Archive for the ‘Europe 2018’ Category

Bikelele goes Baltic

4 July 2018

We are about to embark on a 2 month trip (11 July – 8 September 2018) around the Baltic, starting and finishing in Berlin. As the map indicates the route will include Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg (with detour by train to Moscow), Tallinn, Riga, Klaipeda and Gdansk.

We have our double entry Russian visas – please address us  as Иэн Робертс and Росали Дай from now on!

Regenbogenfabrik!

13 July 2018

Adelaide – Doha – Berlin all went according to plan. We took a taxi with all of our gear to Regenbogenfabrik (Rainbow Factory) in Kreuzberg, a place we had discovered on the internet before leaving home. All our needs were met here, starting with the cafe (2 milchkaffees + cake), and then the bike workshop out the back, a small but well-equipped and well-patronised DIY space where anyone can drop in and do some bike repairs or assembly. We were given access to a bike stand and tools and spent an hour or more (out of the drizzle) getting the bikes back together – cost €4.

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First landing – Regenbogen cafe!

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Regenbogen Fahrradwerkstatt (bike workshop)

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Ian at work

After this, a beer at the aforementioned cafe before walking the bikes, with the bike bags awkwardly balanced on top, a kilometre or so to the home of Florian, our WarmShowers host. We are not the only guests here – there are also two Croatian bicycle travellers who are to return home tomorrow. Although a bit tired out after recent celebrations relating to Croatia reaching the finals in the World Cup, they helped carry our luggage four floors up to an interesting apartment that is home to a household of young people, all vegans and politically active in the best possible way! We are now resting before going with Florian and Lena to dine on (according to them) the best vegan pizza in Berlin at La Stella Nera.

Berlin by bike

14 July 2018

After an early breakfast and more bike tweaking, we went to Tempelhof, the old Berlin airport that was built pre-WW2 and closed in 2008. It is now a vast public park that is used for a variety of recreational activities including garden plots (our hosts grow vegetables here), circus school, running, skating, bike riding and barbecues (grillen is only permitted in certain places). One area is devoted to housing for refugees in transportable modules, overlooked by the huge semicircular terminal building.

Refugee housing, Tempelhof

When in Berlin you must visit the Brandenburg Gate. We went there to find that the entire area has been taken over by Fanmeile Berlin, a massive outdoor World Cup festival that involves live telecasts on big screens, food, beer, sideshows and thousands of people all going crazy. This was fortunately not in full swing this morning but it will be pretty lively over the weekend.

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Brandenburg Gate

We mooched around and took in a few famous sights in the peak tourist district -Konzerthaus Berlin, Berliner Dom, the museums, the Reichstag – then headed off home through the Tiergarten and went phone card shopping.

About to return from a late afternoon swim at Sommerbad Kreuzberg (swimming pool), we discovered that my front wheel had suffered a catastrophic failure (rim coming off). Good timing as it was only a 20 minute walk back – and we are not yet en route in the countryside! There is a bike shop nearby that we will patronise tomorrow. While that is getting fixed I may have a chance to try one of the many bike share schemes available here. Berlin seems to embrace them – Melbourne lift your game!

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Mobike – no chain, solid tyres, haven’t tried it yet!

Kreuzberg Sommerbad revisited

14 July 2018

The Kreuzberg Sommerbad didn’t disappoint. It is a set of beautiful swimming pools set in a leafy park not far from our digs. During our last few wintry weeks in Adelaide we’d been imagining being warm in Berlin and going swimming in the sommerbad, and so it was yesterday afternoon.

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There was a mass of bikes parked higgledy-piggledy around the entrance (massive in an everywhere-but-Netherlands sense) and I feared that the pools would be crowded but keine problem; there was plenty of room. The pools are very expansive and there weren’t THAT many people there, it was just that they must have ALL travelled to the pool by bicycle. How else? There was no car parking at the pool anyway.

There was less naked flaunting than last time. There were transgender inclusive facilities.

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Changerooms sign

 

When we left we discovered Rosalie’s front rim had split and her tyre blown out.

