A Windy Åsa

Day 43: May 31st, Varberg to Åsa, Sweden

Grey and windy today. Really windy. But it was off the water, and so generally across the bikes. We got off to a late start as we didn’t plan a particularly long ride, and the weather was supposed to improve in the afternoon.

It got really sunny, but the wind didn’t let up. The route was a nice mix of green countryside and rocky/beach coast. We stopped to watch brave kitesurfers jetting around like rockets.

As at several other sites, reception was closed at the campground, but a nice lady with a cane appeared and handed us a map, told us we could pitch our tent wherever we wanted, and set us up with the wifi password, etc. It was the best check in we’ve had to date.

We were a little concerned that our old tent might not survive the wind, but she held up well.

There were a couple of other tenters, including a guy on an older BMW touring motorcycle. He was Mehmet, from New Zealand, and now living in Turkey. He was riding north, and seemed a little conflicted about it, talking wistfully about the sun and heat back home. I admired his ride, and the list of countries on his hardbags. He was curious about our gear, especially my beloved kitty bins.

Åsa is very small, but it had a grocery store and a candy shop. I had fun buying lots of bulk candy. I focused on stuff that looked good, but I was just guessing. With one big exception, I was happy with my choices.

Distance: 41 km

$51

Tell me about your mother

Day 42: May 30th, Falkenberg to Varberg, Sweden

Still drizzling, and even though we’d spent the night in a cosy apartment, we had a lot of damp clothing – because not all the stuff we’d washed had dried yet. We weren’t concerned, because we’d already booked another Airbnb in our next stop, Varberg, and it wasn’t a long ride, so we’d be unpacking and hanging everything in only a few hours.

It was, again, a great ride, but it was different than most of the previous days in Sweden. The Kattegattleden in this region was very flat, and spent a lot of time on separated bike paths next to roads. For us, this meant unusual speed, and the chance to ride side-by-side stress free. For long stretches we had farm land around us, and glimpses of the Kattegat away to our left. We chatted.

For some reason, the deer seemed to be out and curious on this morning. Twice, we rode by fawns that we could almost have reached out and touched.

We stopped at a roadside picnic table for a break (digestive cookies and an apple). Another rider joined us. She was a young woman from Poland doing an epic tour of her own. She had ridden from Oslo, and confirmed that it was very hilly up there.

The drizzle ended, and we stopped at a picnic table near a rugged beach. It was very quiet, and we were startled by the thumping feet of two hares who ran right past us, through a fence, and chased each other around the grassy dunes.

Varberg is very nice, with public art on nearly every corner. We entered the town along a fantastic coastal path: sea on one side, rock wall on the other. Then we were in the shadow of a massive old fortress. We waited while a long line of school kids on a bicycle outing rode by. There are a lot of little boys here with what I would call “Thor Hair”.

We shared the second floor of a very nice old house with a Professor of Economics from Colombia. She was in town visiting her son who was doing postgrad work in Sweden. Deb did not expect to have to dust off her Spanish on this trip. The first floor was office space for our hosts, Psychologists, judging by the books on all the shelves. There was some interesting objets d’art, and paintings in that place. I felt like somebody was going to ask me how they made me feel, then write notes down in a little book.

Distance: 35 km

$103 plus KeepGo and Skype top-ups

Swedish Dudes

Day 41: May 29th, Halmstad to Falkenberg, Sweden

We woke up to spitting rain. As our English tent neighbour told me, “You have to pay for the good weather”.

Our friend, Mathew Bates, an experienced tourer, told us that we won’t mind riding in the rain, and he’s right, so long as the rain isn’t combined with near-freezing temperatures. This drizzle was no problem, and the riding was great. The thing I don’t like is bagging up a wet tent.

sculpture of man on a horse with a lance, next to a windmill

Now the coast was getting noticeably more rocky and wild. It looked a little Scottish, and a little Northern Ontario. Unlike home, the cycling infrastructure was outstanding. And now’s as good a time as any to say that the Kattegat trail is the best marked cycle route we’ve been on so far.

Just south of Falkenberg was a big beach, with a huge community of rental cottage-boxes all crammed together like lego bricks. They barely have windows. The beach, and the facilities around it, looked great though. It was all pretty empty on a gray, rainy Monday in May, but we sure appreciated the nice, clean public washrooms.

We entered Falkenberg on a picturesque, old stone bridge, complete with a nearby fly-fisherman.

With a rather wet forecast ahead, and three straight camping days behind us, we decided to check Falkenberg Airbnb listings, and found one that looked very, very good. Request accepted, and less than a km away. It was another backyard apartment, and lucky for us (unlucky for him), our host was home with a sick child and could check us in right away.

A note about the Swedes. The stereotypical Swedish man is (according to me), tall, fit, tanned, beardy, a bit weathered, plays golf and tennis, and would be excellent at poker. I seriously can’t tell what they’re thinking, even as I carry on a perfectly nice conversation with them. It’s a little unnerving for me.

