Posted by: Ian | June 6, 2013

Sweden: Cycling to Stockholm

Earlier this year I formed the idea of cycling from Marseilles to Stockholm. At the time I anticipated a period of several months without work. Since then things have changed and work is different, fun and time-consuming, making a multi-week bike trip unrealistic. I thus abbreviated my plans to cover only Sweden, where I’d already signed up for the Halvvattern (more on this later).

My Plan B was to take the train to Motala and cycle, via the Halvvattern, to Stockholm from where I would take the train back to England. Then I learned, after a most frustrating phonathon to the Swedish railway co in Sweden, that you can’t take a bike on a train in Sweden. Considering that Sweden was just recognised as Europe’s 3rd bike-friendliest country, I was most surprised.

So I moved on to Plan C, which (too boring) became Plan D. The first stage of which I did today: fly to Arlanda, drop off my bike bag at the Clarion airport hotel and cycle to Stockholm. It was enjoyable: a real pootle, my average speed barely over 14 mph, and the weather was perfect. It was also pancake flat. A routing error on my part turned it into a 33 mile journey, which took up the afternoon nicely. Strangely, I never once saw a sign giving distance to Stockholm.

The suburbs were very pleasant. Clean, modern and Scandanavian. Just a few miles out of town I cycled through an estate where the houses look like this:

Living unit

Nearby, and nearer the City, I passed a lovely large lake. People lay in the sun on adjacent parkland and some kids went swimming in it. There were many children out cycling, all in protective gear but not all accompanied by adults. I used to cycle around when I was young – junior school age – but I doubt if kids in England do much now.

Already I feel that there are things to say about Sweden but I’ll hold back as I’m too tired to articulate the true tone of my feelings and in any case I need to be here far longer to get any kind of fair impression. Maybe, John Berger style, I should use the eloquent austerity of the photo essay. From the airport I could choose these two pictures:

Airport capers

And:

Knowing me, knowing you

Over dinner I read. I brought The Lower River by Paul Theroux with me. It’s a treat.

 

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