Travel to West Sweden – Episode 439 Transcript

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Chris Christensen: This is Amateur Traveler Episode 439. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about dramatic granite landscapes, wonderful seafood, and at least one affection moose as we go to West Sweden.

Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. This episode of Amateur Traveler is again sponsored by BloggerBridge. If you are a company looking to connect with content creators, try bloggerbridge.com. If you’re a company that wants to reach travelers, then you too can sponsor Amateur Traveler. Send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com.

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I’d like to welcome to the show Bret Love from greenglobaltravel.com, and Bret has come to talk to us about West Sweden. Bret, welcome to the show.

Bret Love: Thanks for having me, Chris, glad to be here.

Chris: And this one is a little odd, because I was also just in West Sweden, so it’s going to be Bret and I both a little bit talking about where to go in West Sweden. Although, Bret, we’re going to let you take the lead on that, because you were there a little longer. I was there on more of a packaged trip, I think, than you were, but we were both working somewhat with the West Sweden Tourism Board when we were there.

Bret Love: That’s correct.

Chris: What is your take on why someone should go to West Sweden?

Bret Love: Well as you know our focus with Green Global Travel is really on ecotourism, nature, outdoors, and culture, and we were really struck by how green both in the literal and metaphorical sense Sweden is. I mean, they have so many green initiatives from the cities with the public transportation system and the rental bike system, and no trash anywhere on the streets. But then you also go out into the countryside and they have these amazingly pastoral towns, and fishing villages on the coast, and the people are just so friendly. I mean it’s just basically the complete package as far as I’m concerned in terms of what you want in a travel experience. It had everything that I needed.

The interesting thing for me as I flew into Gothenburg, and Gothenburg is really the gateway city for West Sweden, the second biggest city in Sweden. As I flew in, going over all of these evergreen forests and farms and such, I thought it looked very beautiful. But I thought it just looks like a lot of different places. So my original impression was that I wasn’t really struck by the beauty of the place.

But then we went from there up to the Norwegian border, that area in between, and it’s solid granite.

Chris: Yeah, I mean, it’s the most interesting landscape, because it’s basically the solid granite area where in the water it’s turned into these granite islands. And I think for me… and we’ll talk more about this later … the Weather Islands were the ones that really stood out in my memory as just these interesting archipelagos of tiny rock islands.

And then in the interior it’s still solid granite, with little tiny farms wedged in between the granite outcroppings. And at that point it was a very different experience, like oh, this is a dramatic landscape.

Bret Love: Well that’s the thing for us. Our tour was sponsored by Volvo, and they actually gave us a car, so we drove around for eight days. And we drove over 500 kilometers over the course of these eight days, just going from town to town, and seeing how different Gothenburg was from the Koster Islands and Kosterhavet National Marine Park. And then you go over to Lake Hornborga and you see the lake and the ecosystem around there. And then you see the pastoral farms and the canals. There are just so many different little things all kind of tightly packed into this one little area that you can drive in a week, which was amazing.

Chris: Well we should mention the Volvo thing, because by the time I got to Gothenburg, just on the airport bus, I had run into at least one person who had done that. This was their second trip to Sweden and their first trip not what you did with the sponsored tour, but you can buy a Volvo and drive it around for two weeks in Sweden and then ship it back to the U.S. as a used car and save a lot on taxes. And so a lot of people who visit this area do it in a Volvo. I mean, they really do that driving tour that you’re doing, because Volvo is centered in Gothenburg.

Bret Love: That’s exactly it, and that’s why we were sent over. They wanted to promote this, like you said, in-a-Volvo campaign. And so they chose four different blogging couples from around the world and we were the eco-tourist couple, obviously.

Chris: So they gave you the one with the best gas mileage, I would hope.

Bret Love: Yeah, yeah they did. And they basically put it on their site so that people who do this program that you’re talking about, they can do there and if they want to for an additional charge, they can follow the exact route that we took around West Sweden and do some of the same activities that we did. So yeah, it’s a really interesting program, and I understand if people want to they can drive around Europe itself for months, if they want to.

Chris: But I think you have to stay for at least, and I don’t remember if it’s two weeks or a month or something, but you have to stay for a while so that it becomes a used car. Basically you save on taxes, pays for the airfare.

Bret Love: Yeah, it was great and I really think West Sweden is one of those regions where driving around and actually seeing the different parts, it makes a difference. I think a road trip is the best way to see it, because it’s just such beautiful driving. I loved it.

Chris: I should mention before we go on, because I want to talk about your itinerary, that this isn’t something that is unique to Sweden or even unique to Volvo, if you’re interested. If you have a particular brand of car, especially a European car that you like, actually a number of the car companies have this kind of program.

But moving back to West Sweden, what itinerary can we reproduce if we go to that site, or where did you go?

Bret Love: Well we started out in Gothenburg, as you mentioned, in this eco-friendly hotel that I think was the first eco-friendly hotel in Gothenburg. It was the Hotel Liseberg Heden, the first environmentally certified hotel in Sweden. We started out there and we explored the city. They have a nice little area called Haga Old Town that’s a historic district. So we spent a lot of time there. There are some great restaurants around there, and one that we really loved was called SK Mat. And I don’t know how to pronounce this, but SK Mat and Manniskor, which was sort of…

Chris: I should say that neither Bret nor I speak Swedish, and we’re probably going to mangle some of these Swedish words.

Bret Love: And we apologize to the Swedish people in advance. We loved your country, but we did not grasp the language just yet. But anyway, it was like a farm-to-table restaurant, and it was really great.

And we went to this really interesting place called the Gunnebo House and Gardens, which was a historic home that has now been turned into a tourist attraction where they have their organic gardens on the premises and they grow all of the vegetables and foods that are served in their restaurant, organically right there on the property. So that was really interesting.

From there, like I said before, we headed out towards the Koster Islands, which are right below Norway…

Chris: Right on the border.

Bret Love: Yeah, you can see Norway from there. Along the way we stopped at this place I have to mention, because it wasn’t on our itinerary, but it was so cool. It’s a place called Grebbestad, which is a little fishing village right there on the coast. And we went to a place called Evert’s Sjobad, a new B&B-type place. But they are kind of famous because the two guys who run it are brothers, and apparently this little area that they’re in has been written up in National Geographic in one of their magazines as having the best oysters in the world. And the guy literally went out on his back porch with this huge net and just dipped it down into the bottom of the ocean right off his dock, pulled up these oysters, taught us how to shuck them ourselves, and all of that. And we had locally-made Swedish schnapps with it. We just had oysters and schnapps for breakfast. And I can say I have eaten a lot, I’m a foodie, and I write a lot about food in my freelance work. But they were the best oysters I’ve ever had in the world. And it was amazing, because we weren’t really supposed to go there. Someone just suggested it and we said sure, sounds great. It was amazing.

Chris: Well seafood is going to be a theme that you’re going to see throughout that region.

Bret Love: Yes.

Chris: And we really should say that the farms were there, as I mentioned, in between these granite outcroppings, and weren’t very big. And so for years, really, a lot of the economy, a lot of the food was coming from the sea and that’s still true. So you did that.

We went out from Fjallbacka, Sweden, and did a trip out to the Weather Islands, which again I’ll talk about a little bit later. But on the way out we pulled up, and they kept saying lobster traps, but then we heard later on that they were really a langoustine rather than a lobster.

Bret Love: Langoustine, yeah.

Chris: And basically pulled them right out of the traps and went to the Island and threw them in a pot and had fresh langoustine, which is a lobster-like creature. It’s almost like a saltwater crayfish.

Bret Love: Yeah, to me it’s like halfway between a huge shrimp and a large crayfish and a lobster. It’s kind of in between all of those three.

Chris: And they do have lobster there also, but it wasn’t lobster season when we were there. But they basically still do some lobstering or langoustining. I don’t know if that’s really a verb, but it is today.

Bret Love: It is now, yeah.

Chris: And they do that actually as part of this tourism experience. They go out there and they pull up the weighted traps on some of the boats that are the tour boats that go out there between Fjallbacka and the Weather Islands. And unfortunately for me, I’m not a huge seafood fan, but I did enjoy the seafood that I was having there as much as somebody who is not a seafood fan can.

Bret Love: Oh, my Lord.

Chris: But it is a bit of a shame for someone like me to be going to Sweden.

Bret Love: I’m a huge seafood fan, and like I said, when we went to the Koster Islands we stayed at Hotel Koster, and they had a restaurant there on the premises. And it’s in the middle, called Kosterhavet, which is a national marine park. I think it’s the First National Marine Park in Sweden.

Chris: Right.

Bret Love: And we went out with them to pull up crab traps, and that sort of stuff, and we did a little tour around and saw the sea lions and all of that kind of stuff. But then we came back and we had this meal, and they gave us this box that was like langoustine, those shrimp that are like the little pink, sweet shrimp, and a couple of other things all mixed into this steamed seafood box. And it was just unreal, how good it was. Oh, my Lord!

Chris: And the Koster Islands there are two large ones, the north and south Koster Islands. You were on the south island, which is the larger of the two?

Bret Love: Correct.

Chris: I was there also. We did a bike tour of the island actually.

Bret Love: Did you? Nice. Did you meet Stefan from Koster Garden? Did he go with you for the tour?

Chris: I don’t think so.

Bret Love: Oh, okay.

Chris: It doesn’t sound familiar.

Bret Love: Okay, he has another like organic farm-type place, and they have tourists come in and do luncheon tours and he actually guided our bicycle tour around the island, which was really cool.

