The Seas Of Southern Sweden — Europe’s Freest Covid Country Part 2

Are you ready to traverse the remainder of Europe’s freest country in COVID-1984 times?

We’ve already driven up the Baltic Coast of Sweden, prioritizing the strangest hotels possible en route to one of the last open ski resorts in the world. Now it’s time to see the North Sea coast and the (much warmer) southern half of Sweden, which has three of the largest lakes in Europe and of course, some more strange hotels :).

With my brother still tagging along, this Part 2 covers our final week and a half in May of 2020 — as the rest of the world remains idle and slowly wakes up to how exaggerated the COVID-1984 hysteria was…

Beautiful Sweden

Leaving Riksgransen

After a very relaxing week skiing the snow-covered hills of Northern Sweden, it was time to head back to society. Things were opening up around the world, and my brother and I had never intended to wait out the entire COVID shutdown in the Arctic anyway.

We decided to cut our ski trip a little bit short, despite Sweden having a record 5 meters of snowfall at the end of May. Greta Thunberg must be too busy appearing on CNN panels as a “virus expert” and jet setting around the world to pay attention to her own country properly. 😉

Anyway, the huge amounts of fresh snowfall made it difficult to say goodbye to scenes like this:

Final ski session

But it had to be done. I start to get a little restless staying in one spot for too long, and if I’m going to stay somewhere, it had better have a private pool and floating flamingo.

You may remember our path up the country hugged the Baltic Sea coastline as far as we could take it. This time we would be cutting vertically straight through the middle of Sweden.

Would be nice to have the autobahn…

Most of the rest of our plans in Sweden were in the southern part of the country.

While we had spent five days slowly working our way up the country to get to the ski resort, we were trying to reach the south as quickly as possible this time.

Hitting the Road

We left the Riksgransen ski resort heading for the town of Kiruna. We had passed through Kiruna on the way up, so the 140km drive between the two was full of familiar sites.

Neither of us minded that. It’s quite a beautiful drive. For example, this is taken in the Abisko National Park.

Care for a swim?

Our first night on the road we stayed in Kiruna, enjoying our last Arctic sunsets from the comfort of a hot tub.

I’m starting to suspect this hitchhiker I picked up isn’t actually a hitchhiker…?

We woke up early to fit as much driving in as possible.

We’d be staying in Arjeplog that evening, but on the way would make a brief stop in the Stora Sjöfallet National Park.

I have seen a lot of national parks as you can imagine, but this one made a big impression on me. Very beautiful and serene.

The beaches of Stora Sjöfallet

We made it to the Arjeplog where we’d be staying that night just before sundown.

The following morning it was 8 hours of driving to our first proper town in weeks, Östersund. A celebratory meal was in order, but not because we were back in civilization.

We arrived in Ostersund on one of my favorite holidays. It was the 10th anniversary of Bitcoin Pizza Day.

Ten years ago the first real bitcoin transaction took place. In 2010 somebody paid 10,000 bitcoin for $40 worth of pizza. In today’s bitcoin valuation, that is a $92 million pizza. Hopefully whoever made that transaction had a few more bitcoins stored away 😛

They haven’t made a raw meat pizza that I’m aware of yet, so I’d be sticking to my traditional favorite meal to celebrate.

Imagine how many bitcoins this steak would have cost in 2010 😛

Before we left the next day, we stopped in the lake town of Myrviken.

Myrviken sits right on Lake Storsjön. While it is a very beautiful lake, we were there for another purpose. We hoped to catch a glimpse of the fabled Storsjöodjuret.

One of my great passions is cryptozoology, and Storsjöodjuret is basically the Lochness Monster of Sweden. It is believed to have a serpentine body and the head of a dog.

Some of you may not believe me, but we actually saw him (or her) right before we were about to give up. It breached out of the water and stared at us for a couple of seconds before disappearing back beneath the water. Unfortunately, it all happened too fast to get our cameras out, so you’ll just have to trust me 🙂

Taken just seconds after Storsjöodjuret disappeared back beneath the water

With a mythical creature sighting crossed off our list, it was time to begin our final drive to Karlstad.

The Beginning of our South Sweden Adventure

Karlstad is a small city sitting right on the largest lake in Sweden, Lake Vänern. Vänern is actually the third largest lake in all of Europe. The only two lakes that are larger than it are two lakes in Russia called Lake Onega and Lake Lagoda.

