Dateline: Karlstad, Sweden


[On Lake Vänern  – the biggest in Sweden!]
– Part III of my ‘auto-stopping’ missives to my French friend.

21 August 1953

Mon Cher Ami,
As usual, since I last wrote to you, a lot has happened. If you remember, I was due to land at Malmö, and actually I posted my letter there to you on my arrival. That afternoon (Monday the 10th) I spent looking round the town. It was only late afternoon before I finally decided to ‘hit’ the road. At 5 pm a car (Chevrolet) with occupants – driver and two ladies  – pulled up and via the east coast drove me 105 miles to Kristianstad dropped me at the door of the Vandrarhem (YH); they told me to call at their hotel the next morning at 10 am and they would take me all the way to Kalmar (120 miles).

Well, that’s exactly what happened. We stopped for a dip in the Baltic followed by a sun-bathe (these Swedes are a terror for getting a tan.) Then the most terrific Swedish lunch (I’ll try and be as brief as possible): I began with two glasses of milk, three separate platefuls of  Smörgås – first with different sorts of meat, then with different sorts of sea delicacies, and thirdly with different kinds of cheese. After having acquitted myself well, I was shocked to find that the main meal was yet to arrive – fried strömming (Baltic herring) with vegetables and potatoes. During the repast we swilled down first Pilsener and then red vinbare ‘snaps’. Finally, black coffee – and I certainly needed it to wash down everything. That night they put me down at the Kalmar STF and after they had given me their address in Stockholm – the gentleman is a Sport’s Shop owner – I said goodbye.

I spent sometime the next day at the Castle – one of the most significant political events in Scandinavia took place there in 1397, when the Kalmar Union was formed – a union of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (including Finland), organized by Queen Margaret I of Denmark. Today, it is one of Sweden’s best preserved renaissance castles open to the public.

Then, onward – and upward – to that gem in the Swedish north via Stockholm: Karlstad.

But first, it was Wednesday morning that I covered without event the 120 miles to Jönköping. Thursday 12 noon a young Swede drove me all the way to Örebro, invited me to lunch en route (roast pork), dropped me off at the local STF where I booked in, and then drove me to his parents’ country home 30 km away on Lake Hjälmaren, where I was treated as if I had been a friend of the family for years – plenty of food and drink!

Next morning I had my first bit of bad luck, and good thing too – it has been much too easy so far. Suffice it to say, it took me 2 days to get to Stockholm.

I immediately paid my respects to that shop-owner, who promptly invited me over to spend the weekend with his family at their country home just outside Stockholm, situated among hundreds of islands. (Most well-to-do Swedes have this double establishment, 9 months in the city and the 3 summer in the country.)

Those two days were really unforgettable, especially trips in the family motorboat. Monday I was driven back to the city, where after some trouble I got a place in the famous ship av Chapman owned by the YH there.

On Tuesday traveled to the old University town of Uppsala, followed in the evening by a long lift to Bollnäs, a total of 175 miles. I was too late, however, for the STF (closes at 10 pm), so I spent the night on the station – nothing like Bath (in England): even though it’s so out of the way, it has a centrally-heated waiting room. Next day (Wednesday) was the worst so far in Sweden. Only in the late evening did I obtain a lift of 110 miles to Säter. That particular day will go down in my diary as “Cursing Day.”

Yesterday, I purposely stopped at Örobro to renew acquaintances with my Swedish benefactor. After lunch with him and his younger brother, I did only 2 hours hitching (80 miles) to Karlstad. Tomorrow, I hope to make Oslo in neighboring Norway – the only thing is that nearly all the hitch-hikers here seem to be doing the same thing! Well, let’s hope my lucky star is still shining brightly…..

Afterword on a Postcard from Baden-Baden
On my way back to Germany I spent another 5 days in Copenhagen, all very delightful. The Hörlycks (Niels and Lise) along with a friend of theirs and myself repaired to nearby Helsingör (Elsinore), and after taking in Hamlet’s historic castle fortified ourselves midst the extensive grounds of Kronborg with good cheer. The photo was taken by a kind Danish gentleman, who happened to be strolling past us.

References: Wikipedia, my Photo Albums and Diary.

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