Swedish Road-Tripping, 50 Years Later

In 1969 I bought a new Volvo, picked it up at the factory in Gothenburg, Sweden and drove it around for a few weeks before returning it to be shipped home. That trip and that car changed my life.P1090139

The trip was my first taste of adventure travel. The car took me to Alaska and California and back the following year on the first of several cross country drives before I finally sold it in 1975 with an odometer reading of over 125,000 trouble-free miles.

This week I am reliving this adventure, sort of, by driving a new Volvo — again, picked up at the factory — throughout western and southern Sweden, areas I missed in 1969.

Let me get one thing out of the way before I tell you more about the trip. I am not being paid by Volvo for this ringing endorsement, but they are providing the use of the car, gratis, for the week. The West Sweden Tourist Board and Tourism in Skane arranged the trip, and the various hotels, restaurants and other providers mentioned in this blog also comped  Katherine and me during the week. However, despite their generosity the descriptions and opinions expressed here are relatively objective (though as a psychologist I know that such opinions are never completely objective). In any case, you know where I’m coming from so  make your own judgements.

First, I love the car. If I could fit it into our tiny garage or even tinier parking space I would consider purchasing one again via their Factory Delivery program, the program that arranges purchases and pick ups for buyers in the US and elsewhere, and driving it for several more weeks throughout Sweden, Norway and Finland.

They really have this program down pat. After we were picked up at our hotel in Gothenburg, we were given a special VIP tour of the Volvo Museum.

P1090016P1090021(the model above is the same as the one I bought in 1969, except in dark blue)

After the museum tour they provided lunch at the Volvo Cars Visitors’ Centre, along with several other purchasers from the States, took us on a tour of the factory, then presented our car, a V90 T8 Inscription, and instructed us on how to use all of the new fangled electronics, especially the navigation system, which proved essential for our trip.P1090024

So, what follows is a brief day-by-day outline of the first part of our trip, the Bohuslan Coast, the rugged, rocky, indented coastline north of Gothenburg.

We arrived in Gothenburg the afternoon before we picked up our Volvo and checked into the historic and elegant Hotel Eggers in central Gothenburg, a short distance from the train station. P1090010 P1090011After a boat tour along the moat surrounding the old section of the city,P1090008 P1090002 P1090001 P1080995 P1080993 P1080992 P1080990 P1080985 P1080983 P1080955 we had an excellent dinner at Natur, a hip eatery that specializes in natural wines and organic, locally-sourced food.

The next day, after we picked up the Volvo, we drove north to Marstrand, a charming town (all the towns we visited were charming so I’ll skip that adjective from here on) on the water. Our room at the sleek, Scandinavian design Marstrands Havshotel looked out on the harbor and Marstrand Island, a short ferry ride across the harbor. On the top of the hill on the island, a citadel looms over the small town which spreads along the waterfront and up the slope leading to the huge structure.P1090029 P1090026

We took the ferry and walked around the edge of the island for a mile or so until all signs of civilization except for a a couple of wooden structures across the water were out of sight. All we could see were water, rocky islands, and the occasional sailboat.P1090039 P1090034

If we had more time, we would have been able to walk around the entire island in a leisurely few hours.

When we returned to our hotel, we had enough time for a soak in the extensive spa before dinner at Otto’s, the hotel restaurant. To avoid repetition let me just say that all of our meals were excellent. Most featured fresh, local seafood. At Otto’s, we ate a flaky cod served with a crayfish sauce, among many other ingredients far too numerous to mention (or remember).

Our next stop, an hour and 40 minutes up the coast, was Everts Sjobad, a guesthouse a couple miles outside of Grebbestad. The six rooms in the weathered, wooden boathouse are simple and rustic, but they all have access to a deck where guests can eat lunch or dinner (more on that shortly) or just gaze over the water to the rocky islands offshore.P1090072 P1090065 P1090064 P1090061 P1090060 P1090059 P1090058 P1090048

P1090154Shortly after we arrived, Hanna Karlsson Thoren and her father took us out in a classic wooden boat for a lesson on how to shuck oysters. Hanna did most of the shucking, I did most of the eating. I washed down the oysters, which only minutes before had been plucked from the water beside the boathouse, with a bottle of the local oyster stout. You can have your champagne with your oysters, I’ll take a bottle of oyster stout any day, especially if its on a fishing boat slowly chugging around a peaceful bay.P1090104


P1090116 P1090114 P1090113The “bad” news, such as it was, was that the hot tub on the deck wasn’t working so we had to make do with an easy, sunny 4 mile walk to town and back. P1090136The good news is that the walk revived our appetite for the two huge platters of seafood — crab claws, langoustine, mussels and prawns, plus various accompaniments — waiting for us back at the guest house which Hanna had prepared for us and left in the refrigerator outside our room. We took our time working our way through the meal as we sat on the deck and watched the sun slowly set.P1090147

P1090148 P1090142 P1090141 P1090139That was a hard act to follow. The next day, the weather turned nasty. After a short stop in Fallbacka a short distance down the coast, known for two of its famous residents, actress Ingrid Bergman and mystery writer Camilla Lackberg, P1090157we headed to Smogen, a quaint town with a long boardwalk on the water that sees a lot of action in the summer.

It was rainy and windy pretty much all day so we spent most of the day in our room at the Pensionat Bryggan, the guest house where we spent the night. The room was cozy and cute (not a descriptor I use often, unless I’m speaking about my wife) and looked out on the boardwalk and channel that separated the two sections of the town. For those of you for whom this is important, I should note that none of the rooms have private bathrooms, but the shared bathroom is just down the hall on the same floor.P1090200 P1090194 P1090189 P1090183 P1090181 P1090177

We ate both lunch and dinner at Gosta’s a couple of hundred yards down the boardwalk. The fare was straightforward, abundant, tasty and inexpensive.  Well, maybe straightforward is not the best description. After an excellent bowl of mussels as a starter we shared something called a shrimp sandwich pizza, the latest experiment from the chef. I’m not sure I would order it again, but I admired the chef’s creativity.

The surprise of the evening, and perhaps the entire trip, is that our server is a free safety on a team in an American football league in Sweden. Who knew there was such a thing? The last thing I was expecting to talk about on this trip were this season’s prospects for my beloved Philadelphia Eagle’s.

The next day was sunny but still windy, apparently a remnant of Hurricane Hugo which swept up the east coast of the US last week and made its stormy way to Sweden. We drove to Tjorn for lunch at Salt & Sill, situated on a pier with ocean views from every table. The lunch featured a herring buffet with such offerings as herring marinated in malt whiskey, another in lemon, still another in lingonberry, and my favorite, chili and lime.P1090211

Our last stop in West Sweden, just a few minutes away, was Sculpture in Pilane, similar to the sculpture garden in Otterlo, Netherlands (see earlier blog post), but on a larger scale with better views. We took over an hour to walk through the landscape, avoiding the droppings from the sheep grazing in the area, and gape at the collection, which changes every year. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.P1090227P1090226 P1090221P1090248After that, it was on to Molle in Skane, a three hour and 20 minute drive south, for the second portion of our trip. I’ll describe that in a few days. It’s been a terrific trip, essentially replacing the faded memories of my trip 50 years ago with something that is at the same time both different and similar. I’ll have more to say about that in a few days.



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