Sweden’s country side

One bright sunny morning we decided to take a 12-hour road trip to visit my Aunty in the countryside of Sweden.  It was a beautiful drive, we watched the landscape turn from city into thick forest, occasionally accompanied by a view of giant lakes. The houses reminded me of ginger bread houses that were scattered through the open fields.   
Along the way we stopped for a coffee “ficka” over a friends place I had met a 4 years ago in Sydney. A girl called Sofia who lived in a small village 2 hours away from our final destination. She had prepared a table full of cakes and biscuits accompanied by freshly made berry cordial made from wild lingonberry.  The berries she had picked earlier from her back yard, which as it turns out was the forest that surrounded her village.
The sweets where traditional my favourite was the chocolate coated one. Looking up the recipe it is basically a modified macron. Almond and egg white base, coffee butter cream on the inside dipped in pure dark chocolate. Divine!
IMG_1404The cake was a teacake covered in a walnut praline, soft on the inside and hard toffee on the top. I fell in love! Hahaha I am a huge lover of sweets and gratefully appreciated this gesture. Sofia’s house was so cozy and inviting, wood fire in the corner, candles on the mantelpiece, furry pillows on the couch and rustic brick wall feature.  
As the night rolled through we finally made it to my Aunty’s house to drink tea and dine in her warm house and fall into a deep sleep. The summer days are long here in the country the sun goes up at 5am and finally turns out at 11pm. When I say summer I say that lightly too, it’s equivalent to our winter. It rains and has a slight chill to the air. In the wintertime they tell me there is so much snow. The lakes freeze over, so much so the cars drive over the lakes. It gets up to minus 31 degrees at the peak of winter.
 Most out door activities are centred around: skiing, snow boarding and sledding.  Hard to imagine how animals and humans survive in such temperatures. The houses are insulated with very thick walls, central heating in the floors and lights. Their little homes are like stepping into another world. Beautifully adored with candles and fireplaces.
Survival in a place that experiences -35 degrees became somewhat plausible after knowing all their secrets. Apart form the appealing outdoor snow activities I don’t think I would trade the beach life for snow though. I love the heat and 8months worth of winter would kill me.

 It turns out that this little country town Åsarna is actually known in Sweden as the “golden town” four-winter Olympic gold medalist and international skiing champions live and train in this town. Down the road from my aunt’s house is a professional training camp for young skiers who board for a few months at a time. They get trained by their most famous winter Olympic gold medalist Thomas Wassverg.

A Teflon track is built in their very own back yard (the forest) which stretches for kilometers. When the snow falls on the Teflon track, they use a compacting machine to press down the snow and use that smooth surface to train on. In particular for events such as cross country skiing and skidskytte. Skidskytte is a shooting and skiing biathlon, where athletes ski a certain distance and aim to hit 5 shoot targets along the way. If they miss they must complete an extra skiing distance. They also use the mountain tracks to run through for skiing fitness. Fascinating stuff. Even in the summer time when there is no snow they practice road skiing. I managed to take a picture of a skier on my morning run.
Our first day here we decided to do our own fun physical activity which unfortunately did not consist of running up mountains but it involved a hike through the forest to find wild blueberries. Picking blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and lingonberry is a common past time here and so is hiking.
IMG_1439The berries grow from bushes that cover the ground in the forest floor. We took a walk along the river and started to pick by hand. We managed to acquire 1kg worth of blueberries, a cup full of raspberries and one single strawberry.
 Making jams and sauces with berries is common.  We decided a delicious wild blueberry jam would be the most appropriate, served with bread.
Cheese is another food that the Swedes love and what better way to discover cheese then to visit a dairy farm. The dairy farm Kullens Gårdsmejeri contained was a cute little house that was converted into a cheese store with a large paddock containing goats and dairy cows.  The smell inside the store could of attracted mice for miles! It stuck like fine blue cheese and might I add it tasted delicious. I was luck enough to be able to taste a cheese made out of pure whey.
Which is extremely unusual as cheese is typically made out of casein protein, not whey protein. Whey protein is typically what your protein shake powder is made from. That’s exactly what the cheese tasted like, sweet protein shake. I didn’t have the nerve to say that I would have received extremely confused looks.
As we went to leave we were greeted by a hug doggie. Who we were told liked cheese so much as laid into the gourmet cheese tasting table several times! Poor puppy must have been hungry. 
The next stop was the local beer brewery in Klövsjö village The beer brewery Klövsjö Gårdsbryggeri was owned by a lovely Swedish family. The daughter is married to a Mexican man who is chef. The brewery not only creates and sells gourmet beer, it also has a restaurant which serves Swedish and Mexican inspired cuisine.
The brewery produces 10,000L of beer per year, every bottle cap and label is sealed by hand. They produce several different flavors all inspired by season and by visitors that pass through. Certain stronger and darker beers for their German market and light “Bond” beer for the summer months. The brewery was originally a horses stable back in the 70’s when they decided to turn it into a brewery. In memory of their last horse the bathroom is painted with a mural of the giant horse that once resided there.
I’m not a beer drinker so I can’t tell you how the beer tasted. To give you an idea though, one of there best customers is a Michelin star restaurant in the north of Sweden, one of the highest rated in the world. This particular place has a 2-year waiting list to dine and only sits 6 people at a time at dinner. Serving a 12 course meal of bite size proportions. I was told people travel from all over the world to eat there, even Sydney siders. I know hard to imagine.
Back at my new home that night I was surprised by my first evergreen birthday day. It was awesome! “Princess cake” made with sponge and butter cream encased by pistachio marzipan. Delicious!
Oh and from request a traditional Swede dinner, salmon and dill with a tarter sauce.
  IMG_1511 As the night rolled into day we still had a few things left to check off on our “must do” list and that was swimming in the river and patting a moose.
Moose’s are quite calm animals believe it our not, well at least the ones at the moose garden where. apparently these creatures are quite diverse in there ability, swim, run, dive and kill other moose’s and dogs? Wow!
The tour guide informed us that if I managed to kiss a moose I’d make the hall of fame being the first Australian to do so. So I took up the challenge and laid one on the moose. First time for everything, and no unfortunately he did not turn into a prince, he just sat there unimpressed hahaha
To finish off the day we took a swim in the natural spa in the forest, the river. Which was quite delightful apparent from the fact the water was only 10 degrees. An invigorating experience to say the least, but some what relaxing at the same time. Unfortunately it’s time to leave the Swedes behind and move to sunny Spain, can’t wait!

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