I had a bit of a lie in after yesterday’s epic ride, not getting out of my den until 8 o’clock; what a luxury! I still felt tired however at least my legs didn’t feel stiff, just slightly achy knees, and a wonky hand, and a sore posterior. All in all ready for another day’s ride, and this one would be shorter without a doubt.
Here’s a link to today’s ride, 86km covered in nearly 5hrs of pedalling:
I left Alvkarleby about 10.00, cycling on the 291. I’d be off the E04 all day, and might never have to use it again with any luck, although I’d be running parallel to it as I headed South. I crossed under it at one point, passing a rather incongruous looking building for Sweden, labelled Dragon Gate; it would have suited Japan or China better.
The initial headwind turned into a crosswind as I rode through Swedish countryside; more pines, and then some fields.
I passed fields full of yellow; lots of oilseed rape growing, which reminded me of cycling through Lincolnshire a few years ago – same sort of landscape.
Whilst the sun was out, there was still a chill in the air due to the wind, and when the clouds obscured the heating. I stopped for a break in a nature reserve, topping up energy reserves with chocolate.
For the final 20km to Uppsala the crosswind turned into a slight tailwind, a joyful experience, and one that sped me to my camping destination for the night; Fyrishov campsite. As I approached the city I could see the twin spires of its cathedral from miles away; prompting another memory of cycling through the fens in Norfolk and seeing Ely cathedral from a long way away.
I passed quite a few other road cyclists out today, I guess because it was Saturday and people were indulging in some weekend riding; received lots of friendly waves and hellos as a result.
I rolled into the campsite about 15.00, got set up and clean, then headed into the city for a look around. Uppsala is Sweden’s 4th largest city, has been its ecclesiastical centre since 1164, and the university founded in 1477 means it’s the oldest centre of higher education in Scandinavia; thank you Wikipedia. I thought it had a very pleasant atmosphere to it, and the temperature was positively scorching at 15 degrees centigrade, all the way up to half past nine.
I had a ride around taking in the sights, as I looked for options for an evening meal.
As I pedalled about I passed people sitting out having picnics by the river, eating and drinking in outdoor restaurants, listening to live music, and just sightseeing like me. There was almost a Mediterranean feel to the city, and with it being Saturday night, and Eurovision, I guess people were out to have fun; or avoid their television sets and the trial that can be that ‘European’ song contest. Sweden won this year, pretty cool, and the first time I’ve been in the winning country at the time of the contest for a long time; not sure how many points the UK got but hopefully better than ‘nil points’. Did we beat Australia?
I settled on an Italian restaurant in a small square close to the river, and in the old town, and ensconced myself under the canopied area outside where I could keep an eye on my bike; not that I think I really need to in Sweden, just a habit, and not a bad one to maintain. It was a bit of an extravagance eating out, however one can only keep pedalling for so long sustained by noodles, cheese and salami, and I really had a yearning for a salad. Needless to say the meal did not disappoint.
You can see the salad to the right of my pasta main course; just need to prove to those that worry about such things that I’m attempting to eat a healthy diet! I can recommend the Villa Romani if you’re ever in Uppsala, although I’ve no doubt there are loads of good places to eat, such as that Greek restaurant down by the river.
As I sat taking my repast I kept noticing old classic America cars roaming the streets of Uppsala, doing circuits. They seemed to be out in force, maybe because it was Saturday night, and certainly put the cruising that goes on in Great Yarmouth, along the promenade, to shame. I’ve looked this up via t’internet and apparently it’s a big thing in Sweden, with thousands of American 1950’s classic cars imported every year, which explains why I keep seeing them everywhere. I couldn’t tell you all the makes, but they were certainly lovingly restored and looked after, aside from one which was a bit beaten up, but persistently driving around the city blaring out some classic tunes, with a big American flag; some things never change.
Getting to Uppsala after a few week’s hard graft, enjoying a great meal, and just relaxing whilst taking in the sights and sounds, reminded me of why I do this. I think it’s partly about contrasts; you put yourself through the challenge of pedalling miles, in some pretty rough conditions, to really appreciate these sorts of breaks. If I’d just turned up on a plane post my office job, with no real effort put in to the journey, whilst I’d still have enjoyed it I don’t think it would have had the same level of satisfaction.
I recently read a blog post by Dave Cornthwaite on ‘the space between living and dying‘, which he wrote after the sad deaths of two American climbers and extreme sports fanatics whilst wing-suiting. Some people question why individuals put themselves in harms way, but I think I get it. I don’t think I could have sat in the office doing the same job for the next few years without doing something, and whilst not as extreme as those guys this is my way of breaking the mould, and filling the moments I have on this Earth with something, that in my view, is exciting, worthwhile, and will leave me with thousands of great memories. If doing this means I’ll not live to be a hundred, that’s fine, I’d far rather fill my life with fun and satisfaction, rather than end up frustrated and bitter. I know it’s all relative, and one person’s adventure can be another’s day job, or vice-versa, however I intend to keep on pedalling for the time being, and saying yes to any adventures that cross my path.
Anyway, having enjoyed a great meal, and pondered such things, I pedalled back to the campsite and my tent. A large hare bounded past me as I rode into Fyrishov; they really are big out here. I resisted the temptation to follow it, and instead booked a hostel for a couple of nights in Stockholm.
One last thing; want to mention how good the cycle paths and Swedish drivers are. Everything is very ordered and no-one breaks the rules of the road, exhibiting patience, always indicating (as far as I’ve seen), and letting cyclists cross. I’ve not had a bad experience cycling through a Swedish town or city yet, aside from getting slightly lost which is my own fault.
Next stop Stockholm for a couple of days off