Unfortunately, there were no rare sightings of mythical creatures for us in Karlstad. Well actually considering it had been nine months since my last haircut, I guess me seeing a barber was a bit of a rare sighting of a mythical creature 😛

Even after all this my hair is still fairly long

Sadly the barbers were required to wear masks which was another rare sighting for me in Sweden. I guess they haven’t been able to avoid Covid brainwashing entirely.

My barber

After my haircut, we drove west to the other Swedish coastline. The hotel we were staying at that night was in a famous fishing village called Klädesholmen.

If I wasn’t allergic to fish I think a summer house here would be nice

Klädesholmen is situated right on the Skagerrak straits which connect the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. This is one of the most heavily trafficked shipping routes in the world due to the very intensive fishing industries of Scandinavia.

As you probably know I’m allergic to fish so I wouldn’t be able to experience the main attraction of this town.

We settled for some nice pork dinner at a local restaurant before wandering around the town a little as it got dark. We were already far enough south that the sun fully sets here.

The hotel we were staying at is called the Salt and Sill.

Our “boatel”

As you can see it is built right on the water. This is what they call a “boatel” because you can literally feel the movement of the waves. I booked this hotel because you can take one step out of your hotel room and jump right into the waters of the North Sea.

I really like cold water as you may know from my underwater adventures in Iceland, so I was excited to give it a try.

Unfortunately, these little guys had different plans for me.

The translucent jellies mean no harm, the yellow ones with thousands of tentacles are a different story

The brightly colored species are known as Lion’s Mane jellyfish. It is the largest known species of jellyfish in the world. Its bite is typically not fatal, but can be very painful. My cold water plunge would have to wait.

For now, we just decided to enjoy the Skagerrak Sunset.

Far enough south that the sun really sets

Usually, it is even more scenic with the silhouettes of boats passing in the distance, but due to COVID, the maritime traffic is very low.

Continuing Down the North Sea Coast

The following day our ultimate destination was Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden behind Stockholm.

Setting out from Kladesholmen our first stop was the port town of Marstrand.

Marstrand with a nice fortress in the background.

Marstrand has a small population but is designated as a city because it fills the entire small island it inhabits. In the background, you can see the 17th-century fortress called Carlsten. There is a nice juxtaposition with this old fortress and all the colorful Scandinavian architecture around it. However, fortresses are quite common in Germany so neither my brother and I had any great reason to explore it.

We walked around the whole island though, enjoying the tranquility of these small quiet coastal towns. Where normally there are a lot of tourists like at viewpoints and landmarks we usually had it completely to ourselves.

Anyway, after leaving Marstrand it was on to Gothenburg.

King Charles IX of Sweden in Gothenburg square

Gothenburg has an incredibly valuable location right at the mouth of the Göta älv, which flows from Lake Vänern all the way to Skagerrak strait. Thus it connects the third largest lake in the world to the rest of the planet.

This has made Gothenburg a very busy and wealthy trading colony throughout its history. Today the Gothenburg port is the largest in all of Scandinavia.

Because of this, I thought it was only fitting to stay the night in this:

A fitting “boatel” for such a city

In Myanmar, I dubbed a slightly less impressive boat the SMS Staatenlos. I was ready to christen this as my newest upgrade.

Other plans awaited me once again, however.

We got to the lobby of the hotel and were informed that our reservation had been canceled despite no warning. It had nothing to do with COVID, just some heating issues which didn’t really bother us, but they refused to let us stay.

They suggested a sister hotel in the city, but I was a little pissed off that they hadn’t warned us at all, so I started looking for a new option.

As a consolation for missing this cool ship, I settled on the most expensive hotel in the city 🙂

Like a scene from The Great Gatsby

This is called the Dorsia Hotel and Restaurant.

As you can see the interior decor is quite extravagantly designed. I will include some pictures here to give you an idea of why it is so expensive.

This was just the bathroom in our room….. just kidding

Something from another time

In addition to the decor, the restaurant inside is really incredible. I got to have another one of my favorite meals which I don’t think I’ve told you about in this blog before.

Italian Bresaola is a very lean piece of cured beef. It is sort of like prosciutto except made with beef instead of pork. In this dish, they added local berries, some fine parmesan as well as some very tasty sauces.

