenburg and Malmo, has been a popular bathing resort and sanatorium since 1811. There are several campsites, though only one is open all year – Apelviken, situated about 2 miles south of the town centre, where we stayed for a week 5 years ago. The nearby Apelviken Sanatorium/Spa Hotel is a splendid set of buildings on the site of the original hospital for children suffering with TB and Scrofula, next to a sad little graveyard for those who didn't survive.

The vast grassy campsite, stretching to the sea shore where cool dudes surf, is highly managed with card-key entry to its excellent facilities. In summer, with children's entertainment programmes, a circus big top and evening karaoke, we would find it a nightmare. Now, almost empty and at ACSI discount rate, it's perfect.

The town is easy to explore on foot or by bicycle, though presently it's too windy for cycling! We walk out to the lighthouse, then on along the promenade beside the old railway line, built to carry stone from the quarries to be shipped out of Varberg. Much of Stockholm's architecture used this white stone, which is even found in India, Brazil and Africa.  Past the imposing 13th C moated fortress and into the town centre for mugs of hot chocolate. The main square, Torget, is quite lively with buskers and market stalls and the airy 18th C church is freely open. We shop at the large central ICA supermarket, for which the campsite issued a 5% discount voucher, and are given free samples of strawberries, watermelon, grapes, chocolate and juice!

The best bargain was at the campsite's own restaurant/pub/pizzeria. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (6-9 pm), all pizzas are a set price of SEK 99, eat-in or take-away. The camp reception gave us a SEK 50 voucher on arrival, for use on 'any meal' at the restaurant, and it was accepted towards one take-away pizza, big enough to share! When I returned to reception to extend our stay to 3 days, I was given another voucher. How could we refuse? With 41 varieties, freshly made and baked in a wood-fired oven, these were no ordinary specimens. We tried in turn the Isabella (chicken, mushrooms, sundried toms and rocket) and the Don Vito (mainly prawns). Delicious!

The Oresund Link to Denmark

(
to be continued)

Campsites in Sweden (exchange rate approx 11 SEK=£1)
 
Camp Polcirkeln, at the Arctic Circle on the Silver Road – 200 SEK, showers 5 SEK, hot water at wash-up 5 SEK. No WiFi (or phone or TV signal).
 
Camping Kraja, Arjeplog – 195 SEK, free showers. Good free WiFi throughout. Low season rate with check-in at Hotel Silverhatten, 3 km from campsite!
 
Camping Gielas, Arvidsjaur – 250 SEK, free showers. Good free WiFi throughout.
 
Ansia Resort, Lycksele – 240 SEK, free showers. Good free WiFi throughout. Excellent hotel-standard facilities.
 
Asele Camping, Asele – 200 SEK. Free WiFi at cafι/reception only. Rustic site with very basic shower by open-air pool.
 
Kolgardens Camping, Vilhelmina – 250 SEK, free showers. Good free WiFi throughout. A favourite site, with excellent facilities.
 
Jormvattnet Fiskecamp, on the Wilderness Rd – 200 SEK, free non-private showers in sauna. Good free WiFi throughout.

ClickMagBazPictures of Jormvattnet Camping
 
Route 45 Camping, Hammerdal – 220 SEK, free showers. Good free WiFi throughout. Friendly English owners, who live on-site.

ClickMagBazPictures of Hammerdal Camping

Traporten Restaurant & Camping, Borgso Lake, Nr Ange – 220 SEK, free showers, free WiFi in TV room and reception/restaurant only.
 
Ljusdal Camping, Ljusdal – 180 SEK (with ACSI Card discount), free showers, free WiFi throughout. Dutch owners..

Siljansbadets Camping, Rattvik – 240 SEK (250 SEK on lakeside), free showers, free 24-hr Telia WiFi card (one per day, for one machine only).

Annorlunda (Swedish Caravan Club site), Gusselby – 260 SEK (members 220 SEK: Camping Card International accepted for discount, but not the Camping Key Europe card), free WiFi (slow). Showers metered on pre-paid smart card (1 SEK per minute). Highly regimented unfriendly rule-bound site.
 
