Falling through the wardrobe. Our journey to Fäviken. Day 54, 55 & 56

Falling through the wardrobe. Our journey to Fäviken. Day 54, 55 & 56

Now I may make a few chronicles of Narnia references here because in all honesty it is the only way I can describe the untouched beauty that is Sweden and the lands surrounding our next dining destination, Fäviken. First we have to get there.

Our time in Moscow spent we are flying to Sweden with a quick stop in Copenhagen. I must tell you airport security is a serious deal in Russia, our bags are searched, rough looking Russian women pat us down in a variety of places! Then we go through a full body scan and passport check, now I am not complaining because I am happy to be safe on airplanes. I hate flying at the best of times. Time for takeoff, we wave a final goodbye to incredible Russia and before I know it we arrive in Copenhagen.

Ah beautiful Copenhagen, a new food capital of the world. I know this to be true because there is a store that sells premium caviar and champagne right here in the airport. We’ve got time for a few taste tests don’t we Jess? Then they tell us our flight is boarding for Sweden, what do you know? We are getting back on the exact same plane we just left. Russian babushkas jostle their ways to the front of the queues, enormous Swedish Vikings step through crowds like mighty oak trees. Jess and I simply huddle and swim with the rest of the little fish.

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Stockholm beams city lights below as we fly in for a gentle landing. We will be back to explore soon but we board our sleeper train to Äre and the adventure begins.

Now I use the word sleep in the broadest way possible. Sleeping on this train is in fact next to impossible. Pine trees whip by as we shake and rattle our way through mountain tracks and deep valleys. It is the equivalent of sleeping on one of those hideous roller coasters that Jess enjoys so much. Also there is a constant banging from the mirror that isn’t quite attached in our room. Jess is suspended on the third bunk high in the air, held by what looks like a repurposed car seat belt, I force my eyes closed on the bottom bunk, one hand on the ground to steady myself after rolling out of bed for the fifth time in the last hour. I have considered holding my breath in the hopes of slipping into unconsciousness but rolling over too fast and bashing my head on the overhead lamp has seen to that already. This is the beginning of our journey.

The hellacious night is over and we arrive like the walking dead in Äre. A little ski village nine hours from Stockholm. Now just to wait for our cab, it’s nine in the morning, he’ll be here at 4 30. We are in a rather mountainous location with our bags weighing a combined weight of around sixty kilos. Wonderful. Find me somewhere to sleep. Ah a nearby bus bench brings some relief until people start throwing us money because we look completely homeless. Maybe it’s the smell? The day drags out before finally our taxi arrives.

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On the road to Fäviken; the road twists and turns until it is nothing but a gravel track winding its way in and out of the mountain. Hoping to spot a mighty stag or perhaps even a wandering moose I glue my face to the window and watch the world go by. The leaves are an autumnal orange and the woods seem to sparkle from the sun overhead. Suddenly we are there. A red barn glows like the holy grail of food that it is. Warm fires crackle as we are met by the lovely Sara and shown to our room. This is Fäviken.

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The room is a cute little sleeping quarters with furs on the bed, it’s more like staying in someone’s home rather than a hotel. With only thirteen guests per evening it’s great to mingle and share a glass of champagne in the heat of the Swedish sauna. Regardless of the insane journey it took us to get here we are here. It is instantly worth it when I see the kitchen and get the opportunity to meet the wonderful chef Magnus Nilsson. We throw on our finest gear and get ready for what turned out to be one of the most amazing meals of my life. You can read all about it here.

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After such an incredible meal one would think we would be finished with eating for a while. Then came breakfast, once again we head back into the stunning dining room where there is an enormous spread laid out on the table in front of us. Ham from the estate, cured reindeer, a local cows milk cheese, a wild bird pate underneath a rich blackberry jelly, quail and chicken eggs from this mornings harvest, porridge made right in front of us, fresh juices and steaming hot Swedish coffee. There is also of course more bread with that fantastically rich cultured butter. It’s a spread.