Chris: Now they did have a small museum there, right where the boat gets in, that talks about the whole marine sanctuary. Unfortunately most of the information in that museum was in Swedish. So we didn’t get a lot of English in that museum. But if your Swedish is up to it, or there was enough information to follow what was going on. One thing that I was surprised; you mentioned the Marine Sanctuary there, and this great big trench that comes into the archipelago there and therefore has a lot of sea life because of the currents and such, I had never heard of this. They have cold-water coral.

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: And I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I’ve seen coral before, but I really didn’t know. There were types of plant life or types of animal life there that they were talking about that were taking me a little bit by surprise.

Bret Love: I think I read somewhere that the area around there has 12,000 different species of marine and coral life. But yeah, I mean, we did some diving over in Norway, we didn’t actually do any in Sweden. And the water was extremely, extremely cold, even though it was the first we in June.

Chris: Right, but very clear also.

Bret Love: Yes, very clear.

Chris: Since the bottom is granite.

Bret Love: Yeah, and lot so life, just all kinds of fish and nudibranches and all of those sorts of things.

Chris: And what time of the year were you there?

Bret Love: The first week of June.

Chris: It was interesting to me, because I was there in September, and I’m used to the water where I live here in the West Coast of California, has a very short continental shelf, and so our water is always cold. And the water there was really noticeably warmer than I’m used to, because we’re used to water here in the 50s, and they were talking about water that was I think in the 70s, even in September.

Bret Love: Oh!

Chris: So not bad.

Bret Love: Yeah, you got lucky. When we went it was pretty darned cold. I mean, we wore a dry suit to go diving in Norway, and it was still very cold on your face, just like bracingly cold.

Chris: Right.

Bret Love: There were people, and to their credit, they were Norwegians who were visiting the Koster Islands when we were there who were swimming in bikinis and swim trunks like it was just nothing. I was amazed.

Chris: You were there in June, so I’m guessing that the ferries were pretty full and the beaches were pretty full?

Bret Love: I’d say moderate, I wouldn’t say they were full. And where we stayed there weren’t a ton of people out on the beaches. We were there I think there was some sort of business thing. Apparently the Norwegians have made a ton of money in recent years in oil.

Chris: Yes.

Bret Love: So a lot of the tourists they would get were coming to the Koster Islands from Norway, and they would rented out for these huge business affairs. It was really interesting, because boy, they were drinking like crazy, and they were having this huge dinner. And like every five minutes somebody would get up and clink their glass and make a toast, which we couldn’t understand, of course. And then everybody would break into song, and I couldn’t figure out how everybody just knew all these same songs. But it was very entertaining to watch, because we were both sober and not Norwegian. And that was our first night on the Island, so it was like this just other worldly sort of wow!

Chris: Well it’s interesting, in September when we were there we pretty much had the island to ourselves.

Bret Love: Wow!

Chris: There was no one else on the beaches when we were there. Oh, and the other thing we should mention, one of the beaches that you can bike to from the main area there has an underwater snorkel trail, pointing out the sea life. The signs are currently only in Swedish, but I understand there are plans to change them.

Bret Love: Did you do that while you were there?

Chris: No, we did not. We didn’t have time.

Bret Love: Okay. I wanted to, but it was a little rainy when we went, and so therefore it was a little colder and I was just like, yeah, I don’t know. It’s a little early in the season yet. The water was still very cold.

Chris: Right, you basically follow, I think, a rope or a line between stations. The only other place I’ve seen that has been in the U.S. Virgin Islands, on Buck Island, which is the Underwater National Park, which has something similar. That one is in English, I should say.

Bret Love: Wow!

Chris: Is there anything else we should talk about the Koster Islands, since we were just there?

Bret Love: No, the National Marine Park, the Kosterhavet Marine Park is really beautiful. We saw a ton of seals and shore birds, and there are some historic lighthouses and stuff like that. I just recommend that if people go that they should definitely check that out.

From there we headed into more like the center of Sweden, and we were kind of in the area of the Gota Canal. I think the town was called Stromstad. And we went to a place called Horn Borgesian, Hornborga.

There is a lake there called Lake Hornborga, which is renown, it is a huge bird sanctuary. You go there and literally see just thousands and thousands of birds swimming and flying, squawking and pooping, and doing all the things birds do. And it’s very famous, because every year in the spring they get thousands of dancing cranes who come there to nest and have their babies and all of that stuff. So it’s sort of an annual spectacle that’s sort of famous among bird watchers.

We stayed in that area for a couple of days, and we went to the lake a few times. There is a place that we didn’t stay at, but we visited called Three Hotel Islanna. It’s a treehouse hotel, and it’s really charming. They have these very quaint tree house hotel rooms, which are booked up like a year in advance. But it’s worth seeing if you’ve never seen a treehouse hotel.

But our favorite place that we went to in that area was called Raw Garden Farm. And again, it was another sustainable agriculture organic farming place that was also a tourist attraction that people could visit. And there was this guy who owned the farm originally, his son is now taking it over. But the father was the fifth generation farmer for this place, and he had a really interesting story. He had gone to Canada in his youth to become a rodeo rider.

Chris: Okay.

Bret Love: Actually he became a very successful rodeo rider in Canada, and he’d been a blacksmith and all these other crazy things. And he fell in love with the American bison while he was in Canada. So when he came back to Sweden and took over the farm from his father, he brought in bison from America and started raising bison. And so he has highland cattle, and bison that he’s raising.

But what made it especially interesting for us, we’d heard that he had ‘Elk’, and anybody who is from America we think of elk as what you see in Yellowstone or Alaska.

Chris: Sure, and they mean moose when you say elk.

Bret Love: They mean moose apparently, but we didn’t know this. So we’re driving around this farm with this guy, and he’s like this crusty older gentleman, very cowboyish. He reminded me of a Swedish Clint Eastwood kind of, but all of a sudden his face just lit up and he’s like, “Do you want to meet my dog?” And Mary and I look at each other, and we’re just like, his dog? Okay, sure. And so he calls out Oscar, his pet’s name. And we see this moose come running over the hill. And it was a big moose…

Chris: You didn’t see that coming, okay.

Bret Love: …running straight at our golf cart. So he tells Mary to hold this banana, and of course Oscar comes right to Mary and just gobbles this banana right out of her hands. And then he comes around the golf cart to me, and I’m sitting in the back and holding the Go-Pro, filming the whole thing. And we’ve got video on our site if anybody’s curious. Yeah, we called it the Moose Whisperer of Sweden, because basically this guy is just in love with his moose. So Oscar the Moose comes back to me and is like sniffing around, hoping there is more food involved, and he drooling. Just picture the worst St. Bernard drool you’ve ever seen, multiply it times 100, Oscar is drooling that muck. I’m literally soaked in moose spit. He’s like all up in my business like a puppy trying to give me kisses and stuff.

And so we end up hanging out with a moose for two hours and we have dinner with the moose. He’s eating his moose kibble or whatever it is, and we’re having bison sausage and all this stuff. Then all of a sudden a female moose comes over the hill. She’s has two 14-day-old little twin babies in tow. And of course, we just melt and lose it.

And this wasn’t originally part of our plans for what we were going to do there, but it’s just interesting that these dear little out of the way unique experiences end up becoming the things we remember most about our trips.

Chris: Right. Actually I’m jumping back to the Koster Island for a second because I forgot to ask you something. One of the places that you would enjoy, that I don’t know if you got a chance to get to, we had fika. For people who don’t know, Fika is a coffee break basically. It’s coffee and something sweet in it, and comes from a Swedish tradition of trying to get the men not to go to the bars on Sunday, but to stay home and spend some time with the family. And so they would bake something sweet. But we had a fika, which you will still do in a Swedish business, I understand once or twice a day. I don’t know how they stay so slim.

But at the Koster Gardens, which is an organic farm there on the other side of the South Koster Island. I don’t know if you got a chance to see that, but basically they sell vegetables and herbs and teach people organic gardening and have a bunch of things like that as well.

Bret Love: Yeah, that’s the place I was talking about earlier. The guy from there was the one who guided us all around on the bicycle tour.

Chris: He was busy guiding a kayak tour that day, because he kayaks and some other things as well. Okay, got it. I didn’t put the name together there. Excellent.

Bret Love: But yes, you can’t talk about fika and not talk about those amazing cardamom-infused cinnamon rolls, which seem to be the most popular sweet. Everywhere we went, when we went to the Hotel Koster, when we went to the Gunnebo House, the organic gardening place, every place we went they had these delicious cardamom-infused cinnamon rolls that were a part of fika. And that became our favorite daily tradition.

Chris: We did not have that, but we had muffins with fresh berries.

Bret Love: Oh, my God.

Chris: They were pretty great.

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: And where did you go from there?

Bret Love: I have to mention we stayed at this place called the Nostra Garden Bed and Breakfast in the Hornborga area. We really liked it. It was just a couple that we sort of fell in love with. They were about our age, sort of forties, and he was a classical music composer. They had bought this old historic home that was like 150 years old and were refurbishing it as a bed and breakfast. We just loved them. We had so much in common, I mean. The thing I loved about the people of Sweden was they seemed really interested in having deep conversations. Everybody we met was just so deep and interesting. And because this guy was a classical music composer, and I’m a music fanatic, we had a lot to talk about. So I just wanted to give them a shout-out, because they were so cool. It’s a mom-and-pop-type place, and they’re expanding their place and building some new rooms onto it.

Chris: And the one thing I have to wonder there is we may go many places where people want to have deep conversations, but there is a language gap. And the fact that so many people speak such good English in Sweden really does enable a lot of conversations, even if all you know of Swedish is manatok, many thanks. You can still get around just fine in Sweden. I would recommend learning a little Swedish, but as we say, I really don’t know very much.