Otterbergets Camping, Hova - 160 SEK (with ACSI Card discount), free heated showers. Telia WiFi available at 100 SEK for a 7-day card (one machine only). Dutch owners.
 
Stenrosets Camping, Trollhattan – 215 SEK, free heated showers. Good free WiFi throughout site.
 
Apelvikens Camping, Varberg - €19 (ACSI Card discount rate) payable by bank card – not cash. Free heated showers. Good free WiFi at Reception, restaurant/bar, common room and on pitches near any of these. Excellent range of pizzas (eat-in or take-away) at special price on Mon, Tues & Wed evenings!
 
Motesplats Borstahusen (A greedy Holiday Village), Landskrona – 250 SEK + metered elec (at 2 SEK per kWh). Showers 5 SEK per 3 minutes. Free WiFi. Mostly statics, with touring area a long way from the kitchens etc. 

OVERLAND ACROSS DENMARK
 
The Oresund Link
 
The magnificent 16-km Oresund Link is a road and rail bridge/tunnel linking Sweden and Denmark, from Malmo to Copenhagen: a modern alternative to the short ferry ride across the Oresund Strait between Helsingborg and Helsingor. www.oresundsbron.com/en/start
 
The massive suspension bridge, a double-decker with trains beneath, is sometimes closed to high-sided vehicles in strong winds and we are surprised to find it open, with just a warning. We join the westbound E20 with the persistent high wind behind us. A fierce gust loosens a strip of rubber trim on the motorhome roof causing an alarming noise (later temporarily glued back in place by Barry, to be replaced at Dick Lane Garage when we reach Bradford). The toll booth is at the Swedish entrance to the bridge. By coincidence (?!) the charge for the Link is the same as for the ferry! Payable by card or cash (Swedish, Danish or Euro currency), our 7-metre motorhome costs €96, the change from €100 being given in Danish coins.

The 4-lane dual carriageway bridge is 8 km long, arching 60m/200 ft above the shipping lane before descending onto the man-made island of Peberholm, where the highway apparently disappears into the sea – a strange feeling as you drive towards infinity! After 4 km across the tiny artificial island, there is a well-lit 4-km submarine tunnel, which surfaces near Copenhagen's Kastrup airport on Dragor island! The whole breathtaking feat – Sweden's only road link with mainland Europe, except via Russia and St Petersburg – was completed in 1999. It was opened with a symbolic embrace, halfway across the new bridge, of Sweden's Crown Princess and Denmark's Crown Prince (ahh!)

After this novel way of crossing a border (underwater!), our onward journey is straightforward with no further tolls. A short bridge crosses to the large island of Zealand, where the E20 slides past all the exits for Copenhagen, very busy even on this Sunday morning. During a break on the first services, to investigate the roof noise, we note the international mix of vehicles: trucks from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Germany, Holland – even Britain.
 
Shortly before the next mighty bridge, to the island of Fyn (Funen,) we spend the night at Soro by a small lake, where the static campsite has a small area for tourers. Denmark is very different from the other three Scandinavian countries, feeling more like north Germany or the Netherlands – busy towns, flat land, coastal dunes. But there are cycle paths. 
 
The Great Belt (Store Baelt) Bridge
 
Heading west, a 14-km bridge spans the Great Belt, making it possible to drive overland from Sweden via Denmark to Germany. The toll (vehicles 6 to 9 metres long) is 365 DKK. On the first section we cross a graceful suspension bridge while the railway disappears into a submarine tunnel, emerging to join the road on a causeway across shallower water. I well remember a train journey from Esbjerg to Copenhagen one bitter February many years ago, when the train was put onto an icebreaker ferry across the Great Belt and the cold took my breath away after 5 seconds out on deck! 
 
Continuing west onE20 past Odense, a short (free) bridge crosses the Little Belt (Lille Baelt) from Middelfart to the Jutland peninsula, the Danish mainland. From Kolding we cross to Ribe on the west coast, Denmark's oldest town and unfriendliest campsite. Leaving the sullen lass in Reception to chew her gum (she thought the price might be about 360 DKK – or £45!), we drive south to Tonder, just short of the German border.  
 
