Sweden Road Trip #6: Höga Kusten

IMG_20140712_233923We spent about five days in Höga Kusten, making it the longest stop of the whole road trip. I’m going to cover most of those few days in this post, but there was one day on which we ventured out and discovered an amazing little seaside town which will get a blog post of its own (and you’ll see why when we get to that, too). But our arrival to The High Coast was a nice one – the weather was perfect for setting up the tent in our incredibly awkward spot IMG_20140713_094109between a bunch of trees not designed for 4WD’s with caravans attached to them. By the time we set up everything, we had some dinner and wandered down by the lake as the sun was going down. The next morning, also clear and sunny, we could really appreciate our view from the tent (pictured on the left – I stood just outside on the deck as I took this photo. Not bad, eh?).

IMG_20140713_184805The next couple of days are a blur, and I think possibly the next day we went on our random adventure I’m covering in part 7 of this series before the rain settled in for the week. At some point in those first couple of days, anyway, we began to explore the place, from the little pub and the couple of restaurants, to wandering past the other parts of the camping site, the mini-golf, and various other attractions. The camping site had the lake on our side, but behind us was the ocean, and there we found a sauna which we decided to go to before leaving this site. We also found a beach with lots of trees. For some reason I found this endlessly fascinating.

IMG_20140714_000129One fairly big world event that happened while we were at Höga Kusten was the World Cup Grand Final between Germany and Argentina. The only place you could see the game on the camping site was on your phone (if you had decent coverage, which most of us didn’t have) or the pub, which was showing it on their televisions. So we went down to watch the game, but about halfway through an enormous storm passed over us, quickly killing the television IMG_20140715_123419reception as we were smashed by violent rain. We then spent the next hour or so running between a group of 20 or so people huddled around the one phone that could show the game and outside to watch the lightning lashing across the sky. After the game, when the rain slowed down, we made a run for our tent again and warmed up inside. When we awoke the next morning, the site was starting to flood – a problem that wouldn’t go away until just before we left. It also turned out that a lot of Southern Sweden, where we’re from, was also flooding after almost a solid week of rain.

IMG_20140717_124803On the last night before leaving Höga Kusten and heading inland, we finally went to the sauna. It was free for anybody to use, and wood was provided behind the sauna – or rather it was supposed to be. After a little bit of investigating the wood allocated for use in the sauna was sitting behind a truck out of sight, about maybe a kilometre away. I volunteered to carry the bulk of the wood, slinging it in a big bag over my shoulders so that my IMG_20140926_204935back could take the strain. Once inside though, the sauna was nice and relaxing and had a great view of the sea and the bits of peninsula jutting out in front of us. Saunas are very popular in Sweden, both in Summer and Winter months, but I guess for me my experiences are limited because in Australia Summer is a kind of sauna, with high temperatures and high humidity for around half of the year. So it was nice to do this in a country where the whole thing is a bit more, well, warranted I guess.

IMG_20140717_125537The last day, before leaving, we went wandering around the edge of the camp site along the water, through a bunch of rock fields. It was quite interesting to find places where forest and rocks sort of intertwined, and in these areas the rocks were covered in this light white and green mossy stuff. It added a sort of mystique to the area, but the reason behind these rock fields is fairly well known. IMG_20140926_205325Back in the ice age, this area of land was pushed down by the ice significantly. After the ice age the land began to rise back up again very quickly, and today it rises in places here at around 8mm (or a third of an inch) a year. So these rock fields, not too long ago, were underneath the water. The land is constantly going through dramatic changes, even in the space of a single human lifetime, and there’s a great art experiment about this that I’ll show in the next post.

IMG_20140716_001048I leave you at the end of this episode with my favourite picture from Höga Kusten – one evening, as the mist rolled over the hills surrounding the lake, a German ship floated in the middle of the water. For some reason this reminded me of a certain scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which long-time readers of my blog will know is one of my all-time favourite movies). Anyway, it was eerie but awesome and I took about a dozen photos that all look the same and I’m not really sure why. Next time, I show our random adventure beyond the campsite area before we head inland and then back south toward home.

Sweden Road Trip #5: The Road To Höga Kusten

A map, courtesy of Lonely Planet, with drawings on it courtesy of me. This stretch of drive was from Stockholm up to Höga Kusten. The key on the map is, oddly, quite wrong - this part of the road trip looks to be 300km according to the key but I can tell you for a fact it's more like 500km - we had to split it up into two days. Anyway, on with the blog post.