Bret Love: Yeah, my knowledge of Swedish was limited to the Swedish chef on the Muppet Show.

Chris: And I hope you didn’t do that at any time, because I was tempted, but never did.

Bret Love: Yeah, I did not do that. But that was kind of my frame of reference. Anyway, from there we went over to the Gota Canal, which is huge. It was originally constructed between 1810 and 1832, and it goes all the way from the center of Sweden all the way down to Gothenburg. We stayed at this place, the Norrqvarn Hotel, which was interesting, not so much because of that hotel, but because they were having a huge wedding with the daughter of a local politician that night. We weren’t actually able to stay in that hotel, so they put us up in a house right on the canal. And for anybody who doesn’t know much about canals, they have these locks that they use to lower and raise the water, and they used to have a lock keeper who would stay in this house right on the lock.

Chris: And it was a tiny house then?

Bret Love: Yeah, a little tiny house. It actually was quite big for a lock house. I was shocked. It was a three-bedroom house, full kitchen. It was huge.

Chris: I’m used to these being 10 by 10.

Bret Love: Yeah, it was shocking. There was a little 10-by-10 building right next to it, but apparently this was where the guy lived with his family for years and years. And like everything else in Sweden it had been there for 100, or 150 years.

So we got to stay in this little house. We could look out our window and 15 feet away we would see the boats going up and down as the locks were adjusted. And that was really cool, because it was just such a beautiful stretch of the canal. There were people walking and biking, and romantic couples hanging out. We saw the wedding carriage go right by our house. It was almost like a little slice of what Europe was probably like 100 years ago. So charming, and so different from every other thing that we had done in West Sweden that it really just reinforced how much diversity there was in the types of ecosystems and attractions basically.

Chris: Excellent. And what was your next stop?

Bret Love: Well I think from there we went back to Gothenburg, and we spent a couple more nights there, and had meals at a couple of different restaurants. We were originally supposed to go to a really cool amusement park in Gothenburg called the Liseberg Amusement Park. The interesting thing about it is that the park uses all of its energy from renewable resources. They have a wind power station there to generate energy on the property.

But unfortunately by the time we got back to Gothenburg it was raining, and we just weren’t able to make it over there in the time we had left. But it was one of those really interesting things, in conjunction with the rental bike system and the bus system, and all of the things we mentioned earlier. We don’t usually spend a lot of time in cities, but it was one of those cities that was very interesting, because it did have so many eco-friendly initiatives going on.

Chris: We saw a number of large, large wind generators in that part of Sweden.

Bret Love: Yeah, driving around you saw them everywhere, which was bizarre to me, because I’m from the American southeast, and we don’t have any of them.

Chris: No, not so much. But we have quite a few up in this area. One thing we should say about the driving around that’s interesting is if you get on the highway in Gothenburg you can very quickly make your way up toward the Norwegian border. But if you want to go to the coast, you kind of have to go up to the highway and then back out to the coast, and up to the highway and back out to the coast because it’s just a very irregular shape, let’s just say, with lots of inlets, even little fjords and such in that area.

Bret Love: And it’s funny, because there were so many little villages along that route going up the coast.

Chris: Right.

Bret Love: That people told us were amazing, and of course, we didn’t have time to go to all of them.

Chris: Well, let me make some suggestions for your next trip.

Bret Love: Oh, please do.

Chris: Here are some places that you missed. One of the places we stopped, as I mentioned, was Fjallbacka. And Fjallbacka is this beautiful little picturesque town, it starts to have a number of different tourism options there in terms of whaling visits, and in terms of going out to the Weather Islands. But it’s also known for an author, and I will admit that this was an author I didn’t know and everybody else on our trip did, and that’s Camilla Lackberg. I don’t know if you know her, but she writes murder mysteries and all of her murder mysteries are set in this little town. So we actually met her mother, but every time they would point out something in town it’s like, see that island over there, and see how there’s that diving board on there. Yeah. A body was found there. Of course, nobody has ever been killed in this town, certainly in the last thousand years, probably, it’s this picturesque little town. But in her novels people die all the time there. I think a number of people come to that town now because of her connection, but also then it does have this kind of the gateway then to the Weather Islands.

And of the two I would have to say, the Koster Islands and the Weather Islands, the Koster Islands are bigger and has more to do, and has the Marine Sanctuary. But the Weather Islands are just more dramatic. They are basically solid rock, and the cover art for this episode will be a picture of the Weather Islands, for those of you who are looking at that.

So we went out there to the Weather Islands and to this guest house. And I’m going to try to butcher the name of this guest house here, or at least I’m going to butcher it, and that’s the Vaderoarnas Guest House. And it’s out there on this rugged outcropping. So people said, “Well, how long is it open?” And they said, “Well it’s open all year long.” And so even in the winter they have some of the boats that can make it out there. They are catamarans, so they’re stable enough that they can make it through the bad weather. And they are booked up in New Years to 2020.

Bret Love: Wow!

Chris: But this would be the I-want-to-get-away-from-it, I want to get out and have a couple of days in the Weather Islands. And I would do that if I went back there. I would love to take my wife and just rent a kayak when I’m there and go explore some of these little tiny islands and such. But that was just a very dramatic and interesting place.

Bret Love: I had never read much about the islands of Sweden we went, but it’s one of those places … and I think we were only there like two days. I could definitely go back and spend a week just exploring the islands and the coastal towns, and not even heading anywhere else.

Chris: Agreed, yeah, and that’s just the islands of the West. I’ve heard more about the archipelagos off of Stockholm, which we’ve talked about on this show. But this is just an entirely different area here.

The other place that I would recommend is Smogen. For those people who are trying to figure out how to spell Fjallbacka or Smogen or any of the other places we named, remember that in the lyrics of this episode are all the links to the places we talk about now, so that should help you. Someone has carefully put those in there and it’s either me or Jeffery, our editor.

But Smogen was interesting. It’s another picturesque town, but there are three things that we did there that I thought were worthy of mention. One is I was there actually, you mentioned being there for Volvo, but I was there for the Icebug Challenge. And Icebug makes an outdoor shoe in Gothenburg and they do once a year a three-day either hike or run along the coastal route outside of Smogen.

And it basically is like 110 kilometers, or something like that, during the three days. We only did part of it. If you’re going to run it, I just can’t imagine a trail runner here, because the path between one of these sections we did that was about 18 kilometers, the first six kilometers we were at just a normal walking pace. It really didn’t take us that long. But the next part, you’re scrambling up over these rocks and such. But it is a very lovely route for hiking. This coastal route that’s marked along this jagged coast, on a beautiful day like we were hiking is something that I would highly, highly recommend.

We also did, from the Smogen area and not from Smogen itself, some sea kayaking out in and amongst these islands, and I’d love to do that again. Although the surprise for me is there are two types of sea kayaks, and I had been on the open frame kind before, where you’re sitting on the top of the boat, you’re not in the boat.

Bret Love: Right.

Chris: And those are wider and more stable, and I was in a single boat this time, and I was very unstable in a single seat kayak. So that was bit of a surprise for me. We had to switch me into a double, where my larger frame was a little closer to the water surface. But it was wonderful going out in that area and I’d love to do that again.

And the third thing was there is an interesting zoo, and I know you’re not necessarily a big fan of zoos, Bret, but I think you would like Norden’s Ark. It’s a zoo only of endangered species, so most of the species here can’t be reintroduced into the wild. Although they are reintroducing some of the falcons, for instance, which are native to Sweden. They have been breeding them here in captivity and then reintroducing those.

But they do also have snow leopards, and wolves, and tigers. Remember I mentioned that the inland has all of these mountains of granite, and basically the tiger has his own mountain of granite that he looks like he’s playing king of the hill on. So it’s a very beautiful enclosure, and large, where these animals are. I thought it was a very interesting experience. And then they also have a program where families can come and pay to volunteer and help feed the tigers. It’s just an interesting area and you can see some of the pictures that we took of snow leopards and tigers and things like that.

It’s just wonderful, in part because you had to climb up over where you could look down on the tigers, for instance, and not be looking at them through the fence that you were glad was there. On the other hand the tiger was a little distracted by the sheep that he could see in the distance, but couldn’t quite work out how to get to.

Bret Love: Yes, that’s a tease. It sounds like a cool place.

Chris: And then the other thing is I enjoyed it as a photographer in Smogen, where there were two things; one is as we were hiking in the trails you’ll see pictures that I took of these red toadstools, or mushrooms, with polka dots on them that we saw everywhere that were gorgeous.

And also just the boat houses, and sometimes they are actually rented out. A lot of people come to this region in the summertime, so some of these boathouses are now rented out basically during the summertime as guest housing, or the family will move into the boathouse and then rent out the house. So a lot of house rental is done in the area, too. So as you think about visiting there, look at the hotel options, the inns and such, but also think about hotel rentals as being an option in that particular area.

Bret Love: Did you guys get over to the really colorful boathouses that were on Koster Island?

Chris: Well we saw some in the distance on North Koster Island, but we saw some in Smogen that were notably picturesque.

Bret Love: Yeah, they almost had to me like the color of the waterfront down in Willemstad Curacao, just those vibrant colors. It was amazing.

Chris: No, we saw things like that in a number of places, but not specifically on the Koster Islands.

Bret Love: Well, people who are listening, if you go to the Koster Islands, get them to take you there, because it’s really cool. You can stand on a dock, like right in front of them, so you get the panorama right behind you, it’s really cool.

Chris: There was also an aquarium in the Smogen area. It’s a small aquarium, but it’s all the native species from that ecosphere there, so it’s fascinating, including one blue lobster, which is what an albino lobster looks like, which was news to me. Apparently when they have no natural coloring they are blue. And not just I understand from the coldness of the water.

