Sunday, July 29, 2012

Our Trip to Europe: Fun in the Water in Sweden

We spent a lot of time on or near water while we were in Sweden.

This is surprisingly easy to do, actually.  It would be difficult not to be near water in Sweden, which has a coastline that covers slightly more than half of the nation’s borders, an archipelago that surrounds its capital, and if you do the math a lake roughly every kilometer or so (Sweden is just slightly bigger than California and has roughly 97,000 lakes if you don’t count anything less than two acres in area).  If you want to avoid the water in Sweden, you have to try fairly hard.

But there’s being around water and then there’s enjoying the water.  We made good use of it while we were there.

As noted in the previous post, at Hasselbacka the girls spent a fair amount of time in the lake, along with the other kids there.  The grown-ups would go in once in a while, especially after the sauna, but mostly it was the kids.  But the lake was cold, and not even young kids could generate enough body heat and motion to stay in for very long.

The solution, therefore, was obvious:  don’t go in; stay on top.

Tabitha and Lauren just love kayaking.  They get this from Kim’s side of the family, since nobody on my side has ever once said, “Hey!  Let’s get into a narrow boat with only a double-sided oar for company and head on out into the open water for an hour or two!”  This was never considered to be fun when I was growing up, but for Tabitha and Lauren it is the dictionary definition of a good time.

Fortunately for them, there is a kayak at Hasselbacka, and they made good use of it.  First Lauren:

And then Tabitha:

They cruised around the lake for the better part of an afternoon toward the end of our stay in rural Sweden, and were completely psyched about it.  This gesture, apparently, is the kayaker’s indication of triumph.  We saw a lot of it.

They liked the experience so much that we took a day in Stockholm and went kayaking again.  This time we went up to a place that rented kayaks so that more than one person could go at a time.  I politely demurred, on the grounds that I prefer to be in places where when I screw up I can still breathe – I am quite happy to remain on the shore and wave to people as they go by.  Kim would have gone with them except she was feeling a bit under the weather that day.  Helena and David were off visiting other friends.  So it was Lauren, Tabitha, Mats, Sara and Maria, out on the waters surrounding Stockholm.

Safety first.

And then it was time to wedge into the kayaks themselves – Sara and Lauren in one, Mats and Maria in another, and Tabitha on her own.  They pushed off from the dock without incident, and headed off.

Kim and I hung out at the dock, which was nice.  Kim went for a couple of short walks while I read my book, and we had some quiet time together.  There was a group of Australian tourists that came by for kayaks while we were there – mostly college-aged men and a couple of women – and they spent an entertaining half hour busting each others’ chops and posing for photographs before they finally made it onto the water.

Meanwhile, the kayakers were pounding their way up the shoreline – Tabitha’s boat was more of a racing design and she stayed fairly far ahead of the group most of the time, from what I heard, and Lauren proved to be a strong paddler herself.  They were gone for well over an hour.

And then it was time to refuel.

On the way home Sara took us through one of the largest tunnel systems in Europe.  That was phenomenally impressive, from a civil engineering point of view.  I’ve never been in a tunnel system that had entrances and exits – plural, many – in the tunnels themselves.  And artwork – large installations of public art that surrounded some of the exits and made them more noticeable.  It took us the better part of half an hour at highway speeds to get through it all.

While we were in Sweden we had a few days of more or less down time, which was nice.  And we spent a lot of that down time down by the water, which sounds like a line in a blues song but was actually a happy thing.

One day we decided to go over to the nearest lake to Mats and Sara’s house.  So Maria, Helena, Tabitha and Lauren all got on bicycles and pedaled over, while Mats, Kim and I walked through the wooded area behind their house and met them there.

We hung around for a while, bouncing around on the rocks and just enjoying the view.  And then we headed back.

On one of our last full days in Sweden we went to Flottsbro, which is a public beach not far from Mats and Sara’s house.  It’s on a huge lake, at the base of a skiing hill.  For a while the kids ran around in the water while the grownups hung out on the shore.

And then we discovered the bridge.

Or, more accurately, we discovered the swing underneath the bridge.  Flottsbro sits on an isthmus between two lakes (see? - there are lakes just everywhere), and there is channel that runs from the one to the other.  It’s a pretty wide channel, actually.  About halfway down, there is a bridge.

And tied to the bottom of the bridge, is a rope swing.  You have to edge your way out on the beams of the old bridge underneath to get to it, but it is a popular spot.  Mats took the kids to the bridge and they immediately set about making good use of the rope – swinging far out over the channel for a while, and then, eventually, taking the plunge.

Lauren, Maria, Helena, David, and Mats spent the better part of an hour or two doing this – swinging, jumping, climbing back up, edging carefully out to the swing again, and repeating the process.  Lauren told me that “this is the funnest thing ever ever,” and we had to make up a secret handshake to celebrate.

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