A map, courtesy of Lonely Planet, with drawings on it courtesy of me. This stretch of drive was from Stockholm up to Höga Kusten. The key on the map is, oddly, quite wrong – this part of the road trip looks to be 300km according to the key but I can tell you for a fact it’s more like 500km – we had to split it up into two days. Also they’ve misspelled Gävle. Anyway, on with the blog post.

After a few days hanging in and around Stockholm (kind of), we finally headed up north to Gävle and then Höga Kusten (The High Coast), over the course of a couple of days. The High Coast may not look high compared to a lot of Scandinavia – it’s only halfway up the country, after all – but I should remind you that the top part of Sweden (and Finland and Norway) is actually in the Arctic Circle – even Southern Sweden is quite north. So if you see any maps telling you Norrland (Northern Sweden) is only the top quarter of the country, ignore those maps – Norrland begins at around Sundsvall, a bit south of The High Coast. Also, I think The High Coast may have its name due to certain geological features that I shall discuss in the next blog post (yes, it’s to do with land rising).

01- GävleAnyway, enough geography (that’s a lie, I just couldn’t think of a good transition to a new paragraph, for which I deeply apologise). The drive to Gävle was only a few hours but it was already getting late, so we decided to rest up and shoot off early the next day instead. We stopped at a place called Rullsands Camping nearby and set up tent, before running off to the beach which was mostly deserted as it had already become fairly cold as the sun began to set. But this didn’t bother us. Well actually I lie, I whinged and moaned about the water not being warm enough, but that’s what happens when you get an Aussie in Swedish ocean, regardless of the time of 03- Gävle againyear. What does continue to amaze me with Swedish beaches though is the total lack of waves. I have barely seen a wave since I moved here, and I’ve been to at least half a dozen beaches now. Not that I’m much of a surfer, but it’s just something I’ve noticed I guess. What fascinated me with this particular beach was the really quite large stones sticking out of the water, noticeable quite a long way into the water as it remains shallow a long way out too. I can’t help but think that at winter, when this would be frozen over, you could make some sort of sports game on the ice using the rocks as goals or something. Or not. I don’t know.

02 - Random FrogThat night, as we failed to go to bed early to rest like we intended, I came across a small frog or two hopping around the place. It was cool to see them, but I did sort of freak out that I would step on one because my eyesight in the darkness is pretty terrible. But I don’t think I did and in the end the bigger concern of the night was, sadly, some noisy drunken campers nearby who eventually got yelled at by everybody to shut up and 04 - Goodbye Gävlefinally did a little while before the sun came back up (I hate sounding like the fun police, but there were a lot of families and young kids around, and you can literally and legally camp ANYWHERE in Sweden if you want, meaning there’s a lot of other places you can go if you want to have a big party and not annoy a couple of hundred other campers. End rant). Before leaving we went back to the beach one last time. The others swam again but I just sunbathed for a little while, as the sun was out and shining in full which led to a surprisingly busier beach (I didn’t think that many people were actually staying near here but there you go). Eventually we packed up and got back on the road.

05 - Getting NorthAs we found ourselves ever further north, Sweden showed its true natural face – lots of trees, lots of lakes, some more trees and even more lakes. Sweden has just under 100 000 lakes, and just under 9% of the landmass is covered in lakes which is quite staggering (although Finland next door, despite much debate, has nearly double this many lakes (and Canada has several million but then Canada is just enormous so that goes without saying)). Still, it makes for stunning 06 - High Coast Bridgescenery, especially on blue sky Summer days like almost every day we drove (the car had no air conditioning so we kept sweltering in the heat while driving and then catching up to the rain at each new campsite…typical). I would love to go back to this area during Winter and see everything frozen over and covered in ice – many of the lakes up this high you can drive on safely for a couple of months each year. Eventually, at around the same point as Sundsvall, we crossed Högakustenbron (The High Coast Bridge – the “The” is in this word too, as it’s the “en” in the middle. But don’t get me started on Swedish language, at least not until I feel more confident with it) which really is quite a huge and magnificent bridge. At the other end of this was…ta-da, Höga Kusten!

07 - High CoastWe were greeted with a beautiful afternoon and evening, and the last clear-sky day on which we would set up the tent for the rest of the road trip as the weather was finally about to wreak a bit of havoc. Finally, the main part of our holiday had begun! But I’ll cover the details of the few days we spent in this beautiful part of the world next time!