Tonder 
 
The municipal campsite/youth hostel/motorhome park is a 10-minute walk from the centre of this quaint old town. The ACSI Card book lists the campsite at €19 but the motorhome area costs less - the equivalent of €15 including electric hook-up, good free WiFi, access to all facilities and free swimming sessions at the adjacent sports centre!
 
We enjoy a break here, catching up with correspondence and laundry and booking the Hook of Holland-Harwich ferry for a few days hence.
 
Tonder was a 15th C trading centre and we walk into its old centre on the river, with a variety of historic houses and a huge church which is freely open. Inside it is heavy with elaborate woodcarvings to the pulpit, altar and organ.
 
Campsites in Denmark (exchange rate approx 8 DKK=£1)
 
Soro Camping, Soro – 160 DKK inc elec, plus showers payable by smartcard. WiFi 25 DKK for 24 hrs (or free in common room)
 
Tonder Camping, Tonder – 110 DKK inc elec, free showers, free WiFi throughout
 
INTO GERMANY
 
Danish/German Border Control
 
Just 5 miles south of Tonder we cross into Germany, previously only evident from the queue of Danes at the next petrol station and supermarket (prices being lower in the Fatherland). This morning, however, the police are out in force on both sides of the border, with cars and officers where once there was barely a sign.
 
Border control zones are long gone within the EU – even at the former Iron Curtain frontier – but the Polizei are stopping trucks and pulling vehicles over into a layby causing some delay. We have to show our passports and explain where we have been. With the fear of terrorists (not to mention Brexit – please don't), the times they are a-changing.
 
Ferry across the Elbe
 
A neat way to avoid the motorway congestion around Hamburg and its tunnel under the Elbe is to turn off A23 at exit 12 and take a short ferry ride across the river, from Gluckstadt to Wischhafen: see www.elbfaehre.de. No need to book – just queue! It runs approximately every half hour, taking 25 minutes. We turn up after lunch and wait about 20 minutes for the 3.50 pm ferry, costing €17.50 (vehicle over 6 metres). It is fascinating to watch the shipping on its way to-from Hamburg: Europe's 2nd largest port, yet 40 miles inland!
 
There is also a longer (90-minute) Elbe ferry crossing further downstream, between Cuxhaven and Brunsbuettel: see www.elb-link.de.
 
Campsite at Rainbow's End
 
The Elbe divides Schleswig-Holstein from Niedersachsen and so we drive on past the farms, tractors and thatched houses of Lower Saxony in the cold rain. Pleased to find a campsite open at the spa town of Bad Bederska (the Regenbogen or Rainbow), I am even more pleased to find its restaurant open. There is a self-service salad bar, followed by tender pork medallions smothered in cheese & mushroom sauce for me, chicken breast with herb butter for Barry, both with far too many chips. Delicious – small wonder that Germans are big people!
 
Regenbogen Holiday Park, Bad Bederska - €17 (with ACSI Card) + €4 tax, free heated showers, free WiFi throughout.
 
GERMANY TO THE NETHERLANDS
 
Through Underwater Tunnels
 
Driving west towards Holland another two major German rivers are crossed near their North Sea estuaries. First the Weser, where the short toll-free Weser Tunnel avoids the motorway system round Bremen; then the Ems, again with a short free tunnel. And so into the Netherlands, past the university city of Groningen and on to Sneek (or Snits in the local Frisian language) for a night by the yacht marina.
 
Over the Afsluitdijk 
 
The next morning we cross the wet and windy Afsluitdijk (meaning 'Closure dike'), completed 1932: an impressive piece of engineering. Built across the former Zuiderzee, the dam separates the IJsselmeer (now a huge shallow freshwater lake) from both the Waddenzee and the North Sea. The dike lies about 25 feet (8 m) above sea level and is 19 miles (31 km) long, linking the provinces of Noord-Holland and Friesland. The dam was constructed of boulder clay backed by sand and is faced with stone to just below water level, on a base of boulders resting on mats of willow. There is a 4-lane dual carriageway, with a separate bicycle path along the top of the dam; locks provide passage for barges and small seagoing craft. 

