McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Sweden (page 1 of 2)

Days 8 and 9-Stockholm -End of trip

This morning we had some breakfast and left Avesta headed for Stockholm. We dropped our car a couple days early at the airport at Marie’s advice. We took the Arlanda Express train straight to Central Station and checked in to our hotel that was right beside the station.

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After checkin, we went out walking towards old town “Gamla Stan” to check out some sites. img_1501 img_1507

I think this was the Swedish Parliament building…it was very cool sitting in a half circle in the middle of the river. Quite impressive.img_1509 img_1510 img_1511

Marie tells us as we are standing in front of this building that this is sort of a royal house…and that she has been here for dinners before because her grandmother is still part of a noble family. Wow. I didn’t know we were in the presence of Swedish royalty! so… that was pretty cool…img_1513 img_1514

As soon as we crossed the bridge, we saw this Italian restaurant that my friend Juliana recommended. She said it was the best pizza outside of Naples she ever had. So, since we could use some lunch- we checked it out. I can see why it could have been great, but I think they were having a bad day with too many people and not enough help- the people beside us got up and left after 20 minutes with no soup, so it was pretty good…but I cant rave about it 🙂img_1516

However, funny- I told Juliana we were there on her recommendation- and she tells me that our waitress and her are Facebook friends.. hahaha- so I showed the waitress her Facebook picture and we were instantly friends. ha We even all got a selfie.

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We continued on through old town, walking past the old German churchimg_1520

The Royal Palaceimg_1523 img_1525 img_1527 img_1528 img_1531 img_1532

The temporary home of this statue. It is usually a few blocks away, but they are doing construction because that part of town is sinking into the ocean, so they decided this was a good spot for him. The statue is of Charles XIV John, who was a king of Sweden, a king of Norway, a governor of Rome, a general in France…and I’m sure a lot more. He lived in the late 1700s- early 1800s…and fought for Napoleon. He actually became King of Sweden because the real King of Sweden was growing old and childless. Since this guy had made such a name for himself in assisting Napoleon, the Swedes elected him the heir elect of their King, even though Charles XIV John had no idea. The king ‘adopted’ this grown man so that he could legally ascend the throne. He was actually well liked and really united Sweden. Napoleon totally took advantage of his “friend” being in control of Sweden and basically invaded Sweden as a vantage point for a conflict with Russia. It’s said that on his deathbed, he was still proud of defending Sweden against Napoleon and that history saw what side of the conflict he was on. Sounds like he was a fairly decent guy for a military leader. haimg_1534 img_1535

We next arrived at Stortoget- the big public square. I did some research on the buildings… they’re cool… but nothing too crazy or fun to talk about surprisingly.img_1536 img_1537 img_1538

Marie says that back in high school, this cafe was THE cool place to hang out. haha

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There’s a Cannonball stuck in the corner of this building…img_1541 img_1543 img_1544 img_1545 img_1546

I had to have one of these sock Vikings.img_1547

Our last stop was the most narrow alley in Stockholm. Martin Trotzigs Alley. It’s only 35 inches wide at it’s most narrow point.img_1548 img_1549 img_1554

When we got back to the hotel, we checked out the rooftop terrace on our floor. Panoramic views that my wide angle lens doesn’t do any justice to… but it was cool.img_1563 img_1564 img_1565 img_1566 img_1567 img_1568 img_1570

We ate dinner at a little restaurant around the corner called Polpette (meatball in Italian) that was an Italian Swedish fusion restaurant. (I’m not sure what that is haha)

(there is some glitch in this stupid site that is flipping pictures taken on my iPhone…and they dont fix, even when I flip them and look right to me…so I assume most of the following photos will be upside down- sorry….)
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When we went to order our food, Norah said “I want a Donut please!” because we had passed a donut truck on the way into the restaurant that smelled amazing. Our waiter laughed and we continued our dinner. Well, that guy snuck out sometime while we were eating and bought them donuts from the truck outside and surprised them with them once they had eaten their food! That was so sweet! and he did good, because Norah loves M&Ms. hahaimg_5317 img_5319 img_5323 img_5324

We came back to the hotel, I did a little bit of work, watched James Bond Spectre and we slept.

