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Our late summer holiday in 2009 was planned to Sweden. We had promised long ago to visit Birgitta and Ingemar Erikson. Long ago we were colleagues as diplomat, he was the Swedish Defence Attaché accredited to Budapest. He was successful, as he made the case for the Hungarian Air Force to acquire 14 Gripen Jet fighters. Incredible that a country with a small population of less than 10 million people can design and build a state of the art jet fighter and sell it as far as South Africa and Thailand.

Our plan was Initially to travel by car, but a 19 hour trip was not convenient. So we decided to go by plane. Our favorite airline is Skyeurope, a Slovak airline, convenient operating from Bratislava or Vienna. They had new planes and excellent offers so we flew often with them. However the financial crises affect them as well and they were since June in bankruptcy protection, but still operating. We could not get a convenient trip with Skyeurope, so we decided to fly with Ryanair, from Bratislava to Stockholm Skavsta. Later it appeared that this alternative airport was 100 km from Stockholm, on a former military base.
When we arrived in Bratislava, we heard that Skyeurope was finally bankrupt and just had stopped all operations. Many passengers in the departure hall looked in despair, with useless tickets. The information booth of Skyeurope was dark and a few papers attached to the glass showed that if you had a ticket, is was useless. So lucky we had not booked Skyeurope this time.

The trip to Sweden was convenient, check-in was not possible, you had to print the boarding pass at home. Ryanair charges you for everything, as budget airlines do, but were on time. Luggage was a problem as we took some delicious fruit like big juicy melons from the garden with us. Luckily they survived in a good shape.
We were greeted by Ingemar, who brought us to their apartment in Stockholm.

They just had acquired the neighbor’s apartment as well, especially for guests, so we had ample room. It was a square flat building, the apartment on the 8th floor, with an excellent view over Stockholm.

Sweden is a big country with only 9 million inhabitants, living in a high standard of living. The industry is productive, aiming for the high quality segment of the marked and is highly innovative. The people are friendly and interesting is that the Swedish language is relatively close to Dutch. Next day was a visit to Stockholm. A surprise was that Gofffried, Ingemar’s and Birgitta’s grandson, was keeping Mariska company. They were instant friends and liked to play together. We enjoyed the children playground and
then walked towards the centre.
We saw a lot of this clean and well organized city, lunched at the Ethnographical museum and visited the highest point in Stockholm, the 155m high TV tower Kaknastornet. It is situated in the Ladugardsgardet and is surrounded by a unique environment: Ekoparken. This park is the world's first city national park..
In seconds we reached the top with the fastest elevator of Europe and enjoyed the view over Stockholm from the observation deck at the 31st floor..In the tower is the operating centre that connects and supervises all programming that goes out over Swedens Ground network. The tower was consructed in the period 1963-1967

This area around Stockholm is one of the miracles of the world is most interesting. It was during the Ice Age covered till 10.000 years ago with a kilometers thick layer of ice. Then relatively suddenly the ice melts, by a climate change. All the excessive carbon dioxide emissions of SUV’s, aircraft, cigarettes and coal burning power stations created a devastating greenhouse effect that caused the enormous ice quantities to melt in a short period, so the sea level raised. (This part was especially for those people believing the climate guru’s like Al Gore)
Unfortunately for the guru’s, Sweden is not swallowed by the rising sea, but after the ice of the ice age melted, it instead quickly raised out of the water and still keeps rising at a high pace.

Sweden is partly formed of 2000 million years old bedrock. Everywhere the traces of the glaciers in the granite can be seen. The enormous weight of the slowly moving glaciers flattened the surface and made markings in the granite.

The area around Stockholm is one of the world most fascinating natural wonders. Just 2000 years ago Stockholm’s 80 km wide archipelago lay mostly under water. Not until the Viking time, 1000 years ago we can recognize the contours of today’s archipelago maps. Today the archipelago with brackish water is still rising, but “only” 40 cm per 100 years. More and more islands are formed and today one can count 30.000 islands, rocks and skerries, that means small rocky islands. Closer to the mainland the islands are larger and inhabited. Further out to the sea they become smaller and flatter until finally at the far end of the archipelago they are small, windswept rocks with very little or no vegetation.

Next day we planned to go the cottage east of Stockholm.The first part by boat to Vaxholm, where we were picked up by Birgitta. We went with the bus to the harbor and booked a trip to Waxholm.

During the trip we got an excellent view of Stockholm, the harbors and the narrow channel leading to the Baltic Sea. We passed along the Vaasa Museum. The Vaasa was the planned flagship of the Swedish King. On orders of the king the ship was modified with a double row of guns. As result this the ship was unstable and capsized just after it left the harbor, a shamefull experience, that was quickly forgotten. It was recovered 400 years later and is still in an excellent shape. The museum was build around it and in 1993 I had a presentation there offered by the Government, concluded by an impressive diner in the Museum, by the side of the hull.

The trip was comfortable and the ship anchored on many islands, offering us a chance to take a look on those remote stations.

The trip ended in Vaxholm, that includes 64 islands. Upon approaching Vaxholm the impressive grey fortress dominated. It was built by king Gustav Vasa and dates back to the 16th century. It was build to defend the approach to Stockholm. We met Birgitta here, had a nice lunch and drove to Norrtälje, where we did some shopping.

According to Ingemar the cottage needed some paintwork and it looked nice to do some paintwork while Mariska was playing around the cottage, Traditionally the housed are constructed of wood painted red, so the typical red paint offers excellent protection.

The cottage consists of two houses, and we got the lower house, some 50 meters from the main building. Most houses are of wood and painted in that typical red color, a copper residue. All the woodwork was in a good condition.

The cottage was close to the water, where the boat was anchored. The rest of the day was used to explore the area.

The following day Mariska was playing in the area, especially she liked her beetle friends The preparations were made to paint the shutters.

It is lots of work as the painted surface never is better than the prepared base.

We decided to have a relaxing time here, playing with Mariska and painting.

The Erikssons were out with friends picking lingonberries, a traditional hobby. Many Swedish people get nervous when the time to collect them is approaching. Special tools are available to pick the berries. The plants look like blueberries, but lingon berries are red. For more info see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccinium_vitis-idaea We had a great time, when the paint job was done, Ingemar and Birgitta returned with some 50 kgs of lingon berries.

Next day we made a trip over the archipelago to the north east, with the boat. Equipped with a new 50 Hp outboard engine it was fast and comfortable. We passed along a ferry harbor

We stopped a village, had a picnic and made a stroll there .

Then it was time to sail back via another route.
We had a wonderful trip, that gave a good impression of the famous Stockholm Archipelago. And at the helm, skilfully Ingamar steered the ship safe, clear of the many rocks . Birgitt and Mariska enjoyed it a lot.

and it was already again time to pack for the trip back home, to Hungary

We were brought to the Skavsta Airport, the plane was already there and the aircraft landed within one minute of the scheduled landing time in Bratislava. The temperature was high summer again. To our relieve our car was still there, even without a scratch, and after some shopping in Hungary we came home, where we found everything in a good order.

We are Birgitta and Ingemar grateful for the impressive hospitality and look back to a wonderful trip to Sweden. \
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