Sweden Road Trip #4: Stockholm Part 2 – Djurgården, and The Swedish Sin

01 - Djurgarden 1940s modelWe ended up spending a lot of our day in Stockholm in an area called Djurgården. It has a strong naval history in the area, which means there are ships and galleys everywhere still, but nowadays a lot of it has been turned into museums – the model to the right shows roughly how it looked back in the 1940s. There is 02 - Vasa Museum Shipan old ice breaker docked which is a museum and also a restaurant. There is the Vasa Museum, which has a ship in it sticking out of the top (left – yes that ship is real and old). And there is the Spirit Museum, which we entered into because the exhibitions looked too interesting to pass up. The whole area of Djurgården was quite clearly a tourist destination, as there were people everywhere and plenty to do – I think you could spend a day here alone just to get everything done, because we sure didn’t have the time to.

04 - Spirit Museum ExhibitionsThe Spirit Museum (I think that’s what it was called anyway) had three exhibitions going on – one on spirits and drinks of Sweden, one on Artpop and Record Sleeves, and one on The Swedish Sin. There weren’t too many fascinating photos from the Spirits exhibition but alcohol is an important factor in The Swedish Sin exhibition, which looks at Sweden’s relationships with alcohol and sex over the last half a century or so.

05 - ArtpopStarting off, however, with the Artpop exhibition, for a music fanatic like me this was a lot of fun. There were a lot of classic album covers on display from the age of vinyl, and lots of information about particular artists behind some of these covers, as well as the styles and 06 - Artpop 2similarities between some. It was nothing life changing, but it was a nice reminder that once upon a time a lot of work went into designing an album cover and at times the liner notes inside too – something which gets lost as music becomes increasingly digital around the world. There were also some bits of information that were just funny, like the fact that inside an album by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was a quote about how he was excited to know that Andy Warhol had heard of him because Picasso had heard of Andy Warhol. Anyway, this was a good exhibition to ease us into the museum before the more serious stuff!

08 - SystembolagetThe Swedish Sin was by far the most interesting of the exhibitions. While in the mid 20th century the world was looking at Sweden in shock at their sexual values, as sex became less and less of a taboo topic and the society as a whole encouraged sexual freedom and rights in ways much ahead of their time, alcohol restrictions in the country were some of the most severe in the developed world. It’s interesting because this was the reverse of America and much of the western world of the time, which had an easier relationship with alcohol but still saw sex as a fairly taboo subject. I can’t show pictures from the sexual side of all this because, well, you can figure it out I’m sure, but the alcohol aspect was quite a 09 - Systembolaget 2spectacle back then. For a long time there has been a total alcohol monopoly in Sweden – you can only buy it (to take home, I mean) from Systembolaget, a government owned chain of shops. This is still the case now, and even now the Systembolaget sells no cold drinks (meaning you need to “plan” to buy them in advance so you can cool them down), they shut early and don’t open at all on Sundays. Still, back in the 1950s you had rationing of alcohol where they wrote down how much you had bought and could refuse you if you tried to go over your rations. In the late 1950s they dropped the rationing, trying to encourage responsible drinking through campaigns like Operation Wine in which they encouraged people to drink wine instead of vodka so they wouldn’t get so drunk. For someone like me who comes from a country like Australia where the attitude to alcohol is quite liberal, it is fascinating to see that the current restrictive system on buying alcohol stems from something much more complex and culturally embedded.

11 - Stockholm Royal TheatreSo what turned out to be a spur of the moment decision to enter perhaps the least majestic museum we had come across in Stockholm turned into a really interesting and enlightening afternoon for us. We soon headed back towards the main part of town, walking past the Stockholm Royal Theatre (somewhere else to see on a later visit) and chilling 12 - Chilling On A Jettyon a jetty for a while by the water as we considered dinner. Oddly enough, all the waterfront restaurants had really boring menus which is something I found quite frustrating – plenty of other cities by the water that I have visited have great restaurants on the water. But all of these had not only dull menus but the same menu, and I was almost at the point of giving up when we found a really nice Lebanese restaurant further in town which ended the night perfectly. According to my Fitbit we had walked some 20 000 steps and nearly 20km, and I definitely felt it.

Coming up next, we head up a lot more north finally to the High Coast, a place of beauty and, oddly enough, significant geological interest. Stay tuned for more!

