8.26.2012

**Sweden!**

This summer Sabrina and I decided to explore the beautiful country of Sweden!
We explored the country by car, which also fulfilled #12 on my Life List, to Take a Road Trip.
And oh, what a road trip it was!
 We made it from the east coast to the west coast and back again all in nine jam-packed, adventure-filled days.
We also met some of the nicest people on earth, learned to shuck our own oysters, and jumped off a cliff into the crystal blue North Sea.
Here is the Cliffs Notes version of our entire itinerary, should you ever be in the neighborhood :).

We set off for Sweden with a tentative itinerary but only a few booked hotel rooms, knowing full well that we would change our plan along the way. I'm sure that this way of traveling would make some people nervous, but this is how we roll...
Day 1: Arrival, Nynashamn & Gotland
After a twelve hour flight and a layover in Amsterdam, we arrived in Stockholm on Tuesday, July 24.
We immediately picked up our Volvo sedan and headed north of Stockholm to Nynashamn.

After a few hours there, we caught a ferry (with our car- a first for me!) to Sweden's biggest island, gorgeous Gotland. Gotland lies nearly halfway between Sweden and Latvia, in the middle of the Baltic Sea, and it is one of the richest historical sites in all of Sweden.

We arrived at Hotel Stelor around 10 pm to the warmest welcome and most delicious meal made by the hotel's owner, Karin.
 Karin and her husband Bjorn opened Hotel Stelor about a year ago. 
The main building on the property was built in the 18th century and the hotel also includes a barn, a restaurant and an outdoor oasis of a patio. It is such a relaxing, picturesque retreat that it literally took all of our willpower not to just stay here our entire time in Sweden.

The staff was beyond accommodating, and helped us stake out our plan for the following day~ our first full day in Sweden.
Then, after over 24 hours of traveling by plane, car and ferry, we settled into our gorgeous room located in the building in the picture below.
Day 2: Gotland
We woke up at 7 am for early morning yoga in the loft of the barn. After a traditional Swedish breakfast, we were off and running towards a very full day exploring Gotland.

 We discovered rock formations, toured the walled city of Visby, and ended our day riding bikes to the beach and watching our first Swedish sunset.








 Day 3: Road Tripping & Gothenburg
We caught a very early ferry from Gotland to Oskarshamn and drove southeast to Kalmar for lunch and a look around the city.
From there we drove seven hours all the way to the west coast of Sweden, and spent the evening exploring Sweden's second largest city, Gothenburg.
 Day 4: Smogen
We woke up and drove north from Gothenburg to the island of Smogen, where we had one of the greatest adventures of our entire trip. 


Smogen is literally dazzling.
It is a fishing harbor and vacation spot for the Swedish and Norwegian, and it is divine.

 The trusting people of Smogen let us rent our own power boat for the day, and we spent our time cruising from cove to cove, jumping off cliffs, and picnicking on the sun drenched rocks of the North Sea. 
We spent most of our day with two awesome families who we met while attempting to tie up our boat, an experience that would have gone quickly south if not for their help.  
I so loved talking with them about Sweden and Norway and learning about their way of life.


 They are also the ones who convinced me to take this leap of faith...
I will never forget this jump, and I will never, ever forget this day.
We returned our boat and left Smogen thinking only one thing:
We LOVE Sweden.
 But the day wasn't over!
On our way further north to our next bed and breakfast, we stopped in Fjallbacka for dinner and a cliff hike to soak in this amazing view.

Day 5: Grebbestad and Evert's Boathouse
We spent our 5th day in Sweden caught up in a once-in-a-lifetime crabbing adventure, thanks to brothers Per and Lars Karlsson, owners of Everts Boathouse.
Per and Lars bought the boathouse a few years ago as their home base to take visitors on mackerel, crabbing and lobster safaris. 
The house, once owned by a man named Evert, was well known to the locals, so Per and Lars decided to keep the name and honor the man who once lived there.

The boathouse hovers above a natural oyster bed, and within minutes of arriving Per was raking up oysters for us to shuck straight from the sea floor.
Hospitality at its finest!

With our oysters, a few beers, and our excitement in tow, we hopped on board Tuffa and headed down the coast of Grebbestad towards our crab pots.


As Lars (Western Sweden's Oyster Shucking Champion, by the way) manned the boat, Per successfully taught us to shuck our own oysters without losing any of our fingers.


Then, while still digesting our oysters, we reached the pots and got to try our hands at a little Deadliest Catch!




When we returned to the boathouse, Per and Lars prepared an unbelievable seafood spread, and we spent hours on the dock feasting, relaxing, and soaking in the beautiful view.

Day 6: Koster Island & Halden, Norway
The next morning we drove farther north and took a short ferry ride to Koster Island, Sweden's first marine national park.


No cars are permitted on Koster, so as soon as we arrived we rented bikes and spent the day pedaling our way around the island.



We pedaled to lunch, to the beach, and to a beautiful hotel overlooking the water where we capped off our day with wine and dessert.

That evening we continued north to Norway and spent the night in Halden.
It was Sunday so the city was quiet, but we managed to find a restaurant that was showing the Olympics! We spent the rest of the night cheering on Team USA.

Day 7: Road Tripping and Stockholm
The morning of day seven brought our eight hour drive back east. We stopped in a few small towns along the way to enjoy the view, but we were anxious to arrive in Stockholm and start exploring as quickly as possible.
We arrived in time to walk around a bit and enjoyed a great dinner overlooking the city.


Days 8 & 9: Stockholm
We took full advantage of our time in beautiful Stockholm. We took the 'Under the Bridges' boat tour and the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus to see the city by water and land. We picnicked in Djurgarden, explored Sodermalm (home to Lisbeth from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), watched more of the Olympics, learned how to make peppermint from scratch, and tried out the 'Nordic Experience' spa rituals at the famous Grand Hotel. 









By the time we boarded our flight home on the morning of our tenth day, our hearts were beyond full with memories that will last us a lifetime.
I'm so grateful for our time in Sweden! It was such an amazing adventure and one that I'll never forget.
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