We put aside the unpleasantness of having our bicycles stolen in Stockholm, grateful to miraculously recover Therese’s bicycle out front of a convenience store. Exploring the Nordic and Viking culture at the Swedish History Museum, taking in the architectural splendour of Swedens Capital from the palaces in the 13th Century old town to the beautiful German inspired buildings of the 17 and 18th century.
We had really visited Sweden to cycle tour to take advantage of Allemansrätt, Freedom to Roam. Inshrined in the Swedish constitution, the right of individuals to travel the countryside, to fish, pick flowers, berries or mushrooms, while camping where you want provided you respect the rights of others.
I purchased a mid range 9 speed commuter bike, added a rear rack, loaded the panniers, before setting off into the Swedish countryside.
The town of Gnesta, marks the end of suburban Stockholm. The countryside quickly turns to medieval forest and farmland. Our first camp was at Nykoping in the forest. Using google maps and common sense, we follow secondary roads or cycle paths that are mostly there when you need them on the outskirts of villages or towns, helping us to navigate the unknown.
At Soderkoping we arrived at the famed Gota Kanal (built between 1810-1832). We cycled it in mixed weather for the next couple of days, sustained on a diet of cinnamon rolls or open Swedish meatball sandwiches, with creamed beetroot, pickle and the ubiquitous lingonberry jam. At Linkoping I stopped to pick fresh roadside apples, plums and berries. Cycling through rolling hills to Borenberg then on to Vastana where we camped on the shores of Lake Vattern in time to watch a massive storm roll in over the lake .Taking the Vattern cycle route to Granna was magnificent as we climbed up the steep granite outcrops taking in breathtaking views of the forest before some chilling downhill runs into Granna which is famous for its Polkagris, Candy canes.
The Swedish countryside has a melancholy beauty. Its late August, fields of golden wheat groan heavy under a blue sky awaiting the harvest. Everywhere houses gleam Falu Red, a traditional colour that helps preserve the wood. It was developed in the Falun region of Sweden in the 17th century. After a long, sometimes wet, day in the saddle we roll through Jonkoping and south to Lake Lovsbo where we camp for the night.
Wildlife abounds; red squirrels, giant cranes, storks, birds of prey, hares the size of wallabies, shy reindeer, frogs and vipers. There’s a quite cosy community aspect evident in country life, a slower pace that taps into the Swedish tradition of owning a summer house, that comes from an age when land and materials were cheap. In June, people leave the city and head to the summer house, evidently 1 in 5 own a place in the country.
We continue cycling towards Malmö in the south. We passed many groups of Iron Age burial mounds, about 1000BC. They were in farmland and as I wandered around them I contemplated the similarity between these and the rock art I saw at Burrup Peninsular in Western Australia only a few months ago. I think the farmers here are proud of their heritage and protect it.
Sweden is justly proud of its Nordic history while embracing immigration and the European ideal, most of all it’s very cycle friendly, that is unless you happen to have your bicycle stolen.