This morning, we started with the hotel’s extensive Swedish breakfast and we took the bus to the Vasa Museum. The Vase ship was a Swedish warship from the 1600s that sank as soon as she started into the harbor on her maiden voyage. oops. people scavenged the bronze and metal back in the day but it was left at the bottom of the ocean until the 1950s when they dug it back up and brought it here where it is an amazing piece of history. This thing is massive.

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They think that the original wood carvings were painted like this… would have been a sight.img_5448 img_5449 img_5450 img_5453 img_5457 img_5460 img_5467

After the Vasa museum, we headed to Junibaken….a children’s museum/funhouse for stories by the author that did Pippi Longstocking. But it turns out they are closed on Mondays. So, we thought maybe the aquarium? …nope. Closed on Mondays, too..  So, we went to Skansen.
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Skansen is an open air Swedish history museum. It has some animals, cafes, old stores and buildings, and other things.img_5475 img_5478

We played some old time games: ring toss, stilts, jump rope, and that game where you roll the metal hoop around.img_5480 img_5481 img_5483 img_5490 img_5491 img_5492 img_5496

Norah and Axel found the car ride. img_5502 img_5505 img_5509 img_5510 img_5512

Spent some time on this playground before we headed out.img_5513

We were boring for dinner, Norah wanted McDonalds so we had that and some sushi from Sushiyama next door. Both are right beside the hotel. We packed everything up and we’ll head out at 6am to head back to Ireland.

We get our short term rental house Tuesday afternoon that we’ll stay in while we remodel our house. We got this place for $150/week- and it’s within 15 minutes of our house, with a working kitchen, bathrooms and wifi! 🙂 So…it was a no brainer and will make the remodeling go so much faster and easier. I’ll try to post a few photos tomorrow or Wednesday of it. We plan rent it through Christmas…. so that gives Kegan a deadline. haha I currently have 1 bathroom planned out, a 2nd bathroom half planned…. and the kitchen cabinet color picked out. I have a BIT of planning to do.

Our first order of business will be to get the container unloaded on Monday the 19th when all of our stuff arrives! woohoo.

Thanks for reading along with our crazy adventures!! 🙂

Day 7 – Uppsala, Sweden

We enjoyed our morning around the house, had some breakfast and the kids played. We eventually headed out towards the town of Uppsala to see a few sites I had in mind. Marie and Johan hadn’t been tourists in their own area, so it was sort of new for them, too!
Uppsala is a town of “-ests”. They have the oldest university in Scandinavia, The tallest cathedral in Scandinavia, its the 4th largest city in Sweden…and back in olden times had the biggest pagan temple and now has the most famous Viking burial mounds in all of Sweden.

We started out at these burial mounds at Gamla Uppsala, or old Uppsala. This site was the site of the Thing For All Swedes. A thing was a gathering. Political, Legal, information….is was a gathering of the tribe, the area…or in this case here, great things usually regarding the high chieftains and visiting chiefs and kings from neighboring lands. All free men (because Vikings had slaves…) who were able to wield a weapon were about the participate in the things.

These are called the Royal Mounds. they think initially, they were built to give sacrifice to the three Norse Gods Thor, Odin and Freyr. img_1372

There is an old medieval church standing on the site of the original Temple of Uppsala. This area was the last area of Sweden to adopt Christianity. Supposedly their large wooden pagan temple here had large wooden statues of the Norse gods, but of course there is no trace of them left now. This church was the site of the archdiocese of Sweden in the early christian days before it was moved to the amazing Uppsala Cathedral. Erik the Saint (Erik the IX) was killed here around 1160 and decapitated, then buried here for 100 years or so until the Uppsala Cathedral was built. (more about that below)img_1375 img_1376 img_1377 img_1380

