This month Mark turned 40! It was a big birthday that definitely needed celebrating, but in a very difficult, strange and trying time. Living in another country in a very international environment, we wanted to celebrate by honouring our heritage, our roots and sharing South Africa with our friends here. (Also, what is a birthday without a braai somewhere during your birthday month to celebrate??). We also needed to at least TRY to attempt some social distancing by being outdoors as much as possible. In Sweden we haven’t seen much restrictions so we weren’t breaking any rules! So a braai it was!
Quite recently we have found some other South African ex-pats who have been making boerewors at home. We got very excited and ordered a few kg’s and had it at every campfire for about a month. While boerewors has never been my favourite braai meat back home, this stuff has never tasted so sweet! Must just be the taste of home! We put in another order for Mark’s birthday and dished it out as starters (like one would usually do with steak). We made some salads that would usually feature at South African braai (with some delegating skills). I also tried my hand at a milk tart and my dear friend Alyssa (Sweden/ Canada’s greatest baker) made a chocolate peanut butter tart AND a carrot cake roll.
Mark was so spoilt by friends and family who pitched in to get him an amazing coffee machine. It’s a bean to cup that he has been wanting for aaaages. On top of that, he received other thoughtful gifts too – chocolate, locally roasted coffee beans, a Moomin mug, and a hand painted watercolour of a trout. Time and time again we have been blown away with the kindness, thoughtfulness and connections we have with people we meet here. We are so grateful to have these people as our support and be able to share and celebrate milestones with them.
Örebro is located roughly in the middle of Sweden and is the fifth most populous city in the country. It still has the feel and charm of a town but boasts all the amenities you would expect in a big city. Many of these things like dining out or taking cruises on the nearby Lake Hjälmaren will cost you money but fortunately there are a number of free things you can do in and around Örebro.
Örebro Public Library
One of the best free things any city can offer is library access. Örebro Bibliotek has a number of branches in the city with the main branch being near the town centre. You can become a member without having a Swedish Personal number, you just have to ask. The staff have all been very friendly helpful. They also have a great website where you can search for and reserve books from anywhere in Sweden, once they arrive at your local branch you will get a text message to come and collect them. Most of the books are in Swedish but they have a decent selection of books in other languages too.
Running may not be everyones cup of tea but parkrun is generally one of the free things we like to do wherever we travel. This one scores bonus points because of its beautiful setting and the fika (coffee and treats) afterwards. If you want to read more about our experiences at this weekly event follow this link.
Some free things will not appeal to everyone and this is not usually on my to do list. Sometimes however it is just really breathtaking to see huge flocks of birds taking flight, aquatic species floating around on a lake or dive bombing into the water in search of prey . Judging by the number of photographers I see on my morning runs, all lined up with their gigantic lenses the lakes and river around Örebro must be an area worth frequenting. There are loads of pathways and access points all around with convenient hides where you can sit and watch all day. Some areas even have glass fronted buildings with woodturning stoves where you can hang around and watch the wildlife, and people, go by.
Have a braai (bbq for non-South Africans)
Another of our favourite free things to do is to have a braai, although of course you still have to provide your own supplies. Littered along the river banks, the shore of the lake and in most of the outdoor areas in Örebro are fire pits with built in grills. Most of these also regularly get stocked with firewood. What more could you ask for? Perfect for summer afternoons or chilly autumn evenings, in fact, there’s no reason not to use them all year round!
Certainly my favourite pastime and even more so when it makes the list of free things to do in any area! A large part of the river Svartån running through Örebro is designated as a free fishing area. There are some restrictions to number of rods used and species you’re allowed to fish for, read more about these on the Örebro municipality website. Although I haven’t caught many fish here you do have a chance of hooking into something decent. Species like pike, perch, zander/walley, trout and bream are all present.
There are many short trails and small nature preserves littered around Örebro and its outskirts. Most of them have marked trails and a map at the entrance. Just a 30 minute drive out of town is Naturreservat Annaboda ( it can also be reached by bus). Here you can find even more trails, camp sites and bbq/picnic sites. Entrance is free of course
Go for a walk around town
Sometimes the best way to explore any new place is on foot. You get a much better feel for the city or town you’re in when you can walk around and explore at your own pace. Not having to worry about parking, accidentally turning into a one-way street or find yourself driving in a pedestrian only zone. Yes, I have done all of these at some point over the last few years. Örebro is very pedestrian friendly and there are parks and benches all over where you can take a break from all the exploring.
