Lockdown: Week 9 – Places we’ve been (Part 2 – Sweden, Norway and Finland).

Albi in Norway 2019

We’re still in Lockdown, social-distancing and trying to keep busy. Reg still can not socialise, but he’s happy and we’ve been trying to fill our days, with some activities indoor and out. We’ve been on some bike rides, we’re trying to complete our circuit in different ways!

Reg has now had his full sets of vaccinations and can shortly socialise. We’re teaching him commands, slowly, and trying to keep him amused each day. He’s progressed from his basket to the dog trailer and has had a couple of trips in that.

In addition, we’ve been reminiscing about the places we’ve been to in the last year, this is part two and our trip around Sweden, Norway and Finland. We crossed the bridge from Denmark and headed up the Eastern Coast to the Norwegian Border, through Norway up to Nordkapp and over to the Russian Border, before heading through Finland to the Arctic Circle and back into Sweden, travelling down to Stockholm and back over to Finland by ferry.

Sweden

  • Malmö -We’ve had good and bad experiences in Malmö. Our first time here. we stayed at what felt like a pretty rundown site but it was quirky and we liked it. We set off to return here, but it has had a facelift and was FULL! We found another, but although we had a spot for the night on the edge of the sea, the facilities were not up to scratch and we chose to use those on board.
  • Halmstad – a lovely town on the edge of the river. The camperstop was just on the edge of the town right on the river and a short walk to the town centre and a bakery! There is a sculpture trail through the waterside gardens, too, complete with a Picasso!
  • Bua – this is one we don’t want to share! We loved it here, right on the marina, and with the wild coast on the other side of the road.
  • Henån – so good we came here twice! Seriously, we did like it here, another marina with a FREE laundry and town, walking distance away.
  • Gällivare – a ski resort in the winter, but a lovely town in the summer. We saw hares here on the morning walk (and picked up a Chinese takeaway)!
  • Moskosel – we stayed here at Ljuselforsens Rastplatz, by the side of the river. The views were stunning, but the river was very full and as newbie wild campers, was a little unnerving, but we survived and loved every minute of it.
  • Täfrea – we stopped here at the Kvarkenfisk Restaurant Stellplatz. It’s right on the sea with a fish restaurant and cabins (hytte). It was here we met new friends, Ana-Lund and Tommy, while sampling the Surströmming (stinky fish). Don’t be put off by the road to the restaurant – you are heading in the right direction!
  • Ramvik – we had not intended to stop here. but the effects of the stinky fish had started to take its toll and a night in a campsite was required. We headed off from here to the Motor Museum in Harnosands.
  • Galtstrom – we stopped in a wild camp site, next to the sea, with plenty of walks in the woods, a restaurant at the end of the road and the sea, where you can fish.
  • Angra – here we stopped at a campsite, where they will take you on a safari to see bears in the wild. We were joined by free-range chickens in the field, as we cooked. There is a river which runs through it too. Whilst out walking, we discovered there had be a forest fire nearby, and it had literally stopped at the campsite.
  • Nusnäs – home of the Dala Horse Factories, the carved painted horses traditional to Sweden.
  • Lesjöfors – wild camping spot with a toilet on the edge of a lake, with woodlands behind, and a sandy shoreline, perfect for the dog to run around on. It was a quiet place to stop, when we were there.
