Sweden (12): Deep in the middle of something is unlike a central position

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I stare at the map on the little screen of my smartphone. Looks like there are quite some lakes around the Müritz… Everybody tells me that the region North / West of Berlin must be oh so beautiful, but they did not warn me of the variety of lakes, rivers, more lakes and hundreds of camp sites.

Simplifying life, I let loose and follow the recommendation of friends. On my way to the Labussee, I see that the villages around offer a restaurant here and a supermarket there and decide to go back later in the afternoon. Seven kilometres later with incredibly bumpy roads culminating into the dirtiest dirt road since 3.000 km, one fact is clear: I will only shoo Hector on that route again when we leave the place for good.

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Hector deep in the middle of the forest

Before the check-in is through I count five new mosquito bites. Now great, why did I substitute a wide beach by endless forests with my bike being flat and my ankle slightly damaged?! It takes a while to catch up with the frightening things (nature! mosquitos!) that turn out to be the charming elements of this place: nature, a whole lot of nature. With casual people, low sounds of paddling kayaks and chugging house boats, topped by a welcoming camping crew that supplies me with chips and wine.

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Ois easy at the Labussee

On second glance, the Biber Tours camping is a nice spot to calm down. Even when the pontoon bar opens the relaxed atmosphere remains. I spend lazy hours in and around the Labussee until it is finally time to leave and head back to Munich.

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Back home my holidays end in perfect harmony with the last weeks’ experience: darling of fortune that I am, I am spoiled with best of both worlds. I am free to travel on my own and never felt lonely. Upon arrival, I receive a warm welcome by my house-sitting friend and the trip fades out with some wonderful summer days in the most beautiful of cities. Isn’t life fantastic?!

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Sweden (11): This Looks Familiar

Three weeks have passed since my stopover in Warnemünde. Blue skies with bright sun draw me back to the sea, thus it is time for a second halt around Rostock.

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I stroll through the streets of Warnemünde with houses that look like Disney’s pastry cook creations and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.

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Warnemünde, downtown

An hour later I have my feet in the sand and exercise my starring-at-the-sea-hobby. When the cold wind beats the warming sun rays, I change to the beach bar and think about how wonderful life is, especially when being on holiday.

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Imagine Life with more Beach Bars

Tomorrow I will leave the sea behind and look for a welcoming camp site around the Müritz. By now it is time to face the end of the journey: from here, all roads will take me back south, but before that I take a deep breath of salty air and let holiday feeling take over again.

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The evening fades out in friendly company, showing once more that travelling on my own does not mean keeping to myself all the time. The more I travel alone, the more I get into exchange with all kinds of people – that, beside landscape and food, is what travelling the world is about.

 

Sweden (10): The Great Encounter

There is no bed like Hector’s bed. Even though the ferry cabin is comfortable, I wake up at 5:10 am. The glimpse out of my window tells me to take the camera and run.

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With nothing but water around, the sunrise is the most colorful start into the day. The hardest part is to keep the camera still while my body is shaken by strong wind. There is less than a handful of people on the open deck, probably due to the coffee serving starting too little too late. With the stormy wind, the other theory is that some of the early birds have been blown over the rail – you never can tell. When 90 minutes later I stand in line among dozens of impatient travellers, I have to revise the second theory: still masses of people are on board, all waiting for the restaurant doors to open.

Most of the buffet is worth the effort of pushing greedy pensioners and starving kids out of the way. The only mystery is the consistency and the chemical formula of the so-called scrambled eggs, made out of anything else but eggs.

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Kiel in Sight

At 9:10 AM the ferry lands in the Kiel harbour and I hurry down to Hector. I jump behind the wheel just in time to leave the sea and get back on solid ground.

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Landing

First I go straight to the camper parking in Kiel Wik and Hector settles down on the last available parking slot with view on the canal. Only inches away from the windscreen huge freight ships pass by the Watergate of the Nord-Ostsee-Kanal – and that is not even the biggest highlight of the day.

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Here begins the canal between Baltic Sea and North Sea

I spend the early afternoon in the city of Kiel with increasing tension. Only hours from now I will meet a lady that will show up in a cute dress and long dark hair, talking about trips across Europe that are twice as cool as mine.