What are the best things you like to do to find your feet and get a feel for a new city or area you visit or live in?
Now that we live in a very north, very cold country, we are finding it a little more challenging to keep up our active lifestyle. We know it’s important to get outside and receive that dose of Vitamin D. This can be difficult when we only have 6 hours of sunshine and I’m at work during those hours. With the Christmas holidays taking place, we have been able to get outdoors and explore a whole array of new (to us) winter activities in Örebro!
Cross – Country Skiing
A few years ago I watched a Nordic Skiing race on TV and laughed. I thought it was a pretty pointless and strange “sport”. Never did I think that I would be in the position (or location) to one day tackle this new activity. I am much more familiar with the skiing or the downhill variety (or rather snowboarding in my case). Since the land is pretty flat in Sweden there are ample courses and tracks to go cross-country skiing. Always looking for a good deal, we found some second-hand skis, poles and boots on Facebook Marketplace. We actually made some great South African friends through doing so! So far, we have only been twice, but I do believe there’ll be enough winter to keep going. A small ski track has opened up at Ånnaboda, that we have been practising on. A few more will be opening up as we get more snow and the temperatures drop. Ånnaboda is just out of town, a mere 30 minute drive from our apartment.
Ice – Skating on the Lake
For us warmer weather folk, we have only ever skated on an indoor ice-rink. All that changed when we moved to Korea and the temperatures were cold enough to sustain outdoor ice-rinks. Now we have hit the jackpot… a country that skates on lakes and rivers! This weekend the (frozen) lake was cleared, swept and prepared for the skating season. You can hire skates, both regular or long/Nordic ones, spark (kick chairs) and helmets. The staff at Rynningeviken are super helpful, friendly and quick to rent you the equipment you need. I tried the longer skates this time, as I have only ever ice-skated with traditional ice skates. They were much easier to balance on, and when using the poles, required a very similar action (and upper body strength) to cross-country skiing. We are now on the hunt for a second hand pair of skates. Then we can head down there every weekend for a run around the ice!
Light Show at the Castle
Every year there is a light show that takes place in the city centre at Christmas time. What makes this super special is that it is projected onto the castle walls. The townsfolk stand around on the bridge to see the show which lasts about 15 minutes. Some amphitheatre style seating is available -if you don’t mind a cold bum. The light show this year was about two mice that go on all these crazy cinematic adventures. It was rather cinematic but I did enjoy the gingerbread castle ad the pac-man scene. The light show takes place twice a day, at 5 pm and 7 pm from the middle of December until Christmas. It is definitely worth an outing, especially if you have kids!
This is something that goes on all year round and we attend fairly often. You can read about our experience of Parkrun in Sweden here. But the winter adds an interesting little twist to a regular ol’ run. Snow is still so novel to us, so running in it can be quite fun! Also, I never turn down a reason to get dressed up! So when our local Parkrun announced that there was a Christmas themed dress up run the week before Christmas, I was in! My friend and I spent all afternoon crafting our delightful Christmas tree outfits. However, we completely missed them actually looking for or handing out prizes…Oh well, we know we were best dressed – we even made it onto the news!
Bonfire in the Nature Reserve.
Sweden is kitted out for bonfires and really encourages people to spend time outdoors, no matter the weather! There are numerous fire pits, barbecue areas and picnic tables along the river and into the Oset and Rynningeviken Nature Reserve. These are stocked with wood regularly so we have never encountered a lack of wood. This Christmas, we didn’t have plans until later in the afternoon. We went on a cycle in the sunshine to find a barbecue spot. We weren’t the only people with these plans, however! It was so nice to see so many families out and about enjoying the nature and sunny weather together. We didn’t cook anything on the fire this time, though. Marks enormous gammon provided us with meals for days. We used the fire for much-needed warmth and ambience! This might become our new Christmas tradition 🙂
Hopefully, some of you family and friends will find yourselves in Sweden at and around Christmas sometime…. hint hint! May these ideas get you excited to plan your visit, or if not, to at least find out what we get up to during the winter months!
It’s been a fun few months settling into our new home in Sweden. After making it (alive) to half term, we were rewarded with autumn break – Höstlov. After umming and ahhing on whether to explore Europe on our doorstep. We finally made the decision to stay local and explore Sweden. We had hit the ground running and started working right away, so we hadn’t seen all that much of our new “home country” yet. Also, with only one of us having a stable job, this was the wiser choice financially.