(worn out rims) + (tyre over-pressure in the hot afternoon sun) = blow out (rim + tyre)

A visit to a bike shop is called for and Rosalie can get a brand new pair of wheels to start wearing out, but in the meantime it’s Shanks pony.

Baumhaus and ArtSpin

15 July 2018

The hours of darkness are short and it’s light soon after 4am. We took an early ride to the Baumhaus, a small house and garden that were built in the 1980s beside the Berlin Wall by a Turkish immigrant. This was a recent news story as this man died in April 2018. It is a gerry-built structure with vegetables and fruit trees and plenty of pleasant areas to sit in the shade.

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I was on a Mobike which was surprisingly good to ride. Only trouble was the technology went a bit heywire and Mobike kept chomping down my Euros even after I reliquished it! This was rectified quickly though by their excellent customer service. But now I have new rims from Velomondo and am back on my own bike.

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We visited a Middle Eastern cafe called Djimalaya on Invaliden Strasse near the Berlin Wall Memorial. Excellent hummus and falafels. We were joined briefly on our outdoor table by an 80 year old woman who needed to sit down for 8 minutes until her tram came along. In that short time we heard about her life during which she has experienced WW2, the era of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, for which she is grateful.

Florian, our host, invited us to participate in ArtSpin Berlin so we met him and about 400 other people on bikes and embarked on a tour of east Berlin with a number of designated stops featuring art performances or installations. One of these was at the former Australian Embassy of the GDR, a Whitlam-Honecker initiative that resulted in a classic 1970s building in Pankow, now used as a studio space for artists after fending off a threatened demolition. Our tour made quite a spectacle – we were assisted by police and attracted both abuse and applause from onlookers at various times!

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ArtSpin rendezvous – iconic bridge of the Berlin Wall era

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Former Australian Embassy to East Germany

Berlin-Copenhagen Bikeway

16 July 2018

Oranienburg to Furstenberg – train Furstenberg to Waren – Waren to Klein Gievitz

We took an early train to Oranienburg to get out of the clutches of Berlin. This small and somewhat unkempt town was not a lively place at 7am on a Sunday morning and the substantial Fruhstuck we thought we would find here did not materialise. We made do with coffee and pastries from a bakery and commenced our ride on the Berlin-Copenhagen Bikeway, Brandenberg stage which is charcterised by flat countryside, lakes, forest, canals and not many towns.

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The bikeway was fairly unpopulated for the first couple of hours but gradually we were joined by other cyclists and played hare and tortoise with a couple of parties. We travelled through an area between Zehdenick and Mildenberg where clay brick making was a huge industry in the past. But we were pretty much looking out for somewhere to have second breakfast. After eating our plain bread rolls in desperation (sans butter, jam or cheese), we found the kind of place that we’d expected to see more of – a roadside kiosk selling wurst!

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On the approach to Furstenberg we passed the site of the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp – a grim place during WW2.

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Detail of Müttergruppe Ravensbrück by sculptor Fritz Cremer

A review of progress achieved and still to be made revealed that we needed the assistance of Deutsche Bahn to get us to Waren from where we could ride the final leg to Klein Gievitz where our CouchSurfing host awaited us. Waren is proud of its location on Lake Muritz, the biggest lake in Germany.

Christian, our host, welcomed us to the tiny village where he lives with his family – who are all away on holiday waiting for him to join them shortly. He cooked us delicious paella and we enjoyed a long conversation over dinner and drinks.

Waren to Rostock

17 July 2018

Waren to Gustrow – by train Gustrow to Rostock

Today was warm and sunny. The bikeway has taken us beside lakes, through forests and farms, along dirt roads, sandy tracks and a few short stretches along actual roads. Although signposting is good, navigation still consumes quite a lot of time and we have to remain alert to keep on the correct route.

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Wolf sculpture – Binnenmuritz, Waren

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Dirt road through the forest on the Berlin Copenhagen Bikeway

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First Trabi we have seen on this trip – nice colour but not in running order!

We stopped for lunch in Krakow am See and for a swim in Inselsee near Gustrow, along with plenty of others who were enjoying the fine weather.

