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Pilgrims’ progress: an historic strolling path in Sweden | Travel

When a buddy and I got down to deal with West Sweden’s Dalsland Pilgrim Trail, we anticipated we’d have a pleasing sufficient time of it. We’d be wandering by means of huge forests, swimming in (and ingesting from) lakes and cooking over a hearth at evening. Neither of us had entertained the thought that essentially the most putting reminiscences would contain a moose on a mission, a five-storey flour-sack chute and an incident with a Canadian canoe that might make me the poster boy for hubris.

Sweden map

The path follows the route taken by medieval pilgrims from Västergötland in west Sweden to Nidaros (now Trondheim) in Norway, web site of the tomb of St Olaf. The devoted trudged this fashion for 500 years, till 1527 and the beginning of the Swedish reformation, when King Gustav I declared the pilgrimage unlawful. There’s now a plan toreopen the entire route, though to date solely a southern stretch – Vänersborg to Edsleskog – is totally waymarked.

The first a part of that is alongside roads, so we joined it on the small city of Mellerud. For the subsequent 56km the path follows footpaths, forest tracks and, once in a while, orange blobs daubed on tree trunks.

One of the various lakes on the path

We’d come overland from the UK, taking the practice from London to Mellerud by means of northern Europe. Thus we have been already firmly in pilgrim mode after we learn on our first path data board that our medieval predecessors have been sometimes picked off by wild beasts. Imagine our pleasure when,just a few hours in, a moose got here charging straight at us … Actually, it staggered comically on spindly legs (it was an toddler, fortunately) and at about 15 metres away it stopped, stared at us in bemused incomprehension, then turned and lurched off.

Our opening day of light farmland and woods ended within the small village of Upperud. Here, beside a lake, stands the imposing Upperud 9:9, a 100-year-old grain silo transformed right into a lodge. Opened final yr, it has 5 immaculate little flats, every created out of a person grain retailer. Charlie, son-in-law of the proprietor Kerstin and the architect of the conversion, took us as much as the highest flooring to point out us the silo’s workings.

“And that,” he mentioned, pointing to a gap within the flooring, “is the sack chute, for sacks of flour. You can go down it if you like.”

Upperud 9:9 hotel

The Upperud 9:9, transformed from a grain silo right into a lodge, cafe and event area

Which is how we found ourselves on a steep, thrillingly slender helter-skelter, hurtling down 5 storeys to come out within the ground-floor cafe, dizzy however surprisingly elated. Ineed one for my flat.

Next day, after a trawl round Dalslands Konstmuseum, Upperud’s public artwork gallery – loads of blood and guts – we set off for the three-night wilderness part of our trek, our meals provides augmented by Kerstin’s power bars and containers filled with silosallad, her personal concoction of grains, harissa, grilled veg and salad.

In medieval occasions, pilgrims may keep totally free in specifically constructed shelters. On the path north from Upperud, this custom has been rekindled. Half-a-dozen rustic picket constructions dot the route, three of that are brand-new pyramid-shaped affairs with braziers inside. Each sleeps half a dozen, however as we solely as soon as noticed any fellow walkers – naturally, they handed as I used to be participating in a sneaky skinny dip – we had them to ourselves.

A pyramid shelter on the Dalsland Pilgrim Trail

One of the model new pyramid shelters on the Dalsland Pilgrim Trail

The path proved bumpy fairly than hilly, by means of forests and up rocky ridges, the place butterflies distracted us from views of myriad lakes amid an ocean of timber. We finally reached Högelund, the place there’s not solely a brand new pyramid shelter however a shiny compost lavatory. Having been caught in a heavy bathe, we dried our footwear by a toasty hearth and downed a medicinal shot of rum.

The subsequent couple of days have been spent in blissful sunny solitude. Never earlier than had we seen so many lupins – at occasions it felt like the entire countryside was dressed of their purples, pinks and whites. This being Sweden in summer season, the times have been lengthy, so we had loads of time to get to a shelter earlier than dusk. When we reached the one at Tansjön, we sat alone by the lake because it turned an excellent salmon pink at twilight, whereas deer sounded their cough-like bark someplace off within the forest.

Pink, purple and white lupins carpet a field.

An abundance of lupins close to Högelund

We returned to civilisation with the village of Edsleskog and its wärdshus (guesthouse), run by Hanneke and Johan Postma. They are Dutch exiles who moved right here with their kids after years of holidaying within the space; the guesthouse enjoys views over Lake Edslan and a sun-trap terrace on which we ate all our meals.

Johan additionally has a canoe that friends can borrow. Keen to proceed following the previous pilgrim path north, albeit on water, I requested if I may take it out solo, my companion having retired for a submit‑prandial nap.

“I’ll be fine alone,” I assured him. “I’m an old hand – I canoed across Scotland in five days, you know.” And off I went.

The author Dixe Wills with a Canadian canoe

The creator with a Canadian canoe borrowed from Edsleskogs Wärdshus – each seemingly vulnerable to onshore winds

Three hours later, Johan arrived in a automotive together with his teenage son and his teenage son’s teenage girlfriend – neither of whom felt the necessity to cover their amusement – to rescue the canoe and the fool Englishman from the lake’s western shore. A powerful wind had battered me there and, regardless of my ever extra frantic efforts, the waves insisted on driving me again to the banks.

My mortification was full when, half an hour after we bought again, the lake had develop into as easy as a mirror. Being a pilgrim is more durable than it seems to be, you already know.

• Rail travel was supplied by voyages-sncf.com (0844 848 584, which presents Interrail go legitimate for 5 days’ travel in a 15-day interval for £235 per grownup, youth (12-26 years) £186 , kids below 11 travel free. Accommodation was supplied by Upperud 9:9 (residences from £124) and Edsleskogs Wärdshus, (doubles from £74 B&B). The Upperud 9.9 lodge runs six‑evening, full-board guided hike on the path with transport, motels and one evening tenting or in a shelter, for £254pp

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