Bret Love: I’m not sure Mary is actually recovering from our dry suit dive in that region, so I don’t know if I’m going to get to go coldwater diving anytime soon. But boy or boy, it’s interesting.

Chris: What was one surprise for you, in this region of Sweden?

Bret Love: There were so many, but I think I was just really taken by the kindness of the people. We had quite a few times where we were not really sure where to go, not really sure what to do. We had one time where we were running late for the ferry to go to the Koster Islands, and we couldn’t read a sign. They have these parking lots where you would leave your car for a couple of days, and we couldn’t read them because they only in Swedish. And there were people who help read and made us realize, oh, you can’t park here because this one is only good for 24 hours. You have to go over there.

And then there was somebody else at the other one, the machine was busted, and we were freaking out, because we were going to miss our ferry. And they actually called the company for us and the company said, “Don’t worry about it. You can park there.”

And then there was another place where we didn’t have any Swedish coins, which I believe are kronas.

Chris: Krona.

Bret Love: Yeah, we didn’t have any, and we had to park and we were running late for our appointment, and this older gentleman just paid it for us, didn’t even ask. We were asking him if he had change and he was like, “Oh, I’ll just pay for you.” And it was just everywhere we went everybody was so kind and helpful. They didn’t know we were journalists. They didn’t know who we were. They just knew we needed help and they helped without asking. And you see that in a lot of places around the world, but I found the Swedish people to be especially kind and generous.

Chris: We’ve mentioned that my prettiest place that I was staying was the Weather Islands. If you had to say of all the places you saw, and you’re standing in the prettiest place, where are you standing and what are you looking at?

Bret Love: I’m really a water person, and by nature there’s a spiritual energy that comes over me when we’re on the water. And we stayed at Hotel Koster on the Koster Islands and they put us in the most remote room that they had. It was as far back on the property as you can get. And when we sat on our back patio, a tiny little patio with chairs, and we looked out over the marine park, we didn’t see any other buildings. We didn’t see any other travelers. It was just looking out on nature, and you could see all these other little islands, and you would occasionally see a boat going in the distance or whatever. That view was one that, like I said, I wish I could go back there and just spend a week, because it was just so quiet, and picturesque, and just perfectly in tune with what I like when I travel.

Chris: Excellent. And we had lunch at the same hotel that you’re talking about. Even if you don’t have a room there they have a wonderful veranda, which is not a Swedish word. There you can look at a marina of boats, of sailboats down below there on the water. It’s a gorgeous place, a grand old hotel.

Bret Love: And apparently there were people we saw from our balcony, or whatever you want to call it. We were looking down and people were just fishing langoustines or crayfish or whatever you call them, just right there off the shore. They were just turning rocks, and boom, there they were. It was crazy.

Chris: Interesting. Any warning you would give? One thing you should know before you go to this part of West Sweden?

Bret Love: Everybody speaks English, but not all of the signs are in English.

Chris: I was singing to you.

Bret Love: The parking meters were very troubling for us, because we just couldn’t understand them. So leave a little time in your schedule if you’re not sure of where you’re going or what you’re doing. That was the only real problem we saw. There were always people willing to help, but the fact that the parking meters and things did not have English was a little bit difficult if you’re in a hurry.

Chris: Well my impression, and tell me if you had the same impression, is we’re talking about an area that is gorgeous and definitely deserves tourism, and gets a lot of Norwegian tourists, and definitely gets a lot of Swedish tourists, but I don’t think it gets as many international tourists as it necessarily deserves for how pretty an area it is. And I think that part of it is that the tourism infrastructure, as my impression was, is still developing and somewhat in terms of an international tourism.

They talked to us about a new fishing trip that you can go out on, and now there’s a new such and such. So we’re seeing that develop. But I think it’s actually a good time to go in terms of if you want to go where not everybody does go yet.

Bret Love: Well that’s Green Globe Travel. One of the things we sort of earned a reputation for is sort of finding these little out-of-the-way spots that maybe have not been over saturated with tourists. Because frankly we don’t like going places where there are tons of other tourists around. That’s sort of our MO.

So I totally agree with you. I think it’s an undiscovered gem. The Swedish people may know about it, and the Norwegian people may know about it, but I don’t know anybody in America. I mean, I don’t think other than you and I, I haven’t seen hardly any other bloggers writing about West Sweden. It’s definitely an undiscovered area for western and North American travelers.

Chris: Yes, and I would say, and you saw it not being busy in June, and I saw it completely empty in September. August is going to be very busy, so just plan your trip accordingly. There are going to be more things open, obviously, then also, and you have the long, long days to enjoy it. So June sounds like it might be a real good time to go from that point of view.

Bret Love: I thought June was awesome. When we were in the city of Gothenburg, and got there at 8 o’clock in the morning, because of the time difference. And we go to try and get an early check-in at our hotel, and they were trying to get us a room. And apparently that day they had both the largest gay pride festival that the city has once a year, and one of Sweden’s most famous rock bands was doing a concert right around the corner at a huge arena that same night. And we went out to dinner at about, I don’t know, 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock or something, after sleeping in for a little bit.

After this festival and after this huge concert had started, there was not a single speck of garbage in the streets, and I looked. I looked for cigarette butts, I looked for anything. It was remarkable to me how clean that city was. I was just spellbound by it. And as we would drive around the city I would look for any sign of waste or refuse anywhere. Nothing, it was amazing.

Chris: Interesting.

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: As we go to wrap this up, anything else we should say about West Sweden before we get to our last three questions?

Bret Love: People should go there, and especially people who like off-the-beaten paths.

Chris: And I would say and outdoors.

Bret Love: Yeah, nature and outdoor activities, exactly.

Chris: The other thing I should say, and I should have said with Fjallbacka, is when you go there climb the rock and you won’t have to wonder what I’m talking about. The little town is at the base of a rock and you can climb up there and get a wonderful view of the area.

Bret Love: Even if people don’t necessarily love nature and the outdoors, if you just like European culture and really good food, you could go to Gothenburg and have a completely different experience. The restaurants there are incredible. If you’re like Chris and don’t like seafood, I think you’re missing out. But there is such amazing food there. Oh, my goodness.

Chris: Excellent. Last three questions. One thing that makes you laugh and say only in West Sweden?

Bret Love: Being slobbered on by a moose is probably my best answer for that one. That memory kind of sticks out, yeah.

Chris: Excellent. And one thing we forgot, and this is because it was also forgotten on my itinerary. This was my only source of frustration with my trip. We got to Fjallbacka and there was an art piece that we were looking at there that gave homage to these rock carvings that were 12 miles away at a UNESCO World Heritage site, the rock carvings in Tanum. And I didn’t get there. Unfortunately I was on this organized trip, and it was like, “Sorry, you’re mentioning a UNESCO World Heritage site and I’m 12 miles away and we’re not going there.”

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: So don’t do like that. If you get there, there are pretty much two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Western Sweden. The other one is not quite as far west and is a wireless antenna, oddly enough, a radio station. But this one is right in that very area, 12 miles from Fjallbacka.

Bret Love: Yeah, we were driving towards Grebbestad and we saw the sign for Fjallbacka, and we had heard such great things. And it’s like, we’re right here, but we didn’t have time. And it’s just one of those things where there are so many different things you can do. I definitely think I could spend a few weeks in that region with no problem, and have plenty of things to do.

Chris: Sure. Finish this sentence for me. You really know you’re in Western Sweden when what?

Bret Love: When you see more wind turbines than people.

Chris: I think for me it’s when the landscape is sea and rock. That dramatic landscape for me just really set it apart. As I said, my original impression wasn’t overwhelming, and then as we got into it, as we got into places like Fjallbacka, it was just incredibly beautiful.

If you had to summarize Sweden in just three words, which three words would you use?

Bret Love: Great…

Chris: Okay.

Bret Love: Green…

Chris: And there you’re using it twice in different ways, okay.

Bret Love: And moose.

Chris: Moose.

Bret Love: Sorry, I have to add the moose…

Chris: As that’s a memorable experience, I can understand that. Or elk, as you talk about it in Swedish.

Bret Love: Here’s the thing. I travel the world a lot, and I only know one place in the world where you can go and pretty much count on the opportunity to hug and adult moose. So for me, that’s going to separate it from everywhere else. I know I can go to West Sweden and I can hug a moose.

Chris: I think that is unique. Bret, where can people read more about your travels?

Bret Love: Well of course, they can call us on greenglobaltravel.com, which is our main site. We cover eco-tourism and conservation and adventure travel and all of those associated subjects.

And of course we have a second site that is sort of new to us. It’s called Green Travel Reviews where we just review green hotels, eco-tours, eco-friendly restaurants, and things like that all around the world.

But our big new project that we’ve been working on is called Green Travel Media, and it’s sort of a talent agency for the bloggers and other media professionals that have an interest in eco-tourism and adventure travel. We are basically working to connect those people with brands that are looking to emphasize sustainable initiatives, and trying to find great work for great bloggers with great companies.

So we are mixing all three of these projects together and we’ve got a great new charity project we’re doing called Just One Rhino, where we’re going to be raising money around the holidays for rhino conservation in Africa. And so that’s basically what we’ve got going on over the next few months.

Chris: Excellent, and I thought for sure you were going to say just one moose. But I was wrong on that one.

Bret Love: Apparently there are a couple hundred thousand mooses just in Sweden alone, so I think they are doing all right for now.

Chris: Our guest again has been Bret Love, and Bret, thanks so much for coming on the Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your new-found love for West Sweden.

Bret Love: Yeah, thanks, Chris. I appreciate you having me.

