Trip Archives: Northern Europe

Three months of cycling in the north of Europe in the summer of 2009. I zigzagged from southern Sweden through Sweden and Norway to the North Cape, then briefly went to Russia and ended the trip in northern Finland. Total distance cycled: pretty much exactly 7000km.

Rostock - Trelleborg - Höör

I’m traveling again. The plan is to cycle Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

Took the train to Rostock to catch a ferry to Trelleborg. At the ferry terminal I met René, who is going on a cycling tour through southern Sweden and maybe Finland.

We arrived in Trelleborg around 7am. We bought some breakfast at a petrol station and talked about our plans. I wanted to go to a village called Skegrie, a few kilometers to the north-west of Trelleborg, to see Skegriedösen, a 5000-year-old Megalith. I asked the lady at the counter for directions and asked her to pronounce Skegrie in Swedish for me. Her reply didn’t seem to have much in common with the spelling of the word. I tried to repeat what she had said but failed miserably. Trying to comfort me, she said: “Yeah, we have a strange accent here in the south.”

So we cycled to Skegrie – and beyond, but didn’t find the stones. Even the locals didn’t know what we were looking for. After about 5km I decided to go back because another place I wanted to see was Ystad – about 40km to the east. Rene turned north. When I came back to Skegrie I saw it, Skegriedösen, just off the main road we had crossed earlier.

Ystad, former member of the now defunct Hanseatic League, is supposed to have a picturesque town centre. I probably missed the good parts – I didn’t find it too exciting.

From Ystad I cycled north. The tail wind I had enjoyed so far changed to a nasty head wind. Around 7pm (IIRC), after 147km, I reached a campsite near Höör – and met René again.

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Höör - Markaryd

Slept in today (the tent’s too cozy) and left around 11am. The idea was to go to a remote campsite north-north-eastish of (but quite far from) Höör. Rode some dirt roads today. They don’t deserve the name, though, they’re almost as sleek as tarred roads. Amazing, compared to Madagascar, Australia or Germany. At 6pm, after only 80km, I decided to call it a day and stopped at the campsite in Markaryd. There’s only one other tent here. Everyone else, mostly old people from Germany and the Netherlands, has a camper van. They have free wifi and a coffee flat-rate here, too.

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Markaryd - Ullared

After finishing the previous post another cyclist arrived, Mili from Sweden. We chatted until late and had a 2-hour-breakfast together this morning and then left in different directions. He is headed for Portugal.

The campsite I originally wanted to go to wasn’t a proper campsite. Only a place to stop with a camper van in the middle of a village. So I cycled a bit further to Ullared, 128km in total. From cycling through town it looked like they have more shopping centers and supermarkets than inhabitants. The campsite was full of biting mini-mosquitoes.

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Ullared - Örby

Left the mosquito-infested place around noon and decided to take another half a day off. Cycled only 51km to Örby, pitched the tent and read and slept in front of it in the afternoon sun. Later it started to rain and I went to bed around 8pm.

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Örby - Stocken

Woke up early and noticed another tent and bicycle some hundred meters from mine. It was a German guy on a six-day-tour around southern Sweden.

Left at half past 9 and changed plans en route. Originally I wanted to go to or near Vänersborg, at the lake Vänern, Swedens biggest lake. It turned out a bit difficult to find a direct route that avoided highways, so I decided to go more westish, circumnavigate Göteborg, and then go even more to the west onto some islands (over bridges, and tomorrow by ferry).

Today’s roads were quite diverse. From single-file-only hilly dirt tracks to massive main roads and cycle paths next to autobahn-like highways. Through beautyful valleys, close to a water fall, through some of Göteborg’s poorer and richer suburbs.

Close to Stocken I noticed a statue of a uber-sized deer with a Kangaroo head at the road side. I wondered why anyone would put it there. When cycling past I saw from the corner of my eye that the statue moved. I’d seen my first elk.

Reached Stocken on the island of Orust after 162km.

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Stocken - Strömstad

It was a stormy and rainy night. At least the rain stopped around 10am and I left about an hour later. For quite some time I had a nice tail wind. The last 40 or so kilometers were less fun.

Arrived in Strömstad after 128km. The first campsite I cycled past was close by the sea, but parted in two by the main road. The one I’m at now is directly at the main road, too, but on a hill or big rock which helps keep the noise down. At least I can see the sun set from my tent.

However. It is way cheaper to stay in a hostel in, say, downtown Auckland than to camp in Sweden. And this one is officially the most expensive campsite I’ve been at so far. Yet you have to pay an extra 5 crowns for a 3-minute-shower. Time counts from when you insert the coin and it doesn’t matter whether you actually use the water at all. I almost died entering the shower for it is so bloody slippery. Also, the place is full of Norwegian bus-sized (as in greyhound bus) camper vans. Everyone here is 75 or older. Does nobody tent camp anymore???

