A Travellerspoint blog

Sweden

Sweden is many things but it certainly isn't flat. At last there are hills with views at the top. The coastline around Gothenberg is wonderfully expansive with archipelagos stretching to the horizon. It reminds me of Moidart though it's perhaps not that pretty.

There is a great feeling of space in Sweden; houses are all spread well apart and much of the land is rough and unused, unlike most other countries I've encountered where every inch of land is developed in some way. This is good for me because it gives me a chance to camp wild. In Sweden wild camping is legal, providing certain criteria are met. I often get the feeling these rules are calculated to make wild camping as difficult as possible, for instance, you have to be 150 metres from a house, which is quite a lot, and all the houses seemed to be spaced just under 300 metres apart so you are always within 150 metres of one. However, throughout my stay I found it reasonably easy to find places, although it meant pitching my tent in long grass. The first night I camped wild I heard a large animal moving through the woods behind the tent. It sounded like no other animal I've ever heard and I figured it was either an elk or a wild boar, although I wouldn't have thought either animal was present in Sweden so far south. I briefly considered moving camp but was too tired and fell asleep quite quickly, never hearing from the beast again. I had planned to wild camp every other night or one out of 3, but found no campsites beyond Gothenberg so ended up camping wild throughout. This kept my costs down quite a bit, which is just as well because in other ways Sweden is an extremely expensive place to visit.

The cost of food in Sweden was a shock. I had expected similar prices to Denmark but, although a pound buys more Swedish than Danish Krone, prices were on average about 30% higher. A packet of digestives costs over 20 Swedish Krone - about £1.80. Bread is about 25 Krone (over £2) for a loaf and about 15 Krone (about £1.30) for a baguette. However, there are a few idiosyncracies; I managed to buy bacon for about 80p. Milk was also quite cheap and I bought a huge bag of muesli for about £1 so this made up the staple of my diet for most of my stay. I tried making some muesli bars over my camp stove, they actually tasted really good - much better than the oversweetened ones you can buy - but keeping the base from burning is tricky. I also tried making my own bread, using just flour and water cooked in a pan. It's not the most apetising bread, being very dense, but this makes it excellent for cycle touring as it takes up very little room and doesn't get squashed and it tastes pretty good with a bit of butter.

With the high costs I was dreading buying a new cassette for my bike, fearing it would cost about £50, but the bike shop I was in had a half price sale so I got one for under £10, which is extremely cheap. I bought some brake blocks while I was there and would have got a new kickstand but it didn't fit my bike. I also picked up a charger for my mobile for under £2 (in a different shop), and bought some new headphones as I had, regrettably, lost my mp3 player and phones. It's not a huge problem as I have two mobiles with me but annoying. All in all, even with these purchases, my stay in Sweden worked out by far the cheapest per day, purely because I spent nothing on campsites. This is quite encouraging for heading into Norway.

The cycling infrastructure is patchy in Sweden. There are many cycle paths but they are often poorly signposted and much of the time I cycled on the roads, which were fairly quiet. It's a lovely place to cycle though and I feel rather sorry to be leaving so much of it unexplored, though I may return to it further north.

I'm enjoying studying on the road. It's easier to concentrate as, once you've got the essentials like eating and sleeping out of the way there are fewer distractions. Using a laptop is a pain though and I ended up typing out my entire first assignment on my Nokia phone as it is more convenient to access and to recharge. The stupidly reflective screen on my laptop means I can hardly see anything and I ended up posting my first assignment to the wrong module. Luckily my tutor was understanding and I ended up getting a pretty good mark, just missing a distinction. I really wish I could do without the laptop as it is cumbersome but I need it for the econometrics part of the course. My Kobo ebook reader has proven to be much more useful for reading course material, but not having used it much previously I took the coursebooks just in case. They are quite bulky though so imagine my annoyance last week to find out that 3/4 of the chapters were in fact optional so I didn't need most of them. I am now reading them cover to cover so that carting them over 2000 miles wasn't all for nothing.

Posted by beyondbritain 06:53 Comments (0)

Denmark

overcast 14 °C

There's no getting away from it. Denmark is a bit dull. There's nothing particularly bad about the place; the cycling infrastructure is good. The campsites are good. Everyone speaks English fluently. The country seems to be run extremely competently and the standard of living is high. It would probably be an excellent place to live, but for cycle touring the scenery just isn't up to much, the food is mundane and expensive, and unfortunately the weather's turned cold again so there isn't even sunshine to see me through. You need a licence to camp here, and it costs about £12, plus you need a licence to fish in the sea. There isn't really that much going for the place. You can sunbathe nude on most beaches if that takes your fancy, but it's a bit cold for that at present.

The food is very expensive, some things are double the price in the UK, however, I'm not sure if Denmark is particularly expensive overall. Petrol is much cheaper than the UK, campsites are similarly priced, and they are well spread about the country so finding one is seldom a problem. There is even a network of free and very cheap campsites for cyclists and hikers, however, to find them you need a book which costs about £15 so for the few days I'm staying it didn't seem worth it, and it's also in Danish. Cycling equipment is slightly more expensive than the UK but not much. Curiously, camping equipment is notably cheaper than the UK (or perhaps I just found a really cheap shop) and I was tempted to purchase a few items. I saw a set of securing straps for half the price I paid for them in Germany. House prices in the towns I looked were low compared to UK prices, but it's extremely hard to compare house prices across countries just by looking in a places. Of course, the Danes receive higher wages so higher prices aren't a problem for them, but shopping is pretty depressing for me, even more so because the supermarkets are dreadful and the food they sell extremely mundane. I suspect it's better in Copenhagen but I look back fondly on France, where even tiny villages had fantastic bread and cakes.

