I knew that today was going to go well as soon as I discovered that I could have small tube of caviar with my breakfast. I cannot recall a single occasion in history where a disaster followed a breakfast that included a small tube of caviar. I can’t deny there being a link between a jar of taramasalata and the outbreak of the Crimean War but that was more of a snack for elevenses than a fishy breakfast treat. Any väg (road), the potentially stressful day turned out to be far better than expected and so did the breakfast which also included an astonishing range of knäckebröd (crisp bread) and sill (herring) in that oh so luxurious, non-English buffet breakfast way. The only thing that spoilt my repast was wondering if they used real knacker in the knäckebröd or were they some sort of mock knacker.
The rest of the morning comprised mainly of 300km of northward bound motorway driving in the heavy Scandinavian rain with little to occupy my mind other than trying to guess how many mooses (or misse, or one moose and all its mates, or mousses) might be living in the thick coniferous forests that edged the road on both sides for most of our route. I also took time to ponder over where all the other motorists might be as the E04 motorway (the road to Hålaveden) was quite deserted. After 100km of mooselessness on a lonely road I concluded that, as it was Saturday morning, the absentee motorists were probably all at home assembling Swedish style flat pack furniture with their trusty Allen keys, taking advantage of their country’s liberal approach to sex, squirting small tubes of caviar at each other or all three at the same time. I only hoped that the poor moose population hadn’t had to get involved in all of this.
Did you notice in my previous sentence the clever way I got round not knowing the plural word for moose?
We broke our journey only once at a Road Star service station near Norrahammar, a town named after part of a statement made by a frustrated Geordie DIY expert when he found one of his tools was missing. Unfortunately the whole of Theznorrahammarinthahoose wouldn’t fit on a road sign so they’d had to shorten it. However, this didn’t put us off calling in for a cup of tea. We were careful not to ask for a cup of char here as we had already learnt that in Sweden a char is a fish a bit like a salmon and had we made this mistake things might have got a bit messy, especially as we didn’t know the Swedish word for dead. The biscuit in the saucer would have gone soggy for starters. We also took the opportunity to gather our thoughts and to put together a Jönköping Student Accommodation Services plan of attack while we waited for the heavy rain to clear and, quite remarkably, it did.
In the absence of a travel journal of her own, Rose asked me to mention here that in the Road Star cafeteria there was a knäckebröd pick ‘n’ mix stand and the teacups were all an attractively odd shape.
Finding the University of Jönköping turned out to be as easy as taking knäckebröd from a Swedish baby. A great sense of achievement warmed the steel plate in my head as I reflected upon a journey we had made from a small town in the West of England to a small city in the South of Sweden and arrived there just ten minutes early for our appointment. From my experience of visiting universities with my many children I knew that we would be given some sort of freebie on our arrival. In Maastricht we had been given delicious coffee and vlaai (a local tart), in Preston we had been given a cup of tea (by a local tart) and a packet of shortbread biscuits, in Aberdeen we had been given a nip of Aberlour twelve year old malt, in Stoke on Trent we had been give a fridge magnet (which really hurt my fillings) so on our latest venture I had expected something along the lines of char, sill, knäckebröd or a tube of squirty fish eggs. I suppose a bottle of water and an apple was better than nowt and a second bottle of water and another apple sneaked away while no one was watching was loads better than nowt. A slight disappointment though bearing in mind that we had made a journey of round about 1,500km to get there. That’s one thousand times the distance covered by Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi to win his gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and I bet he got something better than a Cox’s Orange Pippin.
There soon followed another minor disappointment and a problem that was totally out of our hands as the next 5km of our trip weren’t as straightforward as the bulk of our trek had been. Our student accommodation organiser lady was very good at handing out keys and smiling and saying ‘Welcome to Sweden’ and ‘do have an apple’ but crap at map reading and using a biro. She drew a very large smudgy and incomplete circle on our Jönköping street plan to highlight an unnamed road miles from anywhere but not far from where Rose’s accommodation block might be. Our only real landmarks to keep an eye out for en route were a Netto shop and the sixth largest lake in Europe. We had no problem finding either of these. It was the bit in between that we struggled with.
After half an hour of driving up and down every road in Kortebo we eventually found Ebba Ramsay’s väg (poor Ebba!) along which was located the Cyklamen Student House where my lovely third born child would be residing on the western shore of Lake Vattern for the next four months. Mission accomplished-ish!
Desperately seeking Ebba Ramsay’s väg.