The guy that invented the Celsius temperature scale in buried underneath the red aisle carpet. img_1382 img_1388 img_1389 img_1390

Of course, we climbed the mounds.img_1391 img_1393 img_1400

After that, we headed downtown to the Cathedral. Swedish monarch coronations were held here from the middle ages through the 1800s.img_1413img_1419img_1423img_1424img_1427img_1430img_1431img_1435img_1437

The Vasa chapel is the biggest and most ornate of the chapels. It holds the bodies of Gustav Vasa and his three wives (although there are only 2 wives on the tomb Ha). He was the longest serving king of Sweden up to that time… he reigned in the 1500s. He helped defeat Denmark and free Sweden, found against Ivan the Terrible in Russia and was the first to really “unite” Sweden.img_1438img_1439img_1440img_1441img_1442img_1446img_1448img_1449

This relic box holds the remains of Erik IX (the one who lost his head at the old church at Gamla Uppsala around 1160) They dug up his remains there and placed them in a box that was used during all of the king’s coronation ceremonies for hundreds of years. Saint Erik/King Erik IX/Erik the Martyr is the patron saint of Sweden. They opened the relic box and analyzed the bones years ago and found that his bones did match the stories… that he had multiple stab wounds that had healed and that he had been stabbed multiple times and was decapitated, as the story goes.)img_1451img_1453img_1455

After leaving the cathedral, we walked around the side and found they were having a large festival of some sort…but that meant food trucks. We picked the kebab truck. too bad…because it was terrible. hahaimg_1459img_1460

I had promised Norah a balloon if she was good…she picked Dora.img_1465img_1468img_1469img_1470

We ended by visiting the dessert stand.img_1473img_1475img_1476img_1477

We drove the hour and half back to Marie and Johan’s where we had a late afternoon “fika” where we enjoyed chokoladbolls and coffeeimg_5292

Later in the evening we ordered Pizza from the local restaurant. We tried Kabob Pizza which is apparently very popular in Sweden… and it was tasty. We packed up our stuff and got ready to head to Stockholm in the morning.

Day 6 -Avesta with Friends

Woke up this morning to Marie’s vicious attack dog Nellie. She’s so sweet, she’s coming home with me. Next dog I get… I sure hope it’s a calm smart one like Nellie. Ha


We had a lovely spread of Swedish breakfast 

Including…wait for it…


The tube of kaviar! Marie said its a very Swedish  thing and she eats it sometimes in Eggs, the boys eat it on bread with butter in the mornings. So it turns out real people do eat it haha

After breakfast the kids all played around the house with Legos and toys and the iPad. It didn’t matter that they didn’t speak the same language, giggling and shrieking is universal across languages hahaThey bounced around on the trampoline and played together in the sandbox.

After lunchtime we took the grand tour of Avesta including a photo op with the giant Dalarnian horse.

After our compulsory photo op, we headed over to this cute little park where they have Bison. The kids thought it was great to run around wherever they wanted. They also had a cute little playground.

They had those red toadstools like you see in cartoons or Fairy tales. I’ve never seen those before!
Everyone of course had to have ice cream from the cafe.

Total Swedish item- they had sets of stilts on the playground for you to play around on. Kegan and I were supposed to take a picture together on stilts… But I couldn’t stay upright for more than 1 second lol it was bad. 
After we got home and had naps, it was time to go feed the goats. we collected apples from the yard and some crusty bread and headed down the path.

They also have some show rabbits that you used to jump in competition. Like a horse steeplechase but funnier. Ha

Day 5- Lillehammer, Norway and ending in Avesta

Today we started out with another fabulous spread of Swedish foods. I gave the tube of “kaviar” another chance, and it was MUCH better today! So, that leads me to believe that the first tube had just gone rancid. ha The kaviar redeemed itself. lol


We drove up to the top of the mountain where we were supposed to stay last night. I had found this “Alpine Apartment” on Booking.com. We drove all the way up here around sunset and couldn’t find where to check in. So I called the number on my reservation… and she tells me that my confirmation should have told me that I had to pick up the keys in Häjfell. It did. But it was like size 7 font at the very bottom. lol So we backtracked back down to town and found the empty hotel where I was to pick up the key. So I started to pay and she asks if we have our own bed linens and towels… I say no…. and she says it will be like $40 to rent them… so I’m like, can we just stay here for the night??? ha and she’s like…uhhh, yeah..duh…sure. ha So, we got the hotel room and breakfast for the same price.

