No curve was too sharp for them and their bicycle. No puddle was deep enough to stop them. -- Friends by Helme Hein

12 September, 2011

Sunny Sweden (and cloudy Copenhagen)

 Our arrival into Copenhagen on the first of July was less than welcoming.  A bad flight, a dodgy hotel and rainy weather greeted us.  We intended to look for an apartment in the two weeks time we had before traveling further west to Oregon, but by the time we arrived, our apartment was already found for us.  Good thing we liked it, but we still had two homeless weeks to kill.
We were struck with huge sticker shock when we arrived--$6 for a Coke or cup of coffee?  $40 for a 'cheap' meal for 2?!  It was harsh even for us coming from Tokyo, one of the world's most expensive cities.  We tried to remain optimistic while wandering around like tourists in our new home.  A new friend from the school met up with us and helped us get our bearings of the downtown area.  We watched the changing of the guard, a sort of non-event I'm sure is done just for the sake of the hoards of tourists coming off the cruise ships.

We wandered through beautiful parks and cemeteries, like this one close to our new home.  Europe does tree lined alleys very well.  It's one of my favorite features.  I love that probably 100 years ago, someone thought, "I'd love to plant a row of trees for people in the future to enjoy walking through."  That person probably never got to enjoy it's splendor.

And then the storm struck.  Around 9:00 on our second night in town, the rain came.  And came.  And came.  For hours it rained harder than we've ever seen.  We thought maybe this was a normal thing for a summer storm in Scandinavia, but we soon learned that this was a big deal even for Denmark.  
This is the lobby in our dirty "Comfort Hotel."  The rain came through the windows and doors and short circuited the electrical systems.  The fire alarms went off at midnight and 4 a.m., and bleary eyed travelers filled the hallways wondering if they needed to evacuate.  An ear-piercing alarm capable of doing damage to young ears is not what you want for your jet-lagged sleeping baby in the middle of the night.  

Turns out, that storm was the biggest Copenhagen had seen in 30 years (and some claim it was a 1-in-1000 years storm!).  The next morning the train systems were shut down and flooded, power was out all over the city, and everywhere, people in Copenhagen were waking up to find their basement storage flooded as high as 1.5 meters.  Most of these old buildings in Copenhagen have a level that is half way below the street and many businesses had lots of water damage.  The city just couldn't handle the amount of water that fell that night.  The storm is still being talked about today and building superintendents are still cleaning out basements.

We were definitely beginning to wonder if bad luck and natural disasters followed us and we were tired of wandering homeless around a very expensive city and paying top dollar for dodgy hotels.  So, we bought a few rail passes and hightailed it for the land of milk and honey (and at least a better exchange rate): Sweden.  

sweet little porch in Malmø
Our first stop was Malmø, a pleasant little town, just across the Øresund bridge from Copenhagen.  It's just a 20 minute train ride to nice beaches, quieter streets and slightly cheaper prices.  With hotels and inns still expensive, we turned to AirBnB to rent a gorgeous flat from Josefin and Daniel.  We stayed there 6 nights at a fraction of the price of a regular hotel and we had the whole place to ourselves, with a kitchen to cook in!  It was dreamy.
love these old style Kronan bikes
We would definitely go back to Malmø again.  It's quaint, but lively, with cool architecture and beautiful parks.

 After Malmø, the train took us north through spectacular lakes and forests.  We had hoped to travel the whole length of Sweden and even make it to Finland, but we underestimated just how vast this country is (probably the equivalent of traveling to the south of Italy by train from Denmark).  Woody was a champ on the trains, sleeping pretty much every time the train moved forward.
We stayed a few nights in a rented "cabin" in the town of Jönköping on the edge of Lake Vättern.  The cabin wasn't much more than a room with bunk beds, but we were happy to be out of the city.

In our next stop, Rättvik, Woody showed us his new tricks!  We stayed in these cute little cabins by Lake Siljan for a few days, eating lax and drinking low-alcohol beer from the grocery store (you can only buy the full strength stuff from a liquor store in Sweden.) 

We rented bikes one day and road up into the hills and found these sweet little cabins with grass roofs!

Also in Rattvik, we stayed in Stiftsgården and enjoyed one of the best breakfast smörgåsbord ever.

The hotel had it's own private dock and beach on the lake and the sun came out, if only for a short while.  

chapel at Stiftsgården
Woody is a good partner to have when playing petanque.  

Beautiful flowers and paths along Lake Siljan.  We saw deer, elk, and lots of rabbits. 

At one point our train met a problem on the tracks and we had to go backwards to the next station to catch a bus instead.  No matter, because wherever we went in Sweden, we were greeted with picturesque scenery and perfect little cottages waving Swedish flags.  Sweden is as beautiful as we imagined and next time we hope to encounter some (pleasant) drunken moose while riding our bikes.

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