This adventure post is long overdue! However, my excuse is that I have been distracted by a new venture that has been taking up more of my time than I thought. (More to follow on that soon!)
It was back in August when the hubby and I embarked on our back-packing and camping train journey from Stockholm to Swedish Lapland and back again. We saw and experienced so much but felt like we barely even scratched the Scandi surface! After flying into Stockholm, we took the Inlandsbanan (an old logging train) all the way up to Gällivare above the Arctic Circle, stopping off at little towns and villages en route. We have so many recommendations from this adventure that we have broken them down into three parts: Central, North and Stockholm.
We flew into Stockholm Arlanda Airport and immediately started our journey via Swedish National Rail to Mora, which is the first major stop on the Inlandsbanan and is about 300km North-West of Stockholm. (Please note that the Inlandsbanan does officially start in Kristinehamn!). The Inlandsbanan is a 1,364km privately preserved railway route, where one train runs daily between Mora and Östersund, and another between Östersund and Gällivare. It only operates during the summer months and the dates change annually so you are best to check their website for the most current information. The train chugs along at an average speed of 50km/h and will stop at any ‘sight worth seeing’ and conveniently placed track-side restaurants at meal times. We purchased a two-week hopper ticket at 1,995kr per person (approximately £200), which allows you to get on and off the Inlandsbanan however many times you want making each journey unique! There are loads of other options on their website, including package tours which appeared to be popular.
Part 1 – Central
Mora is a cute little town and a real taste of central Sweden. This was certainly one of the ‘larger’ towns on this part of the route, but there is only enough stuff here to keep you occupied for a day. We camped at Mora Parken, which had great facilities (showers, kitchen, etc.) and was very close to town. We arrived mid-afternoon, set up camp and then went off to find dinner!
We had a wonderful first meal at Korsnäsgården which is located across the road from the train station. It’s a beautiful and bright little place, using local ingredients with a modern twist. The following day we had brunch at Konditori Kaffestuga (a chain of cottage cafés in this region) where caramel filled pastries, goats cheese and beetroot toasted sandwiches with honey and walnuts, salt liquorice buttercream topped macaroons and unlimited tea and coffee filled us up! After that we visited Zornmuseet and Zorngården, which celebrates Andres Zorn’s work and his fabulous house (which had more modern conveniences than the royal palace at the time!). Zorn is one of Sweden’s most renowned artists and this little shine to him does him complete justice. Make sure you catch a guided tour of his house in English (tickets can be purchased at the museum) and visit Café Zorn after for some delicious cakes. After walking around the town, take a look at the giant Dala Horse down by the lake; traditionally these wooden horses were carved as toys for children but now the Dala Horse is symbol of Sweden (so obviously, we got a little red one which now adorns the mantle piece!).
Our next stop was Orsa, which was even smaller than Mora but was the closest station to the Grönklitt Björnpark (bear park!). The camping facilities at Orsa were good, with a large kitchen and lounge area for campers. The restaurant onsite served good food, but is expensive: however, you are paying for the views of amber sunsets across the lake. Keep an eye out for red squirrels hiding in the trees there too!
The bear park is located on the side of a 561m hill, which turns into a ski resort in winter and claims to be Europe’s largest predator park. Grönklitt is mostly filled with loads of native Swedish animals, (the bear cubs and wolves were our favourites!), with a few polar bears and tigers thrown in for good measure! If you manage to make it to the top of the hill then you will have earned your waffles crowned with cloud berry compote and vanilla ice cream, which are available in the Viking-hall-themed restaurant! To get to the bear park from Orsa we booked on to a bus at the tourist office the day before, which runs a few times daily in the summer; we were informed that we would have to pay a small fee but on both the outbound and return journeys the driver refused our money(!??).
When we were waiting to catch the Inlandsbanan the next day we sat in the dappled sunlight at the Konditori Kaffestuga in town. This branch was located in a delightful wooden lodge, where we stuffed our faces with weird and wonderful sweet treats that we had never seen before! Including a green marzipan log filled with an arak, cookie crumb and chocolate paste (Google tells me this is called a ‘Punchrulle’!).
Our final stop on the Central part of our journey was Östersund. Set on the shore of an enormous lake, this lively and youthful city, had quite a lot going on (relatively speaking)!! Unfortunately, the nearest campsite was located quite far away from the town so we booked ourselves into some self-catering apartments in the city centre: great location, with weird but beautiful buildings and eclectic furniture! We spent our first morning walking around the city and down by the extensive lake and grabbed from breakfast from Törners Konditori, where they had a delicious selection of cinnamon and cardamom buns, blueberry and custard pastries, princess cake and ornate patisserie.
This fuelled us for our day at Jamtli, an outdoor living museum, filled with Swedish history and enthusiastic actors! We really cannot recommend this place enough; we had a wonderful tour in English where we were guided ‘through time’ by a brilliant hostess, we visited the King’s Inn, the local village where we sampled natural fizzy water imported for its health benefits, sang with sobriety campaigners in the town square, helped pack bags for a camping roadtrip in the ‘60s and sampled fish-finger pasties for a 1970s dinner party! After which we had lunch at the museum restaurant, another tradition building but on a much larger scale, it serves a delicious daily special with hot and cold buffet sides. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering in and out of different periods of time and talking to real people living in that moment: hippies, a wartime farmer’s wife and the richest farmer in the land!
We finished our time in Östersund with a fabulous dinner at Jazzköket. The menu changes regularly to include influences from different countries and the chef uses interesting flavour combinations along with local ingredients to make some very cool dishes: for dessert, we had sweet potato cream pie cookies and pea shoot ice-cream with dulce de leche. All this was surrounded by an awesome atmosphere and a funky setting. Try and time your visit with the live music they have on!
The next morning we got up early to catch the train North towards the Arctic Circle…