The next leg of the journey from Gothenburg to Abisko spans 1040 miles and will take 2 days. Feeling refreshed after the relaxing ferry journey, we left Gothenburg at 9.30 am, and headed north-east towards Stockholm. The landscape was mainly agricultural, with large deep red farmhouses and barns dotted throughout. As we skirted by Stockholm we turned north to hug the coastline adjoining the Gulf of Bothnia. We were just too far inland to see the sea from the road, apart from the fairly regular crossings of lakes and rivers that flowed into the gulf. Moving further north, we started to pass through more forests, lakes and exposed granite, – it was amazing how similar the landscape was to Northern Ontario in Canada.
After around being on the road for about 10 hours we called it a day and stopped at Sundsvall for the night, a town of about 50,000. It’s nicknamed the ‘Stone City’ because, after a fire devastated the town in 1888 (the largest in Sweden’s history), they decided to rebuild with stone rather than wood, giving the city a distinctive architecture. We had a great pizza and a local beer at Invito, a restaurant just around the corner from the hotel, followed by a really amazing breakfast the following morning. We were just starting to learn how good Swedish buffet breakfasts were at this point – tons of fresh fruit, fresh waffles, smoothies, granola and yoghurt, the usual continental spread of cheeses, cold meats and fresh bread, just to name some of the foods on offer. And lots of strong, hot coffee.
Onwards north, passing through more forests and lakes with fairly regular small towns and settlements, it was starting to get more open, especially after passing through Umea and turning inland at Lulea. It was beginning to feel like ‘the North’, – big skies, expansive spaces and fewer people. Although we were surprised at how highly populated it was, relative to our experience in Canada, – we were approaching the arctic circle, – and how far north the agricultural fields existed.
With the end in sight, we decided we could make it to Abisko that night. Approaching Kiruna, the northernmost town in Sweden, some good food and a break was in order, and following another good recommendation by Lonely Planet, we stopped at Landströms Kök & Bar, for a halloumi burger and reindeer fillet. The quality was amazing, we’ve been blown away by the food so far in Sweden. Kiruna was founded on mining iron ore, which is central to the local economy and continues today. The presence of mining is apparent in the landscape immediately surrounding the town, and a little mind-blowingly – plans are currently in motion to move the entire town due to subsidence resulting from the mining activity.
The last hour from Kiruna to Abisko was the most spectacular of the journey so far, bordered by large lakes on one side and steep hillsides on the other. And the unique red-brick train stations interspersed along the way. About 20 minutes from Abisko, the conifers declined and at the lower elevations a fairly dense coverage Betula Pubescens took over. And then, finally, we made it to Abisko, and what an incredible view!