“Do you like to save money and travel?” did I hear her correctly? Who doesn’t? I am sitting at the Roger Beasley Volvo dealership working out the particulars of my 40th birthday present to myself – a new silver convertible. I still think I am much too young to have a mid-life crisis, but I was certainly compelled to seek out some new adventure in my life. Now the excitement is being topped off with the temptation of traveling and saving. as I understood it, the basic concept behind the “see Europe by Volvo” program is that by my taking possession of the car in Sweden , I avoid some of the import taxes and Volvo can count on the car being sold before it even leaves the factory floor. Since you have to be a bit adventurous to take advantage of the offer, Volvo sweetens the deal by providing free round-trip airfare, transportation to and from the airport (in a chauffeured Volvo, of course), and one night’s accommodation in a wonderful hotel.
So off we went, Alisa, my parents and me, for our Scandinavian shopping spree. When we arrived at the Gothenburg airport, we were greeted by the Volvo driver at baggage claim. Gothenburg is home to the Volvo factory and an excellent starting point for your vacation. Working with the Volvo travel desk ensures that you arrive with plenty of time the day before so you can get a good night’s rest before your very busy next day. This first night, you are the guest of Volvo and will stay at the Radisson Blu. Centrally located in the city center, we were a short walk to Nordstaden, the largest shopping centre in Scandinavia with more than 180 shops. We headed directly out to the streets to stay ahead of any jet lag and walked down the main Avenyn lined with shops, restaurants and bars. at the top of the Avenyn at Gotaplatsen is the Milles rebellion statue of Poseidon. After the local citizens criticized Milles’ first statue for being a bit too “life-sized,” you will see that Milles dramatically scaled back all of Poseidon’s “glory.” From a side view, however, you will see how Milles got the last laugh by incorporating the fish Poseidon is holding in his hand to represent quite a bit more.
The following morning our crew was rested and ready. Our driver brought us from the hotel to the Volvo factory, which was about a 30-minute drive out of town and through the countryside. Having never toured an automotive factory before, I quickly learned that my preconceived notions of big burly autoworkers were unfounded. The Volvo factory lines were primarily comprised of young, hip factory workers. The 20-somethings seemed to run the show. The anxious waiting begins after a quick lunch of snacky food and Swedish meatballs from the Volvo Café. We not-so-patiently wait our turn as they began wheeling out cars one-by-one into the glass-enclosed room at the far end of the reception area. This process can only be likened to anxious parents waiting for their four-wheeled babies to be brought out into the glass-and-steel nursery for all to admire and “ahhhh” over.
After the best orientation session I have ever been given to any car and with shiny red Swedish plates, our crew is set free on the open roads. As part of the program, you are given a six-month driver’s license and insurance coverage. Drive your car wherever you wish and either return it to the factory or a previously arranged port and Volvo will have it shipped to your local dealership in a matter of weeks. Some people take full advantage of that time frame and free transportation by driving down and around all the corners of Europe. We opted for the shorter, more condensed Scandinavian excursion. Our route took us to southern Sweden , across the Oresund Bridge to Denmark, up the east coast of Denmark, back to Sweden via the ferry and then we hugged the coast on our way back to Gothenburg.
As the Scandinavians drive on the “right” side of the road, our driving was easy. The highway system is straightforward and simple to understand with any GPS system loaded with European maps. This little splurge allowed us the freedom and peace of mind to wander from our predetermined path and discover the numerous small towns that dot the countryside between the larger cities.
