More cinnamon rolls than miles
Our pace in Sweden is slow, very slow. It seems not only that time stands still in this beautiful country, but also that we don't cover any distance. In two weeks time, we only cycled 451km, a lot less than our average. Why we move on so slow and if we mind it, you can read in this blog.
April 27 - After 3.5 hours on the boat we arrive in Gothenburg which brought us from Frederikshaven (Denmark) to Sweden. While leaving the boat, we were immediately stopped by customs. Two other cyclists we met on the boat were luckier than us. Stefanie is convinced to this day that Niels should had shaved at least once during the first six weeks, she blames the beard! We respectfully listen to the instructions of the customs officers and open our panniers one by one. Panda, Stefanie's teddy bear, is still our most loyal travel companion and was also briefly taken out of the bag, which made Stefanie feel a little anxious. "I hope they are not going to cut him open to check for drugs," she tells Niels afterwards. Fortunately, they are not too extreme and leave Panda alone. A cute dog comes sniffing our bags and a bit later we jump on our bikes again.
The realisation that we are in Sweden, country number four on our trip, sets in pretty quickly when we see the blue and yellow flags hanging out proudly everywhere. It's another ten kilometers of biking until we reach our destination just outside of town, the beautiful home of Klas and Eva. We reach our Warmshower hosts (in fact the only ones in Sweden) right on time and are given an incredibly warm welcome. The entire top floor is available to us and a delicious quiche is prepared by Eva. Klas and Eva are both retired and find Warmshowers a good way to stay in touch with cyclists. Klas still cycles regularly and will be starting a trip through Sweden with a friend at the end of May. Eva still likes to cycle, but she is not making such long trips at the moment due to knee problems.
Klas accompanies us into town for half a day and helps us pick out a new charger for the laptop, shows us the better outdoor stores and points out a good bicycle mechanic (Niels needs a new chain). We chat every evening during pleasant dinners, the breakfasts are extensive and last long. The atmosphere in Gothenburg is nice and we are enjoying ourselves. It is the first time during this trip that we have a feeling that it could be quite nice to live here. We got lucky and ended up spending three nights with them. This could have been even more easily in our feeling, but of course the desire to cycle is great.
In Gothenburg we also take the time to meet Ewoud, whom we met a while back on the train from Bruges to Ghent. Three cyclists starting a conversation on a train in Belgium, not much later spending time in a cosy restaurant in Gothenburg. Ewoud is staying there for three months for his work and we have a nice Belgian get-together in the oldest veggie restaurant in town.
Meanwhile, we get a message on Instagram from Tobias: "I just saw you guys cycling in Gothenburg, do you feel like meeting up." "Are we suddenly famous now?" we both wonder for a moment? We accept Tobias' invitation and on the last morning in Gothenburg we have a nice coffee (or two) with him. What a nice guy and we are glad that we accepted his invitation before we starting a 35km cycling day in the afternoon. For the first time we are will be wild camping in Sweden.
We chat more than we cycle
We follow the European Divide Trail and enjoy the unpaved bike paths. We cycle continuously through nature and don't encounter many houses. When we do see people outside, we like to have a chat. We meet Rop and his wife Inga. As it turns out, they used to live in Ghent in the 90's because Rop worked for Volvo. The Amadeus and the Dulle Griet are places they remember most. Their house is for sale and before we know they offer us a guided tour. The place is wonderful, but to settle down now would be too soon! We are only cycling for 22km when we come across a wonderful place to put up camp. The gut feeling dominates and we decide to spoil our tent with this beautiful spot!
"Today I really want to cover some distance," Niels tells Stefanie in the morning. We roll smoothly forward over the Swedish hills and in the afternoon we already have some kilometers on the counter. When an older couple sees us in doubt (a toilet visit was urgently needed), they invite us to use their toilet. Not much later, we are sitting in Sven and Ann-Marie's diner table, an 80-year-old Danish/Swedish couple, having lunch together. A warm cup of coffee and tea and many stories richer, we step outside three hours later. They turn out to be the parents of Lena Videkull, one of the most famous Swedish soccer players ever (she holds the record for the fastest goal at a women's World Cup). Strange how, in just three hours, you can feel that certain encounters can be very valuable, it even feels a bit like a difficult goodbye.
The hospitality seemed endless that day. Refilling our water bottles resulted in a half-hour conversation with Marie and delicious cinnamon rolls. While searching for a place for our tent, Martin patiently helped us to find a nice camping spot in the neighbourhood. He went door to door to ask a few locals if it would be okay if we pitched our tent by the lake, which of course was no problem for the friendly Swedes. Two hours later he paid us a visit, along with his dog Atlas, and we chatted about travel and also his sense of adventure (the dog's name gave this away a bit). Leftovers cake and cookies from a birthday party were thrown at us and we slept wonderfully!
In need for rest
We meet countless friendly people and eat more cinnamon rolls than we cycle miles. We camp wild but also feel the need for some proper rest, despite the fact we don't really cycle that much. Even if you cycle slower, you end up spending a whole day in the saddle and need to process many new situations, which is wonderful but also exhausting sometimes. Sweden spoils us and we love it, yet we both get a little too tired at some point.
Niels wakes up with broken sunglasses after a cold night in a shelter. He forgot to take them out of his pockets and lay on them during the night. Stefanie loses her favourite hair band and doesn't sleep well for several nights due to the cold. Two cold sores later, fatigue seems to strike out of nowhere. After five nights of wild camping we feel the need for some structure and to let the bikes and bodies rest for a while. We book an affordable double room in a hostel on a beautiful campsite some 50 kilometers further. With a lot of enthusiasm and the nice prospect of that bed and rest, everything goes a lot smoother during this cycling day.
Two nights at this hostel become four and the younger versions of ourselves would describe us as lazy bastards, even feeling a little bit disappointed. Admittedly, we still often have to learn to accept this feeling but can make peace with it faster than before. On a trip like this you quickly get better to act honestly to how you feel, you realise quicker what is needed for body and mind. It can be hard to admit that we also need a bit of luxury sometimes, even though many people think of us as true adventurers. The bicycle is our ultimate means of transportation but that doesn't mean we always like to cycle. The tent is our home but that doesn't mean we always like to camp. A day of hiking, the simplicity of a bed and watching some Netflix, a day trip by canoe... they all do wonders to arrange our thoughts and recharge our batters. Our advice would then also be to respect these feelings and doubts and don't care about how people will react to this.
Sleeping in the sauna
The rest is extremely gratifying and our batteries are fully recharged, ready for the final day of cycling through Sweden. We had hoped to reach Norway already but again we don't finish the kilometers we had hoped for. After 40km A man who is working in his garden speaks to us in amazement. Two minutes later we set our bikes aside and put our stuff under a shelter. Sleeping pads are inflated and placed in the front part of their sauna, the fire is lit so that not much later we can warm ourselves in this sauna. A nice bath, a fresh shower and full of disbelief we can sleep here for a night.
When our evening meal starts simmering in our Trangia cooking stove, we are invited to sit by the fire with our hosts. Egon and Thea, a German couple who spend their summer in a Swedish holiday house, turn out to be incredibly hospitable people. Other guests who are staying in an outbuilding (which they rent out as a vacation home) join us and we have a great evening around the (indoor) campfire. What a great evening to end our Swedish adventure!
Our trip through Sweden teaches us that planning too far ahead is not necessary. Day distances are not reached by spontaneous encounters on the road and the beautiful views on nature. Not letting this discourage us is an ongoing process, but at the end of our cycling trip through Sweden we can conclude that cycling short distances might be even more fun. Slow travel in the purest sense of the word! How do you deal with this? We are curious!