Sweden Road Trip #3: Stockholm Part 1

01 - Stockholm across waterIt’s a little sad that it took me almost six months of living here to finally make it to the capital city of Sweden, but a couple of days into our road trip in July I finally got there. I actually had to go there anyway to visit the Australian Embassy about something (it was hiding upstairs in some totally random building that we could have so easily missed, too, but the people there were nice at least). After half an hour, we were done and headed off for a day around Stockholm.

The city itself is like a lot of the other bigger cities of Sweden – not all that big. There is about a million people living in Stockholm altogether, which compared to many cities of the world is tiny, and the effect on the overall scenery is that there is a distinct lack of high-rises which in turn makes the place kind of cosy. Like a lot of the main cities of Sweden, water is the key natural feature of the whole place, and added to the usual modes of transport here are ferries (which we boarded on our way to a place I’ll cover in Part 2 of this post).

04 - Stockholm epic buldings 2The architecture here is amazing, as you would expect, with churches and cathedrals littered everywhere. I could go on and on about the architecture, but I’ll just include a bunch of pictures towards the end of the post to show you what I mean. As we didn’t have much time in Stockholm we didn’t go into most of these buildings, which is kind of a shame but I plan on spending a lot more time exploring the city later, and when I do I’ll probably be able to say something more profound about these places other than “oh look, dey so purdy!” (But they are.)

02 - Lunch at Under KastanjenAfter some sight seeing, we dodged the crowds through the main part of the city and found ourselves on the back streets. After a little bit of wandering we came across an amazing little cafe called Under Kastenjen, which translates as Under The Chestnut Tree, called this because…well I’m pretty sure you can work it out. We had a surprisingly cheap lunch while relaxing here, and halfway through our meal a keyboard player appeared in the middle of the courtyard and started performing for us (I say appeared, but he did walk into the courtyard – I don’t want you to think that not only do Swedish people just materialise places but that it’s accepted as nothing unusual (although that would be cool)). Naturally, we didn’t find ourselves in a rush to leave and decided a dessert would also be a good idea.

06 - Stockholm 1600s pharmacyWe eventually left our little lunch spot and roamed some more of the back streets, going into a few different shops along the way while we looked for a pharmacy. What we weren’t expecting to find, however, was a pharmacy from the 1600s that was still in use! A lot of the historic feel to the place has been kept, which I thought was fantastic (I’m sure most people who live there think it’s no big deal, but then again I am a big nerd). 08 - Pharmacy mortar and pestleThere was an extension out the back that looked a lot newer, but the original pharmacy was definitely still in use, and I believe that computer monitor also dates back a few centuries (I made that same bad joke on Instagram with this particular photo…extra sorry for those poor souls who had to see the bad excuse for humour twice). There was also an old mortar and pestle and a plaque with all the owners of the place since 1674 – interestingly the only female owner was not in the last century at all, but back in the 1700s.

13 - Antique shopThere were plenty of other interesting finds along some of those streets. We walked past some awesome antique shops, many of which weren’t open frustratingly. We heard a lot of different accents on our way, including a lot of different English speakers too (it was the middle of Summer so the peak of the tourist season). We also walked past some darker 14 - Racist street nameaspects of history, such as a street named Svartmangatan – translated as Black man’s street. For all the wonderful ways that Sweden has been progressive socially, racism has long been an issue throughout the history of the country and, judging from the election results here last night, it still is an issue (to cut a long story short, an incredibly racist party has somehow become the third biggest party, which has left a lot of the country devastated, embarrassed, and a little bit scared).

09 - Nordic MuseumAs I said before, this was a rushed tour of the city, and so there were a lot of places we just didn’t have time to visit. One place which I regret not going into, and yet I feel I probably needed to dedicate a full day to anyway, was the rather majestic looking Nordic Museum. It was so huge 10 - Nordic Museum from afarthat taking a picture of the longer side required me to stand back. Several hundred metres back, actually. I adore the architecture with this place – I think all good museums should put the effort into looking nice from the outside (because I have visited plenty in my life that look drab and awful until you go in). Anyway, I have heard a lot of good things about this place, so this is definitely deserving of a return trip one day. It was also surrounded by some nice gardens and place to eat and drink.

15 - Stockholm parksAfter this, we went and rested in a park for a little while while we decided what to do next. The rest of the day would be spent in a part of Stockholm called Djurgården, which I will cover in the second part of this post. There we did go into a museum, looking at a couple of different exhibitions from Artpop music covers to Sweden’s cultural history with alcohol and sex. In the meantime, I’ll finish off this post with a few more pictures of the architecture around Stockholm. Enjoy!