We took the e20 south from Gothenburg wandering through Falkenberg’s 13th-century fort and Halmstad’s serene beauty on our way to our next overnight stay in Malmo. Famous for its turning torso building and the Oresund Bridge, which quickly made our trip a “two nation vacation,” Malmo is a wonderful town comprised of many, quaint town squares. We chose to stay near the Lilla Torg in the Gamla Vaster District, which is one of the most densely populated areas of restaurants we had seen. Lilla Torg , a charming square and very popular meeting place, was built in 1592 as a central market square. a stay in this well-known area will ensure that every member of your party will find a cuisine and/or bar that will fit the bill. Not to be missed is the form/design Centre which boasts design and architecture exhibitions and the previously mentioned turning torso building, which is the tallest building in Sweden and certainly one of the most unique. This stunning apartment building is comprised of nine cubes spanning 54 stories and makes a full 90-degree twist from base to tip.
If you are into college towns and bicycle culture, a day trip to Lund should be on your agenda. One of the oldest cities in Sweden, Lund is also home to the nation’s largest university. As most older towns have had difficulty adapting to modern transportation, Lund has made its own accommodations by becoming a bicycle hotspot, boasting more than 5,000 parking spaces dedicated to those on two wheels. You will appreciate the fact that you are touring town either on foot or on bike, as Lund ’s building codes focus on preservation, making this one of the few cities that remains architecturally consistent.
There may be many ways to get to Denmark, but few could be more fun than crossing the Oresund Bridge. As the route between the two nations must stay open to major shipping and even more windmills harnessing the wind energy, car traffic was long thought to be impossible. The solution was created in the form of a 5-mile long stunning suspension bridge that plunges dramatically into a man-made island in the middle of the channel where the road then disappears into a tunnel beneath the sea. This tunnel leads to our next destination, Copenhagen.
Cosmopolitan, cultured, touristy and crowded, Copenhagen is our only brush with a “major city” during this trip. Fabulous gifts can be found at illums and tasty snacks at the secret Kitchen. And if you’re looking for a unique way to view the city from the miles of canals, hop on one of the DFDS Canal tours. Our handsome captain deftly navigated us through the incredibly narrow canals lined with houseboats, restaurants, historic architecture and ex- pertly designed new structures. This wood-paneled canal cruiser will make you feel like James Bond as you cruise around with 20 or so of your newest friends.
If you get a bit overheated from the canal tour (or the canal tour guide) swing by the very cool Absolut Icebar where everything inside is crafted and sculpted from the purest of Swedish river water. you will be given a not-so-stylish but incredibly necessary blue parka upon entry and a very stern warning not to lick the walls.
Leaving Copenhagen, we followed highway 152 along the Danish east coast on our way to our ferry landing of Helsinger. A short distance south of our ferry is the town of Humlebaek, home of the Louisiana Museum, a stunning contemporary art museum housed on a gorgeous park ground with views of the windmill farms of the sea and the Oresund Bridge. Built in 1958, Louisiana is home to works from Danish and international modern artists such as Rothko, Warhol, Picasso, Hockney and others. Their outdoor sculpture gardens make a wonderful lunch spot to lounge between the Calder’s and Giacometti’s. It would be hard to pick the most famous piece in this collection, but the most notorious would certainly be “dead drunk danes” by rebel Danish artist Asger Jorn. Upon learning that he was the recipient of the Guggenheim international award, Jorn sent harry Guggenhiem a nasty telegram starting with the kindest words of the message, “Go to hell…”
Finishing the museum tour, we continued north to the Helsingor ferry, which carried us and our car back to Sweden. From the top deck of the ferry you’ll enjoy striking views of the Kronburg Castle, which Shakespeare used as the setting for hamlet and later renamed Elsinore. Prior to completion of the bridge, ferries provided the only means of travel between the two coasts, and these ferries continue to have quite the reputation. If you have had a long day and are ready to wind down, head to where all the locals are…the bar. These ferries live up to their reputation of being party barges.
As our excellent adventure winds to a close, we make our way back to the Volvo factory. We are driven to the airport and the car is put on a ferry bound for the Roger Beasley dealership. Around four weeks later, my car arrived and I continued my convertible adventure stateside.
Story by Lynn Yeldell
Photos by Lynn Yeldell
L Style G Style – Storyteller of the Austin LBGT Community.