  • Karlstad – we headed for Karlstad as we had been craving a KFC and it didn’t disappoint.
  • Åmål – a campsite just on the edge of town, but beside Lake Vänern – the largest lake in European Union (and the third largest in Europe – the other two are in Russia).
  • Holsljunja – another Rastplatz, on the edge of another lake. We parked up behind an elderly Swedish couple, who were foraging mushrooms in the woods – not knowing our mushrooms from toadstools, we didn’t venture in too.
  • Solvesborg – we’d driven to a different campsite up the road a little, but it was so busy and the pitches weren’t all that great, so we drove on and found a little site on the edge of a lake.
  • Smålandet Markaryd alg safari – The Moose Safari. As we hadn’t been fortunate to see Moose in the wild we took Nortia on a trip through the Moose Safari Park, after our first circuit, we were fortunate to follow the train through and were able to see more Moose than we did on our own! The fact the train passengers are given food for the moose might have had something to do with it!
  • Tosteberga Hamn – a little Rastplatz on an archipelago. The spaces can be a little tight and not all have electricity but it was lovely. You can also pay in Euros (if like us you didn’t have cash!). They do have an app, but it didn’t recognise an English Bank Account.
  • Karlskrona – we drove into the town, there is a Stellplatz, in the centre of the town, but it was a hot day and the spaces are on tarmac, a bit too hot for the dog. There are a lot of sights to see here and you can get the ferry to Poland.
  • Bergkvara – we stayed on a nice grass pitch as the weather was quite hot. The site is close to the beach and the little town.
  • Öland Island – the second largest island in Sweden. We stayed here for two nights both on the sea. The first was at Grönhögens hamn, a small harbour town, we had a view of the sea and watched the coastguard sail up the coastline. We cycled out to Långe Jan the lighthouse on the southernmost point, through the nature reserve and marshland. The second stop after travelling up to the Northern Point and Långe Erik Lighthouse., was at Boda Hamn, and we had a spectacular thunder storm throughout the night.
  • Paskallaviks – we stopped here, originally for one night but stayed three, it was so nice. We travelled up to Oskarshamn, to see a vet, before heading on to Finland. The Stellplatz has a coded restroom and free laundry. There are two sides to the Rastplatz, so don’t be fooled by the fuller, EHU supplied left hand side! There are walks into the village and a pizza takeaway nearby. There were several locals who arrived to have a Birthday Party picnic tea on the benches laid out on the grass.
  • Valdermarsvik – located on the only fjord in Sweden. We stopped at the campsite on the beach (no dogs). The pitches are lovely and big and there is a restaurant, on site. We later discovered walking along the fjord, that there is a Stellplatz in the town on the edge of the fjord.
  • Oxelösund – stopping in another Stellplatz on the harbour. there is a restaurant on the end of the pier and it is a working port. We had another thunderstorm and lightning display.
  • Sollentuna – a lovely stop over just outside Stockholm and convenient for the Ferry to Finland. The site has access to the forest and lake.
  • Tallink Silja Galaxy – our overnight ferry to Finland, with dog friendly cabin and dog deck. We actually went on a pub crawl (3 bars – 3 drinks) and had a meal on board, before an incredibly early start (disembarkment – 06:00). Finland is 1 hour ahead of Sweden (2 hours ahead of the UK).

