Lake Siljan

The area around Lake Siljan in the Dalarna region of Central Sweden was great fun. The Swedes do seem to make the most of their summers around here, with different events happening all over the place. Our first stop was the town of Mora.

(the statue is St Michael and the Dragon, which was a bit confusing – where is St George, and doesn’t St Michael sell knickers???)

Mora is the home of Vasaloppet, the World’s longest ski race (90km). The Vasaloppet museum was mainly in Swedish, though we enjoyed the old film footage and the displays that we could make head / tail of.

There is film of the first race in 1922, although as they only had one cameraman and he had to be at the finish line 90km away in Mora before the fastest competitors, the rather energetic start was filmed the day before the actual race!

It isn’t really any wonder that the winning times have improved dramatically (from 7 hours 32 minutes 49 seconds in 1922 to 3 hours 38 minutes 41 seconds in 2012). In 1922 (above) you showed up in shirt, trews with braces and leather boots, which were held to the ski by a bit of rope across the toe (no major change then from the 5000 year old ski we saw in the museum at Umeå). The 1922 start film showed skiers ploughing through knee-deep powder snow; no carefully prepared ski tracks in those days….. Things are a bit different nowadays:

The next day saw the start of Vintage Boat Weekend at Mora:

There were musical interludes:

We saw a Rolls Royce Griffon engine started up (these were, I am told, used in Avro Shackleton planes and late-model Spitfires) and a Boeing Stearman biplane flew around overhead:

The S-1 Sverige boat was interesting:

This was a boat planned in the late 1920s as a challenger to the American boats chasing speed records at that time. The main target to beat was a boat called Miss America 8 owned by a chap called Garfield Wood, who was the inventor of the hydraulic lift and later a boat manufacturer. Anyway, along came the Wall Street Crash and subsequent Depression, and S-1 Sverige was not built…. until someone dug out the original plans 80 years later….

It’s powered by two Rolls Royce Meteor tank engines and…. I’m sorry to say this but… it’s rubbish. It’s probably a good thing for Swedish pride that they didn’t get round to building it all those decades ago… It never seems to have got anywhere near the original 1920s target of 100mph on water (achieved by Wood’s next boat Miss America IX in 1931) and a couple of years ago it did suddenly flip over for no apparent reason and sink….

We’d only just commented that it didn’t look very safe as it did a couple of not-so-fast runs back and forth when it almost came a cropper here as well. All I saw was a big splash, but Mark, who had a better view, said that as it slowed down at the end of the run the nose suddenly dropped and buried. The three crew members certainly arrived back very wet and stony-faced!

After the boats we headed round to Sollerön, an island in the lake that has some Viking graves. On arrival we found that the little open-air museum by the car park was having a Handicrafts Day, with stalls selling all manner of knitted stuff….

We had no time for knitting, though. We were here for the swords. Two of the best Viking swords ever found were discovered in graves here:

Mark had fun with the reproductions:

At least one of the originals is in a museum in Stockholm that we’re planning on visiting so we’ll look out for it there.

We followed a “culture trail” to see the grave sites, though it was pretty difficult to be sure what was a Viking grave and what was just a pile of stones made by farmers over the centuries. This one had a white stick so we’re pretty sure it’s a grave, and from the vague map on the leaflet we got, most likely the grave where one of the swords was found:

The next day was somewhat comical – it was Classic Car Week at Rättvik, a small town on the Eastern side of the lake. They clearly weren’t expecting any completely clueless foreigners to show up, as there were no clear directions to anything!

Initially, in the absence of signage, we parked near the town centre and figured it must be within walking distance – wrong. Then we got an address to drive to. After parking where others had, we noticed everyone getting on free buses so we followed, thinking this must take us to a big field full of cars.

No – it took us up to the local ski lift where they were going to have a hill climb…. We headed back to town as the leaflet promised an “A-Traktorrally” at 12 o’clock, and we had a location – the bus station. Mark loves tractors…..

Oh, how disappointed he was 😭 It turns out that an A-Traktor is a “piece of sh** Volvo with the back chopped off to make a pick-up, driven by a spotty youth with his baseball cap on back-to-front, a bit of bum-fluff on his upper lip, and a loud ‘boom boom boom’ noise coming from the speakers” (Mark’s definition). I’ve since looked them up, and they originated in the Second World War when “proper” farm equipment was in short supply. They’re still so popular with Swedish youth as you can drive them at age 16, rather than 18 (they’re classed as a tractor and have their speed limited to 30 km/h) – so all you have to do is get an old Volvo and a hacksaw, adapt your Volvo to meet the basic criteria, and away you go…… I’m afraid I was laughing far too much by this point to try to push through the crowds and take any good photos, but I did find a website later that explains all about them.

The “proper” classic cars didn’t seem to be displayed as such; there were hundreds of them just cruising around town and parked in every available car park. Almost all were American. The Swedes really do seem to love old American cars….

We’re now leaving Lake Siljan and heading South-East towards Uppsala….

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