TBEX Europe 2016
Nine travel bloggers at TBEX Europe 2016 board a flight for the Northern Swedish city of Umea, where they are divided into two groups. Five of them enjoy a country break in Vasterbotten. Four continue north to Lapland.
After TBEX ends, bloggers are entitled to overnight trips to other parts of the country hosting the event, with varying itineraries and activities.
Since this year’s TBEX Europe was held in Stockholm, bloggers are offered trips to other parts of Sweden.
Themes can vary from history or culture to ecotourism or adventure travel. The bloggers select first, second, and third choices from the several destinations on offer.
The tourism boards of these places pick and choose which bloggers they wish to host based on the profiles the bloggers submit when they register for TBEX.
Because I registered relatively late for TBEX Europe 2016, the post-event familiarization trips to other parts of Sweden have all been fully booked. I assume I am out of luck.
It is a pleasant surprise when I learn that Visit Sweden is scrambling at the last minute to organize additional trips to accommodate additional bloggers. Nobody is going to be left out in the cold.
Choosing between tours is difficult. The destinations and itineraries are all enticing.
I use duration to short-list my possible travel destinations. Since trips are one, two, or three nights, I decide that I want one of the three-night trips if possible.
I am assigned to a three-night trip to Umea, the largest city in Northern Sweden. It is located in Vasterbotten.
The flight departs from Stockholm’s Bromma Airport, which is used exclusively for short-haul flights, for Umea’s Alvik Airport.
The airport is small. There are no jet ways. Instead, we have to walk across the tarmac to the aircraft.
I am disappointed when I discover that our plane Is a jet. I’m an aviation buff, and I was hoping it would be on one of the many propeller planes that we walk past.
VisitUmea has arranged a varied itinerary for us. Our hosts are Hanna Sondell, who escorts us from Stockholm to Umea, and Sirpa Karki, who meets us at the airport in Umea.
We divide into two groups: one that will enjoy a country break in Vasterbotton and one that will continue north into Lapland.
Sirpa drives us along well maintained roads through the breathtakingly beautiful Northern Swedish countryside, where a country break awaits us at Tjarn, a 19th century farm located deep in the forest.
We walk from the road through the forest to a clearing, which is embroidered with wildflowers. Several rustic buildings are scattered about in the distance. The silence is deafening.
Bengt-Erik Hesse, the owner of the property, is the quintessential Swede. He is tall, handsome, and strongly built.
He is dressed in various shades of blue. And - as with Hanna and Sirpa - he's got a shock of golden blond locks.
Bengt-Erik has prepared a roaring fire. He offers us coffee, tea, strawberries, blueberries, and Swedish pastries.
Then we are taken on a tour of the property, which can sleep up to 30 people in rooms of various types. We are allowed to choose for ourselves which room we wanted to spend the night in.
Sirpa suggests a walk along the shore of the Logde River, which borders the property. The setting is pristine!
While we traipse along a trail that becomes increasingly slippery, Bengt-Erik stays behind, preparing a sumptuous dinner in the kitchen.
At some point, we turn around and head back to the farm. We chat and get to know each other over beer and wine while Bengt-Erik moves outside to cook dinner on a giant grill.
Dinner includes a mouth-watering array of salad, Swedish breads, pickled herring, beef, salmon, asparagus, and mushrooms.
Did I forget to mention there is ice cream?
We are hoping to spot beavers along the shore, and some of us do. Unfortunately, I am not one of them.
And talk about photo opps! The mirror-like reflections of the trees and sky on the surface of the river are picture perfect.
I'm one of those that linger around the fire, wandering about taking pictures. I want one taken of myself at 12 midnight.
While the sun does disappear below the horizon, the skies never turn dark.
At 12 midnight they are still a translucent blue.
Following a trip to the sauna and a quick dip in the river, I go to bed, but I have difficulty sleeping. I am too excited.
I awake at 3.30 am and go outside to relieve myself. OMG! It is broad daylight!
A traditional Swedish breakfast is served buffet style, and it is delicious!
Then it is time to say goodbye to Bengt-Erik and head to Umea, where an urban adventure awaits.
Tjarn is a rustic retreat situated in a cleaning overlooking the banks of the Logde River.
It can accommodate up to 30 overnight guests or 90 day guests for weddings, incentives, team-building activities, recreation, and other kinds of events.
Hiking, swimming, and fishing are offered in summer and fall. Snow and ice-based activities are offered in winter and spring.
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