Sweden & Denmark

I was lucky enough to be selected to volunteer at both the U23 in Gävle and U20 Athletic Championships in Borås, in Sweden so I thought it would be good to combine this with a little holiday to Scandinavia, a part of the world I had never been to, the journal for my travels is detailed below.

Monday 8th July – Glasgow to Stockholm

Up with the lark this morning for my trip to Sweden, I had a great plan to use public transport to take me to Buchanan Street bus station, but after carrying my case downstairs I decided against pulling it up the hill to the bus stop and called a taxi instead.

The bus journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh went smoothly and I got to the airport in plenty of time for my flight to Arlanda Airport, where I had booked a bus onto the city of Stockholm.

When I got to the city I found that my phone wouldn’t connect to a local network, so I decided to walk to the hostel I had booked. This took me about 15 – 20 minutes and it was easy to find. The hostel is next to the AF Chapman, old 3 master clipper ship built in 1888, overlooking Gamla Stan (the Old Town) and the Royal Palace.  I had booked into one of the cabins on her rather than the hostel itself, and when I arrived I met one of the other travellers staying in the same cabin, an American guy called Rob Dew, from Venice Beach LA, told me he had been in Stockholm for a few days and he offered to show me the sights of the old town, so off we went, had a stroll around, had a beer in a cool bar before dinner in a nice restaurant called 17 where I just had to try their meatballs to see how they compared to those on offer at IKEA, they were certainly more impressive.  After dinner, we strolled back to the hostel and I had an early night.

Tuesday 9th July – Stockholm

This morning after a nice breakfast in the hostel I took a trip along to the Vasa Museum, a brilliant place where there is the warship Vasa which sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 in Stockholm harbour, it was salvaged in 1961 and has been so carefully preserved that 98% of it is on display in a specially designed building. I found it fascinating and spent a good part of the day, stopping only for lunch in the restaurant before moving on. It must be about one of the best museums I’ve ever been in, so well laid out over 7 floors and very well presented.

I returned to the hostel for a short rest before heading back into the old town to meet up with Rob, this time, to save my old weary legs I took one of the Lime electric scooters for my trip, great fun until you hit the cobbles.  Once in the old town, I had a wander around taking in all the old Nordic styled houses and buildings before stopping for a beer in a fabby wee bar called Sten Sture on Trångsund in the Old Town, the cafe/bar is downstairs in a 700 year old prison building and is full of old quirky objects, I had a beer whilst Rob disappeared for a massage in a nearby Chinese Health Store, on Rob’s return we decided just to stay there and have a meal, the food was really good quality and reasonably inexpensive. I didn’t find much in the way of street art in Stockholm, other than in one narrow lane with loads of stairs that was much too narrow for me to photograph, there were plenty of high-quality sculptures on display around the city to compensate.

Wednesday 10th July – Stockholm to Gävle

After breakfast this morning and after a stroll around the local area, I took a taxi to the station for my train trip to Gävle, the journey of an hour or so was very pleasant and relaxing, and it gave me the chance to see some of the Swedish countryside.  After arriving in Gävle, I went into town to buy a local bus pass for the week then took a bus to the stadium to sign in.  Throughout the journey and my arrival at the stadium, I think the sight of this old Scotsman in his kilt surprised a few folk.

I spent the rest of the day doing some accreditation tasks before heading back into town to see the opening ceremony for the games, a meal, and a beer while I was there finished me off, so I went to find where I was staying, this turned out to be relatively easy and I quickly got to meet Camilla, my hostess and Peter the other volunteer stay with us, we sat and had a blether before all of us having an early night. It was an interesting day.

Thursday 11th July – Gävle

When I went to the accreditation Centre in the morning there was very little for me to do, as most of the work had been done earlier in the week, I was asked to show some people around then I had to check the accreditation of those going for the VIP Lunch, all pretty boring and not what I had travelled to Sweden for.

A chance arose to help a woman called Monica Sousa, from a university medical school from Lisbon, who was carrying out a survey for European Athletics on the nutritional and dietary requirements of the athletes attending the championships. I was allocated Team GBR and the Irish teams to speak to and to encourage them to complete a survey questionnaire, a total of 115 athletes.  I started trying to speak to them in the stadium but on the whole they weren’t too happy doing it while they were preparing, or just finishing their event, so it was thought that the best option was to go to their hotel, for the Irish team, this turned out to be in Lugnet in a nearby city called Falun, over 70 minutes (57 miles) away from the stadium by bus, which has Sweden’s national cross-country skiing and ski jumping centre (the Lugnet Hills ski jump), how anyone can initially brave this is beyond me!  This was not the most fruitful afternoon and evening as I only managed to catch 11 of the team and I didn’t get home until much later that night, I was pretty jiggered by the time I reached home.