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Kiellinie, Waiting

While I sit in the sun, the eyes half in my book and half on the Kieler Förde, a green bicycle comes to a halt in front of me and there she is: legendary Svenja. Seconds later we have a glass of Prosecco in our hands and start with what seems to be an everlasting conversation about life, travelling, motorbikes, camping, food, wine, culture, friends and whatever else makes the world go round.

 

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The Great Encounter

It feels like only a few minutes have passed when Hector proudly presents his inner and outer qualities and we finally have to part. So much is still there to be discussed and talked through, but we both know that travelling is about moving and so we say farewell. It only is a matter of time until Svenja + Greeny may cross our paths again.

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Kiel: Keep on moving…

 

Sweden (9): Marstrand, Continued

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Morning Hours at Marstrand

Marstrand is a nice part of the Gothenburg region and I decide to stay one more night. However, having just passed 2 service-free nights and with 3 more yet to come, I change to the ordinary camp site for my last night in Sweden. Beside the bathroom and waste water, I also invest entire two minutes in the cleaning of the living room floor, put fresh blankets on the bed and whatever it takes to make Hector sparkle and shine.

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The result is great: I could start right away for further three weeks or months. I take a breath and dream of endless travelling, all calm and relaxed, all cosy inside Hector and all comforted with people I meet along the way and sunny weather and great food and… wait: here and now I am in Sweden and I do have sunny weather, so I stop the dreaming and continue the living.

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Marstrand Camping

The camp site, like almost all of them among Sweden, is okay and that’s it already. Later I promenade down to the heart of Marstrand’s village, get some liquorice at the local supermarket and find a wind-shielded bench in the sun with view on the harbour. My only concern is the risk of catching a sunburn, but I prefer sunscreen over rain and am able to deal with the conditions.

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Traveller’s Hard Life

The next morning is cold but sunny and my jogging route takes me out to the nature reserve of the skerries. A lot of the distance is deep within nature with rocks, high reed and hardly visible paths. Thanks to the jogging routine that sneaked in during holidays I see a lot of my surrounding and appreciate the different landscapes.

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Rough and Beautiful

This evening I have to catch the ferry from Gothenburg to Kiel and, aiming not to miss it, I decide to pass the day with easy hobbies. I take my skateboard and get started, definitely out of habit on the first meters. Little by little the moves develop and with sun on my skin and wind in my hair I stroll direction downtown. Before I realize what happens I drop in the local kayak rental and sit inside a bright yellow boat.

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I never would have guessed that the North Sea can shimmer in all those shades of blue. I paddle through the Skagerrad and pass by tiny red houses with greeting inhabitants, a sailor café and rough stones in azure water. Whenever a yacht passes by, my boat dances on the waves and I enjoy one of the most wonderful hours of the entire Sweden trip.

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When taking the kayak back to the rental shop I pay 80 SEK and with a wide grin I jump happily on my skateboard and get back to Hector. The jogging-hiking-camping-kayak-skateboard-chick is back, yeah! Not even the road charge controls at Gothenburg’s city highway (nor the expected tickets) inflict my euphoria. In the late afternoon, Hector stops in front of the Stena Line ferry that will swallow us up for the night.

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Sure enough Hector snatches the pole position while I go upstairs to a cabin that is almost as huge as Hector’s inside.

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My own, private, all-mine bath room has to wait. First things first, I think, and minutes later I discover the open deck of the ship. Compared to the Rostock-Trölleborg ferry this is larger and contains several restaurants and bars, one even at the open deck. I invest my last Swedish Kronor in a beer and wonder how much this day has in store for me.

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My Ship!

The nature path in the skerries, the beautiful kayak trip, a bit of skateboarding and now I look down at Gothenburg and watch out for ice bears.

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Sure, it would be possible without Hector. But not the same.

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Leaving Sweden

Along with the sunset we coast into the ocean. Tomorrow morning Kiel will welcome me and there still is a lot more that I look forward to.

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Sweden (8): Island Hopping

The morning has started wonderfully with jogging and sunrise on Malö, not knowing yet that this will be the last of the really-beautiful-pitches oft this trip.

