Sweden, April 2017

Sweden has a couple of unusual places to stay and I wanted to visit some more of them.

When I was in Stockholm the previous year, I had spent a night in the 'cockpit suite' of a Jumbo Jet, which had been converted into a hostel.

Jumbo Jet Hostel

The 'cockpit suite' is the most luxurious of the rooms they have, so this time I went for the least luxurious room - the engine room.

They had removed the actual jet engines and left the nacelles hanging below the wings. And then put beds and a TV into them.

Jumbo Stay engine room from outside Jumbo Stay engine room from outside Jumbo Stay engine room from outside Jumbo Stay engine room from outside Jumbo Stay engine room from outside

From the inside, the room is quite cosy, but still larger than a Japanese capsule hotel.

And it has everything a traveller needs - a bed, a TV, power sockets and WiFi.

Jumbo Stay engine room from inside Jumbo Stay engine room from inside

Only one important thing is missing - a toilet.

I had assumed that there would be some kind of small toilet somewhere on the ground outside, but it turned out that the nearest toilet was in the plane itself, so it meant walking up the equivalent of two flights of stairs to get to the loo.

Not a problem, but unexpected. (And, after a dogsledding tour where the toilet usually was an outhouse 20 meters away from the cabin, not much of a change.)

Also unexpected was the experience I had at the next place I went to.

I was staying at "Sweden's most primitive hotel", which is, essentially, a bunch of charcoal workers' huts in a forest.

Kolarbyn entrance

These are a bit like a traditional ridge tent, made with rough wooden walls instead of cloth and then padded with soil for isolation.

As it was mid-April and this was almost a thousand kilometers south of where I had been dogsledding, I had planned that as a relaxed 'camping day' in an unusual kind of tent. Sitting around, enjoying the landscape (and the warm spring weather), and having a nice fire in the 'hut', mostly for the look of it and a nice barbecue in the evening.

As in the words of a thousand movies: "What could possibly go wrong?"

In a word: weather.

While the weather was fine near Arlanda airport (as evident from the pictures above), the temperature dropped significantly next morning and it started to snow. So when I arrived at the "primitive hotel", it looked like this:

Kolarbyn eco lodge in snow Kolarbyn eco lodge in snow Kolarbyn eco lodge in snow
Kolarbyn eco lodge in snow Kolarbyn eco lodge entrance

Not quite the comfy camping I had been expecting.

But all the huts have massive brick ovens, so I could make a fire and get the place nice and warm.

There is a stack of firewood near the camp (so you don't need to chop down any trees, which would probably not be dry enough anyway) and an axe, so you chop some firewood, carry it in a basket to your hut and soon you have a pleasant fire going. (Except that it's not soon. But at some point I had a proper fire.)

Hut interior with fire lit Hut interior with fire lit Hut interior with fire lit Hut with fire burning inside

It was still early in the day, so I went through a walk in the forest.

Forest near Skinnskatteberg Forest near Skinnskatteberg Forest near Skinnskatteberg Forest near Skinnskatteberg

Which was nice to look at with all the freshly fallen snow, but I quickly discovered that the area was not only a bit of a marshland, but also that some of the 'trails' I tried to follow through the forest turned out to be small streams, so that I stepped through the snow into a pool of water a few times.

Not a problem, but after a few kilometers it seemed like a good idea to go back to the (by now presumably warm) hut and dry out a bit.

There is a metal plate with a couple of small holes in it, which you hang in front of the fireplace when you are out or at night, so that no sparks can jump out of the fireplace and ignite the hut. But that also cuts out most of the heat radiation, so the inside of the hut was still cold.

But taking the metal plate away and sitting directly in front of the fireplace, it was nice, warm and, well, foggy.

My clothes had gotten quit damp and the steam rising from my trousers made them almost look like they were on fire themselves.

Steam rising from wet clothing Steam rising from wet clothing Steam rising from wet clothing Steam rising from wet clothing

After having dried out a little bit, I started working on my dinner.

There are some fireplaces around the place, so I picked one, removed the snow and started a fire.

Kolarbyn fire pit Kolarbyn fire pit Kolarbyn fire pit fire

And after that failed, I went back to the wood storage, peeled some bark from the birch logs as firestarter, cut some smaller pieces of kindling and built a proper tepee shape to get the fire going.

And once the fire was going, I built a bigger stack in top of it.

Usable campfire

After adding some large logs, I needed to wait until wood had burned through all the way, so I could prepare my food over the glowing embers.

I brought another basket of wood to my hut, to make sure that the fire in there kept going and then for a quick walk to lake Skärsjön (this time making sure to stay on the real trail), partly for sightseeing and partly to fetch some water.

Lake Skaersjoen Lake Skaersjoen Lake Skaersjoen

The barrel-shaped building by the lake is the sauna building. This is Sweden, after all. You can do without TV or electricity, but not having a sauna would be heresy.

By the time I was back, the fire had developed nicely. I raked the glowing embers to one side, put in a couple of fresh logs on the side of them for re-supply, put on the metal grating again and sterted to cook my food and boil some water.