Our inscrutable host Carl Gustav set us up, and we took full advantage of the tiny European washer/dryer. My “Monkey House” bag is empty!

Distance: 50 km

$130

Hobo Tea

Day 40: May 28th, Ängelholm to Halmstad, Sweden

Paved bicycle path next to a rocky coastline

The Kattegat Trail took us alongside beautiful beaches to start. The coast just started to become a little more rocky and rugged as we continued north.

A Christmas themed collection of gnomes and decorations sitting in the forest

At times, we were on trail through woods, usually paved. At one point we discovered a gnome christmas scene for some reason.

At times the trail took us a little inland, usually, it seemed, because it wanted us to see something. In one case it was more un-excavated bronze age burial mounds. These were high on a ridge, supposedly to get close to the “life-giving sun”.
Two grassy humps in the distance

The first campground we stopped at seemed deserted, but there were a lot of caravans there. Reception was closed but there were instructions available in English on how to check in. We called the number and were told there were no tent pitches, so we’d have to pay for a caravan spot. Seriously? A tent pitch is a bit of flat lawn. We kept riding.

Sadly, the next campsite was owned by the same company. At the gate, wondering what to do, were the English couple we’d met at the campground the evening before. We explained what had happened at the last place, then called the number again. For whatever reason, it was a bit cheaper. The lady on the phone gave us a code that opened a safe with keycards for the washroom, and gave us a (caravan) pitch number. The English couple called, and were very specific that they wanted a tent site. They ended up paying $3 less than us and were told they could pitch wherever they wanted. Weird.

Again, the campground felt empty. There were a few people around, but, with the weather getting a bit cool, they mostly stuck to their caravans. Deb made couscous, and we used the chickpea tin to boil water for “hobo tea”. These Swedish campgrounds all have kitchens, but most don’t have anything other than microwaves and stoves. We’re not carrying pots, pans, cooking oil, etc. the way these caravaners do. We have to be creative.

Distance: 70 km

$51

Where Angels Play

Day 39: May 27th, Höganäs to Ängelholm, Sweden

The hot sun dried the dew on our tent as we ate a freezer quiche we’d bought the afternoon before (campgrounds with kitchens are great!).

The Kattegattleden route immediately had us on beautiful paths by the sea, then inland to farms. We passed fields of canola (which we’ve seen everywhere), apple orchards, and vineyards.

A field of yellow canola with farm buildings in the distance

If you look carefully, you can see Steve’s blue helmet among the yellow.

We stopped for lunch by the sea at a bench with an old mine next to it. There are lots of remnants of war along the coast, particularly old gun emplacements.

A white bench looking out at the water, sitting next to a water mine

Ängelholm was having some kind of run as we arrived. We slipped between runners and checked into a beachside campground that was packed and jumping. Deb rode into town to pick up some food. She noted on her return that it was the longest we’d been apart since we started this whole thing. I survived.

A stretch of sandy beach, with people

We met an English couple doing part of the North Sea Cycle route. They had four days of riding left and were going the same way as us. Unlike us, they had a snack, then got back on their bikes to head for a restaurant.

In the evening, a DJ played at the campground restaurant. We flaked out. Deb used her earplugs.

Distance: 36 km

$75

Living High on the Hög

Day 38: May 26th, Påarp to Höganäs, Sweden

We’ve heard that the Swedish take coffee seriously, and we got our first taste of it on this morning. Ola made me an espresso and Deb a cappuccino: divine. They also gave us a couple of bottles of locally produced apple juice. We took our breakfast outside, as it was sunny and warm. A bunny ran through the backyard to entertain us. We took our time getting out, partly because we were so comfortable.

To start we needed to ride back to the seaside, where we would pick up the Kattegattleden, Sweden’s first national cycle route. Helsingborg has a beautiful waterfront. We explored a bit, and slowly started north. As Deb stopped to take a picture of the long promenade by the sea, I was approached by a couple who wanted to know if I was American. We talked for several minutes, and learned that they had gone to York University, and taught there, and had returned to Toronto every summer since 1984. They told us what kind of terrain to expect on our ride north.

The route was mostly beautiful coast. At one point we rode right under a guy paragliding over the dunes.

We stopped at a conference centre/church that seems to be converting into a campground. There were a couple of other tenters, but no other cycle tourers. We had a view of the Kattegat sea, a kitchen, and a lounge with power outlets. We stopped so early we had time for a long walk through the cottages to pick up groceries.

Distance: 31 km

$70

To Thine Own Self be True

Day 37: May 25th, Copenhagen, Denmark to Påarp, Sweden

We booked an Airbnb near Helsingborg, Sweden. As in Meissen, we were to be the first guests. To get to Sweden we finished off Danish Cycle Route 9, continuing along the coast of the Øresund (one of the Danish straits connecting the North Sea to the Baltic) up to Helsingør.

Helsingør is better known to English Majors as Elsinore. You get great views of Castle Kronberg when taking the ferry; and that is where Shakespeare set Hamlet. We walked the pedestrian shopping street, picked up groceries, and got on the ferry.