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It is Monday morning, 9:30 am when Hector looks out for legal parkings in Hällevikstrand on the isle of Orust. It is there that we start learning about parking restrictions and rules-above-reason attitudes. Hällevikstrand in the Skagerrak of the North Sea has nothing to do with Hällevik at the Baltic Sea, both being nice small harbour villages. Hällevikstrand contains one museum (closed) and one café (closed on Mondays) and nice houses and a nice harbour.

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Hällevikstrand

Next stop is Mollösund, recommended by my travel books. Indeed it is more touristic in here: a café (currently closed), a restaurant (opening only in the evening) and a small supermarket (closed, ignoring the opening hours presented outside).

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Mollösund

The islands close to Gothenburg may be beautiful, but they are sort of closed up. Without a summer residence and friends among your neighbours, you are not welcome and there is nothing to do and no place to go. The latter being true also for the huge parking with about 70 pitches. With 2 small cars + 1 small Hector, it is far from being crowded. But, oh, I ignored some of the signs that seem to indicate (in Swedish) that even automobiles that fit into the parking slots must not use them unless classified as “Klass I”. For whatever that means. Anyway, the pensioner and his Swedish verboseness is no fan of our journey and is not willing to stop his tirades until I turn the engine and start to move. I would have made a wheely while Hector, being more decent, only honks the horn and off we go.

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Rescue for Hungry Travellers

Thanks to the fantastic kitchen of Café Borgen with its friendly chef, this episode will not impact today’s mood seriously. Whenever you are between Orust and Tjörn, make sure that you drop in here for breakfast, Lunch or any other meal – you will not be disappointed.

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Café Borgen – between Orust and Tjörn

Next island I try is Tjörn with a camp site close to Skärhamn. Despite the mid class sanitary facilities and neatly cut meadows, it does not feel appealing. The access to the sea is adventurous, the distance to the small village of Skärhamn is 2 km and my folded bicycle is out of order (flat rear tyre, reserve tyres do not hop-on automatically and my toolbox misses the one crucial wrench that might do it when put in professional hands). In fact, this part of Sweden is too little too strange and I decide to go for one last try and then (if required) skip the sea and turn inland.

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Finally, after six hours of driving and some loop ways around Kungälv, Hector finds a camper parking at Marstrand. Gravel, the back side of some industrial building and reclusive van neighbours are one facet, the other one is the free view out on the skerries while on the peninsula in front of Hector graze wild sheep.

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Funny Architecture

Marstrand with its islands Koön and Klȧverön is more vivid than the places I have seen on Orust or Tjörn. It must have been important once, proved by the Carlsten Fortress and the imposing houses around.

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Today is the first (and only) day of the entire Sweden tour that I feel exhausted. Usually I like strolling around and find unforeseen beauty on my way, but sometimes the search for a sleeping place takes its told. It is more by routine than by enthusiasm that I take some pictures of the fortress until I settle down for dinner in the sole open restaurant in town. Food & sleep fixes everything!

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Finally Relaxed in Marstrand

Electricity and sanitary facilities would have been nice for the night, but I rather go for a simple parking with an agile town and a view than for a soulless camp site. And, lucky me, Hector agrees.

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Sweden (7): Ancient Art

It is time to move on. The Fjällbacka Camping is probably the only spot in Sweden where you can not pay by card, but I am well prepared and do not even ask why two out of three days come with a bargain.

Hector takes the road along the coast line direction Tanumshede and in the late morning we arrive at Vitlycke. We find free parking (even overnight, if desired) and the presentation of ancient rock carvings.

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Rock Carvings around Tanum

Right upon our arrival, an English guided tour starts (once more: for free) and for the next 30 minutes we learn about the technique, the possible meanings and further vivid scenes around the artful relict.

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After applause for the guided information, I stroll around and see burial mounds from any time BC plus further rocks with their carvings. It is incredible that the bronze culture continued the art of carving over a period of about 1.200 years, then probably performed by several generations of artists.

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While I am still fascinated by the figures, Hector ignores my rhapsodies and turns South.

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Kville

Apart from a stop at the beautiful church of Kville we have no plans for the night and barnstorm across the peninsula of Bokenäs. At it’s very end lies Grundsund with a neat little harbour and – nothing else. A closed hotel / restaurant, private houses, nice atmosphere. Shall we stay here for the night?