We don’t eat like this every meal, I just don’t post the pictures of the McDonalds burgers 🙂

After dinner, we went to the bar inside the hotel. Like the rest of the hotel, it had a very ornate and beautiful interior design.

In fact, it looked a bit like a high-class old-timey brothel. Such things are not allowed in Sweden, though, so this mannequin of a naked woman is as close as it gets 😛

No, those curtains don’t lead to a champagne room

After a few cocktails in this time machine of a hotel, we headed back to our rooms for the night.

In the morning we woke up early to explore a little bit of Gothenburg before hitting the road.

The Beautiful City of Jönköping

From Gothenburg, we were driving about two hours inland to the university town of Jönköping. It sits right in between Stockholm and Gothenburg on the Lake Vättern, the second largest lake in Sweden.

This was easily the most pleasant town I saw during my entire time in Sweden. With these sandy beaches…

The shores of Lake Vättern

picturesque town squares…

Wouldn’t mind going back to university for a semester here

And of course a perfectly mixed Dark ‘n Stormy:

Note to bartenders, float the rum ON TOP of the ginger beer. It should look like a storm 🙂

It’s easy to see why this is such a popular university location for Swedish students.

One other thing the students probably enjoy there is snus. Snus is similar to American chewing tobacco, except without the constant need for spitting. It originated in 18th century Sweden so it is obviously still quite popular there.

Basically it is a moist powder form of tobacco that you put in between your lips and your gums. Eventually, it is absorbed into your gums and gets into your bloodstream for a little bit of a nice headrush.

It was interesting to try, but as someone who doesn’t smoke or use tobacco much, it wasn’t something I could see trying too often.

After the snus and another cocktail or two, we just walked around enjoying the sunset. Being a university town there were plenty of bars open despite COVID, so it was quite lively with lots of young people out enjoying themselves.

A not quite dark or stormy sunset

Back to the Baltic

The next day we continued our journey all the way back to the Baltic Sea coast of Sweden. I had arranged to meet a friend of mine named Karoline in a town there called Kalmar. She was also escaping the COVID hysteria in Germany to explore Sweden a bit as well, so she was good company.

She also brought this little stowaway:

Me, Karoline’s stowaway Luna, and Karoline

Anyway, we met with Karoline and explored all that we could in Kalmar.

It’s a fairly ancient town, with some relics there dating back to the Stone Age.

It’s also very beautiful.

Picturesque little town

Kalmar evenings

We needed almost a full day to explore the adjacent island of Öland, so we got an early night’s sleep.

Öland, the Ancient Island off the Swedish Coast

The next morning we met with Karoline again and headed over the Öland Bridge to the largest island in the Baltic Sea, Öland.

Öland has an area of about 1,300 kilometers and a population of about 26,000. Like Kalmar, some archaeological excavations indicate that it has been settled as long ago as 8000 BC.

Öland coast

We wanted to traverse the entire island north to south so we went from the bridge straight to the southern tip of the island.

It was a very scenic drive, with lots of windmills everywhere as well as tons of birds and wildlife.

Lots of wind in the southern part of this island, and with it lots of windmills

Apparently it is a very popular place for ornithologists to study birds.

The southern point of Oland has very harsh seas with tons of wind, hence all the windmills. Additionally, it has this ancient castle called Borgholms Slott.

Waiting to be conquered…

It is not known exactly who commissioned the castle or how old it is, but historians suspect it was built in the 13th century. Unfortunately, it was closed that day so we only got to see it from the outside.

We left the castle and continued on up to the northern tip of Oland. The north is surprisingly quite unlike the south in terms of physical geography and also the weather. While the south is very flat and windy, the north is much more dense with forests and less intense wind.

An important detail for an island so near to the Swedish coast

Our final stop in Öland was an ancient stone structure sort of like Stonehenge.

It is speculated that it may be older than Stonehenge. It is called Ale’s Stenar (Ale’s Stones) because it is thought to be the burial site of a local chieftain by the name of King Ale. If those speculations are true, that would make this stone monument 5,500 years old.

Ale’s Stenar

Quite cool to see with the sea so close in the background.

It was getting late by the time we finished visiting Öland , so we headed back to Kalmar for some dinner.

