Sweden – the southeast
It was a rush to meet my friend Edlef in Sweden, so I took the train after an all night ferry ride from Hull to Europort. It was late evening when I arrived in Lubeck Travemunde and I headed for the familiar campsite where there was a Sunday night traditional German singsong going full throttle. After a beer and a huge steak sandwich I slept like a log.
Early on Monday morning, after my usual camping breakfast of porridge and coffee, I headed down to the port and onto a ferry to Trelleborg. There had been some doubt in my mind because I hadn’t booked, but there was no problem. It was an all day trip and it wasn’t until after, by pure luck, I found a place to camp free of charge, just to the west of the town and close to the sea, that I attempted to telephone Edlef to say where I was. For some unknown reason the call failed. Kindly, one of the guys in charge of the camping area let me use his phone, and all was well.
The next morning it was raining, but it soon cleared and we were to be treated to several days of near perfect weather to wander along a wonderful coast that was totally new to me. Edlef had worked out a terrific route for his Garmin, but for anyone wishing to cycle this area there are well-marked coastal cycle-ways with romantic names such as ‘smugglers trail’.
Campsites, compared with non-Scandinavian Europe, are quite expensive, but they are usually well equipped. We found the kitchens with cooking facilities including microwave ovens saved a lot of trouble with the camping stove.
A roadside stall was always well worth a visit. Language wasn’t a problem almost everyone spoke excellent English, and Edlef, although Danish, had spent time as a young doctor in Sweden.
We decided to cross to the island of Oland. Until about ten years ago it was possible to cycle over a long bridge. Now, the lanes have been re-designed for extra traffic and there is a ferry for foot passengers and cyclists.
Once on the island it is clear that much of the traffic is on the west side. A clear cycle path is marked all the way around.
An interesting type of windmill, called post-mills, are found all over the island - The entire millhouse can turn around a central supporting post. About 400 of this old type of mill dating back to the late middle ages, are left from the 2,000 at the start of the 19th century.
Another interesting feature of this island are the dry-stone walls and dry-stone bridges. Along the west coast cycle path are pile upon pile of cut stones, but loose stones can be seen everywhere in the fields and on the coast.
The above remains of an old iron age burial site (dated between 500BC and 1050 AD) suggest that despite being remote, people have lived here for a very long time.
An old industry on the island has been the production of polished limestone that for centuries has been used to build houses, castles, churches, stone crosses and tombs. With thin wedges of oak, dried in the sun, hammered into the natural rock crevices, the men would then wet the oak to make it swell and split the rock. Woman and children would, using water and sand, polished the stones. In later years, first animal power and then later wind power would be used for this grinding process.
Millions of years of geology has been kind to the islanders. They have a rich red limestone formed in an oxygen-rich seabed with iron oxides, and also a grey limestone laid down in an oxygen poor period of geological history.
The rather unexpected sight of not one, but two fields full of camels, was one of the most unexpected surprises on Oland. The climate seems to suite them judging by the number of offspring.
After our trip around Oland it was time to go our separate ways. After a wonderful meal in Kalmar, Edlef headed north to another island, Gotland, while I headed for home.
My route back to Trelleborg wasn’t planned but I still managed to find some terrific cycle trails simply by chance. Some of these looked new, and I am sure that Sweden is determined to be an extremely cycle friendly country.
A new trail
odd cycle-crossing point
One of the highlights, while riding silently along a dirt trail through a forest, a deer stood in the centre of the trail looking at me until I almost reached her, she then ran along the trail and waited for me. I got very close indeed before she gave an almost dog like bark and ran into the forest. I have often got close to deer before, but never this close. I wonder if it was my LED lighting that attracted her?
This time I did book my ferry between Trelleborg and Travemunde and stayed at the same two campsites again.
Back to Travemunde
Heading south from Lubeck I cycled for the first time along the Elbe-Lubeck Kanal, marked RAS on the signs. It was pretty good cycling all the way, but there were few decent stopping places on the towpath, although towns and villages were always close by.
A lock on the canal
The Elbe at Lauenburg
The last time I cycled in this region I had followed the Elbe around to join the North Sea route and in the back of my mind I was thinking of doing the same again. Some road diversions and a strong wind brought about a change of plans. By chance I found myself heading southwest and this was much easier than pushing into a strong headwind. In the end this resulted in a less than satisfactory ride across Germany on cycle paths and minor roads in, after a day or two, a very strong head wind and constant rain.
Crossing into North Holland in new territory I bought a map showing a cycle crossing of the Markemeer between Urk and Enkhulzen. I reached Urk just after the morning ferry had left and had to wait all day for the late afternoon one. Fortunately, the weather had changed at last and I was in an interesting little town with decent places to buy food.
Wedding picture – Urk
After a pleasant crossing and finding a campsite near Hoorn, a suggestion by another camper changed my plans once again. She suggested that instead of riding down to the Hook of Holland or Europort I should try the boat from Ijmuiden. The short distance and tired legs persuaded me it was a good idea. As it turned out, except for the cost, it was. To date, 381.50 Euro is by far the most I have paid for me and the bike on a boat!