But… I still wanted the pictures from the top of the mountain so I made Kegan drive back up today

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A lot of houses in Norway especially the more traditional or older homes, have a “sod roof” which is sort of misleading to what it actually is. This goes back a thousand years, with Vikings having sod roofs on most of their houses. The sod sounds like its just dirt, but really its a bottom layer of birch bark that makes the house waterproof. With a knife, you can slice the tree bark straight down and the whole bark will peel off of the tree. They then unroll it and lay it flat with weight on it to help it dry flat. Once it’s dry, they lay a layer of the birch back down, then cover it with sod to hold it in place, which also acts as insulation. They look so cool. Now I want a sod roof.img_1315

As we left Häjfell, we could see the fairy house and troll across the lake/river.img_1316

Saw this big dam on our way to Lillehammerimg_1320 img_1325

We stopped by the Olympic Park up on the top of the hill.img_1326 img_1329

Everything in Norway has an amazing view.
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We got to the ski jumps from the 1994 Olympics and we were lucky enough to see the skiers practicing. That was AMAZING. I never realized just how far they flew off of that ramp!img_1337

Because there’s no snow, they have astroturf on the jumps.img_1342 img_1344 img_1347 img_1350 img_1351 img_1353
Norah LOVED the skiers. She didnt want to leave. She just sat here at the end of the ramp and watched them over and over. She wasnt happy when we made her leave.

But eventually, we started back towards Sweden. We had a 6 hour drive to Avesta. Not much to share, just some scenery. Lots of forest.

We met Marie, Johan and the boys, Axel and Gustav and had some nice dinner and  conversation. I didn’t photograph all of our dinner, but they did serve us Moose! It was awesome.


They have the cutest country house… and it has a three story guesthouse! I told them we were moving in. It is just spectacular.


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and these beautiful rustic old barn stairs.img_1370

Tomorrow will be pretty light because we’re just hanging around with Marie and living the good Swedish country life! 🙂

Day 4-Mora, Fulufjället Natl Park and Norway again

Today we got up and went downstairs for breakfast around 8:50am…to learn that there weren’t enough guests to make it worth their while to open breakfast….so she told us we’d have to go down to the other hotel. (The one we got dinner at last night because the restaurant was closed at ours). Trouble was, they quit serving breakfast at 9am. grrrr. I was really irked… and was absolutely sure I was going to write a terrible review and ask for my money back from Booking.com since the amenities listed weren’t actually available and I paid EXTRA for included breakfast….

We quickly loaded the car and drove down, making it by 9:06. The staff was just getting ready to put up the items from the buffet but they sorta slowly decided we could grab some stuff quickly. again, I wasn’t happy…but quickly just started grabbing some food haha. Then, as we are eating, in walks the lady that told me breakfast would be in our own hotel… apparently, she was working the late evening at our hotel…but was actually like the main property manager. I (in a nice way) told her how we had to hurry down and grab breakfast because we found out last minute. She was like, “Oh…thats not OK. I will deal with that.” and starting texting haha

So… turns out it seems the people down there were just too lazy to get the food out for the 4 people who were staying there haha I hope they got in trouble because I’m spiteful. She was super nice and loved Norah… was very apologetic, lived in Cork for 3 years, and brought Norah back a bag of surprises including a CD of traditional Swedish music (our car doesn’t have a cd player haha) a handmade wooden heart and some candy ribbons and chocolate. So… in the end, we got breakfast  and I liked the manager…so she saved the day. ha


We set out for the town of Mora, a cute little town in the area of Dalarna (also the area Marie lives).