What I love with this is just the sheer amount of detail that has gone into it! Beautiful!

What I love with this is just the sheer amount of detail that has gone into it! Beautiful!

This was a door. I want this door.

This was a door. I want this door.

Suddenly this statue loses its stature with a bird on its head. For some reason this made me laugh a lot.

Suddenly this statue doesn’t look so tough with a bird on its head. For some reason this made me laugh a lot.

 

Sweden Road Trip #2: From West To East At Around Midnight

A badly drawn line represents roughly this leg of the road trip.

A badly drawn line represents roughly this leg of the road trip.

Okay, so we finally begin the actual main road trip itself. Our first leg of the trip involved going from Halmstad on the West Coast of Sweden (where we live) to a place called Nynäshamn, about an hour south of Stockholm on the East Coast. The intention was to leave mid Monday afternoon and get there at night. But in reality, we overestimated our ability to be ready on time by a good eight hours, and left at about midnight.

I guess it was to be expected. Four of us sharing a car, a caravan and a tent attached to the side of the cabin – there was a lot of stuff to organise, put away securely, things that needed checking they still functioned. But eventually at midnight we took off, deciding it was still worth making a start on the trip so that we wouldn’t wake up with the whole thing still left to do.

IMG_20140708_084345At about 3 in the morning, exhausted and a little over half way there, we decided to make a pit stop for the rest of the night in the luxury accommodation of some random car park we found. One thing about Sweden is their very loose laws about where you can stop for the night in a caravan. Almost the entire country is in fact legally available, within reason (obviously you can’t go blocking the driveways of people or businesses, or stop in the middle of the road or somewhere fenced off entirely, but you get the gist). There were quite a few other caravans who had stopped here overnight, too, so it seems to be quite common. A few hours later, the sun well and truly up, we went to the supermarket to get some food, had a quick breakfast, and took back off for the rest of the journey.

IMG_20140710_211437By lunch time we finally got to our destination, which turned out to be this really cute little seaside camping site. We got one of the last spots and set ourselves up nicely towards the top of the hill sloping down to the beach, IMG_20140710_211828which was useful in that we were a tiny bit closer to the shops and the train station, both of which we would need to use. The camping site wasn’t too bad – we had electricity (something we really needed, camping there for 3 days and for 2 weeks in total around the country), there was a little restaurant/bar which we never used, and on the beach there was water slides and diving boards which we never got around to using sadly. Next time.

The second day of our stay there, we shot off to Stockholm for the day and I took so many pictures there and saw so much that it needs probably two full blog posts just to cover it, so the third and fourth posts of this series will be on that before we head up north. But, as I said, we stayed in Nynäshamn for 3 days, so back to Nynäshamn! On the Thursday, we wandered into town with the dogs and even took them to a dog cafe, which was quite a cute idea even if one of them went a little bit loopy and knocked over the water bowl put down for her everywhere. Luckily, I suspect the owner of the place was fairly used to that sort of thing. The rest of the town was sweet but tiny, and for some reason I didn’t take any photos of it – oops! Oh well, you’ll see plenty of other towns in the later blog posts so I’m sure you’ll get by. Or you could image search it if you’re really curious.

IMG_20140822_140050On the Friday, we had to leave by midday and that morning decided just to go on a walk around the coastline for an hour or so. Two hours later, we were completely lost. Nynäshamn is connected to a lot of other little islands, and somehow when we decided to return home we ended up on a path that was going to take us the really really long way back, around several other islands. The scenery was gorgeous, to be fair, and we got plenty of exercise in the whole process. But there was definitely a moment where we seriously worried whether or not we would find our way back to the camping site at all, especially as one person we asked for directions sort of pointed us in the wrong direction too. But we got there in the end…or did we? No, we did. It was fine. Honest.

Coming up next on my road trip blog, our day in Stockholm will be covered in a ridiculous amount of detail before we move on to the High Coast of Sweden, which perhaps in a lot of ways was the most memorable experience of the entire trip.

Sweden Road Trip #1: Malmö

The Turning Torso has become an iconic building in Malmö. Unfortunately, it's residential and you can't go inside. It overlooks the sea between Sweden and Denmark, and the structure is based on, well, a turning torso.

The Turning Torso has become an iconic building in Malmö. Unfortunately, it’s residential and you can’t go inside. It overlooks the sea between Sweden and Denmark.

