It was an early start this morning to bag our spot for the washing machine. When I awoke, I looked like Howard had punched me in the eye – an insect had bitten me last night just by my eye-lid, and this morning it had all puffed up. As the day progressed, it has got puffier and puffier, so I thought it wise not to drive.
Once on the road, it was as hot and tedious as yesterday. There really are a lot of trees in Sweden! Furthermore, the coastal road on this east side, although tantalisingly close to the coast, gives you no vistas of the sea at all, just trees. We were late getting started whilst we waited for our washing to dry, so it wasn’t until 2.30 pm or so that we thought about stopping for lunch. We turned off the main road with great optimism, only to find that we had driven to a massive recycling plant by the sea. We turned tail, and took another road. This time we did find some water, more of a coastal lagoon, and sat and ate our cheese roll looking out across the lake. This whole stretch of coastline is heavily wooded, and there seem to be hundreds upon hundreds of little holiday cabins, often with pontoons stretching out into the water. It all looks very pleasant, but the result is that much of the waterfront is privately owned, so not giving public access. We could find little in the Lonely Planet of interest along this leg of our drive, so we continued on.
We arrived at Umea, where we had decided to stay tonight just before five.
According to the Lonely Planet, Umea is a lively university town, and, I quote, ‘a welcome outpost of urbanity in the barren north’. Seems like I’m not the only one who thought the drive was tedious! In 2014 it had the ‘Culture Capital of Europe’ bestowed on it. It’s main attraction is a cluster of museums, showcasing northern and Sami culture, but just as we pulled up, the museum was closing. So instead, we headed for the Umedalens Skulpturpark, an outdoor sculpture park, set in the beautiful grounds of a former psychiatric hospital. The site is now used by the university, various businesses and some residential properties. The sculptures are scattered all across the grounds, and comprise of some sculptures by contemporary artists such as Anthony Gormley and Louise Bourgeios. Some were so tucked away, it was only by shere chance that we stumbled across them, whereas others had more prominent positions. Strangely, there were no signs to the park, and had it not been for my trusty guide, we would have been none the wiser. As it was, we passed a very pleasant hour wandering around the park, taking in the art.
It was then time to head for our campsite, another monster of a site, full of irritating little boys with water pistols, and children playing ball games all around us. As I type, I have just been narrowly missed by a flying coke can, filed with water, for the little darling’s amusement, whilst their laid- back parents are sitting in the plot opposite, drinking what looks like champagne. Even Howard, who usually tolerates children pretty well, is considering homicide!
It seems like we have been driving south forever, but when we look at the map, we still have a huge distance to cover before reaching Stockholm at the weekend. So far, I am pretty disappointed with this east side of Sweden, compared with the west coast, but hopefully it will improve tomorrow.
In the meantime, I am devising ways of how to silence the little brats. Suggestions welcome!