At the end of our
sailing holiday from Bodø around the Lofoten islands, the plan was to take the bus up the coast to Narvik, from where we would get the sleeper train the length of Sweden to Stockholm, have a few hours to look around, and then fly home.
So, at just before 7am, it was time to say farewell to Trinovante and the harbour at Bodø, and walk to the bus station where we caught the 0715 bus
We went east to Fauske where we changed bus and headed north. The views were varied and well worth seeing. We stopped to wait for the bus coming the other way in order to swap drivers: this is the view from the bus-stop.
Continuing our journey north
The next, welcome, interruption to our bus journey was at the hamlet of Bognes for the ferry to Skarberget. We got off the bus and waited for the ferry to arrive, which we boarded on foot – the ferry was very quiet.
Our bus was one of only a handful of vehicles, and we had great views as we ate ice-cream or hot dog, according to taste.
View from the Bognes-Skarberget ferry
Continuing towards Narvik
So, after a six-hour bus ride, albeit with the three disembarkations to break the journey, we are at Narvik railway station. The problem, which we’d known about since last night, is that the train has been cancelled, at least in its early stages, and replaced with a bus. The thought of boarding another bus isn’t inspiring, and we are frustrated at missing out on what is said to be one of the great railway journeys of Europe. But the alternative was considerable extra cost by flying from Bodø to Stockholm and paying for an extra night in a hotel there.
So we wait at Narvik for the rail-replacement bus.
The waiting room has a certain charm, but the cashless Swedish influence is strong – you need a credit card in order to go to the toilet, no cash here.
So we are on a bus again, heading for Kiruna where a train will take us the rest of the way, but we will miss the best bit of the rail journey. However, the road and railway run in relatively close proximity and so the views would have been similar though the experience would have been better on a train.
The views are lovely
At Kiruna railway station, where we disembark from the bus and wait for the train. There is confusion and poor communication (at least for us poor non-Swedish speakers). It eventually becomes clear that there is still no train, and that we will need to board the bus again. We’ve lost our good seats, but manage to find some which are acceptable, and get a ham and cheese sandwich and a can of Coke to keep us going as by now it’s after 6pm.
We head south-east, stopping at Gällivare where we drop some people off. We gather that we are heading for Boden, but will have to go via Luleå which seems a long way around, but eventually the Luleå plan gets dropped and we head more directly for Boden. The views are endless forest, but we do get to see the sun setting for the first time in nearly two weeks as we head ever further south.
At last! A train! It’s 2335 but we’ve reached Boden and it’s time to get aboard. After 6 hours to Narvik on the bus, it’s taken another 8 hours to get to Boden, and the station building tells us there is still 1134 km to Stockholm, such is the size of Sweden. We retire to the bar for a drink, along with half the rest of the train so there is a long queue – I’m torn between the desire to make the most of the experience that has been curtailed, and just wanting to sleep. We don’t stay up long, and retire to the cabin where the three of us manage to put the triple bunk in order and get ready for bed.
Next morning, the views have changed … to more trees.
And more trees. Eventually we reach Stockholm, a couple of hours late. Claire gets off at the airport station to get her flight home, while Lucy and I continue in to the centre. We have some lunch and decide to visit the Vasa Museum, travelling by electric scooter, a novel experience for us.
The Vasa is a Swedish warship that foundered after sailing just 1,300 metres into its maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. The ship was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961, and now lives in this rightly popular museum.
A model of the Vasa with the real thing behind
Vasa was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world, but was dangerously unstable, being tall with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull, causing it to capsize as soon as it encountered a wind stronger than a breeze.
The stern of Vasa
A beautiful ship, even if unwisely built and launched, and an interesting complement to our visit to the Mary Rose earlier in the year. Due to the late arrival of our train, our time was constrained, but it was a fascinating visit and thoroughly recommended.
Walking back along the waterfront with lots of traditional wooden boats, as we head for the railway station and the airport.
Our travel challenges weren’t completely over: as we were flying back to Gatwick, there came news that there was an air traffic control issue and we could not land at Gatwick. We were initially diverted to Bournemouth, and then after further consideration, to Birmingham, apparently on the grounds that they had the facilities there to disembark us, but in fact we sat on the ground for hours, with no food or other supplies, before Gatwick reopened and we were finally able to get back to the car – fortunately we’d booked a hotel or it would have been a really late night.