Friday 12th July – Gävle

This morning I was back on the survey trail, this time with the British team, again I tried speaking to them at the stadium with no great success, so after an early lunch I headed off to their hotel, which fortunately was in the centre of Gävle, so I was able to use the shuttle buses. Again, many of the team members were not too happy at completing the survey, but I really enjoyed talking and getting to know those that did. I returned to the stadium with my afternoon results, watched some of the events, then returned to team GBR’s hotel to capture some more.  This time I was able to finish work at a reasonable time and Peter and I returned home together for a change.

Saturday 13th July – Gävle

After breakfast at the stadium, I watched a couple of events before taking a bus to Falun again, to interview more athletes, this time from Hungary, Ukraine and Estonia plus any from the Irish team I missed. I was quite surprised that I got plenty of responses from all the teams other than Estonia. Back in the stadium to catch a few events and my evening meal before stopping off in town for a beer before heading home.

Sunday 14th July – Gävle

Today I was tasked with speaking to the Swedish team at lunchtime, after watching some of the morning’s events, I headed off to their hotel in Högbo, this was a really nice big country hotel set in a pretty impressive country park. Being Sunday the park was busy with dog shows and even a bunny rabbit show jumping event.

On my return to the stadium, I have my evening meal before watching the final days events. There was an after-event party which I went to, mainly to meet up with Peter and Camilla and to say goodbye to the many great people.

Gävle is a nice small provincial city, whose mascot is the Gävle Goat, sculptures of which dot the city, you could see a great many sculptures around the city.  I didn’t get to take many photographs as I wasn’t able to use my camera while working at the arena and was only able to take some with my phone.

Monday 15th July – Stockholm

Off back to Stockholm in the pouring rain, the early morning express train was fully booked and rather than waiting an hour or so and paying almost double the price, I took the slightly slower local train.

I decided to walk to the hostel again and was surprised to meet up again with Rob Dew, who I had met earlier on my first visit. He was now at the end of his trip and was leaving that day to return to the USA. Rob told me that he had taken a trip to Helsinki while I was away and told me how nice the journey was. I made my mind up that I would do something similar so I booked a 12-hour cruise, by Viking Line, to Mariehamn on Åland, a Finnish island in the Baltic Sea for the next day.

As it was too early for me to check-in, we went for a stroll and a light lunch in the nearby Toy Museum, before heading back to the hostel, after Rob left, I was able to check-in, I then left my luggage then headed back into town, in the pouring rain, to do a bit of sightseeing and to possibly get my phone communicating better (this didn’t work). A pint and dinner then a walk back to the hostel for an early night.

Tuesday 16th July – Stockholm to Mariehamn

A 6 o’clock start this morning to get to the cruise ship terminal, I boarded in plenty of time, then started the day for real with a very good breakfast on board. As it was a relatively nice day, I spent much time on deck as the ship, the Viking Grace, sailed through the archipelago, which provided stunning views.

The Stockholm archipelago is the largest archipelago in Sweden, and the second-largest archipelago in the Baltic Sea and the passage across it in both directions gave me a chance to relax and recharge my batteries. I had pre-booked a lunch on board and it was one of the most memorable meals I’ve had since arriving in Sweden. I loved seeing the kids pedal-car race track on board and archipelago was a nice as I had been told it was, some of the islands told some fascinating stories like the pilot station on an island called Kobba Klinta and the old gun emplacements dotted around.

We didn’t get to see much of Finland, as it was off one ferry and onto another, the Viking Amorella, to take us back to Stockholm.  By the time I got back to the hostel, I had covered a good few miles and as I had an early train to Gothenburg in the morning I bundled down early.

Wednesday 17th July – Stockholm to Borås

A quick taxi ride to the station for an early train to Gothenburg, then a tram and bus to Borås, I decided to go to the stadium firstly to get my uniform and accreditation, and as usual they didn’t seem to know what to do with me, I got the bare minimum of a pass which got me into the Arena.

I then went back into town and bought a bus pass and headed to my accommodation, this turned out to be a nice room in a home on the outskirts of Boràs and would suit me fine for my stay. Back in town for the opening ceremony then a wander around to get my bearings.  Surprisingly Borås hosts a street art festival each year and there are some great pieces dotted around the city, they are very proud of them and they have regular walking tours arranged by the city, photographs of these will appear on my Street Art Pages.  It was an interesting and fun day.

Thursday 18th July – Borås

On visiting the stadium this morning I discovered that I had been given another interesting job, this time with the Media team, once I had met my team leader Göran, and was allocated a task, I went to meet Monica from European Athletics, to find out where I was to carry out my surveys. Having the 2 jobs meant that I was able to see plenty of the competition and get out to the hotels to meet the competitors, it really is the best of both worlds.  My evening visit was to team Ireland’s hotel in the city centre, where I met some really nice young people, after getting my surveys completed I went into the town square where the city put on a live music show every Thursday evening in the summer, needless to say, the town was very busy.  I found Borås to be a beautiful little city with a great deal of pride in it’s past and the many pieces of art on display, they even bought a 9-metre brass sculpture of Pinocchio by American artist Jim Dine, entitled, Walking to Borås, for no reason other than they liked it.  Another busy and interesting day, however, I found that as I was working with the media team, I was unable to take my camera with me to the arena, again I had to use my phone to capture some pictures.

