Free at last
Sweden: home of IKEA, land of the perpetually surprised o’s, a country where lakes per hour is almost a useful measurement of speed.
Three weeks in and we’ve already come full-circle; we’re back in the country that kickstarted this whole trip. Sweden: home of IKEA, land of the perpetually surprised o’s, a country where lakes per hour is almost a useful measurement of speed.
Ninety-seven percent of the country is uninhabited, and nature reserves and national parks make up a tenth of the country’s total land area. The Swedes love nature so much they engrained the right to access it in law. The Allemansrätten, or Freedom to Roam, gives you the freedom to hike, cycle, ride, swim and camp just about anywhere in the countryside (there are some very reasonable exceptions).
Sweden’s freedom comes as a welcome relief after Denmark, where campsites open out of season are few and far between, and regular parking spots are often adorned with No Camping signs. Locating a good place to park overnight in Sweden can often be as simple as finding a lake or other point of interest with road access on the map and driving there. This probably sounds lame, but driving here, with the freedom to pull over and explore just about anywhere, feels a bit like being in Grand Theft Auto (minus the crime and hookers, mostly).
One of my favourite things about Sweden is their approach to speed cameras. Speed cameras are for safety, not revenue: they are generally only placed along dangerous sections of road, usually with a sign before it to warn motorists. Not that it makes much difference to us; the Tardis prefers a steady 80 kph on these winding, hilly roads, its notoriously weak 5th gear now strictly reserved for special occasions. We’re quickly getting used to moving onto the hard shoulder to let cars and trucks pass (drivers in Sweden are legally required to assist passing vehicles by slowing down if necessary and moving over when possible, even when overtaking is itself illegal).
It has been five years since we first visited Sweden, a visit which had us checking house prices when we got back home. We decided then that it would be foolish to emigrate to the first country that caught our fancy, but that we should instead travel until we find the perfect fit. The resulting trip has only just begun, but we’re back in Sweden and I already find myself thinking, “We should build a house here”.