Large parts of the lake's total area of 1,328 square miles (3440 square km) have been reclaimed by constructing encircling dikes and pumping the water out. As a result, the land area of The Netherlands has been increased by 626 square miles (1,620 square km) of fertile polders. Statistics aside, crossing it makes a splendid cycle ride or drive with breath-taking views, twixt ocean and lake.
 
Driving south on the seaward side, 6 miles along there is a bridge to the lakeside picnic area and service station, where we pause to read the information boards. I remember we two windblown cyclists once sheltering here over coffee. The creation of the lake has seriously affected the habitat, with a loss of diversity in the bird, fish, plant and animal life. Regulated by sluices, the formerly brackish water of the Zuidersee has been replaced by fresh water, partly by inflow from the IJssel River, a branch of the Rhine. The original fishing for herring, anchovies and flounder has been replaced by freshwater fisheries, chiefly for eels. In spring the eel larvae, born in the Sargasso Sea (a large tract of relatively still water in the North Atlantic Ocean), enter the lake through the locks. Most of the seals that once lived in the Zuiderzee now inhabit the Wadden Islands.

Continuing along the dike for a further 7 miles, there is more parking on both sides of the highway, with a lookout tower and cafe on the lakeside. Regaining the mainland 3 miles later, we continue south to Alkmaar through the polders of Noord Holland, flat and green as a billiard table: Quintessential Netherland, with traditional thatched farmhouses and windmills as well as modern wind farms, and acres of market garden with glasshouses. Grey heron, cormorant, swans, ducks and geese feed by the canals; everyone, old or young, rides a bicycle along the safe Fietspads.

Suddenly the scene changes! Joining the A9, we then crawled round the 8-lane Amsterdam Ring Road for 6 slow miles until we reached the busy A4 - the motorway linking Amsterdam with the country's capital at The Hague. After passing Schiphol Airport, A4 actually tunnels under its runways!

Leaving A4 for the coast at Nordwijk aan Zee, we turn south to Katwijk aan Zee, both busy holiday resorts that are too near Amsterdam and the Hague to be peaceful, even in late October. At a large highly automated campsite we are allocated a mean and awkward pitch for our last night in Holland.

A Nice Surprise at the Hook of Holland
 
30 miles later we reach the Hook of Holland, a tight little town where parking a motorhome is virtually impossible. Giving up on Lidl, Barry manages to stop outside Aldi while I buy a couple of Dutch delicacies: gingerbread cookies and marzipan cakes.
 
At the Stena ferry terminal we are waved straight through at check-in for the 2.15 pm crossing on 'Stena Hollandica' to Harwich, with the words 'You have been given a Comfort Cabin that includes the contents of the minibar'!! This is a free upgrade from the daytime 2-berth cabin we booked through the Camping & Caravanning Club. The spacious outside cabin has free nuts, crisps, chocolates, a kettle with tea & coffee, and a fridge with a small supply of juice, water, wine, beer and soft drinks! And a TV and en-suite, of course.
 
The two Stena ships covering the Harwich-Hook route claim to be the world's largest passenger ferries, with a choice of daytime or overnight crossings, and they really are stable. We enjoy a meal of chicken curry followed by Dutch apple pie (what else?) before arriving promptly in Harwich at 7.45 pm (UK time). I am reluctant to leave the cabin!
 
Campsites in the Netherlands 
 
Camping De Domp, Sneek Yacht Marina - €17 (with ACSI Card) + €2 tax, free heated showers, free WiFi throughout.
 
Noordduinen Vakantiepark (North Dunes Holiday Park), Katwijk aan Zee - €19 (with ACSI Card) + €1.70 tax, free heated showers, free WiFi throughout.
 
ENGLAND
 
Journey's End at Strangers Home
 
As usual we head for the Strangers Home pub/campsite in the village of Bradfield, 9 miles from the port. The camping field has acquired a barrier since our last visit (trouble with 'travellers' who wouldn't leave) and the inn is very quiet, with just a few local lads playing pool in the bar. We tune in to British TV and radio, phone a friend and try to readjust to our native land and its congested roads.