In Gustrow we were approached by an enthusiastic taxi driver who wanted to know all about our trip and who told us that Sydney, the Twelve Apostles and the Olgas were ‘super cool’. He spoke English about as well as we speak German ie hardly at all.

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Schloss Gustrow – looks like no-one quite knows what to do with it!

We travelled by train to cover the last 40km to Rostock – it was packed with people and lots of bikes. Rostock is celebrating 800 years as a Hanseatic city and 600 years since the founding of its university. We discovered this thanks to tram advertising – so informative!

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Birds, Rostock

In Scandinavia!

18 July 2018

Rostock to Gedser to Stubbekobing on the island of Falster, Denmark

Post breakfast we explored the old town of Rostock. The magnificent university building displays its virtues spelled out on its facade (in Latin of course): justice, diligence, modesty, patience, probity, loyalty and piety.

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There are modern sculptures as well as historic buildings.

The Port of Rostock handles a lot of departures and arrivals. Travelling by bike means first on and first off, but the loading and unloading of all the trucks, cars and RVs was impressively efficient. The trip was calm – saw some dolphins and a huge offshore wind farm. As we cyclists disembarked in Gedser we were welcomed by those waiting to board who dinged their bells in chorus.

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Denmark is neat and tidy with fields of beets, barley and wheat, small villages, wind turbines and quiet roads. Our route took us to our first Baltic beach where we swam to cool off. We have seen few shops, almost no accommodation along the way, no wurst and beer kiosks, not even a single hotel. Luckily we had booked a place to stay, but more planning ahead may be needed to save us from sleeping out!

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Farmhouse near Gedser

Falster, Bogø and Møn

19 July 2018

Stubbekøbing to Praesto

Stubbekøbing was our first proper Danish town, with all the things a town should have including church, hardware shop, supermarket, hotel and bakery. We bought our first Danish pastries! It was windy and thick haze was everywhere, we believe from forest fires in Sweden. The ferry to Bogø carried several cars and a huge tractor along with a posse of cyclists.

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We were not on Bogø for long with a bridge connecting to the next island, Møn, where we saw the Grønsalen dolmen (102m long and 10m wide). There are many neolithic burial mounds in this part of Denmark.

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At nearby Hårbølle we stopped at a small cafe that is only open for 6 weeks in the summer, run by local volunteers, and providing a venue for community activities, concerts, exhibitions, film club and family events. We spoke with two Danish men (of retirement age) who worked there, both of whom spoke multiple languages, and one of whom had studied in Perth in the 1970s. They advised us on Danish pronounciations and cycling routes in Sweden.

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We have embarked on basic studies of Danish and can say to kaffe tak (2 coffees please) and to øl tak (2 beers please) – but the Danes cannot understand us and instantly switch to English. The Wikipedia article on the Danish language explains about the ‘very large vowel inventory comprising 27 phonemically distinctive vowels’ and points out that even Danish babies find it hard to get a grip on it, so there’s little hope for us!

In Stege, our biggest Danish town so far, we rested in the excellent tourist information centre – staffed by volunteers and equipped with couches – to recharge things.

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Stege

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Bikes retrieved from the canal, Stege

A bridge crossing followed to take us on to the island of Zealand and a thundery shower dampened us.

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Queen Alexandrine Bridge near Stege

We arrived in Praesto for the night and while drinking huge beers by the waterfront, we were persuaded by our neighbours to eat the Danish national dish – crispy pork with parsley sauce – which was available at the buffet. The man of this couple managed to get through 4 platefuls of this. We managed two – and agree that it is an excellent dish.

Stevns Klint

20 July 2018

Præstø to Rødvig to Køge

The road out of Præstø led us around the Præstø Fjord (it’s not like a Norwegian fjord, just an inlet!) on a road with a wide shoulder in red bitumen on both sides, allowing more room for bike riders than motor vehicles. It was a fine sunny day with a strong breeze.

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There is a lot of grain growing around here and today we saw the first signs that harvesting is beginning. Plenty more to go as well! Our route featured wheat fields, forests, burial mounds, roadside poppies, home gardens with hollyhocks and many Danish flags, most of them long and thin, flying over farm houses. Farm gate stalls are common, some selling produce and others resembling a small scale garage sale.

