Denmark

After our moonlit flit from the wild west of Sweden to Denmark, we had a lazy day wandering forest trails and eating Bev’s van-baked blueberry pie. Then, with a few days to fill before my next gig in Odense, we had time to explore some of the sights of northern Denmark…

  • Strandby Church – a really striking modern design
  • The so-called sunken church – only the tower remains, as the rest was demolished after being repeatedly buried under drifting sands
  • Grenen Beach – at the convergence of two seas. We joined thousands of Danes and tourists to wander to the end of the spit of sand and ‘stand with one foot in the Skagerrak and the other foot in the Kattegat’
  • Råbjerg Mile – the largest migrating sand dune in Northern Europe. A bizarre and eerie sight, some distance from the coast
  • Aarhus – with a fantastic botanical garden and distinctive art museum
  • Middlefart – we stayed by a marina by the Lillebælt bridge and caught a glimpse of harbour porpoises at play

Live ‘On the Roof’, Odense

The last gig of our summer tour was at a cool bar in Odense – PåTaget – which is literally ‘on the roof’ of a multi-story building and car park right in the middle of the city. There was a fantastic jazz, blues and folk festival on – with the likes of Larkin Poe and Jamie Cullum and UK bluesman Lawrence Jones playing. One of the Jam Days festival acts, a Faroe Islander with the awesome stage name ‘Johan Solo’ hosts a regular jam night at PåTaget and I was booked to play an acoustic set before the jam. It went well, great bar, fun bar staff, friendly crowd. Johan jammed with me at the end of my set, adding a cool electric guitar solo to my song ‘Cold Wind’.

Here’s Johan in action…

Live at Wild West, Sweden

On our last night in Sweden, I played the opening set for the Wild West night at the Bison Farm at Gate, near Hjo on lake Vättern. We stayed there a few days before the event and I saw the poster – listing the headline bands ‘plus ???’. I asked if they’d sorted the ??? and offered my sevices. I played in the saloon bar as people arrived, got drinks and tucked into the excellent bison burgers and smorgas. 

The main stage in the barn was fantastic. I saw most of Erika Baier and the Business’s set – a really tight band, bluesy with the occasional country twist which I thought suited the Wild West theme of the night perfectly.

Just caught a bit of De blev Handgemäng, which google translated as ‘It became a handgun’. Very cool band…

We missed headliners ‘Grass Tank’ as we had to high-tail it across the country to Gothenburg for a ferry to Denmark at 4am! Bev drove, so it was a cool moonlit ride for me. We didn’t bump into any mooses on the road. An hours kip before the ferry and we found a park4night close to Friedrikshavn in Denmark as soon as we disembarked, for a proper sleep.

Farewell Sweden, we’ll be back!

Sweden – who knew?!

Guided by our amazing friends in Sweden, we discovered so many wonderful and strange things during our 4 week exploration of the south of this fantastic country – a real highlight of our tour so far.

Swedish hospitality

First at Västervik and then in Vimmerby, we were welcomed, entertained and generally spoilt rotten – by 4 generations of the Ask family and Tony and so many other lovely people! We’ve been immersed in Swedish culture, traditions and family histories and shared in the current excitement around Andy and Ucci’s new house and Robin’s plans to build an off-grid summerhouse in Durjsala.

I mentioned the breakfasts last time. Other culinary delights include Ostkake (cheesecake), korv (hot dog style sausages), raggmonk (potato pancakes, served with bacon and lingonberry jam) and last but not least – kebab meat pizza with chips (served on the pizza) and ‘pizza salad’ (a pickled cabbagey thing). And of course we had Swedish meatballs!

We did so many fantastic things but highlights would have to include:

  • Chilling/ messing about on ‘the rock’, swimming, paddleboarding, playing guitar and banjo with beers at sunset and so on.
  • Watching the Queen/Freddie Mercury movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, at the film festival in an outdoor cinema in the ruins at Slottsholmen.
  • The Stadsvandring – an evening stroll around Vimmerby with actors in period dress telling stories, often based on real people and events in local history. It was all in Swedish but we really enjoyed it!
  • Seeing the Elk. We would have loved to see them in the wild (but not at night on the road!) but this was the next best thing. Huge beasts, very soft mouths – ‘like a peach’ says Tony. Bev was the only one in our party to go for a kiss…

I only hope we can repay such wonderful hospitality someday!