We rented a car (complete with winter tires and ice scrapers) and set off on Saturday morning for a week-long, slightly north, but mostly central, 7 day Sweden road trip itinerary.
Day 1 and 2 – Stockholm
At 4:30 am Marks alarm went off. By 5 am I was semi-conscious drinking a cup of coffee. (This is how most of our mornings go, albeit a few hours later). By 5:30 am we left the house and were on our way to our friends’ house to pick them up (they needed a ride to the airport). We were surprised along the way to have some snow. A real sign that winter is indeed on its way! After the 2hour ish drive to the airport, we arrived in Stockholm.
Haga Park Parkrun
After frequently enjoying our local Parkrun in Örebro, we decided it would be fun to do one of the 3 in the Stockholm area. We headed to Haga Park (part of the Royal National City Park) to take part in the Halloween themed Parkrun. This time in a reverse course. It was cold, beautiful and fun. The course consisted of a double lap around the park. There were creepy marshall’s along the route.
After Parkrun, we made our way to Järfälla where our friends stay. A shower and a cup of coffee later we were ready to tourist our way around Stockholm. But first lunch! After a failed few attempts at some popular brunch and vegan buffet spots, we ended up at Deli DiLuca. We enjoyed some delicious (but maybe overpriced) plates of pasta that hit the spot and allowed us all to be friends again.
We trotted through Gamla Stan and enjoyed the crisp air that had arrived so suddenly. Seeing as we aren’t huge fans big cities, we rather enjoyed walking through the city, seeing the architecture and taking pics, not to mention the great company and catching up with old friends. We walked a solid 10kms at least, before hopping on the train back to Järfälla. A quick stop at the ICA to get some groceries for dinner and we were home drinking box wine and playing Catan. Apparently, this is my life now, almost being 30 and all. But I love it.
Snow in Autumn!
Sunday morning brought much excitement as we woke up to some (very light) snow falling. Being southern hemispherens, there was some balcony pajama dancing and photo and video taking. This continued most of the day while we were having a gander at the Barkaby outlet stores and continued for the next day or two leaving a very beautiful, whimsical feeling to our road trip! Mark had his first experience of driving through snow (just barely) up to Uppsala, the next stop on our mini Swedish road trip.
Day 2 and 3 Uppsala
We stayed in a small town called Storvreta, just outside Uppsala. The week before at Parkrun in Orebro, we met a lovely young lady from Uppsala who we got chatting to. After a while, she mentioned that her parents lived there and since all three daughters had moved out within the year, they were more than willing to have some company. This is truly one of our favourite things about travel…randomly meeting people and feeling the genuineness of humanity. So this is how we came to stay here. And boy, are we glad we did. They are the nicest, most interesting people, both originally from Germany. We had many common expat experiences and learned a few important things about living in Sweden. Of course, we also got excellent advice on things to do and see in Storvreta and Uppsala.
First things first, after the magical sprinkling of snow (the most we have ever seen fall from the sky) we had to explore the outdoors. We went for a run at the local sports club, where they usually have cross-country skiing tracks available through the winter months. We used these tracks and some other walking trails) to explore and make our way through the forest. So much fun, so much beauty. We truly felt like kids, running and playing in the snow familiar with. The outdoors in Sweden is just beautiful, and seeing something with snow or frost on has this new beauty that we aren’t yet familiar with!
Uppsala City Walk
The town of Uppsala itself is a very nifty place. It’s a student town, thanks to the prestigious University, with beautiful gardens and trails. The cathedral (Uppsala Cathedral) is the largest and tallest in all the Nordic countries. First off, we enjoyed a delightful lunch at an Indian restaurant. Now that we were on holiday we could try the lunch options that are often available during the week! Also, (after years of wanting it) we bought the board game Carcassone. We discovered a store called Webhallen – a pretty reasonable, all gaming needs store. We don’t have one in Orebro and this was the last one that we would be passing on our road trip, so we bought on a whim (and on sale) with much excitement.
Day 4 and 5 – Dalarna Lan
As fun as snow is….apparently all that comes after it rain, slush, and ice. We took a slow drive up through Dalarna Lan, stopping in Falun for lunch at an awesome Chinese Lunch Buffet. Thereafter, we made our way up to Rattvik where we went to look at the large lake, Siljan and the 628m pier (Langbryggan) that juts into it. Apparently, in the summer, people row to church instead of just going to church. Obviously none of this was going to happen due to us traveling during autumn! Instead, we took a long cautious walk in the cold to end of it. It was super misty/ foggy and visibility was low. Combine this with daylight savings – it was already pretty dark at 3 pm. There was a very eerie feeling to it!
