...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Another reason to wish for sunny days

Pictures of our camping posted at my Multiply.

We finally got down to camping last week, on the way to visit our friend Per in Gränna. Yes, finally! When we didn't yet know what we would do for the summer, we even practiced camping out in Mats and Magareta's yard last spring, living two nights just a few measly meters away from their living room wall. This time, the camping area was at least further away from home. We didn't bike to our camping ground as we first imagined our camping adventure to be though. Instead, we brought M&M's old car, and with it – cheat, cheat! – an old mattress!

We started our adventure walking from the bus stop to M&M's home: two kilometers of uphill road under the merciless sun with our tall backpacks strapped on our backs. After a quick ice-cold shower – it was literally ice cold since we couldn't adjust the temperature – we changed clothes, packed the bags, the tent and the mattress down the trunk, and drove to the lake Sommen where we were supposed to camp. Malexander, a small town in that area, was our target. We were prepared to pay 130 for tenting in a real camping area – with trailers for neighbors and everything. The sight of campers around a bonfire roasting marshmallows at night were already on my mind. We even got as far as taking ourselves to the reception... until the hidden fees turned us off. They didn't announce in their website that you needed a so-called Camping Card: a 125-kronor piece of paper that's supposed to cover our insurance if anything happens to us in any of the camping areas in Scandinavia. Granted, it's good for a year, but we were only tenting one night, and anyone can tell you that 355 kronor isn't worth lying on the ground for when hostel prices can start at 350.

Sour grapes and a sweet escape

So Malexander was not for us. Neither was the whole Sommen area. In Sweden, according to the Allemansrätten or Right to Public Access, anyone, Swedish or not, has the right to roam, camp or anchor anywhere in the country, even in some privately-owned lands. When we drove around to find a bit of Sommen bank to camp on however, we found that people had been building their own piers on the banks, gating these areas and effectively warding off public access to them by marking them as private property. We asked a family about the possibility to camp around the Sommen but they only referred us to the (overpriced) Malexander Camping which we've already been to. Another "public" bank had a no-tenting policy, again to lead tourists to the paid camping. I can't argue on weather or not the family had the right to privatize that piece of lake bank, or question the reasons why the local government placed a no-tenting sign in the land of Allemansrätten, but nevertheless we drove out of that disappointing Sommen lake area. Though I must admit the view around Malexander was great, but there aren't a lack of beautiful places in this country that we would be desperate enough to pay extra much for just that view. It could also be that I'm sour graping – the fox calling the grapes sour is also a Swedish idiom, by the way – but we didn't regret going to a smaller, less tourist-exploited lake later on. But yes, then there was one more thing before we could leave the Sommen area: the Camping owns the ferry that goes to the other side of the lake to our destination out of there, so they managed to squeeze 30 kronor out of us just when we decided we've had enough of the place. The last laugh belongs to the Camping.

Raklången, literally "the straight and long"

I love it how Swedish place names are so descriptive. Areas around the Sommen have names like Sommarhagen ("Summer pasture"), Broby ("Bridge village"), Seglarvik ("Sailing bay") and Gripenberg ("Griffin mountain"). The lake we camped in, near a small town called Hestra, had a name so straightforward that it was charming: the narrow, straight lake was called Raklången.

We had some trouble finding it, but to make the lång story short and to go rakt to the point (Isn't Swedish very easy?), we did find it and settled happily there for the night. There were other families enjoying what might be the last of the sunny summer days, but by the evening we were literally alone in the dark. Summer days are shortening and there was just a tad bit of light behind the trees at 11 PM when we woke up hungry and ate half a tube of Pringles before going to bed again. Our dinner that night composed of Bullens brand canned sausages (made of meat, liver and heart just like in the old days before the discovery of potato-flour filled sausage!), Swedish hard bread and a can of white beans in tomato sauce. Breakfast was something as instant as instant noodles, but it wasn't bad drinking soup in a cool morning outdoors.

The best part of a camping experience has to be unzipping the tent to meet the morning. Our morning was just straight out of a song: Morning has Broken, to be exact. We had the warming sun on our faces, crisp air to breathe, fresh water to bathe in, a blackbird – and no one but ourselves to behold the view.

(Uncomfortably) close encounter with deer

We would have camped another night at another lake after our visit to Gränna, but weathermen promised dreary weather during the night, which is why we just drove back to Linköping in the evening. The car's suspension makes any ride faster than 80 km/hr a bumpy roller-coaster experience, so we used country roads instead of the highway. The slanted evening sun rendered the wheat fields bronze, and just then I spotted two deer running alongside the car. As soon as I was able to say "Look, deer!", one of them decided to spring across the road right in front of the car. Now the car might have bad suspension and less than perfect brakes, but I grant that it's good and safe enough to do tough braking. The deer was in shock, tripped on itself, but was unharmed. Its companion, which was at arm's reach outside my window, managed to brake by standing on its hind legs. And before anyone could say anything, they were off again springing to the other side of the road. Everything from my spotting them to their successful street crossing took about 4 seconds. My first close encounter with wild animals was that short and dramatic. Scary, but amazing. Oh, and I live to tell the tale. And the deer too, if they could talk.


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