Chris Christensen: This is Amateur Traveler Episode 439. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about dramatic granite landscapes, wonderful seafood, and at least one affection moose as we go to West Sweden.

Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. This episode of Amateur Traveler is again sponsored by BloggerBridge. If you are a company looking to connect with content creators, try bloggerbridge.com. If you’re a company that wants to reach travelers, then you too can sponsor Amateur Traveler. Send an email to host at amateurtraveler.com.

I’d like to welcome to the show Bret Love from greenglobaltravel.com, and Bret has come to talk to us about West Sweden. Bret, welcome to the show.

Bret Love: Thanks for having me, Chris, glad to be here.

Chris: And this one is a little odd, because I was also just in West Sweden, so it’s going to be Bret and I both a little bit talking about where to go in West Sweden. Although, Bret, we’re going to let you take the lead on that, because you were there a little longer. I was there on more of a packaged trip, I think, than you were, but we were both working somewhat with the West Sweden Tourism Board when we were there.

Bret Love: That’s correct.

Chris: What is your take on why someone should go to West Sweden?

Bret Love: Well as you know our focus with Green Global Travel is really on ecotourism, nature, outdoors, and culture, and we were really struck by how green both in the literal and metaphorical sense Sweden is. I mean, they have so many green initiatives from the cities with the public transportation system and the rental bike system, and no trash anywhere on the streets. But then you also go out into the countryside and they have these amazingly pastoral towns, and fishing villages on the coast, and the people are just so friendly. I mean it’s just basically the complete package as far as I’m concerned in terms of what you want in a travel experience. It had everything that I needed.

The interesting thing for me as I flew into Gothenburg, and Gothenburg is really the gateway city for West Sweden, the second biggest city in Sweden. As I flew in, going over all of these evergreen forests and farms and such, I thought it looked very beautiful. But I thought it just looks like a lot of different places. So my original impression was that I wasn’t really struck by the beauty of the place.

But then we went from there up to the Norwegian border, that area in between, and it’s solid granite.

Chris: Yeah, I mean, it’s the most interesting landscape, because it’s basically the solid granite area where in the water it’s turned into these granite islands. And I think for me… and we’ll talk more about this later … the Weather Islands were the ones that really stood out in my memory as just these interesting archipelagos of tiny rock islands.

And then in the interior it’s still solid granite, with little tiny farms wedged in between the granite outcroppings. And at that point it was a very different experience, like oh, this is a dramatic landscape.

Bret Love: Well that’s the thing for us. Our tour was sponsored by Volvo, and they actually gave us a car, so we drove around for eight days. And we drove over 500 kilometers over the course of these eight days, just going from town to town, and seeing how different Gothenburg was from the Koster Islands and Kosterhavet National Marine Park. And then you go over to Lake Hornborga and you see the lake and the ecosystem around there. And then you see the pastoral farms and the canals. There are just so many different little things all kind of tightly packed into this one little area that you can drive in a week, which was amazing.

Chris: Well we should mention the Volvo thing, because by the time I got to Gothenburg, just on the airport bus, I had run into at least one person who had done that. This was their second trip to Sweden and their first trip not what you did with the sponsored tour, but you can buy a Volvo and drive it around for two weeks in Sweden and then ship it back to the U.S. as a used car and save a lot on taxes. And so a lot of people who visit this area do it in a Volvo. I mean, they really do that driving tour that you’re doing, because Volvo is centered in Gothenburg.

Bret Love: That’s exactly it, and that’s why we were sent over. They wanted to promote this, like you said, in-a-Volvo campaign. And so they chose four different blogging couples from around the world and we were the eco-tourist couple, obviously.

Chris: So they gave you the one with the best gas mileage, I would hope.

Bret Love: Yeah, yeah they did. And they basically put it on their site so that people who do this program that you’re talking about, they can do there and if they want to for an additional charge, they can follow the exact route that we took around West Sweden and do some of the same activities that we did. So yeah, it’s a really interesting program, and I understand if people want to they can drive around Europe itself for months, if they want to.

Chris: But I think you have to stay for at least, and I don’t remember if it’s two weeks or a month or something, but you have to stay for a while so that it becomes a used car. Basically you save on taxes, pays for the airfare.

Bret Love: Yeah, it was great and I really think West Sweden is one of those regions where driving around and actually seeing the different parts, it makes a difference. I think a road trip is the best way to see it, because it’s just such beautiful driving. I loved it.

Chris: I should mention before we go on, because I want to talk about your itinerary, that this isn’t something that is unique to Sweden or even unique to Volvo, if you’re interested. If you have a particular brand of car, especially a European car that you like, actually a number of the car companies have this kind of program.

But moving back to West Sweden, what itinerary can we reproduce if we go to that site, or where did you go?

Bret Love: Well we started out in Gothenburg, as you mentioned, in this eco-friendly hotel that I think was the first eco-friendly hotel in Gothenburg. It was the Hotel Liseberg Heden, the first environmentally certified hotel in Sweden. We started out there and we explored the city. They have a nice little area called Haga Old Town that’s a historic district. So we spent a lot of time there. There are some great restaurants around there, and one that we really loved was called SK Mat. And I don’t know how to pronounce this, but SK Mat and Manniskor, which was sort of…

Chris: I should say that neither Bret nor I speak Swedish, and we’re probably going to mangle some of these Swedish words.

Bret Love: And we apologize to the Swedish people in advance. We loved your country, but we did not grasp the language just yet. But anyway, it was like a farm-to-table restaurant, and it was really great.

And we went to this really interesting place called the Gunnebo House and Gardens, which was a historic home that has now been turned into a tourist attraction where they have their organic gardens on the premises and they grow all of the vegetables and foods that are served in their restaurant, organically right there on the property. So that was really interesting.

From there, like I said before, we headed out towards the Koster Islands, which are right below Norway…

Chris: Right on the border.

Bret Love: Yeah, you can see Norway from there. Along the way we stopped at this place I have to mention, because it wasn’t on our itinerary, but it was so cool. It’s a place called Grebbestad, which is a little fishing village right there on the coast. And we went to a place called Evert’s Sjobad, a new B&B-type place. But they are kind of famous because the two guys who run it are brothers, and apparently this little area that they’re in has been written up in National Geographic in one of their magazines as having the best oysters in the world. And the guy literally went out on his back porch with this huge net and just dipped it down into the bottom of the ocean right off his dock, pulled up these oysters, taught us how to shuck them ourselves, and all of that. And we had locally-made Swedish schnapps with it. We just had oysters and schnapps for breakfast. And I can say I have eaten a lot, I’m a foodie, and I write a lot about food in my freelance work. But they were the best oysters I’ve ever had in the world. And it was amazing, because we weren’t really supposed to go there. Someone just suggested it and we said sure, sounds great. It was amazing.

Chris: Well seafood is going to be a theme that you’re going to see throughout that region.

Bret Love: Yes.

Chris: And we really should say that the farms were there, as I mentioned, in between these granite outcroppings, and weren’t very big. And so for years, really, a lot of the economy, a lot of the food was coming from the sea and that’s still true. So you did that.

We went out from Fjallbacka, Sweden, and did a trip out to the Weather Islands, which again I’ll talk about a little bit later. But on the way out we pulled up, and they kept saying lobster traps, but then we heard later on that they were really a langoustine rather than a lobster.

Bret Love: Langoustine, yeah.

Chris: And basically pulled them right out of the traps and went to the Island and threw them in a pot and had fresh langoustine, which is a lobster-like creature. It’s almost like a saltwater crayfish.

Bret Love: Yeah, to me it’s like halfway between a huge shrimp and a large crayfish and a lobster. It’s kind of in between all of those three.

Chris: And they do have lobster there also, but it wasn’t lobster season when we were there. But they basically still do some lobstering or langoustining. I don’t know if that’s really a verb, but it is today.

Bret Love: It is now, yeah.

Chris: And they do that actually as part of this tourism experience. They go out there and they pull up the weighted traps on some of the boats that are the tour boats that go out there between Fjallbacka and the Weather Islands. And unfortunately for me, I’m not a huge seafood fan, but I did enjoy the seafood that I was having there as much as somebody who is not a seafood fan can.

Bret Love: Oh, my Lord.

Chris: But it is a bit of a shame for someone like me to be going to Sweden.

Bret Love: I’m a huge seafood fan, and like I said, when we went to the Koster Islands we stayed at Hotel Koster, and they had a restaurant there on the premises. And it’s in the middle, called Kosterhavet, which is a national marine park. I think it’s the First National Marine Park in Sweden.

Chris: Right.

Bret Love: And we went out with them to pull up crab traps, and that sort of stuff, and we did a little tour around and saw the sea lions and all of that kind of stuff. But then we came back and we had this meal, and they gave us this box that was like langoustine, those shrimp that are like the little pink, sweet shrimp, and a couple of other things all mixed into this steamed seafood box. And it was just unreal, how good it was. Oh, my Lord!

Chris: And the Koster Islands there are two large ones, the north and south Koster Islands. You were on the south island, which is the larger of the two?

Bret Love: Correct.

Chris: I was there also. We did a bike tour of the island actually.

Bret Love: Did you? Nice. Did you meet Stefan from Koster Garden? Did he go with you for the tour?

Chris: I don’t think so.

Bret Love: Oh, okay.

Chris: It doesn’t sound familiar.

Bret Love: Okay, he has another like organic farm-type place, and they have tourists come in and do luncheon tours and he actually guided our bicycle tour around the island, which was really cool.

