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Sweden First Class

a travel blog by Heather Bryce

I don't usually travel first class, and let's be honest, neither do you. But I got to travel to Sweden and Norway in hotels that had lots of stars, ate real food, and didn't have to sit up all night on a train - I had a real bed! It was great! How, do you ask? None of your business! You'll have to find your own way. But I will give you a glimpse of how the other half lives! Wow! I could get used to this!
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Swedish Sauna

Are, Sweden

There are many ways in the world to get massages, slapped, naked, bathed, cooked and cooled. I've sampled a few around the world (see www.talestogo.com), and I tip my hat to the Swedes for their exclusivity. They deserve their reputation for having great saunas. What style!
For two days, I was in a swimmer's paradise. I swam along beautiful pathways, and when I wanted to, I pushed buttons along the way that started water jets to massage me or push me along. I could select a hot tub to sit and relax in, or swim through plastic curtains to the outside, and swim in the cold. It was incredible.I was in a heavenly stupor.
After two days, I finally noticed another area completely. I had missed the best part!
When I entered the heart of the sauna, I saw all sorts of contraptions designed to cook and cool me both wet and dry. The Swedes have cornered the market on this sort of total body assault. I was a little shy about some of the devices, but eventually sampled them all.
There was a human wine cooler that I was afraid to get in until the second day. I watched people dunk themselves very quickly, and survive, so I decided to give it a try. I went in up to my chin, and jumped out as quickly as I could. I noticed that afterwards, I could get in the cold swimming pool without hyperventilating. It turned me into Supergirl!
The diplomatic Swedes separate the dressing areas into men's, women's, and mixed, but they haven't quite figured it out, because they are managed by both male and female staff. So they are not technically separated.....
Except for the moments I was tortured by the cold rooms, cold showers, cold foot walk-abouts, and human wine cooler, I was in heaven. Thank you, Sweden!

permalink written by  Heather Bryce on October 23, 2007 from Are, Sweden
from the travel blog: Sweden First Class
tagged Sauna, Pools and Spa

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Going to the 12th Century Church in Are, Sweden

Are, Sweden

Are, Sweden is really out of the way. It is about ten hours by train through trees and more trees. Why would anyone go that far from civilization? I would guess that before the ski resort settled its humongousness right in the middle of it, there wasn't much there. So there is this fabulous setting in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by these mountains that have been shaved for skiing. And this huge resort. However, there are some signs that there was indeed life before the resort came to town, and here is one of them. Look at this incredible church that was build in the 12th century! And get this! It is still in use, and people still worship there every Sunday!
This is quite a treasure, as you'll see in another photo. But first, one must get in, and what are the visiting hours? Well, they are whenever you want to go! Really. Whenever. The key was hanging on a plaque beside the door, and if the church was locked, you can simply take the key and let yourself in. Isn't that a great commentary on 12th century trust?
We actually went there Sunday morning and enjoyed a beautiful worship service. Of course, it was all in Swedish, so what did we know? The most surprising thing was that the music was really good! A choir stood on the balcony, and the congregation sang along to really beautiful music. Anyway, if one thinks there isn't much more to do in Are, Sweden than ski and spa, they haven't been to the best treasure of all - this little church. It was wonderful.

permalink written by  Heather Bryce on October 29, 2007 from Are, Sweden
from the travel blog: Sweden First Class
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Heads Rolled in Norway

Trondheim, Norway

We wanted to see a Stave church, and the closest one was in Trondheim, Norway. So we jumped on the train and took the two and a half hour trip there. We got some Norway money at the train station, and headed to the old town. There, we found lots of buses going everywhere. We found one going to the Folk Museum, which is a large open air museum showing how people lived long ago in Norway. The Stave church was there. When we bought our tickets to the museum we figured we were in trouble, because they told us most of the buildings were closed. Anyway, we walked around and saw some interesting things - like grass growing on the roof tops. The grass was greener on those roof tops than the grass in Texas is on the ground! It was a shame the church was closed, but later my daughter told me that Epcot has one that I saw years ago - I had forgotten, but now I remember. It was real pretty inside. Oh, well.
It didn't take long to go through the mostly closed museum, so we headed back to the town. As we walked around, we noticed this huge Gothic cathedral. We walked over to it, and it got bigger and bigger. Anyway, we got a picture of most of it, but that's not the interesting thing. I began to study the figures carefully, and discovered something really wild. The figures were like something out of a horror film. I guess they must represent people who were involved in bad stuff, like this guy I photographed. Look what he is holding - a basket of heads! What is that about? Another guy was holding his own head in his hands. Another guy had just the top part of his head chopped off. What goes on in Norway? After looking around a bit more, we returned to Are, Sweden. I found no severed heads on display there.