Norway

  • Oslo – Bogstad Camping, we made the mistake of expecting to be able to stop in a Rastplatz in Moss, on the edge of the harbour. When we got there it was full, the weather was perfect, as was the view. We continued on our journey and despite trying to find another couple, indicated on the app, we booked into Bogstad Camping. It is ideal to visit the city.
  • Notodden – Lystang Camping – this is one of our favourite camping spots. Our trip was slightly marred by the loss of our phone in a shop, which we did retrieve! The last time we stayed here we took a boat trip on the river, but we’d arrived in a heatwave and it was too hot this time. We relaxed by the motorhome, and cycled to the town.
  • Edland – we followed the Hardinger Scenic Route north to Edland and stopped in a campsite by a lake. While we were here, we (Ric) had to sort an Electricity failure on the campsite, caused by a faulty cable on a different Motorhome. It was solved with a lack of English and Norwegian but just sign language!
  • Taulen – heading further north, we stumbled across this lovely campsite, by the side of a river. It was fine until the middle of the night when the river sounded like rain!
  • Odda – We stopped in Odda for lunch, and after filling up with fuel, we spotted Thord from Ice Road Rescue, a programme we watch and were greeted with a wave.
  • Horndola – We followed Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav, further north and she managed to tell us that the road was closed and gave us a detour. After a lot of tunnels, including the Laerdal Tunnel, we found a place to stop in Horndola. Looking up the attractions nearby we found the Giftesteinen Stone. It is a large stone with a hole in the middle, with a myth attached. We popped up to see it early on a dog walk, and by 09:00 there were over 11 coaches, from the cruise liners.
  • Hellesylt – We continued to following Ditsy Daisy, having passed the point of no return and we found ourselves at the Cruise Ferry Terminal to Geiranger. Although a bit of an expense, we would probably spend the same retracing our journey back around. The cruise was lovely, the sun was shining and the scenery spectacular.
  • Geiranger – Disembarking in Geiranger, the campsites were full so instead we headed up the Eagles Road and on to the Trollsteigen Pass, stopping at the top of the Trollsteigen to complete our previous visit (we arrived in heavy snow and the path was closed).
  • Isfjord – Romsdalseggen Camping, Åndalsnes. We stopped here by the side of a ski resort in a very nice campsite behind a hostel.
  • Levanger – Gullberget Camping (outside Trondheim). We stumbled on this campsite by accident The one we had stayed at before, didn’t look as nice this time around, so we carried on and found this site, on the edge of a nature reserve and close to the main E6 heading north.
  • Mosjøen – we stopped here before on our way to the Arctic Circle and for the return back (the last trip we did was a three week holiday, so only just enough time to get there and back and back to work)! The campsite is close to the edge of town and has a some nice walking paths around. On our way up to Polarsirkelen, we stopped at Mo-I-Rana to fill with LPG.
  • Polarsirkelen – Arctic Circle Centre. As it wasn’t snowy, it looked a lot different to the last time we were here, and we expected crowds, but gratefully it wasn’t too bad. It is definitely somewhere to stop and be a tourist.
  • Saltstraumen – heading north we took a turn to the east and found ourselves at Saltstraumen, crossing over the bridge to the archipelago. On the dog walk, we discovered the saltstraumen tides. In the evening, there was no tide at all, it was as calm as anything , but the tide times said the tides we be high at 08:00 the following morning. The maelstrom is well, worth a visit.
  • Ballangen – continuing our journey north, we stopped on the edge of a fjord. The amenities in the campsite were amazing with a large kitchen for campers. There was so little darkness here, on our trip, that hearing the rain start at 03:30, and heading out to get the washing – it was as if it was 08:00 at home!
  • Tromsø – heading up the coast further north, we were greeted by reindeer walking down the road. The campsite was ok, but the real bonus was an Indian restaurant, nearby with an English app and delivery. It was possibly the most expensive Indian take-away we have ever had – but well worth it!
  • Storslett – Fosselv Camping, another great find on the edge of the fjord and an ideal fishing location. The views near here are amazing and we passed Karen and Myles from http://www.motoroaming.com
  • Russenes – at the end of the E6 and turning east again, we stopped here for the night before heading towards Nordkapp.
  • Honningsvag – we stopped here to get provisions before heading to Nordkapp. The cruise liner, TUI Mein Schieff 3, had just docked and we were amongst several tourists in the town
  • Nordkapp – on our arrival (and we didn’t exactly know what to expect), we were asked if we wanted to camp for the night – it’s included in the price of parking! Facilities are free to enter and open from 06:00 to 02:00. What’s also lovely is you can be there almost alone, once the cruise liner passengers have gone and before the next ones arrive. The views are spectacular and despite the cold, a must to see and do.
  • Ifjord – heading away from Nordkapp and on towards Finland and the Russian border, we stopped at a small campsite, which was in the process of being renovated but had potential. It’s not a part of Norway, regularly visited by English tourists, according to the campsite owners.
  • Kirkenes – the border town for Russia and Finland. The town was completely rebuilt after World War Two, when it was destroyed by bombing raids. We had hoped to view the Russian border, but Ditsy Daisy and Gloria Google Maps, couldn’t decide where the border was and we didn’t want to take a risk, especially with the dog.