Finally, here it is – the first part of many based on my recent road trip around Sweden. This first post is about my visit to Malmö, which was actually two days before I left on the official road trip but I’m going to include it anyway because the city was pretty amazing. All the pictures are much bigger than they’ll be on here so click on them if you want to see them full size.

Malmö is Sweden’s third biggest city and is famous for many things: incredible architecture such as The Turning Torso, the epic bridge to Copenhagen over in Denmark (which actually goes underwater at one point), and of course the lovely Skåne accent (Skåne County covers a lot of the south of Sweden and people from other parts of the country mock their accent. Frankly I’m just happy to be in a country with such noticeable differences between accents).

The sight of a changing city.

The sight of a changing city.

The first thing I saw, however, was cranes everywhere. Followed immediately by the construction areas those cranes were situated in. The thing is, it seems to me as a total outsider that the city of Malmö is undergoing some dramatic changes all over. There seem to be a lot of areas that I suspect will be apartments, particularly close to the water, so presumably they plan on attracting a lot more people to live there. In particular, I suspect its aiming at young people who would help grow the city in the long term and who would find the proximity to Denmark (and, through that, a lot of the rest of Europe) rather attractive. It will be interesting to see how the city looks in a few years time.

Malmö Gardens 2After proceeding to become lost in a city that at first seemed eerily empty, I eventually found my way towards Malmöhus Fortress. Before going to the castle itself, though, I made my way to the huge gardens attached to it – it seems every fairly big city here in Scandinavia with a castle also has some sort of royal garden, which I personally think is really nice. All around Malmö Gardens 1people were lazing on the grass reading, or just hanging out under the shade of some of the huge trees. There is something about being surrounded by so much nature which induces an inescapable calmness and serenity, I think. Or maybe I’m just a hippie born in the wrong era, who knows. But even though I sped around the gardens (I only had a couple of hours to explore the whole city), the place left a mark on me and I definitely want to return with a good book one day and enjoy it more.

Malmöhus FortressEventually, I found my way to the castle. After a disappointing lunch at a cafe nearby, with a bonus fly for added flavour, I wandered inside Malmöhus Fortress, curious as to what I would find inside. I had my hopes up – I mean come on, the place has a moat and dates back to the 1400s. It has been turned into a museum and gallery of sorts inside, and at first I was a bit disappointed to say the least (the first room I walked into was a slightly random exhibition on frogs…I mean, I like frogs, but really? Frogs?). But I pushed on, determined to get deeper into the castle and to discover some history about the place. Eventually I found what I was looking for – an awesome museum on the history, the battles the fortress had seen, and frankly a total information overload on it all. When this place was built, it was in fact part of Denmark along with a lot of the southwest of current Sweden (including my home up in Halmstad). But in 1658, the Swedish successfully captured a lot of this land and then spent the next few decades fending off repeated Danish attacks as the Danes attempted to recapture their lost land. The fighting stretched up the West Coast of Sweden all the way past where I live now (a couple of major battles were in Halmstad), but the bulk of the fighting seems to have been in Malmö, in which this fortress was hugely important. I couldn’t help but think about how many stories there are in all of this, waiting to be written down in one way or another.

Malmö water jetpackAfter the relief of finding some fascinating history in the walls of the castle, I decided to head towards the waterfront of the city that stares out at Denmark and the bridge that now connects the two countries. I walked past the Turning Torso (the picture at the start of this post), past a bunch of restaurants I wish I had have known about an hour or so earlier when I ate lunch, and found myself drawn immediately to a growing crowd on the water’s edge. As I Malmö boats speeding offapproached, I saw a man float up into the air. As I got even closer I realised he had one of those awesome water jet-packs on and he was quickly joined by another one as the two of them floated around much to the delight of the crowd. I have no idea if this is a regular occurrence or just a couple of show offs, but it was fun all the same and extra nice with the bridge in the background. I then walked along the waterfront and watched as a party of boats in a small enclosed dock suddenly all shot off across the water – I can only assume heading to Denmark.