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Grundsund

Although not bad it does not feel like our home-for-the-night, thus we are back on the road. A few kilometres and a minute-maid ferry (for free) later we arrive at Malö, an island so small that it is hardly visible on our map. Five driving minutes after the ferry has landed we reach a small camp site, cut in two by the island’s sole asphalt road. One side is for caravans and offers electricity, two toilets & showers while the other side is just a meadow that leads to the sea.

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Sure enough we know which side is ours.

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The Next Morning…

Since long (ever!), Hector and I share a common hobby: stare at the sea and observe how waves or light alter the entire surrounding.

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Living is Easy on Malö

Finding a jogging route that comprises more than just a few hundred meters is not easy, but the more gravel roads you try left and right, the more you learn about the size of private properties and harbour villages.

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Sweden (6): Going North to Fjällbacka

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During the travel day the landscape has changed significantly. The skerries with granite rocks are rougher compared to the south and the sea is not yet, but almost fjord-like and requires monumental bridges.

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Fjällbacka

I have read a lot about Fjällbacka, including dead bodies, dangerous family affairs and brave Swedish cops that fight for the good. No wonder that they offer guided tours based on the murder mysteries by Camilla Läckberg, all located here in Fjällbacka. With a bit of disappointment I look around but these days it is all peaceful and the highest crimes are badly dressed tourists.

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It Wasn’t Me

The city is not spectacular, but it has a rough charm with the red stilt houses at the harbour, the rocks and the skerry islands.

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I am fascinated by the view from the cliff “Vetteberget”and the mixed up weather increases the dramatic atmosphere among the skerry archipels.

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The town is small enough to offer some items in a unique, island position way: the church, the camp site and the WiFi zone. The latter is available in the lobby of Hotel Brygga, furnished like a gentleman’s club from previous century.

Even better is fish + wine at the “Åckes” bar, only topped by the overwhelming “Kanelbullar” of the local bakery (close to the harbour). Wherever you turn to, the sea is always in reach and comes along with umpteen harbours or landing places, surrounded by shimmering blue water.

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Lazy days pass by with a walk to the ravine that had been used for the movie “Ronja Räubertochter”. Usually I am almost magic on how to get obstacles out of the way, but this time I drop it as I do not want to pulverize the tourist potential of this nice little town.

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Kungsklyftan

The high season is already gone, but each weekend all wealthy Gothenburg people arrive at their summer resort or their resident trailor at the Fjällbacka Camping. The camping here is a funny thing: at least three signs along the road indicate that all places are full, but when you arrive and ask, you will be offered a pitch on the large meadow among tents and all kinds of travellers. It is like Munich restaurants that put “reserved” tags on all tables, even though not a single customer has asked for a table yet.

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Sure Enough the Landing Places are all Reserved for Summer Resort Owners

Personal recommendation: stay relaxed and look out for calm spots – in August you will surely find them.

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The Density of People is the Opposite of France or Italy

Sweden (5): From the Outback back to Civilization

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I wake up and feel great: my first night out in the middle of nowhere, all on my own and sure enough it was no problem at all. Nevertheless, I am proud: you have to get over your weaker self from time to time and prove that you are still young, still hungry, still alive.

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Endless Forests in Southern Sweden

The lake lies there, all deserted. Not even an elk has come by, although I starred at the trees for at least fifteen minutes. After double coffee I give up and leave my private all-mine-camp site. We have things to do and places to go.

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Bosjökloster

Today I will meet friends with family at the Ringsjö lake. On the way I stop by and take a look at the castle Bosjökloster with parks and exhibitions. The photography exhibition presents fantastic pictures of Sweden’s fauna while the rest consists of a broad collection of the owner’s family oil paintings, old nun clothing and probably some handicraft/art (impossible to tell). It is a nice interruption of my travel routine and I enjoy coffee in the park’s café.

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You get used to Swedish Coffee. Time after Time

Around noon I arrive at the Ringsjöstrand camping. Although I savor the fantastic showers, it is a distinct contrast to the previous night. I choose 2 pitches in front of the lake, take a bath and take care of Hector’s energy / water / toilet equipment and wait for the rest of the gang.

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In the evening I meet a friend and her entire family and we share a diverting evening together.

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The next day we part. The high-five-family moves Eastern while I head off to Northern regions. After loosing an hour in Falkenberg (un-inviting parking pitch, over-regulated square camping) I continue until I find a wonderful parking at the beach of Frillesås. For 100,- SEK per night Hector is invited to stare at the sea for endless hours.