Chris: Now they did have a small museum there, right where the boat gets in, that talks about the whole marine sanctuary. Unfortunately most of the information in that museum was in Swedish. So we didn’t get a lot of English in that museum. But if your Swedish is up to it, or there was enough information to follow what was going on. One thing that I was surprised; you mentioned the Marine Sanctuary there, and this great big trench that comes into the archipelago there and therefore has a lot of sea life because of the currents and such, I had never heard of this. They have cold-water coral.

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: And I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I’ve seen coral before, but I really didn’t know. There were types of plant life or types of animal life there that they were talking about that were taking me a little bit by surprise.

Bret Love: I think I read somewhere that the area around there has 12,000 different species of marine and coral life. But yeah, I mean, we did some diving over in Norway, we didn’t actually do any in Sweden. And the water was extremely, extremely cold, even though it was the first we in June.

Chris: Right, but very clear also.

Bret Love: Yes, very clear.

Chris: Since the bottom is granite.

Bret Love: Yeah, and lot so life, just all kinds of fish and nudibranches and all of those sorts of things.

Chris: And what time of the year were you there?

Bret Love: The first week of June.

Chris: It was interesting to me, because I was there in September, and I’m used to the water where I live here in the West Coast of California, has a very short continental shelf, and so our water is always cold. And the water there was really noticeably warmer than I’m used to, because we’re used to water here in the 50s, and they were talking about water that was I think in the 70s, even in September.

Bret Love: Oh!

Chris: So not bad.

Bret Love: Yeah, you got lucky. When we went it was pretty darned cold. I mean, we wore a dry suit to go diving in Norway, and it was still very cold on your face, just like bracingly cold.

Chris: Right.

Bret Love: There were people, and to their credit, they were Norwegians who were visiting the Koster Islands when we were there who were swimming in bikinis and swim trunks like it was just nothing. I was amazed.

Chris: You were there in June, so I’m guessing that the ferries were pretty full and the beaches were pretty full?

Bret Love: I’d say moderate, I wouldn’t say they were full. And where we stayed there weren’t a ton of people out on the beaches. We were there I think there was some sort of business thing. Apparently the Norwegians have made a ton of money in recent years in oil.

Chris: Yes.

Bret Love: So a lot of the tourists they would get were coming to the Koster Islands from Norway, and they would rented out for these huge business affairs. It was really interesting, because boy, they were drinking like crazy, and they were having this huge dinner. And like every five minutes somebody would get up and clink their glass and make a toast, which we couldn’t understand, of course. And then everybody would break into song, and I couldn’t figure out how everybody just knew all these same songs. But it was very entertaining to watch, because we were both sober and not Norwegian. And that was our first night on the Island, so it was like this just other worldly sort of wow!

Chris: Well it’s interesting, in September when we were there we pretty much had the island to ourselves.

Bret Love: Wow!

Chris: There was no one else on the beaches when we were there. Oh, and the other thing we should mention, one of the beaches that you can bike to from the main area there has an underwater snorkel trail, pointing out the sea life. The signs are currently only in Swedish, but I understand there are plans to change them.

Bret Love: Did you do that while you were there?

Chris: No, we did not. We didn’t have time.

Bret Love: Okay. I wanted to, but it was a little rainy when we went, and so therefore it was a little colder and I was just like, yeah, I don’t know. It’s a little early in the season yet. The water was still very cold.

Chris: Right, you basically follow, I think, a rope or a line between stations. The only other place I’ve seen that has been in the U.S. Virgin Islands, on Buck Island, which is the Underwater National Park, which has something similar. That one is in English, I should say.

Bret Love: Wow!

Chris: Is there anything else we should talk about the Koster Islands, since we were just there?

Bret Love: No, the National Marine Park, the Kosterhavet Marine Park is really beautiful. We saw a ton of seals and shore birds, and there are some historic lighthouses and stuff like that. I just recommend that if people go that they should definitely check that out.

From there we headed into more like the center of Sweden, and we were kind of in the area of the Gota Canal. I think the town was called Stromstad. And we went to a place called Horn Borgesian, Hornborga.

There is a lake there called Lake Hornborga, which is renown, it is a huge bird sanctuary. You go there and literally see just thousands and thousands of birds swimming and flying, squawking and pooping, and doing all the things birds do. And it’s very famous, because every year in the spring they get thousands of dancing cranes who come there to nest and have their babies and all of that stuff. So it’s sort of an annual spectacle that’s sort of famous among bird watchers.

We stayed in that area for a couple of days, and we went to the lake a few times. There is a place that we didn’t stay at, but we visited called Three Hotel Islanna. It’s a treehouse hotel, and it’s really charming. They have these very quaint tree house hotel rooms, which are booked up like a year in advance. But it’s worth seeing if you’ve never seen a treehouse hotel.

But our favorite place that we went to in that area was called Raw Garden Farm. And again, it was another sustainable agriculture organic farming place that was also a tourist attraction that people could visit. And there was this guy who owned the farm originally, his son is now taking it over. But the father was the fifth generation farmer for this place, and he had a really interesting story. He had gone to Canada in his youth to become a rodeo rider.

Chris: Okay.

Bret Love: Actually he became a very successful rodeo rider in Canada, and he’d been a blacksmith and all these other crazy things. And he fell in love with the American bison while he was in Canada. So when he came back to Sweden and took over the farm from his father, he brought in bison from America and started raising bison. And so he has highland cattle, and bison that he’s raising.

But what made it especially interesting for us, we’d heard that he had ‘Elk’, and anybody who is from America we think of elk as what you see in Yellowstone or Alaska.

Chris: Sure, and they mean moose when you say elk.

Bret Love: They mean moose apparently, but we didn’t know this. So we’re driving around this farm with this guy, and he’s like this crusty older gentleman, very cowboyish. He reminded me of a Swedish Clint Eastwood kind of, but all of a sudden his face just lit up and he’s like, “Do you want to meet my dog?” And Mary and I look at each other, and we’re just like, his dog? Okay, sure. And so he calls out Oscar, his pet’s name. And we see this moose come running over the hill. And it was a big moose…

Chris: You didn’t see that coming, okay.

Bret Love: …running straight at our golf cart. So he tells Mary to hold this banana, and of course Oscar comes right to Mary and just gobbles this banana right out of her hands. And then he comes around the golf cart to me, and I’m sitting in the back and holding the Go-Pro, filming the whole thing. And we’ve got video on our site if anybody’s curious. Yeah, we called it the Moose Whisperer of Sweden, because basically this guy is just in love with his moose. So Oscar the Moose comes back to me and is like sniffing around, hoping there is more food involved, and he drooling. Just picture the worst St. Bernard drool you’ve ever seen, multiply it times 100, Oscar is drooling that muck. I’m literally soaked in moose spit. He’s like all up in my business like a puppy trying to give me kisses and stuff.

And so we end up hanging out with a moose for two hours and we have dinner with the moose. He’s eating his moose kibble or whatever it is, and we’re having bison sausage and all this stuff. Then all of a sudden a female moose comes over the hill. She’s has two 14-day-old little twin babies in tow. And of course, we just melt and lose it.

And this wasn’t originally part of our plans for what we were going to do there, but it’s just interesting that these dear little out of the way unique experiences end up becoming the things we remember most about our trips.

Chris: Right. Actually I’m jumping back to the Koster Island for a second because I forgot to ask you something. One of the places that you would enjoy, that I don’t know if you got a chance to get to, we had fika. For people who don’t know, Fika is a coffee break basically. It’s coffee and something sweet in it, and comes from a Swedish tradition of trying to get the men not to go to the bars on Sunday, but to stay home and spend some time with the family. And so they would bake something sweet. But we had a fika, which you will still do in a Swedish business, I understand once or twice a day. I don’t know how they stay so slim.

But at the Koster Gardens, which is an organic farm there on the other side of the South Koster Island. I don’t know if you got a chance to see that, but basically they sell vegetables and herbs and teach people organic gardening and have a bunch of things like that as well.

Bret Love: Yeah, that’s the place I was talking about earlier. The guy from there was the one who guided us all around on the bicycle tour.

Chris: He was busy guiding a kayak tour that day, because he kayaks and some other things as well. Okay, got it. I didn’t put the name together there. Excellent.

Bret Love: But yes, you can’t talk about fika and not talk about those amazing cardamom-infused cinnamon rolls, which seem to be the most popular sweet. Everywhere we went, when we went to the Hotel Koster, when we went to the Gunnebo House, the organic gardening place, every place we went they had these delicious cardamom-infused cinnamon rolls that were a part of fika. And that became our favorite daily tradition.

Chris: We did not have that, but we had muffins with fresh berries.

Bret Love: Oh, my God.

Chris: They were pretty great.

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: And where did you go from there?

Bret Love: I have to mention we stayed at this place called the Nostra Garden Bed and Breakfast in the Hornborga area. We really liked it. It was just a couple that we sort of fell in love with. They were about our age, sort of forties, and he was a classical music composer. They had bought this old historic home that was like 150 years old and were refurbishing it as a bed and breakfast. We just loved them. We had so much in common, I mean. The thing I loved about the people of Sweden was they seemed really interested in having deep conversations. Everybody we met was just so deep and interesting. And because this guy was a classical music composer, and I’m a music fanatic, we had a lot to talk about. So I just wanted to give them a shout-out, because they were so cool. It’s a mom-and-pop-type place, and they’re expanding their place and building some new rooms onto it.

Chris: And the one thing I have to wonder there is we may go many places where people want to have deep conversations, but there is a language gap. And the fact that so many people speak such good English in Sweden really does enable a lot of conversations, even if all you know of Swedish is manatok, many thanks. You can still get around just fine in Sweden. I would recommend learning a little Swedish, but as we say, I really don’t know very much.

Bret Love: Yeah, my knowledge of Swedish was limited to the Swedish chef on the Muppet Show.