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After a rest in Rodvig we arrived at Stevns Klint, a UNESCO recognised site where chalk cliffs reveal a rich geological record. This are was also an important site during WW2 and the Cold War as the location was ideal for keeping an eye on maritime movements. From the lookout at the Stevns Lighthouse we could see the Øresund Bridge on the horizon – this is the bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden at Malmo.

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We were looking out for a swimming opportunity and afternoon tea stop, preferably somewhere combining the two – but the former was not to be found and the latter was held sitting beside the main road of a nondescript town outside the supermarket. Things looked up on arrival in Koge which has an impressive town square with a statue of Frederick VII – popular bloke!

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Copenhagen

21 July 2018

Koge to Copenhagen

Our accommodation in Koge was a family hostel on the edge of town with a burial mound right next door. We left without having breakfast, hoping to find some along the way. After crossing a freeway (they do have them here) and travelling through several villages with no shops, we found a bakery with excellent pastries but coffee machine on the blink. Further along the road we stopped for another try at a smorrebrod cafe where everything was in working order and the smorrebrod were delicious.

The way in to Copenhagen was well marked and we were helped by good weather and wind to reach City Hall where we had a rendezvous with Wieteke and Kees, friends from The Netherlands. It was a popular day for civil marriages with brides and grooms arriving and leaving in a steady stream.

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Our first tourism activity was visiting the Tivoli Gardens, just nearby. This is a splendid place that combines beautiful gardens with a blend of traditional amusements and scary rides, with plentiful food and drink opportunities. Tivoli is celebrating its 175 year anniversary with a special program of entertainment.

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Following lunch near the incredibly overcrowded harbour, we cycled along the waterfront to view the Little Mermaid, along with several hundred others. Then a return to the Tivoli took us past the Amalienborg Palace, looking splendid in the early evening light with young Danish guardsmen keeping things in order.

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The 7pm pantomime in the Tivoli Gardens was a delight – beautifully presented with fine performances from dancers and actors, telling a love story that encountered a few problems but ended happily.

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Swimming, art and bag theft

22 July 2018

Copenhagen is one of, I’m guessing, few large harbour cities where the water is clean enough for swimming. There are several free harbourside pools here, so our early morning activity was to try out one of them. Havnebadet Fisketorvet, a little way south of the old city centre, is surrounded by modern buildings – hotel, shopping centre, highrise offices. It comprises three pools – one for children, a deep one with diving boards and a 50m pool for lap swimming. It was pleasant to swim here.

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From the pool we crossed the harbour on a bike and pedestrian only bridge and rode to Vors Frelsens Kirke – it has an amazing steeple with a spiral staircase on the outside that is sheathed in copper. We ascended, as did quite a few other people, to admire the impressive view from the top. Copenhagen is a somewhat overwhelming place after the quiet Danish countryside – an amazing combination of magnificent historic and modern buildings.

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Christiania, the well-known autonomous anarchist district, was nearby so we paid a brief visit. It is an interesting place but grubby – a market was setting up, Christiania bikes were among the bike fleet and plenty of graffiti, murals and public art works decorated the buildings.

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We met Kees and Wieteke at midday and together we embarked on a bike ride to ARKEN, a new contemporary art museum about 17km south of Copehagen. It was hot and sunny. We took the suburban route on the way there and spent some time viewing the current exhibition that included Damien Hirst (remember the cow in formaldehyde?) and Danish artist JF Willumsen.

The ride back incuded a variety of scenery – lake, sea, sewage works, power station, huge wind turbines, airport highway, bike path closure (with detour signposted), compost depot and rubbish tip.

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We unwisely chose to dine in a tourist hotspot from where Wieteke’s bag, containing phone, cards and passport, vanished, presumably stolen.

Happy endings

23 July 2018

The aftermath of the stolen bag dominated the day for Wieteke and Kees who had an anxious night followed by a morning with various bureaucracies to wrangle – police, embassy, airline. We were obliged to leave them to it and amuse ourselves with another swim at the same pool as yesterday and a visit to WeCycle, a combined cafe/bike shop, where we had coffee and bought theft-proof skewers for our wheels.