Name Days

One of the traditions in Sweden is to celebrate ‘name days’ and there were two while we there with our friends – Margareta on 20th July as it’s one of Ucci’s many middle names; and Christina on 24th July, which we celebrated with Chrisa and Mickaela (it’s her middle name) with a big family breakfast and cake…

I felt a bit sorry for young Winston, because as it’s not a traditional Swedish name, he doesn’t have a name day!

Buying booze in Sweden

Systembolaget is the government-owned chain of off-licences in Sweden. Since 1955, this is the only place (apart from bars, restaurants and night-clubs) where you can buy strong alcoholic beverages. The one we went to was nice – plenty of range and reasonably priced (compared to bars). Felt a bit like a duty free shop in an airport. Apparently, the staff are usually quite knowledgeable and you can order anything in if its not in stock. 

Turns out they have names for the different categories of öl (ale), based on the strength:

  • Lättöl 0.0% – 2.25% – Light
  • Lätt Folköl 2.8% – introduced more recently to align with EU
  • Folköl 2.9% – 3.5% – ‘the people’s beer’
  • Mellanöl 3.6% – 4.5% – in-between beer
  • Starköl 4.6% and above – Strong beer

You can buy cans of beer in the supermarkets, but only up to 3.5%.These are 3.5% versions of beers we normally see at 5.0% here in the UK, so were heartily dismissed as ‘piss ale’ by some of our party.

And one more thing on beer – each can has a deposit or ‘pant’ of 1 Krona which is an incentive to drive positive recycling behaviour. You feed the empties into a machine in the supermarket and it gives you a receipt for money off inside. We saw the same in Denmark and Germany.

Fika

This is the habit of regular breaks for coffee, chat and little cakes or nibbles. Someone pops by – fika time! Job done – time for a fika! We got into it. Lots of cinnamon whirls, little biscuits, etc. One of our faves was an orange and coconut biscuit/flarn – which was so good Bev asked Ucci’s dad for the recipe.

Loppis

You see this on handwritten signs everywhere – it means ‘flea’ and points towards a flea market. Some are temporary car boot style, some more established. Some have fika! I half wanted to visit one – I’m on the lookout for some specific bits and bobs for a secret musical project – but had to remind myself that we don’t have room in the van for any ‘tat’. 

Raggere

This is the word for the Swedish craze for all things American and vintage – Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles, 1950s music and dress, and so on. Some estimates say there are now more restored vintage classic cars in Sweden than in the USA. One day we passed car after car after car – heading to a massive meet-up at Falköping . Our last night in Sweden was a Wild West spectacular at a bison farm – we thought we might see a few there and weren’t disappointed. Chevrolets, Dodges and this immaculate Oldsmobile…

Allemansrätt

In Sweden, this is an ancient law that provides the legal right of access to private, uncultivated land. You can:

  • Wander freely in forest and fields.
  • Pick berries, mushrooms, and wild flowers if they are not endangered.
  • Camp one night, without permission of the landowners, if it is not too close to a populated area.
  • Bathe, row, sail, paddle and drive motor boats on lakes, rivers and archipelagos.
  • Make fires (proceeding with extreme caution).

But you must not:

  • Damage growing trees or bushes.
  • Walk over fields in crop or through newly planted forest areas.
  • Take bird’s eggs or bird’s nests.
  • Leave garbage (paper, plastic, glass, etc…) in countryside.

This is amazing for wild campers! We found that nature reserve car parks were an ideal place to spend the nights – most of them had:

  • a toilet, often a compost toilet but most were really nice!
  • picnic tables
  • a fire pit
  • waste bins
  • spectacular views, walks or paddleboarding

Bev got into exercising her Allemansrätt, picking bilberries/blueberries for some amazing pies…

As a result of staying at friend’s houses and free nights at nature reserves, our camping costs for Sweden were far lower than we expected and we loved it so much, we stayed a whole month.

Where we ‘live’ !?!

All through July I took a few pics of where we parked/camped/slept each night: Nature reserves, marinas, a bison farm, town and city centre car parks, fjords, lakes and being spoilt rotten at our Swedish friend’s houses. Our Benimar Mileo van ‘Stargazer’ is the star of this one 🙂 The ditty is a sketch of a new song, with words by Bev.