West Coast, yo!

20120710-130212.jpgI did the west coast very quickly and reached the point where I just wanted to get out of the country. The reason was the wind. This soul sucking, hope crushing wind. It started winding since I had left Uddevalla and went on all the way to Denmark. At times I regretted the whole enterprise and just wanted to stop pedalling and magically transport home. What is the point in keeping on, when you put so much effort and get so little result. I developed an aversion to open areas as well. I felt like a small animal in the field and just wished to escape to the forest. Alas there were only a few forest routes on the way. As a side note I solved the mystery of why the wind is always the headwind. The reason is trivial. Tailwind is unnoticeable apart from the effortless pedalling. No sound and no clothes fluttering in the wind.

Enough about wind and other unpleasantries, though. Tjärebro and the surroundings were pretty amazing. It is called the most beautiful road in Sweden for the reason. Some nice fortress and castles were encountered on the way: Bohus, Tjolöholm, Varberg. Bohus was particularly bad-ass. Built to be invincible, it has indeed never been captured during its long history. At that point I had not seen enough castles yet, so anything medieval was a welcome sight. I exited Sweden in Helsingborg by taking a ferry to Helsingør. I spent only a couple of hours there, but it made a good impression. Slightly bigger than an average Swedish city, more walking streets, more history, more pretty architecture and an overall good sunny vibe. In fact it is the third city in Sweden I would like to visit again after Stockholm and Göteborg. Another side note: what is the deal with Helsing* and why Helsingfors is so far away? The moment I crossed the strait the sunny weather turned into the rain, but the wind changed the direction, but this is a story for another time.

Visiting a city guerrilla style

  1. Arrive early in the morning, leave the backpack in a locker at bus station, change clothes in the toilet.
  2. Go to Valhalla swimming pool (what a great name by the way!). Shower, sauna and a 1km swim. Swedish bastu is rather bland. Cold and no löyly.
  3. See the city, do what needs to be done.
  4. Eject from the city in the evening and go to the forest to sleep,

This is how I visited Göteborg. This mode of travelling had its toll. After all the cycling, swimming, one Asian buffet and one beer, tiredness and melancholy overtook me and I just wanted to go to the base camp. But I had none, so I spent hours in a cafe wasting time on the internet and hopelessly trying to charge my phone. It is not always easy.

Göteborg lacks the polish of other cities in Sweden I’ve been to. While in our postindustrial society industry is hidden from the view, Göteborg has industrial areas standing right next to the city centre. The bank of the river is not for strolling and jogging, but a home to the cargo port. Right in the heart of the city. Never mind this oddity, Göteborg is a pretty place. Yellow brick buildings, Scandinavian architecture, a handful of walking streets, boutiques canals, one fancy opera house and plenty of green areas. Slotsskogen, Göteborg’s main park, is very enjoyable – spacious and massive. An English park at its best, just like Central Park in New York or Voldenpark in Amsterdam

I enjoyed Göteborg. Unlike with most places on my way I would like to see Göteborg once again. Not guerrilla style, though.

Insights about Sweden

I met Helena on a trip to the Gobi desert in Mongolia. Our team of five spent a week in an old Soviet minivan breathing dust and marvelling the great nothingness of Mongolian wilderness. Then we continued to Beijing and Xian to have more adventures, after which our ways parted. You rarely see people for your travels again. You meet very nice people and spend quality time together. When the time to part comes, contact information is exchanged, after which they become just another Facebook friend you rarely talk to. However, Uddevalla (or rather Smedsvik) was sort of on the way, so why not visit the fellow traveller? After many days of cycling and the woods I longed for a pit stop and somebody to talk to. And we talked…

There is a phenomenon among posh people from Stockholm called “vaska”. It involves purchasing two bottles of expensive champagne and asking the bartender to pour one out just to demonstrate your wealth status. The phenomenon was born after bars and restaurants banned spraying champagne all over the place by the same type of clientele, as this practice destroyed interior. Well, old habits die hard, so “vaska” was born. Nowadays in the age of digital technology you can even order “vasta” using SMS and you get a confirmation message that the service was carried out. NOW HOW COOL IS THAT?

20120628-010518.jpgWe visited Smögen, an overgrown fishing village and a popular tourist destination, not so far away from Uddevalla. The tourist season had not started yet, so it was eerily quiet, which I enjoyed the most about it. A rathet enjoyable place, but not all that exciting as Lonely Planet makes it to be. Not that unique either. I visited Fiskebäckskil visited by accident – forgot to turn in tie, which resulted in a detour and a visit to this village. Anyway it was very similar to Smögen with all those rows of white houses and orange roofs, minus tourist infrastructure and posh people from Stockholm. Very quiet too. Another revelation about Sweden I had is that west coast areas are full of fauna I normally associate with more tropical areas. Crabs, shrimps, jellyfish and all kind of sea creatures not found in Finland. Good seafood soup in Smögen as well.

A short note about Trollhättan

20120627-233405.jpgTrollhättan was once a home to Saab, but as it goes in the postindustrial society production of tangible goods has shifted to cheaper parts of the world. Nowadays Trollhättan is a base to Swedish movie industry, which promptly earned the city the Trollywood nickname. The main attraction of the city is the system of channels, locks, waterfalls, floodgates and other contraptions I do not know names of. Set over the stunning rocky landscape, covered with moss and rust with running water everywhere, it is a truly stunning sight. All for an unknown purpose (at least to me). All this reminded me of Miyazaki’s Laputa, never mind the absence of rusty robots or flying castles. A unique place, well worth a visit.

Horrors of 47

After the initial disappointment with cycling routes, I decided to choose regular roads instead. Straight, fast and there is no room for getting lost. That is until I hit the road 47 on the route from Jönkoping to Falköping: about 70km of heavy traffic with occasional showers. Passing by trucks surrounded by water mist triggered a mental picture of something in between medieval knights and raging demons. On a brighter side, a truck going to the same direction created a warm wind tunnel resulting in a turbo boost just like in video games. Alas like in the computer world the boost lasted only a little while bringing the misery back. To crown this horror the entry to Falköping was marked by a long uphill that just seemed to never end. When I finally saw the golden gates of McDonalds in the outskirts of Falköping, I felt like Harold & Kumar, when they reached The White Castle.

Falköping was an utter disappointment – the McDonalds did not have wi-fi. I felt adventurous and ordered a coffee with a strawberry pie. The pie took a long time to come, so they offered me a free ice-cream. And what is without complaining or asking. Both the pie and the ice-cream turned out to be complete crap. Good coffee and even better custom service, though. After getting my sugar, water and electricity fix, I spent some time war-driving around Falköping, but no wi-fi was located, so I continued further on the road 47 to Trollhättan. This time traffic and rain were too much for me, so given a first opportunity I turned to a side-road. Even weather agreed with my choice, the rain stopped and sun started shining. Not so long after I hit a small village, maybe some 300m across, which is not even marked on Google Maps, where I was greeted by these cows.

They stood there in an astonishment gazing at a shrouded traveller on a bicycle. More and more cows kept coming and I was totally flabbergasted by all this attention. The rest of the day was spent cycling the idyllic country-side in the rays of the setting sun. Lesson learnt: the straightest route is not necessarily the best one.