It was Karoline’s last night in Sweden so we had some dinner and drinks and some nice conversations about politics and all that good stuff 🙂

We said goodbye to her and her cat and went to sleep that night with three days remaining in Sweden.

Famous cat

The Final Stretch

From Kalmar, we had a short drive up the coast to the town of Västervik.

Cathedral in Västervik

It’s a fairly insignificant town, so we just had a brief stop for some ice cream before continuing on up the coast to Oxelösund.

Oxelösund is most well known for a nuclear bunker that was built there during the Cold War. It was designed to be able to protect this part of the Swedish Coast from an invasion by the Soviet Union, thus has some big turrets like this:

This nuclear bunker was only decommissioned in 2003

It was a very sunny day, so we walked up and down the coast a bit exploring the bunker before heading further up the coast.

We had one more stop before our destination for the day. This is the royal palace called Drottningholm Slott. It is Sweden’s best-preserved royal palace and still the vacation home of the royal family today.

Drottningholm Slott. Not a bad place to call your vacation home

It was completely closed to the public at the time due to COVID, but the grounds were very nice so we walked around a bit enjoying the Baltic Sun.

After the palace, we went straight up to a town just outside of Stockholm called Arlandastad for our accommodations for the night.

Tonight we had another strange accommodation. We would be staying in this:

Staatenlos Airlines

Basically it is a grounded Boeing 747 that has been turned into a hotel. For anyone keeping track, we’ve now stayed in a zoo, a boat, a UFO, and a grounded airplane while in Sweden. All that’s left is to stay somewhere under the surface…

We were staying in the VIP cockpit room, which they left almost completely intact except for adding some beds and a bathroom.
This was a bit of a gag hotel, but as someone who really appreciates aviation, it was totally worth it.

This is your pilot, Christoph, speaking

Suffice to say it was the best sleep I’ve ever gotten on an airplane 😛

This is your pilot, Christoph, speaking. I will be going to sleep for the duration of the flight

The next day we said goodbye to the jumbo jet and drove to our final Swedish destination, Västerås.

Västerås is one of the oldest cities in all of Northern Europe. Having already stayed in cities on the first and second-largest lakes in Sweden, it was fitting that our final hotel would not only be on the third largest lake but actually inside of it.

We met with the owner of the “hotel” as soon as we arrived. He took us to a dock where he had a boat waiting to take us out to our accommodations for the evening.

This is not a lake outhouse, this is our hotel 🙂

This is the art project of a Swedish architect. It mimics a classic Swedish cabin in the woods with the addition of an underwater cabin below the surface. The beds are underwater, surrounded by windows where you can watch all the sea creatures floating by. I only wish this cabin was in the lake with the sea monster from earlier 😛

There’s no power and no internet out there, so there wasn’t a whole lot to do. That being said it was finally possible for me to take the plunge in the freezing Swedish water for the first time in three weeks.

14 degrees celsius… What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Although a fairly simple idea, it offered us some of the best photographs of our entire trip. Here are a few:

Portholes or binoculars?

Luckily the hotel is equipped with hazard lights so no one crashes into us

While it’s a little too murky and bright to see fish through the portholes during the day, at night the lake really wakes up and there were fish everywhere outside our windows.

Swedish fish. Not the kind I can eat 😛

It was a very relaxing final evening in Sweden. Although if you’re somebody who gets claustrophobic easily, this might be one to skip 🙂

Farewell, Sweden

The following morning the captain came to pick us up around 12. We drove back to the car rental that we had begun this journey on three weeks ago and took a shuttle to the airport from there.

Following a brief stay back home in Germany, my brother and I are continuing our travels in Croatia, one of the premier sailing destinations in the entire world.

Foreshadowing 🙂

Also, Zagreb was one of the final capitals in Europe that I had left to visit.

Sweden was a really sane and incredible place to hang out for three weeks amid the hysteria in the world. As I mentioned in Part 1, I always imagined it was a bit communist, very plain geographically and sort of an SJW paradise.

I couldn’t have been more wrong — at least during these trying times. It was far freer than most of the world at the moment, very beautiful and geographically diverse… and all the SJWs seemed to be hiding from virus 🙂

Good job disproving your stereotypes, Sweden. I’ll be back soon.

Until next time…