Malmö mini lighthouseOn my way back to the main town of Malmö (which oddly I had avoided until the end), I accidentally went the right way and discovered all the things I didn’t see when I first got there. I saw a mini lighthouse by a small bridge that appeared to be a replica of the big bridge to Denmark. Actually, Cool buildingon the same note, I saw a lot of bridges in general – there’s canals all over the city and literally dozens of small bridges, many of them just pedestrian bridges but still with water fountainawesome architecture. The main part of town here definitely seems to be the old part of town, with many of the buildings looking quite gothic in architecture as well as other features like a cool looking water fountain in the centre. It is interesting though – the fact that the bigger buildings are so old suggests that this city has always been big (which history also suggests). In other Swedish cities and towns the old part of town is full of much smaller, less dramatic buildings and often more nature. Still beautiful in their own way, but you can see how some places have grown extensively from much smaller towns but other cities have always been bigger.

Lilla Torg 1To finish off my day in Malmö I found the pub scene in Lilla Torg (which translates as Little Square I’m pretty sure) and had a beer or two on my own before meeting up with a bunch of friends and family for dinner out. The beers were great, the dinner was…well, the food was nice when it eventually came out. So I guess overall I didn’t have the best Lilla Torg 2experiences with eating in the city, but otherwise it swept me off my feet a little actually. I can’t wait to go back and explore all the hidden corners of it that I am yet to discover. If you’re ever in Sweden don’t limit yourself to Stockholm and the eastern coast as so many travellers do – come to the West Coast and explore places like Malmö as well. You won’t regret it!

My Writing Process: A Blog Hop Stop

Regardless of what I say, this is essentially my writing process. Coffee. Lots of coffee.

Regardless of what I say, this is essentially my writing process. Coffee. Lots of coffee.

Blog hops are great ways to connect readers and writers to each other through an ongoing and detailed thread that reveals something about each contributor to the blog hop. This particular one focuses on writing processes, which should be fun because I often think about my writing processes but rarely do I try and pin them down and examine them thoroughly.

I have to thank Dominic Giuliani from Eternal Domnation for throwing the Blog Hop my way. He’s a brilliant writer who is currently working on two novels (and his third project, life, in his own words) but who has always swept me away with his blog posts since I first started blogging way back in early 2012. He writes passionately, with an emotional rawness that is very authentic and touching – you are drawn into it from the first sentence. To put it simply, he is somebody I have always looked up to a lot in the blogging world, and will continue to do so. Just read his post on this blog hop here and you’ll see what I mean!

Now, onto the questions. And for once, I won’t promise I’ll be brief. But I’ll try to be honest and am taking my time to answer these the best I can. And I’ll only sometimes be silly, I swear.

What am I working on?

Much like in most areas of my life, in my writing life I have several writing projects going at the same time. The main one right this minute I suppose is what I’ve been focusing on in both Camp NaNoWriMos this year in April and now in July – funny short stories. I have pledged for both months to write 30 000 words of short stories in the humour genre, and April was a big success as I wrote a bunch of children’s stories for adults, essentially. The general premise was that a cat (of course it had to be a cat) had decided it was sick of being mistreated by humans (mostly its neighbour) and so it educated itself and slowly designed an elaborate system to help educate all the other animals around the world in the way of the humans, including, most notably, language and communication. So the stories had a cute feel to them because of the animals, but the humour was more adult (and quite silly). Bizarrely, what started out as a desperate idea turned into a lot of fun, and I will return to write more stories on this collection. This month I am trying to write completely disconnected short stories that have nothing to do with each other, just to see how I go with it when I have to think up a new premise each time. So far the main characters of each separate story include a cat lady (not quite what you think), a candle, a leaf, and an ant. I wonder what I’m putting in my coffee every morning… (EDIT: I took so long to finish this post it’s now August and the verdict is in – the short stories got even weirder. But there were some okay ones in there too).

Aside from this, I have an old novel (a psychological thriller) I am trying to rewrite from a few years ago. I have quite a lot of other half finished novel drafts, some of which are deserving of more attention, some of which I might just let sink away. Then I also have this blog, which I am trying to write more for this year than I did last year, and my second blog (see my side menu) which is another place for me to indulge my silliness by writing silly lists of things. I’m sure there’s some other project I’m forgetting here, but maybe that says something in itself.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well, this isn’t a simple question to answer considering I have never really committed myself to any one genre. But I guess lately I’ve been focusing more on comedy, and I take my inspiration from a lot of places – several hundred DVDs of comedies and stand up comedians, goodness knows how much comedy on CD, countless novels and other books by comic writers, and to top it all off I’m a silly person. I guess there is that old idea about how all comedians have some sort of underlying issue that makes them turn to comedy, like something eating away at them from inside, or, as my mum once put it “they have a hole in their heart”.  It’s an interesting idea but I don’t think it’s true in every single case, and I know for me I love comedy and love trying (key word trying) to be funny because I like laughing and making other people laugh. I just think people in the world don’t laugh enough, simple as that. I have no real problems in my life. I face similar hardships to everybody else, but really my comedy isn’t trying to patch some hole in me. So maybe that makes it different? I don’t know.