It’s only about a twenty-minute ferry ride, barely enough time to snap a few pictures, or, in the case of many of our fellow passengers, snag a case of duty-free Tuborg.

There were only two other cyclists onboard. We followed them out of the port, then figured out how to get to our Airbnb. It turned out to be a pleasant 9 km ride into the countryside. Our host was Ola, whose wife just happened to be from Toronto. The apartment was a small building in their spacious backyard. Ola has a renovation company, and they built their house themselves. It was a very nice introduction to Sweden.

Distance: 60 km, plus ferry

$93

Part of Your World

Day 36: May 24th, Tourist Day in Copenhagen, Denmark

Hotel Euroglobe’s breakfast was simple, but not bad, considering, and the wifi, which was completely useless the night before had opened up to a trickle in the morning. Even so, the first stop of our sightseeing day was the big Tourist Information office, where there is sweet, sweet bandwidth. This gave us the opportunity to plan our ride north, and to send some messages home.

Copenhagen is beautiful, and it feels very vibrant. I think the bikes are a big part of it, but there also seems to be a lot of young people there, and everybody seems to be having a good time.

A woman riding a bicycle with a dog sitting in a cargo carrier at the front

At the Christiansborg Palace, an electric car rally, from Copenhagen to Monte Carlo, was just beginning. Inside the palace, we were able to take a couple of tiny elevators up the tower for a great view of the city.

Deb was enthralled by the Royal Library, where she got a peek into the Archives. The reading room reminded me very much of the “Purple Passion Pit” in the old Queen’s library, except students now all have laptops.

We walked the waterfront all the way to the very popular, and not particularly impressive sculpture of the Little Mermaid. Much cooler is the nearby Gefion fountain.

Close up of Gefion and her oxen, and the Little Mermaid sculpture

To cap off the day we headed for Freetown Christiania to explore and find food. After strolling through the Green Light District, we had amazing hearty vegetarian soup at a small place and then bought bottles of locally branded beer to enjoy by the lake.

Wooden gateway to Christiania neighbourhood in Copenhagen

Two beer bottles clinking - with Christiania labels

Distance: 0

$199

København

Day 35: May 23rd, Køge to Copenhagen, Denmark

With a brief stop to admire Køge’s town square, and to hit a bank machine, with headed north for the last stage of the Berlin to Copenhagen cycle route.

With poor campground wifi, and knowing how expensive the city was reputed to be, we had booked a hotel ahead the night before. We could afford it, and it had a good location. It did, however, have some pretty terrible reviews on Google. We weren’t sure what to expect.

The route twisted through a lot of small towns as it avoided the busier roads. Just as we were getting close to the city, the route turned toward the sea and took us into a region of lagoons and dunes: Lille Vejlesø and Jægersø, technically in the town of Ishøj. Nestled in this idyllic locale is the ARKEN Museum for Modern Art. We had read that it’s very good, but this isn’t that kind of vacation (the kind where you pay lots of money to see art).

Eventually we were on the bike lanes of Copenhagen, arguably the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. We’d been warned that locals like to ride quickly, and for the most part it’s true, but I think the riders are no different from people in Toronto. If we had dedicated bike lanes, we would ride quickly on them, without fear of being “doored”, etc.

A round wheel with 3 portly figures wrestling with it. A cyclist riding past.

 

Hotel Euroglobe’s staff were helpful, and friendly. The room was small, spartan, reasonably clean, and showing its age. The walls were very thin. The blinds only covered about 3/4 of the window, and the main light didn’t work. Still, it was better than the reviews would lead you to believe, and its location, in the Frederiksberg neighbourhood, was good. We went out and walked around, getting to the gorgeous Nyhavn waterfront and canal district. Later we hit a noodle place for dinner and people watching on a pedestrian-only street.

Distance: 70 km

$172

Coast and Køge

Day 34: May 22nd, Præstø to Køge, Denmark

Præstø happens to lie on a fjord, and we had an amazing ride along its edge. Lots of coast this day, and some quiet roads. Pretty flat too.

rocky beach with small trees

We stopped for lunch in the picturesque port town of Rødvig. From our bench in the seaside park we had a view of what we thought might be some kind of primitive lighthouse. When we rode past it later, we discovered it was actually an old flint kiln.

Farther up the coast we found a huge chalk mining operation. At home, gravel pits are surrounded by giant fences with warnings to stay away. Here, it was wide open, and they’d built a platform for people to get up on for a better look.

The route took us past the impressive Vallø Castle, then to our campsite just outside of Køge. It was a big place with (for Europe) a very woodsy tenting area that even had picnic tables. There was at least one other tenter: a single man with his motorcycle. Denmark would probably be a great place for that kind of tour.

This campgrounds’ kitchen was big and clean, but had no pots, dishes or cutlery. We had a makeshift meal, and hung out in the public cabin in the evening. Deb beat me at foosball.

Distance: 70 km

$40