Driving in Sweden

Driving in Sweden

I roll the keys to the Volvo over and over in my hand, laughing nervously as the Hertz customer service agent explains the car to me.

I haven’t drive in Europe since Romania. And that … that was just awful steering wheel death grips and praying for survival.

I’ve been traveling for nearly 24 hours and can feel the exhaustion and the nine hour time difference begin to sink in, even though it is 9 a.m. in Gotenburg.

“Um … driving here … in Sweden … I’ve only driven once in Europe … and it was in Romania … and I didn’t like it at all. I was really scared the entire time … is this, um, is driving in Sweden anything like that?” I ask, trying my best to assemble my thoughts, cringing at how stressed I was during my day trip through the Eastern Europe country.

The blonde haired woman looks at me and smiles.

“No, not at all,” she promises.

I take the keys and head to the parking garage where my four-door Volvo sits, waiting for me.

OK, D. Let’s do this.

After unloading my suitcase into the trunk, I slide into the driver’s seat and sit. Breathe. Put the key in the ignition.

You’ve got this.

I turn on the car, back out.

Not so bad.

Then, I head out of the garage.

A cab whizzes by me. Then, a car. My shoulders shoot to my ears. My grip tightens on the steering wheel.

Shit. Shit. Shit. I can’t drive here. 

I have no choice. I take one hand off the wheel and grab my directions, which don’t say anything about how to get out of the airport and onto the E6 towards Oslo.

Not good.

So, I do what I am best at: winging it.

I pull out, slowly. Very, very slowly. Then, am on the roadway. Trying to keep up with traffic, but when the speedometer shoots up towards 70 km/h I begin to doubt my driving ability.

Guesses on what this says?

Maybe it’s because of the lack of sleep and long travel time. Maybe it’s because of the gloom I have stepped off the plane and in to. Gray clouds hang low in the sky.

Please, please do not rain. I don’t want to drive in the rain in a foreign country in a car that is not mine.

I silently will myself to get out onto the highway and go, go, go.

And then, I’m off. Albeit not fast enough for the red Volvo behind me, who, in my rearview mirror, shakes his head and raises his hands as he pulls around me.

Still not sure where the illusive E6 is (I see no signs), I pull off and stop at a gas station and ask.

“It’s just there,” the clerk says, looking amused at my complete lack of knowledge.

Then, I pull back out onto the highway, off towards Oslo for my first stop of my Sweden trip, the island of Marstrand.

And, you know what? Driving in Sweden? A lot like driving in America. Thank goodness.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

 

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Escape of the Week: Sculptures at Pilane

The island of Tjörn, located in Western Sweden, is home to enchanting fishing villages that attract flocks of tourists each summer, thanks to the warm temperatures and vast expanses of sea to drop a boat into and set off into the late sunset.

In keeping with the outdoor exploration encouraged in this region, Sculpture at Pilane offers a different way to take in the fresh air. A mix of contemporary art and ancient history, the summertime outdoor museum is not only a lesson in Sweden’s Viking roots, but also a beautiful exhibition of art set against rolling emerald green hills speckled with granite outcroppings.

During the Iron Age, this spot was used as a meeting place, and today, visitors can witness the past thanks to the 100 circle graves that date back to the time of Vikings, more than 2,000 years ago.

Viking graves

Today, the area merges old with new, and invites artists from all over the world to create sculptures and place them against this lush landscape.

“The landscape makes the art visible,” say Peter Lennby, who has been at the helms of the project for six years. “It is easier to focus on the art here than in a gallery or city.”

And, it’s true.

The sculptures, set against the vibrant green grass and granite, pop.

Grand Latent Blanc, Jaume Plensa

Each summer, Sculpture at Pilane opens its little admissions shed and offers visitors a chance to explore this  spot that overlooks the Gothenburg archipelago.

This year, the annual exhibition features nine international artists. The largest installation, Temple, by China’s Zhang Huan, will sit atop the rocks, allowing visitors to explore a recreation of a Chinese temple, along with spectacular views of the water below.

Other pieces include American artist Keith Edmier’s “You Gotta Go Out, You Don’t Have To Come Back.” For this piece, he took the remains of a boat which sunk near Chicago and transported it to Sweden. He pays homage to the Viking ritual of burying the dead in the boat. This year, the boat sits with the mounds of dirt surrounding it. Next year, according to Lennby, they hope to bury the boat in this spot.

You Gotta Go Out, You Don't Have To Come Back, Keith Edmier

Swedish artist Claes Hake recreates Wall Street in this immense granite installation.

Wall Street, Claes Hake

Created by waste, this fiberglass piece is by Germany’s Wilhelm Mundt. Known for his work in this medium, Trashstone 306 is one of many he has created thanks to recycling waste.

Trashstone 306, Wilhelm Mundt

Bronze and trees combine in this piece, “The Heart of Trees,” by Spain’s Jaume Plensa.

The Heart of Trees, Jaume Plensa

In the distance, United Kingdom’s Tony Cragg’s piece, “Point of View,” made from bronze, sits perched on higher ground.

Point of View, Tony Cragg

Getting there: From Gothenburg, head on the E6 towards Oslo. Exit at Stenungsund and follow signs to Tjörn. Cross the Tjörn Bridge and turn left at the light. Follow 169 towards Skarhamn. At the Wallhamn crossroad, turn right towards Kallekarr and Krykesund. Pass Kallekarr and then follow the brown signs for “Pilane Gravfait” towards Kryreksund.

Cost: 80 sek for adults; 15 and under are free.

Editor’s Note: My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy.

 

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