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We then rode around the eastern side of Christianshavn where old ramparts remain as a car-free green space, actually a part of Christiania, with residents living in informal housing among the trees with waterfront views. There is a cycling/walking path through the area which feels surprisingly rural although it is close to the centre of Copenhagen.

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We have clarified our plans for the next stage of the trip which involves our departure tomorrow morning to go to Helsingør, then by ferry to Helsingborg in Sweden.

It was hot again today. An afternoon cycle tour with Kees and Wieteke took us to the Opera House, a huge new building overlooking the harbour, then back to Christianshavn and finally to the Marble Church (Frederik’s Church), a huge domed building near the Amalienborg Palace.

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We then farewelled our friends after some great times together again.

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After a cooling late afternoon swim we were amazed to hear from Wieteke that her bag had been found and returned to her – minus cash and iPhone – but with everything else untouched including her passport. It had been dumped in another restaurant not far from where we had been sitting last night. A salutary lesson has been learned though and we are on a higher level of security alert than before.

Helsingør to Helsingborg

24 July 2018

Copenhagen to Helsingor – by ferry to Helsingborg, Sweden

They could have made things simpler by choosing names that were a little less alike!

Today was another warm day, changing between sunny and overcast. It was about 50km to Helsingor, following bicycle route 9, so we took it easy with second breakfast and a lunch stop on the way. We swam at Charlottenlund Beach Park with the industrial skyline of Copenhagen, offshore wind farms and the Oresund Bridge visible on the horizon. The coast between Copenhagen and Helsingor appears to be the holiday area for the well-heeled. There are significant sections of private beachfront, and although public access is adequate, it seems wrong to deny so much beach to so many people.

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Helsingor is a busy city with ferries plying across the Oresund Strait non-stop all day. The Kronborg Castle (Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet) is also a drawcard and a major feature of the town. We entered the grounds and appreciated the war-like sound effects coming out of speakers placed around to create an authentic atmosphere of past battles.

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Sculpture – Han by Elmgreen & Dragset, Helsingor, Denmark

We managed to rid ourselves of all our remaining Danish Kroner at the ferry ticket office and queued up to board the ferry along with about 30 members of Teufelskerle 50cc, a moped club, whose members looked a fair bit like bikies except more friendly. They appeared to be going on a Swedish road trip as they were all loaded up with lots of gear.

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Helsingborg has a magnificent city hall and a fine park overlooking the harbour. We had our first Swedish beer and were advised by the young waiter to make friends with some Swedish people and persuade them to make meatballs for us. We’ll see how that goes!

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Just to go back to a few Danish matters – in case you didn’t know, adults here regularly ride in the hold of cargo bikes. We have seen this several times, in fact once we saw an adult and 3 children in the front – hard work for the bloke on the pedals! I can’t imagine anyone getting away with that in Australia. We have seen a few cyclists wearing the airbag style head protection – they are worn like a neck scarf and inflate to provide protection for your head, presumably just before it hits something really hard! Copenhagen cyclists ride fast and car drivers give way to them.

We are staying in an Airbnb – a sign in the building foyer says Cykelparkering FORBJUDEN!

Sunny Sweden – but it’s too hot!

25 July 2018

Helsingborg to Osby

We left Nadia’s immaculate AirBnB in Helsingborg early after a self-catered breakfast of muesli and drinking yoghurt. It was a clear, calm day and we were soon cycling in idyllic conditions through tranquil Swedish farmlands.

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There are no significant ridges or valleys (or rivers) just gently undulating farm land and forests (glacial moraines?). The countryside is dotted with small hamlets, villages and towns. There are also isolated factories that look clean and tidy.

There are many huge horse studs with sleek horses and leggy foals. Other farm animals included cattle in stalls and in the fields, sheep, alpaca and a few ostriches!

Garmin took us on an extended spruce forest adventure where we saw deer grazing and scampering away.

We stopped for reviving food and drink a bakery (bageri) in Klippan.

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This is what the school children buy from the Klippan bakery – their school lunches are too healthy!

We’ve cycled on mostly quiet roads and segregated cycleways. Where we had to contend with traffic, the drivers (with one notable exception) have been considerate and have given us a wide berth.