Our Airbnb was in Nusnas, right on Lake Siljan! Had the weather been less miserable (read sunny and warm) we would have had a blast here! Nusnas is the home of the Olsson Brothers, and ultimately the DalaHast. The red, wooden, hand-carved and painted horse figurine is a true and typical Swedish handicraft (and souvenir). You will find both workshops (and museum and souvenir stores) across the road from each other! It is super interesting to see the whole process taking place. We took our sweet time trying to decide which horse to spend our money on! They definitely don’t come cheap at 215SEK for a 13 cm painted horse or 265SEK for 15cm one. Bear in mind, the two shops have different prices, so do look around if you have the time!
Nusnas is just 10km from Mora, another small town on the lake. Mora is where the great Vasaloppet finishes each year. The Vasaloppet is a 90km cross-country ski race. We popped into the Vasaloppet Museum, which was well put together but all in Swedish so we didn’t spend too much time there. Instead, just across the road is a great restaurant called Strand Kok & Bar. They have a killer deal for a weekday buffet lunch. We highly recommend popping in here, but get there early or prepare to wait for a table! It’s really popular among locals.
Day 6 and 7 – Hallefors
Onto our final (and my favourite) leg of the journey – a small, secluded cabin in the middle of the woods. It sounds like bliss (but also like a horror movie, as Mark so kindly pointed out)! We found it on Airbnb and were captivated by it immediately. To be honest, I looked forward to this part of the trip the whole time. When we arrived, we weren’t disappointed. Our host met us in front of the llama (!) enclosure at her property, and lead us to the cabin, a few km’s away. The cabin was all of 15m2 and I loved every bit of it. Without having to describe all of its wonderfulness, here is a link to the property – Little Wolf Pond Cottage. Go take a look for yourself!
Secluded Cabin in the Woods
We spent the next few days eating, reading, playing board games and card games, going for walks and trying to fish (through the icy pond). Between these activities, we napped. The wood stove was going from before 9 until we fell asleep each night. It really was a completely relaxing few days and a great end to our vacation. We took a beautiful drive home fairly early on our final morning. We were so ready for a shower!
Mark was severely disappointed to return our rental car. She was great and got us safely around on our first road trip in Sweden. We can’t wait to explore more of this beautiful country!
Moving to a new city can be quite daunting. Moving to a new city, in a new country, using a different language even more so! Kayley and I have done this twice now in the last 3 years. This time around I’ve decided to put together a post on where to get all the basics you need in order to make your move to Örebro, Sweden as smooth as possible.
Where to get a bicycle
The first thing you’ll notice in Örebro is that almost everybody is on a bike. Where to buy a bike in Örebro is largely budget dependent. There are quite a few second hand bike stores scattered throughout the town as well as a number of stores where you can buy a brand new one. Facebook Market Place or Blocket are also great resources. Just be sure to ask for an original receipt or police clearance if you’re buying second hand, bicycle theft is an issue! Make sure you get a good lock! Our first bike was from A-Cykel, they carry a good range of used bikes at a range of prices. Another good store to try is Cykelreturen, they stock bikes at all price ranges and as they’re close to the university they also give a student discount. For more high-end bicycles you can check out Lindells or XXL.
Where to get groceries
Now you have a bike the next important thing is to stay fed! The main options in Örebro are ICA, COOP or WILLYS. There are a few others but these are the most common. ICA is the most widespread and have a good range of everything you would need. Just beware items marked as ‘kortprys’, these specials are for loyalty card holders only. WILLYS is also great for all the basics. COOP is my least favourite grocery store but if it is your only option it will suffice.If you settle in Sweden for an extended period you will get a personal number which you can use to sign up for the ICA as well as WILLYS benefit cards. Öob is a great all round store for basic home goods, cleaning supplies and toiletries at much lower prices than the regular grocery stores.
Where to get your all important Swedish personal number
Some see this as a terrible chore but if you’ve dealt with home affairs in South Africa this process is a breeze. Your first visit will be to register at the Skatteverket, The Swedish Tax Agency. There are two branches in Örebro, the one near Vivalla is newly built and usually much quieter than the one in town. After you first register it can take up to 8 weeks for you to receive your personal number. You then have to visit the Skatteverket again to apply for your ID card which takes about two weeks. You can book appointments online which beats waiting in lines. The website does have an English option.
