[This is Part 1 of my Nordic Adventures through Sweden and Finland. Part 2 can be found here.]
It was for this very reason that I first travelled to Europe in 2010 and where I believe the spark of Wanderlust inside me was first lit.
In 2010 my Dad, Mum and I visited Finland and stayed with my Dad’s Finnish host families and some of his friends, for just a few short days. Revisiting my Dad’s generous hosts was an incredibly special experience and it was important for my Dad to rekindle some of his 20-year-old relationships.
I’m now also privileged to begin experiencing the long-lasting effects of a Rotary Youth Exchange myself, which binds people together and can stretch across continents and even several generations.
It was always tucked away in the back of my mind when embarking on my exchange that I would love to visit Scandinavia during my exchange year, but I had brushed it off as too far-fetched to undertake. It wasn’t until part way through my exchange year that I established that travelling to Sweden and Finland may be a real possibility, which is really thanks to the persistence of my Dad in keeping in touch with his many friends abroad, which made my Nordic adventures this year possible.
Embarking on my big solo adventure through Scandinavia, my first destination would be Örebro, in central Sweden. I was invited to stay with the Holford family, an Australian/Swedish family, by the family’s father, David, a friend of my Dad’s. Travelling from Flensburg to Sweden was relatively straight forward as I live just 10 minutes from the Danish border and there are good bus and train connections through Denmark to Sweden everyday. The journey took around 9 hours and I travelled on a combination of buses and trains, stopping briefly in Copenhagen to wait for my Swedish connection.
Copenhagen and Malmö are neighbouring Danish/Swedish cities connected by an 8km rail and automobile bridge stretching across the strait between Denmark and Sweden on the Baltic Sea. Within Europe, the bridge is the longest of its kind.
On my first day in Örebro we visited a nearby freshwater lake, which Sweden definitely has no shortages of. During my whole time in Sweden the weather was absolutely perfect and everyday the temperatures rose to around 30 degrees, providing some superb swimming opportunities. Some Swedes dared to complain about the heat, which wasn’t really allowed once one was reminded about the plummeting temperatures that freeze the country during the harsh winters in Sweden! It was therefore time to take full advantage of the heat.
Our first day by the lake was spent swimming about and lying on the beach by its shore. Where the forest meets the water lay crowds of people; our only difficulty was finding a parking spot. The water was probably some of the clearest I’ve ever swam in; the sand on the lake floor could be seen even if the water was 5 metres deep or more.
The rocks we lay on were heated by the sun and overlooked a lagoon with shimmering water in various shades of turquoise and a private island off to the side. I was impressed and surrounded by the Swedish summer lifestyle.
The next day we walked to the charming city centre of Örebro and quickly looked at some shops before having a delicious lunch at a nearby café. The city is vibrantly decorated with colourful Summer flowers planted everywhere. During the day, the heat was even more stifling as we weren’t anywhere near the water. As soon as we arrived home I jumped into the small backyard pool to cool off.
Our evening was spent cooking and preparing a barbecue dinner for some guests who came to visit. The Holford’s teenage children and I filled up water balloons and had a water fight in the backyard. Playing board games together on the back deck concluded the evening.
The second lake we went swimming in was again relatively close by and also a very popular spot to relax and soak up some sun. The water wasn’t as clear, and had a bit of a brownish tinge but was nevertheless beautiful. Not too warm and not too cold. We took along two large inflatable rings and proceeded to drift in any direction the wind would take us. In many lakes a floating pontoon with a diving board can be found anchored in the centre; we also spent some time taking turns jumping into the water.
A small forest is located within walking distance from where the family lives, and we went on an afternoon walk through the towering forest. Along the ground grow numerous blueberry bushes boasting dozens of fresh and sweet berries to pick and eat. My last evening in Sweden was spent watching movies together with the Holford family.
That was unfortunately the end of my time in Sweden and I would be travelling onward to Helsinki, Finland the very next day.
Thank you very much to the Holford family who hosted me for four days in their home, it was a pleasure to meet and spend time with you all. Hopefully I’ll see you again one day back in Australia!