Saturday, July 17, 2021

North to Umeå

Our first excursion far away from Stockholm!  President Davis wants Äldste Torrie to accompany the missionaries as they sing the mission song at each of the five zone conferences, so in this post we are away to Umeå (pronounced oo'-me-oh), a 7-hr drive north.  It's only 500 km but it takes 7 hours because of the roads.  It's only 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, depending on whom you ask.  But we've been further north than that in Nordkapp (North Cape), Norway, which is 632 miles north of the Arctic Circle!  Crazy how big, and yet how small the world is.  I remember my sisters and I dreaming of those far-away places when we were young.  Nothing better than a good atlas to dream over.

So this post has lots of pictures of beautiful places, beautiful people, and interesting architecture, as well as interesting road rules.

But first I need to tell you that I have started driving a bit here.  When we served our mission in Kenya, I was always the navigator and never the driver.  Besides the crazy traffic in Nairobi, it was left-hand pattern like in the UK.  LeRon became expert at it and I was expert at navigating.  

Here in Sweden, there's lots of traffic but it's right-hand pattern.  I decided I might entirely forget how to drive unless I actually did it.  So I have started driving all by myself the few blocks to the grocery store in the evenings when the traffic is light.  I have mastered the two round-abouts between home and store and they actually work amazingly well, and I am gradually getting used to the quirks of the little Hyundai that we drive here.

Tonight I felt so grown up and independent as I grabbed my purse and headed to the car to drive to the store.  Then I realized that I hadn't brought the car key, nor had I brought the house key, and as the door automatically locks, I was locked out.  Thank goodness I had a phone, so I phoned LeRon to open the door and hand me the keys.  So much for being grown up!

 Former missionary, Äldste Rantaniemi, from Finland, popped in to the mission office to say hello.  When I first met him, I stumbled over his name, but now it rolls off my tongue.  His name is pronounced "ron'-tahn-ee-eh-me" with a bit of a roll on the "r".  He's one of our unofficial grandsons that we love so much.

Now we're headed out of Stockholm and away from the trees and buildings.  Love the clouds and the wide open places.  Cropland on the right and a field almost ready for harvest on the left. We're taking the coastal highway, the E4.  It's a divided highway for a while and then turns into a 3-lane road that will be explained later.

If you zoom in, you can see the steeple of a church.  There are churches in every town and village.  The Church of Sweden is the official church and most all Swedes are baptized and buried in church, but few actually attend services.  The Swedes say they donate to the upkeep of the churches and are baptized, married, and buried in church just to be on the safe side!

It's so humid here that hay doesn't dry.  So after it's baled, it's wrapped in plastic to keep the air out to prevent spoilage.  Our climate in Alberta is so dry that there's no need for plastic.

Couldn't resist taking a picture of these clouds.  We see so little sky in Stockholm because of the trees and buildings.  These skies make me homesick for southern Alberta.  
This highway, I swear, has the most number of speed cameras in the world.  I should have counted the cameras.  Speed limits were anywhere from 50 km/hr to 120 km/hr.  And sometimes the lower speed was for just a mile and then it would zoom up and then zoom down.  One time we came over a hill going 110 and at the bottom was a speed camera and with no warning, the limit was 50.  Keeps you on your toes.  Speed fines are very hefty -- in the hundreds of dollars, even for just a few kilometers over.

We're further north now, driving along the coast.  There's lots of lakes, rivers, and the ocean here.

Trees on both sides of the road.  Ireland has 40 shades of green, but so does Sweden.  The only difference is that Ireland has green all year long and Sweden has green for only a few months.  Notice the road.  On the right side is one lane, and on the left are two lanes.  It's like that for a couple of miles and then it switches so that the right side has two lanes and the left only one.  Traffic really piles up on the one-lane side and then you have a couple of miles to speed up and pass cars.  You can go from 50 km/hr to 120 km/hr in a matter of a mile.  But you need to watch out for speed cameras.  You are usually given a warning.

We're in Sundsvall now.  I love bridges but it was hard to get a good photo of this one.  Two lanes going each way.  We drove across it just for fun.

Love the reflection in the water of these very Swedish buildings.

And this decommissioned ship is now a hotel.  But we're not staying here.

We're staying here -- at the Elite Hotel Knaust.  It's no more expensive than a good hotel in the west.  But the parking was very pricey.  This hotel was built in 1891 by Adolf Knaust after a fire in 1888 burned much of Sundsvall.

Gorgeous Carrara marble staircase.  Apparently a rich lumber baron rode a horse up this beautiful staircase.  Who would do a stupid thing like that?  Poor horse.

The king of Siam stayed here in 1897.  I wonder if he stayed in my very hot room?  No hotels have air conditioning here and we didn't think to ask for a fan.  It may be far north, but it is hot and humid here.  If the temperature is in the 80's F, it feels like the 90's.  The hallways and lobby were gorgeous but the rooms were not remarkable.

