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A Country Tour
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A Country Tour
  Stockholm Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

We zigzagged a piece of southern Sweden this spring from Stockholm to Soderkoping to Granna to Vazjo to Kalmar and to the Island of Oland. Bits of land reminded me of Canada; but mostly, it was unfamiliar. The black-roofed cities, brick towns, rural red farmhouses and pools of clear blue waters, created a unique piece of embroidery.

The landscape is soft, almost fragile, in southern Sweden's countryside -- slightly rolling hills, golden with rape seed in mid-May. Somehow, even the woods show an atmosphere of gentleness. How incongruous to the massive stone castles, the fortresses, the rock-faced churches and the dungeons . . . incongruous to the stories of fighting Vikings, to the bigger than life battles lost and won.

The people we met were reserved yet friendly. Nearly all spoke English. They were amazed --a bit envious -- of the relaxed openness of us North Americans. I envied their civilized manner, their obvious rapture with their families, their ability to savor holidays, their cleanliness and their historical pride.

Even in the tiniest towns a glorious event prevails. Granna for example, a simple town of no pretense has an elaborate museum dedicated to keeping the story of the famed Polar Expedition alive. Lest we don't remember and why would we: it was back in 1897 when three men, Andree, Strindberg and Fraenkell, set out in an air balloon to explore the North Pole. They never returned.

Then there's the House of Immigration. A gallery where North Americans of Swedish decent can find out who their ancestors were by searching through the thousands of stored documents. The museum is incredibly accurate of the events that took place when one thousand people left Sweden for the New World in the 1600's. The building is located in Vaxjo, another visually arresting town that just happens to be along Sweden's modern highways.

The world's most famous exhibition is in Kalmar: The Kronan Exhibition. The Royal Ship went down in 1676 and was discovered at the bottom of the Baltic Sea on August 9, 1980. It was the biggest warship ever built ( then ). Sixty meters long. The wreck is still lying on the bottom of the sea; however, over twelve thousand objects have been salvaged -- seamen's boots, buttons, plates, pewter, clay pipes, gold coins and cannons.

Kalmar also has the Kalmar Castle. A stroll on the grounds and across the moats is spine-tingling. Built on the water's edge, it was a protector of the people, standing grand and imposing to any enemy that might appear. The Kronan and the castle are physical proof -- a testimony -- that wars were fought, despite the peace and tranquillity of today.

Roughly half of Sweden is surrounded by water and there are thousands of islands along the jagged coast. One special island is the island of Oland. There are thirty-two species of orchid and 24,000 residents on Oland and a one of a kind exhibit.

Through careful excavation, parts of communities from three different time eras ( 300 A.D., 400-650 A.D., 1000-1200 A.D. ) have been uncovered. The Eketorp Fort Museum has been partially reconstructed so that the visitor can gain firsthand knowledge of what it was like for the inhabitants that lived in these unearthed grass and stone shacks so very long ago.

Oland can be reached by crossing a 6070-meter bridge -- the longest bridge in Europe. A bridge that the people of Oland objected to, believing their beautiful and peaceful island would be bombarded with developers. But, said our learned guide, the people of Sweden didn't come to build. They came and continue coming, to picnic, to hike, to bike and to paint the landscape. Oland is said to have the light of France -- which is supposed to be the best light to paint by.

Two other facts about Sweden, although not historical as such, are worthy of mention: Stockholm is the birth place of Mr. Alfred Nobel of the important and coveted world-famous Nobel Prize and Granna the birthplace of the unimportant but popular barber pole rock candy we know as candy cane.

Parts of Sweden's terrain may remind you of Canada; nevertheless, it is the everyday drama of history, the everyday cherished traditions and the everyday Swedish people that create that special flavor that is Sweden's alone.

Footnote:

If you're thinking of motoring through Europe, Sweden is the perfect "Old Country" introduction, a fascinating look at time standing still. It is clean and safe and everybody drives on the right side of the road.




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  Wonderful Copenhagen
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  History in Every Village
Oland
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