Hello everyone, so I’ve been back from Sweden for a week now and just got over my jetlag. In celebration of that “achievement” I thought I’d write a blog post about the trip, chock full of pictures and descriptions. I visited trendy Stockholm, industrial Orebro, and a quaint little lakeside village called Nora.
I flew Norwegian Air for the last time (I hope) after passing through the nightmare called Tom Bradley Terminal in Los Angeles, where security was through the roof and everyone was passed through the full body scanner one at a time. Almost two hours after entering the security line I was finally through and headed for the gate. The flight was not spectacular, with only a few bumps and bruises somewhere over Greenland.
I rented a car at Arlanda airport in Stockholm and navigated the Swedish highway system 191 kilometers to Orebro, where my two small boys live with their mother after our divorce. I spent seven wonderful days with my boys, playing games, visiting indoor playgrounds, going about town, going to the top of Svampen, shopping, and visiting a nearby lake.
Orebro, the city they live in is an industrial city near Hjalmaren Lake, a large body of water that doesn’t connect to the Baltic Sea. The city boasts a medieval castle named Orebro slott, beautiful old Scandinavian architecture mixed with modern architecture, a giant water tower shaped like a mushroom (Svampen), modern restaurants (expensive), a giant indoor water playground (Gustavsvik), malls, museums and art structures.
The place to exchange money in town is Forex Exchange, but be sure to hold on to your receipt because they charge a fee of 50kr to exchange your money initially and will charge you again to convert the money back into US dollars when you leave, but if you present your receipt they waive the reconversion fee. There is a Forex in downtown and one at Marieberg Mall. There may be more around Orebro, but these are the two I used regularly.
The public transportation system in Orebro is very efficient, with buses arriving and departing every approx 15 minutes to and from any bus station. If you somehow get lost walking, stop and ask any Swede, most speak very good English, for directions to downtown, because all the buses meet and depart from downtown, on the bridge next to the castle.
Speaking of asking Swedes, I’ve yet to run into a Swedish man or woman of any age who didn’t speak some level of English, and usually very well. Even when the English is not very good, Swedish people will go out of their way to communicate with you in English, because they’re very proud of their English skills. Don’t be afraid to approach them, because although Swedes may appear standoffish at first, they are actually very friendly people, more than willing to help, as you’ll see when we get to my tour of Stockholm later.
Orebro Slott: This is the medieval castle in the center of Orebro, complete with a black water moat. There is a walking path around the whole castle which can be completed in about 15 minutes, but you’ll want to stop many times along the way to take pictures. Be careful not to fall in the black water, as people have drowned after falling in, especially around the southern edge of the castle where the water is swiftest.
Orebro slott was built on an island on the river Svartån around the 13th Century, beginning life as a simple watchtower, and expanding construction over succeeding centuries. It has grown in fortification during the reign of the Vasa Royal Family between 1523 and 1624, and in the early 1900’s it was finally completed into the castle we see today. The castle can be visited every day, and although sections of it are closed to the general public because it also serves as residence to the county governor, some sections serve the general public as guided tours, conference rooms, and events such as art and music.
Svampen: The next day I took the boys out to visit some parks around the city and we spotted the big mushroom looking water tower of Orebro, called Svampen. It has a play park next to it, so we decided to make a pit stop. As we were taking pictures of the boys and the tower we spotted some construction workers entering the closed structure. Playing the tourist with small children I approached one of the workers and asked if it was possible to take us up to the top of the tower with them, and Swedes being the friendly lot they are, said of course!
So we got to ride the long and slow elevator to the top of the mushroom shaped tower called Svampen. The elevator is old and rickety, and the boys were a little bit scared of the ride, but once we reached the top all the fear went out of them. The city and lake view from the top of Svampen is spectacular! The top is a circular deck with a 360° view of Orebro. The construction crew was rebuilding an old restaurant, restoring it into a modern eatery with an elevated platform view of the city from any table. We spent a good hour up there, taking pictures and finding different spots around the city to visit that we couldn’t see from the ground.
Nora: We left Svampen behind and headed further inland from there looking for a town I had visited before in late Winter, called Nora. When I visited Nora the last time, everything was stuttered up and the town was practically deserted, so although my ex-wife took me there for ice cream and dessert, we ended up leaving slightly disappointed that everything had been closed. This time everything was open.
Nora is a lakeside town just north of Orebro, worth visiting for its sweeping lake view vistas, boating, gardens, and simply the walk around the lake itself, not to mention the picturesque church in the center of town and the cafés where ice cream and dessert can be had side by side with the charming residents of Nora.
We decided to have Fika, a Swedish tradition meaning “to have coffee”, where you have a coffee and pastry in the middle of the day sometime. Of course the boys skipped the coffee, but I indulged myself to a Swedish pastry and a coffee at a local café, while the boys each had a hefty pastry serving themselves.
The walk around Nora is a wonderful presentation of Swedish lake life, with cobblestoned streets leading to the lake, wonderful flower gardens gently tended by Nora residents, boats in the marina and a now-defunct train yard reminiscent of Thomas the Train’s island station on Sodor. Old antique shops line the narrow streets, welcoming visitors to discover the hidden Swedish treasures that lie within, but beware that if you do enter some of these shops, you may not leave again for a few hours. Was that a beaten 15th century shield I saw resting behind an old rusty iron stove or was it my imagination? It sure didn’t look like the mass-produced junk we see in stores today.
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