Nauru Travel Diary

From Houston to Sydney 2013

From Houston

to Sydney



Not wanting to miss anything in our travels, we had a large distance to cover today to make up for the truncated journey yesterday afternoon when we cut short our travels due to the rain.

We therefore rose dutifully when the alarm sounded at 6:30 am, although we were a little disappointed that the skies over Vadstena were still thick, dark and grey.  At least there was no rain, but we decided that the time we were thinking of spending on a pre-breakfast walk around the castle might be better spent actually eating breakfast.

We were on the road in our Opel Astra by 9 am, and we headed east to the city of Linköping.  I had known of Linköping since my boyhood days as the city where Saab jet fighters are manufactured – the J29, the Lansen, the Draken, the Viggen, and more recently, the Gripen.  Perhaps because of the important role that Saab has played in the history of the Swedish Air Force, the Swedish Air Force Museum has been located on the periphery of Linköping.  When we were back in Gothenburg, I had been hoping that a visit to the Swedish Aerospace Museum might have been possible, but unfortunately time did not permit that.  As a substitute, I was hoping to visit the Swedish Air Force Museum in Linköping instead.

We did our research online, but received conflicting information about the opening time – was it to be 10 am or 11am?  We arrived at the Museum right at 10 am, but we were disappointed by the answer we discovered – although the Museum Café opened at 10 am, the Museum itself would not open until 11 am.  We reluctantly agreed that we did not have an hour to wait until the opening time, so I took a few photos of some aircraft in the open area at the front of the Museum and we drove away.

Our first ‘productive’ stop today was just a short drive away, being the old town near the centre of Linköping.  We had expected a smaller version of the old centre of Stockholm, but what we discovered as we walked around in the light rain was somewhat more contrived.  The buildings in the area were not originally from Linköping, but had been moved there from other parts of Sweden to create an open air museum.  Most of the buildings were not due to open until 11 am, and we were therefore not pressured by large crowds.  Nonetheless, several people affiliated with the museum were walking around photogenically in period costume welcoming those who had braved the weather to visit.

The next section of our travels involved a considerably longer drive south-east to the coastline at Västervik.  The skies were still grey, so to set the mood I (repeatedly) sang the words “grey Swedish skies”, the only three words I remembered from Peter Campbell’s little-known song “Sweden” (from his 1975 LP “Of Time and Its Distance”).  I trust that Di felt more inward appreciation for my gesture to generate a poetic atmosphere than she was able to express externally.

True to the weather forecast, the skies brightened as we approached Västervik, a small city with just over 20,000 inhabitants.  Like so many towns in Sweden, Västervik has a history going back to the 1200s, it has been destroyed several times by fire and war, and the result today is a well preserved, vibrant old city centre with an open market square, beautiful buildings and several ornate churches.  In the case of Västervik, there is an added feature; it is situated on the coast (actually a fjord) and has a colourful port and superb, pedestrian-friendly waterfront areas.  Some might argue an equally important claim to fame for the city; Björn Ulvaeus grew up in Västervik.

We had a wonderful time strolling through the old town and around the water’s edges, across small bridges and through the cobble stoned lanes, spending much more time than we had planned.  Our visit to Västervik concluded with a walk up a small hill to a beautiful old church, known as St Gertrude’s Church.  We were warmly welcomed into the all-timber building, which dates back to its reconstruction in 1547 following the destruction of a former church on the site during the 1517 fire.  The connection between the church and the town’s maritime history was evident as we looked in any and every direction – a delicate balance between simplicity and ornamentation, humility and bravery.

We found it hard to tear ourselves away from Västervik, but with a long distance still to cover, we did so and headed north along the coast to our next stop, the small town of Söderköping.  Söderköping has a population of only 7,000 people, and is situated beside a lock on the Göta Canal that connects the sea with the lakes of Roxen and Vättern, the latter being the lake beside which Vadstena is located (where we had slept last night).

The water level of the Göta Canal is considerably higher than the land around it, including where the town of Söderköping is situated.  High levees protect the surrounding land from the waters of the canal, and these levees also provide a focus for much of Söderköping’s tourism industry, part of which is based on recreational boating.

The town itself is outrageously picturesque, with the familiar menu – well preserved, vibrant old city centre with an open market square, beautiful buildings and several ornate churches – plus a river running through the old town parallel to the canal.

Yet again, this was a hard town to leave, and we did so reluctantly.  Just a few kilometres north of Söderköping is the large port city of Norrköping, and it also has a beautiful historic centre.  We had considered stopping there to explore, but after driving around the city, first trying to locate the historic centre (following very poor signage!) and then to try and find a parking space, we decided to drive on.  Perhaps we had been spoilt by the exquisite towns we had already seen today, and in comparison, Norrköping failed to impress.

Our next stop was therefore another smaller town, Nyköping, with a population of about 30,000 people.  This was a very pretty town with the usual list of features – well preserved, vibrant old city centre with an open market square, beautiful buildings and several ornate churches – plus a port and a castle, neither of which were especially photo-worthy.

We took a long walk through Nyköping, along its main street and then along a section of its riverwalk, before driving past the port and the castle.  By this time, the shadows were lengthening and it was time to complete our drive back to Stockholm where we will spend the evening before leaving tomorrow for Latvia.

Day 33 - Vadstena to Stockholm


7 August 2013