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I never realised what an incredible start to the day pate on toast is. Mixed with estate ham and mounds of cultured butter my arteries may loath me but my stomach is utterly overjoyed. Quail eggs with all their lovely delicacy pair wonderfully with a little herb salt and some trout roe harvested at Fäviken. I love it here, if I could move in I would, I’d be a million kilos in less than six months but it would be a good six months.

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With breakfast finished we take another quick wander around the estate, scoping out some crates of wild garlic for chef and checking out the onions pulled fresh from the garden. Then it’s time for us to leave this wonderful place, it’s strange but I feel a sense of sadness leaving this place, the beauty is unmatched anywhere I have been in the world. I think in many ways it reminded me of home, maybe that’s why I’m not so keen to leave, but the journey must continue and Stockholm calls.

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Surely it must be nearly lunch time?

Josh and Jess

Make tracks. Day 51

Make tracks. Day 51

Only being in Russia for a few days, we have mastered the St Petersburg metro. With tickets in hand, Josh and I check out of our apartment, double check the map and head to the station. Today is the day we travel to Moscow.

There are two trains to travel from St Petersburg to Moscow, the first is the newest acquisition, the Sapsan express. Travel time is less than four hours sitting in a luxurious carriage with plenty of room and a drinks service. The other is one of the oldest trains you’ve ever seen. With a rickety eight hour journey where you’re tucked together with many others, numerous stops and a bathroom you just would never enter. When travelling on a budget, there are just some sacrifices you have to make.

We arrive at the station with plenty of time. Match numbers and symbols on the schedule board and stand where we think the train will be. Josh panics. What if we miss the train? What if we are standing in the wrong gate? Never fear, I’ll just ask someone. I get snobbed by many Russians, no English. Ah a ticket booth, surely they will know where we need to be. A window is closed in my face and many hands shoo me away as I don’t need a ticket. Great! Feeling deflated I return to Josh, who finds a lady that points to our ticket and our train and says yes.

Ticket reads: seat. We board the train and walk to our number. We look at each other confused. The room is two double bunks where two people have already made up there beds for the journey. We see our numbers, we are both on the top. With limited luggage room Josh struggles to heave the bags onto one of the top bunks, watching us the other passenger points to the other top bunk and jumps up. Thank god! We now have a ‘seat’ on the bottom that we both squeeze into. This is going to be a long eight hours.

We pass the time by watching movies on our iPods, listening to some much needed music and playing iPhone games like candy crush and pop quizzes. The occasional town outside giving our eyes a rest from our screens. The countryside is really beautiful, quite different than the Zurich to Munich trip we took a week ago. Towns are small and houses look like quaint little cottages in the distance. Six hours pass quite quickly and our two room mates wake, put on their coats and hop off at the next stop. Finally! A carriage to ourselves! We hear laughter in the hall and look out, two older Russian babushkas are headed our way. They point to their ticket, and then to the bottom bunks. Great, time to get up to our seat. We climb up and are twisted within each other trying to get comfortable. The women below seem to have robbed a shopping centre. Their luggage explodes with perfumes and knick knacks, finally they look like they are ready to settle in. Lady number one seemed to be having difficulty talking off her shoe. Lady number two assists her. Laughter ensues. Both ladies are hysterical as they try to pull, push, jiggle and heave off the shoe. Two men show up. They also pull, push, jiggle and heave until finally her foot is free. We laugh with them, and then at them. Then we laugh at each other. Looking at how uncomfortable we both look being shoved up and into a corner. Then I think we start laughing at the situation. This is travel. When there are so many stories to look back on and laugh, remembering all the good and not so good times you share together.

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Finally we hear Moscow being called. We enter the metro, take a few wrong trains and then land at our hotel. With the sound of the rain outside we slip into bed. Even though we didn’t achieve much today, we both feel a rest is needed. And what better way than with some English tv. A few comedies later and we fall deep into our dreams.

Look out Moscow, we have arrived.

Jess and Josh