Friday, September 19, 2014

Sormlanddsleden Trail Diary

So begins my own Nordic saga. After leaving the comfort of my friend and her home in Tranas, I took 4trains to begin my hike in the small town of Molnbo. I got off the train and was told to follow the signs to get to the trail.
So I did for maybe a mile until I reached the trail.
The trail was VERY  well marked. Every few steps trees were painted with an orange band. It would be hard to lose the trail. Yet I also had with me the official map for the trail. The one issued by the society that maintains the trail.

Until I got to where I was going to spend my first night. At what is called a wind shelter. Lotta had loaned me a high-powered sleeping bag. It should keep me warm--it weighed a ton, adding at least 5 pounds to my pack. Here is where I slept.

And here was my view.

The next day was more of the same. Beautiful pine woods breaking forth into beautiful glistening lakes. Where I refreshed myself with a swim! It was so relaxing, but very lonely. All together I only met one group walking--a bunch of school kids out with their teAchers on a day hike.

I was by myself. The next night I stayed by Lake Djunjon.

Where I slept so sound. At night you can't hear a thing--only your own breathing and the fire as it dies down.

Next: in my saga. How I got incredibly, horribly lost, but lived to tell about it. And the people who made the map WILL BE HEARING FROM ME.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The New Sweden

Out of the fog like warm yellow suns emerge neighboring houses until slowly, down the slope I see the next row and further on the next. Until finally the fog rolls back to reveal the lake and the other side of the water. Until everything is clear and what was minutes ago so overwhelmingly gray and lost is now blue sky.

Sweden after the election (where a minor "Tea Party" type party got a enough votes to seat candidates), causing many here to shake their heads in wonder--and fear.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Cyclung Diaries

So the last few days I've been quite busy.
--more bicycling
--more stops to picnic

Cute is a word that often comes to mind when viewing the cottages and numerous boat houses. Until it becomes typical.It's all cute. Many of the larger residences remind me of dachas--something Tolstoy would have lived in. (See The Last Station.)

After the Gota Canal I took three local buses, but eventually arrived in Hjo where Lotta picked me up. We drove to Lake Vattern where we picnicked. Later we drove to a national park and hiked. At one point the trail took us between and under giant boulders. Upon popping out on the other side there was a small pool of water. We continued walking over rock outcroppings until we could look out over the forest and several ponds/lakes.

This is a land formed by ice and fire, by volcanoes and glaciers. My second day with Lotta began with a bike ride through Tranas--but quick enough we were out of town and in the countryside. The roads here are never as wide as those in the States. Multi-year highways are in some places, but not everywhere. Mostly people get around on single lane roads--yet Sweden has the best vehicular safety record in the world. Signs with an M let drivers know that up ahead is a meeting place where two cars can safely pass. Isn't that kind? Almost on the level of fellowship, chums sitting in the pub exchanging stories. Meeting place--except they are waving and counterwaving until someone acquieses to actually go first.

So where Lotta took me I kept asking, isn't this someone's driveway?  Can we actually ride here? Is this a driveway? I was all over my gears chugging up and down gravel roads, past cows and sheep in fields.

Then we entered an emerald forest where mushrooms grow as plentiful as Illinois corn. We gathered enough for an omelette.

That day we made about 80 km--about 48, 50 miles. I'm not sure, but a km is cute compared to a mile. In Sweden everything is cute.

Later we jumped into icy Lake Sommen--again, I don't know why but it woke up my tired body in a way coffee can't.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Land of the Midnight Sun

In the land of the midnight sun, there was a midnight moon, full over Lake Sommen. And, the trees, tall, dark pines, stood out against an indigo sky.

In a land of runes and ruins and standing stones, there is a deep faith--and a sense of well-being, in which when two cars approach on a narrow bridge each will wait for the other to go first.

In the past there have been pillages and pilgrimages. And now Swedes, on the brink of an election, struggle with questions of who can come to this land of the midnight sun and what might the next generations of Swedes look like.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gota Canal (an o with dots!)

Who would have thought that after the momentum of 3 trains, 2 buses, and walking 50 meters (?) I would have to cry to get to rent a bike. But that is the power of tears. And who would have known that in Sweden the "season" would be over by the beginning of September--in Chicago we're just getting over the hell of summer and finally enjoying reasonably comfortable temperatures. Yet the season was over and the man who rented bikes was out fishing.

So I stood by the road and cried. Well, more like in a small food shop. The clerk was a Hindi woman who said , one moment, I will get my husband. She returned with said husband who rented me a bike and a room in his small establishment, and literally in 15 minutes I had dried my eyes and was on the famous, World HeritGe site: Got a Canal.

And because this is Sweden, I could cycle until sunset which gave me 4 hours to bike.