But even when I’m trying to write seriously, my silliness and sarcasm sneak into my work. I can’t help it. It just happens. And the very few people who have read any of my fictional work often comment on how much of me is in my work, even though the voice does seem distinctly different from the voice I use to talk to them normally.

I guess eventually I’ll publish something and see what the people say about what separates my work from others in the genre. Might turn out it’s just too much coffee.

Why do I write what I do?

Oops I kind of just answered that, about the whole thing of wanting to make people laugh. Well, that’s part of it anyway. I think I always have a lot of stories floating around in my head. Even when I sit there sometimes and say to myself “I can’t think of anything to write a story about”, it always turns out I’m lying to myself because within a couple of minutes I’ll be writing a story. For me it really is a compulsion to write, something that I’ve had since I was a very young boy (my imagination was a bit too wild when I was very young and my earliest teachers struggled to figure out what was going on in my head. It took until I was about 8 or 9 years old before I started to tame some of my ideas slightly by writing them down into stories). When I don’t write for a while, because life gets in the way sometimes, I find myself missing writing. I find myself thinking about all the stories I’m going to write when I get a chance. Even if I do write a lot in a few massive bursts each year, the resting time between each writing burst is still spent pondering things I can turn into stories. Yesterday, for example, when I was exploring the history of a fairly big city in Sweden which was fought over with Denmark a few hundred years ago, I couldn’t help but think of all the stories hiding in that period of time.

I guess I write because I have to write, but also because I want to write. My experiences and who I am just change the direction of my writing at different points in my life, that’s all.

How does my writing process work?

I got ahead of myself again. Oh well. So yeah I write in short sharp bursts. NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo help encourage this, but probably I write 4 or 5 times a year for a month or maybe a few weeks each time, then I go back to the drawing board to come up with new ideas, hone old ones, spend more time reading to find new inspirations, stuff like that. My blogging is nonstop really, but I do have months where I write 3 or 4 times a week and then months where I write once a week if I’m lucky. I find with blogging I have to sit down and have a chat with myself and make me promise me that I’ll stick to a routine of it. Without that promise, I slack off. Weird, I know.

When I write, I write fast. Really fast. Apparently at full speed I write close to 100 words a minute which is really quite insane when I think about it. I think when I first write a story I just have to pin it down and write the whole thing from start to finish and see what will happen, before I go back and do anything to it. Maybe this comes from not planning often (and when I do plan it often doesn’t work out – last year I planned for months on a novel, writing maybe 40 pages of notes as preparation, and then the story sucked. Taught me a thing or two).

I write with music but when I edit or read over my work increasingly I am turning the music off. I have long been interesting in how music influences the writing – whether I pick music to match the scene I’m going to write, or if the music directs the scene subconsciously, I haven’t quite figured out. But I tend to not have too many other distractions. I usually write at home, except for poetry which I write anywhere and everywhere (I am trying more and more to write poetry outside).

At the end of the day, I’m my own worst critic and I’m only happy and hopeful about a small number of things I have written. But I do know I’m getting better, after some 20 years of story writing. I know that as long as I keep pushing myself, as long as I don’t take no for an answer when I challenge myself to some crazy writing challenge, as long as I keep expanding my ideas more with both my writing and reading, I’ll keep improving and will one day publish something. Heck, I might even get a few readers of my fiction. We’ll see.

Who’s next?

I’m passing this blog hop on to Amanda from Storyteller In The Digital Age. I think Amanda was one of the first bloggers I met back in 2012, and her blog focuses mostly on the life of an aspiring writer in these modern times. On top of her own writing experiences and book discussions, her blog also makes her love for both Stephen King and cats (especially her cat, it is a cutie too!) abundantly clear, and that’s no bad thing. She’s an awesome person and an awesome writer, and definitely somebody I look up to in the blogging and writing world, so go check her out if you haven’t already discovered her on your travels through the blogosphere!

Now, I have a few hundred photos to sort out from this Swedish road trip and then I can get to work on the biggest series of travel posts I have ever written on this blog (which, as I have promised, will be wordy and picture…y….indeed).