Chris: And I hope you didn’t do that at any time, because I was tempted, but never did.

Bret Love: Yeah, I did not do that. But that was kind of my frame of reference. Anyway, from there we went over to the Gota Canal, which is huge. It was originally constructed between 1810 and 1832, and it goes all the way from the center of Sweden all the way down to Gothenburg. We stayed at this place, the Norrqvarn Hotel, which was interesting, not so much because of that hotel, but because they were having a huge wedding with the daughter of a local politician that night. We weren’t actually able to stay in that hotel, so they put us up in a house right on the canal. And for anybody who doesn’t know much about canals, they have these locks that they use to lower and raise the water, and they used to have a lock keeper who would stay in this house right on the lock.

Chris: And it was a tiny house then?

Bret Love: Yeah, a little tiny house. It actually was quite big for a lock house. I was shocked. It was a three-bedroom house, full kitchen. It was huge.

Chris: I’m used to these being 10 by 10.

Bret Love: Yeah, it was shocking. There was a little 10-by-10 building right next to it, but apparently this was where the guy lived with his family for years and years. And like everything else in Sweden it had been there for 100, or 150 years.

So we got to stay in this little house. We could look out our window and 15 feet away we would see the boats going up and down as the locks were adjusted. And that was really cool, because it was just such a beautiful stretch of the canal. There were people walking and biking, and romantic couples hanging out. We saw the wedding carriage go right by our house. It was almost like a little slice of what Europe was probably like 100 years ago. So charming, and so different from every other thing that we had done in West Sweden that it really just reinforced how much diversity there was in the types of ecosystems and attractions basically.

Chris: Excellent. And what was your next stop?

Bret Love: Well I think from there we went back to Gothenburg, and we spent a couple more nights there, and had meals at a couple of different restaurants. We were originally supposed to go to a really cool amusement park in Gothenburg called the Liseberg Amusement Park. The interesting thing about it is that the park uses all of its energy from renewable resources. They have a wind power station there to generate energy on the property.

But unfortunately by the time we got back to Gothenburg it was raining, and we just weren’t able to make it over there in the time we had left. But it was one of those really interesting things, in conjunction with the rental bike system and the bus system, and all of the things we mentioned earlier. We don’t usually spend a lot of time in cities, but it was one of those cities that was very interesting, because it did have so many eco-friendly initiatives going on.

Chris: We saw a number of large, large wind generators in that part of Sweden.

Bret Love: Yeah, driving around you saw them everywhere, which was bizarre to me, because I’m from the American southeast, and we don’t have any of them.

Chris: No, not so much. But we have quite a few up in this area. One thing we should say about the driving around that’s interesting is if you get on the highway in Gothenburg you can very quickly make your way up toward the Norwegian border. But if you want to go to the coast, you kind of have to go up to the highway and then back out to the coast, and up to the highway and back out to the coast because it’s just a very irregular shape, let’s just say, with lots of inlets, even little fjords and such in that area.

Bret Love: And it’s funny, because there were so many little villages along that route going up the coast.

Chris: Right.

Bret Love: That people told us were amazing, and of course, we didn’t have time to go to all of them.

Chris: Well, let me make some suggestions for your next trip.

Bret Love: Oh, please do.

Chris: Here are some places that you missed. One of the places we stopped, as I mentioned, was Fjallbacka. And Fjallbacka is this beautiful little picturesque town, it starts to have a number of different tourism options there in terms of whaling visits, and in terms of going out to the Weather Islands. But it’s also known for an author, and I will admit that this was an author I didn’t know and everybody else on our trip did, and that’s Camilla Lackberg. I don’t know if you know her, but she writes murder mysteries and all of her murder mysteries are set in this little town. So we actually met her mother, but every time they would point out something in town it’s like, see that island over there, and see how there’s that diving board on there. Yeah. A body was found there. Of course, nobody has ever been killed in this town, certainly in the last thousand years, probably, it’s this picturesque little town. But in her novels people die all the time there. I think a number of people come to that town now because of her connection, but also then it does have this kind of the gateway then to the Weather Islands.

And of the two I would have to say, the Koster Islands and the Weather Islands, the Koster Islands are bigger and has more to do, and has the Marine Sanctuary. But the Weather Islands are just more dramatic. They are basically solid rock, and the cover art for this episode will be a picture of the Weather Islands, for those of you who are looking at that.

So we went out there to the Weather Islands and to this guest house. And I’m going to try to butcher the name of this guest house here, or at least I’m going to butcher it, and that’s the Vaderoarnas Guest House. And it’s out there on this rugged outcropping. So people said, “Well, how long is it open?” And they said, “Well it’s open all year long.” And so even in the winter they have some of the boats that can make it out there. They are catamarans, so they’re stable enough that they can make it through the bad weather. And they are booked up in New Years to 2020.

Bret Love: Wow!

Chris: But this would be the I-want-to-get-away-from-it, I want to get out and have a couple of days in the Weather Islands. And I would do that if I went back there. I would love to take my wife and just rent a kayak when I’m there and go explore some of these little tiny islands and such. But that was just a very dramatic and interesting place.

Bret Love: I had never read much about the islands of Sweden we went, but it’s one of those places … and I think we were only there like two days. I could definitely go back and spend a week just exploring the islands and the coastal towns, and not even heading anywhere else.

Chris: Agreed, yeah, and that’s just the islands of the West. I’ve heard more about the archipelagos off of Stockholm, which we’ve talked about on this show. But this is just an entirely different area here.

The other place that I would recommend is Smogen. For those people who are trying to figure out how to spell Fjallbacka or Smogen or any of the other places we named, remember that in the lyrics of this episode are all the links to the places we talk about now, so that should help you. Someone has carefully put those in there and it’s either me or Jeffery, our editor.

But Smogen was interesting. It’s another picturesque town, but there are three things that we did there that I thought were worthy of mention. One is I was there actually, you mentioned being there for Volvo, but I was there for the Icebug Challenge. And Icebug makes an outdoor shoe in Gothenburg and they do once a year a three-day either hike or run along the coastal route outside of Smogen.

And it basically is like 110 kilometers, or something like that, during the three days. We only did part of it. If you’re going to run it, I just can’t imagine a trail runner here, because the path between one of these sections we did that was about 18 kilometers, the first six kilometers we were at just a normal walking pace. It really didn’t take us that long. But the next part, you’re scrambling up over these rocks and such. But it is a very lovely route for hiking. This coastal route that’s marked along this jagged coast, on a beautiful day like we were hiking is something that I would highly, highly recommend.

We also did, from the Smogen area and not from Smogen itself, some sea kayaking out in and amongst these islands, and I’d love to do that again. Although the surprise for me is there are two types of sea kayaks, and I had been on the open frame kind before, where you’re sitting on the top of the boat, you’re not in the boat.

Bret Love: Right.

Chris: And those are wider and more stable, and I was in a single boat this time, and I was very unstable in a single seat kayak. So that was bit of a surprise for me. We had to switch me into a double, where my larger frame was a little closer to the water surface. But it was wonderful going out in that area and I’d love to do that again.

And the third thing was there is an interesting zoo, and I know you’re not necessarily a big fan of zoos, Bret, but I think you would like Norden’s Ark. It’s a zoo only of endangered species, so most of the species here can’t be reintroduced into the wild. Although they are reintroducing some of the falcons, for instance, which are native to Sweden. They have been breeding them here in captivity and then reintroducing those.

But they do also have snow leopards, and wolves, and tigers. Remember I mentioned that the inland has all of these mountains of granite, and basically the tiger has his own mountain of granite that he looks like he’s playing king of the hill on. So it’s a very beautiful enclosure, and large, where these animals are. I thought it was a very interesting experience. And then they also have a program where families can come and pay to volunteer and help feed the tigers. It’s just an interesting area and you can see some of the pictures that we took of snow leopards and tigers and things like that.

It’s just wonderful, in part because you had to climb up over where you could look down on the tigers, for instance, and not be looking at them through the fence that you were glad was there. On the other hand the tiger was a little distracted by the sheep that he could see in the distance, but couldn’t quite work out how to get to.

Bret Love: Yes, that’s a tease. It sounds like a cool place.

Chris: And then the other thing is I enjoyed it as a photographer in Smogen, where there were two things; one is as we were hiking in the trails you’ll see pictures that I took of these red toadstools, or mushrooms, with polka dots on them that we saw everywhere that were gorgeous.

And also just the boat houses, and sometimes they are actually rented out. A lot of people come to this region in the summertime, so some of these boathouses are now rented out basically during the summertime as guest housing, or the family will move into the boathouse and then rent out the house. So a lot of house rental is done in the area, too. So as you think about visiting there, look at the hotel options, the inns and such, but also think about hotel rentals as being an option in that particular area.

Bret Love: Did you guys get over to the really colorful boathouses that were on Koster Island?

Chris: Well we saw some in the distance on North Koster Island, but we saw some in Smogen that were notably picturesque.

Bret Love: Yeah, they almost had to me like the color of the waterfront down in Willemstad Curacao, just those vibrant colors. It was amazing.

Chris: No, we saw things like that in a number of places, but not specifically on the Koster Islands.

Bret Love: Well, people who are listening, if you go to the Koster Islands, get them to take you there, because it’s really cool. You can stand on a dock, like right in front of them, so you get the panorama right behind you, it’s really cool.

Chris: There was also an aquarium in the Smogen area. It’s a small aquarium, but it’s all the native species from that ecosphere there, so it’s fascinating, including one blue lobster, which is what an albino lobster looks like, which was news to me. Apparently when they have no natural coloring they are blue. And not just I understand from the coldness of the water.

