...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Joy's photo contest number 6

Another revival of a series I haven't written anything about in almost a year! As you know from my last post, I've just finished my second M.A. degree and I'm free for the summer. Everybody's asking us where we're planning to go for vacation. In fact, we already went somewhere this weekend after graduation, to a place where this picture below was taken. Could you guess where it was?

I changed the format of the choices from "1, 2, 3" to "1, X, 2" -- the latter is used in Sweden for multiple-choice exams and quizzes like these.

So is the place:
[ ] 1. The Canary Islands (Spain)
[ ] X. Motala, Sweden
[ ] 2. Skagen, Denmark

Of course, before I answer the question, there's that suspenseful moment where I babble on about a thing or two. In particular, I've been thinking about this: Before moving to Sweden, someone told me in a disapproving tone that Sweden did not have sandy beaches like ours, as one of the supposedly negative things about the country. I disliked the comment even then. I think it reflects a kind of false and unreflective expectation that things should work abroad as it does in the Philippines, and shows one's rigidity about what the concept "beautiful nature" should be. Whoever told me that needs to be given copies of National Geographic. There are so many other beautiful things in this world than sandy beaches, like deserts and tundras and barren Atlantic islands that have been smoothed by waves.

That said, there are in fact a number of beaches in Sweden. This article in Swedish lists 35 of them. And yes, some of them are in fact sandy beaches, including the Varamon in Motala, 85 kilometers from here. So yes, X was the correct answer!

We didn't bring a bathing suit and trunks with us
so we had to be satisfied with a wade.

We were actually in Motala to accompany Margareta in her 90-kilometer women's bike race, the Tjejvättern. Motala hosts a number of the Vättern-races at this time of the year, the longest being the 300-kilometer Vätternrundan that goes around Sweden's second biggest lake, the Vättern. Varamon is in one of Vättern's little bays and is actually one of the longest in-lake beaches in Europe (The official figure is 5 km, but surely it must have been shorter!). Since the water is comfortably shallow until a long way off, the beach water warms up quickly and is free from currents and big waves, making this beach is popular with families with small children. The water in Vättern is also clear and potable. I wouldn't drink too near the beach though: there were many children there, some of which I suspect do pee in the water. Besides, tap water in Sweden is also potable.

The first wave of sunbathers. The beach was packed just before lunch, with all chairs facing the sun.

A funny scenario. A kid with a real shovel, a dad who got annoyed from getting sand all over his face, and a big sister also about to escape the next sand attack.

Having said what I had about expectations in being abroad, a morning in Varamon surprisingly feels like being in Thailand, never mind that the trees are all the wrong sort – pine instead of palm – and that there are mallards occasionally walking around the beach. The beach is also narrower than most Asian tourist beaches we've learned to take as the "standard", but the sand is surprisingly fine and white. On this note, sites disagree on whether Varamon is an artificial beach or a natural one. I can't rely on Wikipedia on this issue; the article wasn't exactly very thorough and the city's official website doesn't mention anything. Anyway, there are amenities available behind the beach itself, in a pine-area that reminds me of Baguio. Here you'll find changing rooms, ice cream bars, restaurants, pedal-boat rentals, a mini-golf course, and even a camping area.

After a few hours on the beach (which actually just lies north of the city center), we returned to the centrum to greet Margareta who had just finished her race. 90 kilometers in 4 hours and 20 minutes. Congratulations!

More pictures of Varamon and Tjejvättern at my Multiply.


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