Tag Archives: Uppsala

24 May 2015 – to Stockholm

I woke up at 07.00 excited about getting down to Stockholm, my first major milestone after Nordkapp, and time for a day off, or maybe even two if the mood takes me. I also need some downtime to work out the route post Stockholm, down into Denmark; there are several options and I’m not sure which one to take yet, will probably just head South West and see what happens.

A bird had deposited a gift on my tent overnight, it must be good luck right? I cleaned it up, packed up and got underway after a meagre breakfast; I’d forgotten to buy bread and fruit yesterday, however the cheese and flapjack was more than sufficient for the miles ahead.

Sunny start to the day in Uppsala

Sunny start to the day in Uppsala

I pedalled through Uppsala following the river South in the sunshine along a cycle path. It very much felt like a lazy Sunday morning, with people out for a stroll, chatting idly or lounging in parks.

Riding alongside the river

Riding alongside the river

There were of course the obligatory Swedish fitness fanatics, either out running, rollerblading or cross-country skiing on wheels. As I cycled along I overheard the familiar accents of people from England; obviously someone who lives here showing his folks about, and talking about how high the river gets when it floods; must come up a fair way.

Leaving the river behind I took the 255 South, or the cycle path alongside it, down to Vassunda, then onwards winding through the Swedish countryside to Stockholm.

The road to Stockholm

The road to Stockholm

The traffic got steadily busier as I closed in on the capital, however as always the drivers were considerate to cyclists.

Pedalling through the Swedish countryside on the way to Stockholm

Pedalling through the Swedish countryside on the way to Stockholm

There were loads of cyclists out today, either individuals, small groups, or larger clubs. I passed a few pelotons steaming down the road, heading North, one of which must have had over 30 riders in it; Swedish drivers must be very patient as not easy to get past.

I arrived at the outskirts of Stockholm, after a stop at a Burger King for some lunch, with perhaps 25km to go; then the fun began. Trying to navigate to the city centre and the City Backpackers hostel, my destination for the next couple of nights, was a bit of a challenge. I needed to avoid the busy main roads and motorways, which I couldn’t cycle on, but which criss-crossed my intended route. Luckily I mostly just had to keep heading South, and the cycle path were pretty obliging. I stopped to ask directions from fellow cyclists or walkers a couple of times, and everyone was really helpful. One lady seemed to be in disbelief that I’d cycled from Nordkapp, whilst another gentleman got exited about what I was doing, having bicycle toured a lot in the 80’s. He remembered pedalling for days through Europe, having an adventure, camping down between big camper vans and life on the road, with a wistful look in his eyes. It’s amazing who you randomly bump into, and always gives me a boost.

Part of route into Stockholm alongside a lake

Part of route into Stockholm alongside a lake

Part of the route into Stockholm passed alongside a lake, with some lovely paths through the trees.

Paths through the trees 2

Paths through the trees 2

Then it was back onto tarmac for the remainder. It got a bit confusing when the cycle route signs disappeared, usually around building work, which there was a lot of. I soon picked up the trail again and got to within 500m of the hostel before I had to consult the map in detail; by zooming in on my Garmin, and using the location finder option to pin point the hostel, very handy.

I checked into the hostel and a 6 bed mixed dorm for the duration; could be interesting. It’s comfortable, clean, very convenient for the city centre, and much cheaper than a hotel. The staff are very friendly and helpful, pointing out places of interest to visit, and cheap bars and restaurants to get a beer or eat out. There’s an Aussie working behind reception at the moment, and he gave me a few tips. He’s waiting for his bike to be shipped over before embarking on his own mini-tour of southern Sweden, on a fixie (fixed gear) bike; luckily it’s pretty flat.

After chilling out in the ‘Yard’ common area, I took an initial wander around Stockholm centre, getting my bearings.

I walked through the large shopping district, keeping an eye out for potential places to eat, before getting to the bridge over the river to the Swedish Parliament House, and the Old Town. I stopped there, as I’d have time to explore further tomorrow and was hungry. Walking back I spotted the homeless fox sculpture, or ‘Rag and bone with a blanket’ as I think it’s titled. It represents the fact that there’s still more that can be done to improve the Swedish welfare system; the same could no doubt be said for most countries. As I’ve seen elsewhere in Sweden there are a lot of people begging on the streets in Stockholm, and living rough.

I settled on a restaurant not far from the hostel, at the cheaper end of the shopping area. The all American diner did me proud, with nachos, a huge steak (the Governor), and a couple of pints of Swedish Ale; Sleepy Bulldog, a very pleasant pint, especially after over 2000km on the road.

Eating out; carb loading in Stockholm

Eating out; carb loading in Stockholm

I realised earlier that I’d passed the 2000km mark at some point in the last few days, having cycled a total of 2116km since pedalling away from Nordkapp 19 days ago. That’s an average of 110km a day, which I’m pretty pleased about, and a reason to celebrate with a steak; need the protein for my muscles anyway.

All American Diner; steak providing valuable protein

All American Diner; steak providing valuable protein

I’m not entirely sure how far I have left to go to get to Tarifa, perhaps 3500 to 4000km, depending on the route I take. So another 40 days meaning I could get there by my birthday if I push it, but it’ll more likely be the middle of July as I originally envisaged. I guess it’ll depend on how many rest days I take, or if I get lost or want to divert somewhere interesting, both of which are always possibilities.

After dinner I retired to the hostel and caught up on the last episode of ‘The Island’ with Bear Grylls; if they can survive on an island for 6 weeks I can cycle to Tarifa I reckon, quite motivational. Then of course it’ll be on to Istanbul, but I’m not thinking about that at the moment.

Here’s the link to my route and stats for today’s ride – 82km in about 5 hours:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/783300749

Tomorrow is all about being a tourist in Stockholm. Going to visit the Vasa museum and Old Town, and have a bit of a rest and feed. Need to plan the route to Copenhagen too.

23 May 2015 – to Uppsala

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.

Alvkarleby Fiskecamp

Alvkarleby Fiskecamp

Alvkarleby Fiskecamp - nice riverside spot to camp

Alvkarleby Fiskecamp – nice riverside spot to camp

Here’s a link to today’s ride, 86km covered in nearly 5hrs of pedalling:

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/782548730

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.

Dragon Gate - not sure what the building is actually used for - sorcery maybe

Dragon Gate – not sure what the building is actually used for – sorcery maybe

The initial headwind turned into a crosswind as I rode through Swedish countryside; more pines, and then some fields.

Road to Uppsala, getting flatter

Road to Uppsala, getting flatter

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.

Passing fields full of yellow

Passing fields full of yellow

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.

Break time - Lobster dolls out the chocolate rations

Break time – Lobster dolls out the chocolate rations

Double thumbs up for nearly being in Uppsala

Double thumbs up for nearly being in Uppsala

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