Getting the fireplace ready for cooking Outdoor cooking

The plan behind the boiling water didn't quite work out in the end. I knew I didn't want to build a fire the next morning (as that would probably mean that it'd be noon before I got breakfast), so I had bought an instant soup. I had a aluminium water flask with me (which I thought was a thermos flask) and I wanted to fill that with boiling water and then use it in the morning to make me a warm soup for breakfast.

But it turned out that the aluminium water flask was just that - a metal water container with a single wall, so in the morning I had a flask of ice cold water. (So I skipped breakfast until I had driven back to Västerås and found a Café.

Then it was time to go to sleep.

This turned out to be a lot less cosy than anticipated.

The temperature outside was below freezing.

And the temperature inside was mostly the same.

If anything, the fireplace helped to keep the place cold.

As any elementary physics course has it, there are three ways heat transfers: conduction, convection and radiation.

For conduction, the stone oven was way too massive to be warmed by the fire inside. Even after hours of fire inside, the outside of the oven didn't even get warm.

And the radiation part did work a bit when the metal plate was off, but once I put it in front of the fire for the night, my shoes, which were about 10 cm in front of the fireplace, didn't get warm either.

Which leaves convection, which worked well, but not the way I would have liked to. The fire was nice and hot inside the oven, so it did heat the air well, which then went out directly by the chimney, making nice cold air from the outside rush in, ensuring that the interior of the hut stayed below freezing all night.

(Given that the hut was well isolated by thick layers of soil outside, it might have been warmer without the fire - in that case my body heat might have slightly warmed the air inside and the insulation might have helped to keep the warmth inside.)

Also, the fire was quick-burning, so I got up every two hours during the night to fetch a new basket of firewood...

The place is probably great later in spring and in summertime, when it is warm enough outside and the fire is more for ambience than for keeping the place warm, but for the one day 'return of winter' it wasn't the perfect place to be.

Although that doesn't mean it was unpleasant to stay there.

I did rent a sleeping bag for the night I was staying there and got a heavy-duty winter sleeping bag, so even if it had been 20° colder, I could have gone outside and slept in that bag and still be comfortable.

It was just that something that was intended to be a relaxed day after the effort of dogsledding in the Arctic and easing back into more moderate spring temperatures had unexpectedly turned into an exercise in winter camping.

The snowy weather lasted only for a day.

When I got up next morning and walked around for a bit, the snow clouds had already gone and it was sunny, pleasant and warm outside.

Forest near Skinnskatteberg in morning sun Lake Skaersjoen slightly frozen Lake Skaersjoen slightly frozen Forest near Skinnskatteberg in morning sun

By the afternoon, most of the snow had vanished again.

And revealed some trolls.

Stone figures

I did see them next to a trail near Sundbyholm and while I am not particular fond of garden gnomes or other lawn decorations, I liked that this was not on anyone's property, but at a random point next to a hiking trail, making it an serendipitous find for anyone passing.

I also hadn't expected to be near Sundbyholm at all that afternoon.

After the jet engine and the earth hut, I had planned to end the vacation by spending the last night in Sweden somewhere more fancy and also unique (after all, there are twelve forest huts at Kolarbyn and four engines at Jumbo Stay) and stay in the "Utter Inn".

It looks a bit like an outdoor toilet swimming on a lake, but the wooden hut on the surface is only the entrance. The room itself is three meters below the surface of the lake hall.

As it is swimming out on the lake, you need a boat to get there. So when you book a night there, you go to a meeting point at the harbour of Västerås and someone will ferry you over.

So I mailed them to ask for the meeting time and the day before going there, I got a mail back that they would cancel it as "the weather is going to be terrible tomorrow". Which was surely true for that day (with all the snow coming down), but the next day, it looked like this at Lake Mälaren, where Utter Inn is located:

Lake Malaeren Lake Malaeren

So I wrote them again and mentioned that blue skies, sunshine and lack of wind didn't seem like terrible weather to me and I really would like to stay at Utter Inn. And as this was the main reason for spending a couple of days in the region (the other two places to stay were later ideas, to create a "spending the night in strange accommodations" theme, but the main attraction was the Utter Inn) I would rather be staying in Utter Inn under non-ideal conditions than not at all.

But it then turned out that they hadn't been expecting me - my reservation had gotten lost between the Västerås tourist office and the operators of the Utter Inn, so they didn't expect the first guest of the season until a week later. As a result, the room hadn't been fixed after the winter break and their boat wasn't ready either. So there was no way for me to get to the floating room or spend the night there.

Which meant I needed to find somewhere else to stay quickly (it was Easter Weekend) and I went for Sundbyholms Slott, based on the reasoning that I wanted at least something a bit special and staying at a castle would at least be a bit more interesting than going for a Best Western.

Well, sort of.

The castle itself was ok, even though it was more like a country manor (which has probably to do with the large amount of Swedish noble families - more than 2500 - and the fact that probably every one of their family seat qualifies as a 'slott'), but that just housed the restaurant (and a couple of fancy suites, but I wasn't staying there).

Sundbyholms Slott main manor

The main part of the hotel is a much newer building nearby.

Sundbyholms Slott hotel

All in all a decent hotel and the rooms were ok, but not a 'special accommodation' as originally planned or even a close second to it.

So while not ending on a sour note, the vacation kind of fizzled out towards the end.

As does this account of it...

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