I've had a number of encounters with agressive dogs here. There seem to be a lot of dogs and few people keep them on a lead. Thankfully they all backed off when I stopped the bike and faced them but it's not really something I had expected here.

I haven't had any cycling companions up till now, and then on the way to Horsens I had two, one after the other. It's nice to chat to people while cycling and gives a chance to find out a few things about the country. One of the chaps I cycled with was planning a cycle tour to Bavaria, and he had a really cool bike; it was about a foot longer than a normal bike and had pannier racks built into the frame, rather than being bolted on as on my bike. This is a good design as the bolts are a weak spot and tend to work loose and strip the threads. The panniers he had were huge, about 50 litres each. He was also planning on using a hammock which is quite a good idea, as I've found putting up and taking down the tent extremely time consuming. Anyway, this chap told me about a free campsite that I could use and even took me to the start of the cycle path that led to it. It took a bit of finding - the cycle path had a map with the exact location and it was still hard to find - but it was an absolutely excellent spot with these superb shelters so I didn't need to use my tent. It even had a camp fire spot so I made my first camp fire on the trip and even managed to cook some burgers on it.

That aside the cycle through Denmark has been pretty mundane. There have been quite a few steep hills but no great views at the top. The scenery is getting better the further north I go but I can't see there being a fundamental change so am heading to the nearest harbour with a ferry to Sweden. I've been on the road over 4 weeks now, travelled almost 2000 miles and have yet to see any really superb scenery. The best was probably on my first day cycling, about 50 miles from my parents' house. The rest has been just a bit, well, flat.

Posted by beyondbritain 02:54 Archived in Denmark Comments (1)

Germany

sunny 30 °C

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Getting in to Germany is proving trickier than expected. All the roads in are closed to cyclists. The Netherlands won't let me leave!

Finally I enter Germany and a change is immediately noticeable. The cycle path is poorer quality, though still pretty good compared to the uk, and the road is poorer and much busier. The traffic seems much faster too. Compared to the Netherlands it feels curiously like being back in the uk. I pull into an aldi supermarket and the illusion is complete.

Something else I noticed in the Netherlands is that the houses, though generally much larger than those in the uk, are all of a similar size, except in the city centres. There are very few huge country mansions like you see in the uk. In an hour of cycling through Germany I've seen more very large houses than throughout my whole journey in the Netherlands. Curiously, my economics textbook indicates that Germany has less income inequality so I'm not sure why.

My first campsite in Germany isn't too great and I have to fill in a form, but I manage to complete the procedure without any english being spoken so I feel quite pleased with myself.

I've now been on the road three weeks and am feeling quite relaxed and enjoying myself. The budget is going roughly according to plan though I'm spending more on food and equipment than I would like. Each day the main worry is finding somewhere to camp as it's very difficult to plan in advance on the road. I spend an awful lot of time cycling following signs to campsites that turn out to be miles from the main road and often aren't even open. Add this onto the time spent setting up the tent and packing away in the morning and a large amount of time is spent each day. It's a very inefficient way to travel.

The quality of campsites doesn't seem to bear much relation to the cost; the campsite I was in last night was beautiful and well equipped and only cost seven euros wherease the one I'm in tonight is dire and costs twelve. Of course it has a lot to do with location. It's curious that, considering the vast importance place has on our lives, economics has little to say on the subject. I've been studying economics nearly two years now and I don't think matters of geography have ever been mentioned.

The scenery on the trip hasn't been all that great really; the first two days through the Penines are the best so far in that regard. I'm really looking forward to getting into Scandinavia and seeing some mountains. It's all been a bit flat so far.

Baguettes are hard to come by in Germany. It pains me to say it, but any country where baguettes aren't readily available is perilously close to barbarism. One of the things I liked about France was that every village had a bakery selling fresh baguettes at good prices. German supermarkets are pretty awful - they're all pretty much the same as Aldi and Lidl but the food is pricier than the uk. The supermarkets weren't much good in the Netherlands either. I've heard it said that the UK is one of the best countries for buying food and was sceptical but from my impressions that is the case. The selection of food that one can get in the UK is far wider than any country I've been to yet. It's possible to eat much more cheaply and purchase food at almost any time of day. People may moan about the big supermarkets in the UK but the range of food they provide is extraordinary and only the hypermarkets in France are comparable.

Chatting to another cyclist in a campsite, who was also touring through norway, I was given the idea of cycling along the nord-oost canal to Kiel, then getting the ferry to Denmark. You would think it impossible to get lost cycling along a canal but signposts in Germany are atrocious and the cycle paths pretty poor so I somehow found myself, though following the signs carefully, dropped about ten miles into the countryside at a four way junction with no indication which way to go. I finally got about two pages worth of directions from someone and found my way back to the canal two hours later. It's amazing seeeing huge ships on an inland canal. The next day, arriving in Kiel, I found that no ferries actually go from there to Denmark, although several were marked on my map, and it appears almost impossible to sail out of Kiel without running into Denmark at some point. I have to continue cycling up the coast. It's absolutely gorgeous by the Oost sea so I' m taking a couple of days rest before heading into Denmark tomorrow. I've been on the road nearly a month and have just finished a university assignment so feel I deserve it.

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Posted by beyondbritain 03:50 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Leaving the Netherlands

Heading into Germany now. Weather is very hot and sunny. Mad lightning storm last night.

Posted by beyondbritain 04:48 Comments (0)

Now in the Netherlands

semi-overcast 22 °C

Camped halfway between Haarlem and Amsterdam. Weather is quite hot and sticky, lots of midges in the campsite. Cycling in the Netherlands is superb, the campsites not so hot but this one has wifi, which is great.

Posted by beyondbritain 09:02 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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