They have a really cool church, the church of St. Michel..and a statue of St. Michel slaying the dragon in their downtown square.img_1215 img_1216 img_1219 img_1221

They are also famous for their knives. Morakniv is a world famous knife manufacturer. Kegan was drooling over them and trying to figure out how to get them back home. hahaimg_1226

This area is famous for its wooden horses. These days, the horse is just a symbol for this part of Sweden, but it started out as a toy that parents would carve for their children back in olden days. People started manufacturing them for sale as early as the 1600s although, if Wikipedia can be trusted, they didn’t get the intricate painting on the red horse until the late 1800s. I had to buy one a tiny one to go on my travel knick-knack shelf alongside my loch ness monster. lol

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After Mora, it was back in the car for a couple hour drive as what could best be described as the Ikea warehouse. (Nothing but new growth Pine forests for 2 hours! you know that wood was bound for some sort of flat packed dining table ha)


We did see a little grocery store and we stopped in to ensure we would at least have some snacks if we couldn’t find dinner tonight. I love that they had these little kid carts! Norah thought she was such a grown up with her own cart. It was cute.


We arrived at Fulufjallets National Park right on the Norwegian border to see the largest waterfall in Sweden: Njupeskar.

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The sign says “2”…. so maybe it’s trail 2? some sort of slag, like ‘this way 2 Njupeskar’ or something? because it definitely wasn’t 2 kilometers. lolimg_1235

A lot of the trail was on boardwalk, which I thought was really neat.

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Ansel Adams over here spotted a tree that he knew would make a cool picture. Gotta get the shot!img_1242

In all fairness… he did pretty good:


As I was going through photos, I turned this one black and white and LOVE the busy-ness of it. Might be a framer.img_1243 img_1248

Of course, Norah made friends. Some Swedish lady wanted to high five her, so she cornered her into a game of pattycake. lolimg_1251
We’ve got poses.img_1253

Always stairs involved with everything cool. I don’t understand. lol
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Ansel Adams also took this photo of the spiral bark dead tree. Came out pretty cool, too. So apparently Kegan should have the camera, not me. img_1275

Speaking of, Kegan actually took some photos today I can be in the blog post too! 🙂


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When we finished climbing Everest (ok, so I’m a bit dramatic about hiking…) we decided to just eat at the little cafe- they had some menu options posted above the window-all in Swedish of course- so I just picked something. Turned out it was cube steak. haha but it was good!img_1282  



After leaving the park, we entered Norway again and we were supposed to head over to the west coast to catch some AMAZING scenery and fjords….but i didnt calculate out the time right for driving it….it was just too far to do and not be miserable… so we decided to save the other Norwegian coast for the next trip and just go to the town of Lillehammer and live out our olympic dreams. Lillehammer was the site of the 1994 winter Olympics and there are still a lot of Olympic related buildings around.  We’ll explore that more in the morning.

One other thing Lillehammer has is the Hunderflossen Amusement Park with a Norwegian folklore theme…so of course, there is a giant troll in the park. Unfortunately, the park closed Aug 18th and was only open last weekend. I guess you have that when you put an amusement park in the middle of a ski resort town that gets snow 8 months out of the year.

We drove there anyway, just to see if we could get a view of the giant troll or the fairy house. We could barely see both, but it was enough 🙂

Trolls are beings from Old Norse mythology. A lot of folklore talks about them big, strong and dim witted. They turn to stone if they are caught in the sunlight… which it seems is what happened to this particular troll. He got caught in the sun and here he sits.

Our view of the park:img_1297  img_1303

Other people’s photos of the troll and fairy house:fairyhouse troll1

 

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The troll sits on top of a restaurant inside the park. Inside of the restaurant is held up by four more trolls. Little disappointed we couldn’t go here.

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We got to our hotel and it will do just fine for the evening. 🙂

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We grabbed hamburgers at the gas station right up the road…and there was corn on it. That was a first! 


Tomorrow, we’ll see some of Lillehammer and drive back to Marie’s house for dinner! 

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