...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, September 03, 2012

These boots are made for walking

a.k.a. Jämtlandstriangeln with STF in July – finally uploaded!


If I won the lottery – and I don't even bet so my chances are naught – I think the best place I could think of being right now would be on a sleeper train. I would be sleeping to the sound of the wheels rolling on the rails and would occasionally wake to the sound of the bleat of the train horn. Even in my sleepiness my anticipation would grow, but I would fall eventually back into sleep. And when I wake up in the morning, there, out the window, I will see the Swedish mountains. 

I would go there in a heartbeat. That's how much I enjoyed being in Jämtland last July.

If I got you reading up till that part and got you curious enough to want to go there one day – and like I did, without having to think about lugging a tent and rations – I will start with some practical details:

Arranger: STF (Svenska turistföreningen) i.e. Sweden's Tourism Organization. STF's motto is "Känn ditt land", in English: Know your country!

What: The tour is called “Jämtlandstriangeln Original” A day tour + a three-day hike between three mountain stations in the Jämtland region: Storulvån, Sylarna and Blåhammaren. 16, 19 and 12 kilometers a day. Food, room and guide.

Tour cost: 4200 SEK, inclusive of a 500-SEK cancellation insurance. The sleeper train ride to and from Enafors station costs 1188, with a student discount, in a 6-bunk coupé.





So it's not for free, but that being said, I did experience it to be price-worthy. If you get only exactly what you want for your money, I would call that a fair deal. But when you get more than what you thought you paid for, then that's a great deal according to me. You don't get to say, as one of the girls in the group expressed it, “my whole body is a big smile!” in most trips, do you? Actually, when was the last time you said such a thing? Never?

Instead of pretending to be an expert on these mountain hikes, which I'm definitely not as it was my first time up there, let me just share some of the reasons why I absolutely enjoyed this tour.  Besides, there's already a lot written on Jämtlandstriangeln on the net.

Of course it's possible to tent up in the mountains and I am all go to do that at one point in my life. But you know how drivers of automatic transmission say that it frees their brain for other things? Arranged tours are like that.

You have breakfasts where you don't have to cook your own oatmeal, brew your own coffee, and boil your own eggs. You can even get a second cup! You eat tropical fruit such as watermelon and pineapple knowing that all these – and even the Swedish oatmeal packages! – had to be flown to the station by helicopter to get to your plate. It just gives meaning to the term “value added”. Just the simple things like having a saucer under your cup feels like luxury. That's not to mention having access to a drying room, or sleeping on a mattress which also had to be transported there somehow!

Lunches consist of sandwiches that we get to make ourselves from what's available in generous breakfast buffets. The stations also provide the tour group with other stuff, like trail mix. I like eating outside – never mind that the weather was mostly foggy and gray – and just observing things. And at the end of the day spent walking, when you're kind of tired and kind of damp and kind of hungry because you've been economizing your trail mix and sandwiches, imagine the relief of making it to the mountain station. What's better, you get greeted with a glass of juice and a cookie! The receptionists are eager to know how the group's day has been, and they point you to the general direction of the sauna. You hang your clothes, wash up, sit in the sauna to the point of mindless relaxation, and upon getting dressed, you're served warm food and cold beer!




The food at Blåhammaren is worth a few extra lines here. I know they say that everything tastes good when you're hungry, which you're bound to be after the 19-kilometer walk there, but their restaurant is just something else. I felt like dropping off my seat just hearing the chef describing what we were about to eat, plus what you could drink to your food. Plus it was the most cozy log house.

See, if that's not a good idea for anyone, I don't know what is. You roam and your mind is free to roam. You appreciate the small things, not because you have to do all of them yourself, but just because they're there. And since you know everything is pretty much bound to work and you don't have to take responsibility for everything, you can relax more and absorb the nature around you like a sponge. A very satisfied sponge.





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In a magazine yesterday, I saw an ad for an Asics T-shirt that read “I left my soul in the mountains”. A totally understandable feeling. For my part, I left something else up there: my microfiber towel, which I forgot drying on the line. It came back to me by mail after I wrote the folks at the mountain station about it. Good, because that means I don't have to buy another one for my next trip up there, or somewhere.

“Are you ready boots? Start walkin'!”

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