permalink written by  Heather Bryce on November 1, 2007 from Trondheim, Norway
from the travel blog: Sweden First Class
tagged Cathedral, Trondheim and Heads

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Theatres on trains - Art in subways

Stockholm, Sweden

We really needed to think of a good way to get out of Are, Sweden. It was closing down fast. We missed the cable car to the mountaintop by one day, and the great restaurant we wanted to return to was closed, too. The sauna was great, but we were ready for something different.
Since the trip from Stockholm to Are was ten long hours by train, we decided to take an overnight train back. Wow! That was wonderful. We three got our own cabin with three bunks on a side, and didn't have to worry about strangers sharing our sleeping quarters. I wrote about a bizarre trip by train where we didn't have a private cabin in my book "Bunk With a Drunk" on www.talestogo.com. Anyway, this train has a movie theater that was showing a movie for $10. Instead, I crawled into my little private bunk and slept the whole night. There were eleven stops, and I kept waking up when the train stopped, but I was comfortable, and when the train started up again, I fell asleep like a baby in a cradle.
When the train stopped, it let us keep sleeping until 6:30A.M, when an alarm went off and we had to leave. Then we took the subway to our new hotel, since the hotel we had stayed in previously was booked solid. Although there aren't many people around, Sweden's rooms and restaurants are full. Each area of the subway is decorated by a different artist. This area looked like ancient Greece. Another had a Viking theme. There was one section that looked like a cave. Another looked like graffiti, but not the rude and random stuff. The Stockholm subway is worth its own tour. Anyway, that is how we got to the beautiful Harbor district of Stockholm. Really nice.

permalink written by  Heather Bryce on November 7, 2007 from Stockholm, Sweden
from the travel blog: Sweden First Class
tagged TheaterOnTrain and SubwayArt

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The Great Vasa Ship went Down Like a Bowling Ball

Stockholm, Sweden

When we returned to Stockholm from our overnight train trip, we had to stay in a different hotel, because the first one was booked solid. This time we stayed at the Harbor, which was great, because the next things to see were there. We headed over to the left, crossed a bridge, then headed to the right to get to one of the neatest museums in the world, the Vasa ship museum. It was 333 years in the making. We thought we'd spend a few hours there, and take in other parts of the city, but that didn't happen. We got there when it opened. In fact, we were first in the waiting line of a pile of people at the door, and stayed until just before it closed. It was definately worth a whole day.
Here's the bizarre story. Sweden was at war with Poland in the 1620's, and the king of Sweden had commissioned the greatest warship in the world. This was not just any great warship. It was beautiful. It sat very tall in the water (do you see where this is going?), and was absolutely crammed with heavy cannons. To top it all off, the king wanted it to be a marvel of bright, decorative beauty, so it was encrusted with statues and covered with colorful paintings. It was more ornate than a carnival carousel, apparently.
They did one thing called the heel test, to see how seaworthy the ship was. For this test, a group of men would stand on the top deck and run from one side to the other to see that the ship would not tip over. For the Vasa, when they tried this, the ship leaned dangerously to one side, and they had to stop immediately. After that, they decided it was ready (see anything wrong with this plan?) and with great fanfare headed out of the harbor with it. What happened next was no surprise. One little gust of wind pushed the ship over a bit, and water began to fill the gun holes. Soon the entire ship sank to the bottom with its cannons, statues, artwork, and about 30 unfortunate souls. Some 333 years later, someone located the ship, and managed to bring it to the surface. It was the largest jigsaw puzzle in the world for a time, but it was glued back together. A special museum was built, and visitors get to see the real thing as well as the artifacts discovered within it and the skeletons of the people who went down with it. It is an incredible tribute to human ingenuity and insanity at the same time. We loved it!

permalink written by  Heather Bryce on November 19, 2007 from Stockholm, Sweden
from the travel blog: Sweden First Class
tagged VasaMuseum and Warship

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Heather Bryce Heather Bryce
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Heather writes downloadable travel books under www.talestogo.com .(You can reach her at that site.) She has written dozens of articles in various magazines and presented seminars all around the country and Canada. She has taught college classes at various Universities, most notably the...

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