Saturday 16 June 2018

The Siege of Gothenburg

Current Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Distance Cycled This Trip: 447km
Itchy Bites: Judy savaged by midges and on antihistamines. 
Saddle Soreness (10 equals horror story): Judy 2 but was 9. Mike stable on 2.

Cycling into Gothenburg was like arriving at the end of the world. Destruction surrounded us. Clouds of concrete dusk from bulldozed rubble drifted across our path and the rumble of heavy machinery was everywhere. Out of the destruction, several major public works are emerging, including a tunnel and a railway bridge. In the meantime, diversions and delays are so bad for motorists that one resident told us,”I try to avoid driving in Gothenburg.”

Approaching the city on the tandem we had the good fortune to meet a German couple heading in the opposite direction. They said they had added an extra 30km to their journey by getting lost as they skirted the chaos and warned us to be on our guard. A local cyclist was more positive. Follow the temporary road signs to Centum and you should be ok, he said. It was good advice but still we managed to lose the signs a couple of times in the maze of closures, alternatives routes, traffic mayhem and temporary railings, barricades and traffic cones. Judy was off the back of the bike at every opportunity asking the way and eventually we found ourselves sweeping over a long cycle bridge and heading towards the Central Railway Station. From there we picked our way through the busy streets - Judy walking ahead with George the GPS and me trying not to push the tandem into people's shins.

The Clicking Noise.

A day’s rain on our ride south temporarily fixed our squeak. We set off in the rain and there wasn’t a sound - the tandem gliding with only a hum from the tyres. The next day the bad weather vanished and the noise gradually came back. We remain puzzled but the bike shows no signs of falling apart.

Evening at Fjällbacka, Sweden. We loved this little town which is popular with tourists in summer but has only a thousand or so permanent residents in the winter months. It is well known in Sweden as the setting for a series of crime novels by Camilla Lackberg.

When she wasn't starring in films like
 Casablanca, Ingrid Bergman spent her
summers on a little island off Fjällbacka,
 and was a familiar face in the town where
she shopped. Today, the town square is
 named after her. 
Bronze Age rock carving - The Woman
from Fossum. 
Sauvignon Blanc Never Tasted So Good

We all have moments we know we will remember. We had one the other day. Approaching Norway’s southern border with Sweden we detoured down a stony path to a lakeside picnic table and said”hi” to a family nearby. We chatted with them about the weather (it’s been an unseasonably hot start to summer), swimming, the lake’s temperature (22°C) and even admitted we were impressed with Norway's political system and its politicians to explain some of the many reasons we are travelling in this part of the world. Politics led to taxes and alcohol and we explained that alcohol was prohibitively expensive for us in Norway. (We read somewhere that NOK 67 is swallowed in taxes on a NOK 100 bottle of French wine.)
They were a lovely family, and we pushed on with our ride thinking this is why we travel by bike - a tandem is a great way to break down barriers and start a conversation.
A few hours later we had our tent pitched by another lake - this one just inside the Swedish border. So much for the great start to summer. A cool breeze was whipping over the water and the sky was darkening, torn clouds and spits of rain.
Suddenly a man appeared clutching a bottle of wine and wearing a broad smile. It was our new friend Torbjørn. In his other hand he held two chilled wine glasses. It was one of those,”I can’t believe it” moments.

Torbjørn turns up with a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc.

Rugged up against a chill wind, we
toasted our new friends.

Torbjørn explained that he and his wife, Vigdis, had been talking about us on their drive home and decided to surprise us. Vigdis had to work, but Torbjørn found a bottle of New Zealand Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge. Knowing where we planned to camp, he drove back and found us. We tried to coax him into sharing the wine with us but he declined, reminding us that Norway's drink drive rules are very strict and he had to drive home. They simply wanted us to enjoy their gift on our own.
We shook hands, exchanged email addresses and he left. 
We put on our warmest jackets, found a comfortable table and chairs and put our feet up. The wine was bliss. We toasted Norway, Torbjørn and Vigdis and their family. And it didn’t rain.

It had to happen. George the Bastard Child led us off route
and on to a ferry we didn't even know existed. The detour
added another 25k to our day.

Once off the ferry, George found a busy road with a bikes prohibited sign. 
Too late. We were on it before we realised and had to stay on it for several
 kilometres until the first off ramp.

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