Where to get a sim card/home internet
To get a sim contract or home internet contract you need your Swedish personal number. You can however get a prepaid sim from Telia until you have your personal number. They can also sign you up for month-to-month home internet. After you receive your personal number it’s time to start shopping around for the best deals. These change all the time as there are a number of providers vying for market share.
Where to get some exercise
Örebro is a running/cycling paradise. There are numerous trails ranging from single track to gravel and paved all over the place. Whether you fancy a short run/ride in the heart of the old town or want to head out into the serenity of the woods and grasslands around Hjälmaren Lake on the edge of town. A very useful website is Naturkartan, they also have an iOS/Android app. You can find any trails/activity centres in your area as well as download offline maps.
Örebro is of course also host to a Parkrun every Saturday, read more about that here.
The city has a number of gyms, yoga studios, sports clubs and organisations ranging from professional to weekend warrior.
Currently we are, with a mixture of trepidation and excitement, awaiting winter to see what the winter sport options are in the area.
Where to buy alcohol
You have two options here. Beer, with maximum 3,5% ABV, is available at most supermarkets. If you want anything else you have to go to the Systembolaget, the state run liquor store. Here you will find a big range of almost any alcoholic beverage you could need. Everything neatly arranged with descriptions for each product, even meal pairing recommendations.
These are the basics we felt we had to cover to get settled into our new home.
Need to know anything else about getting yourself set up in Örebro? Let us know in the comments section.
Running is one of my favourite ways to explore any new place we travel to. It is an easy way for me to get my bearings in a city, town or area. More often than not I do it early in the morning so there are no crowds or traffic to deal with. It’s a great way to get nice photos of tourist attractions and of course its good exercise! Which is especially good when you spend your days sampling the local delicacies and brews, another of my favourite things to do. I also use these excursions to scout potential fishing spots before I head out to them with all my gear.
Whenever we plan to go somewhere new I pour over google maps for a few hours to see if there are any trails to run and any bodies of water to fish. The next thing I do is check the days of the week we will be there. The reason for this is of course is Parkrun, which happens every Saturday. Parkrun is a free, weekly timed event. It is open to all participants no matter your age, gender or ability level. Most are also dog friendly and thanks to the tail walker you can never be the last person to finish.
So for me moving to Örebro was a no brainer. Beautiful Swedish town with a river running through the heart of it, bordering a huge lake and Parkrun Örebro every Saturday. Smiles all round.
Where is it?
Parkrun Örebro is set on the outskirts of the city, a ten minute cycle from the center of town. It starts on the bank of the Svartan river which runs through Örebro and drains into lake Hjälmaren. The course winds though the forest for its first kilometre. After crossing a boardwalk and a few small waterways a spectacular view of the lake is revealed. You then follow a spur of land, that feels like you’re running into the lake itself, before turning back to shore for the second half of the run. This takes you along some more trail through scrubland and back though the small forest to once more cross the boardwalk and get to the finish (start).
Why you should do it
Parkrun Örebro happens regardless of the weather and has seen very few cancelations since its inception in April 2017. If you stay long enough you can watch it transform through the seasons from a summer paradise to a winter wonderland. The trails are well maintained and always checked the morning of the event to ensure they are in good condition.
The other great thing about Parkrun Örebro, Sweden in general for that matter, is being able to ‘fika‘ when you’re done. The Parkrun start and finish is conveniently located right next to the Naturenshus coffee shop. Here you can enjoy a bottomless coffee for 25kr and a sweet or savoury bite to eat. It is also a great way to meet some of the participants and volunteers if you were too breathless to chat to them out on the course.
The people who make it happen
Parkrun Örebro, and any other Parkrun for that matter, would not happen without the selfless work of its volunteers. These are people who not only give up their time on a Saturday morning to run the event but also spend time during the week planning and ensuring everything will run smoothly on Saturday morning. The group at Parkrun Örebro are super friendly and helpful and have made my wife and I feel very welcome in our new home town. If you enjoy taking part in Parkruns, volunteering is a good way to give back to the Parkrun community.
If you’re in the Örebro area and want to experience a bit of nature, at a run or a walk, Parkrun Örebro should be on your list of things to do.
You can find more details on their Facebook page or on the official Parkrun site. They are very responsive to messages on their page and if you’re lucky you might even get a tour of Örebro and some local information from one of the event directors.