It’s not very often I get to say that I’ve ridden 510 Km in the last three days. But today, I can say it. Phew.
One day after Vätternrundan (yesterday) Annika and I set the luggage back on the back of our bikes and rolled out of Katrineholm at 8:15 am. All we had to guide us was about 15 taped-together 8.5 x 11 sheets of photocopied maps from the Katrineholm public library and our intstinct. We ended up doing quite well actually. About 30 min into the day we passed a green sign with a picture of a bicycle and the words ‘Sverigeleden – Stockholm’ printed on it. We decided to trust in the swedish signage system and followed it, even though it lead us off of our map.
What resulted was about 100 Km of beautiful country side, way too many gravel roads, four viking grave fields, two viking rune stones (can you imagine my excitement?), lunch in an oak tree, and the fine discovery of a patch of yellow mushrooms (apparently surprisingly early this year) that can be plucked and cooked.
By the time we hit Södertälje, we had already ridden 130 km … but Stockholm was so near … and it seemed like more trouble to find a place to camp than to just keep going. So the decision was made, and we bought a jar of peanut butter and two energy drinks (not a reccomended combination, for future reference) accordingly. We were going to make it to Stockholm in one day.
As we sat in the graveyard of Södertälje’s church eating peanut butter sandwhiches and energy drinks, the bell tower began to play. It was 8 o’clock and still bright as day. As I listened to the bells, I realized that I recognized the melody: it was playing ‘Gabriellas sång’, from the movie ‘Så Som i Himmelen’ (Google that one, the song is amazing). At the same time as it was hilarious to hear a clock tower in Södertälje randomly start playing it, it was sort of dorkily inspiring, and blessed by the intoxicating power of peanut butter and energy drinks we began to sing along. At that point, we knew we had the strength to carry on.
And so we did. We reached the outer limits of Stockholm, and were greeted by the world’s first and largest IKEA (it looked like a gleaming beacon of hope at that point). Almost immediately after that, we realized that our city map was not very good. What ensued was four hours of riding around Stockholm in the wierd, not-quite-twilight-but-not-quite-darkness of the summer solstice. This also included consulting buss station maps, midnight dogwalkers, riding up and down lots of small hills (such a disaster wouldäve NEVER happend in Skåne!) and even a bit of mountain-bike action through the city park (on a road bike with packing).
At 1:30 Am we made it to Annika’s dad’s house. By then it was almost time for sunrise- the sky to the east had begun already to turn that early morning shade of clear blue.
The final distance count for the day was: 210. Again, phew.
And so I awake to find myself in Sweden’s capital city, the self-proclaimed ‘Venice of the North’, a collection of islands spread out on Östersjön, and what seems like a million miles away from Skåne.