We took some fans to these sweltering sister missionaries, Syster Foote and Syster Owens. Behind them is a wall hanging that has been signed by all the previous sister missionaries who have lived in this apartment.  Fun!

So many wild flowers everywhere.  It's a lovely time of year.  And bales of marshmallow-looking hay in the fields.  Our daughter, Heather, once wrote a poem about the round bales in the field that looked like marshmallows.

The forested areas were gorgeous but LeRon and I loved the open meadows and fields.

Coming up to another interesting suspension bridge.  You can see the next span through the first one if you click on the picture.

The steel pipe cables were about a foot in diameter.  Huge!

I don't know how to photograph this bridge so that you can see the beauty of it.  I love bridges.

Stopped off at a little church to rest our bottoms and walk around.

Wild flowers everywhere.

And modern sculptures of Viking ships.

In many places in Sweden you can't turn left even though there's a place where you could go left.  You have to first go right and around a loop of road and then face the main road at a right angle.  That way you don't stop traffic in your lane while you wait to turn, and it's safer to come at the road straight on.  Smart thinking. Click on the picture to enlarge so you can see the loop to the right.

This is the sign explaining what you can and cannot do when you want to turn left.  You have to turn right and then cross the lanes straight on.  No left turn from the main road.  You can see the actual turning lane in the previous photo.

Swedes seem to love round buildings and tall towers.

Now we're in Umeå at the zone conference.  Missionaries drive or train in from 3 hours north of Umeå and 4 hours south of Umeå.  It's a large area.  Very long days in the summer and very long nights in the winter.  Missionaries here use "happy lights" when they study to help them cope with the lack of sunlight. L-R: Äldste Hamilton, Äldste Andreasen, Äldste Hughes of the famous Hughes family from Branson, Missouri, Äldste Stinson from New Zealand.
Each zone has about 16-26 missionaries and they are led by Syster Training Leaders and Zone Leaders.  Here are the Norrland (North Land) Zone leaders, Syster Owens, Syster Foote, Äldste Ward, and Äldste Jacob Jensen.  There are several Jensens in our mission.  These missionaries do some of the training at zone conference.

And to the left are the Lead Syster Training Leaders, Syster Westman and Syster Pippert, who travel with President and Syster Davis (on right) to all five zone conferences and help with training.  In the middle are two new members from Eritrea (Africa) who now live in Sweden.

More sister missionaries, Syster Madsen, Syster Mendez, and Syster Dransfield.  The missionaries have divided into groups for a discussion.

Äldste Scott and Äldste Austin are the two Assistants to the President who also travel to all zone conferences to help with training.  Then there's Äldste Nichols and Äldste Nelson.

Äldste Torrie and I joined with this group discussion.  Next to Äldste Torrie is Äldste Paxton, Äldste Duncan, Äldste Correa, and Äldste Stilwell.  Äldste Paxton translated for LeRon and me because the zone conference was conducted in Swedish, and we know very little Swedish.
The Norrland Zone with President & Syster Davis, the Assistants to the president, the Lead Syster Training Leaders, and the two new members.  LeRon and I are taking pictures.  After that we all changed into work clothes and headed to the forest for a service project.

We walked into the forest for about 20 minutes and then started clearing tree roots to help the local community build a trail for mountain bikes.

It was very hard work and most of the missionaries had forgotten to bring gloves.  Äldste Torrie and I, being farmers, brought gloves.  You can't work without gloves.

Hmn . . . are they working or what?  Work is also fun.  Äldste Paxton, Syster Owens, Syster Madsen, Äldste Stinson.
Even though she didn't bring gloves, Syster Foote (in the yellow jacket) was smart to wear a jacket.  The mosquitoes were vicious.  I came home with a lot of bites on my neck and face, but none on my arms where I had sprayed mosquito repellant.  Äldste Nelson (in the red shirt) reminds me of one of my nephew's sons.  Can't remember which one at the moment.

City girl, Syster Dransfield, was excited to catch a frog!  We enjoyed it for a few minutes and then let it go.

Cloud berries (above), blueberries, and lingonberries grow abundantly in the forest.  Cloud berries make cook jam but are a bit tart for eating.

Crazy architecture in Örnsköldsvik.  Don't know if it's an apartment building or businesses.

And then there's this building!!!

Örnsköldsvik is the site of the very first Winter Paralympics in 1976.  It's right on the coast and yet they cross-country ski, alpine ski, and ski jump here.  In the center at the top of the hill must be some sort of a ski jump.  Who knew you could ski on the coast?

Give us farmland any day!

I thought this spot was beautiful.  Wildflowers, farmland, hills and forests.  But Stockholm beckons and we must travel on.


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