Finland

  • Inari, our first stop in Finland. Having first discovered that there is a time difference between Norway and Finland. We had to pass through two border controls – one European and one for Russians entering Europe. The campsite was an idyllic typical Finnish campsite (but we didn’t see Moomins).
  • Rovaniemi – we stopped at a Rastplatz on our way to Santa Claus Village. The Rastplatz, was on the edge of a lake and beautiful.
  • Santa Claus Village – a must see tourist attraction, if you’re in this part of the world. However, listening to Christmas music in the sun in August was a little surreal! We put in a good word with Santa for the grandkids, before crossing back over the Arctic Circle again (we crossed it four times in total – once in Norway and Finland and twice in Sweden).
  • Ii – we stopped here on our way back to Sweden, just below the Arctic Circle. We might have stayed longer, but the weather changed, and we were in torrential rain, the following morning. The town, is supposed to be the greenest in Europe, we later found out. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct03ms
  • Merikarvia – heading back to Finland from Sweden, we discovered that the start of September is time for Finland to start closing down. We found this campsite by chance and headed off around the southern part of the country. It was here we were contacted about meeting in Riga, Latvia for our film shoot, in a week’s time!
  • Larsmo – After a lot of rain, we arrived in Larsmo, a municipality made up of 360 islands and islets, where there is a Sauna Boat you can hire on the waterway, from the campsite shop. This community is one of the few bilingual Swedish and Finnish speaking, Swedish was the only language spoken until 2014
  • Juva – We arrived in more rain (torrential and thunderstorms) and the campsite was in a woodland by the side of another lake. It was lovely and picturesque, especially as dawn broke, the rain stopped and the mist gathered. The footpaths had a large variety of mushrooms (toadstools?).
  • Helsinki – A city campsite, next to the Metro station. Remarkably quiet and secure. We were about to head out on the Metro, when yet more rain, and again torrential. We will definitely revisit if we’re back here again.

Week 6: Norway to Finland

Finland – Country 8 – straight into Lapland – home of Reindeer and Santa

This week saw us go to places we had read about but never had the opportunity before to visit.

We’re still above the Arctic Circle and while the majority of the UK is in a heatwave we are struggling to reach temperatures above 8°C – with a feels like of 4°C! The days are longer with the sun setting after 10:00pm and rising again between 01:45am and 03:00am.

Monday saw us on our way to Nordkapp. We drove to Alta and then over the wilds of Sennalandet, where we almost collided with a Reindeer (don’t tell the grandkids) while watching some others – its not a normal thing for us to see reindeer especially not in the numbers up here! We stayed at the Russenes Camping Butikk, in Russenes, with a wonderful view of the fjord and Russian neighbours!

On Tuesday, we headed even further north, its felt like we’ve been heading north for ever, but today would be the furthest we could go – Nordkapp. We followed the road up and into Honningsvag, and saw another cruise liner – the TUI Mein Schieff 3.

On the way to Nordkapp, we saw yet more reindeer and the views were amazing. We reached the car park and were told our entry fee included an overnight stop in the motorhome if we wanted to (luckily we hadn’t stopped at a campsite on the way up to check-in) and we could order breakfast. We didn’t have to make up our minds at that point as they were open until midnight!

We set off to look at the monuments and it was packed the Cruise Liner passengers had been bussed up and they were everywhere. We returned to Nortia and decided to stay. We had a perfect spot overlooking the bay with the horizon going on eternally around us. A wild camp night – it was cold but we have heating and there was use of the main building until 01:00 and after 06:00 so not a problem. Even better, once the tourists (we were now residents for the day) had left we had the place to ourselves – and the other motorhomers, caravanners and campers as well as a few hardy day guests. What had been a challenge to get to was now empty and photos could be taken. That said, when I took photos the following morning looking back at the car park the number of motorhomes reminded me of the scene from Independence Day, where they all flock to Area 51!

Nordkapp is the northernmost point of Europe and as such, is higher than the whole of the UK including Shetland and the Orkneys, Iceland, the USA – except Alaska and most of Canada. It sits 71°10’21” North.

The next day, we had to retrace our steps south in order to travel east to the Russian border. We had to be careful here – the main road followed the Finnish border and any diversions would send us over the border. We are not opposed to the Finns but as we’ve probably already mentioned, it would involve another vet visit and a 24 hour wait before continuing on in Norway. So we stuck to the lesser used Fv98 – its very scenic but very bumpy and potholed – it makes English roads look positively good! There were still more reindeer up here.

We stopped over at Ifjord, at a little campsite which was being done up – they don’t see a lot of English tourist in this part of the world I was informed!