Midsummer night festivities start tomorrow. That prolly explains why so many people from the neighbouring country are here. It’s so much cheaper here. Looking forward to Norway.

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Strömstad

I missed the dry spot this morning – the time between waking up and the start of the rain – to pack everything, and decided to take a day off. Strömstad is not spectacular and seems very touristy. Norway is close, by both ferry and road. Also, it was a holiday (midsummer something?) so there was not much to do besides laundry and reading.

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Strömstad – Sandefjord – Siljan

Took the ferry to Sandefjord in Norway. Yesterday I was quoted 76 Swedish Crowns, today I had to pay 190. Apparently yesterday the bike wasn’t included. It’s more expensive than a person because it can’t shop aboard.

The ferry was boring. Everyone was just shopping tax free… haha.

The boat arrived in Sandefjord around 4pm. I cycled out of town and dismissed the first campsite for it was too cramped and full with campervans. The second one didn’t seem to exist.

Had to climb the first hair pin bends today. For some reason I find the countryside here in Norway much more scenic and idyllic.

Eventually, after 52km, I stopped at a non-public camp site and tried to ask a lady about staying there. She didn’t understand me and so we both babbled along at each other – she in Norwegian, me in English. Found someone else with a better command of the English language and got the OK to pitch tent.

Shortly after Sandefjord the clock showed 8000km since Madagascar; 750+km since Trelleborg.

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Siljan - Risør

Left early. Like yesterday, the terrain was quite hilly and a few times I went downhill with almost 60 kph. Fastest on this trip was 61 with luggage, all-time high is 65, without luggage, if I remember correctly (training for Around the Bay?).

Today was the day of the cyclists. Met 7 other (short-distance) riders on the roads (with proper road bikes, etc.), and two Germans have pitched their tent next to me. They pedal from Göteborg to Stavanger.

Reached Risør after 114km.

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Risør

Took another day off at Moen Camping near Risør to catch up on email and things. More cycling tomorrow.

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Risør - Kristiansand

The Germans from 2 days ago had told me about a north sea cycle route. It goes along the coast up to Stavanger or Bergen. My original plan was to ride a bit off the coast to avoid the coastal highways, but what they told me sounded like there’s a cycle path or at least an alternative to main roads pretty much all the way through. For the most part, my previously projected route seemed to match with the ‘official’ route. But close to Kristiansand there was no (sign-posted) alternative anymore and I had to cycle on the highway. That was pretty annoying and a wee bit more dangerous than necessary.

The campsite near Kristiansand I stayed at was small, boring, crowded, and expensive. Cycled 130km today.

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Kristiansand - Eiesland

From Kristiansand I went north. There were quite a few steep and long climbs today. In some village, when I had a short break at one of those hills, I guy stopped and told me that that hill was about the worst I would encounter on this road for the next 150 or so kilometers. He was quite right as far as I can tell. Unfortunately, I left the road after about 11 km. His predictions weren’t true for the new one.

The campsite I wanted to go to originally didn’t exist any more so I tried to reach Tonstad. However, having missed out on lunch, and facing quite steep hills, I decided to call it a day after 116 km and camp near a river near the village of Eiesland. Mosquitoes are numerous and hungry at the place.

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Eiesland - Tonstad

Had to skip breakfast – it was impossible to stay longer than absolutely necessary with the hordes of biting insects.

Cycled to Tonstad, yesterday’s target and just 46 km away, and stopped at their campsite.

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Tonstad

Took a day off to do – nothing.

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Tonstad - Lysebotn

The ride to Lysebotn promised to be an interesting one. The first part goes along valleys and climbs only slightly. On the last 30 km it climbs to 932 m and descends within 8 km to Lysebotn at 0 m. Right before the descent there’s a restaurant with a viewing platform at the edge of the mountain. Riding down to the restaurant, I topped my own speed record: 70 kph with luggage!

From the restaurant’s car park there’s a path that goes to Kjerag, a 1110m peak, and Kjeragbolten, a big stone hanging between two rocks, almost 1000m above sea level. You can climb onto that stone and enjoy the view down.

On the way up I met two guys from Sweden and Norway, respectively, and we took pictures of each other on the Kjeragbolten.

From the restaurant, the road goes down to Lysebotn with 27 hair pin bends and a 180° tunnel (500m into the rock, 180° turn, 500m out of the rock). ‘t was fun 7.5 kilometers. Total distance: 81km.

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