The day turned out to be hot and long and we arrived in Osby worn out. Fortunately there is a cool, tea-coloured and surprisingly shallow lake where we soaked to cool down before dinner.

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Osby is a great place for trainspotting with many trains passing every hour (freight, regional and fast intercity). Contrary to what we had read, at least some of the regional trains take bikes so we may resort to those in coming days.

I see red!

26 July 2018

Osby to Alvesta by train; Alvesta to Vaxjo

If you are Swedish and wondering what colour to paint your house, go for red!

Europe is experiencing a heat wave and drought, having had little or no rain for over a month. Here in Sweden it is hot and dry – I reckon mid-30s temperature again today and more to come. We have seen withered crops of beet and corn and brown lawns everywhere. The heat might be good for drying off grain, some of which is now being harvested.

After a rather punishing day on the road yesterday, we changed the parameters. All advice had been that it was not possible to take bikes on Swedish trains, but we had seen evidence that this was not true. Therefore a train ride (hot & stuffy but fast at over 150kph) from Osby to Alvesta gave our legs a break for which they are thanking us. It is so hot that any patch of shade on the road and any brief cloud cover provides welcome relief.

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Proof – you can take your bike on a Swedish train!

Alvesta has a lake (shallow) so we had a swim. I impressed a Swedish grandma walking with her toddler grandson by playing my ukulele in the shade of a tree. We patronised Cafe St Clair in the main street – I gave it a high hygge rating (Danish for stylish and cosy), great for winter but not the right feel for a heat wave.

We mooched along to Vaxjo, stopping for more rest at Harlov and then for a second swim in another lake, this one almost neck deep!

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We met our WarmShowers host, Pieter, in the main pedestrian street of Vaxjo. He is a physics lecturer at the Linnaeus University (Linnéuniversitetet) and a recumbent rider.

Pieter took us to a free outdoor pop concert featuring a Swedish band with lead singer made up Tim Minchin-style and wearing sheer black stockings and sequinned mini-skirt. Then delicious dinner at cool Kafe de Luxe and ride home in the deepening twilight beside the lake, through the university campus and past the Växjö Echo Tower.

Muddling about on trains

27 July 2018

Växjö to Tranås by train

It was HOT again! We muddled on trains because of the heat and Ian’s incipient cold. Admirable though Swedish trains are, they remind us why independent transport is preferable – you can waste time but you don’t have to do it on a railway platform.

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Carl Linne (Linnaeus) surrounded by kale and cosmos – Växjö

Swedish rail employees were helpful and spoke excellent English – this was good as we had to make two changes. Even the man on the SJ train that we thought we were going to board (the national railway company on which you may not take a bike) was polite and explained that we could take a different train. All the trains go fast but most do not have effective air conditioning.

We had to wait for over an hour in Alvesta so we returned to Cafe St Clair and were welcomed again by the Japanese proprietor – she regards us as regulars now! Here we also made friends with Adam, a marketing executive who has escaped Stockholm and returned to his hometown to grow potatoes. Pity about the terrible season. He owns a pair of RM Williams boots!

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Adam & Ian outside Cafe St Clair

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Cafe St Clair, Alvesta

On the next train we met Peter who was doing a round trip by bicycle from Stockholm to Växjõ. We’ve arranged to meet for a beer when we get to Stockholm. Both Peter and Adam gave us some training in the pronounciation of Swedish place names. It is not at all straightforward, eg Växjö = Vekwe, Nässjö = Nekwe and that’s only an approximation. The part means by a lake.

There are Volvos everywhere here. We have seen a few classic models as well as some that look fresh off the production line.

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Tomorrow we will be back on the bikes and heading for Opphem – by a lake!

Boating & moon watching

28 July 2018

Tranås to Opphem

The weekly market was being set up in Tranås square as we left town at 8am. It was cool, sunny and calm and we rode on quiet roads through tranquil forests. We passed many lakes and stopped at one for a swim, joining a Swedish family who were sunning themselves and playing frisby and a woman with a regal-looking Irish Setter. He had a beautiful red-brown coat and was reluctant to get it wet.