Next step, Kirkenes and the Russian border. A few more reindeer and then a Military Zone – what? No photos or camping in the lay-bys – it is because of the threat of illegal immigration from Russia, who is not part of the Schengen Arrangement of European Free Travel.

Kirkenes, itself is a rather ordinary town, it was the second most bombed place in the Second World War- due to its iron ore production and proximity to Russia – the next closet town is Murmansk. In case you need it for a quiz, the most bombed place in WWII was Malta.

The Russian Border is at a place called Storskog – Ditsy Daisy Sat Nav didn’t recognise it as a town but Gloria Google Maps did, so with phone in hand we set off. Turn left at the roundabout then we read the next step…. cross the Russian Border and continue – WHAT? Quick turnaround! This might seem a bit extreme but there is a minimum of 5000 NOK (Norwegian Kroner) fine per person (£500) and the dog can get quarantined. Originally, we only wanted to get to Kirkenes so we’d done that.

With all our Norwegian places visited, we were set to travel to Finland, but first we found an ideal wild camping spot just off the 893 about 7 Kilometres from the Finnish Border. This was our first EVER proper wild camp. We’d researched what you do and how best and listened to stories and tales and put everything in place, park so you can get away if you have to, keep all belongings secure and we put everything away in case we needed to run. All this fuss for nothing – no-one else was around, no-one tried to break in and kill us in our sleep – it was fine. That said, always check your location before just parking up and never break laws to do it – know what you can and can’t do – lecture over!

We went over the border to Finland the next day. First you pass a Border Control building – this is for Russian Nationals we believe and we passed on a bit underwhelmed abut the lack of signage. Further down the road is the actual border crossing point and a few metres further on, the scenery changed. Finland is known as the land of lakes – there are loads, the area we entered – Lapland, has woods and lakes in abundance. There are so many areas to wild camp and its expected here!

We had entered Finland in Lapland – according to the Finland website, it is home to 190 000 reindeer, 749 fells and 1 Santa Claus. We’re off to see Santa later in the week. There were still more reindeer – reindeer are lovely and unusual for us but they are daft. They play chicken with cars, like to cross just as you approach and then run down the road in front of you!

There are a few things we need to share with you if you are planning a trip to Finland – we had always planned to come but we knew nothing before arriving! In Finland, they use the Euro – we haven’t used this since Germany! Their time is a different zone to Sweden and Norway, and the rest of Europe we had so far visited – they are another 1 hour ahead so when the phone automatically changed it was a bit of a shock! I’m sure they’ll be more things we find out and we’ll keep you posted!

Our first night in Finland was at a lovely campsite in Inari, still inside the Arctic Circle and on a lovely lake. The facilities were a bit rustic but warm and functional. We took a slow drive south towards Rovaniemi passing more reindeer – especially pleasing when they walked down the road in front of us outside the Santa’s Aurora Hotel and the Flying Reindeer Cabins – we really are in Santa Land.

Our stop for the night was a lovely free spot by a lake, with 3 other motorhomes. It was so peaceful and we were warm – the weather had improved and the temperature increased. After a relaxing nights sleep, we went to visit Santa at Santa Claus Village on the Arctic Circle in Lapland, Finland. It was a little surreal listening to Jingle Bells in the sun in August! Santa was in and there was a big queue to meet him so I didn’t get to meet him – just don’t tell the grandkids, as we’ve told them we told Santa how good they’ve been. We crossed back over the Arctic Circle and headed south, doing a bit of sightseeing, meeting some more reindeer on the beach and looking for somewhere to stop overnight – we had been spoilt the night before, and nothing quite matched our requirements, so we went to a campsite in Ii. It was a lovely find, right on the river close to the sea.

After a long drive and a lovely meal it was time for bed. The weather forecast for next week isn’t great so some planning will be done in the morning – another week’s adventures to plan…

We’re not sure at this point whether we’ll stay longer in Finland or head north to Sweden and explore – we’ve only ever driven through Sweden to get to Norway – even earlier in the trip the aim was Norway, despite a few lovely nights on the west coast.

As always, thank you for reading. We hope you have a great week and will catch up again next week, Sx