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Vanlife

I end up with pretty nice campers from the mobile next door with wine, wind and a wonderful sunset. Despite the wine I am up for jogging early the next morning with a bath in the fresh sea substituting the shower.

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Once more I spent the night without service and I slightly remark the tendency to escape the regular peer group of super-organized camp sites. The off-service parking pitches are much more relaxed and most of the time they offer much better views than hedge fenced campings could ever do.

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P.S.: The wild camping experience was great. I have to admit that I slept a bit more restive than I usually do, but it was okay and I would do it all over again. The Swedish “Allemansrätt” should be extended worldwide!

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Sweden (4): Found

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One of the few things I had planned for my Sweden holiday was: stay at least one night in pure nature, just wild and free. Now, after the Hällevik Jazz Festival with music and dancing and all the fun, I feel the need for some tranquillity. First try goes to Bolmen where I end up on a little camp site. Yes, it is calm, but still it is a camp site next to a small harbour.

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Bolmen

On Monday I start fresh like the cold morning, motivated by sunny jogging routine and a chat with Thomas from Berlin. He stays with his family in a house that is almost, but not entirely off-the-lake and sympathizes with the idea of a flexible camper van. Let’s give him a good reason for it.

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Hector goes into the wild

My map indicates a “badplats” that is just a bit south of Torpa. First we reach a little beach accompanied by shady parking among the trees. Then I see that 350m down the dirt road is a landing place for small boats, coming along with a rusty barbecue, a round table and perfect space for Hector!

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Found! Our Spot for the Night

We settle down and I spend a lazy day with a swim in the lake, barbecue and sunbathing. Once in a while tourists (and once: Swedish inhabitants & boat owners) pass by, but most of the time it is exactly what I was looking for: calm.

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I enjoy grilled steaks, cold beer and good books. In fact, most of the time passes by with no action at all and that is what I came here for. I feel comfortable but wonder how this will develop around nightfall. Will I be a Sissy with nervous reaction on every natural sound (true for mosquito noise, by the way)? Or will I pass a wonderful night, all cosy inside my Super-Hector?

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Inside Out

Tomorrow we will see…

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Sweden (3): Desperately Seeking…

After two days in Eringsboda, it is time to move on. In Hällevik happens a jazz festival. With Swing Jazz. They even mention Lindy Hop on their website! The case is clear: we know where to go.

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Hällevik

Being the direct opposite to the Côte d’Azur, Sweden is not even overcrowded in time of events. Consequently, I find a nice spot at the local camp site with no difficulty at all. It only takes 1.000 meters to walk to the festival, but as I rather use my new fantastic folded bicycle, it takes me 2.500m each time (based on short cuts or hidden passages).

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Distracted by Landscape. Or Seascape?

Even though 10°C plus would be nice, the weather remains stable throughout the festival weekend. And although 35 years less would be nice, I am surrounded by friendly people that smile politely at my Swedish language approaches.

The first evening brings disillusion: although filled with people and good music, nobody moves. They all sit and listen, full stop. Being a prominent dancing chick, this behaviour irritates me quite a bit. After 4 or 5 different bands in different locations, I finally manage to find the dance floor that has been built next to the stage of the festival tent. With relief I spot a handful people dancing, finally! No Lindy Hop or Boogie, but still. I push my way through walking frames and perms and roll up the dance floor.

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Great Music by “Jazz Five”

Saturday is even better: during daytime I stroll around, sit here and there, eat and drink and listen to a couple of finest jazz bands. In the evening, I choose “Gunhild Carling”, not being aware of them being sort of famous in here. Fact is that they know how to bring up a great atmosphere and within seconds the little dance floor is populated with the right kind of people. Just minutes after I posted “Desperately Seeking Lindy Hoppers” on the festival’s Instagram site, I finally found Sweden’s dancing scene. The universe knows how to grant wishes and how to make a party!

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Thanks for Playing!

After two days at the festival, I know a bit more about the world beyond my borders:

  • The prices of Swedish camp sites are in reverse proportion to their sanitary rooms.
  • I really should learn how to dance more extroverted. Perhaps some tattoos would help…
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Underdressed and mostly harmless – still having so much fun!