Friday 19th July – Borås

Today was quite similar to yesterday, this time I went out of town and visited Två Skyttlar, a lovely country house hotel where the teams from Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Finland, and Iceland were staying, to take some surveys after lunch, I then returned to the arena to assist the Media Team until dinner time when I went to the Nordic Plaza, a city hotel to see the teams from Hungary, the Netherlands, and Ireland.
After my day was done I had a walk around town to take some photographs before stopping for a beer before heading home.

Saturday 20th July – Borås

My journey to the arena was made easier this morning as I got a lift from Jonas, one of the Media Team. I was a big day at the games today with many finals taking place, so I was sorry I had to leave to visit team GBR’s hotel, the Solhem Park, for a while, again this was a really nice hotel in very restful surroundings.  On my return to the Arena, I was allocated another task, this time assisting one of the cameramen filming the women’s hammer throwing competition, it was quite good fun, and certainly something different. Jonas offered me a lift back home, so I was able to get a chance to relax a bit before an early night.

Sunday 21st July – Borås

Another lift from Jonas got me to the Arena early for another good day, this was a busy day with many final events, it was spoiled slightly by the heavy rain. I took another visit to a hotel at lunchtime but as I had no success I went back to the arena for the final session. In the evening I went to the closing party with Göran, the mixed zone boss and Stephan, the German who ran the media centre, we stayed for a meal, a beer and to listen to the speeches before going to a local bar for the rest of the night. It was good to mix with some of the locals and we had a fun night taking part in a trivia quiz. Göran’s girlfriend picked us up and ran us home at the end of another interesting day.

I had a bit of local interest during the championships as it turned out that there were 3 members of Giffnock North in team GB,  Erin Wallace, a 1500m runner, Alessandro Schenini a long jumper, and Fraser Angus who competed as part of the men’s 4x100m team and was unlucky not to get a medal as the team was edged into second place by Germany, but were later disqualified for a change over violation, it certainly is a small world.

Monday 22nd July – Borås to Copenhagen

Off to Copenhagen this morning, I took a bus to the station where I boarded a local train to Varberg, then changed to another for Copenhagen, this train was very crowded and I didn’t get much of a chance to relax. On arrival, it was easy to find the hostel which was only 5 minutes away. I checked in to a 6-bed dorm with 3 others, a Polish guy and 2 Chinese who had taken over the place leaving their cases lying around and making plenty of noise, it didn’t stop me from having a good nights sleep, and thankfully one left in the morning.

I went for a walk around to get my bearings and got caught, again, in heavy rain! The city is by far much busier than Stockholm, with many tourists milling around the shopping streets and attractive buildings, I soon discovered that the lego store there is always queued out, even in the pouring rain.  Tired and wet, I returned to the hostel for a meal and a couple of happy hour beers before calling it a day.

Tuesday 23rd July – Copenhagen

I had the luxury of a long lie this morning, the first since I left home. It was a beautifully sunny day and after a quick coffee, I bought a tour bus ticket, which covered 3 city bus routes and a canal and harbour tour. I must say that I really enjoyed them all, especially the colourful Copenhagen one where I stopped off in the Christiania Freetown for lunch, this is the area of the city where you can buy products not normally available on the high street and there was a vibrant art scene, due to the type of trade carried out there, they don’t like having photographs taken, especially on the main street called Pusher Street!  On the way in, I spotted Balstroem, who painted at this year’s Yardworks, working on a nice piece with one of his mates, Nameoner, it was nice chatting with them. While on the last bus I glimpsed a splash of colour near one of the cinemas, so once back in town I went to have a look, it turned out that I had missed an event called “meeting of Styles Copenhagen” which took place between the 19th and 21st July. The event looks like it is similar to Yardworks with artists working on boards mounted in one of the squares. Given that it was pouring with rain yesterday, I’m glad I saw them today, again photographs can be seen on my Street Art section.

Wednesday 24th July – Copenhagen to Glasgow

Departure day. I had another long lie before checking out and leaving my luggage in one of the lockers in the hostel. my tour bus and boat ticket was valid for two days so I made good use of it by going on a combination of buses and boats to see more of this beautiful city, again the weather was glorious so I was glad I had applied some sunscreen before heading out.  I went back to Christiania Freetown to find more of Balstroem’s work, I then visited Reffen, the street food district near the old Burmeister & Wain shipyard, all of the food stalls and bars were in old shipping containers giving the place a funky feel. a quick boat ride back into town to collect my luggage before taking a 10-minute train ride to the airport for my flight to Edinburgh.  I had pre-booked a bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow and it was nice to  get back home tired but happy after a wonderful trip