Bret Love: I’m not sure Mary is actually recovering from our dry suit dive in that region, so I don’t know if I’m going to get to go coldwater diving anytime soon. But boy or boy, it’s interesting.

Chris: What was one surprise for you, in this region of Sweden?

Bret Love: There were so many, but I think I was just really taken by the kindness of the people. We had quite a few times where we were not really sure where to go, not really sure what to do. We had one time where we were running late for the ferry to go to the Koster Islands, and we couldn’t read a sign. They have these parking lots where you would leave your car for a couple of days, and we couldn’t read them because they only in Swedish. And there were people who help read and made us realize, oh, you can’t park here because this one is only good for 24 hours. You have to go over there.

And then there was somebody else at the other one, the machine was busted, and we were freaking out, because we were going to miss our ferry. And they actually called the company for us and the company said, “Don’t worry about it. You can park there.”

And then there was another place where we didn’t have any Swedish coins, which I believe are kronas.

Chris: Krona.

Bret Love: Yeah, we didn’t have any, and we had to park and we were running late for our appointment, and this older gentleman just paid it for us, didn’t even ask. We were asking him if he had change and he was like, “Oh, I’ll just pay for you.” And it was just everywhere we went everybody was so kind and helpful. They didn’t know we were journalists. They didn’t know who we were. They just knew we needed help and they helped without asking. And you see that in a lot of places around the world, but I found the Swedish people to be especially kind and generous.

Chris: We’ve mentioned that my prettiest place that I was staying was the Weather Islands. If you had to say of all the places you saw, and you’re standing in the prettiest place, where are you standing and what are you looking at?

Bret Love: I’m really a water person, and by nature there’s a spiritual energy that comes over me when we’re on the water. And we stayed at Hotel Koster on the Koster Islands and they put us in the most remote room that they had. It was as far back on the property as you can get. And when we sat on our back patio, a tiny little patio with chairs, and we looked out over the marine park, we didn’t see any other buildings. We didn’t see any other travelers. It was just looking out on nature, and you could see all these other little islands, and you would occasionally see a boat going in the distance or whatever. That view was one that, like I said, I wish I could go back there and just spend a week, because it was just so quiet, and picturesque, and just perfectly in tune with what I like when I travel.

Chris: Excellent. And we had lunch at the same hotel that you’re talking about. Even if you don’t have a room there they have a wonderful veranda, which is not a Swedish word. There you can look at a marina of boats, of sailboats down below there on the water. It’s a gorgeous place, a grand old hotel.

Bret Love: And apparently there were people we saw from our balcony, or whatever you want to call it. We were looking down and people were just fishing langoustines or crayfish or whatever you call them, just right there off the shore. They were just turning rocks, and boom, there they were. It was crazy.

Chris: Interesting. Any warning you would give? One thing you should know before you go to this part of West Sweden?

Bret Love: Everybody speaks English, but not all of the signs are in English.

Chris: I was singing to you.

Bret Love: The parking meters were very troubling for us, because we just couldn’t understand them. So leave a little time in your schedule if you’re not sure of where you’re going or what you’re doing. That was the only real problem we saw. There were always people willing to help, but the fact that the parking meters and things did not have English was a little bit difficult if you’re in a hurry.

Chris: Well my impression, and tell me if you had the same impression, is we’re talking about an area that is gorgeous and definitely deserves tourism, and gets a lot of Norwegian tourists, and definitely gets a lot of Swedish tourists, but I don’t think it gets as many international tourists as it necessarily deserves for how pretty an area it is. And I think that part of it is that the tourism infrastructure, as my impression was, is still developing and somewhat in terms of an international tourism.

They talked to us about a new fishing trip that you can go out on, and now there’s a new such and such. So we’re seeing that develop. But I think it’s actually a good time to go in terms of if you want to go where not everybody does go yet.

Bret Love: Well that’s Green Globe Travel. One of the things we sort of earned a reputation for is sort of finding these little out-of-the-way spots that maybe have not been over saturated with tourists. Because frankly we don’t like going places where there are tons of other tourists around. That’s sort of our MO.

So I totally agree with you. I think it’s an undiscovered gem. The Swedish people may know about it, and the Norwegian people may know about it, but I don’t know anybody in America. I mean, I don’t think other than you and I, I haven’t seen hardly any other bloggers writing about West Sweden. It’s definitely an undiscovered area for western and North American travelers.

Chris: Yes, and I would say, and you saw it not being busy in June, and I saw it completely empty in September. August is going to be very busy, so just plan your trip accordingly. There are going to be more things open, obviously, then also, and you have the long, long days to enjoy it. So June sounds like it might be a real good time to go from that point of view.

Bret Love: I thought June was awesome. When we were in the city of Gothenburg, and got there at 8 o’clock in the morning, because of the time difference. And we go to try and get an early check-in at our hotel, and they were trying to get us a room. And apparently that day they had both the largest gay pride festival that the city has once a year, and one of Sweden’s most famous rock bands was doing a concert right around the corner at a huge arena that same night. And we went out to dinner at about, I don’t know, 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock or something, after sleeping in for a little bit.

After this festival and after this huge concert had started, there was not a single speck of garbage in the streets, and I looked. I looked for cigarette butts, I looked for anything. It was remarkable to me how clean that city was. I was just spellbound by it. And as we would drive around the city I would look for any sign of waste or refuse anywhere. Nothing, it was amazing.

Chris: Interesting.

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: As we go to wrap this up, anything else we should say about West Sweden before we get to our last three questions?

Bret Love: People should go there, and especially people who like off-the-beaten paths.

Chris: And I would say and outdoors.

Bret Love: Yeah, nature and outdoor activities, exactly.

Chris: The other thing I should say, and I should have said with Fjallbacka, is when you go there climb the rock and you won’t have to wonder what I’m talking about. The little town is at the base of a rock and you can climb up there and get a wonderful view of the area.

Bret Love: Even if people don’t necessarily love nature and the outdoors, if you just like European culture and really good food, you could go to Gothenburg and have a completely different experience. The restaurants there are incredible. If you’re like Chris and don’t like seafood, I think you’re missing out. But there is such amazing food there. Oh, my goodness.

Chris: Excellent. Last three questions. One thing that makes you laugh and say only in West Sweden?

Bret Love: Being slobbered on by a moose is probably my best answer for that one. That memory kind of sticks out, yeah.

Chris: Excellent. And one thing we forgot, and this is because it was also forgotten on my itinerary. This was my only source of frustration with my trip. We got to Fjallbacka and there was an art piece that we were looking at there that gave homage to these rock carvings that were 12 miles away at a UNESCO World Heritage site, the rock carvings in Tanum. And I didn’t get there. Unfortunately I was on this organized trip, and it was like, “Sorry, you’re mentioning a UNESCO World Heritage site and I’m 12 miles away and we’re not going there.”

Bret Love: Yeah.

Chris: So don’t do like that. If you get there, there are pretty much two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Western Sweden. The other one is not quite as far west and is a wireless antenna, oddly enough, a radio station. But this one is right in that very area, 12 miles from Fjallbacka.

Bret Love: Yeah, we were driving towards Grebbestad and we saw the sign for Fjallbacka, and we had heard such great things. And it’s like, we’re right here, but we didn’t have time. And it’s just one of those things where there are so many different things you can do. I definitely think I could spend a few weeks in that region with no problem, and have plenty of things to do.

Chris: Sure. Finish this sentence for me. You really know you’re in Western Sweden when what?

Bret Love: When you see more wind turbines than people.

Chris: I think for me it’s when the landscape is sea and rock. That dramatic landscape for me just really set it apart. As I said, my original impression wasn’t overwhelming, and then as we got into it, as we got into places like Fjallbacka, it was just incredibly beautiful.

If you had to summarize Sweden in just three words, which three words would you use?

Bret Love: Great…

Chris: Okay.

Bret Love: Green…

Chris: And there you’re using it twice in different ways, okay.

Bret Love: And moose.

Chris: Moose.

Bret Love: Sorry, I have to add the moose…

Chris: As that’s a memorable experience, I can understand that. Or elk, as you talk about it in Swedish.

Bret Love: Here’s the thing. I travel the world a lot, and I only know one place in the world where you can go and pretty much count on the opportunity to hug and adult moose. So for me, that’s going to separate it from everywhere else. I know I can go to West Sweden and I can hug a moose.

Chris: I think that is unique. Bret, where can people read more about your travels?

Bret Love: Well of course, they can call us on greenglobaltravel.com, which is our main site. We cover eco-tourism and conservation and adventure travel and all of those associated subjects.

And of course we have a second site that is sort of new to us. It’s called Green Travel Reviews where we just review green hotels, eco-tours, eco-friendly restaurants, and things like that all around the world.

But our big new project that we’ve been working on is called Green Travel Media, and it’s sort of a talent agency for the bloggers and other media professionals that have an interest in eco-tourism and adventure travel. We are basically working to connect those people with brands that are looking to emphasize sustainable initiatives, and trying to find great work for great bloggers with great companies.

So we are mixing all three of these projects together and we’ve got a great new charity project we’re doing called Just One Rhino, where we’re going to be raising money around the holidays for rhino conservation in Africa. And so that’s basically what we’ve got going on over the next few months.

Chris: Excellent, and I thought for sure you were going to say just one moose. But I was wrong on that one.

Bret Love: Apparently there are a couple hundred thousand mooses just in Sweden alone, so I think they are doing all right for now.

Chris: Our guest again has been Bret Love, and Bret, thanks so much for coming on the Amateur Traveler and sharing with us your new-found love for West Sweden.

Bret Love: Yeah, thanks, Chris. I appreciate you having me.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

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