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By the time we arrived at Opphem in the early afternoon it was hot again. We found Lisse and Roger (friends who lived in Adelaide in 2006-07) at their summer house. They took us in their boat to an island in the lake for a picnic and swimming. The lakes are extensive and joined by small canals. Apparently you can navigate to the sea or to the Göta Canal.

Lisse and Roger’s house is 70s-themed on the inside and Falu red on the outside – the traditional colour for almost every house and farm building in the Swedish countryside. The iron oxide pigmented paint looks perfect against the dark green forests and the homes appear cosy and inviting – all too cosy in this record breaking summer.

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We spent the evening on and by the lake watching the lunar eclipse. Surprisingly, it was visible in Adelaide and Opphem simultaneously. It was difficult to see the moon because of haze near the horizon but finally Lisse spotted it, faint at first, but growing brighter in its full umbral, red stage. We watched as it emerged from the Earth’s shadow – it seems that the Earth may indeed be round after all!

We had a great time catching up with Lisse and Roger and will stay another day before heading on towards Stockholm. We slept in the cubby house in the garden.

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Linköping & Göta Canal

29 July 2018

After Swedish breakfast in Opphem, we were treated by Lisse and Roger to a tour of Linköping (pronounced Linchirping), their home town. We saw a modern housing development, the beautiful park and river, the old city centre, had delicious lunch at Babette’s and visited the cathedral.

We then went to the Carl Johan staircase, a series of locks on the Göta Canal, near Linköping, that lower boats into or raise them up from Lake Roxen. It is impressive to see this in action.

We have enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of our hosts – great conversation, beautiful meals, stunning location, memories of time spent together in Adelaide and valuable advice about the next stage of our trip. Thanks Lisse and Roger!

Cycling by the Göta Canal

30 July 2018

Opphem to Söderköping

Feeling pampered and refreshed by Lisse & Roger we packed our bags, got back on our bikes and headed off towards Stockholm.

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Our back road wound through forest, farmland and lakes; all strewn with boulders left by receding glaciers. They range from car-sized, to house-sized and bigger. They are too big to move and must be worked around. Only the trees seem up to the task of breaking them up and pushing them aside but that takes time.

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We found ourselves back in the outskirts of Linköping before joining an impressive cycling arterial heading towards the Göta Canal at Norsholm. We ended up on a wide sealed shoulder on Route 210 before finding a quieter alternative.

We spent a while relaxing under a chestnut tree by a lock on the canal at Norsholm. As if a canal lock isn’t fascinating enough this one has extra value as a road and the fast train between Linköping and Stockholm crosses the canal at ground level! So, the lock master needs to ensure that a 300 km/h train isn’t approaching before lifting the railway bridge AND OVERHEAD CABLES for masted boats to pass. As the bridge lifts, the catenary wires droop and the power cables dangle less than half a metre from the ground. I wonder whether the power is isolated temporarily. There are small DO NOT TOUCH THE CABLES signs in Swedish. The lock master then yells to the boatie to get a wriggle on – fair enough, I say.

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We cycled a few kilometres on a tow path before heading into the forest as thunder and lightning crash around us. We were immediately besieged by pesky swarms of small flies. They wouldn’t settle but hovered near our faces and we were glad we packed our fly nets.

The locks that don’t involve Sweden’s rail system seem to be staffed by Swedish university students. They wear hi-viz outfits and wireless controls around their necks. We chatted with one lock keeper who was slightly embarrassed to tell us her lock involved a meagre 5cm level change – necessitated by a surveying error perhaps. She agreed that her job could be a bit boring sometimes but the boaties provided entertainment. She restrained herself in their presence but she and her friends often enjoyed a laugh at their expense at the end of the day.

We’re staying in a youth hostel by the canal on the outskirts of Söderköping which is the most charming of the Swedish towns we’ve seen so far with an unusual city hall, old trading buildings and a long wharf. The hostel is a traditional Swedish building, timber-clad and timber-lined with small doorways and low ceilings. It’s Falu red on the outside and white and pale green inside. It feels like a big dolls’ house.

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We are only a few kilometres from the end of the canal at Mem.