Planning a road trip between Sweden and Croatia

Both my wife Aneta and I love road trips. Luckily so does our almost three year old daughter Emili. She is in general well behaved when we travel. This means we were not too worried how she would endure though our road trip from Stockholm (Sweden) to Zagreb (Croatia) and back. As with any road trip, we like to prepare and plan in advance to make sure we get to see and experience as much as possible in the limited time we have. We have friends and family in several countries in Europe and we want to visit them on the way, even though that meant we would not take the shortest route possible. Or maybe exactly because that meant we would not take the shortest route possible :-). The shortest possible trip is roughly 2000 kilometers of driving plus some 6 hours on the ferry between Trelleborg (Sweden) and Rostock (Germany). We took this trip back in 2009. Instead, the route we plan now is roughly 3100 kilometers long.

My planning process is usually quite lengthy and complex, I just love reading about all the potential sights to be experienced. At the same time, I often experience decision anxiety while planning. I always plan for more than we can manage in the available time, because the world has so many interesting places to see, so at some point I have to decide to skip some of the sights I had considered. And this frustrates me a lot. It is like in the planning phase all the potential places to visit are alive, and then I have to kill some of them. It is quite illogical, I am well aware I will never manage to see everything that I plan, but it still makes me very sad when the time comes to pick. Maybe it is silly, but it’s just the way I feel… Thankfully, the joy of planning is bigger than the decision anxiety.

I don’t remember how long the planning of this trip took, but I started planning it several months before the trip. I would often sit in the evening with Google Earth and just browse for interesting places. The plan evolved over time into the following:
day 1: Stockholm – Helsingborg
day 2: an excursion in southern Sweden
day 3: Helsingborg – Stade (Germany)
day 4: Stade – Utrecht (Netherlands)
day 5: Utrech – Amsterdam – Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium)
day 6: Louvain-la-Neuve – Munich (Germany)
day 7: Munich – Zagreb (Croatia)

In Helsingborg we will spend the night at our friend Toni’s. In Stade we booked a hotel. We originally wanted to go to Hamburg, but had no time to sightsee this big city properly, so we choose a picturesque but smaller town in the vicinity instead. Aneta’s sister lives in Utrecht with her family. Dinko, a friend who I went to high school and university with lives in Amsterdam. Even though Amsterdam is in the “wrong” direction from Utrecht to Louvain-la-Neuve, I want to catch up with him. My brother Andrija and his family live in Louvain-la-Neuve and this is a great opportunity for Emili to spend some time with her cousin Filip. Instead of Munich, the original stop planned was Eben im Pongau in Austria where my cousin Tomislav works. But unfortunately he will be away on vacation when we are passing by. He was kind enough to offer the key to his place, but Aneta and me had an unsettled debt with Munich :-). When we drove from Västerås (Sweden) to Zagreb in 2009, we stopped in Munich. But it was so cold there that we endured through a full five minutes of sightseeing before heading back to the hotel. I never felt so cold in my life as then. So we want to take the chance and visit Munich again, this time in the summer.

On the way back we will take a more direct route:
day 1: Zagreb – Dresden (Germany)
day 2: Dresden – Świnoujście (Poland), ferry from Świnoujście to Ystad (Sweden)
day 3: Ystad – Stockholm

Toni tipped me about Dresden and it really looks stunning in pictures. And since in day 2 the drive to Świnoujście is relatively short, this leaves the whole morning free to discover Dresden. In the final day in Sweden we plan not to take the most direct route (E4 highway), but instead to travel along Sweden’s southeast coast which we have not had the privilege to experience before.

We made the skeleton of the trip – we know where we will sleep each night, roughly which route to take between the overnight stops and which sights to see on the way. Despite planning a lot, in reality the plan is never followed to 100%. Which is great because otherwise it would be boring. And we love to get surprised. BTW planning this trip was part of a bigger plan, which also includes a five day visit to the beautiful coastal town of Rovinj in the Istria peninsula in Croatia, and a road trip through the Alps (Croatia – Slovenia – Austria – Liechtenstein – Switzerland – Italy – Slovenia – Croatia).

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